It’s a whim. I’ve long meant to read Emma Tennant’s memoir, Girlitude: A Portrait of the 50s and 60s. I very much enjoyed her comic science fiction novel, The Crack, in which a group of very colorful Londoners try to survive when a large crack appears in the Thames. Tennant has also written “sequels” to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, which I assume pay the bills.
And I feel like a general binge on women’s books anyway, so I went to a suburban library to check out a few novels by D. E. Stevenson.
Yes, we’re going to be thoroughly womanly around here. My cousin the librarian, who very much sports “grrrrl-attitude,” also plans to participate in “Girlitude Week,” even though we just invented it today. She is reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a time travel-romance and loving it. And she doesn’t see why I don’t read Gabaldon too. I have tried. It’s very enjoyable, but… Someday.
SO WHAT AM I READING NOW? I amdeeply engrossed in D. E. Stevenson’s charming, magical novel, Katherine Wentworth. Katherine, a widow, struggles to raise her teenage stepson Simon and twins Deni and Daisy in Edinborough after their father dies. Everything is going along very well until Simon gets a letter from his grandfather informing him that he is his heir.. Since he has never acknowledged his late son Gerald’s family, Katherine distrusts him. She doesn’t think Gerald would have approved. She is very uncomfortable on a visit to his house, and I am, too. Katherine would rather see Simon go into business with his school friend, as he had previously planned to. But everything will come out all right: that is the joy of D. E. Stevenson.
MOVING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT.
Tillie Olsen’s Yonnondio: From the Thirties. Olsen, one of the most lauded American writers of the twentieth century, is the author two other brilliant books, Tell Me a Riddle, a stunning short story collection (“I Stand Here Ironing” is often anthologized), and Silences, a study of one-book authors. She began writing Yonnondio in the 1930s and put it together from scraps of manuscript in the 1970s. According to the jacket copy, it “follows the heartbreaking path of the Holbrook family in the late 1920s and the Great Depression as they move from the coal mines of Wyoming to a tenant farm in western Nebraska, ending up finally on the kill floors of the slaughterhouses and in the wretched neighborhoods of the poor in Omaha, Nebraska”
Laurie Colwin’s Passion and Affect, a collection of short stories. Colwin was brilliant and funny and wrote some of the wittiest comedies of manner I have read, including Family Happiness, which I wrote about here, and her cookbook, Home Cooking, a collection of her columns from Gourmet magazine. I reread her books at least once a year. They are brilliant literature as well as comfort reads.
Janet Kauffman’s Collaborators. You are in for a great treat if you’ve never heard of Kauffman. She won the PEN Faulkner Award for her beautifully-written short novel, Collaborators.
Andrea is proud of her mother, a not-too-devout Mennonite, but everything changes when the mother suffers a stroke.
Anita Desai, who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, is one of my favorite writers, I am eagerly looking forward to reading Fire on the Mountain. Alas, it is the only one I haven’t read.
The jacket copy says,
Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor’s wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.
Until one summer her great-granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli and everything changes. Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude. Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed. The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great-grandmother’s, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside. But the two are more alike than they know. Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda’s old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedy.
And I am already halfway through Maureen Howard’s complicated Rags of Time, the fourth novel in her Seasons quartet . Stunning writing, the complicated relationship between an aging writer and the characters in her books, whom we have met in the earlier books. Intriguing and beautifully written.
I’ll let you know how it works our. Expect six or more Women’s Lit posts in the next week!