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Sunday Salon: the Overslept Post

March 15, 2009

The Sunday Salon.comI 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.

Children of Green KknoweAfter 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.

ZenzeleAfter 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!

Jackie OrmesAfter 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.

You're Wearing ThatFinally, 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. ;)

22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 6:40 pm

    It’s lucky you can read during your insomnia. I just sort of go into zombie-ness. It’s interesting that even your books that you had negative things to say about, sound pretty good!

  2. blacklin permalink
    March 15, 2009 6:44 pm

    I began reading the Tannen book just before I had my neck surgery. Ironically, my mom was the one who went with me through the initial prep and waited for at least 3 hours in the waiting room to see how my surgery went (it went well.) And at age 39, she was the first person I asked for as I woke up in the recovery room. I haven’t finished the book, but I enjoyed the book as far as I got.

    I have read some of her other books and I am usually pleased with her books overall.

  3. March 15, 2009 7:28 pm

    Well, that was a very productive week! I remember trying to read the Green Knowe series when I was around ten or so and not really being able to get into it. But they sound exactly like something I’d love now, so I might have to go back and give them a second try!

  4. March 15, 2009 8:50 pm

    I’ve heard of Lucy Knowles, but not read the books (yet). and you had an incredible book week reading! I hope you feel better soon in terms of sleep.

  5. March 15, 2009 9:10 pm

    So many more good reads that I haven’t heard of. You’re truly amazing! I would love to read The Green Knowe series with my kids. Also, I had a hard time looking for a book under relative for What’s in a Name. I started out reading The Optimist’s Daughter but got bored, and it was a very short book, too. I think it didn’t help that while I read it my baby kept bugging me every two pages. So I finally got one from bookmooch, one which I’d been looking to read since years ago, but have forgotten. I’m excited about it: The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien. Happy week, Eva!

  6. March 16, 2009 4:14 am

    Lovely! The Green Knowe books sound very nice. I need to see if my library has Loot.

  7. March 16, 2009 4:15 am

    RhapsodyinBooks, I totally feel the zombie-ness; with me, it depends on the night. And usually, if I can’t read a regular book, I can at least lay there and listen to a book on CD!

    Blacklin, I’ll have to check out her other books! I’m glad your surgery went well, and I’d want my mom there too.

    JLS, I hope you enjoy them if you give them another try!

    Susan, I think you’d really like the Green Knowe books!

    Claire, aww-thanks! I’d love to know what your kids think of them if you end up reading them together. :) I had a hard time for the What’s in a Name list too, because I challenged myself to find books written by African authors, lol. That’s why I ended up using Zenzele’s subtitle!

  8. March 16, 2009 4:42 am

    I absolutely must try the Green Knowe series! I think I first added them to my list when you did a post about your favorites in fantasy, but I really must get them bumped higher up the list because they sound truly delightful!

    Well, I guess I’ll probably read ZenZele then. Because I am really loving (and hating, because as always seems to be the case, there’s so much sadness and horror) learning about Zimbabwe. I’m about to finish up House of Stone, which is a wonderful book. I’ve also got Nervous Conditions (a novel) set in Zimbabwe (or I guess Rhodesia)…have you read that? Anyway, I’m glad I read your thoughts on ZenZele, as I won’t have quite such high expectations of it.

    And now I’m probably going to have to add You’re Wearing That to my wish list, too. Wish you’d have a few more non-reading weeks. ;) Of course, I’m really kidding.

  9. March 16, 2009 6:08 am

    Wow, I’d say you jumped back into your reading with both feet! I didn’t know about the Green Knowe books. They sound great. I love setting you describe. As always, thanks for a great review.

  10. March 16, 2009 9:03 am

    I was the same way in January. I have just felt there is no time to read. I think that seems to be the trend around in the Blogosphere.

  11. March 16, 2009 11:13 am

    Thanks for the little write-up on the Green Knowe books – I’m going to definitely check them out!

    It sounds like March started off as a tough reading month for a bunch of us (myself included). I’m trying to find my groove again, but haven’t yet snapped back to my voracious reading habits.

  12. March 16, 2009 1:31 pm

    I thought Burmese Days was a great book. I never heard of the Green Knowe series, but it certainly sounds like fun.

  13. March 16, 2009 2:42 pm

    I’m looking forward to your Green Knowe review post! I loved those books when I was little. I’m a lot more squeamish than you, though; I think I was seven or eight when I read them, and Tolly’s experiences in the thunderstorm terrified me.

  14. March 16, 2009 5:48 pm

    Well, I’m sorry you’re having so many sleep problems, but at least you’re getting lots of reading done! :)

  15. March 17, 2009 6:25 am

    Debi, yay! I’ll review the ones I recently read in about a week, and hopefully then they’ll be bumped up further. :p I think you’ll find Zenzele really refreshing, because it’s a lot more optimistic than the other books I’ve read about Zimbabwe. I have read Nervous Conditions, and it definitely impressed me, but it’s not uplifting!

    Lisa, I hope you enjoy them. :)

    Michelle, time is not my issue right now, lol. (I’m taking a semester off grad school due to illness, have no job, and thus no money to do fun things, and not many responsibilities.) I think I just burned myself out in Feb and had to take a little bit of a breather!

    Steph, can’t wait to see what you think of them! I hope you find your groove soon. :)

    Jeane, I agree-it’s a great book! If you haven’t read Finding George Orwell in Burma, I think you’d really like that one too.

    Memory, I read so many ghost books when I was in elementary school, that I think I was inured to them by the time I got to Green Knowe!! lol For some reason, I loved reading scary books…of course, I still do nowadays, it’s just harder to find ones that scare me.

    Heather, I’m getting sleep, just at whacky hours of the day, lol. It is fun to stay up all night reading though! ;)

  16. March 17, 2009 5:21 pm

    I’m so sorry you’re having sleep problems – that just stinks. I am glad you’re back into reading.

  17. March 22, 2009 9:17 am

    Wow, you sure made up for lost time!! Sorry about your sleep issues. My husband has suffered with bouts of insomnia and it’s awful for him. I, on the other hand, sleep like a baby.


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