Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Danish artist, 1863-1935) Woman Reading
Hi there– When you go to someone’s house do you drift over toward their bookshelves to see what they like to read? My book buddy Jenni keeps a basket of books she’s been reading on her kitchen counter– and I always have to peek and seen wha’t current on her list. And I can count on Sally for book recommendations for reading I know I’ll enjoy… Then there’s Janet who generously hands out worthwhile books she’s loved.
So in the spirit of sharing book titles, here a few I’ve found on the library shelves in the last few months. No earthshaking literary treasures, but a list of books that have been a pleasurable way to pass some quiet hours on the sofa with a mug of tea.
Circling the Sun surprised me. It’s the story of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. I thought there’d be a whole lot of aviation in here, but the story is more her life in Kenya in the 1920′– from her childhood raised by a father and the nearby Kipkigis tribe, on their horse training farm– to her tempestuous years amid a fast living Kenyan expatriate community. Her life could scarcely be further from my own, but her fortitude and the grandeur of Africa a century ago weave a fascinating true life story.
P.S. Paula McLain also wrote The Paris Wife, a look at the life of Hadley Richardson and her turbulent years as the wife of Ernest Hemingway.
Our Lit Group read Caleb’s Crossing a few months back. The novel is set in Martha’s Vineyard in the 1660s, as Bethia Mayfield is growing up in a community of English Puritans. As a young girl she meets Caleb, son of the Indian chief of the Wampanoag tribe on the Island. Their friendship continues over the years as he comes to the Christian faith and eventually studies as one of the first two Native American students at Harvard. Caleb and Bethia must navigate the clash of two very different cultures and the disruptions that life can bring as they come of age. The book is based on the actual story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk and is a fascinating look into the Calvinist society of the time.
This is a book I’ve mentioned before, City of Tranquil Light (By Bo Caldwell, who wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Distant Land of my Father). She based this story on the lives of her grandparents who ventured into inland China at the turn of the last century– in the days of warlords, bound feet and and civil wars. Will and Katherine are remarkable in the ways they care for the people in their village–Will as their teacher, Katherine their nurse. They come through some harrowing days of bandits, earthquakes, and terrible loss. But their faith sustains them as the story unfolds. It’s told through the narration of Will and the diary entries of Katherine, which are especially tender and poignant. I loved this book for the historical perspective that it gives as well as the very human look at the courageous pair who served and stood strong over their 25 years in China.
Camille Pissarro, the “old man”of impressionism, is one of my very favorite artists. I have a small print of one of his paintings hanging in my entryway. So when I ran across this book, The Marriage of Opposites, the story mostly of his mother’s life and by extension his, I scooped it up! Rachel Pissarro, was born into an immigrant Jewish family on the island of Saint Thomas in the early 1800s. She grows up in her complicated family amid the brilliance and beauty of the island, is wed early to a widower to save the family business, but at last finds an enduring love that leads her to Paris. There are a compliment of colorful fictional characters along with Rachel’s novelized story, a good dose of intrigue, and the real star of the book– the mesmerizing setting by the sea. It’s a perfect blend of fact, fiction and the magic of St Thomas.
As a P.S. — Irving Stone’s brilliant novelization of Pissarro’s life, Depths of Glory, is one of my favorite books and includes the whole community of impressionists of Paris more than a century ago.
Another P.S. After writing this all out, I was surprised to realize that all these books are fictionalized accounts of real people– I think I’m stuck in that happy genre rut. But I do love a good book that reveals the story of a life lived…