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Book Log: March 27

March 28, 2008

I’ve started keeping a book log. I’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time, but having this blog gives the idea some extra oomph.

The first entry is Stephanie Barron’s Flaw in the Blood, which I was reading when I posted last. I didn’t end up finishing it — I peeked ahead to the ending and it seemed more bittersweet than I was in the mood for.

The next entry is Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson. It’s about Tory rebels in the late 1030s and how their struggles with the party hierarchy — and against the mechanisms set up to keep them in line — paved the way for Churchill’s ascendancy in 1940. I don’t know the period well-enough to gauge the accuracy of the information, or to judge the impact of bias on the information presented, but it was a good read nevertheless, especially as a way to learn about political alliances and a little more about the actual workings of the English political system. I read that from March 13 to March 16.

Next was Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front by Todd DePastino. As the title suggests, this is a biography of the cartoonist who rose to fame during World War II for his drawings of infantrymen Willie and Joe in Stars & Stripes. In fact, the book has a second subtitle: A Biography with Illustrations. It’s slight but well-written, especially coming after the rather exhaustive Troublesome Young Men. Still, I’m not sure the life enclosed would have withstood a more detailed biography, and I have to say it deepened my sense of the awfulness of war. I read that one between March 17 and March 20.

After that came Elyn R. Saks’s The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, an autobiography focusing on Saks’s struggle with schizophrenia. It’s very well-written and its candor makes it moving. She’s very honest and seems very clear-sighted about herself. I highly recommend this book. I read it March 20 and 21 — I couldn’t put it down.

On March 17 I started Emily Bryan’s Distracting the Duchess, but I didn’t keep going; I wasn’t in the mood for romance. I’ll go back to it — it’s well-written, and it’s set in the early part of Queen Victoria’s reign, which makes it a little different than the far more common Regency-set historical. At any rate, I’m carrying it with me everywhere I go.

After Elyn Saks’s book came Ruth Scurr’s Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution. Like everything I else I read, it was very readable and very interesting. I know something of the period, but I’m no expert, so I didn’t always follow the sequence of events as I might have otherwise, but I still thought it was an intereting portrait of a man whose name is associated with the Terror. I read that March 21-25.

Now I’m reading John Lanchester’s Family Romance: A Love Story. It’s something of a joint biography of John Lanchester’s parents — he calls it a memoir, but 2/3 of the book is based on research, not on his own memory. Still, it’s a fascinating read, partly because Lanchester’s ancestors were inherently interesting, but mostly because Lanchester is a wonderful, wonderful writer. He’s actually a fiction writer, a novelist; I’m going to root out his novels, just because I love his writing so much. I started Family Romance on March 25, two days ago; the odds are, I’ll finish it tonight. And who knows what I’ll read next…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. dianagroe4emilybryan permalink
    April 18, 2008 12:12 pm

    Hello!
    I’m glad to hear that you’re carrying DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS with you. I’ll be interested to know what you think once you’ve finished it.

    Best,
    Emily Bryan
    http://www.emilybryan.com

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