Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories. Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Reason read: Munro’s birth month is in July. Read in her honor.

Munro has a way with words, as everyone knows. Here are four words I never thought I would see stitched together, “bug-eyed pickle ass”. Go figure.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is a collection of short stories with a common theme: relationships:

  1. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – a childish prank backfires.
  2. Floating Bridge – a woman deals with positive news concerning her cancer.
  3. Family Furnishings – a college student learns about a secret her aunt was keeping.
  4. Comfort – the suicide of a husband.
  5. Nettles – childhood taunts.
  6. Post and Beam – when a house is more than a house.
  7. What Is Remembered – the memory of an affair with a pilot lingers long after the romance has died.
  8. Queenie – A sister’s abandonment.
  9. The Bear Came Over the Mountain – An adultery gets his comeuppance.

Lines I really liked, “Her teeth were crowded to the front of her mouth as if they were ready for an argument” (p 3), “See the conquering hero comes” (p 125), “A stealthy, considering, almost married glance, its masquerade and its bland intimacy arousing to those who were after all not married” (p 233), and “As if he dared anybody to breathe while he was in there” (p 252).

Author fact: Munro has won a bunch of awards for her writing including the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Book trivia: I have six different Munro books to read on my list. I have already read Friend of My Youth and The Love of a Good Woman.

Nancy said: Pearl said Munro is among the authors who have “distinctly evoked sense of place that distinguishes Canadian fiction” (Book Lust, p 50).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Canadian Fiction” (p 50).


To Begin Where I Am

Milosz, Czeslaw. To Begin Where I am: Selected Essays. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.

Reason read: for the Portland Reading Challenge I needed a book from an Eastern European author.

I read To Begin Where I Am in stages.
Part One: These Guests
Part Two: On the Side of Man
Part Three: Against Incomprehensible Poetry
Part Four: In Constant Amazement

Czeslaw makes me question the meaning of history. I struggle with what becomes history and what is lost when memory fades. I guess it is a similar theory with stuff. What becomes a rare antique versus junk? The balance of life is all about contradictions and opposites. The history that flavored Milosz’s prose is World War II, the Holocaust, and exile.
The more enjoyable fragments of memory include traveling during spring break after law exams, being in nature, and the poignant portraits of his friends, mixed with descriptions of their political ideals.

As an aside, when when I was reading about the things that amazed Czeslaw I was reminded of when Kisa and I got married. We asked people to read and write something for the ceremony. My uncle stood up and talked about how different things amazed him. He mentioned cars and trees. I am pretty sure he was trying to say that the fact I found someone to marry was one of those “amazing” things.

Quotes to quote, “To kill a superphysical hunger, the best thing in a hike” (p 60), “True, from time to time one of us dropped out, shipped off to a concentration camp or shot” (p 121), “Identity crisis are thresholds in everyone’s life on which we can smash ourselves to pieces” (p 174),

Author fact: Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Milosz also wrote Issa Valley, which is on my Challenge list, and the Captive Mind, which is not.

Book trivia: Milosz’s essays range from a single page to over one hundred pages.

Nancy said: Pearl said To Begin Where I Am is an “entrĂ©e into the mind of an extraordinary thoughtful thinker” (Book Lust p 187).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poems and Prose” (p 187).


Thunder City

Estleman, Loren D. Thunder City: a Novel of Detroit. Tom Doherty Associates, 1999.

Reason read: to finally finish the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.

Once again Estleman takes a look at the history and controversies of the automobile industry and the lure and mystique of it’s counterpart, organized crime. It was interesting to think of the people in the streetcar business prepping for the advent of cars and Ford’s competitors who looked to bring him down on the basis of a broken moral compass. Even more interesting was the advent of the iconic Ford logo. The revolving door of characters will make your head spin if you let them. I was compelled to keep notes on all of them although it didn’t help. James Aloysius Dolan (aka Jimmy, Big Jim, Boss Dolan, Honorable James A. Dolan, Diamond Jim, Irish Pope, or Himself depending on who you ask) was my favorite character. Wealthy, knows Yiddish, fat and Irish, James has held the titles of Railway Commissioner and chairman of State Democratic Party. He is married with children and has a manservant named Noche. He’s an all around shady guy, but I liked him.
A note on the Novel of Detroit series: I read the books in the order in which they were written, but to get a sense of chronology they should be read differently. Start with Thunder City (1900-1910), then move on to Whiskey River (1928 – 1939), Jitterbug (1943), Edsel (1951 – 1959), Motown (1966), Stress (1973) and end with King of the Corner (1990).

Definition of a marriage: “Dolan had forbidden her to modernize her appearance, and she had decided to allow him to” (p 15).

Author fact: Estleman wrote a bunch of novels beyond the Detroit series. I am only reading one other book, Sugartown (book 5 of the Amos Walker series).

Book trivia: Thunder City is the last book I am reading for the Detroit Series.

Playlist: Caruso, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Thunder City.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 26).


To Siberia

Petterson, Per. To Siberia. Translated by Anne Born. Havrill Press, 1998.

Reason read: July is the warmest month in Siberia.

Told from the perspective of an unnamed woman looking back on her teenage years in Norway, Petterson gracefully captures the bond between brother and sister as they navigate the suicide of their grandfather, neglect of their parents, corruption of their uncle, and the coming of Germans to their doorstep in the early years of World War II. Petterson’s descriptive language had me remembering my own adolescence: nights when it was so pitch-black dark I couldn’t see hand in front of my face. I remember waiting for the sweeping beam from the lighthouse before dashing ahead a few yards, only to stop and wait for the light again. Such is the fog that rolled off the Norwegian harbor, obscuring residents’ view.
As I have often said before, I have trouble with translations. Like this line, for example: “One day my road is suddenly blocked and the train trapped in a wall of Bibles” (p 54-55). Does someone want to explain that one to me? The protagonist has been talking about becoming a missionary and traveling to far off countries. Does she mean that religion dashed her dreams?
To Siberia was so haunting. The language is sparse, but the unknown protagonist’s love and unwavering devotion to her brother, even when he disappears in Morocco, is beautiful.

Author fact: Petterson was a bookseller in Norway before becoming a writer himself.

Book trivia: In Siberia was published directly after Out Stealing Horses.

Nancy said: Pearl said if you liked Out Stealing Horses you should try To Siberia. She didn’t say anything specific about To Siberia.

BookLust Twist: this could have come from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Men Channeling Women, but it’s actually from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162). Both are not wrong.


Mrs. Westerby Changes Course

Cadell, Elizabeth. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course. William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1968.

Reason read: July is Ice Cream Month. Ice cream makes most people happy. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course is supposed to be a feel-good book even though it is a little dark.

I think I would like Miss Gail Sinclair if I were to meet her as a real person. As a secretary for a London publishing company she exudes humor and vitality, even if her offer to chauffeur one of the publishing company’s newest author to a cottage in the English countryside turns more than a little crazy. Gail never dreamed she would find herself caught up in a dark drama; let alone come out of it with a budding romance. Recently widowed Mrs. Anita Stratton needs someone to accompany her to her former sister-in-law’s cottage. There, she hopes to collect her family’s heirloom furniture from her husband’s sister, Mrs. Westerby. It’s a strange situation. Widow owns the furniture. Deceased man’s sister owns the cottage. Keep in mind, this is in an era of ear trumpets and good graces. Polite decorum is a must, yet sister-in-law Mrs. Westerby is a loud and obnoxious individual who is always showing up wherever Gail and Mrs. Stratton seem to be. This is not how Gail knows her to be. Tagging behind Mrs. Westerby is her godson, Julian. Why does he need to keep an eye on Mrs. Westerby and why does she act so strange around Mrs. Stratton? The story gallops along so readers won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Author fact: Cadell has written a bunch of books. I am reading three for the Challenge: The Corner Shop, The Toy Sword, and of course, Mrs. Westerby Changes Course.

Book trivia: the cover art for Mrs. Westerby Changes Course combines humor and society. Cute doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Nancy said: Pearl called Cadell a writer of gentle reads.

Book Lust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 50).


The Rabbi’s Cat 2

Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat 2. Pantheon Books, 2008.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June in honor of cats.

At the end of The Rabbi’s Cat, the unnamed cat had lost the ability to be understood by humans. The affliction still remains in The Rabbi’s Cat 2. One might say Sfar’s message in The Rabbi’s Cat 2 is how to ask a question. How best do you respond to a growing hate? What is the best course of action to avoid or defuse it?
My favorite character, besides strong-willed Zlabya, was Malka of the Lions. He and his lion are traveling scammers. They travel from town to town saving villagers from the “ferocious” lion until one day the people are no longer afraid of the aging feline. Despite being elderly, Malka can still exude power. [When he delivers an open-handed slap to the mayor I was reminded me of Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars.] The adventure doesn’t end there. There is this one snake who wants to bite someone. Anyone. Then the story takes an ominous turn when a seemingly dead Russian is found in a crate of books shipped to Zlabya’s husband.
Sfar attacks deeper subjects in The Rabbi’s Cat 2. The argument that art is forbidden; representation is prohibited: “Hey wait! You can kill each other after dinner. And in the meantime, we’d do well to talk quietly and see if it’s necessary” (p 102). Please do not miss Sfar’s subtle humor. The cat’s farts is hilarious.
The dedication right before “Part II Africa’s Jerusalem” made me think this section was intended to be a separate book.
And can we talk about the ending? It feels a little abrupt. I felt like it could have kept going.

Lines I loved, “A real friend tells you that your worries aren’t so bad, that you’ll be okay and you should make the most of each moment” (p 10) and “I love you because there has to be someone who loves you” (p 47). Couldn’t we all think that way?

Author fact: Sfar has written more Cat stories, but I am only reading two for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl said if you are looking for a change of pace, read Sfar’s Cat books.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 158).


Little Life

Yanagihara, Hanya. A Little Life. Penguin Random House, 2015.

Reason read: two reasons really. One, because I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of “A book published in the last ten years [I] think will be a classic.” Two, because my sister sent this in the mail. If you know the book then you know it is over 800 pages. I can’t believe she mailed it to me. I (selfishly) would have waited until she was in town if the roles were reversed.

To be one hundred percent honest, A Little Life disturbed me though and through. While on the surface the story follows the lives of four college friends, they all have serious issues that border on all-out tragedy. Living in New York and trying to make a go of different careers, it is terrifying to watch their weaknesses chew them up and spit them out one by one. At the same time, there is something unnervingly beautiful about their friendships despite vastly different upbringings. At the center is Jude. Beautifully broken Jude. At times I wanted to hurl his story out the window in seething frustration. He doesn’t want to talk about his life. He is a mystery. He can’t talk about his parents of ethnic background for fear of betrayal. He can’t navigate stairs and needs an elevator. He cuts himself to the point of suicidal. He’s not white and doesn’t mention his childhood. He’s always in pain, wearing leg braces or using a wheelchair. His injury is not from an accident but something deliberate. He is a glutton for punishment beyond human sanity. He went to same law school as his friend Malcolm’s dad. He is the most beautiful of the group; and the most sly. He doesn’t like to be touched. Yet, he is a loyal-to-the-core friend. Like a many-layered onion, the reader peels back the mystery that is Jude. When you get to his core you’ll wish you hadn’t. The abuses he suffers are so numerous and varied; each one more horrifying than the next that you have to ask yourself, how much trauma can one soul take?
Jude’s loyal and loving friends:
Willem: He is always hungry. He is good looking but not as beautiful as Jude. He is from Wyoming and both of his parents are dead. He’s not a big drinker or drug user. He works in a restaurant and his brother, Hemming, is disabled. He’s also an actor who, in the beginning, gets mediocre parts. His fame is a source of wonderment.
J.B (Jean-Baptiste): Like Willem, he is always hungry. He lives in a loft in Little Italy and works as a receptionist. He fancies himself an artist that works with hair from a plastic bag. His mother pampers him ever since his father died. Internally, he competes with his peers. He is sleeping with Ezra and has an artist studio in Long Island City. He is the proverbial “I don’t have a drug problem” denying man. He can’t give up his college days. They all can’t.
Malcolm: He never finishes his Chinese takeout, but he always orders the same thing. He lives with his parents and has a sister named Flora. He is taking a class at Harvard.
Digging into the meaning of friendship there was one concept that had me rattled. The potential for friends to outgrow one another. I have experienced it and Dermot Kennedy wrote a whole song about it, but I don’t think anyone has written about it so eloquently as Yanagihara.
Here is another confessional: this took me ages and ages and ages to read. There is a lot going on with many, many characters. Like extras in a movie, these people don’t amount to much, but at the time they were introduced I couldn’t be sure. I wanted to commit every single one to memory, but the parade of people was dizzying: Andy, Annika, Adele, Ana, Avi, Alex, Ali, Charlie, Carolina, Caleb, Clement, Clara, Dean, David, Dominick, Ezra, Emma, Fina, Findlay, Gabriel, Gillian, Harold, Hera, Henry, Isidore, Jansz, Jason, Jackson, Joseph, Jacob, Julia, Kerrigan, Lawrence, Luke, Lionel, Liesl, Lucien, Laurence, Merrit, Massimo, Marisol, Meredith, Nathan, Oliver, Peter, Phaedra, Pavel, Robin, Richard, Roman, Rhodes, Sally, Sonal, Sullivan, Sophie, Topher, Thomas, Treman, Zane. I could go on and on.

Quote to quote, “He could feel the creature inside of him sit up, aware of the danger but unable to escape it” (p 138).

Playlist: Haydn Sonata No. 50 in D Major.

Author fact: Yanagihara graduated from Smith College. Too cool.

Book trivia: Little Life is Yanagihara’s second book.


Infinite Jest

Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. New york: Back Bay Books, 2009.

Reason read: I picked this up in honor of Wallace’s birth month. Take note of the date.

To be honest, the sheer size of this book was daunting even before I cracked it open. Add to its heft four complicated subplots, over 380 footnotes, corporate sponsorships, and a futuristic timeline and I waved the white flag. I didn’t feel bad about my decision after I came across a YouTube video of Bill Gates explaining why he couldn’t be bothered either. the one element of Infinite Jest I thought I was missing out on was all of the references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I think I would have enjoyed teasing out those details.
Plot One concerns a group of radicals from Quebec who plan a violent geopolitical coup.
Plot Two centers on a group of students in Boston all suffering or coping with substance addiction.
Plot three takes place at a tennis Academy in Connecticut.
Fourth plot is the history of the Incandenza family. All plots are connected by the movie “Infinite Jest” by James Incandenza, but are not in chronological order.

As an aside, when Bill Gates says he can’t be bothered to read Infinite Jest it makes you wonder why you’re reading it.

Author fact: Wallace attended Amherst College just down the road from me. The fact he committed suicide is a tragedy.

Book trivia: Infinite Jest has made an impact on pop culture with references in television and music.

Nancy said: Pearl called Infinite Jest an “excellent pomo book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in one of my least favorite chapters called “The Postmodern Condition” (p 190).


The Photographer

Guibert, Emmanuel, Didier Lefleve, and Frederic Lemercier. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. New York: First Second, 2009.

Reason read: Afghanistan gained its independence from British rule in July 1919.

I didn’t know what to expect when I read a review of The Photographer, calling it a “photographic graphic novel.” It is quite unique and simply put, amazing. In three parts, The Photographer tells the story of how the aid workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres, smuggled across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan disguised as women in chadri, provided medical support to small communities during conflict. Didier Lefleve, a French photojournalist, traveled with the group to Zaragandara during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1986. In this district of Yaftali Sufla MSF establishes a field hospital while staffing a second one. The final part is Didier Lefleve’s nearly disastrous solo departure from Afghanistan. As the tagline for MSF reads, “We go where we are needed most,” The photographs and journal of Lefleve tell the entire story in intimate detail. It is a powerful print documentary.
It seems impossible for there to be humor in The Photographer, especially when you read of children with their eyes apparently glued shut and paralyzed by shrapnel, but it exists. One word: peaches. I confess. I giggled. That’s all I can say about that.
Most amazing fact: despite the reality they are fighting the Russians, Afghan doctors are able to obtain x-rays for patients, disguised as English speaking colleagues. they send men who are too old to be conscripted. No one suspects the men of being part of the resistance.

As an aside, I have supported MWF (known by the American subsidiary as Doctors Without Borders), for years. I first learned of the organization when Natalie would invite members to speak about their work during a set break in her concerts. I shared Natalie’s pride when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. I appreciated learning about Juliette Fournot, the woman who started the US arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Author facts: Emmanuel Guibert is an accomplished graphic novelist. I am only reading one of his works. Didier Lefleve died way too young at only 49 years of age. Frederic Lemercier was the mastermind behind the layout and coloring of The Photographer.

Book trivia: The English translation of The Photographer was publisher in 2009. Lefleve didn’t live long enough to see it. He passed from a heart attack in 2007.

Playlist: Michel Jonasz

Nancy said: Pearl called The Photographer “one of the best books” she read in 2009.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires” (p 3).


Testament of Experience

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Experience: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1925 -1950. Wide View Books, 1981.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. As an aside, Vera watched the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

At the start of Testament of Experience Vera is newly married and trying to juggle a relationship with a man she has only known for two years and a career as a writer and journalist. From her style of writing the reader can find evidence of Brittain maturing her focus since Testament of Youth. She no longer speaks of an entire generation experiencing war. On the brink of World War II and focusing on herself personally, she repeatedly feels the strain of inequality as she watches her husband enjoy a balance of employment and home life while she is expected to chose between relationships, motherhood, and a career. This only fuels her feminist fire as she hungers for a life she can put into words. She needs to experience life in order to have something to convey to the world. What does she write about if she cannot experience extraordinary things? As time goes by the threat of war becomes reality and as Brittain starts traveling, her life grows increasingly imbalanced. Living more often apart than together, her marriage to “G.” is a series of rendezvous when their careers allow. As an author she experiences the threat of rejection at the same time as the thrill of success as Testament of Youth becomes a best seller. Motherhood is a confusing conflict with her pacifist endeavors lecturing around the globe. As an aside, Vera’s advocacy for peace through her fortnightly Peace Letters attracts the attention of the Gestapo and as a result Testament of Youth was banned in Germany.

Author fact: Brittain wrote a fourth “Testament” book called Testament of a Generation which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Testament of Experience is the sequel to Testament of Youth even though Testament of Friendship was published in between Youth and Experience.

Playlist: “Old Man Noah,” “The Bells of Hell,” and “Sweet Adeline,”

Nancy said: Pearl only called Testament of Experience a continuation of Testament of Youth. Nothing more specific.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 054).


Bruno’s Dream

Murdoch, Iris. Bruno’s Dream. New York: Dell Publishing, Co., 1969.

Reason read: Murdoch was born in the month of July (7/15/1919); read Bruno’s Dream in her honor.

Someone once said Murdoch’s books are full of passion and disaster. Exactly! At the center of Bruno’s Dream is the complication of family and all the confusing dynamics that can happen between members. The lust and the hate and everything in between spill out of Murdoch’s stories. The relationships surrounding protagonist Bruno are sticky, web-like, and ensnaring (pun totally intended as Bruno is a philatelist and arachnologist of sorts). Much like a spider in a web, he lays bedridden and dying, waiting for people to come to him. Most loyal to Bruno is Nigel. Of all the characters Nigel is the simplest. Throughout the story he remains uncoupled despite his best attempts. Knowing Bruno doesn’t have long to live, he urges Bruno’s estranged son, Miles, to visit his dying father. Son and father have been apart since Miles married an Indian woman much to Bruno’s disapproval. After the death of his first wife Miles remarries but his father has never met the second wife, Diana, due to the prejudicial falling out. Diana’s sister, Lisa, complicates Miles’s household when she arrives and Miles can’t help but seduce her. When it comes to women, Miles is a very busy man. More loyal to Bruno than his own son is son-in-law Danby, once married to Bruno’s daughter, Gwen. Gwen died before the reader picks up the story. As an aside, if you would like to keep track, three wives have died: Bruno’s wife, Miles’s first wife, and Danby’s wife. Danby at some point carried on a secret affair with Adelaide, Bruno’s nurse, but doesn’t stay faithful to her. Adelaide and Nigel’s twin brother also have an affair. Lots and lots of partner switching.
As an aside, I felt that nearly everyone in Bruno’s Dream was crazy. I didn’t really care for any of them.

Interesting lines, “The television had been banished with its false sadness and its images of war” (p 5), and “The flake of rust, the speck of dust, the invisible slit in the skin through which it all sinks down and runs away” (p 27). I’m not even sure I know what Iris is talking about here.

Author fact: Iris is not Murdoch’s true first name. It’s Jean. Like myself, she chose to go by her middle name.

Book trivia: Bruno’s Dream is Murdoch’s twelfth book and was short listed for the Booker Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl placed an asterisk by Bruno’s Dream to indicate it’s one of her favorites.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss” (p 161).


Day Hikes in Washington State

Scarmuzzi, Don J. Day Hikes in Washington State: 90 Favorite Trails, Loops and Summit Scrambles.

Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

Day Hikes in Washington State is a follow up to Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Having not read the Pacific Northwest guide I had no idea what to expect from the Washington State guide. Even more so, since I am on the East Coast and have never been to Washington State, this seems like an odd book to request as an Early Review. I am an avid hiker and wanted to review a book based solely on its information. I feel I would review a guide differently if I was intimately familiar with the area.
In truth, I can only find one thing to criticize. Scarmuzzi is uber current by talking about social distancing. Hopefully we won’t always be in this Covid predicament and that information will become obsolete. The good news is I can imagine this book dog-eared, sun-faded, and well-read in the back of some car’s back window. There is a good deal of valuable information and all of it is incredibly organized. The photography is gorgeous. The maps are clear. What is unique about Scarmuzzi’s book is each trail is intimately detailed all along the route. He includes more turn by turn descriptions than your standard guide book, going beyond just stating level of difficulty and elevation.
I enjoyed this guide so much I may have to make a trip to Washington just to hike the trails, loops and summit scrambles Scarmuzzi recommends. In the meantime, I urge him to visit Monhegan Island and write a book about their coastal trails. It would be fantastic!

Book trivia: This book is a little oversized to be carried in one’s day pack. It would have be awesome if it had smaller dimensions to allow for portability.

Author fact: Scarmuzzi has three books to his name according to LibraryThing’s catalog.


Spoilt City

Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Spoilt City. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June.

When we catch up with Guy and Harriet Pringle in the next installment of the Balkan Trilogy, the English newlyweds have been in Bucharest for ten months. Harriet is making friends despite being the newcomer to the region. Guy is as busier as ever trying to hold together his post as lecturer at University. Despite the German advancement, the Pringles refuse to show fear or flee the city; not even under the guise of a holiday. The presence of the Iron Guard puts the entire city on edge yet people are in denial, claiming Rumania is neutral and will never be affected by war. Even when Guy makes it onto a suspected terrorist list and the Gestapo roll into town, he is not worried. His bravado continues despite the fact others named on the terrorist list are either beaten or murdered one by one.
As an aside, now that Manning had set the stage in the first installment of the Balkan Trilogy, The Spoilt City‘s plot moved along much faster. Reading it didn’t feel as much of a slog.

Quotes to quote, “Freedom, after all, was not a basic concept of marriage” (p 351), “And yet, she thought, they were the only people in this spoilt city whose ideals rose above money, food, and sex” (p 390), and “Reflecting on the process of involvement and disenchantment which was marriage, she thought that one entered it unsuspecting and, unsuspecting, found one was trapped by it” (p 526).

Author fact: Manning was a striking person. Her eyes are simply haunting.

Book trivia: The Spoilt City is the second book in the Fortunes of War: the Balkan Trilogy.

Playlist: “The Swan of Tuonela,” “Capitanul,” “We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line,” and Beethoven’s fifth Pianoforte Concerto.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Spoilt City (or The Balkan Trilogy for that matter). It bears noting that The Spoilt City was not included in the index.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175).


Homecoming

Voigt, Cynthia. Homecoming. New York: Aladdin Press, 1981.

Reason read: July is National Kids Book month. Reading Voigt in honor of the month.

Picture yourself as a teenager with three younger siblings. What would you do if your mother left all of you in a car in a mall parking lot to never came back? Dicey Tillerman faces that dilemma after she realizes her mother has been “shopping” way too long. A full night and day too long. Looking back on the events leading up to this abandonment, Dicey understands her mother had been planning this escape from her children carefully, almost deliberately. Making them memorize the address to their great-aunt’s house; packing them bag lunches. The days before her departure were full of signs Dicey somehow missed or didn’t want to believe. Now, armed with bag lunches and a few dollars, she must protect her little family of siblings. Shepherding them along country backroads, hiding in bushes, camping on deserted beaches, and scrimping and saving only to buy the bare necessities, Dicey navigates her way down the coast of Connecticut from Peewauket, Massachusetts to their great-aunt’s house, hoping mother will be there. This is an all-too-real tale of a mother overwhelmed by life. Her children are fighters, though. Each child will warm your heart with their various personalities.

Quotes to quote, “A lot of people had little bits of her life now, and they were tied to her now, or she was tied to them” (p 306).

Author fact: Voigt went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Book trivia: Homecoming is the first book in a series about the Tillerman family. I am only reading Homecoming and Dicey’s Song for the Challenge. Homecoming was also made into a movie in 1996.

Playlist: “Peggy-O,” “Water is Wide” by the Indigo Girls, “Greensleeves,” and “Who Will Sing for Me?” by the Stanley brothers.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Homecoming except to notate is is a good read for both boys and girls.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).


High Cotton

Johnson, Kristie Robin. High Cotton: Essays. Clearwater, Florida: Raised Voices, 2020.

Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing, this was the July 2020 selection.

While Johnson’s book is categorized as a collection of essays, her crystal clear voice trills bright honesty and makes this a captivating memoir on multiple levels: what it means to be an African American woman in the volatile twenty-first century (in addition to being the sixth generation of a family who can be trace their ancestral past to slavery in Deep South Georgia). Adding to the cultural, economic, and societal battles, Johnson is a woman with personal strife: family addictions, histories of abuse, teenage pregnancy, and ever-constant poverty. How does one explain a manicure while buying food on welfare? Why does one even need to explain? There, in a succinct nutshell, is reality of millions. Other realities include the ever-constant reminder that racism and gender bias are alive and well in our country.
My only complaint? Because the essays were so autobiographical in nature I wanted more structure in the way of chronology.

Confessional: I read On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff at the same time and I have to admit, their stories were so similar that I would sometimes confuse the two.

Confessional two: No. More of a question: why does one have to be a rape “victim” in order to acknowledge the bravery of an accuser coming forward? Better yet, why would acknowledging the bravery of Cosby’s accusers force one to “unearth” one’s uncomfortable truth? Couldn’t Kristie stand on the side of women who allege they fell prey to a man of wealth and power (regardless of their (or her) skin color)?