Book review . . . .

The girl in charge is a voracious reader -- and has never been one to hold back an opinion.  Here's her in-progress report on one of my favorite novels.

People, I weep.

And by the way, hold back on the obituaries for the liberal arts education.  This girl (loving her theater class and tolerating her Victorian literature class) plans to major in the sciences.  Oxford College of Emory University -- gotta love it!

Still sad about Jane Eyre, though . . . .

Stroke me, stroke me!

So I am not one of those people who can name her All-Time Top Five Favorite Books, or who keeps a list like, "Books I Would Never Be Without On A Desert Island," or some such exercise in futility. I say this is futile because, while I love to read such compilations made by other people (and mock their choices), the very idea of such a list for myself paralyzes me with indecision.

How could I ever decide, for example, between that funny, tragic, romantically beautiful re-telling of the King Arthur story, The Once and Future King, and my favorite Jane Austen novel, the melancholy love story, Persuasion?

And what about series fiction? Do all of the Little House books count as one big delicious book? I say yes, but then do I bring my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the island at the expense of the six volumes of the Lymond Chronicles -- filled with Scottish history and gasp-causing intrigue and yearning romance, and written in the most gorgeous prose? NO! -- I couldn't bear it!

Even within one author's works, I could never choose: The Solace of Leaving Early stays on the list because I love the two little girls at the heart of the story so much (Eloise and Madeline, who must change their names to Immaculata and Epiphany), but -- leave the stoic and heroic Cassie Claiborne of Something Rising (Light and Swift) behind? I don't think so!

You see my dilemma.

My book group companions -- and well, really just about every one of my friends -- have seen me get worked up while describing any particularly fabulous book. But I will say that there is one book that has literally caused a "When Harry Met Sally" moment for the people who watched me recommend it.

This one -- let's call her Mary -- was there to witness it. She and I had traveled for the day to the Green Valley Book Fair, which is just as wonderful as it sounds. It has gotten a lot fancier, by which I mean air-conditioned, since she and I went, but the main concept is the same: four times a year, this book fair (really a series of inter-connected barns) opens its doors and lucky book-lovers can wander among thousands and thousands of book titles, and buy books at a bargain, bargain, bargain cost. It's heaven, I'm telling you.

The books are sometimes shelved like at a regular bookstore, but they are also sometimes displayed in piles on tables. Mary and I were standing at opposite sides of a table, on which were stacked about ten copies of Possession, the Booker Prize-winning novel by A.S. Byatt. She casually asked if I had read it.

Had I read it? Oh, my dears.

I immediately and rapturously began to tell her all the ways it is wonderful: it reveals the intertwined stories of two fictional Victorian poets and the modern day researchers who discover a startling relationship between the nineteenth century writers. It's a multi-layered love story, and a witty commentary on the wily ways of modern academic researchers, and it's filled with lush poetry and diary entries that shock the reader and passionate love letters -- all created by Byatt herself . . . . As I rhapsodized about the book, I picked up a copy from the pile on the table. Look how stunning the cover is! I love all the Pre-Raphaelite painters, so the cover makes me cherish the book even more. I gazed at the illustration adoringly as I continued on. Gosh -- it was so pretty! I began to stroke the book lovingly as I talked, and Mary began to smirk as, one by one, the other shoppers in the room (all women) began to take copies of the book for themselves. When I came up for air, I was holding the only remaining copy of the book.

Mary just looked at me, and then held out her hand and said, "I guess I'll buy it then."

Image credit:
"Book List" (2010) by Patricia Mumau

Books, books, books!

As we head into the weekend, I've got way too much to to -- and I would really just rather be reading.

So I thought I would show you what I'm reading right now instead of doing laundry. Check out the double meaning in the previous sentence!

The tall boy bought this book as a thank-you gift for one of his teachers -- and got one for me too! I'm enjoying it very much, in bits and pieces. Check out how much George V of Great Britain and Nicholas II of Russia looked alike! Here in the States we like to call this in-breeding.

This hilarious book is part of my family's collection of novels in the zombie/vampire/romantic comedy genre. [The teenaged urchins are preparing for the zombie apocalypse; apparently the best way to defeat them (the zombies, not the urchins) is with witty sarcasm.] A sample of this author's style: "Miss Tarabotti was a proper English young lady, aside from not having a soul and being half Italian." Now that's funny!

I love the way Kathleen Norris writes about her faith; she always makes me think. The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace are among my favorites of her spiritual memoirs. This book is wonderful if somewhat convicting; she writes movingly about acedia, which might be described as spiritual laziness, except that the notion of laziness doesn't really capture how insidious acedia can be. Acedia, also called accidie and translated most compellingly as the Deadly Sin of Sloth, can eat into one's connection to God, as well as into one's emotional and physical relationships -- and is way more dangerous than zombies!

I am one of the few people on the planet who actually liked the movie version of this book, starring Kevin Costner -- but the movie did not do the book justice. Isn't that pretty much a universal truth? The book is always better than the movie. I would wear that on a t-shirt!

The Postman takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, and this genre of books pleases me.

What does this say about me, that I like to read about lonely wanderers in a devastated land? Troubling . . . . But I do love Stephen King's The Stand, Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and oh have mercy, but the gorgeous and bleak The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The title character of The Postman roams throughout the Pacific northwest, hoping to find a pocket of humanity that will take him in. When he happens upon an abandoned Postal Service truck, he acquires the uniform of a postman -- glad to have a warm coat. But when he is mistaken for a "real" postman, he inspires hope for a broken world.

Hope you and I both get a chance to curl up and read this weekend!