The Summer of the Great-grandmother (CBR4 #47)

A friend of mine has a blog where she discusses her feminist ideals as well as books which relate to feminism. She gathers ideas for what to read from varying sources and reads across a wide range of genre and time. The Summer of the Great-grandmother was difficult for her to track down, so I borrowed it for her from my library system(sshhh don’t tell them). When she returned the book to me she suggested that I read it as well, since some of the topics covered are of interest to us both. I figured why not?

I am not disappointed in my choice to read Ms. L’Engle’s book. In fact, I should probably announce right from the beginning that this is the only L’Engle book I have ever read (yes, that means that I have not read A Wrinkle in Time).  I did not know what to expect as far as authorial style but I must say that I was pleased to spend several evenings in the company of Ms. L’Engle and her family. For, although the book does focus on the end of life care for the titular great-grandmother, L’Engle’s own mother, it also delves into the various stories of those who came before – sometimes tracking Ms. L’Engle’s roots back to her three times great-grandparents and the type of life they led in the early 19th century. In fact, as Ms. L’Engle was born in 1918 many of the stories she recounts take place in 19th century America, and more specifically in the post-Antebellum South.

I was born in the north, and raised in the South. I am of two minds about almost anything. I have a cutting Northeast-based way of handling coworkers and friends, but sink back into a more demure, Southern way of handling instances where I feel put-upon or diminished. L’Engle very effectively shows the reader the various strings of familial ties which led to her own personality and that of her mother as they are both simultaneously of two worlds.

The book is broken up into sections which travel in reverse time order. The first section deals with the great-grandmother as she was that final summer – sinking into the debilitating effects of atherosclerosis. The second focuses on the mother of Ms. L’Engle’s memory, where the reader learns not only about the great-grandmother, but of the author in equal doses. The third focuses on the great-grandmother’s life before the birth of her only child at age 38, as L’Engle describes “the mother I could never truly know” and the family history of ‘tell me a story’. The final portion of the book deals with L’Engle’s experience during her mother’s death.

This is not a light fluffy read, nor is it a lecture. It is merely the musings of a highly educated and highly imaginative woman as she deals with the decisions we will all likely face. How do we decide what’s best for our loved ones at the end of their lives? I couldn’t recommend this one more highly.

Anne of the Island (CBR4 #46)

 

Somehow I managed to not review this one for three weeks. I am unsure how that occurred. I know I started writing this review several times, I guess I haven’t finished it until now. The third Anne book is almost as good as the first two. I don’t know if reading any of the following Anne books will be as wonderful as reading the first, but they all fall nicely into the heart. Anne of the Island finds our hero attending college, and all that means.

 

What I learned about myself reading this one is that it is difficult to watch anyone you care about go through the pratfalls and indecisions of late adolescence. While much happens in these books the plot point which stands out to a reader looking at the long game is Anne’s relationship with Gilbert. At the beginning of their sophomore year at Redmond Anne and Prissy, Phillipa, and Stella have been able to rent the adorable little house along the park where many wonderful things happen. But it is also here that Anne turns down the marriage proposal of Gilbert. In fact, Anne turns down not only Gilbert, but four others as well over the course of the four years in Kingsport. It isn’t until the end of the fourth year that Anne discovers she was very wrong in her notions of romantic love.

 

There’s lot s else happening with Anne as she ages from 18 to 22 and discovers  life on her own terms. Her best friend is married and has a child, the sale of her very first story, to name but a few. The overarching feeling I had while reading the adventures of Anne and her friends was that I wanted to sit and talk with them the way I sit and talk with my sister who is about the same age these days. This did not lessen my enjoyment of this book in the slightest.

NaNoWriMo – Halfway mark

I mentioned before that taking part in NaNoWriMo was perhaps a ludicrous idea on my part. I am, at best, an amateur writer. The possible completion a work in 30 days, let alone writing 50,000 words seemed well outside my skill level. As I sit here tonight I am hovering below 10,000 words when the target is north of 25,000 if I were  on pace. I have not been on pace once throughout this experience. But, that hasn’t lessened it for me. Of course I would like to achieve victory and write the 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th, but there are more victories than just that.

I have a definite story arc that I am aiming for. I know (vaguely) where my characters are headed. I have committed more words to electronic ink in just over two weeks than I have previously committed in two months.  My own creative process is engaging me. I want to write more. These are all victories for me. A year ago I did not dream to call myself a writer, now I am comfortable inside that dream.

Here’s hoping your NaNoWriMo goes they way you hope!

Chapter 6: Reappearances

 

Sunday found Jerome nursing what others would call a hangover and what he simply thought of as a migraine. While a bright mind he did own, it did not always put together facts he did not wish it to, and realizing that his drinking did in fact lead to hangovers would make him think less of himself. To his own mind, Jerome was invincible.

 

Handy around the kitchen, Jerome prepared himself his Sunday special of eggs and pancakes, a habit picked up from his time studying in the States. It was while he was eating his small feast at 11 am that the phone rang. Not thinking much of it Jerome reached for his mobile.

 

“’ello” was his muffled greeting.

 

“Mr. Davies, this is Ms. Griffiths from Friday afternoon. I was wondering if you had time just now to continue our previous conversation?”

 

“I felt we had reached the end of our conversation Ms. Griffiths.” Jerome replied while pushing away his plate and the remaining breakfast it contained. His appetite had left him.

 

“You walked away from our conversation as it turned to topic you’d rather not discuss. However, I need to discuss certain aspects of your past and personal habits if I am going to be able to decide if you are as suited to the type of work that my employers are looking to hire you for.”

 

“As previously discussed Ms. Griffiths, I already have a contract with a firm and have signed a non-compete clause so your employers can stop trying to lure me away.” Jerome had spent months deciding which firm to sign on with and was not about to jump ship now.

 

“I do not represent a Marketing firm, international or otherwise, Mr. Davies. My employers are interested in offering you work along another avenue.”

 

Jerome cut her off before she could continue “What makes you, or your employers, think that I would be interested in another avenue of work?” The disruption of his routine and the all-knowing air employed by Ms. Griffiths was more than Jerome could stand to be polite to.

 

“As you know Mr. Davies we are quite familiar with your academic and career pursuits and feel that you’re postponing your start date as evidence of continued unhappiness with the fields you choose. Not that they are not suited to you, simply that you have not found the position which best suits your self. My employers believe that we may have such a position for you.”

 

This caught Jerome completely off guard. He had felt for two days, and had been reassured by his friends just the night before, that this was simply some company’s tactic to approach him with an offer to leave his current job. A sleazy tactic surely, but nothing out of the ordinary in a competitive job market in a growing field. Plenty of agencies were looking to hire the best and the brightest coming out of the premiere programs, why shouldn’t Jerome have assumed as much? Now it appeared that Ms. Griffiths and her bosses were approaching him for different reasons and with a different end game in mind.

 

 

“And what is it that you would like to offer me Ms. Griffiths? What type of work do your employers’ feel that I am better suited for? Rubbish collecting?”

 

“You greatly undersell yourself and the people I represent with the idea of rubbish collecting. There is an opportunity within the organization which we feel would combine your degrees and years of experience, as well as your personality, in a way that you would find fulfilling. Would you be interested in meeting to discuss this further?”

 

“Honestly, I would prefer you simply told me what it is you’re after so we can wrap up this charade of a conversation and I can decide whether or not to alert my mobile phone service to block your number. What type of work do your employers suggest, Ms. Griffiths?”

 

“They are in the international information collecting business Mr. Davies, and you are well-suited for the task. Perhaps you would prefer to meet with them directly? I can arrange that for Wednesday so as not to interfere with your prized commencement ceremonies.” It was Ms. Griffiths turn to be snide.

 

“That will have to do, Ms. Griffiths. It seems as though you will not rest until you bludgeon me into accepting a meeting, so yes, let’s go ahead and set up said meeting so that I may get off the line with you and go about my life which you seem so determined to interrupt.”

Anne of Avonlea (CBR4 #45)

I love Anne. I love how she strives for goodness, embodies true friendship, and endeavors to live by her principles. Although much has changed in Anne’s world she and Marilla have settled into a relationship of easy affection and mutual respect. In this outing we experience a string of events in Anne’s life over the course of two years picking up after she decides to put off college following the death of Matthew.

Like all new teachers Anne has some idealistic and rather unrealistic notions of what she can achieve, but that does not stop her from trying and eventually achieving a great deal. Not to worry though, our Anne continues to find herself in and out of scrapes including accidentally dyeing her nose red.  It’s against the backdrop of teaching young minds that Anne seems to come into herself as an adult. By the end of the novel she has taught the three Rs, she has also learned how complicated life can be. Anne’s adventures include forming the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, meddling in her neighbor’s romance, and helping Marilla bring up two orphans at Green Gables.

There’s an undeniable undercurrent in the book about romance. In fact, marriage and married life is one of the strongest elements of the book and the theme of communication in relationships between women and men and the danger of unhappiness caused by unresolved misunderstandings is played out over and over again in the various stories encapsulated in each chapter. The reader  glimpses into the stages of relationships from the eyes of Avonlea. Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s husband is ill, and she must deal with his death and what that means for her future. Mr. Harrison’s tale of separating from his wife over a prideful argument and her eventual return to him on Prince Edward Island shows another side of the theme. Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving finding each other again in their ‘old age‘ and moving beyond the prideful fight that had separated them in their youth. There are also a variety of other couples and old maids in the neighboring environs whom Anne interacts with. As Anne encounters each of these characters she also must deal with her own ideas of her future. As any true friend should Diana attempts to point Anne in the right direction, to which Anne asserts that she will find her ideal or she will happily remain unmarried.

This leads inevitably, to Gilbert Blythe. Ms. Montgomery shows her authorial hand just once, but it’s unmistakable.  “Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert was asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul.” Gilbert’s time at White Sands is greatly ignored throughout the narrative, but there are hints that there are many in the teenage set that displayed loose morals, to Gilbert’s eyes. He had made up his mind that his actions now must match the future he envisioned with Anne.

To the faults – in my mind the new young children made for the most grating parts of the narrative. While  Dora and Davy Keith add life to Green Gables and show Marilla and Anne’s growth it is hard to be enthralled with either of them. Dora is so well-behaved and plain as to be wholly forgettable and it seems Ms. Montgomery felt the same as she is absent from the story quite often. Davy is so mischievous that the reader simply wants him off the page. Davy is, I’m rather sure, meant to show the growth in Anne herself from her own impetuous youth, but instead simply grates on the nerves.  Then there is Anne’s favorite student Paul Irving’s grating habits.  Paul seems too good to be true, and combines every one of Anne’s more imaginative habits. But I think the part of the writing of this character, and others which grated on my nerves the most was his speech pattern. Montgomery developed for her characters very specific mannerisms and speech patterns and Paul’s is ‘well you know teacher’. He intends it as an inside commiseration of two kindred spirits but I could not help but to read it as whiny pre-teen speech patterns.

However, I love spending time in Anne’s world and would recommend this series to the adult reader who may have missed it in their own growing up years.

Whom the Gods Love (CBR4 #44)

I find myself sitting to type of this review minutes after completing the reading of Whom the Gods Love by merit of the fact that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there is little else for me to do. Perhaps it is the reality of the damage done to my home state, the weeks of recovery in front of all of us, the lack of internet and phones, or the amount of deaths in this Julian Kestrel novel that leave me feeling vaguely melancholy. It could also be the realization that there is only one more book by Kate Ross for me to consume.

 

Whom the Gods Love is filled with literary allusions and death. The book picks up a small while after the activities of A Broken Vessel finding Julian and Dipper back into the normal pattern of life. That is, until Julian is approached by Sir Malcolm Falkland, father of the deceased Alexander Falkland. Sir Malcolm is distraught, the Bow Street Runners have run into a dead-end and the Quality won’t fully participate in the investigation. Sir Malcolm approaches our amateur sleuth to piece together the mystery of who would kill such a popular young man.

 

Julian takes on the challenge, if only to occupy his time and give Sir Malcolm peace of mind, but it quickly becomes clear that there is much more below the surface than Sir Malcolm or any of Alexander’s acquaintances could have known. Ms. Ross utilizes a character list in the beginning of this book, partly because there are so many characters to keep track of, and partly I think as a nod to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice which gets referenced once again. While this book had a slow start I’ve decided to give it a three star rating because it’s full of historical insights and kept me guessing about the mystery at hand.

NaNoWriMo

Under what is perhaps an ill-advised decision, I have decided to make an attempt at National Novel Writing Month. This is perhaps ludicrous. No, scratch that – this is ludicrous.

I have made previous attempts at writing. I have an unfinished manuscript Here Again sitting on my hardrive, but the file was corrupted several months ago and I can’t bring myself to attempt to rewrite what was lost. Perhaps after the cleansing experience of NaNoWriMo I will once again be able to go down that literary path.

I have spent the last few months working on flash fictions pieces that may someday form a short story collection, but for the month of November I will be working on a brand new piece entitled Transitions. An excerpt below:

Chapter 1 – Goodbyes

 

She knew she would be saying good bye forever, but she just couldn’t seem to get the appropriate amount of emotion built up. The moment was going to pass her by, she knew that she was going to fail to give it the proper notice and she would regret it forever. It wasn’t everyday that you said goodbye to a partner, closing a chapter in your life so completely that there would simply be no reopening it. She would need to bury the very part of her that made her able to complete the project over the past 18 months so that she could move on and go back to a normal life. But she couldn’t seem to get there.

 

Sydney was to the outside observer an everyday practical woman with no discerning characteristics. If you saw her you wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a lineup a few hours later. Her average build and plain Jane brown hair in a sensible cut with contemporary but not overly fashionable clothes had made her perfect for her post. Now they would make her transition easier by half. Her partner would have no such luck. He would have to recreate himself as a pigeon where heretofore he had been a peacock.

 

Jerome was never unnoticed since he hit puberty, but unlike so many others he sailed through the normally tumultuous period without any of the usual scars. He grew six inches, his voice dropped, and all the baby-fat had melted away in a matter of months, not years. By the time he had become paired with Sydney he couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t felt comfortable in his own skin, even if it was very different from the chameleon comfort Sydney felt in her skin.

 

It was this comfort that made Sydney and Jerome such a solid and successful pairing. Neither needed their partner to be their stabilizer, they were able to accomplish that for themselves. They sailed through life with very few eddies to throw them off course. That was until they were decommissioned and sent back to their previous lives.