Black Hearts in Battersea

Aiken, Joan. Black Hearts in Battersea. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1964.

Reason: July is Kids Month and Pearl lists this as a book best for kids.

The first thing Ms. Aiken wants you to know about Black Hearts in Battersea is that it takes place in the same time period as The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, near the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second thing you should know is that some characters in Wolves are also in Black Hearts. Simon, an orphan who lived in a cave and came to the rescue in Wolves is the main character in Black Hearts. This time Simon is looking for his friend, Dr. Gabriel Field who has mysteriously disappeared after inviting Simon to come study art with him. A mystery ensues when everyone Simon encounters denies even knowing Dr. Field. It is as if the man never existed in Battersea. While waiting for Dr. Field to reappear Simon befriends the Duke of Battersea, gets a job with a blacksmith, and rooms with a suspicious peasant family. It’s a fun tale of adventure, especially after Simon meets bedraggled Dido who gets him in all sorts of trouble.

Author fact: As I mentioned before, Aiken also wrote The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a book I read in September of 2013. Some are calling this a series so I should have read Black Hearts in Battersea in October of 2013. Bummer.

Book trivia: Black Hearts was illustrated by Robin Jacques.

Nancy said: nothing special.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21). This book, interesting enough, is good for boys and girls.


“Verlie I Say Unto You”

Adams, Alice. “Verlie I Say Unto You.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

My first reaction to “Verlie” is to comment on the blindness of the privileged. Verlie is a maid in Todd family’s home. When news of Verlie’s husband’s death reaches the Todd household no one is sure how to tell Verlie. Their naive expectation of her reaction is one of grief. Never mind the fact Verlie and Horace haven’t seen each other in years. They can’t understand why she smiles at the news. It’s obvious they don’t know their employee even though she has been with them “forever.”

Author fact: Alice’s mother was also a writer, just not as accomplished as Alice.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


“Roses, Rhododenron”

Adams, Alice. “Roses, Rhododendron.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

“Roses, Rhododendron” is a short story of the angsty kind. Jane remembers her coming of age childhood; after her father left them for a younger woman, ten year old Jane’s mother packed them up and moved from Boston to the suburbs of North Carolina. Jane remembers everything being different in the south – the houses, the gardens, the people. She looks back at the  impact made by the relationship she had at the time with her eccentric mother, Margot and the new friendship with a girl her age living in the neighborhood, Harriet and Harriet’s mother, Emily. Jane was fascinated with everything in Harriet’s life. It seemed so calm and dignified compared to her own. Mother Margot had a loose, breezy hold on her daughter while allowing a Ouija board to dictate her own life. Meanwhile, Harriet’s parents appeared to be cultured, educated and refined. It was only when Margot disclosed some unsettling gossip that Jane decided they had more in common than she first thought. But, the biggest surprise came when in adulthood Harriet revealed to Jane she impacted her family just as much Harriet had impacted Jane’s.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


“Xingu”

Wharton, Edith. “Xingu.” New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916.

Reason read: June is short story month.

This is a story of contradictions. Even though this story is less that fifty pages long, it packs a wallop of a punch. Though billed as a satire it is also a humorous and witty commentary on human psychology. Some even think it is a cerebral jab at Henry James after he criticized Wharton’s writing. No matter how “Xingu” is perceived or meant to be perceived, Mrs. Roby is my hero.

In a nutshell, a group of snobbish high society women form a lunch group to gather and discuss didactic topics and one-up each other. In their view, the weakest link is Mrs. Roby, a seemingly not-so-bright woman who doesn’t appear to fit in with them. She asks all the wrong questions and clearly doesn’t know societal protocol. When the group invites an even snobbier author to discuss her latest book, “The Wings of Death,” the event falls apart. Osric Dane is even more dismissive than the snobs in the group. It isn’t until Mrs. Roby one-ups them all by mentioning a xingu philosophy. No one has ever heard of xingu but they all, including author Osric Dane, must pretend they know it well. Only after Mrs. Roby and Ms. Dane leave does the group dare to look up the word xingu and discover they have been duped. Xingu is actually a river in Brazil.

Author fact: something I did not know about Wharton is that she was a designer.

Nancy said: if you have never read Wharton Pearl suggested starting with the novella “Xingu” (p 144).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: The Americans” (p 144).


Main Street

Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. Floating Press, 2010.

Lewis, Sinclair. Maine Street. Read by Barbara Caruso. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.

Reason read: Minnesota became a state in the month of May.

This is the satirical story of Carol Milford and her desire to transform her new husband’s little town of Gopher Prairie. While Dr. Will Kennicott is the celebrated hometown physician Carol is the new girl; the sophisticated, educated, and stylish “city girl” (having been a librarian in the metropolis of St. Paul, Minnesota). Her hopes and dreams for the little community are often met with bemusement, confusion, and more than a little resentment. From every angle Carol’s energy and enthusiasm to change things make the townspeople nervous resulting in stubborn denial. It isn’t long before, with all of her reform attempts failed, Carol yearns for adventure and big city culture. Even becoming a mother is not enough to contain her. She wants to shake things up and does so by falling in love with a young tailor. While the community tongues wag, Carol grows more emboldened and daring, finally leaving Gopher Prairie.

I have to get this off my chest, first and foremost. I didn’t really care for Carol Kennicott, nee Milford in the beginning. Early on she was a snob through and through. While traveling to Kennicott’s provincial little town she watches people on the train and is disappointed to see they are peasants. Previously, she didn’t believe in American peasants. Now she is witness to poverty and in her dismay she calls the less fortunate, “stuck in the mud” (p 42). She hasn’t even seen her husband’s town but already she is utterly panicked by the thought of living “inescapably” in Gopher Prairie (p 50). It isn’t until she removes herself from the wretched town that she learns what it means to belong somewhere.

Quotes which captivated me: “The rest of the party waited for the miracle of being amused” (p 51), “She felt that she was no long one-half of a marriage but the whole of a human being” (p 447), and “But sometimes he vanished; he was only an opinion (p 511).

Author fact: Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.

Book trivia: Because this satire offended small town Alexandria, Minnesota they banned Main Street from their library.

Nancy said: Nancy described the plot and said Main Street “is probably the earliest Minnesota novel” (p 27).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “Big Country: the Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 27) and again, in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 139).


Medea

Euripides, Michael Collier, and Goergia Macherner, 2006. Medea. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. eBook Collection: EbscoHost (accessed 5/16/18/2018).

Reason read: June is the first time the weather is really nice enough to get on the water. Medea uses the ocean in a rather cruel fashion…

The things women will do for love. The things men will do for greed. Medea’s father, King Aeetes had possession of the Golden Fleece. Jason of the Argonauts wanted it. Medea, seduced by Jason, went to great lengths to prove her love. How else to explain murdering her own brother and scattering his body parts over the ocean; making her father slow his fleet to collect them for burial? How else to explain getting Jason’s cousins to poison their father in an effort to bring back his youth? In the end, Jason marries a different princess because Medea is too dangerous. Go figure. Medea starts with Medea seeking revenge. Next on her killing list is Jason’s new wife, Glauce. She gets even more evil from there. She would make a good candidate for that Deadly Women show…

Author fact: If you have ever seen the statue of Euripides in the Louvre, you know he had some killer abs.

Nancy said: Nancy said Medea was one of the four Greek plays you definitely didn’t want to miss (p 11).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece” (p 9).


Landfall

Shute, Nevil. Landfall: a Channel Story. London: Heron, 1969.

Reason read: the movie version of Landfall was released in May of 1949.

Roderick “Jerry” Chambers is a young and ambitious officer in the Royal Air Force. The story opens with Jerry meeting sweet Mona Stevens at a dance. This chance encounter proves to be a blessing in disguise for Jerry later in the story.
The early stages of World War II serves as the backdrop for Landfall. Jerry has been conducting air patrols off the southern coast of England. He’s a good pilot and on one mission he skillfully sinks what he thinks to be a German submarine, only to find all evidence points to it actually being British. While Chambers ultimately escapes disciplinary action, he shamefully retreats to a post as far away as possible from the disaster in northern England. Meanwhile, Mona has been eavesdropping on officers in the snack bar where she works. Despite the black mark on Jerry’s career Mona has stuck by him. Pretty soon she is able to discern what really happened with Jerry regarding the British submarine business. Only, it might be too late to clear his name. Jerry has been seriously wounded in an bombing experiment and rumor has it he may not make it through the night.

As an aside, all of Shute’s women (So far On the Beach and Landfall) are easy going and thoughtful with a keen sense of humor.

Best quote, “So let them pass, small people of no great significance, caught up and swept together like dead leaves in the great whirlwind of the war” (p 499).

Author fact: Shute had a stammer that hindered him from joining the Royal Flying Corps.

Book trivia: My borrowed copy had illustrations by Charles Keeping. They were cool.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called, “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).