I thought I better catch you all up on some of the books that I have read recently.
First, let's chat a bit about Time was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer. Mercer deftly paints a stunning portrait of his early 21st century sojourn at Shakespeare and Co.; the renowned bookshop near the Seine in Paris. Home to aspiring writers and established poets ( Alan Ginsberg included ), Mercer like many before him was given a job and a place to stay by the eccentric and brilliantly literate George Whitman. Imagine ! Living at a bookstore. A bohemian wonder with hidden beds and staircases and enough room at a table for perfect strangers to sit at high tea on Sunday afternoons. Many bookish people permeate Shakespeare and Co. on pilgrimages yearly. Mercer's story reminded me of the golden age of literary Paris ( that explored in Everybody was So Young by Amanda Vaill, That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan ....which we all know as one of my favourites...and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway ). Mercer, a former crime reporter for the Ottawa Citizen, is surprisingly romantic and self-effacing. In fact,his prose.... peppered with anecdotes of long nights with a bottle of wine and scraps of poetry.... makes you feel as if this book were written decades ago and the story was more deliciously aged than its 2005 publication date.
Charming. Read it.
My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain is a dissertation on passion: whether found or thwarted. Kathleen is a London travel writer long absorbed in a xerox of a divorce case an ex-lover once gave her. The "Talbot" divorce case involves the supposedly adulturous affair between the wealthy Marianne Talbot and the lowly groom, William during the aftermath of the Irish Potato famine. Akin to Possession , the story jumps ( seamlessly ) from the present to the early 1850's. The metaphor of famine as a physical and emotional state is pretty astute. Further, the idea of passion starved is fully realized in the old-maidenly narrator, the lonely Kathleen.
This book has a twist which makes the one so praised recently in The Thirteenth Tale pale quickly in comparison.
I read this brilliant book in one sitting with a cup of tea while watching the snow outside my window. The portrait of the famine was heartbreaking; especially in comparison to the wealthy excess she paints in the ignorant Talbots. More heartbreaking still is the starved existence of Kathleen....who yearns for passion and romance and must revisit a tattered courtcase to live it ( Think The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn by Brian Moore ).
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray is one of the Newbery Award winners of yesteryear. I have decided to try and read atleast one Newbery book every month. I have flirted with reading older Newbery books on and off for the past year, so I knew I would get to this one eventually. Adam is the son of Roger-the-Minstrel, in his Canterbury Tale-esque adventures we read of their musical adventures from town to town and Adam's captivating medieval journey. I was reminded ( delightfully ) of Crispin by Avi and his minstrel friend Bear.
Megiddo's Shadow by Arthur Slade is a Red Maple nominee this year and the first book of my November Reading Challenge. Edward, an upstanding Saskatchewan farmer's kid leaves his home on the prairie and enlists in the Great War despite his mere sixteen years to avenge the death of his beloved older brother. A natural horseman, he is sent to tame horses in the Palestine and to fight the Turks. The "Lawrence of Arabia" theme is coupled with Edward's love for his home and native land. Thus, the vast desert he rides becomes a stand-in for the similar dry Prairie terrain of his youth. The end brought me to tears. Arthur Slade.... now inducted into my Canadian YA authors hall of fame. Loved it ! Love him! More MORE MORE !!!
On the night table:
The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Forbidden City by William Bell
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Fly by Night by Francis Hardinge
Thomas Hardy by Clare Tomalin ( I LOVE advanced reader's copies )
Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant