Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's on Your Nightstand July edition

I've been reading more classics since receiving a Kindle as a gift. One book that I really, really enjoyed was The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleston. Sadly, yes, there are places where the dialect depicted in the story can still be heard constantly in the great Hoosier state! Poor Ralph Hartstook finds himself at the head of a struggling, rural school. He boards "out" with various families, encounters all manner of problems and has unbelievably astute (and still accurate more than 100 years later) views on Churches and religion. This one is not to be missed!

I was disappointed in this one early on. Ms Nicolson, whose real-world "Abdication" credentials are excellent, choose to put in an unnecessarily lewd scene drawing on the most salacious (and probably made-up) details of Wallis Simpson's supposed life in Shanghai and other points East during and after her stint as a U.S. Navy officer's wife. I am heartily sick of this trend--put in some hopelessly awful sex "event" just to supposedly help "sell" the book. Ditto too the overuse of childhood sexual abuse. It's a tragedy that we don't need to become immune to reading about, but we do when forced to read it in so many novels. The sex thing is very junior high, the abuse thing irresponsible on the part of authors and publishers alike. But wait! There's more! Later we are treated to a brief glimpse of masturbation and female to female sex!

I did not throw this one back due to Ms. Nicolson's personal connection with the Abdication. I harbored the hope that she would draw on some previously undisclosed family diaries or letters. It appears she did not. I've read nearly everything ever published on this topic, so t did finish it and in spite of paragraph one of this review it was not a terrible read.

The story, omitting what I've "spoiled" above, was decent and the blurb is right--it could be a BBC miniseries. But it does read like she's watching "Edward and Mrs. Simpson" (the good version with Edward Fox from the late 70s) and just finished reading about the Mitford sisters and their brother, Tom and Mrs. Churchill's nephew, Esmond Romilly. Happily she avoids the trap many such novels fall into of having characters spout boring, stilted "conversation" that tells who everyone is and why they matter. She has decided if you are interested in a novel of the Abdication you must already know who everyone is or don't care, apparently.That's how it should be. If you want to know who is who, get a reference book or read a nonfiction book on the subject.

Adbication by Juliet Nicolson

Too many kids are born simply because their parents couldn't think of another way to cure boredom.Sebastian was one such child. Born to a selfish mother who did not want him and dumped repeatedly on his grandparents he knew the score. But at age 12 he did not expect to be put alone on a bus in Stockton, California and be forced to make his own way back to Grandma's in Pennsylvania. This book is a fabulous addition to Young Adult coming of age literature. The themes can be scary (pedophiles) or all-too-common (uncaring parent) but mostly it's about an unwanted child's quest to find adults he can trust. Sebastian is lucky--he finds one.  Greayhound by Stefan Piper is another one not to be missed.

I also read The Hours by Michael Cunningham which I found to be "so-so" and am still puzzled over how it won a Pulitzer. I did not finish Paul Theroux's Lower River--it depressed me to much for I knew in my heart it was truth, not fiction. Theroux is the poster-child of Peace Corps/Malawi and his book is the story of a guy his age returning to his Peace Corps location and trying to process all that has transpired. Well, in Malawi that would be AIDS, too many AIDS-orphans, regime change and, with a national life expectancy of less than age 50, no one who remembers Independence any more. I threw back Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James. I have two others I'll finish this week, but will review next month.

Check out all the books on the various nightstands this month at 5 Minutes for Books.


Nancy said...

Interesting about The Hours, I often feel that way about Pulitzer winners. Thanks for sharing. Happy reading!


Annette {This Simple Home} said...

I am also reading more classics since getting my Kindle.

The Hoosier Schoolmaster sounds like fun!

Carrie said...

I was interested in reading Abdication but not anymore!! I really do appreciate the fact that you gave us those spoilers because I wouldn't want to waste my time on that one. At all. Thank you, thank you!!

Hopewell said...

Carrie--not a huge part of the story but enough to be off-putting.

planetnomad said...

I reviewed Abdication and I agree with your take on it, although I am so used to it that I just rolled my eyes and moved on. It could have been a much better book.

Hoosier Schoolmaster sounds fascinating!


Cassandra said...

I find it amusing when we read books and wonder why it is a bestseller or an award winner. ;)

Happy reading!

Jennifer Donovan said...

I listened to the audio of the Hours a while back. I didn't even review it, because I didn't really have much good to say. It wasn't awful, but it didn't live up to my expectations for sure.

Glad to read the review of Greyhound. I have heard about the book and author.

bekahcubed said...

I think I would have been really interested in Abdication and would have been very disappointed at the content you mentioned above. I appreciate when bloggers mention what they don't like about a book--it definitely saves time and energy. So...thanks :-)

Hellen said...

I didn't know Death Comes to Pemberly existed. I've read several books by the author but this one sounds very intriguing and goes to my reading list.

Whitney said...

Kindles are pretty cool I wish I had one! :)