Literary Notes #7


As most of you know that at any given time I’m probably working my way through 4-5 books.  I don’t know why I can’t just read one book at a time but I think it’s down to wanting different things at different times.  Right now I’m currently reading:

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx: Book Cover

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

-Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award

Although I just started this yesterday, it’s grabbed me and forced me to abandon my other reads.  On a whim I reserved this at the local library after listening to a NPR interview with Proulx.   I love Proulx’s s writing style.  It’s so American: sparse, terse, rough and yet full of affection and sympathy.  There is something about western American writers that gets to me.  The writing style of people like Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, Ralph Moody, and others captures the feeling of the West for me.  Writing that takes me back to hot summer afternoons, dry poached air, dusty sidewalks, and the smells of scrub pine.  Although The Shipping News is set in Newfoundland Proulx maintains her distinctive style and it has drawn me in.  I don’t know how the story ends but I already have affection for unlucky Quoyle and his daughters Sunshine and Bunny.  I am reminded of New England winters and old curmudgeons in her description of the harsh Atlantic conditions and the people who survive a lifetime of winters there.  It’s a novel that brings back memories of a dry California childhood and a New England adolescence.  I find this ironically fitting as one of the major themes of the novel is coming home and as I sit here thousands of miles away from the homes of my childhood this strikes a chord.  I can’t wait to get into more of the story and will keep you posted but in the mean time I am devouring this book.

Spice by Jack Turner: Download Cover

Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner

I’ve been picking this book up and putting it down for about a month now.  It’s really interesting and I enjoy it when I do pick it up – it’s just that some of the other books I have been reading are more engaging and grab my attention more readily.  This is a history of spice – namely nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, and allspice.  A few other spices also play in but the main focus is on the four I listed.  Throughout history these spices have had tremendously high costs – both monetarily and human.  The pursuit of them has changed the face of the world and given rise to empires and destroyed cultures.  Amazing the power these little spices (we take so lightly) once wielded.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay: Book Cover

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The main appeal of this book was the history it uncovered for me.  De Rosnay has succeeded in bringing to light a little known aspect of the Nazi Occupation of France – French complicity in the Final Solution.  On July 16, 1942 French Policemen rounded up thousands of Jewish families in Paris and bussed them to Vélodrome d’Hiver.  13,000 men, women and children were kept in the stadium with no food or water for days before ultimately being sent to Auschwitz.  There were almost no survivors.  Sarah’s Key tells this story while also relating a parallel contemporary story.  The story set in 1942 is heartbreaking and one isn’t surprised that it’s been neglected in coverage of the Holocaust.  I think that de Rosnay deserves credit for unearthing this for people like me who had absolutely no idea.  Unfortunately the modern story ends up sounding quite trite next to the tragedy of the World War II story and subtracts from the book as a whole.  I’m not ready to write the book off completely, I would recommend that it be read; just don’t expect a lot from the story of Julia Jarmond.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: Book Cover

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Nominated for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award

Just getting into this one and so far enjoying the writing style.  Will keep you posted.

Abba's Child by Brennan Manning: Book Cover

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

I’m reading this spiritual classic for the second time.  Manning is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers and I think he’s come about as close to understanding grace as anyone.  Definitely recommend this gem.

Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter: Book Cover

Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter

Loaned to me by a friend this book is helping me get my head around the idea of sewing.  I have decided to tackle this skill that has always alluded me and give it a go.  So far I’ve been helped a lot by my friend Katy – an extremely talented and self-taught seamstress – and produced a simple valence for the kitchen.  When I say simple, I mean simple.  This book is inspiring me to take on new projects.  It’s also just fun to look at because the photographs are well-done and the fabrics Jansdotter uses are fabulous.  Inspiring!

So that’s a quick run-down of some of the things that are cluttering up my brain these days.  What about you?  Reading anything good?  I’m always open to suggestions!

About Rebecca

Hi! After five years in Europe, I'm adjusting to life back in the US. I use this blog to record my adventures, post photos, organize recipes, and post about things that interest me.
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7 Responses to Literary Notes #7

  1. jukelulie says:

    I got tears in my eyes when I saw the sewing book!! I cannot wait to see what you create. You’ll have to teach me some real technique- I love to sew but usually have no idea what i am doing! SO FUN!!

  2. audrey says:

    sister –
    loved reading about your reading, makes me want to read more!
    especially liked this line –
    “brings back memories of a dry California childhood and a New England adolescence.” from The Shipping News commenatary. Am going to order Manning’s book, I’m amazon prime for a few more weeks!

  3. Hilary says:

    So…I think I need to re-read The Shipping News. I read that in high school because it was lying around the house. I’m not sure how it ended up in the house, but I read it, and hated it. I obviously didn’t “get it” or something. I just remember the main character totally repulsing me, and finishing the book and thinking nothing really happened. So I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you finish it. Love and miss you!!

  4. rouenna says:

    I thought it’s only me. =) I read two books at a time, too; something light in daytime and a heavy one at night when things are quieter and I can focus. I may have to check out the books you’ve reviewed on. I love finding new books to read. Right now, I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell and Austen’s Emma.

  5. POP says:

    I didn’t realize Manning wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel
    also. Just ordered Abba’s and The Furious Longing of
    God and looking forward to them both. ‘Hallelujah…..Grace….like rain falling down on me….’
    Need it!

  6. Solomon says:

    I really enjoy your book lists/reviews Becca. I am constantly adding titles to my list because of you. Love you and hope you are well.

  7. Pingback: More reading… « Highland Happenings

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