Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

April Books

Not surprising at all really that I have only read two books this month.

Kate Chopin- The Awakening- Recognised now as an early feminist novel , according to the blurb on the back. Not sure I agree, unless you only focus on sexuality and desire. It was published in 1899, and is set in New Orleans. Edna is the daughter of a plantation owner, wife of a financier and has two small boys. The family holidays one summer at Grand Isle. Here she learns to swim and begins to fall for an engaging young man Robert, who by all account has worked his charms on most of the married ladies. However Robert is attracted to Edna and realising things can not go further takes himself off to Mexico. The family returns home and Edna begins to paint. She stops doing her ” at homes”.  The children go to stay with their grandparents on the plantation and her husband goes to New York, to wheel and deal. Edna spends a great deal of time with a well-known “rake”, before moving out of the family home and into the “pigeon-house”.  Robert returns to town and both realise their attraction to each other. Robert being a gentleman removes himself and Edna returns to the Grand Isle, where the book ends. I won’t say exactly how.

Now I will be up front here. this book took me a fortnight to read, which is not like me. Mostly a couple of pages a  night and in hospital corridors where I did a lot of hanging about. Not the best way to read a book. I was disappointed. Sometimes I wonder if critics have read any of the classics like Jane Eyre or Middlemarch. Plenty of repressed sensuality there! I know others have read this book already, and some for A levels. What did you make of it? It’s certainly not the revolutionary tract on feminism I was expecting. I really thought Edna was going plough her own furrow with her own house and her painting, but no.

Melvyn Bragg- The Soldier’s Return- I was drawn to this book, partly because of the Sawdust hearts which admittedly are WW1, and the return in this book is from WW2, but the war in Burma against the Japanese, which is where my own Dad was.  Sam returns home to Cumbria, somewhat traumatized in 1946, to find the euphoria and bunting from VE day has long since gone and post war austerity with rationing and housing/ unemployment problems besetting his little family. His wife and son who is now 6 years are close to each other and to the other people in the lodging house they now live. Sam feels very much an outsider and a stranger to his family. His son is frightened of him and does not like being evicted from his Mum’s bed. Sam considers him a Mummy’s Boy.

The book is well written and the descriptions of post war life in a rural/ small town setting  believable. I especially liked the chapter with the town carnival which Sam and family throw themselves into. Then Sam attends a reunion in which one of his comrades waxes lyrical about Australia. Sam feels very hemmed in after the war and decides to go. His wife however wants to stay in the town where she feels safe.

I won’t spoil the ending, it was quite satisfactory. You do find out in one chapter what Sam and his comrades witnessed and it is extremely shocking. My Dad wrote an account of his time in India nad Burma and I am pleased that he did not have such a horrific experience.

I enjoyed the book, both for its personal link to my Dad, the descriptions of Cumbria, I love that people collected rose hips and the like and could actually sell them, the reality of the promised land fit for heroes and the austerity and poverty of the post war years. I am a fifties baby boomer, and I can recall bomb sites when we visited my Grandad in Liverpool, and how carefully Mum eeked out some food stuffs. A good read.

So what next? These two.

Have you read any good books this month? Love to know.




Comments on: "April Books" (13)

  1. I read an intersting book last year called Nutshell, can’t recall the authour but it was written using the voice of an unborm child in a mother womb and relayed the shannanigins of his mothers life. Quite unusula, also just finishing one titles A Thousand Paper Birds about dealing with grieve that I would recommend. Thanks for the tips on your recent reading matter, always good to have recommentations.

    • It’s by Ian McEwan and I read it last year too, and really enjoyed it a lot. I hadn’t heard of the one called A Thousand Paper Birds, thank you for the recommendation. I think it’s nice to have recommendations from others.

  2. Great reviews Cathy! I like how you give enough info but don’t ruin the ending:)

  3. I just finished Water for Elephants and it was a surprise in many ways, but I enjoyed it, especially the ending, which was very neat and tidy while still a bit unexpected. I have read a series of young adult books, the author took the bones of famous fairy tales and put them in a more realistic setting in the Middle Ages. They Re light reads but perfect for Monday’s and Tuesday’s when I have been teaching and/or cleaning most of the day. 😄 Reviews coming soon on all of the above!

  4. Murtagh's Meadow said:

    Always enjoy your reviews. Currently reading the ‘keeper of lost things’. Great story idea but feel characters could be stronger

  5. I read ‘Lost For Words’ by Stephanie Butland which was a very charming and pleasant read and set in a second hand book shop as a bonus . It won’t ‘stretch’ you but I find that doesn’t bother me every now and again.
    I enjoyed ‘The Sewing Machine’ by Natalie Fergie too – Claire sent me a copy as she loved it and wanted to share. I’m not sure I was quite as taken with it as she was – she read it three times on the trot – but it’s an engaging story and might appeal to your interest in genealogy.
    Just finished ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern which is a lovely piece of fanciful escapism.
    I did study ‘The Awakening’ for my degree and I don’t remember being that blown away by it -although, frankly, I can’t remember detail from most books for very long afterwards – I’m the same with films. I’m very much ‘in the moment’ with both my reading and viewing habits.

    • A book set in a second hand book shop sounds good already to me. I don’t mind not being stretched, it’s the quality of the writing that matters. Thank you for all the suggestions.

  6. I’m surprised that you managed to read anything this past month!
    I read a book on feminist economics (honestly) and may well write a blog post about it… it’s called “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner” and is worth getting out of the local library if they have it. Other than that, I’ve been listening to books: the trilogy The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire by Rod Duncan (loved this) and the first three books of The Ministry of Curiosities by C.J. Archer (found this very irritating – a good story ruined by continuous distracting references to the ambiguous relationship between the heroine and the head of the ministry). Now I’m settling down with the latest from Jodi Taylor, An Argumentation of Historians… if you haven’t come across The St Mary’s Chronicles, I highly recommend them, this is book 9.
    With a holiday in prospect, I need to line up some more too…

    • I haven’t read any of Jodi Taylors book and will look out for them. And Who cooked Adam Smith’s Dinners, too. Who ever it was would certainly have added value to the raw ingredients!
      I love having suggestions from everyone. I think I will steer clear of the C J Archer books, they would probably irritate me too.
      Some days in April I read nothing at all, not even a page at bedtime. I was not so much going to sleep as passing out in exhaustion.
      Pleased to say I am sleeping very well now. And reading again.
      Hope you find some good books for your holidays.

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