Friday Bookshelf: July 19, 2013

This week, Jane at Dear Author pondered why we, as readers, are so hard on other women.  Her post made me reconsider my reaction to this book, which I had just abandoned at the 50% mark because the heroine was driving me perfectly insane. Caro is a bohemian who had eloped and been cut off from her family. Now widowed, she chooses not to dwell on her late husband’s gambling problem and remembers him fondly, while still reigning over his group of friends, all impecunious artist types. In chapter one, I found her a freespirited darling, but the artistic lifestyle – feeding the deadbeat friends, getting assaulted at wild parties, jerking around the conservative hero, considering prostituting herself to deal with a particularly persistent debt collector – paled pretty quickly for me.  Later, when she becomes engaged to the duke hero and her family offers her a dowry after years of refusing all her pleas for financial assistance, I wanted to celebrate that she was standing on her principles by turning down the money. Somehow, though, the college student inside me who used to dig around for quarters for a splurge night out at the taqueria was firmly convinced that principles are overrated when you’re that broke and she could have resumed telling them off after the check cleared.  Would I have been as annoyed with a hero in a similar situation?  I suspect not.  But maybe it’s just that I’ve always found the La Boheme set pretty stupid (bless my bourgeois heart).   I should probably just return the book to the library and quit pretending that I’m going to pick it back up.

Austenland now has a trailer.  I think I’ll like it.

This article about Neil Gaiman as honorary chair of National Library week is tremendously quotable.  He talks about the imaginary library he created for the Sandman comics, his accidentally encyclopedic knowledge of Edwardian popular fiction due to a quirk of his school library’s collection, and the first book he ever checked out from a library, which was an Enid Blyton book.

Enid Blyton is a British children’s writer, and for some reason my dad loved a series she wrote for slightly older children – about a middle reader level.  He found them all for me and I ended up loving them too. Here’s the first one:

In it, four children – two brother/sister sets – seem to be somewhat neglectfully raised and so manage to improbably have very dangerous adventures. Generally they end up trapped in a mine shaft/castle ruin/foreign country with criminals, but it all works out in the end. I’m quite happy to see that they now have kindle editions as one of my paperbacks is missing and the set is also pretty worn. Oddly, I haven’t found a single other book of hers that I liked much, and Amazon informs me that she wrote 700.  I guess some things just have to catch you when you’re nine.

I also remember a book from when I was about nine that I checked out at the library.  Some children – a girl and her brother, maybe? – visited an old house in the country and while exploring came across a old woman living alone who tells them the history of the nearby mansion.  The kids find and explore the mansion.  Later, the girl’s parents buy the old mansion and fix it up and they live there.  All I remember is a scene where the old woman lets the girl try on a corset, and that her room in the redecorated house was green.  (Why do the details one remembers from a book read years ago always sound just as disjointed as recounted dreams?)  So if any of that sounds familiar, please let me know that I didn’t just dream that up.

I’d also love to hear what books you read as a kid that have clung to the inside corners of your brain.

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