I'm celebrating Heap Week, a week when after completing my job at Y1P, I have collapsed into a little heap. This heap is surrounded by books, and I am reading madly. Here's what I've read so far:
#21 — Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen — This is a funny, beautifully written memoir that a lot of you have probably already read. I loved the journey home and the newfound appreciation for the basics of her life, especially how growing up Mennonite had prepared her to cook anything! I hope to get this on the book discussion list for RevGalBlogPals.
#22 — The Whicharts, by Noel Streatfeild — Streatfeild is the author of Ballet Shoes and the other Shoes books, favorites from my childhood. Earlier this year I read her adult novel, Saplings, and in doing further investigation about Streatfeild I learned that Ballet Shoes was based on another adult novel published early in her career and long out of print.
I had to special order it (from England!), and I hoped it would not disappoint.
At the beginning it sounds just like Ballet Shoes, almost word for word, but within a page you realize the story is not about three romantically adopted orphans and a vague archaeologist, but rather about the illegitimate children of a military man who dies in World War I, leaving the girls in the care of yet another mistress who never did have a child with him.
Streatfeild had an incredible gift for describing a child's inner world, and in this book the most important of the children is Tania (who corresponds to Petrova). She is the one with a fully-described interior life, and the one the reader really comes to care for the most. All three of the girls are difficult, especially the willful Maisie (Pauline's counterpart). None of them is particularly gifted, and the dancing school they attend is much less lofty than Madame Fidolia's. But Nanny is there, keeping it all together, familiarly.
The tone of the book is brisk and blunt and a bit profane as Maisie becomes nearly a kept woman while still in her teens. It's the dark side of the story, a picture of the world after WWI and the wild living of the 1920s followed by the tightening of 1929. I've read other reviews on the Internet that suggest it spoils Ballet Shoes for the reader, but I disagree. I love knowing this text was the source and imagining how Streatfeild mined her old material for something that became so important to so many little girls, including this one.
#23 — The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, by George Eliot — Oh, it is a *very* sad little story, which surprised me because it started out to be so amusing. But if you strip away the early Victorian sentimentality, you have a great sketch of the kinds of people who become clergy and how the world perceives them. I read about the book somewhere (where?) and got it on my Kindle. Not Eliot's greatest hit, but there are some sublime passages of prose.
Heap Week is the beginning of a month in which I will not be working, and I hope to keep reading at this pace!