Sunday Salon: the Overslept Post
I meant to write this post this morning, but I’ve been having a ton of sleep problems, so it’s a little late. ;) I’ve missed two Sunday Salons, but I’m just going to talk about this week’s reading. I actually didn’t read much at all the first week of March-I didn’t even finish a book! But I made up for it this week.
After not really being interested in reading for a week, I decided it was time to break out L.M. Boston’s Green Knowe series. I read the final three, which I hadn’t read during childhood: A Stranger at Green Knowe, An Enemy at Green Knowe, and The Stones of Green Knowe. When I mentioned them during a Library Loot post, I had several people ask what they were. Whoops! So I thought I’d write a little introduction to the six-book series here, since I’ll be reviewing them in their own post. Green Knowe is a nine-hundred-year-old estate in England, with a rambling house, a little chapel with a wonderful St. Christopher statue, stables, and extensive grounds that include sculpted hedges, a kitchen garden, and some forest (it’s a fictionalised version of an actual house Boston lived in). There’s also a river, that effectively loops around Green Knowe and makes it an island. Living in this place is Mrs. Oldknow, the perfect grandmother. She knows that boys will be boys, and she’s at least as imaginative as the children in the house. She’s also a wonderful story-teller, and knows everything there is to know about the estate and who used to live there. There are also always a child or two in the books: Tolly, her grandson, and Ping, a refugee from the Chinese-Burmese border, are each in four of them (not the same four). And in The River at Green Knowe, Ping’s joined by another refugee Oskar and Ida, a British girl whose aunt is working with “the Society for the Promotion of Summer Holidays for Displaced Children.” Anyway, what makes the books so marvelous, is that Green Knowe is magical: there are the ghosts of former children from much earlier in time, all sorts of wild animals waiting to be tamed, and strange things happening. Along with the good, there are a few evil characters and some scenes that might be frightening for really young children (a hedge sculpture comes to life and tries to attack Tolly during a thunder storm, for example), but I read this for the first time when I was eight or nine and it didn’t bother me. Boston mixes the everyday with the supernatural to wonderful effect. If you want to try it out, the first book is The Children of Green Knowe.
After I raced through the three Green Knowe books, I was suddenly back into reading. So I finished up several books I was already halfway through: a wonderful book about ancient art and the disputes between Western museums and the countries of origin called Loot by Sharon Waxman (which I’ve reviewed here), and two slim novels. The first novel, Zenzele: Letters to My Daughteris by J. Nozipo Maraire, a Zimbabwean who trained as a neurosurgeon at Yale. I have very mixed feelings about this book, which is formatted as letters by a Zimbabwean mother to her teenaged daughter who is going to enroll at Harvard soon. As a novel, or a piece of fiction, I don’t think it works. The mother regularly explains things that she’d never really have to explain to her daughter, just because the reader doesn’t understand. And any sense of story is often co-opted by philosophy. Most of the characters don’t feel like real people, but like symbols of various problems Zimbabwe faces. However, I still enjoyed the book. Why? Because it provides a really interesting window into Zimbabwe: its culture and politics, mainly during the transition from Zimbabwe to Rhodesia and then in non-apartheid Zimbabwe. I feel like now I know so much more about native Zimbabwe, which is great. So, if you’re willing to ignore the poorly-written fiction, and wade through a few political rants, you’ll be rewarded with some real insight. For me, that’s enough to make me glad I read the book, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it left and right. (This was also my second What’s in a Name? read, counting for the family member category.) The second book was To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, which is probably my least favourite Woolf so far (to clarify, I love Woolf), but that I’ll talk about in its own post!
After that, I raced through the first volume of Fables by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina, called Legends in Exile. I loved it, and I’ve already written up by review, though I haven’t published it yet. Inspired by the graphic novel-ness of it, and Women’s History Month, I picked up a nonfiction book called Jackie Ormes: the First African American Woman Cartoonist, written by Nancy Goldstein. I thought it was a graphic nonfiction book, but it’s not. And it’s really a biography, in that there isn’t much critical analysis. In fact, I think it was a poorly written book. However, there are lots of Ormes’ cartoons included, and I really enjoyed seeing them (the captions on the cartoons providing context were the best part of the book). I wouldn’t recommend this as something to read cover-to-cover; now, I wish I’d just flipped to the cartoons section and read through those.
Finally, during my insomnia of last night/this morning, I finished two more books. Burmese Days by George Orwell is part of my Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge, and I plan on doing one big post on all three of the books I read about Burma. I picked up You’re Wearing That? Mothers and Daughters in Conversationby Deborah Tannenbecause of Women’s History Month. Tannen is a sociolinguist at Georgetown, and in this book she looks at the relationships between mothers and adult daughters. I really enjoyed reading this one, since I’m a (sort of) adult daughter who’s really close to her mother. Most of the chapters just reinforced how awesome my mom is (since there are stories of quite a few mean/thoughtlessly hurtful moms), but I just loved seeing so many different personal stories of different mother-daughter pairs. In the last chapter, Tannen offered some helpful advice for improving your own relationship with your mother or daughter, and while it wasn’t earth-shattering, it was thought-provoking. While reading this one, I often read parts out loud to my mom, which was fun. This is a light, but not fluffy, book that’s a fast and interesting read. I enjoyed it!
So there we go: my week in reading. And now I’m going to go back to Finding George Orwell in Burma and The Count of Monte Cristo, two books I’m reading right now and thoroughly enjoying! Of course, I’ll also be visiting my fellow Sunday Saloners. ;)