Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Ya Readin': Some Diverse Reads

I have been reading some varied genres in recent weeks.

First, I read "The Misses Mallett" by E.H. Young, a Virago Modern Classic. I picked my copy up at a book fair and I am glad I did because I loved it. The back of the cover says it is "reminiscent of Jane Austen". How very true that is. Good thing I have a couple more E.H. Young novels on my book shelf.

There are three Mallet sisters and one Mallet niece who live together in a house the small country town of Radstowe. The two oldest sisters - Caroline and Sophia - are large, jolly and aging spinsters.

While the bossy Caroline asserts that "The Mallets do not marry", their beautiful younger half-sister Rose awaits the arrival of a man who will take her away to an exciting life. She turns down the advances of the young Francis Sales - the eligible local squire. Only when Francis marries does he gain allure in Rose's eyes. When his young wife is tragically injured in a riding accident, Rose and Francis commence a love affair - emotional only, because Rose refuses to give herself to Francis while his wife is alive.

Then comes Henrietta, the daughter of the Mallet's wayward brother, who arrives in Radstowe after the death of her mother. She shares the beauty of her Aunt Rose and has a wilful spirit deciding that she will break the Mallet mold and marry. Unfortunately she falls in love with the unavailable Francis Sales. Henrietta and Aunt Rose gently compete for the love of an ineligble man.

I just finished "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. I ordered it a couple of months ago to read for Cornflower's book group, but never got round to doing so. The novel is set in Germany in 1939 as the Nazi's reach the height of their power, is narrated by death, and is the story of a young girl - Liesel and those around her. Her foster parents, her best friend Rudy Steiner, and a Jew named Max whom her foster parents shelter. Their world slowly disintegrates as the allied bombs start to fall.

This is a very unique book. I have heard diverse views on it. Though it took me a while to get into, I enjoyed it. It is stylistically unique and if you enjoy reading modern fiction I would recommend it.

Finally, I read "The Rise and Fall of the British Nanny" by Jonathon Gathorne-Hardy. Interesting if you are curious about Victorian and Edwardian English history. Gathorne-Hardy looks at the socio economic conditions that gave rise to the existence of the Nanny, and the social impacts of a Nanny raised generation. For instance, Gathorne-Hardy talks about how 'lower class' Nannies shaped the habits, mannerisms, speech and knowledge of upper class children. Gathorne-Hardy also posits a fundamentally important question "How was it that hundreds of thousands of mothers could simply abandon their little children to the absolute care of other women?". I could see parallels between this question and the debate about childcare today.


  1. It's like you're my reading twin with this post! I discovered EH Young with Miss Mole and then collected most of her other work. I've also read Chatterton Square. Miss Mole is teriffic if you have a copy. I loved The Book Thief, and the Nanny book is very interesting to me! I'm going to check out availability of this one. Thanks! Oh, have fun on your vacation- glad you're getting away and the destinations sound so exotic!

  2. i just finished reading the book thief too. i had a hard time getting into it, but once i got past the first few chapters i was hooked. it was written in such a unique way.

    i cried at the end. so sad. but i guess i should have expected that since it is set in WW2.