19 Feb 2011

Books, glorious books

It's funny to say we've had lots of free time recently, but it's kinda true. Even though we've been working hard pulling apart and washing and disinfecting and putting back together what's left of our peaceful home, we're not doing paid work, and we're only half doing school, and Jemimah's extra-curricular activities are not happening, and we don't have home-group, and we don't have any evening meetings. Which is all very strange. We don't even have a telly to fill the gap.

Which means that I've had time for some good stuff.

Like reading.

I started off with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which I actually read just after Christmas. Reviewers invariably compare this heartwarming book about books written in letter form with Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road, so that's the book I read and adored next. This segued beautifully with that novel's sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street in which Helene finally visits Charing Cross Road. Almost as good, this one. I've written before of my love for this genre of literature. Does anybody have any suggestions for others like them?

From here I moved into the fantastic world of Haruki Murakami. I was first introduced to this popular Japanese author last year with his surreal novel, A Wild Sheep Chase, about, you guessed it - a hunt for a sheep. I loved the peaceful Japaneseness of this book, and was keen to read more like it. My first of Murakumi's novels for this year was Norwegian Wood, a story of teenage love and loss. It was this book that made Murakumi a household name throughout Japan, and it has recently been made into a movie. I would like to see it if it is ever released with English subtitles.

I followed up with another Murakami book, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. This bizarre novel is actually two stores running together, one chapter following the next. The two stories sort of converge and merge with each other. Imagine a book of computers and Bob Dylan and Beer and dream-reading and Whiskey-drinking and unicorns and worlds where people live separated from their shadows and wonderful food and mad scientists and you get the idea. I really like these strange dream-like novels.

My new Kindle arrived in those first terrible days after the flood. I've loaded it up with lots of great stuff, but the only book that I've completed so far is Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. This Russian classic is not a comfortable book to read. It's a story full of guilt and moral agonies, and more than once I had to put it aside for something 'nicer', but it is one of those books that one is glad to have finished, and I feel really satisfied that I have done so.

My next book was much easier - Aussie Author, Charlotte Wood's ironically titled The Submerged Cathedral. This gentle book is a heartbreaking story of sisterly love and manipulation, but also of enduring love and faith. It is an easy read - I finished it in a couple of hours, and I was sad when I reached the end of the story - even though there was only sort of a happy ending.

Finally, two non-fiction books - Rob Brook's memoir, Drawn from the Heart was a must read. This illustrator is the creator of the images in so many of my favourite children's books - The Bunyip of Berkeleys Creek, Aranea, and John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner; as well as Fox with Margaret Wild. Brook's memoir is almost a picture book in it's own right, richly illustrated as it is with so many of this talented man's beautiful pictures, but Ron's battle with depression means that his life hasn't been an easy one, and he is not afraid to tell it as it is - warts and all - in this tale of life. This made it an difficult book to read, but I left it with a great respect for this man and an admiration for what he has done. It is a must read for lover's of his art.

The Little Bookroom is the oldest children’s bookstore in the world, and it is just down the road from our Northcote home!! Aren't I lucky?!! I've been buying lovely books from here for over 30 years. My final book - Little Bookroom: Fifty Years With Children's Books by Jeff Prentice is the story of this lovely shop and of its founder, Albert Ullin, who for over thirty years was an influential figure in the Australian children's publishing world. I recommend it as well.

I was going to update you with what else we've been doing - I've finished Ripple, and begun a lovely knitted blanket with Jemimah, but I think these has better wait for a post of their own.

I'll stop here. I haven't told you the myriad of titles Jemimah and I have read, but our current bedtime cuddle story is The Children of Green Knowe. I love this book, and we're finding it impossible not to sneak in an extra few pages most nights. We're also adoring Lassie Come-Home, Charlotte Yonge's A Book of Golden Deeds is surprisingly exciting, with its tales of battle and brave men.

I'm currently reading R. C. Sproul Jr.'s Believing God: 12 Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept. I'm also looking for a new novel or three. What do you recommend?

PS Anyone else sad that Borders and A&R are in trouble? Coz I am.


  1. As always, love to hear about your reads and good to hear you are enjoying your Kindle. I almost wrote you a bit back to suggest Dostoevsky might not be the best author at this time but figured you were a big girl. I'm always searching for those rays of light that shine so brightly in the darkness of his novels.

    If you are going to continue delving into Russian lit, I'll vote for Chekhov. There is real depth with amazing undercurrents to the idyllic life he portrays.

  2. Hi Jeanne! I enjoyed reading about what you're reading. I haven't posted about my books lately, and I should do so. Right now, I'm reading Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe, both on my Kindle. Have you read Cranford yet? It's already loaded and ready to go on my Kindle, too. If you're looking for feel-good books (and who doens't like those?), I suggest anything by Miss Read, especially the Fairacre series. xo

  3. I read a little bit about the Green Knowe books on Wikipedia. They sound like so much fun! I want to read them to my children, ages 7 and 5. Do you think they are the right age for these books? Also, I was wondering how you talk about the idea of the ghosts and spirits in the books? I'm really interested in your perspective.

  4. That's great, it's still living life and how wonderful no television. All that head space for more noble pursuits. Love reading what you're reading! Blessings, Renelle

  5. the same strange thing has happened here without internet, I was reading WAY more... delightful. however, your list is WAY more ambitious and well spread than mine.

    it is SO good to read you again.


  6. Nice to hear from you again Jeanne.
    I don't have any books to recommend because I am so not literary like you:)
    I AM sad that the big two book stores went into receivership though, wonder what's going to happen...?

  7. I loved Gurnsey [and all of Helene Hanff's books]. I haven't read many novels that are really worth your effort to find, but two WWII non-fiction books that are worth it: "And if I Perish" and "We Band of Angels" are both about WWII nurses. I just finished a novel, The Three Weissmans of Westport, that is supposed to be a modern-day "Sense and Sensibility"--I reviewed it on my blog this morning.

    Have you and J read "Lad" yet?? We LOVED it.......

  8. Hopewell, I've never heard of Lad. I'm off to google!

  9. I've never read Crime & Punishment, must put that on my list! I posted my list of books for "Booking it 2011" (with Jessica from Life as Mom blog) last month. I have nearly finished reading all of Jane Austen's books. I LOVED reading Lorna Doone by RD Blackmoore, in fact I didn't even feel like picking anything else up after that. I also read most of the Bronte sisters' books last year, I might re-read Jane Eyre before the new movie comes out.

  10. Hi Jeanne,

    Isn't it amazing when you don't have a telly how much reading you can get done? I suggested one time we go one night a week without electricity! Oh my gosh, that idea fell right on through the cracks!

    I am very sad to hear about Borders. The one I visit quite often is closing.

    I doubt you'd like my reads. They're either romantic or mystery. Usually easy stuff that put me to sleep, literally, since I read when I go to bed. Unless I'm reading about keeping honey bees or looking at craft books.

    Glad you are back home and things are better for you and your family.

    Cindy Bee


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