Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday Salon: February Catch Up

The Sunday

February has been a bit of a wash out where reading is concerned. I have spent most of the month
wrestling with Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann. Thankfully I had the Kindle edition as the paperbook comes in at a whopping 704 pages. Originally I bought the paperback when I was browsing in Waterstones sometime last autumn. At that time Him Indoors and I were discussing a trip to America and this book seemed like an appropriate choice. Fortunately the Kindle edition appeared in their post-Christmas sale so I decided to leave the paperback at home.

Yeah, that's right. I started reading this book in January. At times it felt like an utter slog. The narrative is very much focused on the 'inner self' of Evie, our narrator and the main character in this tale. The book was self published and, apparently, when it was picked up by a publishing house they wanted to retain as much as of the original text as possible. That may explain why we are treated to a great deal of Evie's inner monologues and meanderings through life. I am glad I stuck with the book (proper review to follow) but it is partly responsible why I only finished one book this month.

Fortunately I managed to start two new books this month. My bedtime read is Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson so I'm only managing a couple of pages before I nod off each night. The story is about Grace Williams (funnily enough) who is incarcerated into a children's psychiatric institution in the 1950s. I do seek out stories set in such places because I used to work in a medical records archive. There was such a strong emotional imprint on these records and many have their own fascinating stories to tell. Children were not treated terribly well in these institutions where terms such as 'imbecile' and 'spastic' were casually used by the medical professionals to describe the patients in their care. These are important stories to tell and I think Henderson is doing a frighteningly realistic job.

My second read is The Secret Mandarin by Sara Sheridan. I do have a soft spot for Sheridan because she is a champion for archives; my daytime job. Some months ago Kindle versions of her books were on offer so I snapped up a couple, including The Secret Mandarin. I had previously read the magnificent Secret of the Sands and knew I would not be disappointed. Sheridan's books are fantastic for my morning commute. In The Secret Mandarin I have been transported to China in the nineteenth century into a world of laudanum sniffing, tea plant hunting and eccentric missionaries. I have to admire Sheridan's excellent research and how easily she weaves this into her writing. At times I could lean back and smell some of the exotic scents of the plants she described. A hard task to accomplish on a Glasgow bus during the morning rush hour. I'm really looking forward to see what other twists and turns the book will take.

P.S. After I wrote this post I realised that I had read two books in February! There's a quick summary below. 

So I forgot that I had read another book in February. It was a helpful little volume called Clear Your Clutter by Karen Kingston. Alex in Leeds has been migrating her book reviews over to her new spiffy website so some 'old' reviews have been popping up in my Google Reader. She gave the book a good review and commented that Kingston was very good at suggesting tasks to de-clutter. As I finished reading the review, I looked up from my laptop and realised I could not see parts of the living room floor.

I ordered the book. Another review to follow but it gets the thumbs up from me. Kingston is excellent at suggesting good, practical attempts to de-clutter your home. The book is a feng shui guide but that doesn't detract from the good advice. Apart from the chapter on colonic cleansing which was one I skipped over!


Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

It sounds like you chose a very "heavy" book to read...aside from the de-cluttering one.

De-cluttering is something I've been trying to do now and then, with a small measure of success.


(Female) Opinionated Reader said...

I should really get my review of Anthropology of an American Girl up on the website. It was a "heavy" read at times but it could have been easily cut to 400 pages.

Brooke said...

I have Anthropology on my TBR shelf, but it will be some time before I get around to reading it. Glad to know it's a bit of a slog - I'll adjust my expectations!