Last year I had a goal to read 200 books in one year, and I made it! (Thanks in great part to being unemployed for most of the year.)This year, I am way, way "behind", but then again I did not set any goal.
In fact, I only read two books in June. That's almost unheard of for me. But I was so busy, returning to gardening again after a hiatus of at least three years. I was so exhausted from planting, weeding, and clearing away old unwanted or broken down garden stuff that I usually fell into bed right after supper. But now, with most of the hard work done, I am back to reading on the deck on the west side of my house. Since it is so light so long up here in NoDak country, some nights I was able to read until almost 10 p.m.
I have read a couple of memorable new books so far. Inspired by the July 21st post by Loretta Marvel at "Pomegranates and Paper" (on my sidebar), I have decided to share them with you. One is "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain. It's a fictionalized account of the life led by Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, during their days in Paris. McLain gives a wonderful account of the Hemingways' and other famous writers' lives in post-war Paris up until the time that Ernest throws Hadley over for the woman who will soon be his second wife.
The second is "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett. Patchett is one of my favorite authors, be it fiction ("Bel Canto") or non-fiction ("Truth and Beauty: A Friendship"). Pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh leaves a chilly Minnesota spring for the Amazon jungle, looking to find the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. But first she must locate Dr. Anneck Swenson and discern why the renowned gynecologist is being so reticent about her research into producing a fertility drug that could be a windfall for her company.
I highly recommend both these books, and I more than likely will be recommending the book I just received yesterday. "Burnt Mountain", by Anne Rivers Siddons, will be the book that I bring out to the deck tonight. I think I've read almost every single one of ARS's books and loved them all, so I'm sure I will love this one too. Set in the South, as are all of Siddons' books, "Burnt Mountain" is described thusly: "Growing up, the only place tomboy Thayer Wentworth felt at home was at her summer camp - Camp Sherwood Forest in the North Carolina Mountains. It was there that she came alive and where she met Nick Abrams, her first love...and first heartbreak.
Years later, Thayer marries Aengus, an Irish professor, and they move into her deceased grandmother's house in Atlanta, only miles from Camp Edgewood on Burnt Mountain where her father died years ago in a car accident. There, Aengus and Thayer lead quiet and happy lives until Aengus is invited up to the camp to tell old Irish tales to the campers. As Aengus spends less time at home and becomes more distant, Thayer must confront dark secrets-about her mother, her first love, and, most devastating of all, her husband."
Now on to a few other books that I also highly recommend. These aren't new, but they are tied into movies that are out now or soon will be. The first is "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan".
Set in 19th Century China, it is the story of two young girls, Lily and Snow Flower, who embark on what becomes a lifelong, intimate friendship when they together undergo the excruciating process of foot binding. Later on, the "old sames" are separated but carry on their friendship through "nu shu", or secret women's writing, on a fan that is passed back and forth between them. We also witness what pride, misunderstandings and perceived slights can do to even such a firm friendship as theirs.
I have not seen this movie but I cannot see how it could improve on this fantastic book.
Another most excellent book, with a movie by the same name set to open Aug. 10, is "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It is set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., "where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver." Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by 'writing about what disturbs you'.
"The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts, enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams."
The book "Water for Elephants" has been out for years now, and the movie came out earlier this year, so you may have already seen it. But even if you have - or have not - please, please read this wonderful book. Like "Snow Flower and The Secret Fan", my book club and I adored it. Although I thought the movie was great, it cannot begin to describe the characters and world of a traveling circus in the 1930s seen through the eyes of its newly-joined vet, Jacob Jankowski. Though Rosie the Elephant is a charmer even in the movie, her personality really comes to life in the book.
What are you reading this summer? Please leave a comment and let me know.