I saw somewhere recently that this has been a big shelter-in-place book. Have you read it, too? My first Ann Patchett novel, I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by Tom Hanks. It’s a family story that centers around the house where the narrator and his sister grew up (and were asked to leave by their stepmother, once their father died). It meanders over decades and memories and reads like real life. I couldn’t help wondering how someone plans a book with so many moving parts.
British author Karen McCrombie kindly sent me copies of her Little Bird books a few months ago. As I was working on May B., she was working on the second book in the duology, Little Bird Lands. Set on a fictional Highlands island, Bridie and her family are driven from their Scottish home by a cruel new laird — and ultimately arrive in America. I interviewed Karen last month on the blog. Click through to learn more!
Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children
I’ll say up front this was not an easy read. Ever since learning the story of Victor of Aveyron, I’ve been fascinated with stories about children who have lived apart from society. The stories in this book are tragic but many offer hope. A study on what it means to be human and our responsibility toward others (and the complex motivations behind and limitations of those caring for these children).
Rebecca Behrens is a master at writing tightly plotted middle grade. Like her 2019 novel The Disaster Days, Alone in the Woods (publishing this fall) is a survival story, this time set in the Wisconsin wilderness. The deeper readers go into the woods with Joss and Alex, the more they’ll be rooting for the girls’ survival — and the salvaging of their friendship.
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague
This book has been on my shelf forever, and when stay-at-home orders were first issued, my mom told me she couldn’t stop thinking of it. Year of Wonders is the story of an English town that self quarantines during the Black Plague to further stop its spread. It’s beautiful and tragic and hopeful. I’m so glad I waited to read it until this very moment. Book 6/15 for my Clear Your Shelves Challenge.
I picked up this quirky, funny book written in the thirties for a book club read. It came along just when I needed something light. Flora Poste, orphaned at 19, goes to live with her strange relatives, the Starkadders, at Cold Comfort farm (where the cows are named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless). I Googled the title as I was reading and learned it was meant to be a send up of English romantic novels. I found myself highlighting dozens of humorous lines, like this one:
Mrs. Smiling’s second interest was her collection of brassieres and her search for a perfect one. She was reputed to have the largest and finest collection of these garments in the world. It was hoped that on her death it would be left to the nation.
What have you recently read?
I recently finished America’s First Daughter. It is about Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter. A biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She did not have a particularly happy childhood. Her mother died when Maud was an infant. Her father traveled a lot so Maud lived with her strict grandparents. Her marriage was not too happy either. I am now reading a 10 part series. The fist 5 books are The Song Of Acadia. The second 5 are The Heirs Of Acadia. I am almost finished with book 4 of the first series. The first 5 are written by Janette Oke and T.Davis Bunn. The second 5 are by T.Davis Bunn and Isabelle Bunn. It is about the French being driven out of Acadia in Canada by the English, It eventually leads up to the American Revolution.
Was the LMM biography The Gift of Wings, by chance? I devoured that a few years ago). I’m kind of obsessed with Maud and have committed to reading her journals every 10 years (edited by the women who wrote The Gift of Wings).
I’ll have to look into the Adacia books. Having lived in Cajun Country in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, I am intrigued with Cajun culture.
Joanne R. Fritz says
The only one on your list that I’ve read is Cold Comfort Farm. That was years ago, but I remember how delightfully funny it was. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read a single book by Ann Patchett! But I’m most intrigued by YEAR OF WONDERS, about the Black plague. Adding that to my TBR.
I’ve recently read LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds. I didn’t realize until I bought it that it’s a novel in verse! A powerful story and told in so few words. He’s a wonderful writer. Now I”m reading his MG novels about track, starting with GHOST.
Since the George Floyd murder, I’ve been trying to educate myself about systemic racism, and also to read as much as possible by Black authors. The book I’m most looking forward to is by Leah Henderson, whom I met at Highlights! It’s called THE MAGIC IN CHANGING YOUR STARS, and it celebrates Black excellence. It’s MG time travel, and all the characters are named for famous Black Americans, including the main character, Ailey, named for the dancer Alvin Ailey.
If you read YEAR OF WONDERS, please let me know what you think!
I’ve yet to read anything by Jason Reynolds, I’m embarrassed to say. I’ve gotten behind on newish books. Really need to remedy this soon . I hear he’s amazing.
Very cool that you met Leah! I actually had her on the blog a few years back with her first novel. You can find that interview here: https://carolinestarrrose.com/classroom-connections-one-shadow-on-the-wall-by-leah-henderson/
Kimberley Little says
I’ve read Anne Patchett’s BEL CANTO and STATE OF WONDER, both absolutely marvelous. STATE OF WONDER is about a team of scientists and anthropologists studying an indigenous tribe in the Amazon where the women of the tribe are able to bear children late in life (50s, 60s, 70s) and the pregnancy and childbirth traditions. The jungle comes alive and I felt as though I was truly *there*. I could not put it down. Adventure and intrigue abound, including questions about morality and science and how the young woman scientist is profoundly changed by the culture of the tribe. I’ve never read anything quite like it and couldn’t stop thinking about it long after I’d finished.
I haven’t read COLD COMFORT FARM but I happened to rent the movie on Netflix last year and wow, super quirky and fun. I’m sure the book is even better and I need to read it. 🙂
I’ve meant to read both those Patchett books for years! I watched the COLD COMFORT FARM movie trailer a few weeks ago. Pretty weird! Looks like it was true to the book.