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.
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.