Only three read this month, but all good ones!
Peter Hoeg- Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow– set in Denmark, a small boy falls from a roof, presumed an accident by the police but his neighbour Smilla disagrees as she can tell by his footprints in the snow that he was chased- but why and by whom? I loved the first part of the book as it was filled with ironic humour. The second part set on board a ship was less enjoyable- the humour had gone and it was one fight scene after another in which Smilla seemed to inflict a great deal of damage whilst getting hurt herself. Wish the humour had continued, and there were less tussles. A good book with a heroine to make you proud.
Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic- Thank you to whoever suggested this book to go alongside the Artist’s Way retirement book. It is full of encouragement to just get on with your creativity, finish what you are doing, release it to the world and move onto the next project- somethings will be good, some won’t, keep going long enough and one project will be filled with Big Magic- but don’t expect the next one to be necessarily! I think I recognised relatively recently that I make things because I enjoy the process, and if someone else likes what I make that is a bonus. This book helps me to understand that this is what matters. Far too easy to beat oneself up by comparing yourself to others! If this might be you too, I highly recommend this book.
Thomas Hughes- Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Back in September I think it was we climbed the White Horse iron age fort at Uffington on the Berkshire Downs. As drove away from there towards a pub for lunch we passed a funny little building which proclaimed itself to be Tom Brown’s School museum. Now this confused me because I knew the book to be about a public school called Rugby. (Brief explanation of the education system in England- State schools are free for all and for the ordinary people. Private Schools of which there are few are owned and run by a private individual for profit. Independent Schools are run by board of governors, public schools are charitable schools. All three charge fees at very high prices. Don’t ask me about academies and free schools which are new fangled things and confuse me).
So what on earth was this tiny building doing in calling itself Tom Brown’s school museum? According to t’internet the author lived in these parts and the school featured in the novel . I’d have to read the book to find out more, so I did.
The book is set in the 1830s, and the first part covers Tom’s early childhood. The son of the local Squire Tom was first educated at home and then had a year in a private school before being sent to Rugby School. He is allowed a lot of freedom as a young boy and mixes with the village boys who attend the local school. This part of the book paints an idyllic picture of childhood, freedom to roam, knowledge of nature, fun and games. Oddly recognisable from my own childhood in Yorkshire, and of some of the things we enjoyed when we lived in the next door county of Oxfordshire when our sons were little. I think here of a village custom of a Feast day- in which a fair comes to the village and fun and games happen. The Oxfordshire village we lived in was called Combe, and if you have never seen a a big dipper on a tiny village green etc you probably can’t imagine it. I loved this section of the book.
The novel is meant to be read by boys about to go to their public school, to prepare them to get the most out of the experience. I doubt any boy could read such a book these days- all perfectly accessible to read and not childish in any way- it simply wouldn’t appeal, so far is it removed from ordinary childhood today. Most of the lessons seem to be about translating Latin and Greek , and sport- Rugby football, and cricket, and a lot of religion. All good character building stuff, preparing the boys for life as Army Officers or clergymen and lawyers. It is of its time and thoroughly enjoyable, and maybe does throw a fascinating insight into the scchools enjoyed by the wealthy today.
Now I feel prepared to visit the museum as soon as it re-opens – next year I hope.
Have your read any good books this month? Although I have a nice big pile of library books to take me to the end of the year, ok end of January, I’m always looking for recommendations.
Happy reading, x