27 February 2015

Words


I am so lucky to live in a country where words are freely printed.  This month I have read a lot of them, from a wide variety of different books, some I have loved, some I have been left wondering why I read to the end.  Do you do that too?  Somehow it feels wrong not to finish a book I have started which I am not hating but not really enjoying it either.  Perhaps it is just me........

I started the month with a self published book that was written about an area near to where I grew up.    A Handful of Straw by Mary Rensten centres around a small village in the early 1700s where an old woman is accused by other villagers of being a witch.  The accusations eventually lead to a trail.  It was a fascinating book, not just because of the familiarity, to me, of some of the places mentioned but because it was a window into a world of the past.  There were many wonderful details in the narrative which were glimpses into what life was like for some at this time.  The connections, thoughts, beliefs,  conditions were all mentioned in some detail.  The novel is based on a trial that did take place and many of the characters actually lived at that time they are joined in this novel by some that are fictional.

My random finding of books in the library occasionally turns up a real treasure, I picked up Secrets from Chuckling Goat by Shaun Nix Jones because I was intrigued by the title.  It was a fun, interesting and at times thought provoking read, an American city girl who finds true love, in her forties, with a Welsh farmer.  The book is written like a diary, and is based on the authors own diary although when you read it you wonder how she found the time to keep a diary on top of everything else she was doing.  There were many things in this book that struck a chord with me.  Her writing about how were are loosing touch with nature, how import it is to make the time to grow food and cook, bake and preserve it ourselves,  the importance of real food to nourish and to keep our health.  The cycles of nature, producing compost to nourish our soils, to growing our own food which we eat and produce compost.  There is also interesting discussions on milk, kefir and sourdough.  There are recipes and a happy ending after a nasty health scare.  A lovely read!

I have a few unread book on my shelves, one in particular that I am not sure how I came to acquire but it has been there for a few months waiting to be read.  Letters to the Midwife is a collection of letter and unpublished writing to by and from the author of the incredibly successful books that started with Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth.  I have only read part of her first book, dipping in and out randomly reading chapters.  Its not that I don't like it or I find it an overwhelmingly difficult subject matter but that I have my own memories that make reading it hard.  The author Jennifer Worth was someone who was very influential in my life when I was growing up.  I visited her house every week in term time for years.  If you have read the blurb in the front of the books you will know that after leaving nursing she turned to music and became a music teacher.  She lived (until she died) five minutes from the house I grew up in, she taught my mother to play the piano my siblings and I would play elsewhere in her house during the lesson.  Later I had lessons too which only stopped when I left home at eighteen.  She introduced me to many composers and their music through my lessons and the concerts that she would take me and a small band of other pupils too on regular basis. I came across her first book when I was pregnant with my second child, my midwife was reading it, I couldn't quite believe it was the same person but the photos in the book confirmed it.  I thought about writing to her and am sorry now that I never did, but others did and this is a delightful book of correspondence.

I have never been one to read books that are labelled as bestsellers or have won awards, I have always been rather put off by the hype.  Nominated for an award (the Booker) for her first book Clare Morrall is not an author I have read before, but if you are nominated for an award then your books must be worth reading, wouldn't you think?  So I tried one of them, The Language of Others some of the writing in this book was good, but not good enough, for me, to outweigh the rather lame plot.  I found it rather dull, despite this I still read to the end.........

Reading a book that is not what you expected is rather a knock to one's confidence, it makes me wonder at my ability to choose books in the library, so I was naturally hesitant to start the other book I had chosen at the same time.   So when I started to read it and find that it is in written in dialect, Scottish dialect to be precise, I was lost for words.  The last book I read in dialect was Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, it took me forever to read it.  But I found myself loving the dialect (this is not book to read with constant interruptions) and once I had been reading it for a while, it was hard to put this down.  Gone are the Leaves by Anne Donavan is a coming of age story set largely in Scotland in a period unspecified but is probably medieval.  The main character has a wonderful way of looking at the world, at odds with the rest of society, she is unlearned (in the eyes of her contemporaries) but yet, to me, so wise.  The story moves to Europe with twists and turns that had me hooked.  It was well worth persevering with the dialect which was singing to me, in its beauty, by the end.

In some way I came full circle with the last book I read this month.  A novel set in the 1600s, a work of fiction based on historical fact.  I have been planning a topic for March based around the solar eclipse that will take place on the 20th of the month.  It will be no surprise to me if you didn't know there is going to be an eclipse.  The best place to view it, a full eclipse,  will be the Faroe Islands, further south it will be a partial eclipse, around 90% in the North of the UK and around 80% in the South.  As the UK media is south centric it has yet to be deemed newsworthy.  Excuse my wee rant but sometimes it feels like there is little of interest to the media north of Birmingham.  Now where was I?  Ah yes, a topic based round the solar eclipse.  As well as finding learning ideas for the children I thought it would be fun to learn too so I had a hunt in the library to find any books that were were based on the solar system and/or astronomy.  I ended up with a wonderful book, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark which is part of a trilogy starting in the 1600s with Kepler and Galileo, as well as being an interesting read about life at this time it was also a fascinating introduction to the history of astronomy.  Both of these scientists were making amazing discoveries but they were at odds with the times.  The Sun revolved around the Earth, as set down in the Bible and believing the opposite was a heresy punishable by being burned alive.  I am really looking forward to reading the next book about Sir Issac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley, I hope the library has a copy............

...if not then I am going to read something completely different which I have been meaning to read for a while Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

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I was interested to note that many of the books that I read this month were from very small publishing houses.  Perhaps I should be making note of this when choosing books as they were ones that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Linking with Laura

18 comments:

  1. Fascinating post. I am afraid that these days I find life too short to read to the end anything that I am not enjoying or think worth the effort! Perhaps because there can only be fewer years left to me than when I was younger!! I smiled at your mention of the media being south centred and I will post to you a copy of a little article in Resurgence (if you don't already read that magazine?) about BBC News being national and Where you are which gives the impression that "Where you are" is of less importance than the national news. An amusing little read. I did however know about the eclipse in spite of being south of Watford!!!
    I am interested in the book you mention called Nourishing Traditions and will seek that one out since the link sounds as if she will talk a lot of sense. I have long thought that butter is better than polyunsaturated spreads and now it seems I have been proven correct on that score and I am keen to learn more. Fascinated to hear that you knew the author of Call the Midwife - although I must admit I haven't read or watched the stories.

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    1. I look forward to reading that article, I don't read that magazine. I am afraid I don't agree that the BBC News is truly national whilst they do report nationally it is really rare for items from the North to make it into the news. I appreciate that there are less people living where I do and therefore we are less likely to create news there have been times when I would have expected events to be reported and they haven't even after a very thorough search of the website. A few years ago an accident shut the M6 for hours in both directions, it was a ten mile stretch. All the traffic had to go up the A6 it tooks some of my colleagues four hours to get to work (a journey of five miles), the queue for some traffic lights was six miles long. I didn't find out why the road was closed until I read the local newspaper at the end of the week, there was no reporting of it anywhere in the media or online! As you know I have lived in the South and the North so I feel qualified to make these statements ;)

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  2. You and I could have many long chats about books and learn from each other, our reading seems so different. Your choices are very intriguing indeed and I always enjoy reading your opinions. Have a great weekend. x

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  3. Great book reviews and recommendations, thanks! My oldest son told me about the solar eclipse on 20th, and as we are in central Scotland, we should feel the full effects X

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  4. so many reads! well, it seems that way to me these days. i miss my books but we have to pick and choose right?
    I like what you had to say about Secrets from Chuckling Goat

    i used to be that way, that i just HAD to finish a book, and then one day i decided that there were too many good books and too short a life! Why waste time on the not good ones! simple as that. now, i do persevere a little, things can turn in a novel, but at some point i say - just as we should in a relationship lol - it was a pleasure to meet you, but we're just not the right fit. haha

    www.inkandchai.co.uk

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  5. What a lovely post. How amazing to have been taught by Jennifer Worth. I have never seen the TV series but we read the first book in the series at our local book group and I really enjoyed it. You're quite right, living as I do in the South of England, I hadn't a clue about a solar eclipse. I shall make a note on the calendar! Have a good weekend. x

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  6. I don't read a lot of best sellers either. I was going to read Three cups of tea , but with all the controversy around - I am turned off. I usually read as much as I can from local authors her in Montana, what young history we have I find interesting. A friend of mine has a little notebook she writes down all her best reads and recommendations, pretty neat idea.
    Have a great weekend.

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  7. I absolutely loved the Call The Midwife books but I haven't read Letters To The Midwife, I shall definitely get round to it as I enjoyed the other books so much.

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  8. Sounds like you are enjoying your reading :) I have a goal of reading more fiction this year, I read a lot but usually homeschooling, homesteading and gardening books. So far I am on a roll and have found some really great reads. I am keeping a list to share at the end of the year.

    I enjoyed Nourishing Traditions, read it when I was in nutrition school. It has some really great things in it, but it doesn't all fit with my vegetarian diet...which Sally is not a huge fan of.

    Happy weekend!

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    1. I have heard that about Nourishing Traditions (not fitting with a vegetarian diet) one of the reasons that I would like to read is it to see if she says why!

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  9. How interesting that you have a personal connection to Jennifer Worth - I can see why reading the books would be challenging then. I read Sally Fallon's book years and years ago which I seem to remember made me overwhelmed by all the food she categorized as bad for us since I ate so many of them! I'd be curious to read it again now and see if my perspectives have changed. XO

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  10. You have been doing a lot of reading - and it all sounds so interesting. I love reading books that are set in areas that I know well. My father has recently sent me some books by Patricia Watkins (self published), that are set in Pembrokeshire where I grew up, they are fictional but based on her real ancestors.
    Going to add Secrets from Chuckling Goat to my wish list.
    I've recently finished The House of Mirth, it was very good, have you read it?

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    1. I haven't heard of the House of Mirth I will have to look that up :)

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  11. Great post, I used to read a lot more and as you said best sellers doesn't mean a good read. So nice your connection with Jennifer Worth. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.

    Happy weekend!

    Lluisa xx

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  12. What a lovely post with many amazing suggestions, thank you! Although I have read my fair share of mainstream series and books, I always love to mix it up with some smaller, lesser known authors and houses. I've been such a "non-fiction" reader since I had kids that any work of fiction feels like a treat. But like you, I have this tendency of pushing through a read even if it is less than inspiring. Maybe that is something I need to work on : Letting go so I can read more books I enjoy.

    I'm jealous of the eclipse. I did know about it and knew about how it will be no where near us. The next even interesting solar eclipse (about 75% here in Eastern Canada) will be in August 2017. It will be full where my husband is from in the mid-eastern USA, so maybe we'll just have to plan a little trip. :-)

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  13. The Sky's Dark Labyrinth sound's intriguing ... I shall check to see if I can come by a copy :)

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  14. I have to confess to being the same with books I'm not particularly enjoying. I have to keep going just in case by some miracle a twist will occur that will then transform the book into a great book, unfortunately this hasn't happened so far but you never know I'm sure there is a book like it out there somewhere just waiting for me.

    I am very aware of the eclipse. I have an 11 year old son with autism who's passion is the solar eclipses and it was some time ago that he announced that his dad would have to ask school if he could have a couple of days off at the end of March 15 in order for his dad to take him to Scotland (as this will be the best place to see it in his opinion). When D then asked about the dogs he announced that they would be fine as he was sure I would prefer to stay at home and look after them instead of watching the eclipse. He's got it all planned....

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