Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dear Poppyseed by Alice Grist

A Soulful Momma's Pregnancy Journal

In essence this is a book about the spiritual journey of a pregnant woman.  It is a very personal account, full of personal hopes, personal philosophy and personal struggles.  Some people will find it speaks exactly to where they are at; others will find many elements that they connect with while appreciating someone else's perspective; still others will find themselves puzzled by the experiences Alice describes.  If you're not engaged with the story after the first entry, don't read on - it's not for you.  That said, I think those people will be in the minority.

As someone who is deeply spiritual, but in a very different way, I found this book somewhat challenging to read from that perspective.  I will do my best to write an open review, but if you're uncomfortable with new age philosophies, I would advise you to avoid this book.  I, personally, found myself intrigued with her thoughts and experiences.

Alice's journey is a unique one in her spiritual choices and path, but at the same time, at heart, what she expresses is something most mothers will have felt on some level - the joy of feeling that small life growing within you (although many will not feel anything in the early months).  When someone is so connected with her own spirituality, her own self, it is not surprising that she would have a greater awareness - perhaps because of greater expectation - of what is happening to her body, and her reflections make fascinating reading.

A mother of five, who has learnt to be at peace with my own chaos, I have always enjoyed being pregnant, that sense of privilege having a new life given into my care.  And so I feel great sympathy with the emotions Alice expresses - yet I can't help a certain amount of fond scepticism reading the hopes and expectations of this new mother and smiling knowingly as she comes to terms with elements of this truth:  As spiritual as it is in essence, (for me) pregnancy, childbirth and parenting is probably one of the most earth bound things in practise.

One of the lovely things about this diary, is the way Alice writes to her child, describing the world they will enter with a real grace that recognises the bad and encourages the good, wrestling with her own fears.  I think we all, as parents, need to help our children to have a realistic picture of the world - protecting them, without leaving them unprepared; arming them without creating anxiety or aggression; empowering them to be the agency of positive change in the world they are born to.

Alongside the spiritual journey, which is the unique selling point of this book, this is simply an honest description of the emotions, struggles, joys, guts and gore of pregnancy - and not just pregnancy but relationships and self-discovery.  It's about the hopes you have, the things you resolve you will do, and the ways you measure up to and fail those hopes and resolves.  If you are pregnant I would recommend trying to read it alongside your pregnancy rather than all in one go.  If you read it before you're pregnant, I think you'll find the whole thing a bit overwhelming - but then that is true of many birth stories.

Reasons you might like this book

If you like books that are beautifully written, the style is emotive and elegant
If you feel being pregnant is / was / or should be the centre of your life while you experience it
If you want a fresh perspective on what is happening in your body that goes beyond science or even emotion.
If you enjoy life stories

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Keen reader age 7 seeks books...

My daughter is reading Terry Prachett's The Colour of Magic.  She is seven years old, and although we went to the mobile library that comes to our village and picked up two new books only yesterday, she has nothing to read - having read them both already.  So we look to our book shelves for something suitable for a seven year old - and something interesting to one as well.

Daddy hands her The Colour of Magic and she settles down to give it a try.  "Mummy what does 'Astrozoologist' mean?"  Understandably this isn't a word she has encountered before.  18 pages later and she's struggling a bit.  "It keeps jumping from one thing to another."  And I realise a major difference between the books she is used to and more grown up books is the single focus narrative.  Of course, Disc World books aren't for everyone, and the style of writing can be hard for adults to get their heads round, so it's back to the bookcase again for another try.  This time I've offered a Louisa May Alcott book (Author of Little Women) called an Old Fashioned Girl, which I hope will capture her imagination.  It's a light hearted, social-moral story about children of her age in another time and place but with issues not all that far removed from my childhood - and hopefully not too distant from hers.  I suppose themes of friendship, identity and wealth are constants and she hasn't put it down yet.

What would you give a seven year old girl (reading age 10) to read from your own personal library of books?  She's read most of Enid Blyton, loves Daisy Meadows' Rainbow Fairy books.  I might try CS Lewis next.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

If you're looking for a light, funny and entertaining read, I recommend this book.  It's book three in the series, but reading the first two is not a prerequisite for enjoying this one.  Helpfully there are footnotes and an appendix for those bits you might be a bit confused on - think Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy rather than boring text book - in fact, there are definite similarities of style to HGG.
Written in first person by Izzy Spellman, 'former' private investigator, it's about family as much as it is about mysteries, and every relationship is intriguing.  If you're anything like me you'll find yourself smiling as you read.  The kind of story to put your feet up with a cup of tea/glass of wine (delete as appropriate) after a busy day, book in hand and enjoy some light-hearted me time.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This is a very different kind of book from those I usually post on.  If I take one of the categories from, this would definitely come under "thought provoking".  It's not a book for the faint hearted - not perhaps as harrowing as some of his more recent work, but still not one to read as entertainment.
Afghan society, civil war and the Russian invasion during the cold war form the back drop to a story about a father and son who don't understand one another and the need of the son to be accepted by his father.
The writing style is very smooth and, although it is incredibly atmospheric, I didn't feel as though I was drowning in descriptives as can sometimes be the case.  Set mainly in Afghanistan but also in the USA, Hosseini invites the reader to explore his culture with a mixture of affection and critique.
Interestingly his main character 'Amir' is not one to warm to, his attitudes and actions are uncomfortable.  The reader is not called upon to empathise with his situation.  Although one of the themes is redemption, there is a sense throughout that any redemption gained will only be superficial and will only come at great cost.
Certainly an enlightening book, challenging and engaging but not one for a lazy afternoon relaxing in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomory

One of my favourite books growing up was Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of the books by LM Montgomory) and I'm definitely not alone.  Prince Edward Island - which is the setting if you're not familiar with the books - has become a pilgrimage site for people from all over the world.  The stories are simple but deeply profound, following the life of an orphan girl who is adopted and starts a new life on an idyllic farm.  There is no self-pity in the books, and I think this is what makes the basic concept work so endearingly.  Anne is a lively, imaginative character, who is often getting into scrapes but is never wilfully bad.  The staid community of the PEI town of Avonlea is seen with gently critical humour through her eyes, and she has a steadily transforming affect on everyone in her circle.

Like many favourites the books have been made into plays and films, which, despite often major diversion from the books, are usually a respectful representation of the essence of the characters and stories and well worth seeing.  When you read the books you'll enjoy the differences and be well rewarded for the effort without feeling spoiled by the films.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Love Letters by Katie Fforde

Here's another Chick Lit book, but with a very different flavour - very definitely a romance this time.  Set amidst a world of book lovers and writers, with the plot focused on the creation of a small literary and music festival, the characters are appealing and the flow of the story is good.  I must admit to a certain amount of frustration with the main character, Laura, and her reactions to the situations she's put in - but in some ways that is part of the fascination with her story.  It's a bit like Persuasion by Jane Austen in that way, although Laura is constrained by shyness and naivety rather than social expectations and moral certainty.  All in all a very enjoyable read, relaxing and light hearted, with some laugh out loud moments and the odd tear (if you're the emotional type).
My only real criticism is that for a book set in the publishing world, with many references to excellence in writing, there are a lot of typos - at least I'm hoping they are typos - and occasionally some very awkward sentence structures.  I don't say that I'm an expert in these things by any means, but it jars when the main character is meant to be an expert on what makes a good book!  A sign of modern publishing practise, unfortunately, with fewer checks built into the process of production...

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

This was my first introduction to Sophie Kinsella books, bought on a whim with a couple of other girlie books.  I can see why she is a popular author.  The story is engaging and the style of writing flows really easily - definitely a book you can relax with.  The basic concept of someone waking after an accident with amnesia with a vastly different life from the one they remember sets up a sequence of interesting and often amusing events.  This isn't a book that particularly engages with the devastation someone in this situation would experience - the amnesia is a device rather than an opportunity to explore the turmoil of not knowing anything about your current life.  If you can forgive that, it's an excellent read, full of self-discovery and romance.  Like a lot of modern women's fiction this story balances the flair of an entrepreneur with a life-loving romantic - and does so very well.  One for the beach.