Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What I've been reading

The first half of October has slipped away. I don't remember how, but I believe tryptophan might be partially to blame. Thanksgiving hangover or not, it's Twitterature time, a collection of (mostly) short and sweet reviews hosted by Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy. 

Here's what I've been reading: 

Shadows of the Workhouse, by Jennifer Worth
The second volume of Worth's memoirs wasn't what I was expecting. Rather than continuing to provide a broad swath of Dockland living, like her first book, Shadows of the Workhouse delves deep into the lives of a select few: three children who grew up in the infamous workhouse system and lived to tell their tales, a widely eccentric nun/nurse/midwife of upper-class extraction and Dockland devotion who might have a weakness for kleptomania, and a lonely old soldier whom Worth befriends near the end of his days. There is very little directly about midwifery, but plenty of background on the Lower East Ender's fear of institutionalized kindness and the difference between keeping a body alive and feeding a soul. 

Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery
I read this novel in a hodge-podge fashion: mostly aloud to my daughter, but with some chapters missed when choir practice trumped bedtime and Daddy or Grandpa played narrator in my absence. I read those chapters on my own - not always before my next out-loud stint - and eventually read through to the end just because I couldn't put it down. It's still that good. This epoch of Anne's life gets me all nostalgic - moving away for higher education was also my first fledge into adult independence, keeping house (or rather, apartment) with friends, and fumbling through the difference between what love is vs. what I imagined it to be. Always worth a re-read, or even a partial one immediately upon finishing (I still read the rest aloud to my girlie. She liked it too).

Flowering Judas, by Jane Haddam
I've long been a fan of Haddam's Gregor Demarkian mysteries, but it had been a while since I'd indulged. This particular book was dedicated to one of her friends "because it contains, within it, everything he hates in murder mysteries", and she wanted to see if he'd buy it anyways. I enjoyed guessing which parts were his pet peeves - the bumbling police chief? The victim's controlling neurotic mother? The trailer park addict who squeezed in one F-bomb for every five words she spoke? It's a fun ride, despite - or because - of them all. 

The Art of the Personal Letter, by Margaret Shepherd with Sharon Hogan
I picked up this little how-to from the staff-picks display at the library. I thought I'd skim the section of "what tools to use" (it's hard to get excited about hand-writing when you're left-handed) and glean much from second half, "what words to say". In the end, the opposite proved true: Shepherd and Hogan's exploration of pens & paper, font & colour gave great insight in how the scene we set for our writing influences what we say and how it's received - thoughts which are as applicable to emails and blog posts as to the dreaded Christmas letter. The "what to say" was less approachable - it was more a list of what not to talk about when writing one of a prescriptive list of letters (letters of congratulations, condolences, love letters, break-up letters, fundraising letters, &c.). Oddly enough, the assumption that I'd be writing a letter on a business trip, or to a child away at summer camp, seemed more dated than discussions about paper weight and fountain pens. I didn't quite finish it. Nevertheless, Shepherd's point drove home - she's inspired me to give snail-mail another go.

That's it for this month. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

6 comments:

  1. What a lovely collection of reads this month! I've read Call the Midwife, but didn't realize Ms. Worth had written a follow-up novel - I'll have to check it out. And I also read (devoured) Anne of the Island this month; interesting to read how you identify with the story!

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    1. I didn't know Call the Midwife wasn't a stand-alone book either, until my library search came up with more titles. Worth wrote her memoirs in a trilogy, actually - the last one is "Farewell to the East End", and I'm very much looking forward to it :)

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  2. Anne of the Island is one of my favorites! I love when she realizes Gilbert is "the one!" (I hope that's not a spoiler for anyone...)

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    1. Definitely one of my favourites too. And there should be a statue of limitations on spoilers ;)

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  3. The Art of the Personal letter looks good! I just love writing letters and using the mail system! :)

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  4. I do love receiving and sending real letters. :-) Seeing a familiar hand penning words about life and doings. It's rather lovely. :-)

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