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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Year in Provence & My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Witty and talented writer Peter Mayle passed away in 2018.  But his mark will live on in all those who have grown to love Provence as he did during his 25 years living there.

    I picked up the book A Year In Provence at a lending library in one of the Airbnb’s we stayed at in Spain.  I don’t know why I had never read this book.  I loved it.  So humorous and insightful to the trials and triumphs of Mayle and his wife who left behind cold and rainy England for their new life in Provence.

    Certainly Mayle’s best seller changed both him and his beloved Provence.  And certainly he had moments of regret about that.  But after twenty-five years he realized he had more story to tell and thus a second book My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now. The second book is just as witty and fun with a bit of nostalgia thrown in as Mayle reflects on his life and love of this unique, beautiful, delicious part of France – home to an eccentric and lovable collection of patriotic Provencals.

    Both books are short and easy to read and I really encourage reading them sequentially.  It will make you want to spend a few month in Provence – or perhaps the rest of your life.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Mayle’s A Year in Provence and My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now

    Read last week’s review of Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    His first thought was of her. His final thought was of her.

    At the heart of it, Freeman is a love story.  But it is much more.  It is a story of endurance and heartache. Determination and sorrow.  It is a story of human sacrifice and conviction.  And it is a love story.

    Pitts creates a novel with a wonderful cast of characters who draw you in to the story of the months following the end of the Civil War.  It’s not a book about the Civil War.  It is a novel, much like Cold Mountain, that begins when the war ends and follows the lives of four complex human beings.  Sam a free black man in the North who goes South looking for his lost wife; Tilda a slave woman down-trodden and still with her protagonist “owner” unsure what the end to slavery and the word “free” means to her; Prudence a young, wealthy, educated white widow from Boston who ventures South to open a Negro school and fulfill her father’s wishes; and Bonnie, the black woman raised and educated with Prudence who finds herself struggling with her own feelings about her heritage.

    Sam undertakes a 1000 mile journey on foot.  Tilda is beaten, abused and raped. Prudence and Bonnie turn a town to violence against them in their quest to help and educate the free slaves.

    The book is often violent but written with compassion and care and the reader finds much to love about this hard-scrabble life during one of the most brutal periods in the history of the United States.  It is a sweeping saga that takes place all within just a few months – months when the country should be at peace and yet death is around every corner.

    I really enjoyed the perspective of this story, looking at the post-war era filled with possibility from the black slaves point of view, their hope and fear of what lies ahead for them in the “united” states.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

    Read last week’s review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Good Neighbor – The Life & Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I wanted to love this book. I was excited and was sure I would.  But it fell a bit flat for me.

    However, if you grew up loving Mr. Rogers or if you have learned since becoming an adult about this remarkable man, you should read The Good Neighbor, despite its length and sometimes dry detail. You will certainly come away with a renewed sense of awe about the brilliance of America’s favorite neighbor.

    The book chronicles Rogers entire life from his wealthy and protected upbringing to his death from stomach cancer at age 75.  King’s remarkable and in-depth research provides the book hundreds of details and stories about Fred’s lonely childhood, philanthropic family, love of music and puppetry, college days and marriage.

    Not until the middle third of the book do we begin to really see Fred become Mr. Rogers.  It’s here that we learn how his childlike demeanor combined with his; passion for early childhood education, unfailing Christian faith, exemplary moral compass, spectacular musical talent, groundbreaking methodical writing and editing standards and deep love and concern for children – create children’s programming that has never and will never be surpassed in quality and impact.  And all from this quiet and brilliant man.

    Satirist love to poke fun even today at Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  But for me, Rogers is someone we should all admire, remember and emulate.  His signature value was human kindness.  He lived, breathed and preached it to anyone who would listen.

    Rogers was a man of acceptance.  He asks those around him to make good choices and be accepting to all kinds of humans but especially children. Because “It’s You I Like”.

    It’s you I like,
    It’s not the things you wear,
    It’s not the way you do your hair–
    But it’s you I like
    The way you are right now,
    The way down deep inside you–
    Not the things that hide you,
    Not your toys–
    They’re just beside you.

    But it’s you I like–
    Every part of you,
    Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
    Whether old or new.
    I hope that you’ll remember
    Even when you’re feeling blue
    That it’s you I like,
    It’s you yourself,
    It’s you, it’s you I like.

    – Fred Rogers

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for the Good Neighbor by Maxwell King

    Read last week’s review of Still Life

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Louise Penny

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Louise Penny

    I am not normally drawn to murder mystery books, but somehow Still Life ended up in my reading queue.  When I downloaded it from the library I was surprised to find a book that is actually part of a series that follows Chief Inspector Gamache based in Montreal Canada.

    The book reminded me a great deal of a Vivica Stein murder mystery I read last year.  Similarly the story is a whodunnit in a small normally placid country town outside of Quebec.

    A variety of characters emerge revolving around small towns, artists, lost lives and friendships as the entire grieving community work with Inspector Gamache to solve the case.

    Simple writing and easy to read, if you like murder mystery genre you will enjoy Still Life.

    Three Stars for Still Life by Louise Penny ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Read last week’s review of Radium Girls.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is the incredible true story of the dawn of the age of radiation, a time where radium was considered a wonder drug.  And the untold hundreds of women who suffered.

    When the Curries discover the new radium element headlines around the world touted it as a beauty product, a health tonic and the bright new shiny life elixir of the 20th century.

    It was also the perfect element to illuminate clocks and dials and during WWI it was a boom industry in which thousands of women worked hand painting with the glowing dust paint in the radium dial factories.

    The painting process included putting the paint brush into your mouth, to tip it, before putting the paint on the dials.  The process continued for years, decades in fact, slowly poisoning those in the industry and the people around them.

    This fascinating book is the story of the brave women who fought to the bitter end for worker’s  rights and compensation, for US recognition of the radium poisoning and for new laws and protections against the former “wonder element”.

    The tenacity of these women and their story had never fully been told until author Moore became their champion.  The book is extremely detailed, and a bit slow in places, but worth the read to learn this unknown story of female courage in the early 20th century.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for The Radium Girls

    Read last week’s review of Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Quindlen, now in her sixty’s, has been writing about motherhood, womanhood and feminism for decades, and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake goes a step further, exploring ageism and the maturing woman.

    Well of course I’m interested in that.

    But – there was some of the book that fell flat.  And some parts I just didn’t agree with, such as statements on religion’s role in fulfillment or needing to have a girlfriend you talk on the phone to every single day.

    Those aren’t things I need for happiness in my mature years.  But there was a great deal of the book that could have been me talking –  Quindlen literally taking my thoughts and putting them into her book.

    Looking back at how we thought we knew everything when we were young.  Watching our grown children also thinking they know it all.  And all the while knowing what we know we can’t impart that knowledge to them, they must learn it with time.

    Quindlen writes about letting go of “stuff” (me again), career moves that slow your heart rate even if they lessen your bank account (me again), women needing to work twice as hard to get noticed on the career ladder and then becoming essentially invisible once you reach your fifties (me again).  It’s okay to find happiness in being alone.  Some solitude often is the stuff of clear mind and healthy soul (me again).

    I did not learn anything from this book, but my beliefs were certainly reinforced and I enjoyed reading that.  In fact, this statement really narrows it down for me, and is what I liked best about the book.  She writes;

    “There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional that we do not get what we give.  It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

    Read last week’s review of Educated

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is one of the best books I have read this year.

    And that is a powerful statement since I read more than one book a week on average.  You must read Educated.

    The true story of Tara Westover’s life, raised by a survivalist father and a meek mother in the mountains of Idaho, her story is real, fascinating and a triumph.

    Having never attended school until she applied to go to college, Tara’s childhood was a crazy mix of violence, danger, suspicion, work, work and more work as she and her many siblings tried to please a demanding, religious father in a tight family lacking love.

    Despite being raised in isolation and taught that the government was out to kill them, Tara suspected there was more to life than what she knew.  Eventually going out on a limb and taking the college entrance exams, Tara suddenly finds herself in a classroom for the first time as a seventeen year old.

    College mentors and professors quickly see Tara’s potential and hunger for knowledge and opportunities begin to come her way, including Harvard and Cambridge.

    The new Tara finds herself shunned by much of her family, and yet despite that separation she perseveres with her education and the eventual writing of this book, a triumphant tale of breaking-away and a testament to the life-changing power of education.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for Educated.

    Read last week’s review of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry