Saturday, 17 May 2008

I have recently finished reading Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, a first person narrative about Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, and mistress of King Henry VIII, and mother to two children by him. Although I have known of Philipa Gregory's writing for years, this is (I think) the first one I have actually read, a bit strange on my part as I am a keen fan of historical novels. However I did enjoy it, found it a good page turner and thought the background research was sound enough for me to picture the events and scenes. Some of the Reading Group for which this was the most recent read found it a bit slight, somewhat of a bodice-ripper was one comment, although themes including the attitude to high-class women as chattels of their family, likewise the attitude to children in farming them out to be reared and educated elsewhere made the book a bit deeper than it might appear on a quick skim. I think on the whole that the reason I haven't read them in the past is that I find them a bit too light, despite the apparent research. A few of our group had seen the film, but were not overly impressed with it.

In comparison, Virginia Nicholson's Singled Out: How two million women survived without men after the First World War was excellently researched and engrossing to read, and brought home just how much a debt we women in the 21st century owe to the women of the 20's and 30's. If the single women of that period had meekly done what their male relatives had expected, we would probably still be fighting for the vote, and doing all the drudgery work demanded of running a house, unable to earn our own money.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

The weather in France being somewhat mixed, including heavy driving rain, a few sunny , warm days and ending with a light snowfall on the day before leaving for England, quite a lot of reading got done, that is, in between rushing round buying things for the house that the occupying builders should have bought or collected months ago. However, builders now finally kicked out and the house , unfinished as it is, is now ours to finish and use as we wish.
Reading included Lloyd Jones 'Mr Pip', a fascinating tale set on the island of Bougainville at the period of the rebellion in the early 90's, written from the point of view of a young girl. This was a well-written book, and had me in its grip from the beginning. The theme about the importance of the imagination and how that is enhanced by reading resonated strongly with me.
I also read Margaret Forster's The Memory Box, about a box with an intiguing mix of items left to a young woman by her mother, who had died when the daughter was only six months old. The young woman, a photographer, finds the box after the death of her father and her step-mother, who effectively brought her up as her own daughter. The theme of the loss of a parent and its possible consequences on a life, even if apparently successfully replaced, was very absorbing, and for me an interesting contrast to Margaret Forsters latest novel, Over, which deals with the loss of a child.

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