The theme of February turned out to be the Newbery Award. I also read a couple of long epic non-Newbery books and one play.
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Read for Amy’s Newbery Challenge, this was my 1930s selection. I love Elizabeth Enright, her Melendy family series is one of my favorites from childhood and now one of my favorites to share with my kids. (We are actually in the midst of listening to The Four Story Mistake on audiobook.) I either never read Thimble Summer or I read it so long ago I don’t remember it but I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a young girl and her life on a midwestern farm. It reminded me of the Melendy books in many ways. The adventures that the girl has are somewhat ordinary but told about through the eyes of a child who finds them dramatic and exciting. Enright’s language is full of unexpected metaphors and imagery. She also uses the literary method of having characters tell stories about their lives to extend the book beyond the immediate setting.
The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres.
Read for my book club. The summary of this one sounded like everything we would all love: epic tale in post WWI England spanning multiple generations and families. Somehow, it fell somewhat short. I think for most of us it was de Bernieres writing style which is somewhat cool and aloof and left us feeling somewhat disinterested in the characters. One member pointed out that it might just have been that we read this book at the same time that the last season of Downton Abbey was beginning. Involving characters in the same time and place and similar situations it made for a poor comparison since many of us are Downton fans and felt much more invested in those characters.
King Charles III by Mike Bartlett (play)
A “future history” play that examines what happens after Queen Elizabeth dies and Charles becomes king. H. and I saw the play on Broadway at the end of January and then we both commented that it was something we wanted to read. Written in blank verse, the language had Shakespearean feel and was quite funny and clever. About a week later he surprised me with a copy as a birthday present.
Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin (audiobook)
I really enjoyed this story about a group of nuns at a private girls’ school in North Carolina. Godwin is a genius at creating tension over the smallest and most seemingly mundane events. Much of the actual action is inner as the various characters wrestle with their relationships with each other and with God. The theme of the book was “we are all works in progress” which I found strangely inspiring at this point in my life.
Non-Fiction Read in February:
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Recommended by Sherry from Semicolon. This is a tough book to read and one I’m still processing. It tells the story of what happened at a New Orleans hospital after Katrina. Some doctors and nurses are alleged to have euthanized some of the patients and the book discusses what happened to lead to that point and the investigation afterwards.
With the kids:
Ruth and I are enjoying Ann Martin’s Doll People series. We just finished the second one and she wants to go on to the third. We’re also team reading Clementine together for school. The boys and I are almost through with Mossflower and we just need to decided what is next. I, for one, will be glad to move on. I don’t love the Redwall books and I especially don’t love reading them aloud. If I never have to try and read Brian Jacques version of a Cockney mole accent I will be a happy woman. As I mentioned earlier, we are all listening to Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy family series in the car.
John and I are both reading Rudyard Kipling’s Kim as part of school. We discuss it a few chapters at a time. It’s the first time for me. I’m in the middle of a new-to-me mystery series, Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason. We are headed to Iceland in the fall for a vacation so I thought I’d try this highly acclaimed Reykjavik series.