Posts Tagged ‘Louisa May Alcott’

Where am I up to, again?

Monday, 5 January 2009

306. Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Now this really is awhile ago, as it was one of Heather’s on Craftlit back at the end of November. It rounds out the youthful lives of the March girls and Teddy Lawrence. I still insist on classifying it as a separate book from Little Women, even though neither Heather nor Librivox agree, because that’s how I read them so many times as a child.

307. Long Way Home by Michael Morpurgo

This is by far the oldest of Morpurgo’s books I’ve come across, dating from 1975, and it’s interesting to see just how much of what happens would be rather implausible nowadays, if only because of the lack of apparent paperwork involved in transferring a young boy around the county (Devonshire, as it happens) to and from fostering.

308. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

While also set among Devon’s farming communities, this one was written far more recently (2005) and set longer ago (during World War II). I felt I wanted more of Adolphus Tips (the cat), but it’s very good.

309. Escape from Shangri-La by Michael Morpurgo

Generational angst. I really liked this one.

I shouldn’t have read so many light/short books back to back. A month later I have nothing to say about them.

310. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Librivox allowed me to revisit the younger generation at and around Plumfield, but I still haven’t finished Jo’s Boys. They’re as good as they ever were (if not necessarily as good as the original) but I wasn’t so much in the mood. More Nat and less Dan would be good.

311. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

We were comparing all of these over at the Craftlit group on Ravelry, so I thought I should revisit them. Here I think more challenges happen in the sequel (Rose in Bloom) but I haven’t revisited that one yet.

312. Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I think all this reversion to childhood favourites while between computers must have gone along with the avoidance of doing any useful study or work at home. No wonder I was feeling down (and I now have days to do months of assignment work…)!

313. Gifts to Treasure by Tehilla Greenberger

I’d never read this before, but it’s a kid’s book through and through, and kept making me think of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (that I didn’t have to hand), although it shares little but the setting with them, so doesn’t get me off the hook.

The rest really were new to me, but it’s late and I have to go back to work in the morning, so they’ll have to wait (as will the links). Good night!

Booking Time

Friday, 17 October 2008

I don’t feel like I’m getting much actually done that I’m aiming for these days. I’m pottering along, doing bits and pieces, but nothing seems to get to measurable levels. Perhaps I’m being affected with the malaise I’ve been trying to help others through, of barely meeting already extended assignment due dates. I haven’t done so much for them, and now I’m waiting in fear for my own, rather than ensuring I won’t be late.

So perhaps it will help to remind myself that I have actually read some good books (even if they aren’t the ones my course requires!) from cover to cover. (We’ll forget that I’m two or three weeks behind my aim of one per day this year.)

The first three are all audiobooks (from Librivox) that I listened to while preparing for the Yomim Tovim, while the second three are Jewish books I read during those festivals.

265. High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France by James Norman Hall

I would say this book lives up to the enthusiasm expressed by its Librivox reader. Hall was an American volunteer airman in the French forces in World War 1 (he went before the USA became involved) and is a most interesting raconteur of his experiences, from arriving in France without knowing any of the language, to his dodgem style pilot training, to the fears and exhilarations of flying and fighting. I was a little disturbed in the first chapter or two at the reader’s inaccurate pronunciations of the French words and place names that constantly crop up, but quickly realised that this is probably reasonably accurate to how the author would have pronounced them, as he never seems to have become fluent in French, even after a few years in the country. Knitters and crafters who make items for soldiers might like to listen to the first few minutes of chapter 12…

266. Stickeen by John Muir

This is quite a short tale (only three chapters) of the adventures of a dog (Stickeen) and a group of men exploring the far North, one of whom (the narrator) decides to go for a solitary walk on the glaciers one stormy day (no, he doesn’t give a good reason for doing so). Stickeen accompanies him, and they spend a frightening day bonding while leaping cracks in the glacier, trying to get back to the camp they shouldn’t have left! While I don’t think much of the sense of the narrator, he does tell an exciting tale well.

267. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

I read this for the first time as an adult, unlike Little Women and its sequels, or Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. While in some ways it is slightly more formulaic than either of those – the visiting Old-Fashioned Girl (Polly) makes a modern leaning family too interested in fashion and making money reassess and appreciate each other in the first half – in many ways she becomes more modern than they in the second half, with her interest in women’s rights and insistence on financial independence.

From all of these books I feel like Alcott’s ideal woman and girl synthesises the traditional feminine and home-building skills of cooking, crafting and caring with a strong mind and the full use of all of her individual talents both for her own expression and to support herself independently should she so desire and require.

268. Educating Our Daughters, Why? by B. C. Glaberson

The short introduction to this series of interviews with women educating girls in Yiddish in Israel states:

You may not agree with everything they say. In fact, you may disagree strongly with some of their opinions.

While I don’t disagree with their right to educate their daughters in this way (and it’s not Alcott’s way, as above, although it shares that synthesis of practical and academic), and share some of the values (I don’t speak Yiddish, for one) it’s not entirely the system I would be involved in. Definitely thought-provoking, well argued and well written, it does present a spectrum of opinion, showing one of the things I most appreciate in the Jewish education I have seen, that there isn’t just one way that will suit everyone, and that each child should be educated in the way that suits her or him.

269. A Touch of Warmth by Rabbi Yechiel Spero

Rabbi Spero is an inspiring raconteur, who can bring out a moral without drowning you in it.

270. The Winds of Change by Lena Spitzer

East End London of the 1930s, as at any other time, was a place of flux. It’s always been an area for immigrants, and in the 30s a great many of them were Jews escaping the poverty and persecution that was ever increasing in mainland Europe. In coming to a new country, often with nothing except the clothes on their backs, they had to meet the challenges of a new country and a changing world that included fascism not only in power in Germany and elsewhere, but in vocal minority in England, notably Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts. It’s an involving, well-written and researched book, and I heartily recommend it.

Unexpected speakers

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sorry for the delay in this post (and for the shadow on the image — this was the most legible picture), but I wanted to finish the first filet piece of the tablecloth to show you. Appropriate, no? I’m still working on the flower motifs, but those are small and easily transportable, whereas I think I’ll do the flat filet work all in one piece, so I’ll do it at home. That’s what will gain me the size, as well.

I think I’ll do a picture next, as I’d like to separate the different text phrases from each other.

I’m enjoying being away on holiday, even though I’m back in the house I grew up in! My mother and I went to a ‘Day Spa’, on Friday, with a package including massage, manicure, pedicure and facial – the first time I’d done any of those. It was a really fun day (but very expensive) and I shall now have to try finding the time and money to repeat at least part of the experience.

231. The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

I think I might have got this when I was a little older than the intended readership, but I’ve always enjoyed it anyhow. I think Durrell’s autobiographical accounts of his animal expiditions, as well as his family and friends are hilarious, but this isn’t trying to be funny, specifically (although there some very funny parts) but a gentle adventure story for children, where Emma, Ivan & Conrad’s eccentric Great-Uncle Lancelot turns up at their house one day in his balloon to whisk them away on a rescue mission that involves travelling around the world meeting (and talking to) fantastic animals. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Graham Percy, and well worth getting your hands on.

232. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I had remembered that there were ‘spiritual’ elements to this book, but not how much of a rabbit world is created and explained, nor how graphic some of what happens (or is described) is. This is an epic adventure in the classic style.

233. March by Geraldine Brooks

Reading this now made sense, having just recently completed rereading Little Women (with Craftlit). I still amn’t sure how much the LW connection matters to this story; I think it is a plausible account of what could be the background to Alcott’s characters, and yet I amn’t sure it’s the one I will have in the back of my mind for them.

As for the book’s own merits: I think it’s good, and thought-provoking, and satisfying in many ways, although it left me on edge. I think it might not have left me that way had I not been trying to reconcile it to my sense of LW, of course…

Now I’m considering rereading some other books I have about the American Civil War.

Niccolo Rising chapter 10 includes Tobie and Julius discussing Claes, and I still can’t work out (after how many rereads of the whole series?) where they’re both coming from, how honest they’re being, and how much they believe each other.

Women’s Lives

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I want to pay tribute to a wonderful woman who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, and who I have just discovered I will not get to meet again, but who will retain a special place in my memory and heart. For privacy I won’t say more than that, but I’ll be thinking of her and the rest of the family.

209. Brain Waves by Shuli Mensh

There are a few parallels with Fortune Seekers, that I read about a month ago, with lawyers to potentially hook up (okay, so that doesn’t happen till the end of either book, but it’s fairly obvious that it will in both cases, so I amn’t giving much away) and memories to make sense of, but they are quite different stories. This one uses the classic scenario of a character losing her memory and having to find herself, with the changes that makes in her, but it has been thought through and researched, and does not deserve the groan that was my first reaction to the event.

210. Emma Brown by Clare Boylan

The first two chapters of this are from an unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte, put aside upon the latter’s marriage, apparently. Boylan has done very well at keeping the same authorial voice going throughout the book, but there is a part of me that thinks Bronte would never have been as explicit over certain issues as Boylan is. On the other hand, Bronte’s original readers might have been better at reading between the lines than most of us are today.

The eponymous heroine of this novel has nearly as many monikers as one of Dorothy Dunnett‘s heroes, but they are generally not of her own choosing, and this story is not quite as complex as one of Dunnett’s sagas, either. Emma Brown is another to have lost her prior memories, leading her on her own quest for identity and home, with an annoying habit of truth-to-her-own-detriment that takes her away from those who wish to help her and into a series of dangerous situations. In the meantime, those who have been trying to help her get in each others’ way. I’m making this sound a farce, and it really isn’t – it’s very well written, and in many ways a satisfying tale – I just amn’t sure Boylan has given herself a plausible task.

Don’t get me wrong; she has written a great book that suits the manuscripts she worked from, but in the notes at the end she explains that it is Bronte’s apparent developing interest in social commentary and the condition of poor young women in London that she is trying to live up to. Perhaps Bronte did want to write a political novel, in what is now the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens or Anna Sewell, that would draw the attention of those who could bring change, but what is the point in writing such a work now, about a situation that no longer exists?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Oliver Twist etc. and Black Beauty are all classics that are most definitely worth reading nowadays, for their literary merit as well as for the opportunity to learn the wrongs of the past to prevent their repitition today, but they were written for their own time, not for now.

But that’s my only real complaint about Emma Brown, and I’d still say it’s a good read.

211. Extreme Motherhood by Jackie Clune

This one could be said to be social commentary, I suppose, but mostly I reread it because the author is a stand-up comedian who can also write funnily. I’ll have to see has she written any books other than this diary of the year from discovering she was expecting triplets to their first word (maybe) as I expect it’d be worth the read.

212. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott definitely did have social commentary and change in her sights when she wrote. Heather on Craftlit is going straight from this into Good Wives as LW part 2, but I always read them as two separate books, along with their sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys, so that’s how I’ll be listing them. I’ve read them countless times, of course, but it’s always good to get Heather’s commentary, and sometimes I can appreciate that more when I know the context of what is to come later in the story as well. She got podcast listeners to rerecord several of the chapters instead of using them from Librivox, so that’s another reason to go for the Craftlit version.


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