Having finished the year with my resolution intact (and actually accomplished), I can start the new year afresh with new authors and reads. As before, I am going to read more this year. Some of my reading will involve learning as I will start a new three-year cycle of continuing education, required for keeping my pharmacy license. (I may be retired, but I still want to keep up with my profession,and who knows whether I may choose to go back to work some day, but I digress.) Most, however, will be for pleasure and that is the crux of my resolution...to read more books, once again.
As such, here are my reads for December:
The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien
Real Life and Liars by Kristina Riggle
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Love is Where It Falls by Simon Callows
Etidorpha (or The End of the Earth) by John Uri Lloyd
Again, they were all very different, diverse reads, and frankly, all were written by authors that I had never read previously. Most were fiction, but the book by Simon Callows was a memoir of the friendship he had with Margaret (Peg) Ramsay, an agent. Personally, it wasn't a book that I enjoyed reading that much. Those who are familiar with stage and screen, especially in Great Britain, may enjoy it more though.
The novel, The Syringa Tree, by Pamela Gien was originally a play, but was expanded into a book. It tells the story of a young girl, her beloved nanny, and the nanny's "hidden" child during the time of apartheid in South Africa. The harsh conditions are well described, as well as the beauty and roughness of the landscape. For me, it was a novel that was difficult to get into; however, once well into the story, it was very compelling and I enjoyed reading it. I suspect that the author has lived most of it herself and that the story is a fictional re-telling of the events of her childhood and what she saw of the harshness of life for black South Africans.
Next, was Kristina Riggle's novel, Real Life and Liars, which is told from the perspective of four characters. Each character tells his or her story, but it is only the perspective of the mother, Moira, that is written in first person. The other characters' (the son Ivan, and her two daughters) stories are told from the third person perspective. The three children return home for their parent's 35th anniversary, but each of these four characters has issues that need to be dealt with. It was an interesting read because it dealt with "real life" issues of the modern family like cancer, unplanned pregnancy, and the lies told to protect those who don't always need protecting.
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn was probably the lightest read of the bunch, and yet, it is probably my favorite of the books I read in December. It is called a novel in letters and is set on the fictional island nation of Nollop, which is named for the man, Nevin Nollop, who supposedly came up with the pangram: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. As the letters progressively fall off the cenotaph on his statue, the letters become lost and outlawed to the citizens of Nollop. This loss of letters is echoed throughout the book itself so that the people in the novel find it is progressively more difficult to write and speak, and the reader must think more about what is being said; however, that language manipulation is one of the charms of this novel. Saving the nation, as well as her friends and family is the task left to Ella Minnow Pea (LMNOP, some of the last letters that remain). I highly recommend this novel, if for no other reason than it makes you look differently at the letters we use daily.
Nick Hornby's How to be Good is the story of a family who is undergoing changes. The wife is struggling with, what I would call, marital ambivalence and tells her husband she no longer wishes to be married. The result is that the family begins to fall apart until the husband finds a "guru" of sorts who teaches him how to be "good" and it affects the whole family (husband, wife, son and daughter) by taking them into the descent of "goodness". This read was truly a "change" of pace, and enough so that I have already added another Hornby novel to my TBR (to-be-read) pile.
In a previous blog I discussed the novel, Etidorpha by John Uri Lloyd. Suffice it to say that I am glad that I finally read it! It was very complex, but insightful in its predictions of some of the (scientific) phenomena that have come to pass considering the fact that it was written in 1895.
On an unrelated subject, I am trying to participate daily in Fiona Robyn's NaSmaStMo, also called a river of stones, which are small poems. Here is my attempt at shaping and polishing a moment in my day from January 3rd:
hunkered down on a porch, eight cats, both long-haired and short, some still kittens, absorb the morning sun
Causes Nancy Smith Supports
Doctors without Borders
American Diabetes Association