Saturday, March 29, 2008

Iraq...and many..many books

Well, it has been close to a month since I last posted here. Wow, time really flies. Life has been going on pretty much as usual. My husband has received his deployment order for Iraq and will leave here on May 6th. Consequently, I may not be around too much in the coming weeks, as I will be spending time with him! It looks like it will be a 6 month deployment. I shall miss him a lot, but I guess it will leave more time for reading!

I have leisurely perused a significant pile of books off my TBR shelf in recent weeks. We took an extended long weekend for Easter and didn't do much so I had plenty of time to read. Also, we have had train chaos on my commute this past week with trips taking an extra half hour - again, not half so bad if you have a good book with you - or as I always do...two.

So, what have I read.....

Quite a few mysteries...grouping loosely.....
  • Devil's Food by Kerry Greenwood
  • Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood
  • Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton
  • The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
  • Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

I particularly enjoyed the two books by Carola Dunn. They are about the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple, a writer, and set in the 1920s. The standard plot seems to involve her going to a country house to write about its history and architecture and there being a murder which she then solves. I guess in truth they are just fluff, but fun fluff!

I read Doctor at Sea by Richard Gordon. I hadn't heard of him before but judging by the circulation claims on the back of my 1954 edition he was very popular! In this episode he escapes an undesirable engagement by going to sea as the doctor on a Merchant Navy ship. Of course, he has lots of unexpected adventures as the ship makes its way from Britain to South America, and back. Most enjoyable.

My Mum left me Further Tales from a Country Practice by Arthur Jackson last time she was over this side of the country. I was a little dubious to begin with, but this is a lovely book and I shall be keeping my eye out for other books Jackson has written. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a country doctor in the 1950s. As a young (ish) doctor, Jackson was married with four children when he bought a dilapidated manor house he couldn't afford. Not one to shirk from a challenge he later decided to buy the fruit farm next door - again, which he couldn't really afford. This purchase and his service as the country doctor give him the material for this book. It reminded me somewhat of the BBC program Born and Bred, which I loved. I highly recommend it.

I anyone still hanging around... this is a long post!

I also read The Bridges of Madison Country by Robert James Waller, recommended to me by my best friend. We have been good friends since we were 13 and usually our tastes in books are pretty well aligned. However, in this case while I would class this as readable, it was not that special. Has anyone seen the movie?

I love Margery Sharp's writing. I picked up a copy of Britannia Mews last year on a discard shelf at a second hand bookshelf, sadly a shelf located in the sun meaning my copy is quite damaged. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed this, it reminds me somewhat of Monica Dicken's The Angel in the Corner - as in a young girl from well-to-do family makes unsuitable marriage, but (dare I say it) I thought this was better. From the cover.....

Britannia Mews describes quietly and competently the evolution of character and customs in England from Victoria to World War II. Its effect is comparable to the depth of a full orchestra contrasted to jive on the piano, and makes on think, wistfully and in turning-the-clock-back moode perhaps, thank heaven for the Victorians, for the George Eliots, the Austens and the Brontes, who had the leisure and the wit to write a fully rounded tales. And one more all its pages there is not a single dull or turgid moment.....Its them is a study of the victory of an individual, and the triumph of personality over curcumstance....It is written by an artist who knows the use of incident, of fine, flowing narrative and delightful exposition.... Miss Sharp had made all her gallery of character almost distrubingly alive.

High praise indeed.

Finally, and I'll need a tea break after this effort.... I read Following the Drum: The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters Past and Present by Annabel Venning. I think anyone who read the opening paragraph of this blog would know why this book jumped off the shelf at me. This is Venning's first book and it is excellent. I read it in 2 days over the Easter weekend. Quite an achievement for me as I am a slow reader of non-fiction and it speaks volumes of how well this is written (or perhaps my strong personal interest in its subject matter).

Basically, Venning follows the lives of British military wives from the 17th century to the present (2004). Originally, very few soldiers and officers were allowed to marry. My husband still wouldn't be only 23 and an officer we would have had to wait another 7 years from now, as 30 was the decreed marrying age for officers.

Another interesting fact was that until the Crimean War women and, sometimes children, would go to war with their husband - termed being "on the strength". Women received half rations, and their children quarter rations. It was the cost of supporting these additional bodies when food resources were scarce that led to the Army setting limits on how many of its men could marry and bring their wives along. Ballots were held as the ship sailed to select which women could accompany their husbands. Those that were not selected would be supported by the parish - essentially sent to the workhouse. And, they often wouldn't hear from the husband's again until they got back to England...up to 7 years later.

Wow, it makes me grateful, despite the army's many foibles, to be a military wife in the 21st century and not the 19th!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, difficult news, I'm sure.

    Seems incongruous to go straight onto chatting about the books you mention, but I'm sure you understand... Margery Sharp - yes, I've read one (The Foolish Gentlewoman) which I saw recommended in the letters of PG Wodehouse. Since then, have gathered any others I've seen cheaply, and have a few waiting for me on my shelves. BM is one of 'em.