the_lady_lily: (Bibliography)
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More reading.

2016 so far

1 - Dear Committee Members - Julie Schumacher - a wry look at academia through the genre of the recommendation letter or reference, which we are all required to write for - well, more or less everything. A bit too knowing and pleased with itself, but entertaining for the holiday period. I'm not sure it quite lived up to the hype, although it was an original conceit.

2 - Owls Do Cry - Janet Frame - a difficult read, about a family who nobody wants to know in 1950s New Zealand, their struggles with poverty and with mental health, and the social problems that basically get them. The writing is experimental and successfully so. Centres on the lives of four siblings, one who dies early on - each sibling has their own very distinct narrative voice.

3 - Memoirs of a Spacewoman - Naomi Mitchison. Really fantastic sci-fi from the early 1960s, about a fully liberated and independent woman doing Things In Space. There is some sex but it is incidental to the grand scientific endeavour. (Not to say that there's no problematic gender stuff, but SCIENCE!) Can't believe I only heard about this through a chance mention on a Radio 4 program.

4 - The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters - Michelle Lovric - great story telling about seven Irish sisters, their singing, their hair, their journey out of poverty and back into it.

5 - The Remedy - Michelle Lovric - because I enjoys the Harristown Sisters so much. This one is about an unwilling Venetian nun, international espionage, quack doctors and their suppliers, acting and pretending to be what one is not, and general confusion. With a sideline of multiple narrative voices represented in different fonts.

6 - Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne - another one of those 'ooooh' books for parenting reasons. Said a lot of things I already agreed with and gave some good ideas about how to do it better. Once more, not entirely sure I'd go the whole hog, but that doesn't really matter.

7 - Last Seen in Massilia - Steven Saylor. Next in the series. A big denouement featuring treachery, double crossing, assumed identities, etc. etc. Not entirely sure I'm buying the characterisation, it has to be said.

8 - The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett. Well, I couldn't really not read it. Not world-shattering, but a good way to end. Granny Weatherwax would have approved.

9 - The Biographer's Tale - A.S. Byatt. Another one of Byatt's spot-on looks at academic life and preoccupations, this time around a man who decides to give up poststructuralist thinking and move to the thing-y-ness of biography, with mixed results. Doesn't get anywhere. Doesn't really need to. Still pleasing.

10-18 - The Independence of Claire, Tom and Some Other Girls: A Public School Story, Sisters Three, A Houseful of Girls, Lady Cassandra, Pixie O'Shaughnessy, More About Pixie, The Love Affairs of Pixie, The Lady of the Basement Flat - Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey. So, I have discovered a whole range of free Kindle books for reading on my commute, and they are basically of this rather peculiar variety of the Victorian improving novel for young women. They seek to inform young women of the life choices set out in front of them, the difficulties they may face, and so on. The best writer of the English versions of these who I have so far found is Mrs. de Horne Vaizey, and I am devouring her collected works like sugar plums because they are delectable and technically also slightly more improving. They rollick cheerfully. Each novel also manages to actually have something unique to it in terms of its setting - The Independence of Claire, for instance, looks at the life of an schoolmistress, while Lady Cassandra handles the topic of potential adultery with surprising sensitivity. But yes. Definitely enjoying myself working through these on the Tube.

19 - 22 - Tracy Park: A Novel, 'Lena Rivers, Maggie Miller, Miss McDonald - Mary Jane Holmes. The American Mrs. de Horne Vaizey, featuring stories of young girls in situations into which they would not have expected to have been thrust. I'm finding these a bit less compelling than their English counterparts, although they're pretty good going; I suspect Holmes may not quite have the same spirit of invention that keeps de Horne Vaizey consistently readable.

23 - A Sweet Girl Graduate - L.T. Meade - another British school story about a girl going up to college, in this case a hypothetical St. Benet's. A bit more morally lacklustre and uninspiring than Mrs. de Horne Vaizey. Ends up with general 'oh, look at how lovely this particular girl is and how well thought of!' without a great deal of wider social kit.

24 - The Water-Babies - Charles Kingsley. Read as part of the general I should know more about children's literature drive. Very Very Odd and frankly has some extremely questionable theology, and the whole handling of death is just... I mean, Tom drowns! And it's just not... just... OH GOD. Not to mention casually racist fish. Glad to have read this at an age when I can appreciate its sheet peculiarity.
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December 2016

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