I loved George Eliot’s Middlemarch (published 1874; thoughts), despite its 800 pages. I can’t say the same about Eliot’s Silas Marner (published 1861), despite its comparative brevity. Now, if you have been reading my blog in the past, you will know that I tend to read classics and I normally love them, especially Victorian novels.
I’ll tell you right up front, then, that Silas Marner is a strange exception to my love of the classics. I didn’t really like it, even after discussing it with a small group for my book club. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I read it another time; I’m in a reading funk these days, and I did read about 3,000 pages worth of Victorian fiction this past summer. (Is there such a thing as too much Victorian literature?)
Nevertheless, for whatever reason, for the first 100 pages of the 210 page novel, I was bored with Silas Marner. I had to reread numerous passages. I found Eliot’s prose to be dense and the story stagnant and depressing: nothing much happened for the majority of the novel! (more…)
In The Girl Who Owned a City (first published 1975, reissued 1995), O.T. Nelson creates an entirely unbelievable post-apocalyptic scenario for middle-grade readers. In the past month, the world population of adults has died of a rapidly spreading plague. All that remains in ten-year-old Lisa’s immediate world are other children, all under the age of twelve. Lisa is now responsible for her younger brother’s food and safety. Using her intelligence and her problem-solving abilities, Lisa discovers previously untouched sources of food, gathers her street into a commune, and moves them all into the local high school, of which Lisa is made supreme ruler.
Such a (ridiculous) story may have worked fantastically, but O.T. Nelson’s prose is painful, the characters one-dimensional and selfish, and the ordinary things about the story are entirely unbelievable.
I love it.
With detailed pencil illustrations (every other page in color) and well organized and entertaining prose, Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire capture the simplicity and the complexity of the Greek myths for young readers. Although D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is not divided into chapters, each two-page spread is (for the most part) about a different god or goddess, from the Titans to the Olympians to the worldly heroes descended from the gods. Some stories are more detailed than others, and in general it is a wonderful introduction to general Greek mythology for the young reader and interested adult alike.
I grew up with D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths so I have a hard time finding fault with it. I feel I have always known Zeus and Athena (she was always my favorite) and I remember pouring over the illustrations even at a young age. Now, as an adult, I loved rereading the stories, especially since I’ve read some ancient Greek literature myself, which was obviously the origin of the stories.
I believe reading this book was the origin of my love of Greek mythology, and I’d suggest it’s a wonderful starting point for kids. Given the current interest in mythology thanks to Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series, I’ll also go out on a limb and suggest that this would also be a great book for kids who love reading about Percy’s adventures. Highly recommended.
I’m probably going to be busy with family a lot more in the coming weeks thanks to the holidays, so my blogging and reading will lessen. But I do have a few books I hope to get to between now and the end of January: some are very long and intimidating, others not so intimidating. I’m looking forward to each of them and since I got my Christmas present early (a beautiful new Canon EOS with video functionality) I thought I’d try my hand at another vlog. (It’s been a long time since I’ve done a vlog.)
Bonus points are you can see my new haircut (I’m very pleased with it) and my Christmas cross stitch project. I had my new camera on the wrong setting the first time, so I had to do it a few times, and that’s why I may sound tired of repeating myself. There’s also an awkward splice because I had a coughing fit and I don’t think you wanted to watch that. I apologize in advance for the weird things — still getting a hang of this technology. I still think some setting is off. I’ll read the user manual before I do another vlog.
See the vlog after the jump.
Yesterday you were divorced. Today I am a widow. (page 1)
So begins So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (first published 1980, translated from the French by Modupé Bodé-Thomas), the personal (fictional) diary of the Senegalese woman Ramatoulaye, written as an extended letter to her best friend Aissatou, who has long lived in the United States.
Mariama Ba writes of the conflicts these women face in their modern (1970s and 1980s) world with detail, passion, understanding, and sensitivity. In an expert way, she doesn’t judge the choices her fictional characters make. Nevertheless, the outcomes, both negative and positive, are evident in the women’s realistic responses to their situations.
Obviously, I have never been a woman in Senegal forced to live in a polygamous situation. I have never had to face the difficult questions of parenting and motherhood that Ramatoulaye faces. I have never been betrayed by my husband or felt direly alone in the world. Yet, I related to Ramatoulaye’s pain, her quandary, and her desire for something better. In some ways, Ramatoulaye is every woman. I loved reading her story. I feel I know her, even after 90 pages.