Summer 2021: Another Riffle of Reviews!
I want to blog, I really do. Everything has just been getting away from me so fast! I'm gearing up to go back to work, which means lots of fun meetings beforehand.
I've officially changed some of my 20 Books of Summer list! I just can't read it all, but that's OK. And so, here is my second riffle of reviews...Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War, by Virginia Nicholson. The UK seems to have an even more endless and voracious appetite for books about WWII than we do here in the US, which is no surprise. This book collects the stories of many different women; Nicholson is trying to give us a portrait of the incredible number of ways women lived and worked during the war. So we have Wrens, WAAFs, land girls, decoders, housewives...Vera Lynn and Vera Brittain. Nicholson also covers how women managed under wartime conditions -- not just drawing lines up the backs of their legs, but cooking on the ration, keeping everybody clothed, living in crowded conditions after being bombed out, and the tremendous strain on relationships. It's a fascinating read.
The Little Grey Men, by BB. I think Chris at Calmgrove first let me know about the existence of BB; I'd never heard of these stories. BB was Denys Watkins-Pitchford, a naturalist and illustrator, and he wrote this delightful story about the last gnomes in England, who live on the banks of a Warwickshire stream. Cloudberry, an adventurous sort, went up the brook to find its source two years ago and never returned, so the other three decide to set out on a journey to see if they can find him. They build a boat with paddles and set out past the mill, through the dangerous Crow Wood -- will they ever find Cloudberry?
The story is packed with minute observations about animal and plant life, and covers three seasons of the year. It's just charming, and a lovely book to read. If I'd known it existed, I know my oldest would have loved it at a younger age.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk. I didn't forget that it's Women in Translation month! I've been saving this Nobel-winning novel for a treat. Published in Polish in 2009, it arrived into English in 2018 and won the Nobel Prize in Literature soon afterwards.
Janina Duszejko, an old woman who once worked as an engineer and now teaches English in the village, lives in an isolated rural area near the Czech border. She spends her time sort of patrolling the countryside, keeping an eye on things, and she really hates the local scofflaw hunters. When those same hunters start turning up dead, she is sure that the animals are taking their revenge on their killers. Her eccentric take on events draws the reader into a very unusual murder mystery.Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir. I've heard so much praise for Andy Weir's third novel, after the wild success of The Martian and the not-so-popular Artemis -- I was looking forward to reading it. Project Hail Mary does not disappoint, and in fact I think it's better than The Martian. I could barely put it down, I read it in just a couple of days, and I keep re-reading the ending!
He wakes up in...a pod sort of room, with robot arms hovering over him. He can't remember who he is, or what he's doing, but there are two other beds with dead bodies in them. He's the only survivor, and as he gradually figures out that he's in space, on a spaceship, with a job to do, he realizes how much depends on his success. Project Hail Mary is a desperate attempt to save the Earth by investigating conditions at Tau Ceti, and we get the dual story -- what's going on now, and how he got there (in flashbacks, as he remembers). Fan-freaking-tastic, I'm telling you.
In the words of my co-worker, Louise Penny is 'entertaining and intelligent.' The characters are beautifully drawn, and I love the Québec setting, in which French and English culture and language are always just a little bit at odds. I will definitely be reading more Louise Penny!
In fire news...well, it's all bad. The Dixie Fire is now the largest in California history; it's burning through Lassen National Forest (a beautiful place to hike) and threatening yet another little town, Susanville. It just isn't stopping at all. Every day, the sky is overcast in yellow-gray -- it's hot and humid, and the light is wrong. You'd think we'd be used to it by now (and by 'we' I mean Californians in general) but I don't think we are. It makes everybody feel awful, and of course those of us who have been more personally hit by the fires feel a whole lot worse.