It’s hard to believe, but Julie’s Reading Corner is 6 years old! Six years of tea drinking and book talk… I hope you’ve enjoying reading these posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them.
I want to start by telling you about the big CFUW Book Sale that happened this weekend, which is the highlight of my year in terms of book shopping. It’s always a two-stage shopping experience. On Friday, I go with a specific list in hand and purchase books individually that I really want. This year that included books by favourite authors, books for upcoming book club meetings, and one book I’ve read before but would like to have on hand in case I want to reread it. On Saturday, they always offer a deal where you fill a box for $10, so all of the books from this year’s shopping excursion fall into the broad category of "Books to fill my box". There were 40 books this time, and they can be broken down into these sub-categories:
more books by authors I’ve enjoyed in the past but haven’t yet read
books that were bestsellers at one time but didn’t interest me, but now it’s finally time to give them a try
books that may be future book club choices so I picked up extra copies
books that are better-condition replacements for books I already have
mysteries of all sorts (the biggest pile)
books that go with other books on my shelves
books I know nothing about but I still have space in my box
and books that my husband might enjoy (these are non-fiction)
If you recall, this categorization was inspired by Italo Calvino’s categorization list in his novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, which I have referred to in past posts (see Chapter One of this interesting novel for more information, or search my blog for “Italo Calvino”). Anyway, it was an awesome (and awesomely inexpensive!) shopping spree that offered the opportunity to try books I’ve heard nothing about, just because I liked the cover and needed to fill that box. So I’m looking forward to an interesting year of reading with my new books.
Last week I read a classic 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I have only ever read one short story by Jackson, “The Lottery”, about a small American town that undertakes an annual ritual to ensure a good harvest, a lottery for which no one wants to hold the winning ticket. Her novel was recently promoted in an e-newsletter, and I’ve also learned that it is being made into a soon-to-be-released film. It focuses on two sisters, Constance and Mary Katherine Blackwood, who live with their invalid uncle at Blackwood Farms, a large house on a huge tract of land located halfway between the town and the village. All their other family members are dead, including both parents, an aunt and a brother. Six years earlier, they were poisoned by arsenic which was mixed in with the sugar that was sprinkled on blackberries, a crime for which Constance stood trial but was acquitted. They live peacefully in isolation, although Mary Katherine (“Merricat”) must go into the village twice a week for food and supplies, a task she dreads but forces herself to perform. The villagers and townspeople shun the sisters, but they seem to be quite happy in their isolation, sticking to their daily rituals and being protected by Merricat’s “magic”. When estranged cousin Charles shows up on the doorstep, Constance is seduced by his flattery and allows him to disrupt their peaceful existence, despite Merricat’s warnings and protestations. When a fire destroys the upper floors of the house and their uncle dies, the girls must do their best to survive. This gothic novel is similar to “The Lottery” in that it exposes the sinister underside of small-town America. It was an interesting reading experience for me, because I found myself sympathizing with the sisters and feeling indignation towards the townspeople and villagers for their harshness and rude behaviour, completely forgetting that one of these young women killed their other family members six years earlier. While the deaths of these family members are referred to throughout the story, it was easy to “forget” about them and just focus on the ire of the villagers and townspeople, which showed real skill on the part of Jackson. I’m looking forward to seeing the film adaptation.
And I just finished (finally!) an audiobook that I feel like I’ve been listening to forever, The Travelers by Chris Pavone. I listened to his first novel, The Expats, some time ago, and really enjoyed it. I recently downloaded his second novel, The Accident, and started to listen to it, but was completely turned off by the implausibility of the story and the judgmental tone of moral superiority that the author used. But having enjoyed the first book so much, and since this one was also available as an audiobook, I thought I’d give it a try. It was more interesting, somewhat more plausible (though not by much), and the sanctimonious smugness was toned-down (also not by much!), but still I trudged on until the end. This international espionage thriller is set in exotic, mundane and isolated places across the globe, and follows travel writer Will Rhodes as he is seduced into becoming an agent for the CIA… or is he? His career and lifestyle of extensive world travel make him the perfect candidate to monitor the actions of important people around the world, and after his initial reluctance, he is hooked by the thrill of the chase and the danger, the risks and challenges he faces everywhere he turns. But is he endangering those around him, and is this new life worth risking his marriage for? These questions (and more!) will be answered fully if you stick with this fast-paced, head-spinning, “who’s-spying-on-who?” thriller, but be prepared to suspend your sense of disbelief and just be carried along on the wave of action.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the sunny, mild day!
Bye for now…