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!