Tuesday, 26 June 2018

100 and counting

The Century Girls by Tessa Dunlop

1918 was a momentous year in so many ways - the end of World War One, the partial granting of the vote to women and the murder of the Russian royal family to name but a few. It was also the year my nan was born.

Because of this last fact I was fascinated to read Dunlop's Century Girls. Not all of these remarkable women were born in 1918 but they are all around the same age. They come from all walks of life and have lived fascinating, normal lives.

While obviously none of them lived the same life as my nan there were little tidbits in each narrative that I knew could have been applied to her. It was a good mix of rural and city tales plus remembered those who were originally born in Empire countries. The women also span all economic classes which brings in very different view points too.

The book is mostly told in a chronological fashion, taking bits from each remarkable lady to make a rounded, female, history of the last 100 years. The book is wonderfully chatty in style but never overly sentimental. I loved it.

My nan - 26th June 1918- 14th April 2008
(picture from my sister)

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

A companion not a sequel

Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio

Back in November I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and loved it, even though it made me cry lots. I still haven't had the emotional energy to watch the film!

I had hoped that Palacio had written lots of books before this and so had a great back list for me to explore. Events stopped this happening for a while but while I was browsing the Norfolk Library ebook catalogue looking for some short stories to read I came across Auggie and Me and I remembered how much I loved the original.

Palacio is clear to stress that this isn't a sequel to Wonder but rather a companion piece, in fact in many ways Auggie barely features in these three stories - he is an incidental character allowing us to learn more about his friends and classmates.

I loved all three stories, and once more I was reduced to tears by the characters and events. Palacio really manages to make her characters alive, and even when you think you know how a story arc is going to flow she manages to surprise. These stories could be terribly moralistic and didactic but the humour and writing lift them above this and any morals are absorbed without realising.

Sadly apart from books connected to Wonder Palacio hasn't written anything else (yet) but I really hope she does soon.

Friday, 8 June 2018

30 Days Wild and beyond

The Wildlife Trusts have an initiative every June called 30 Days Wild - this encourages people to get out and about connecting with the natural world.

I have certainly found that on the days I get out and about in the fresh air I really do feel better, I'm calling it the nature cure which isn't terribly original but who cares.

While walking for the sake of walking is great I do prefer to mix a walk with some nature watching and living in Norfolk we have no shortage of places to go. I also like to take the camera with me and I've been pretty pleased with a lot of the pictures I've snapped this spring/early summer.

I post a lot of my pictures on Flickr, you can find me at www.flickr.com/norfolkbookworm but below are a few of my favourites.

There is one downside to all this fresh air...I'm generally too tired to read  so I'm not sure how my reading stamina is progressing as I'm either outside or just too sleepy!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Challenging My Brain

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux

Little Women (and the three follow up novels) have long been some of my favourite reads - I've lost count of how many times I've read them! However I've also spent a lot of time in the past few years debating with friends (who's opinions I really value) about if these books are pro- or anti-feminist works.

Warning - there are some spoilers below...

I've always maintained that they are positive reads for young readers - Jo makes a living from her writing and later her teaching. Meg may marry young but the struggle of being a homemaker and mother is stressed, Amy becomes a successful artist before marrying.

My more critical friends however see the books less positively - that only marriage and family can make women happy, or if they are truly good then they die.

When I saw advance copies of Boyd Rioux's book up for review on Netgalley I got really excited. Then a little nervous that perhaps a serious lit-crit book would be beyond my broken brain. It nearly has. I can only read the work in small chunks, and I have had to reread chapters/pages multiple times. I've also been reading this book for nearly a fortnight and I'm still not  at the end - something that those who know me will find incredible.

My feelings for this book are absolute love. It covers the way that Little Women mirrors Alcott's life, and a potted biography of all four March/Alcott women. It then talks about how the books have been represented on screen (and how this has influenced the pro/anti feminist debate) and I am just up to the part where Boyd Rioux is making the case for both viewpoints.

I can now appreciate my friends' views more but unless in the last portion of the book there are significant twists/revelations I am proud to stand by my opinion that this is a book that promotes female independence!

The book will be published in August and I know that I will be buying at least one copy for my Little Women critical friends!