I told you to expect it! And here I am, catching up at long last!
Pretty much the first libraries I remember are the Mililani Public Library and the Mililani Waena Elementary School Library. I attended Mililani Waena from mid-kindergarten till fifth grade, when the district lines moved and I was unceremoniously transferred to Mililani Uka. Quelle horreur! (I did not manage to get any school library pix as they were closed pretty much all of the days we were touring Sites of Schatzi’s Past.) The Mililani Library is just a block (a very BIG block that happens to be the high school) away from Mililani Waena. Originally, there was hardly anything around it, but when I was little, they built a shopping center with Star Market and Longs, and even a theater. Now there’s a Walmart and a Home or Office Depot right there, too. Crazy.
Right off the bat, once I started reading, I started kicking it at this library. Mom had to limit me to seven books per trip after several overdue book debacles; before that, I often needed a bag to carry everything away. After school, I often walked to the library. Some afternoons, they had movies (nearly always of a late Seventies vintage) playing in a quiet room to the right of the entrance, past the restrooms (now this is a reading room, and apparently where periodicals are kept). When Mom got off work at the hospital, she would stop at the library to pick me (and sometimes a friend) up. On the way home in the car, I would read the most interesting book from my pile, and when we got home, would often remain in the car reading it either until a) I finished it, b) it was too dark to read, or c) Mom called me in. Read the rest of this entry »
The Morland Dynasty: The Tangled Thread by Cyntha Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1987
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: family saga, historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: (jacket copy)
1788: the bloody revolution in France causes upheaval in the Morland family.
Henri-Marie FitzJames Stuart, bastard offshoot of the Morland family, strives to protect his daughter Heloise, his mistress, Marie-France, and their son, Morland. To this end, he binds Heloise to a loveless marriage with a Revolutionary, and allies himself with the great Danton. But in the bloodbath of the guillotine and the fall of Danton, Henri-Marie loses his head and Heloise flees to England.
She is welcomed with open arms by the family, and in Yorkshire Jemima proudly witnesses three marriages amongst her turbulent brood. At last there may be an heir to Morland Place, but the seeds of disaster have already been sown.
Holy crap, I hadn’t read the jacket copy for this volume (I rarely bother anymore with this series), and so did NOT realize there was a major spoiler right there. I mean, I kept thinking Henri-Marie might escape the Terror and see England at last. But no. Oh well, for me, the perennial peeker and spoiler extraordinaire, not knowing that sustained some of the suspense in this very entertaining continuation of the Morland Dynasty. HOWEVER! The jacket copy is seriously lacking, covering only one of The Tangled Thread’s storylines. After all, it concerns Jemima still, one of those Morland matriarchs in the vein of Annunciata (though considerably less flashy). Her beloved husband Allen finally kicks the bucket, and Jemima is terribly concerned about her children: eldest son Edward is decidedly gay and remains unmarried, second son William is definitely married to the sea, and third son James is an unequivocal rake, tearing from one affair to the next, all while nursing a tendre for a married woman. (Youngest son Henry is too young to be of much concern yet; look for him in later installments.) Her elder daughter Mary is also troublesome, living with Flora (Countess of Chelmsford), traveling about England with Society as part of her establishment, and never considering any proposal of marriage. BUT! It gets better! Youngest daughter Lucy is one of the Morland tomboys, studying medicine under a former sailor and local horse doctor, Morgan Proom. Her interest in medicine and fixing broken bodies eventually leads Lucy to RUN AWAY TO SEA AS A SHIP’S DOCTOR ON A ROYAL WARSHIP. HOW RAD IS THAT? Read the rest of this entry »
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
originally published 1961
Vintage Books, 23rd printing, 2008
Synopsis & Review: Frank and April Wheeler are young, bright, and beautiful. They’ve lived as though “greatness is just around the corner,” and in the meantime, they’ll make small compromises. But those small compromises become major ones as Frank takes a job he cannot stand, and they have two children, and then move out of the city. Neither one of them is happy with the concessions they’ve made, so they make do by feeling superior to the young suburbanites who surround them. Beneath their charming, joie de vivre-filled facades, Frank and April are discontented and miserable, drowning in the “hopeless emptiness” of suburbia.
While Frank slowly begins making peace with his lot, April throws herself into projects to improve her quality of life: first community theatre, then a plan to move the family to France where they can both “find themselves.” But an unplanned pregnancy jeopardizes everything.
So, like the SUPERsmart person that I am, I thought it would be a great idea to read Revolutionary Road, Little Children, and The Group right before getting married. (Cuz like, I’m not smart—get it?) After I told them I’d read Revolutionary Road, and then began wondering aloud whether I was dooming myself to a lifetime of being unfulfilled and miserable, my sisters put the kibosh on my little reading list so that I wouldn’t psych myself out of getting married. (I am too suggestible sometimes.) Wise women.
Don’t think that Revolutionary Road isn’t good, however, because it is very, very good. “Bleak” is so often applied to Yates’ work, and it is apt, but there’s a beauty to the bleakness, a stark clarity that illuminates his writing with a chiaroscuro of emotions and impressions. It is unsentimental and capable of wrenching emotion from its readers. And most curiously, despite the fifty years that have passed since it was written, it could be a novel of the twenty-first century. Read the rest of this entry »
The Morland Dynasty: The Flood-tide by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1986
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: (jacket copy) 1772: Although George III reigns over a peaceful England, his colonies in the Americas are claiming independence and a tide of revolutionary fervour is gripping France.
Allen Morland and his beloved wife Jemima work unstintingly to bring Morland Place back to its former glory. Their seven children often bring them heartache, but they are sustained by their love for each other.
The Morland adventurer, Charles, emigrates to Maryland in pursuit of the heiress Eugenie, but finds himself in the midst of the American claim for independence.
Meanwhile, Henri, the family’s bastard offshoot, pursues pleasure relentlessly but pennilessly until he finds a niche for himself in the fashionable Parisian salons, whilst outside revolution creeps closer.
OH GOD, THESE BOOKS ARE LIKE CRACK. I pick one up, and then I can’t put it down till I’m done, and I don’t know why. The Multnomah County Library seems to feel that it’s above stocking every book in a series, and thus this, the ninth volume in the Morland Dynasty, was missing from the MCL’s catalog. Bastards. I could not go on in the series without reading what I was sure was a PIVOTAL volume, so I decided I’d have to buy it for myself. These aren’t easy to find used at Powells or on Ebay, and I ended up getting it on Amazon, and tucking it into my own Christmas stocking to ensure that I’d have something I wanted to read for Christmas. (It’s very important to get something decent to read for Christmas, you know.) I rationalized my purchase by insisting that I would donate the book to the MCL after reading it so that others in my position would not have to suffer as I did. Whatever.
On to The Flood-tide! Jemima and Allen are several years into their marriage, with a full complement of children. Though forced after the death of her evil queer husband Rupert to sell the lovely estate of Shawes (remember, the house that Annunciata built?), Jemima and Allen saved Morland Place, including the horse farm at Twelvetrees. Fortunately, their Chelmsford cousins buy Shawes at a good price, not only keeping it in the family but also keeping Jemima and Allen solvent. The early parts of the book mostly concern their domestic activities, though there is a brief interlude at sea when William runs away to join the Navy. Edward then goes off to Eton, where he makes what becomes a lifelong friendship—and entanglement. There are unfortunate marriages, and illicit loves, even some adulteries. You know, business as usual. Read the rest of this entry »
Nothing. Well, that’s not quite true. You see, I ran out of the library books that I WANT to read, and have a bunch more on hold the library that haven’t yet arrived (damn you, Multnomah County Library! *shakes fist*). All I’ve got left now are Margaret Irwin’s The Galliard, a very old-fashioned (and not especially accurate) Mary, Queen of Scots novel, and Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. So I’ve been supplementing by reading my totally rad (and interesting) American Heritage Cookbook circa 1969. Of course, the problem with that is now I want to make New England Boiled Dinners, chowder, and Anadama bread.
This week, I polished off Joan Aiken’s classic The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (one of my childhood favorites), Valerie Martin’s Property, Anya Seton’s The Hearth and Eagle (another factor in my cravings for New England cuisine), a classic Madeline L’Engle Chronos book, A Ring of Endless Light, and another of my crack books, The Morland Dynasty: The Victory by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Not too shabby. I’m still getting back in gear post-wedding, but I do have a lot of catching up to do, here and at Gourmanderie.
This week, look forward to catch up book reports from December, as well as the new year. I’ve given up all thought of posting them in chronological order, but the reading dates will still be posted at the bottom of each book report–and there’s always the master lists to refer to.
The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson
originally published 1983
Henry Holt & Co, 1st printing, 1997
Genre: Young adult, horror, black comedy
Synopsis & Review: The five members of Group 6 have little in common but an unfortunate parentage, something of which none of them are aware. Though they believe they’re intended to start a new schoolyear at a new boarding school called Coldbrook Country School, none of the members of Group 6 have any idea what’s in store for them. Coldbrook isn’t just a private school, it’s also a disposal facility, so to speak. For a fee, parents of difficult children—“lemons” in Coldbrook parlance—can have their difficult offspring removed from the face of the planet. They will be murdered and then the bodies disposed of in deep crevasses in the earth, where they’ll be no bother to anyone ever again.
But Group 6 is different. Coke and Sully, and Marigold, Sara, and Ludi—and their leader/TA, Nat– will be the last Group that Coldbrook tries to dispose of. Instead of Nat killing the Group, and then in turn being killed by Coldbrook’s inner circle of staff, Nat will confess to the Group Coldbrook’s and their parents’ intentions. Rather than wait quietly for death, the Group digs in to the remote wilderness beyond the school, camping for the autumn as Coldbrook’s staff frantically search for the missing lemons.
While in hiding, the Group slowly coheres, becoming friends, and in some cases lovers. They learn to work together, and to play to their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. By the time winter approaches, the Group formulates a plan to return to their rightful places, wherever those may be.
If I had been ten when I first read The Grounding of Group 6, or twelve, or even fourteen, then I would have eaten it up. It has all the elements of classic YA of its era: attractive young people (none are fat!) chock full o’ burgeoning sexuality, hateful and/or neglectful parents, a lack of adult supervision, roughing it in the wilderness, psychic powers, and very bizarre circumstances. I should still eat it up with a spoon, but unfortunately, it all falls apart at the end. Read the rest of this entry »