This has been a month of change for our family; we moved temporarily to a small town in southern Ontario so my husband can complete a practicum as part of his Masters degree. And the last two weeks have been even more tumultuous, as we wait (rather impatiently) for the arrival of our third child who is currently eleven days overdue. With all the ups and downs, I haven’t read too much; nevertheless, here’s another Quick Lit post with some brief reviews. Enjoy!
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allan ★★☆☆☆ – I chose this book from the library because it was included in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. It was a disappointment. Maybe my expectations for this book were unrealistic after having read marvellous works like The Mill on the Floss, but I found the characters lacked depth beyond some pop psychology (my mom left me, therefore I fear everyone will leave me) and the magical element only served to heighten the emotion of relationships (which felt like a cheap trick). Not recommended.
The Wisdom of Father Brown by GK Chesterton ★★★★☆ – for some reason this little batch of Father Brown detective stories went over my head and at the end of each I was confused about how the mystery had been solved. Is my ready-to-have-a-baby brain particularly un-penetrating at the moment? Or are these stories just subtler than the ones found in The Innocence of Father Brown, which I both enjoyed and understood? The jury’s still out. Despite that, I still found the writing rather marvellous, and for that I give it four stars.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert ★★★★☆ – now this was quite the story! The basic plot: a young woman gets caught up in a little romance and marries a doctor, only to find herself disappointed in love. The culprit for her lofty expectations? Books. Says Emma Bovary: “I adore stories that rush breathlessly along, that frighten one. I detest commonplace heroes and moderate sentiments, such as there are in Nature.” That right there is what I found so fascinating about the book: there’s this chasm between what Emma desires and what is found in real life. Her husband is happy because the simple things of life charm him: “a meal together, a walk in the evening on the high road, a gesture of her hands over her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from the window-fastener, and many another thing in which Charles had never dreamed of pleasure, now made up the endless round of his happiness.” But Emma can’t stand the mundane things of life, and it makes her miserable. The story’s a tragedy, but a true and moving one. (The four stars is for the particular translation I read, which was at times clunky and confusing.)
Christy by Catherine Marshall ★★★½☆ – the story of a young schoolteacher from the city who moves to a remote mountain village in Tennessee to teach sixty-seven (!!) uneducated students. I found the depiction of rural mountain life and society in the early 1900s captivating, especially some of the hand-me-down foibles of Scottish immigrants, like illiterate parents who believe Latin is integral to their children’s education. Totally fascinating! But Christy’s condescending attitude towards the women in Cutter Gap and about motherhood in particular was grating after a while; it would do her good to meet with GK Chesterton for some perspective:
“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”
Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) and Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) by Jacqueline Winspear ★★☆☆☆– the second and third Maisie Dobbs books are improvements on the first; the stories are not as tidily linear, and the mysteries Maisie untangles are more complex and interesting. But the Buddhist/new age climate is also stronger, as are the modern liberal sentiments on practices like homosexuality. I can’t say I’m interested in reading any further in the series.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?