Reading Notes for August and September

Reading Notes for August and September

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Read at the lake house because it was there. A decent enough “beach read” thriller, page turner, that kept me on the edge of my seat at times and had lovely evocative scenery at others. I don’t like the characters much, though they intrigue me. I really don’t like the violent sexuality at all. On the whole, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about with this book and I don’t really much want to read the sequels except for that little nagging what happens next itch. I’ll probably avoid scratching it unless I end up on vacation again with the sequel sitting on a shelf waiting to be read.

2. John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes (started in August, finished in September)

This was a wonderful book, dense and rich. A portrait of a fascinating self-made man and a portrait of America in the years of westward expansion after the revolution, a period I’ve always been pretty sketchy on. Audubon traveled widely and met quite a few of the important people of his day. He suffered amazing reversals of fortune, had a loving relationship with his wife, Lucy, that was strained by financial hardships and many years apart while he pursued the Birds of America project.

It took me a long time to get through this book but it was time very well spent. I feel much the richer for having delved deeply into the life and history of a fascinating man and a fascinating time. Born in the Carribean, raised in France, sent to New York to escape Napoleon’s draft, Audubon was the illegitimate son of aristocrats but also the quintessential American self-made man.

I had already been an admirer of his art since we saw an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts last year, that’s partly why I wanted to read his biography. But this book also made me appreciate his art more and want to really delve into that and into his writings as a naturalist.

3. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

I got it for cheap on Kindle and so re-read it. Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels are fantasy novels your young people set in Pratchett’s Discworld universe.

I think I like the sequels A Hat Full of Sky or I Shall Wear Midnight slightly better, but it’s a solid novel with a lot to love. Tiffany Aching is only 9 but she is a fierce heroine with special powers. She’s sort of an anti-Harry Potter. She’s special and yet she’s also much more grounded, rooted in a place and in a family, especially in the love of her Granny Aching. It’s also a twist on the Tam Lin story, here Tiffany raids fairy land in search of her baby brother whom she’s not sure she likes very much, but she’s not going to let him be stolen by fairies even so.

I really love Terry Pratchett’s witches, their sense of service and self sacrifice. Also, the Nac Mac Feegles, the wee free men of the title: awesome.

4. For Love of Mother-Not by Alan Dean Foster

A juvenile science-fiction novel, a prequel I believe, but the first one in the series that I’ve read. It was a fun read, I picked it up cheap on the Kindle on the recommendation of a friend. I suspect there were moments in the novel that would have resonated and meant more had I read the previous books in the series. Prequels are like that. I might read more of the series if I found them similarly inexpensive.

5. The Song at the Scaffold: A Novel by Gertrud von Le Fort

A short novel about the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne. A beautiful little book that I’m going to have to read again because it’s short and dense. What stuck me most was the idea that fear can be a grace and that Blanche’s fear is a sharing both in the agony of Christ and the agony of France during the Reign of Terror.

I began three more books in September that I’m still reading (I’ll make notes in my next book post):

The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 by Eamon Duffy

Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena Maria Vidal

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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  • I read The Song At The Scaffold when I was in high school because it was required and it’s one of the few books from that time period that I want to read a million times over. I should read it again once I get through a few things in my overgrown pile of library books.

  • I had the same reaction to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a page-turner, though. I think I finished it in a couple of days.

    I read The Song at the Scaffold years ago. It certainly was interesting and gripping. I think I would like to read it again someday, as well. I don’t think one read-through does it complete justice.

    • Oh yes, it was a page turner. I was doing really well at going to bed early on vacation and that book blew it. I stayed up till 2am. And freaked myself out when one of the kids fell out of bed and slammed a door shut in the middle of the night.

      “I don’t think one read-through does it complete justice.” That’s how I felt about it.

  • I did have sequels 2 and 3 to hand so read them and was glad I did. It resolved the horrific events in book 1 (so traumatic I only read snatches). But I loved the insight into Swedish character and landscape.

    Btw thanks for your recommendation of For All The Tea In China by Sarah Rose. A great read and so fascinating!

  • I have been doing a MAJOR cleanout, including books. In the “donate” pile are the following which I thought you or the girls would like and I would be more than happy to send them along.

    Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert
    The Little House Sampler by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane
    West From Home – Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edited by Roger Lea MacBride
    Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Country by William Anderson
    In the Path of War: Children of the American Revolution Tell their Stories, Jeanne Winston Adler, Editor

    Once upon a time my children could do almost any research project without even going to the library… It’s time to clean out!