Friday, May 26, 2017

Have A Lovely Holiday Weekend.

Jerome Thompson, Belated Party on Mansfield Mountain, 1858
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape

Happy Tuesday to you! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, in which bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or planning to read soon.

On Twitter, I follow James Rebanks (@herdyshepherd1), sheep farmer in the English Lake District. Rebanks gives a fascinating look at sheep farming and the joys and challenges of this disappearing way of life. He posts fantastic photos and videos of his farm and the sheep. It was only a matter of time before I had to buy Rebanks' New York Times bestselling memoir, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.

From the back cover:

"Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. In evocative and lucid prose, Rebanks takes us through a shepherd's year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost. It is a story of working lives, the people around him, his childhood, his parents and grandparents, a people who exist and endure even as the culture--of the English Lake District, and of farming--changes around them. Many memoirs are of people working desperately hard to leave a place. This is the story of someone trying desperately hard to stay."

The opening:

"I realized we were different, really different, on a rainy morning in 1987. I was in an assembly at the 1960s shoddy built concrete comprehensive school in our local town. I was thirteen or so years old. Sitting surrounded by a mass of other academic non-achievers listening to an old battle-weary teacher lecturing us how we should aim to be more than just farm workers, joiners, brickies, electricians, and hairdressers. We were basically sorted aged twelve between those deemed intelligent (who were sent to a 'grammar school') and those of use that weren't (who stayed at the 'comprehensive'). Her words flowed past us without registering, a sermon she'd delivered many times before. It was a waste of time and she knew it. We were firmly set, like our fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers before us, on being what we were, and had always been. Plenty of us were bright enough, but we had no intention of displaying it in school. It would have been dangerous."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

I recently had a chance to read Anita Brookner's award winning Hotel du Lac (1984).  The novel tells the story of Edith Hope, attractive spinster and writer of romance novels (under a pseudonym). She's fled to the Hotel du Lac in Switzerland where she seeks rest and recuperation from her life in England after an event that has left her friends reeling. 

The Hotel du Lac is located near a Swiss river, providing beautiful views, places to walk, and lots of time for Edith to reflect. She tries to get the momentum going to work on her latest novel, but she spends most of her time writing letters to a past lover.

Life at the Hotel du Lac has slowed down since it's near the end of the season. There are several residents, all exiles of their own lives. Madame de Bonneuil, an elderly matron lives at the hotel and receives periodic visits from her son. The glamorous Monica has come to escape her difficult marriage. The vivacious Mrs. Pusey and her more reserved adult daughter, Jennifer, spend their days shopping. Then there is Mr. Neville, a charming older gentleman who spends time with Edith.  

As Edith relaxes into her life at the old fashioned Hotel du Lac, her observations of the guests change when she meets them. Some of these people hold grudges against one another, particularly Monica and the Puseys. When Edith makes the acquaintance of Mr. Neville, who after knowing Edith for a short time, decides he knows exactly what Edith needs to do with her life. But does he really know what's best?

Hotel du Lac is a short novel which contains eloquent and sometimes witty writing. The story feels old fashioned like something you'd find in a Barbara Pym novel, especially when we learn why Edith has fled England for the Hotel du Lac and why her friends are so unhappy with her. Hotel du Lac is a quiet but lovely novel and one I'd recommend.

Have you read Hotel du Lac or any of Anita Brookner's novels?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Falling Angels

Happy Tuesday! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or about to read.

Last week, I visited the local library book sale and came away with lots of books, including Falling Angels. Tracy Chevalier is a new author to me, so I'm excited about starting this book soon.

From the back cover:

"Tracy Chevalier, bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, again dazzles us with an elegant and daring novel. Told through a variety of shifting perspectives--wives and husbands, friends and lovers, masters and servants, and a gravedigger's son--Falling Angels follows the fortunes of two families in the emerging years of the twentieth century."

The opening:

"January 1901

Kitty Coleman

I woke this morning with a stranger in my bed. The head of blond hair beside me was decidedly not my husband's. I did not know whether to be shocked or amused."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?