Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Nicholas Hardiman is a famous British crime novelist. He and his wife, Beth, run a writer's retreat at their country home, Stonefield. In truth, it is Beth who does all the work of the business, and performs all secretarial duties for her husband's writing also, allowing him to concentrate on his work. She knows he is unfaithful, which is causing some strain in their relationship after 25 years.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I picked up Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself because I listened to Eleanor Wachtel talk to the author, Ann Wroe. It was slow going and I mentioned to my sweetie that maybe I needed to be more familiar with Shelley's poetry. A few minutes later, she dropped a tiny, tattered book of his work next to me. Moments with Shelley (1907) had belonged to her great-uncle Jack.
The poems made me feel rather off-balance. Heady, old-fashioned language. (" 'T is like a child's belovèd corse / A father watches, till at last / Beauty is like remembrance cast / From time long past.")
Next, I read a teen novel about Shelley's romance and marriage with Mary Shelley: Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett. Much more accessible. Bennett had a lot of exciting stuff to work with.
A proponent of free love, Shelley left his first wife, Harriet, for Mary when she was 16. They ran away to France together... with Mary's stepsister, Claire, who was also 16 and also romantically involved with Shelley. Shelley's first wife was pregnant (possibly with his child) and committed suicide. He was unsuccessful in gaining custody of his two previous children by Harriet because a judge found him immoral. Mary and Shelley had several children who died young (which explains the line I quoted about a father watching a beloved child's dead body) and then Shelley drowned in a boating accident when he was 29.
Probably because it is a teen novel, Bennett left out many of Shelley's additional suspected romantic involvements, even when these people were included in the story, such as Mary's older stepsister, Fanny (who also committed suicide) and Jane Williams. Jane and her husband shared a house in Italy with the Shelleys. In Angelmonster, Mary doesn't finish writing Frankenstein until after Shelley's death, but she actually completed it when she was 18 years old. In the author's note, Bennett acknowledges this discrepancy and I can understand why she structured the novel this way. It does have a powerful ending.
After a few weeks of reading Shelley's poetry before bed, I grew to love it. Being Shelley remained dense, however, and even going back to re-listen to the Wachtel interview didn't help me get through it. I ended up just skimming and stopping to read bits that caught my attention. There was a time in France when Shelley, Mary and Claire walked from Paris to Troyes - a distance of 120 miles - with all of their luggage on a mule. I wish scenes like this had also been included in Angelmonster.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
First published in The Saturday Evening Post magazine, The Snow Goose was awarded an O. Henry short story prize in 1941. I finally got around to reading it because I had heard of a new edition (well, relatively recent -- 2007) illustrated by Angela Barrett.
Joanna Carey wrote about Barrett’s work, “A lot of children’s illustrators today grab your attention with the speed and economy of their style, but Angela Barrett approaches things very differently. There is a stillness and a quiet atmospheric intensity to her illustrations which appeal across a wide range of understanding. She doesn't simplify things - on the contrary, she both assumes and respects the intelligence of her readers - and her richly allusive work, full of detail and symbolism, invites and rewards as much time and investigation as you care to give it."
The Snow Goose is a sentimental story about a hunchback who becomes friends with a girl when she brings an injured goose to him. The man is killed after rescuing many soldiers who had been stranded on the beach of Dunkirk.
The restrained style of the illustrations nicely balances the melodrama inherent in the tale. The story travels into sappy territory but not so far as to prevent my enjoyment of it. I appreciated the mood change in the section where the narration shifts from third person to bits of conversation between soldiers, telling of their experiences at Dunkirk and their sightings of a snow goose. There was one point (the mine in the water) where I felt my emotions manipulated and resisted the author, but other than that, I liked the story and loved the artwork.
This edition may draw new readers (like myself), but will also be enjoyed by people who already know and love the classic story. A picture book for all ages: Grade 4 to adult.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I've always liked Ed Young's artwork and so I looked forward to seeing this new book that he illustrated. It was a surprise to me that, this time, I think the story is stronger than the art. (It is adapted from a story by Lafcadio Hearn.)
The cover illustration is the best; tiny bits of flotsam give a sense of the enormity of the wave swamping a Japanese village. The orange colour of the title pops against the grey background and echoes the shape of the wave. Barring a few exceptions, I found the rest of the mixed media collage images too busy or too difficult to interpret the action or both. The two spreads that show Ojiisan and his grandson seen against the sky from a viewpoint slightly below the top of the mountain are very nice, however.
The story, as I've already said, is great. A man sacrifices his wealth in order to save hundreds of people. Kajikawa's writing is spare, yet evocative. "And presently an earthquake came -- a long, slow, spongy motion. The house rocked gently several times. Then all was still." I've never experienced an earthquake, but I was perfectly able to imagine it. The awesome, destructive power of nature is there too, when the tsunami hits. Might be scary for young children, especially if they live by the ocean.