Rattle His Bones

It’s only Tuesday, and I’m utterly exhausted. This is shaping up to be a full week, and so I’m having to fit plenty of downtime in around my plans. Which means I’m in need of comfort reads! Fortunately, one of the books I grabbed on my latest library run was Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn, part of her Daisy Dalrymple mystery series that first charmed me on audio. I began this one this afternoon and am now halfway through it; it’s exactly what I needed! Not only is Daisy her usual self, but as the cover implies, the murder takes place in London’s Natural History Museum, giving Dunn the opportunity for all kinds of fun details. It is just what I needed, and as soon as I’m done writing this post I’ll be running back to it. I feel so grateful to be a bookworm, and have access to a library, because books are one of the best coping mechanisms I’ve ever come across.

The Old Wives-2.jpg

Another marvelous book that I’d highly recommend is The Old Wives’ Fairy Tale Book edited by Angela Carter, who includes stories from global cultures, instead of just the usual European suspects (although the majority of the book is still European based). I chose it while browsing my library’s shelves in search of a book that would fit with the ‘wild and wise women’ winter theme of a Ravelry group I’m part of. The cover is unprepossessing at best, which made it all the more excited to begin reading and discover beautiful woodcut illustrations (by Corinna Sargood) throughout. The stories included vary, but Carter made sure all of them are about women, and the collection is just a delight to read with chapter headings like “Good Girls and Where it Gets Them” and “Sillies.” Some of my favourites included “Kate Crackernuts,” which is a bit like “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” but with the genders reversed, “Vasilisa the Priest’s Daughter” which explores  how determined society is to find out someone’s gender,and “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon,” which I was pleasantly surprised to discover is similar to “Psyche and Cupid,” one of my favourite Greek myths, but with a more wintry setting and even a nod to fiber arts.  I shall definitely be exploring it more in future! The various Eskimo (as this 1990 book attributes them) stories were by far the most surprising, since they often seemed to involve women who not only took on culturally masculine attributes but completed the process by creating the appropriate ‘downstairs bits’ (I’m being coy due to search engines) using bone and sealskin. I loved this enough that I’m going to try to get a used copy for my own shelves, although hopefully one with a cover that features the woodcuttings instead of the bright primary colours of the edition that I read. It has also reminded me that I need to reread The Bloody Chamber sooner rather than later; I wasn’t terribly impressed by it when I read it back in 2008, but I’ve changed a lot since then, so I suspect I’ll love it now.

The audiobook I finished this morning also took me pleasantly by surprise: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I’d somehow gathered from the various awards and praise I’d seen that she was a bleak author, and I don’t have a very high tolerance for bleakness, so I’ve only read her nonfiction book. But then I read this article and decided to give it a try. At six and a half hours (unabridged; I checked), this is a fairly short book, but it packs so much richness and life into the pages that I can imagine rereading it over and over and always finding something new. While there is definitely an elegiac tone to Robinson’s writing,  I found the sorrow to be tempered with a love for people and life and the little things that create our lives, so that I will definitely be reading the rest of her books sooner rather than later. Her tone reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman; not cheerful but not cynical either, with a deep and abiding love for the power of words and stories on our lives. Except in Housekeeping, almost all of the important characters are girls and women. I never declare an author a favourite until I’ve read at least three of their books, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to fall head over heels in love with Robinson.

I do so love being bookish.

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6 thoughts on “Reading Snapshot: January 19th

  1. I’m so pleased that you loved Housekeeping. I don’t find her books bleak at all. They’re generally very gentle compassionate, although they so sometimes go to dark places. I really think you’d like Home in particular, but Gilead and Lila are both masterpieces.

  2. Oh, I do love being bookish. When I’m feeling crabby, there’s nothing like finding a bit of time to sit in a patch of sunshine and do nothing but read.

    I mean, not Marilynne Robinson. I am pretty sure that if I sat in a patch of sunshine and read Marilynne Robinson, I would only become enraged. She is just not the writer for me (alas! Teresa loves her so!). I can’t with these writers who make beautiful sentences and don’t tell stories. My brain is all the time starved for stories and that is what I want my books to be.

  3. My brain requires reading time. It’s very soothing to me, even if the reading material might seem scary or wild to others. I love the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries. Once upon a time, I read about 12 of them one right after the other. Loved them.

  4. Yay! I have missed hearing about what you have been reading (though I do enjoy your other posts too! I just find your book recommendations so useful & helpful, and I realized just the other way that your new website has no easy way to find posts that are just about books. 😦 )

    I haven’t read Housekeeping, though I did read Gilead by Robinson, probably her most famous book. I have no idea who this compares to that, but I found her to be a very introspective writer whose stories do contain mournful/somber elements, but she is not overly bleak or depressing. I don’t recall tumbling head over heels for her based on Gilead (like Jenny, I recall there not being very much story), but she didn’t leave me feeling I needed to stick my head in the oven or throw myself under a train either!

    Tangentially related (in that it is about books, though not any you discuss in this post), I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; I know you loved her other books, but did you ever read this one? I am sure you would love it as it dives deep into issues of race in America & would love to hear your thoughts on it! This was my first Adichie, but I have already added her back catalog to my wish list!

  5. That sounds like a great fairy tale collection- I’ve heard of Kate Crackernuts and the East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon stories, but so long ago I’ve forgotten details. If you want another fabulous “wild and wise woman” kind of book, you really should try to find Women Who Run with the Wolves- it’s hefty and deep and simply stuffed with stories from around the world of females empowered (or not, and why). I read it last year.

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