What to Do When It’s Hot, Part 2: Reading Barbara Trapido at the Coffeehouse & Shades of Green

Prairie grass on the coffeehouse patio.

Prairie grass on the patio at the coffeehouse.

My friend Janet and I biked to the coffeehouse.

And then we got out our “girl books” to read,  because we were hot and tired.  I am reading Barbara Trapido’s Brother of the More Famous Jack, and she is reading Elizabeth Taylor’s The Soul of Kindness.

Photo of book and coffee drink.

Photo of book and coffee drink.

The winner of the  Whitbread Special Prize for Fiction in 1982, Brother of the More Famous Jack came up as a recommendation at a couple of online sites.  It has a foreword by Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  Semple is a Trapido enthusiast.  She found the book at a library sale.  She has corresponded with the author.  She writes, “The first page was so charming it made my chest ache.”

It is slightly reminiscent of the early novels of Margaret Drabble (The Millstone, etc.).  The heroine, Katherine, a very pretty  girl who loves fashionable clothes and gets picked up by a middle-aged bisexual man at the bookstore, has applied to a university in philosophy.  The philosophy professor, Jacob Goldman, is very amused by her. He asks her what she reads.

Somewhat to my retrospective embarrassment, I remember telling him, among other things, that I thought Wordsworth had possibilities, that dI thought Jesus Christ had been a Utopian Socialist and that I didn’t like the sex in D. H. Lawrence.

It continues like this–very funny. When her bisexual friend John takes her to visit the Goldmans  for the weekend, it is awkward–she hadn’t realized it was her professor’s house.  But then she falls in love with the whole family:    Jane, the wife, always pregnant, would rather garden than clean; her oldest son, Roger, is a brilliant, moody musician; Jonathan, the next son, is a rebel who reads Finnegan’s Wake, Vogue, and comic books; Rosie is nine and gets on her mother’s nerves; and then there are the twins.

Katherine falls in love with Roger, but he is cold and controlling.  He criticizes what she reads, pretends to his parents he isn’t in a relationship with her, and occasionally snubs her when visits him at Oxford.. Eventually she realizes that he doesn’t love her so much.

Well, I won’t tell you what happens because I’m not done myself, but may I just whisper, Italy?  And the back tells me that she visits the Goldmans 10 years later.

I love the book!

And I don’t remember Elizabeth Taylor’s book, but I read it years ago and she is excellent.

Shades of Green.  It is the time of year when the shades of green change.

It is July 19, and the green is now silvery and the leaves are sagging and a little blowsy.

The green's a little blowsy now.

The green’s a little blowsy and worn out now.

I love summer.  I love rushing out of the house coatless.  I love the fresh green, and I love the worn-out green.  But how did it get to be mid-July?

I must enjoy the rest of the summer!

8 thoughts on “What to Do When It’s Hot, Part 2: Reading Barbara Trapido at the Coffeehouse & Shades of Green

  1. I love Barbara Trapido, but not many people seem to have heard of her.You couldn’t call this a series, but it’s one of several books where characters and events are linked, but each is told from a different perspective, so meaning and understanding shift (a bit like The Alexandria Quarte). People appear, and disappear, and meet up, and there are missing mothers, and twins, and lots of literary allusions. and concidences. The others are Juggling, The Travelling Horn Player and Temples of Temples of Delight. Very different to Elizabeth Taylor, who I also love.


    • Oh, thank you, Christine! I will look for the others. This is an utterly charming book. A couple of them have just been published here, with new introductions.


  2. Green is great and holds my interest with the subtle changes from April through July and then on to the autumn colors. We have had enough rain in Connecticut this year to maintain great green and I feel sorry for those in California who cannot experience this. Besides which, they must be thirsty.


  3. I did buy Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop and await it eagerly. I can’t buy them all or try to read them all — the way you do. What would you say to 107 fahrenheit for your index. That’s what it felt like here yesterday, and we are headed for the same today. The thermometer say a mere 99 or 100.

    No I could do without this kind of summer — the Brits have it at 75, that’s more my idea, a light sweater :).


    • Oh my God, Ellen, too hot! We get up to 95 sometimes. It has cooled off into the 80s. We’ve had too much rain, but not a lot of heat for July.

      Loved Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop!


  4. Biking in 88*!! Wow! It’s 95 today and there’s no way I’m even going out. My friend in Nantucket who is also a biker is complaining about 78*.

    Anyway, discovered Trapido in the 80s and then read everything I could get my hands on. Loved them all, some more than others. I envy you having all of them to look forward to.

    Take it easy and drink lots of water!


  5. Oh, 95 is too much! Glad to know Trapido is good. Alas, our library has nothing by her. Perhaps now they’re being reissued they’ll get some of them.


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