Friday, 27 February 2015

Frances Itani

This book was recommended to me and I was happy to read another book by Frances Itani.
"Remembering the Bones" is about an 80-year-old woman who had been born the same day as Queen Elizabeth, so she was invited to Buckingham Palace for an 80th birthday celebration.
Georgina Danforth Witley is an independent, fascinating woman who decides to drive herself to the airport.  Her car goes off the road and she spends the rest of the book in a ravine, reviewing her life and doing mind exercises in order to survive until she is discovered.
It was apparent very early in the novel that "Georgie" was not going to be able to celebrate with the queen.  That made me very sad and perhaps made the book less enjoyable for me. Georgie felt so connected to the queen and would have loved to see her in person.
But the best part of this plot is that you really get to see Georgie's character as her thoughts wander from family members to the discipline of reciting the bones of the body.
Georgie had some great role models in her family and I really enjoyed her reminiscences.

Frances Itani began her career as a nurse- teaching and practicing for 8 years before she began to write.  She has written 13 books- poetry, fiction and children's books.  She lives in Ottawa.

I have read "Deafening" twice - first in 2004.  It is a wonderful World War One story, inspired by the experiences of the author's grandmother.
At the age of five, Grania O' Neill lost her hearing from a bout of scarlet fever.  She was born in Deseronto, Ontario in 1896.  Her father owned a hotel where her mother and grandmother (Mamo) worked.
At 9, Grania was sent to Belleville to the School for the Deaf.  She cried for two weeks straight.  One morning she decided she was finished with crying.  "She flattened her unhappiness the way she and Tress once pressed leaves inside Tress' book and placed it high on the closet shelf".
Her sister Tress is an important part of the novel.  Because Grania was afraid at night, Tress made a rope with ties and scarves and wrapped one end around her ankle, and Grania wrapped the other end around her ankle and they could communicate between their beds.
Another interesting idea was Mamo took Grania to the lake with the clock bag full of old broken dishes and they threw them at rocks: "When things got bad".
Grania married Jim Lloyd who went to war shortly after they married.  There is a detailed description of W.W. I.  Tress' husband came home wounded and withdrawn.  The theme of sound and slience is beautiful.  I loved this book!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Read it again

  When the Monday Night Book Club  chose their books for 2015, I realized that I had already read 7 out of the 12 books chosen.  So I will be re-reading those 7 books.
  On first reading a new novel, I think you look for the plot and immerse yourself in the characters.  But, on second reading, you discover details.  So, really good books are always better on the second reading.  Lots of interesting detail and wonderful language.

I have just re-read "The Rosie Project".  It's a perfect book for book clubs because great books are nearly always deep and sad. Book clubs would like something fun and different.  This is it!
It is such a light, fun book that I forgot a great deal from a year ago when I read it.  But I'm happy to read it again.
A professor with Asperger's syndrome is looking for a wife.  Fun idea!
It's not my favourite, but certainly is light and fun.
Fellow blogger Sue has written a review that you can read if you click here.
She also read the follow-up book.  Click here.

I will re-read this book any day.  "Annabel" is just a really great read.  It does have some sadness, but is beautifully written.
I particularly love this cover.  It seems to reflect the ethereal nature of this novel about Labrador.  The landscape and lifestyle are important for this story.  While I was reading this book, I felt as though I was wrapped in a blanket of story- story about Labrador.  I felt that the characters were secondary- even though they are definitely important and very fascinating.
This book was one of the Canada Reads finalists last year, but really could be a selection for this year because this year's subject is:  "Books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues".

Here is another cover for the same book "Annabel", but it looks sinister.
Although the story is about a boy, this cover does not reflect any of the content of the book.  It looks out of place and gratuitous.  The book centres around a physical anomaly, but it is dealt with it an ethereal manner rather than a gratuitous one.
What is male?  What is female?  Surprisingly, many babies are born with a gender that is ambiguous.  The internet claims one in 2000 babies.  That doesn't seem right to me, but this book beautifully tells what it would be like to be born 'different'.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Personal Writing- one more example

We need to remember the past generations. 
I started working on a series of books about ancestors.  So far, I have only finished this one, focussing on my parents and their siblings and parents.
We love to talk about the clothes, the cars and the houses. At the back of the book there is a family tree, so that we all know how we are connected.
From these journals we discover where we come from and who we are.  No one is ever forgotten.
Every person is important!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Journals for the grandchildren

I must mention the memory books for my grandchildren.
I have made individual books for each of ten grandchildren. 
They contain stories and photos significant for that child.
I have kept notes of outings, crafts and interesting interactions with each of the children (who are mostly now adults).  This is Kaitlyn's book and this page talks about her first piano lesson. She wanted to come over and show us what she had learned.  So we had a 'concert'- just the first in many 'musical moments' with Kaitlyn.

Then there is this "Book of Cousins".  I gave all the grandchildren a copy to show the fun that they have had with their cousins.  This journal is completely photos.  I have told all the stories in their individual books.
book of cousins

Happy Family Day!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Personal Journals

  I am working on my sixth travel journal, where I record experiences as well as expenses.  As we heard about the Canadian dollar going down in value recently, we were able to check to see that we paid 1.38 exchange in the U.S. when I retired in 1996 and we began our travelling. In 1998, we paid 1.5575 and it stayed high for a number of years.   It's great to look back and be reminded of many details of travel, as well as the big important moments.  I have explored every state in the United States and every province in Canada, mostly with my husband.  I have also travelled with friends to England, Australia, and many places in the United States.  How fortunate!

  I have made separate books for my book travels with my friend Terri.  We have made seven trips.  We have been to Nelson, British Columbia and twice to Banff, Alberta.  In the U.S. we have attended book experiences in South Carolina, Martha's Vineyard, and Arizona. When we went to Bath, England, with Bookwomen, we added trips to London and Paris.  Wonderful memories!  Journals keep them alive!
Memories can be captured in photos, but they don't tell the whole story.  There are many details and experiences that need to be told in story.  I love to pull every bit of pleasure from travelling. Reading and re-reading journals keeps the fun, excitement and appreciation going for years!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Personal Writing

   Two years ago, I met Ross Procter.  He was 85 and had just finished putting together some of his photos and poetry, hoping to get them published.   He asked me to edit the collection.  What a privilege!  And what a delight to find the finished copy in the mail a few months later.  He titled it "Memories and Musings" and that is exactly what it it.
   Ross is a fascinating man to begin with.  He was a farmer by trade but really a cowboy in his heart.
   His book is filled with love and adventure.  What a guy!  How extraordinary to find this combination of love and adventure- tough guy and loving family man.  Here is one of his poems:

I like the smell of a horse.
I like the feel of their nose.
I like the sway of the saddle,
As I ride down the dusty road.
The trot is a bouncy encounter.
I endure it because we are friends.
I guess I'm a lover of horses
And I sure hope this 'affair' never ends.
I first met a plow horse called "Barney"
That my Dad used to work in a team.
I've known "Bill", "Mike",
"Rawhide" and "Brownie",
And a bay we used to call "Queen".
"Buck" is a foal out of "Ginger"
With a quarter stud for a sire.
Between us we've learned to herd cattle,
But I know Buck could prove me a liar.
You see, I say we keep cattle for profit,
But he knows the real reason of course-
A cowboy's got to have cattle-
So he can ride herd with a horse.
Ross Procter, 1975

The book has lots of family photos with poems for his wife, children and grandchildren.  Also he has written philosophical articles on the death or sickness of a friend.  Lots of travel as well.
What a gift for his children and grandchildren, to be reminded that Ross was a cowboy with a tender heart.
We met Ross again this year.  Although he was on two canes and often needed a wheelchair, his spirit has not changed.  He still is the cowboy!

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

"A wonderful, moving, endearing story that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time".
That was the blurb on the cover.  And I was prepared to love this book.
  A book about a little girl growing up in a book store on a New England island with a cantankerous, widowed father.  Doesn't it sound wonderful?
  Recently published, it has received great reviews from other people and has been translated into many languages.
  Each chapter starts with a book review that the father writes to his daughter- books that he would like her to read some day.
  I was certain that I would love it, because of the book store atmosphere.  But I found the little girl unbelievable.  As a preschooler, she was thinking about the book "Caps for Sale" and deciding that the monkeys must represent something else, because monkeys wouldn't want hats.
  Oh, by the way, the little girl was left in Fikry's book store by the mother who then drowned herself.  Fikry's wife had recently died and Fikry was bereft.
  I also found it predictable.  There was a publishing house representative that visited the remote island and it was obvious that Fikry would fall in love with her.

  A little girl sitting on the floor, paging through the books.  What's not to love?
I wish that I had loved it more.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Poisonwood Bible

What an amazing week I have had!  After three fabulous days at Fern lodge in Orillia with the Drayton Theatre Travel Club, I came home to three days of book discussions.
On Thursday, I was discussing one of the Canada Reads books at a coffee shop.
On Friday I was discussing "Olive Kitteridge" at the library, and today- surprise!  Serendipity!
Out of the blue, a friend of my daughter asked to talk to me about "The Poisonwood Bible". 
I read this book in 2000, and it is the absolute best book that I have ever read!  My enthusiasm for it increases with time.  Nothing compares to it!
  A missionary family in the Congo is completely unprepared for African life: Nathan and Orleanna Price, Rachel (15), Leah and Adah (14) and Ruth May ( 5).
  The chapters are written in alternating voices of the children with a retrospective discourse by the mother at the beginning of each section. The father, Nathan, does not have a voice in the book.
  Nathan Price was arrogant and abusive and self-absorbed.  He  was on a 'mission' and would not be deterred.  He chopped down wild orchids and pulled out the native poisonwood tree to plant his demonstration garden.  This was symbolic of his lack of interest in African culture and African needs.
  This book is not derogatory to Christian mission, in my opinion, but a reminder that arrogance has no place there.

Orleanna Price: "I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband's confidence and the undertow of my children's needs".
"Riptide" and "undertow" are both strong currents in the water.
Isn't this a metaphor for the way many women spend their lives?  Torn between the desires of their husband and the needs of their children?
I have found this literary theme to be very fascinating.  Some of my favourite books have this theme:
"The Secret River" by Kate Grenville
"The Mosquito Coast" by Paul Theroux
"The Sea Captain's Wife" by Beth Powning

I greatly appreciated this opportunity to remember my great love for this novel.  The style of writing is delightful,  the characters are fascinating, the plot is riveting.
It is the best book that I have read in 15 years!