Monday 22 August 2016

Tea and books on a marvelous Monday afternoon...

I’m so thrilled to be able to write this post on a gloriously clear, bright Monday afternoon after a great bike ride and errand-running this morning… alas, it is my last such opportunity until next summer, as I go back to work next week.  *Sigh*  Good thing I love my job, and look forward to the challenges a new school year will bring!

I finished reading This Godforsaken Place by Cinda Gault last night.  This novel is set in the Canadian wilderness and the United States in the late 1800s, and tells the story of Abigail Peacock, a young woman who accompanies her father on a journey from London, England to Wabigoon, Ontario to start a new life after her mother passes away.  She attempts to embrace the adventure for her father’s sake, yet she despairs over her wretched life and cringes at the bleak opportunities her future holds.  The attentions of the steadfast, stalwart store owner begin to wear down her defenses, and as her opportunities seem narrow and uninviting, she resigns herself to a dull, dreary life as teacher and wife in a convenient marriage… until she discovers a love for shooting.  This changes her life, and as one situation leads to another, Abigail finds herself travelling on horseback to the US and joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with the likes of legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley and Métis leader Gabriel Dumont, all in an effort to fulfill the wishes of a dead man.  All of this is set against the backdrop of Louis Riel and the North-West Rebellion.  OK, so this was one of the books I was going to read for the awards’ committee I’m on, but it sounded so much like something I would never want to read that I thought I’d read a few pages and set it aside, but it was amazing!!  The main character, Abigail, was strong, opinionated, witty and intelligent.  The historical setting was interesting and the writing was superb.  The story itself was pretty far-fetched, and I had to suspend my sense of disbelief for most of the novel, but the writing and Abigail’s character held my attention and made this reading experience a memorable one.  Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book became a bit muddled and lost some of the flare that kept my attention up to that point, and the ending was rather disappointing (even if it did include a posse!).  Still, any book that can include the words “dastardly” and “calamity” and get away with it has to have some merit!  I want to share a short passage with you that demonstrates how intelligent the female characters are and how sharp the writing is.  Abigail is speaking with Annie Oakley over a pot of coffee early on in their relationship.  When asked why she left teaching, Abigail states, “I want to become something I have never been.”  
Annie: “You aren’t satisfied with who you are?”
Abigail: “Who I am has changed.”  
Annie: “That sounds odd to me.  I have never changed.  Quite the contrary, I generally have to fight to go on being who I am.”  
Out of context this may not seem as significant as it did for me while reading the book, but I thought it was brilliant.  I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10 - the rating would have been higher if the ending wasn’t so disappointing.  Despite that, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books with strong female characters who are smart and witty.  Actually, thinking about this now, Abigail’s character reminds me a bit of the main character in Nick Hornby’s novel Funny Girl, about Sophie Straw, a young woman who leaves a decidedly dull future in a small British town in the 1960s and moves to London, where she pursues her dream of becoming a female comedian on TV.  Both are well-written, if flawed, books with strong female characters, if that’s what you are in the mood for right now.

And I’ll tell you briefly about the audiobook I’m nearly finished listening to, A Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch.  This historical mystery is one of the books in the “Charles Lenox” series, and is set in Victorian era England.  Once again, not my usual cup of tea (no pun intended!), but it’s surprisingly interesting, perhaps because it doesn’t dwell on exhaustively descriptive details about the setting or the costume of the characters, but rather focuses more on the interaction between characters and the development of the investigation.  This novel finds Lenox married and with a small daughter, Sophie, pursuing a career as an MP, having left the life of gentleman and amateur detective behind.  Taking the opportunity to leave London for a break while he prepares his speech for the House of Commons, he travels with his wife and daughter to the village of Plumley to stay with his uncle Frederick at the peaceful Everley estate.  He is drawn back into his former role as detective when a rash of petty vandalisms turn to murder during his stay and he is asked to help solve the crime and bring the murderer to justice.  This cozy mystery is gentle and engaging, and far better than I had expected, so I was happy to discover that it was part of a series, giving me plenty of other mysteries to read or listen to.  Though not quite finished, I feel confident in rating this one - I’d give it a 7 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries or cozy British mysteries.

That’s all for today.  Happy reading!

Bye for now…

PS Looking back on some of my recent posts, I've noticed alot of *sigh*-ing going on... is it because this summer has been so busy that I've barely had time to do any reading, and have not come close to completing everything on my "to-do" list? Or could it be a reflection of a different attitude or mental state when faced with plenty of time off and a string of hot humid days, a deep intake of breath followed by a long, slow exhalation? I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure the extra sighing means something... on that note, I'll close with yet another *sigh*... until next week.

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