Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In brief...

Seldom have I been brief on this blog. My posts are either long or non-existent, it seems, and the past two months have fallen in the latter category. But I'd like to make a few comments on what I've read before the year is through, so I'm limiting myself to two or three sentences per book (compound sentences and semi-colons are permitted). We'll see how this goes.

Undaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestUndaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. (Title and author will not count as a sentence!) This probably wouldn't have made my TBR list if it hadn't been a bookclub selection, but I'm glad I read it as it was very interesting and informative. Though it documents Meriweather Lewis' life from birth to death, the bulk of this biography focuses on his role in the Lewis & Clark expedition, recounting fascinating details about the preparations involved and the truly historic journey, including their encounters with various Indian tribes and the amazing landscapes and wildlife that they encountered.

Sarah's KeySarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I don't completely understand my interest in WWII stories, particularly ones involving the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, but perhaps it is the aspect of hope and survival in the midst of such evil. This novel is gripping in it's telling of two women of two different generations in Paris: a young Jewish girl who was captured and escaped, only to live the rest of her life in the shadow of an unintentional tragedy, and a modern American expatriate who unravels the threads of that war story only to find it inextricably woven with her own.

The Yellow House: A NovelThe Yellow House by Patricia Falvey. I read this for the Irish Reading Challenge, and it is one of the best, recently published historical fiction that I have read. It gave a vivid portrait of the working class in Northern Ireland during the religious and political conflicts of the early 20th century, and I was sorry to leave the characters and the country when it came to an end.

An Irish Country VillageAn Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor. This is the second "Irish Country" book (in the series and that I have read), and it is just as delightful as the first, with a unique blend of Irish humor, interesting medical cases, eccentric characters, and a little romance for good measure. This was also for the Irish Reading Challenge, which I did finish before November 30th, though I didn't post reviews or qualify for the final give-away.

Barchester Towers (Signet Classics, CP178)
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. This second novel (of six) in the Barsetshire novels continues the story of Mr. Harding, his daughter Eleanor, and son-in-law the Archbishop to whom we were introduced in The Warden, and introduces a number of new characters who thicken the plot of ecclesiastical dominance and intrigue. The characters are delightful in all their quirks and idiosyncrasies; the conflicts are engaging, but not serious or life-threatening. Of all the Victorian authors I've read this year, I would rank Trollope second, closely behind Wilkie Collins who gains precedent because of my penchant for mysteries, and followed by Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, and finally Dickens.

An Irish Country Christmas (Irish Country Books)An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor. Since it was December, it seemed fitting to continue the Irish Country series with the third installment, but perhaps because I read them so close together it seemed as if this was merely rehashing the same themes: a potential problem in the medical practice, a personal issue in the community, and unfulfilled wishes in matters of love - and Dr. Laverty worrying excessively about them all. Maybe I simply found the young doctor's angst a bit extreme and immature this time, but it also seemed as if the story needed a bit more editing; maybe it was rushed to the publishers to get it out before the Christmas season in 2008. With that said, however, I still enjoyed it, mostly, well, except for the phone conversations that repeated the same issues ad nauseum... at any rate, I still like this series and would recommend it for light reading.

Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook
Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook by Christopher Kimball. This was a fascinating book, combining social history, food lore, and cooking journal as the author and a team of chefs researched and cooked a twelve-course Victorian dinner, cooking it on an authentic wood cookstove in the basement of the author's restored Victorian home in Boston. I'm sure I would not want to make gelatin from calf's hooves, but it certainly gives one an appreciation for Jell-o when you understand what a remarkable innovation and improvement it was for Victorian cooks, for whom gelatin molds were an elegant feature of an elaborate dinner! My only complaint was that this book could have used better editing, as well, since the repetition of some facts between chapters made it seem as if it had been written as separate articles instead of a cohesive account.

Now I am reading Les Misérables and will most certainly be occupied with its almost 1500 pages well into January. I read two-thirds of it ten years ago, and I think reading it once a decade might be a worthy goal.


Pam Elmore said...

I like the format -- your restraint is impressive! I may need to try this method...

Carrie said...

"I'm limiting myself to two or three sentences per book (compound sentences and semi-colons are permitted). We'll see how this goes." LOL! My problem exactly!

Sarah's Key sounds really good!

Sherry said...

Les Miserables is my favorite book---EVER! Persist to the end because it's worth it.

hopeinbrazil said...

I always enjoy finding another Trollope lover. And I wish you all the best as you tackle Les Miserables. It's worth the effort.

Page Turner said...

Thanks for the encouragement on Les Miserables. I'm really enjoying rereading it and rediscovering the details I had forgotten from the broad story.