Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Persuasion (part 2)

Anne Elliot is forced to witness the blossoming relationship between Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove when she reluctantly joins them on a chilly November walk. You can't help wondering if Anne's melancholy autumnal musings echo Austen's own state of mind as she fought declining health to complete the novel.

Yet Persuasion is not a sombre book. Regrets, misunderstandings and a gap of eight and a half years means that the eventual reunion between Wentworth and Anne is so much sweeter and I love his final letter to her 'For you alone I think and plan.'

My edition also includes an intriguing cancelled chapter which I'd never read before.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Persuasion (part 1)

Poor Anne Elliot. Lost her bloom at the ripe old age of 27(!), imposed upon by her sisters, Elizabeth (bully) and Mary (hypochondriac), made to suffer various indignities by her vain father, overshadowed by the youth and spirits of Louisa and Henrietta, her only living advocate is her mother's old friend Lady Russell. (Anne lost her mother when she was 14). Just when she thinks that Captain Wentworth can no longer care for her he gallantly removes the troublesome two-year old nephew pinning her neck down and clinging to her back in one of the most electrically-charged episodes in fiction.

Nobody does satire quite like Jane Austen. I loved her description of the relationship between Mary and her husband Charles
... they might pass for a happy couple. They were always perfectly agreed in the want of more money ...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Blue Jay's Dance

Just managed to squeeze in another old favourite before I begin re-reading Jane Austen. For some reason I always get the urge to re-read an Austen novel in the spring. The Blue Jay's Dance by Louise Erdrich is a kind of diary of a birth year in New Hampshire. The book contains accounts of bonding with a new baby, recipes for steamed fiddleheads and anise apples, anecdotes about the wildlife and plants around the house and musings on the conflicts between motherhood and the writing life.

I loved the story of the wild calico kitten who hides in the crawl space underneath the house, the planting of morning glory seeds around the doorway and imagining the ropes of 'celestial' blue flowers to come, the little daughter who sleeps with a beloved caterpillar on her pillow, the punctual woodchuck who stops for her lunch of clover at exactly the same time each day and the purple finches - state birds of New Hampshire - who look like 'sparrows held by the feet and dipped into raspberry juice.'

My Bridal Crown white narcissus bulbs (in the photo) have produced flowers which appear to resemble crumpled white tissues. Most peculiar although not unattractive.

Friday, 20 March 2009


I've finished Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. A completely absorbing book that had me engrossed from the beginning. I really don't know how to begin to review it, so I'll just dedicate a post to all those American Indian warriors who fought to protect their families, their culture and the natural resources of their land.

This is Dull Knife a chief of the Northern Cheyennes.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

More Austen

Look what I found in my local second-hand book shop. A perfect edition of Jane Austen's Letters collected and edited by Deidre Le Faye. Although it was priced at £8 the nice man in the shop said I could have it for £6. They don't do that in Waterstone's! He also told me an interesting anecdote about the time someone donated an extremely valuable early edition of an Austen novel to the shop without quite realising its value. He did the right thing and told them. I'm afraid I would have been tempted to keep quiet.

The full quotation on my cup is from Pride and Prejudice:

Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Rainy day reading

We've had that blustery, rainy weather over the weekend which I always find quite exhilarating. I've been reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which I've put off for quite a while because - as Dee Brown says in his introduction - it's not a cheerful book. This classic text covers an extremely violent period of American history. Brown has a clear and appealing writing style which reads beautifully. Oh, but it's sad.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Painted Drum

Faye Travers is part Native American. She works with her mother evaluating estates. After the death of a man whose family have lived in New Hampshire for generations, she discovers valuable American Indian objects amongst his belongings. These include a cradle board, a doll wrapped in a faded red trade cloth and a painted drum. The drum is made of moose or buffalo skin, tasseled and beaded with images representing a girl, a hand, a cross and a running wolf. Compromising her professional judgement, Faye takes the drum and restores it to its rightful owners.

As the story unfolds we learn the significance of the images on the drum. If you've read Willa Cather's My Antonia you will know the folk tale of the wedding sleigh ride through the snow at night and the hungry wolves which chase the procession and the sad fate of the bride. This folk tale is also re-visited in The Painted Drum.

While I was fascinated with the history of the drum, I really liked the character of Faye Travers and her life with her mother and sometime lover, the sculptor, Krahe. Refreshing to have a female central character in a novel who is in her fifties. Erdrich writes so beautifully. When Faye lies awake at night she describes how her house releases the day's footsteps on the old pine floorboards and the sounds of the house at night resonate through the drum.
I now want to read The Plague of Doves.

Friday, 6 March 2009

More Louise Erdrich

It's been a hectic week with work and parent's evening and library book club, but I've made time to start Louise Erdrich's novel The Painted Drum and to enjoy my pale pink hyacinths.

I've been meaning to catch up with the recent work of Louise Erdrich and I'm glad I did. The Painted Drum is the kind of novel that is difficult to put down. All the old favourite characters are there, or alluded to, Nanapush and Fleur Pillager, but I really like Faye Travers the woman who finds the drum.

I'll let you know how I get on.