Friday, September 25, 2009

Little Boy Lost

Timing is everything. There were three pages left to read in my book and I wanted to be alone when I read them. R was leaving for work so I said my good-byes and prepared for the ending. Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski is the story of a man who sets out to find his son, lost to him during World War II. Hilary had fled the Germans after seeing his newborn son only briefly, his wife Lisa too weak to follow. He later learns that his wife was murdered by the Gestapo but not before she handed over their son to another woman. Through further tragedy there is now a trail to follow which may or may not lead Hilary to this boy who is now almost five years old. The sweetest boy with the skinniest legs and huge brown eyes is presented to Hilary. Is this urchin his son? Does he even want this child to be his son, forcing him to open his heart again? As a woman reading this book I was screaming at Hilary to take the boy and run. The term 'dolt' came to mind more than a few times! The last three pages had me holding my breath and I had absolutely steeled myself to an ending, the ending I had become convinced would play out. The last sentence read, I took a breath and felt the sting in my eyes. There was a review written by a blogger which started 'Marghanita Laski, F__ you!' and I certainly understand where that emotion was coming from. My feelings are 'Marghanita Laski, thank you'. My next read arrived right on schedule in today's mail. I may have to mull over Little Boy Lost for the evening and a friend is stopping by for a visit but Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger will be on my nightstand waiting.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Miss Hargreaves

Now this was something completely different to anything I've ever read before. Norman Huntley and his friend, Henry invent Miss Hargreaves during a short session of lies referred to as 'spur of the moment'. Norman has a history of telling these sorts of tales but never quite like this. These two young men take things a step further by mailing off a letter to their made up character. They're in for the shock of their lives when Norman receives a letter BACK from Miss Hargreaves saying that she's arriving soon for a visit - and she shows up! I must say, Norman is the most chivalrous of young men for putting up with the antics of Miss Hargreaves, her pets and accoutrement including a hip bath that travels with her everywhere. Poor Norman's circle of friends quickly dwindle, including a girlfriend as suspicion clouds his relationships. Just what on earth could Norman be thinking spending so much time with an 83 year-old woman! Meanwhile, he is being driven mad by this woman's antics and wonders how he can undo the mess he's created. His father, Cornelius is a sympathetic listener but quite the oddball in his own right, lets just say he's rather hilarious! This book sparkled with nostalgia and an innocence that I found charming and refreshing. It was magical, in more ways than one. I loved it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

84 Charing Cross Road

Blogger doesn't seem to want to upload photos today so I'll just carry on and hope things work themselves out. Let's just start by saying "Where have I been?". Near the top of my list of favourite things are books and London and this book is about both. I'm sure that just about everyone knows this is the story of a woman, Helene Hanff, sending letters regarding her book requests from New York to a bookshop in London. But it's so much more than that isn't it. The parcels of meat and eggs that Helene sends to the shop when rationing is still in place after WWII makes it feel like Christmas over and over again. Then there's the times when Helene encloses paper money in her letters to pay for books, how different from the way we order our books today. Helene is rather forward in her comments but as I found out later, Frank Doel, quite enjoyed her sense of humour. WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS' DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? this is not a pepys' diary, this is some busybody editor's miserable collection of EXERPTS from pepys' diary may he rot. I could just spit. where is jan. 12, 1668, where his wife chased him out of bed and round the bedroom with a red-hot poker? As staff and their family members begin their own correspondence with Helene, the invites to visit are frequent. I kept thinking "what are you waiting for you silly woman!". But one day has a habit of leading into the next and a trip to London was always "perhaps next year". The letters end abruptly and I couldn't believe it, I could have happily read volumes of this stuff. So imagine my surprise when I turn the next page and the sequel to this story is included in my book! The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street begins in June 1971 when Helene finally crosses the pond to conduct interviews and book signings for 84 Charing Cross Road. The absolute cherry on the cake for me is that she stays in a hotel in Bloomsbury. The descriptions of walking around The British Museum, Bedford Square and Russell Square are sheer literary travel candy for me. Although, can you imagine Lamb's Conduit Street without Persephone? I do find myself cringing a bit when Ms Hanff refers to herself as a celebrity and writes about people staring at her but her descriptions of various locations makes up for all that. I'm not quite finished the book yet so I'm off to put on the kettle, I'll be reading in between loads of laundry and other domestic duties this morning. I've come to this book about twenty years later than I should have but better late than never.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Deacon

Our sweet boy is two years old today! He keeps us busy with his antics and makes us laugh every single day. Even when he's sleeping, on his back with his paws up in the air, he's irresistable. The boys across the street have a bin with over 70 baseballs in it, collected by the birthday boy himself from the long grass behind the baseball diamond in the park. And that's just since spring! You have to keep a close eye on Deacon if you're anywhere near batting or pitching practice as he will attempt to pilfer any balls lying around. As exhausted as we are trying to keep up with you, we're so glad to have you around. Happy Birthday Deacon!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Poor Girl by Elizabeth Taylor

 'Miss Chasty's first pupil was a flirtatious little boy'. Florence Chasty is a young governess, employed by Mr and Mrs Wilson to instruct their seven year-old son, Hilary. She is pleased at how easily he learns but is uneasy with his precociousness. He makes bold statements and will lean towards Miss Chasty, close enough that his breath moves tendrils of her hair about her face. One late afternoon, Miss Chasty enters the schoolroom to discover Hilary sitting at the window-seat, staring out over the park. There is a heavy fragrance floating in the air and no explanation as to where it came from. Tea is poured as Mrs Wilson comes into the schoolroom to observe lessons. The governess is startled by the sudden appearance of a red stain on her teacup where her lips had been and in shame, Miss Chasty turns the cup so it is hidden. The scene has not gone unnoticed by the lady of the house. In disgust, Mrs Wilson seeks out her husband. But how to explain her unease with this woman without arousing her husband's interest in the governess? There has been indiscretions with female staff in the past. A discussion takes place and it's decided that Mr Wilson will observe the situation for himself and most assuredly it will all come to nothing. Hilary is not at all pleased at having to share his dear girl, Florence as the impertinent lad calls her. You know where this is heading... 'She felt in herself a sense of burning impatience and anticipation and watching the door opening found herself thinking: 'If it is not he, I cannot bear it.' Now this is where I found things to get a bit icky... 'When he kissed her, she felt an enormous sense of disappointment, almost as if he were the wrong person embracing her in the dark. His arch masterfulness merely bored her. 'A long wait for so little, ' she thought. When Florence Chasty is alone in her room, she is mystified and anguished by her own behaviour. Lately, when she is in the schoolroom it's like she becomes another person. After an unsettling event, the governess is sent packing but as she passes the schoolroom in the hallway she experiences a ghostly glimpse into the future. Miss Chasty slowly comes to a realization that there are things beyond her power at work in this house. She can now feel at peace.