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 Letters to the Midwife is a collection of letter and unpublished writing to by and from the author of the incredibly successful books that started with Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth.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.
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