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Summerbook #10: Last Hope Island

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  Last Hope Island: Briain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War, by Lynne Olson In 1939 and '40, as Germany was burning its way across Europe, a lot of people washed up on the shores of the UK.  Escaped soldiers and pilots, exiled government officials, and several royal personages arrived, desperate to continue fighting the Nazis.  Britain became the base of operations for their governments in exile, their efforts to rally their compatriots at home, and their resistance units.  Lynne Olson collects a whole bunch of these stories -- mostly about Norwegians, Czechs, Poles, French, Dutch, and Belgians -- and presents them in chronological order, telling us how these disparate, and often mutually suspicious, people found ways to work together to win the war.  The result is a fascinating narrative. What's really interesting about this book is that Olson, while fair, does not elide over British mistakes.  She is entirely clear that British officers t

Summerbook #9: The Heart of the Hunter

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The Heart of the Hunter: Customs and Myths of the African Bushman, by Laurens van der Post Here's a book I picked up from the donation table because it looked interesting, and because I wanted a Botswana book for my Reading All Around the World project.  Laurens van der Post seems to have had the most amazingly varied and interesting life, to the point that I'm going to have to make a list. Born 1906 in Orange River Colony (South Africa) 1926: wrote a satirical, anti-colonialism magazine  Argued against apartheid and openly said that the future would be mixed-race Hung out with the Bloomsbury circle and published a novel WWII, went as an officer with a force to restore the throne of Haile Selassie Taken prisoner by the Japanese, organized a 'camp university' Hung out with Carl Jung Spent a whole lot of time publicizing the plight of the San, then known pretty much only as the Bushmen.  Made films, collected folklore, argued for their protection, since they were being s

Summerbook #8: The Lady of Godey's

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 The Lady of Godey's: Sarah Josepha Hale, by Ruth E. Finley  I had never really heard of Sarah Josepha Hale, but was recommended this 1931 biography some time ago -- and what a great decision that was!  Anybody interested in women's history (or even American history) would do well to read this, because Hale should be far better known as a hero of American feminism. Born in 1788 in a tiny New Hampshire village, Hale was extremely fortunate in having a literate mother who believed in education for girls as well as boys.  At this time, fewer than half of American women could read and write.  When she married at 21, her husband encouraged her literary pursuits, and they loved to read aloud together in the evenings.  Mr. Hale died young, leaving a widow with five children to support, and so Mrs. Hale decided to make a living at what she did best.  She produced a novel and a good deal of poetry, and then she got a job offer: to edit and produce the first women's magazine in the

And the Spin number is...

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 The dice have been rolled, and the number is...SIX. My #6, terrifyingly, is the Popol Vuh , which I am very excited about reading, but also...boy are there a lot of explanatory notes!  I read a few pages of the introduction last night though, and excitement is the predominant emotion here.  The Popol Vuh is the sacred book of the Mayan people, and contains the story of creation, the deeds of Hunahpú and Xbalanqué -- twins who venture to the underworld and eventually become the gods of the Moon and Sun -- and a chronicle of the Quiché people.  The Quiché still live in Guatemala today.  After the Spanish conquest of the area, most of the stories and texts were lost, but a friar, Father Ximenez, transcribed and translated this text.  The transcription of the phonetically-written Quiché is still in existence, so it can be studied and better interpreted, and the introduction part that I read talks about difficult passages that are better elucidated. So wish me luck!  I intend to be enthr

Summerbook #7: The White Witch

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  The White Witch, by Elizabeth Goudge I've been saving this for a treat.  I read it several years ago, when I was just getting started with Goudge, but I didn't remember anything about it, and I bought my own copy so I just put it on the TBR shelf.  I'm trying to collect Goudge books, but the ones I don't have are the ones that are hard to get and expensive. Elizabeth Goudge must have had a thing about the 17th century.  Quite a few of her historical novels are about Charles I or II -- a set of kings that I personally haven't got much interest in.  But anyway, this story is set at the start of the English Civil War.  Charles I is just starting to fight it out with the Parliamentarians, and Oliver Cromwell isn't even running his side yet. We have several interconnected people: the Haslewood family -- Robert has joined the Puritan side -- his sort of cousins, a group of Romany that habitually camp nearby, and Froniga, the half-Romany white witch of the title -- F

Time for the Classics Club Spin #27!

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 Yay!   It's time for another Spin!  The number will be announced on Sunday, and after that we'll have until the 22nd of August to read the book.  I chose 20 books that are not on my 20 Books of Summer list, and what with that and the other extra books I've been reading, it's anybody's guess as to whether I'll manage to actually read the 20 summer books, but I think I'm doing OK.  It's not like it matters anyway! Here are my selections: Conjure Tales, by Charles Chesnutt Old Norse Women's Poetry   The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  First Love and Other Stories, by Turgenev The Eternal Husband and other stories by Dostoyevsky The Popul Vuh The Witch of Edmonton, a play by Rowley, Dekker, and Ford The Angel of the West Window, by Gustav Meyrink It is Acceptable (Det Gaar An), C. J. L. Almqvist  The Obedience of a Christian Man, by William Tyndale Samguk Yusa (Korean legends) Marriage, by Susan E. Ferrier The Gray Earth, by Galsan Tshinag The

The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road

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  The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road (#2 and 3 in The Fionavar Tapestry), by Guy Gavriel Kay I went ahead and finished the Fionavar Tapestry stories.  The trouble, of course, is that if I tell you anything about the plots, it will spoil the whole trilogy, but I'll do my best. We have five people from our own world who have been taken to Fionavar, the original of all the worlds, where they were dragged into the burgeoning war between Maugrim (the dark lord) and pretty much everyone else.  At the end of the first book, they went home, but now, months later, they're back again. I said before that it's pretty Tolkien-esque and that continues.  Many of the story beats are really similar to Lord of the Rings, though there are no hobbits.  Kay adds King Arthur into the mix, which is interesting -- especially as he bears a curse -- and there are other Celtic elements.  And a good deal more sex, of course. Special side note:  There is also a half-god, lieutenant of Maugrim, w