Remembering February

So, February was a weird month. Being sick and injured didn’t help except that both ailments gave me more time to read. Turning 47 turned out to be not a big deal. Just another number in the grand scheme of things. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow either so there are less numbers in winter… And speaking of numbers – here are the books:

  1. A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
  2. Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
  3. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh
  4. Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine
  5. As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (AB)
  6. Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
  7. Her First American by Lore Segal
  8. Down Where the Moon was Small or And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon was Small by Richard Llewellyn
  9. Path to Power by Robert Caro – finishing TODAY!
  10. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (AB)
  11. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (DNF)
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieĀ  (AB) – will finish in March
  13. The Art of Dying by Patricia Weenolsen

For Fun:

  1. Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  2. Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
  3. The Ultimate Treadmill Workout by David Siik

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:

  1. Liar by Rob Roberge

I also spent some time revisiting the Challenge list. Because of all the missed individual titles I wanted to redo the schedule. That took up a great deal of my time!

And I Shall Sleep…

Llewellyn, Richard. And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon Was Small. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1966.

Reason read: to finish the series incorrectly started in December in honor of Patagonia.

Like Llewellyn’s first two novels, And I Shall Sleep… starts off with Huw and his mother’s little blue cloth, the one she “wore about her hair when cleaning” (p 1). This will become significant later, as you might have guessed.
And I Shall Sleep is the third and final book in the Huw Morgan series. When we join back up with Huw, he and his small group of Patagonians have made a new settlement in the Andes mountains. Previously Huw’s love, Lal, had decided to stay behind but early in And I Shall Sleep she changes her mind and joins Huw in the mountains. While this may seem like a good thing for Huw (since he was so infatuated with her in Up, Into the Singing Mountain), his attraction to an evasive Indio girl complicates the relationship. It doesn’t help that Huw is becoming more and more sympathetic to the Indio plight (“they were denied a land where their fathers had ridden” p 122), Interestingly enough, this new girl, Liliutro, is half sister to Lal. [Semi-spoiler alert: the inside flap reveals that mysterious Lili is able to lure Huw away from Lal so the whole time Huw and Lal are seemingly happy together I wondered when his betrayal would begin…and then when it did I regretted waiting for it.]
On the professional side, Huw’s trading company is getting bigger and bigger. He is able to travel to America and meet Henry Ford. As a businessman he grows more and more successful.

As an aside: towards the end of And I Shall Sleep I was starting to dislike Huw a great deal. There is this one curious scene where Huw has just slept with a married woman and she announces she is going to tell her husband. The next day the husband comes to Huw to inform him I know what you did and oh, by the way, you should call the police because I put my hands around her neck….”Heard it go. Told you. I’m finished” (p 308).
And then there’s the scene with the puma…and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Quote I like: right from the beginning, the very first sentence grabbed me, “Dearly touched a heart can be with proof of love from an absent one” (p 1). This set the whole stage for me.
Other quote I liked, “A pity it takes so long to reach good sense” (p 99).

Book trivia: And I Shall Sleep… is sometimes called simply Down Where the Moon Was Small.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply and predictably called “Patagonia” (p 174). Note: both titles are indexed in Book Lust To Go.

Up, Into the Singing Mountain

Llewellyn, Richard. Up, into the Singing Mountain. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1960.

Reason read: to continue the series incorrectly started in December (in honor of December being the best time to visit Patagonia).

Up, into the Singing Mountain takes up where How Green Was My Valley left off. Huw Morgan leaves his tiny village in Wales for a Welsh community in the Patagonian region of Argentina. Singing starts with the same imagery as Valley in that Huw is bundling a little blue cloth. I’m not sure why that sticks out in my mind, but it does. Part of the reason why Huw leaves his community in the valley is his inappropriate love for his brother’s widow. As a child living in her house (to keep her company), no one thought of any impropriety. However, as Huw grows older and his feelings for Bron become more apparent, it was now time to leave.
Huw finds work as a cabinetmaker and builds a reputation on his artistry and skill. Unfortunately, the rumor mill also finds Huw in his new Patagonian community. This time he is tied unfavorably to a widow he has rented a room from, all theĀ  while being in love with a girl several towns over. His inability to defend himself only creates more problems and new tensions. But that is nothing compared to the threats to the community at large posed by a weakened dam and torrential rains. Add rebellious Indios and you have an adventure.

Like the last book I am finding tons and tons to quote: “Strange that a word or a look at the proper moment will change the whole cage we live in, and the places of all those perched” (p 11-12), “It takes a long, long time to lose the poison of towns” (p 20), and “To have a breath of air from the mouths of much” (p 24). I’ll stop there.

As an aside, one of my favorite teas is yerba mate. It was cool to learn where it comes from.

Author fact: after reading the Wiki page on Richard Llewellyn I was shocked to learn some of the things he claimed all his life weren’t exactly true (like where he was born).

Book trivia: not a spoiler alert, but there are some pretty violent scenes in Up, Into the Mountain. I was actually quite shocked by the violence of Lal’s father.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply, “Patagonia” (p 174).

December Missed

Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:

  • Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
  • Cod by Mark Kurlansky
  • Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  • The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
  • Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett

Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):

  1. Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
  2. Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
  3. Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
  4. Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
  5. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
  6. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
  7. Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).

I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.

On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.

How Green Was My Valley

Llewellyn, Richard. How Green Was My Valley. New York: RosettaBooks LLC, 2013.

Reason read: December is the best time to visit Patagonia. Not so sure about Wales. Which leads me to my confessional: Patagonia is featured in the sequels (Up in the Singing Mountains and Down Where the Moon Was Small), but NOT in How Green Was My Valley. So, I’m sorta reading this one for the wrong reason…which means I’ll be reading the sequels for the wrong reasons as well. Regardless of how I got to this book, on with the review:

Richard Llewellyn has an amazing voice. There were so many passages I wanted to quote because they were all just so beautifully written. How Green Was My Valley is told from the first person perspective of Huw Morgan, looking back on his childhood in a small mining town in Wales. Huw comes from a large family of his parents, five brothers and three sisters. They live in an isolated valley in a community governed by the ways of God and the land. As Huw grows older and heads off to school he learns about the uglier side of growing up, like being bullied for being the new kid. After the first day of school Huw’s father and brothers teach him how to fight. [As an aside: this surprised me. Growing up with five older brothers, surely Huw would encounter a scuffle or two? It seems so unlikely that the siblings would never fight among themselves.] But, it was the harder lessons Huw learned that were more difficult to swallow: the poverty and starvation during the leaner months, what happens when desire gets out of hand and leads to rape and murder, and the death of a family member.

There were many, many lines I liked, but I’ll share just a few: “There is a funny thing in you when you know trouble is being made and waiting for you, in a little time to come” (p 211), and “Pain is a good cleanser of the mind and therefore of the sight” (p 341),

As an aside, the Welsh way of speaking reminded me of Yoda. Guess it’s all the Star Wars brewhaha going on right now.

Author fact: Llewellyn’s full name is Richard Dafydd Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd. Phew. One of his many occupations was coal miner.

Book trivia: How Green Was My Valley won the National Book Award and was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in two different chapters, “Patagonia” (p 174) and “Wales Welcomes You” (p 248).