Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Down the side of the bed

Monday, 16 May 2011
The Speed of Dark

Image via Wikipedia

I read in bed quite a lot. It’s something I’ve always done, and it goes together quite well with a baby who doesn’t like to sleep without a parent next to her. I usually have a few on the go, piled on the top corner of the bed (in a corner of the room) and occasionally one or two fall down the side, from where I fish them out as I realise they’re missing. The bed got jogged out of place this morning, however, and when I went to retrieve the avalanche I realised that there were a few older escapees. To be unnoticed as missing these were ones I hadn’t actually got into, and sometimes hadn’t even started, but had just thought might be interesting. Anyway, I thought I’d list them here, with comments on how I’m getting on with them. (The order is just as they were piled.)

The ones I really wasn’t reading will probably go back on the shelf for now, but renoticing them has got me intrigued by some of them again. Watch this space to see which ones make it to the ‘Read’ lists…

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Unstarted, although it looks interesting. Looks a bit different from the other science-fiction I’ve been reading of late.

Cover of

Cover of Farewell, My Queen

Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas

About three-quarters of the way through this novel of the last days French royal court in July 1789, and enjoying it quite a lot.

Cover of "The Green Flag: A history of Ir...

Cover via Amazon

The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism by Robert Kee

While this officially covers the history right from the 12th century it really picks up the detail from the mid-17th century. I’m up to the late 18th century, approaching but not yet at the 1798 rebellion.

The Little Girl Book by David Laskin and Kathleen O’Neill

A rather different approach to a parenting book than I’ve come across before, this discusses the complicated issue of bringing up little girls while negotiating the stereotypes and sexism of our societies. The book was published in 1992, so still seeing how it stands up two decades later to my own opinions. Definitely interesting, though.

Cover of "Byzantium Endures"

Cover of Byzantium Endures

Byzantium Endures by Michael Moorcock

The two or three chapters I’ve read of this so far are decidedly odd. I’ll give it more time gradually and hope it grabs my attention. I wasn’t enjoying it all that much, and yet it was somewhat compelling.

Cover of "PEOPLE OF DARKNESS"

Cover of PEOPLE OF DARKNESS

People of Darkness by Tony Hillerman

I got side-tracked from the Hillerman books, but will get back to them. (I’d better, seeing as I ordered the entire set on Bookmooch!) I’d read a chapter or so of this one, but would probably restart from the beginning.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

I haven’t read any London since I was seven, and read White Fang in one sitting (staying with my grandparents I picked it up off their shelves to sustain me through a long morning meeting of my grandmother’s). I’m still in the introduction here, and I hadn’t realised what a fascinating life the author himself had.

Cover of How I Came West

Cover of How I Came West

How I Came West, and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker

A rather bizarre collection of often fantastical (but always so far set in modern-day USA) stories that I’m enjoying so long as I read each story in a single sitting, as they can be hard to keep track of after a break.

I don’t think I’ve read a collection of stories that was neither from one of the orthodox Jewish publishers nor aimed at children in an absolute age. (These are definitely not for children, although not crude, just for adults.) I’m enjoying the different perspective, and wondering why the general market avoids them so much.

Med Ship by Murray Leinster

I think this is a compilation of a lot of stories and novellas Leinster set in the same universe, but which aren’t always about the same characters, but I’m not far enough in to be sure.

Cover of China WitnessChina Witness by Xinran

More academic in its feel than the other books by Xinran I’ve read, this offers a very broad sweep of 20th century experience in China, as told by the survivors and thrivers of that period, an apparently reticent and now elderly generation. Each chapter, about a different person or small group, is relatively short, and tends to leave me wanting more, but that’s not a bad thing.

Wisdom of the Fox by Harry Turtledove

I don’t know why I haven’t got into this, seeing as I’ve been enjoying Turtledove’s alternate histories so much. I think I wasn’t really in the mood for what appeared to be more classic fantasy. I’ll try again at some point.

Cover of Wild Swans

Cover of Wild Swans

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

The first book about Chinese history I read. That was as a teenager, shortly after it first came out, and with all the Xinran I’ve been reading I thought I should go back to this one too. I’m picking up on details I certainly hadn’t remembered, partly because I’m older and partly because I do know a bit more about China now and can make more sense of what was going on (not that it’s badly explained in the book, but there’s only so much context a writer can be expected to give). Still looking for other modern writers on the country.

Not miserable

Friday, 18 March 2011

Here’s a book I almost certainly wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been for BookMooch. Basically I wanted to get something from someone in another country who wanted at least two to send here, and this looked the most potentially interesting of the remaining inventory.

Cover of Evelyn

Cover of Evelyn

38. Evelyn by Evelyn Doyle

Honestly, when I looked at this book it looked like one of those misery memoirs that have become so popular over the last few years but that don’t appeal to me at all. The first few chapters didn’t dispel that notion, since the maternal care provided to Evelyn and her five younger brothers is entirely neglectful and just appalling. However she really doesn’t wallow in that, and is quite positive about the convent care she received, and never negative about that of her brothers (who were in an entirely different establishment many miles away), which considering all the child abuse scandals laid on the Catholic Church and its institutions in Ireland and elsewhere was almost a surprise! Here it’s the Irish state policy (heavily influenced by the Church hierarchy) that are seen to be at fault, and which are battled by Evelyn’s father, to an eventual change in practice and legislation.

The book was apparently made into a film, which I’ve never seen but which doesn’t sound all that accurate to the book.

Land and Sea

Saturday, 29 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

13. The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland by Alistair Moffat

This book was published after the author produced and presented a television series of the same name for Scottish Television, and many of its flaws and virtues reflect that beginning. I haven’t seen the series (although I might be interested). Roughly country by country the book goes through a broad Celtic history of the British Isles, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and even England. It does not give any focus to Brittany, despite the early assertion that Celticness should be defined by language rather than race or other criteria.

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider...

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider Cornwall to be one of six Celtic nations.

While the editing missed a few things (one chapter in particular has an undue number of proofreading and other errors, and far too much emphasis is laid on mna si being an alternate phrase for bean si, or banshee, when any Irish child should have been able to point out that mná (women) is simply the plural in Irish for bean (woman), and thus mná sí would actually be banshees) the broad strokes of the history seemed correct where I knew enough to comment. My real quibble is with the chronology, which skips around a lot, even within given chapters, often making the point in question less clear. Similarly, a point made in one chapter sometimes appears to be contradicted in another.

Still, allowing for this not being a ‘scholarly’ history, I think it’s well worth the read, for bringing Celtic past and present together, as a true cultural heritage and largely ignoring (or at least downplaying) the tourist tat. It also makes a good argument in bringing forward the sea links that were so important in the early parts of this history (which includes some decent discussion of the Viking influence on the Celtic lands, and a return Celtic influence on Scandinavia) when land travel was often more difficult and nearly always slower.

I enjoyed this a lot, and may well follow up on the bibliography, if I can find the books. (I randomly came across this in a second-hand bookshop in Jerusalem.)

Personal Meanings

Sunday, 21 February 2010

73. Trinity, a novel of Ireland by Leon Uris

I began reading this book in early November, and it was an interesting perspective on Irish history of the late 19th and early 20th century. I don’t know enough about Uris’ historicism, nor the details of Ulster at this time to really comment on that, but there wasn’t anything too glaringly wrong in what I did know already.

The book follows a number of individuals of a wide range of backgrounds in terms of education, class, profession, religion, desired nationality and more. (These last two aren’t plain dualities, either.) It’s fairly good at doing so, and is provocative. Worth reading for those interested in the topics.

New Nostalgia

Saturday, 7 November 2009

This will likely be another short post, about books that feel like they should be rereads, but aren’t.

51. Just Henry by Michelle Magorian

As a child I read Goodnight Mr Tom and Back Home multiple times (I had a lot of kids’ WWII novels and biographies, and that war and its aftermath are a regular period for Magorian to write about). (I have read one or two of her other books as well, but don’t know them so well.) I liked both novels a lot, for the realism of the characters, and the interest and depth they bring to sometimes horrendous situations. (Although there’s a lot of good-heartedness in there as well, and they are perfectly suitable for the intended age-groups, in my opinion.)

This book is Magorian’s first in some years, and takes us to 1950, and a group of adolescents still dealing with rationing, National Service, and the family disruption caused by men having been lost in the war. At the same time there is an atmosphere of looking forward to new possibilities (Henry and his friends are fascinated by the cinema and what it shows them of the world) and new attitudes and opportunities (Henry’s stepfather has gone back to school, and hopes to be able to do 3rd level training or studies; and Henry and his classmates, male and female, are all being taught both to cook a meal and to put up a shelf). There are still many types of prejudice to be challenged and overcome, and a need to re-evaluate the past as well as the future, but this is a historical novel which very much looks forward.

52. The Truth About the Irish by Terry Eagleton

This was a (much appreciated) wedding present, to remind me of what I’ve left, and my DH of where I’ve come from! (It does rather help to have enough education in the country and its history to tell fact from fiction, but there are enough signposts that a savvy reader shouldn’t have much trouble.) It’s very amusing, in the good-natured self-deprecating humour that only a professed Irishman (no matter where he’s born) (or woman) could get away with.

Stories overlapping and intertwining

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I’ve just started reading Trinity: a novel of Ireland by Leon Uris, as I finished The Professor and the Madman this morning, and this was one my DH expressed an interest in my opinion of. I’ve seen novels by Uris before, but not read any of them. At the moment this is sharing the opening set-piece of Dubliners: the wake of an old man, respected in the community (if not by all), as viewed by a young boy connected to his family. I haven’t got far enough in it to say more than that as yet. Already, though, it’s got my DH and I discussing Irish history again, which is never a bad thing.

Still, if I’m to get to even having read a quarter of last year’s total books (320), I do need to get a move on, as I’m at precisely a fifth (64) today. Not that anyone besides me does or should care about that…

37. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

I believe I was given one copy of this and offered two or three more. Not sure if this says more about me or the book (I was being offered once read copies, where the purchaser thought it unlikely they’d reread the book). It is perhaps more of a book of children’s fairy tales than might be expected from Hermione’s fascination with it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but for those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series in its totality it’s certainly worth reading once, and for more than the sake of completeness.

38. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

After 2008’s reading of the original American version, this was me going back through the series as I knew it originally. As I pointed out then, they are only fractionally different. I still love the story and the writing in this series, but on this reread I was getting disturbed by the huge amount of violence (sexual and non) within the books, so it may be awhile till I go back to them, presuming I do. I haven’t even got hold of or read An Echo in the Bone (the newest book, which came out this September just gone) because of this.

39. What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I listened to this back to back with Mr Hogarth’s Will, as described two days ago, and since they have some overlapping themes I thought I was going to get them thoroughly mixed up, but I think I have them more distinct now than I did at the time!

Unlike Mr Hogarth’s nieces, who are educated to provide for themselves, and then turfed out to do so, Diantha has to do a lot of persuading of her family that she be allowed to try so to do (so far so like Agnes Grey), especially since she has a young man desperate to marry and look after her (so not like any book I’ve come across before the current generation). This is a clever, practical, principled young woman with her own plan of action, to benefit many women young and old, who will not be deterred from her path, especially by those she loves.

40. Posing for Portrait Photography: a head-to-toe guide by Jeff Smith

One of those random books I read for work, but I like to think it has and will help in my snapping, even though it’s decidedly written for those in or going into professional portrait photography. (I did some ‘proper photography’ courses in school, after learning a lot from my father, but these day I use an automatic digital camera mostly to record my crochet here and on Ravelry, and otherwise to snap pics of friends, family, and touristy stuff.)

Oh, and while I’m discussing improving photography skills, I just came across a really interesting photography blog. It is aimed towards proper photography, but those of us trying to get beyond ‘just snaps’ (again) can learn and be inspired too.

Lives in the balance

Monday, 14 January 2008

15. Step Up History: War and Change: Ireland 1918-1924 by Richard McConnell

This is a brave little book, trying to explain such a complicated and controversial section of Irish history without a whole lot of background to the period. It is published to meet the upper years of the primary curriculum in Ireland (the Republic) and Northern Ireland, and to add to that of England, Scotland and Wales, and I can see it being a very useful resource where the topic is being taught, but it would take a very interested child indeed to really understand the politics of the Irish Civil War from any one book. To personalise things just a bit there are brief biographies of Michael Collins and Eamonn de Valera.

16. Animal Story: Lioness Summer by Dougal Dixon

This one is all about personalising a more general story, in this case of wild lions in Africa and the challenges they face to stay alive in the face of hyenas, hunters, mining eating away at their territory, rival males and possible starvation. It tells the tale of a lioness here named Leah who becomes the dominant female of her sisters and her cubs.