Neely, Barbara. Blanche on the Lam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Reason read: January is Mystery month. Reading Blanche on the Lam in honor of the month. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge, I needed a book for category of Agatha Award winner.
Blanche White is a special kind of sassy woman; not your average maid. When we first meet her in Farleigh, North Carolina, she is waiting to go to jail; convicted of writing bad checks. This is her second offense so she knows the judge is going to throw the book at her: thirty days in jail if only to set an example. When she unexpectedly finds an opportunity to slip away from the bailiff, she takes it quiet as you please. Just slips out the back door of the courthouse.
Through a series of misunderstandings Blanche ends up working as “the help” for an upper class white family: Everette, Grace, Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline. Luckily, Blanche has her wicked humor and uncanny intuition because from the moment she starts working for the family, she can tell something is wrong with all of them except mentally challenged Mumsfield. It wasn’t just from eavesdropping on Everett’s conversation with the sheriff, despite the sheriff’s death the very next day. It wasn’t from observing the odd behavior of alcoholic and seemingly senile Aunt Emmeline, who never leaves her room. It wasn’t from the gardener who perishes in an “accidental” house fire. It was from watching and talking with Mumsfield. From the moment they met Blanche had a special connection to the boy; he was always on her radar whether she liked it or not.
Blanche on the Lam, while humorous also carries the stark reality of sexism, racism and prejudice. Neely deftly weaves these sobering themes through an otherwise funny plot.
As an aside, I listened to an audio recording of Blanche on the Lam read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Her performance was brilliant.
Author fact: Blanche on the Lam is Barbara Neely’s first novel.
Book trivia: Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award in 1992.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blanche on the Lam.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: The Building. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
So much tragedy and human heartache surrounding one building: the story of Monroe, a man trying to save all the children of New York after an accident involving a young boy changes his entire life; PJ Hammond and his singular obsession to buy the building he grew up in; the love affair between Gilda and poor poet, Benny in the shadow of the building (until Gilda goes and marries someone else for money); and Antonio Tonatti, the man who loved to play music in front of the majestic building until it was torn down. One building, so many stories. It’s as if the giant structure made of glass and steel stood guard over all these lives.There is one final story which ties all the other stories together. It’s bittersweet and beautiful. Quintessential New York.
Author fact: Eisner has a comic Hall of Fame award named after him.
Book trivia: Look carefully at the illustrations. Characters come back from other stories.
Nancy said: The Building is included in a list of books about New York that Pearl has enjoyed.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Evanovich, Janet. Two for the Dough. New York: Scribner, 1996.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month…or something like it.
Stephanie Plum is a self-professed “fugitive apprehension agent” otherwise known as a budding bounty hunter. In One for the Money Stephanie falls into the business when her cousin, Vincent, needs a fill-in for an absent agent. Turns out, Stephanie has a knack for accidentally catching the fugitives. She’s a little clumsy and a lot reckless, but with luck and accidental courage, she catches on pretty quick.
This time, in Two for the Dough, Stephanie is after one Kenny Mancuso, Joe Morelli’s cousin. To bring you up to speed, Joe is the innocent “bad guy” Stephanie needed to apprehend in the last book, One for the Money. Ex-military man Kenny has been accused of shooting his former best friend in the knee. Armed with a stun gun, pepper spray, flashlights, a .38 and a friend named Ricardo Carlos Manoso (aka Ranger), Stephanie is back on the hunt for Kenny. Things heat up when the best friend is shot a second time, this time, fatally. Did Kenny come back to finish the job? When Stephanie’s spunky grandmother is stabbed in the hand with an ice pick, things turn serious. It’s personal this time. Stephanie needs to watch her step because now family’s involved. The plot is fun, a little unbelievable, sometimes a little mumbo jumbo, and more often than not, forgettable.
As an aside, everyone seems to be a cousin of someone else. Stephanie has the fugitive apprehension gig because of her cousin, Vinny. Some guy named Gazarra is married to her cousin. Stephanie is after Kenny who is a cousin of Joe’s. A car at the scene of the crime belonged to another cousin of Joe’s; this time a guy named Leo.
Quote to quote, “When in dread, my rule was always to procrastinate” (p 173). Yup. It’s the only one I liked.
Author fact: Evanovich has an official FaceBook page.
Book trivia: Like One for the Money, Two for the Dough was a best seller.
Nancy said: Pearl said Two for the Dough will having you laughing.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).
Wilson, Barbara. Gaudi Afternoon. Washington: Seal Press, 2001.
Reason read: February is my birth month and I want to honor women doing cool stuff. In honor of a female globetrotting translator, I’m reading Gaudi Afternoon.
What starts out as a promise to help a friend of a friend find a missing husband because she can speak Spanish, Cassandra Reilly jets off to Barcelona, Spain. She soon finds herself running all over the city, as in running into old lovers left and right. She is supposed to be looking for Ben Stevens, husband to Frankie. Instead, her time is taken up with deflecting old lover, Ana, and Ana’s quest to start a family with Cassandra; or lusting after on again-off again lover and hairdresser, Carmen; or getting orgasmic foot massages from the wacky weird foot therapist, Alice. Occasionally, in between being starved for sexual companionship, and looking for lost people, Cassandra works on translating a South American best seller and discovering the genius of Antonio Gaudi’s architecture. Then there’s looking for Ben…remember the missing husband of Frankie? Only, it isn’t Ben who is missing. This is a never ending kidnapping caper. The gender bending gets confusing at times.
Quotes to quote, “Or I’ll decide I need to catch up with an old lover in Uruguay, and political events will keep me there longer than expected” (p 3).
Pet peeve: small detail. Cassandra goes into a shop that seems to be full of nautical items. Maps are not nautical. Charts are the correct term.
Author fact: Wilson’s last name is Sjoholm. Like her lead heroine, she is a writer, editor, teacher and translator.
Book trivia: Gaudi Afternoon was made into a movie in 2001 starring Judy Davis. Of course I haven’t seen it.
Nancy said: Pearl said Gaudi Afternoon was a contemporary series featuring a female sleuth. I wouldn’t call Cassandra Reilly a “sleuth” but rather a woman who got caught up in sleuthing.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York. New York: D.C. Comics, 1981.
Reason read: Will Eisner passed away in the month of January. Read in his memory.
Every time I think of New York I cannot help but also think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Carnival.” How could I not? It’s an homage to a great city of contradiction. Her line, “A wild-eyed mystic prophet, on a traffic island, stopped and he raved of saving me” evokes so many conflicting emotions. Thanks to my nephew being born in New York City, I got to waken a dormant love for the Big Apple. Sights, smells, and sounds that are often times distasteful to some (like my husband), fill me with inexplicable energy and ambition. I want to run Central Park like I live on the upper west side. It’s as if New York’s grit and grime are tangible forms of strength and tenacity that speak loudly to me. In New York, Will Eisner captures perfectly the stark reality of the big city’s silent and subtle struggles. You can smell the stench of all corners of New York, hear the frenetic activity in every sentence. But, look and look again very carefully. There is power in what isn’t said. Look at the illustration of the people riding the subway. You can almost hear the rattle of the rails; and when the train grinds to a halt during a blackout there’s that one guy who doesn’t change expression. As the minutes tick by, the people around him slowly start to panic while he stoically stares ahead. There truly is always that one guy and if you were on that train, you would see him. This is a portrait of an important city doing unimportant things, all lovingly expressed in a series of vignettes; the constants of New York: Avenue C which connect the East side to West, the importance of stoops, the sentinels of the City (hydrants, mailboxes, traffic signals, lampposts, windows, and sewers), and the people. You can read the entire thing in minutes, but that only means you have time to read it again and again and again.
Best quotes, “The big city is after all a hive of concrete and steel in which living things swarm. Depositing, in the course of their lives, the residue of their existence, in the countless garbage cans that sit dumbly amid the swirl” (p 41).
Author fact: Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel.”
Book trivia: After New York the tribute to New York continues with The Building, City People Notebook, and, Invisible People.
Nancy said: Pearl said she really enjoyed New York.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. Translated by Hilda Rosner. New York: MJF Books, 1951.
Reason read: New Year’s Day always evokes resolution talk. Meditation is big on people’s lists. Read Siddhartha as a resolution for someone out there.
How do I describe Siddhartha? In simple terms I would say it’s one man’s journey to find his identity. In the end he finds peace in listening to a river and hearing his heart. In listening, he learns. In hearing, he loves. There is a great deal that happens in between, of course. The proudest and more profound moment was when Siddhartha recognized the pain he currently experiences as the exact same pain he inflicted on his father so long ago. What goes around comes around, as they say.
Quotes to quote, “Had he ever lost his heart to anyone so completely, had he ever loved anybody so much, so blindly, so painfully, so hopelessly and yet so happily” (p 99), and “It seems to me, that love is the most important thing in the world’ (p 104).
Author fact: Hermann Hesse was a German-born Swiss poet and painter in addition to being a novelist.
Book trivia: This is short enough to read several times over. Do, because it will surprise you every time.
Nancy said: Pearl said :no list of books on Buddhism, however short, would be complete without recommending Hermann Hesse’s deceptively simple novel” (Book Lust p 255-256).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 256).
Beutner, Katharine. Alcestis. New York: SoHo, 2010.
Reason read: Female Dominion Day in parts of Greece is celebrated on January 8th. The premise is the women get to leave their husbands at home with the housework and kids while they celebrate being matriarchs.
Beutner takes Greek mythology and turns it on its head. It is no small feat to retool a myth and turn Euripides’s male-centered drama into a lesbian love story. This is the story of Alcestis, the woman who sacrificed her own life to save her husband’s. Her outward loyalty knows no limits, beginning with faking the end of her virginity on her wedding night when, like some men with a secret lover, Admetus can’t perform. But internally, Alcestis is no ordinary woman. She is a mortal with many complex personalities: as a dutiful daughter, a sacrificing wife, a ever-loving sister, a sheltered princess, and the passionate lover of a goddess.
Once Alcestis volunteers her life and she is in the underworld, she observes a place in a state of constantly shimmering and shifting allusion. It is difficult, but Alcestis begins a three-day search for her beloved sister who died at ten years old. Every time she inquires about Hippothoe she is met with strange riddles in place of replies as if to protect her from an unknown horror. No one wants to clearly say what has become of Hippothoe. Alcestis perseveres boldly for she is not afraid of the underworld, nor the gods who rule there. She will not take no for an answer. In the meantime, she says yes when she is seduced by, and ultimately falls in love with, Persephone. Alcestis seems to grow larger than life as her sexuality becomes more fluid and not as easily defined. When she is “rescued” and brought back to the living Alcestis is forever changed.
Line that stuck with me, “My mind stuttered and stuck” (p 189).
Author fact: Beutner earned her BA in classical studies from Smith College in 2003.
Book trivia: Alcestis was nominated and a finalist for a LAMBDA award in 2011.
Nancy said: Pearl called Alcestis a good novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120).
Evanovich, Janet. One for the Money. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I read somewhere that January is Female Mystery Month.
Suspend most of your beliefs in regards to reality and you will enjoy Stephanie Plum and her naïve and bumbling beginning as an amateur bounty hunter. After her cousin Vinnie temporarily loses an agent he hires down and out Plum to take his place. She has absolutely no experience but she’s desperate. She’s already hocked a few appliances to keep the rent going and her car has just been repossessed. Her first case worth $10,000? Who does she need to bring in, you may ask? Her old childhood nemesis, Joe Morelli. They have history dating back to a high school indiscretion that took place behind a case of cannoli and then was gossiped all over town. Plum is still embarrassed all these years later. Now Morelli’s a cop accused of murder and on the run. Self defense, he claims. Armed with pepper spray and an unloaded gun she doesn’t really know how to use, Stephanie Plum sets out to capture Morelli by stealing his car and stalking him across Trenton, New Jersey. He’s not that hard to find. She keeps running into Morelli all over town. Problem is, every time she tries to apprehend him, he gets her all hot and bothered instead.
Speaking of being bothered, here’s where I really get annoyed. Stephanie is viciously attacked by a sexual deviant boxer named Ramirez. This madman comes close to raping her and yet later, Joe is able to climb into her apartment through a window. As someone who was nearly a rape victim, why would she leave a window open? That detail doesn’t seem to be as important as collaring Morelli and getting her ten grand. Will Stephanie keep her cool and get her man?
Quote to make me cringe, “Truth is, I wasn’t used to being a minority, and I felt like a black man looking up a white woman’s skirts in a WASP suburb of Birmingham” (p 108). Ouch. she also doesn’t like handicapped old people who take all the best parking spots. Double ouch.
Lines I actually liked, “Doesn’t matter whether it’s cats or coleslaw, death is not attractive” (p 124) and “Range etiquette was never to point the gun at the guy standing next to you” (p 150). Good point.
Author fact: to date Evanovitch has written twenty-six Stephanie Plum mysteries. I am reading ten of them.
Book trivia: One for the Money is the first book in Evanovich’s series starring Stephanie Plum.
Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t think Evanovich’s books should be in the category of mysteries.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Hoffman, Alice. White Horses. Berkley Books: New York, 1982.
Reason read: Judging a book by its cover, I chose White Horses to read in honor of when the television show “All Creatures Great and Small” first aired. I assumed there was at least one horse in the book when I scheduled it for January.
Family: Dina (mother), Harry aka King (father), Rueben (son), Teresa (daughter), and Silver (favorite son). Here’s what you need to know about these people: Every character is deeply flowed. Dina is tragic. King is a jerk. Rueben is nonexistent. Teresa is hopeless. Silver is a conundrum. Everyone is left wanting in one way or another. This is a book with an overarching theme of obsession and I spent most of the time either feeling sorry for the entire family or wondering what the hell was going on with them. Well written without a doubt, but with a stranger-than-strange plot. Dina is obsessed with Arias. These fairytale dark-haired, dark-eyed cowboys supposedly swoop in on mythical white horses to save the day. Dina truly believes that at any second an Aria will arrive outside her kitchen window and steal her away. She stares hungrily at her own son as Silver has the hair, the eyes, and he always wears a white shirt that could substitute nicely for the prerequisite white horse. The favorite son takes on a whole new level of importance when Teresa falls in love with him. What is so special about Silver that makes everyone fawn over him, despite the fact he turned out to be a petty thief, drug dealer, and betraying snitch? Honestly, it’s Hoffman’s control over her storytelling that kept me hanging on to her every word. There is a delicate subtlety to her intentions that was just beautiful.
Confessional: I had to sit with this book for awhile. I just didn’t know how I felt about any of it.
Quotes I liked, “Dina was certain that every jump in temperature could force arguments to rise from the dust, ghosts would appear in the midday haze” (p 3), and “Even after she had climbed onto the raised platform of the cafe, she still wasn’t certain that the bones in the graveyard hadn’t followed her into the heart of the city” (p 37).
Author fact: I have five different Hoffman books on my challenge list. I have finished three of them (including White Horses).
Book trivia: I could see this as an adaptation for the big screen.
Nancy said: Pearl said “It’s not too much of an overstatement to say that much popular fiction of late has as its text or subtext a family in trouble” (Book Lust p 82).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and only mentioned in the chapter called “Families in Trouble” (p 82), although Pearl could have included it in the first chapter, “A…is for Alice (p 1) because there she lists other Hoffman books.
Canin, Ethan. Blue River. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1991.
Reason read: Iowa became a state in December. Ethan Canin is a member of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Author fact: Canin is also the author of best selling novel, Emperor of the Sun, which is not on my challenge list. I did, however, finish Palace Thief ten years ago to the day.
Edward and Lawrence are brothers born six years apart. Edward is the younger, smarter, and more successful brother who married the very beautiful Elizabeth and together, they have a smart son. The Edward and his family live in a huge house in a great neighborhood. They have the perfect life thanks to Edward’s successful career as an ophthalmologist. Lawrence, on the other hand, was always the tough trouble maker; always mysterious, violent, and angry. While the entire story is told from the perspective of Edward, his narrative changes a third of the way through. He talks about his older brother until Lawrence comes to visit. Dressed in rags and looking like a homeless man, Lawrence’s arrival after ten years of silence is so completely unexpected and out of the blue Edward doesn’t recognize him. The brothers have been estranged to the point of strangling the relationship. This short reunion rattles loose memories for Edward. He spends the rest of the book talking to Lawrence, going back in time to relive their tumultuous childhood. The reader is left wondering, who is the traitor, who has the bigger sense of guilt?
Book trivia: the title comes from where the book takes place (in memories) – Blue River, Wisconsin. Current day is Santa Rosa, California.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blue River; just that Canin is worth reading (as a distinguished MFA alum from the University of Iowa).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107), and again in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Oh Brother” (p 180).
Dark, Alice Elliott. Think of England. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.
Reason read: Dark was born in December; read in her honor.
Confessional: I read this so fast I didn’t start a blog or take many notes. It’s like a bullet train that sped by me once I finished reading and jumped off.
Jane MacLeod’s life is chronicled in this short first novel from Alice Elliott Dark. We first meet nine year old Jane in rural Pennsylvania where she aspires to be a writer. Under bed covers and behind doors, she writes stories about her family. [Confessional: For a moment this activity reminded me of Harriet, the Spy. By comparison, Jane is more introspective and less mean.] Jane claims she can remember the moment she was born. She carefully watches her parents and their teetering-on-rocky relationship. As young as she is, Jane understands not all is perfect in their household. She can tell when her mother has had too much to drink and she listens closely when the adults
talk snipe at each other openly; when her parents forget they are not alone in the room. After a tragic accident, the story jumps many years and Jane is now far away from her family and living in London as a twenty-something writer. She has befriended a few artists, who encourage her poetic endeavors, and a married man who encourages her romantic ones. Fast forward a bunch of years and Jane is back in the States, now living in New York with a daughter of her own. Reunited with family, Jane comes full circle in her quest to understand the tragedy which separated them so long ago.
The title comes from Lady Hillingdon’s 1912 sad journal when she revealed she thinks of England whenever she must have unwanted sex with her husband. Yup. So there’s that. Jane’s mother uses the phrase whenever there is a setback of any size.
Lines I liked, “She was a slow burning shadow” (p 21), “She fought back by competing; if her mother made her feel small, she’d make herself even smaller” (p 32), “They stared at each other across a chasm of diverging logic, all the misunderstandings between them crammed between rings of the phone” (p32), and “Ghosts could cross water, after all” (p 184). There were dozens of other lines I would like to share, but this will have to do. Just read the book. Seriously.
Author fact: Think of England is Dark’s first novel.
Book trivia: when trying to search for Think of England the book, I kept coming up with K.J. Charles. I like that Dark is a little obscure.
Nancy said: Pearl called Dark’s writing “highly polished and controlled (but frequently emotionally charged” (Book Lust p 1).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…is for Alice” (p 1).
Snicket, Lemony. The Wide Window. New York: Scholastic Publishers, 2000.
Reason read: to continue the series started in October in observance of Halloween.
To recap the entire series thus far: Klaus, Violet, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphans. Their parents dying wish was for the children to be under the guardianship of a relative. Any relative. Throughout the series Mr. Poe, the family banker, has been responsible for placing the children with members of the family, no matter how distant. First came Count Olaf who tried to marry Violet in order to obtain rights to a substantial inheritance (due to the children when they came of age). Then came Uncle Monty who died of a bite from his own snake. Now, in The Wide Window, the children have been placed with Aunt Josephine who is a second cousin’s sister-in-law and has a phobia of nearly everything. Aunt Josephine lives in a huge house precariously balanced on a mountain ledge above Lake Lachrymose. Of course there is a wide window overlooking the water. Of course, Count Olaf isn’t far behind the children, having escaped every other time in the series. A master of disguises, this time he shows up with a peg leg and a patch over one eye, claiming to be Captain Sham.
As with other Lemony Snicket books, there is a formula to The Wide Window: the adults are oblivious to what is directly in front of them, readers will hear the phrase, “a word which means” a lot, and Snicket will urge his audience to read another book if they want a happy ending, “If you are interested in reading a story filled with thrilling good times, I am sorry to inform you that you are most certainly reading the wrong book…this is your last chance” (p 5). This is really quite clever because nine times out of ten one will keep reading just to witness the next tragedy.
Quote to quote, “A library is normally a very good place to work in the afternoon, but not if its window has been smashed and there is a hurricane approaching” (p 46). Sounds about right.
Author fact: Snicket was born in February…same as me.
Book trivia: Wide Window is the third book in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl has called all Snicket books wonderful.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Just for Kids: Fantasies for Grown-Ups” (p 174).
Farmer, Nancy. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. New York: Richard Jackson Book, 1994.
Reason read: October is National Fantasy Month.
The year is 2194 in Zimbabwe, Africa. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm takes place in a world of computer animated Dobermans and genetically engineered monkeys; a world where creatures called She Elephants (that aren’t actually elephants) mine for plastic in a toxic dump. Robots and rockets are the norm. Basically, insert your favorite sci-fi stereotype here. It is also a world full of ancient African cultures and traditions. Witchcraft, spirits, and powers beyond human recognition rule the landscape.
In this landscape are Tendai, Rita, and Kuda. They are the overprotected and bored children of General Matsika, Chief of Security. Matisika has too many enemies so homeschooling, work, play; essentially his children’s every blessed second is spent behind gigantic heavily guarded walls. Much to his father’s disappointment, Tendai, the oldest child, will never make a good warrior. Tendai is the gentlest and most sensitive of all the children. He has the ability to physically feel the harm done to others. Rita, the middle child, is fiery and headstrong; not afraid to speak her mind or start a fight with anyone, human or otherwise. Kuda, by default the youngest, is impetuous and bold; simply not afraid of anything.
Confined as they are, the three children are eager to break out of their homemade prison when given the chance. And rest assured, break out they finally do. There wouldn’t be a story otherwise. Once the Matsika children find a way to trick their babysitter, the adventure outside the fortified mansion begins and it is not what any of them expected. Sold into slavery, the children are forced to work along side the vlei people sorting trash for a tyrant so large she is called “She Elephant.” It is not a spoiler to say they escape from this predicament only to fall in the trap of another and another and another.
General Matsika, consumed with remorse for letting down his guard for a second, hires a mutant detective agency called Ear, Eye, Arm to find his children. Ear has super sensitive hearing. Eye (you guessed it) has super sight. Arm is the most unique of all as he can feel empathy to the point of seeing into one’s soul. Together they chase the children from one entrapment to the other. The ending combines science fiction with ancient African customs for a Hollywood ending.
Apparently, I didn’t like any lines because I have nothing to quote.
As with any good fantasy, there has to be a connection to reality to help the reader connect. Instead of “jet” lag, individuals in 2194 experience “rocket” lag. Funny.
Author fact: Nancy Farmer wrote a bunch of really good stuff. Unfortunately, none of it is on my Challenge list. Boo.
Book trivia: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm won a Newbery Honor award in 1995.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm except to describe the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasy for Grown-Ups” (p 174). I would definitely agree this would be entertaining for adults.
Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1922.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of…nothing. I read the Story of Doctor Dolittle by mistake. I’m actually ending the series with the Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle has upped its game from the last installment. Adventures on the high seas! A riveting murder trial! A daring bullfight with five bulls in the ring! And that’s just the first half of the book. Our story begins with ten year old Tommy Stubbins, born to Jacob Stubbins, a cobbler of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, being introduced to Dr. John Dolittle because of a squirrel in need of medical attention. Such an innocent beginning to a wild adventure! Tommy is quickly fascinated by Dolittle’s endeavors to learn the language of shellfish and convinces his parents to let him live with Dolittle as an assistant fulltime. Could Tommy learn how to talk to animals, too? As we learned in The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Doctor John knows a little something about talking to creatures of all kinds. He already established relationships with the furry and feathered kind and contains a whole menagerie in his house and gardens. But what about those creatures living in the sea? While waiting to hear from his fellow naturalist friend, Long Arrow, Dolittle toils in his basement, struggling to understand shellfish.
In The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle the good doctor wants to learn how to talk to shellfish because of their prehistoric existence and goes to great lengths to obtain the knowledge. This quest takes Dolittle and Tommy to Spider Island, an unattached, floating island slowly drifting toward the South Pole. It is there they hope to find Dolittle’s frient, Long Arrow.
I think this quote would apply to any language, “Being a good noticer is terribly important to learning animal language” (p 43). Here are two more lines I liked, “No man stands any chance of going on a voyage when his wife hasn’t seen him in fifteen years” (p 104) and “…across the darkening sky, shreds of cloud swept like tattered witches flying from the storm” (p 190).
Author fact: Hugh Lofting went on to write many more installments of the Doctor Dolittle series.
Book trivia: In the Afterward written by Lofting’s son, Christopher, he explains how some of the original text and illustrations were inappropriate for children and had to be altered for the 1988 edition. As a soapbox aside, we used to say it wasn’t “PC” or “politically correct” to say things that would offend certain groups and yet (big inhale), we currently have a national leader who goes out of his way to offend as many people as he can.
Nancy said: Pearl said the first parrot she met in fiction was Polynesia (More Book Lust p 183). From Book Lust To Go Pearl was actually talking about another book that makes mention of the Dolittle books.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Parrots” (p 183) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (p 190).
Ben Jelloun, Tahar. The Last Friend. Translated by Kevin Michel Cape. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.
Reason read: Ben Jelloun was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.
In 1950s Morocco, schoolboy Ali meets Mamet (Mohammed) for the first time after a school yard fight. Their personalities and views on life could not be further apart. They are opposite in every way. Mamet has to fight every aspect of his life: rebelling against the Communist party sexually; betraying his religion with food and drink; ignoring his culture by committing adultery. To compensate for feeling inferior he is full of unnecessary bravado. Yet, their differences make them curious friends. Best friends at that. Without knowing it, they protect each other time and time again. Over the span of thirty years and many trials and tribulations, their relationship deepens into a profound bond; one even their wives find hard to accept. It is as if Ali and Mamet’s separate relationships orbit around their singular connection. Despite moving apart Ali and Mamet remain close until a misunderstanding and an even larger betrayal comes between them.
The lines I loved, “Friendship begins with sharing secrets” (p 16), “I discovered that ideology indoctrination can bind even an intelligent mind” (p 26), “In friendship, as in love, everyone needs an element of mystery” (p 51), and “I found myself walking down a boulevard under a cold sun, considering different scenarios to protect our friendship from the tragedy of death” (p 154).
As an aside, I never thought of Bob Marley as a misogynist.
Author fact: Ben Jelloun also wrote This Blinding Absence of Light which I read almost a year ago.
Book trivia: There is a scene in a Bette Midler movie where a mother picks a horrendous fight with her daughter in order to force her daughter to live her best life. While the fight is extremely painful to the daughter, she is able to pick up the pieces and move on. The final scene of the movie is of her getting married while her mother watches from a distance. I don’t remember the name of the movie, but The Last Friend could be a movie with a similar scene…
Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t say anything about The Last Friend specifically, but she mentions the translation by Linda Coverdale is “superb.” I didn’t read that version.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “North African Notes: Morocco” (p 161).