Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid Journal Day 11: Book Reviews

43 and wet. Rain overnight, and more predicted for today. So back to paperwork, I think. Larry can work on the bathroom tile re-grout, a painstaking job and one he can only work on in short shifts because getting down on the floor is hard for him. 

So here are the promised book reviews! A motley collection to be sure.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. This novel was a Pulitzer Prize winner by the best-selling Strout. She was born in Portland, Maine and the story of large, strong, tempestuous Olive is set in Strout's home state. It is clear that she knows well both the place and the people of her story. The writing is beautiful, lyrical I would call it, with descriptions that paint places and characters with deftness and sensitivity. I admit I did not like Olive, the main character. I found her selfish and self-centered, and yet kindness and generosity is there too. The novel is actually a series of vignettes, short stories through which Olive meanders like a lumbering moth. I could not put it down, and had to get through each day impatiently until I could sit down in the evening to see what Olive and the people of her homeplace were up to in the next chapter. I understand there is a sequel, titled Olive Again, but I am not sure I want to read it. Still, I am very glad to have read this book.

The 1910 Diary of May Fitzsimmons, by her granddaughter Patricia Beynen, follows a year in the life of a young girl in Orange, New Jersey who works at a hat factory. Her work hours would made us gasp--10 or 12 hour days, 6 days a week. During the year she begins walking home from church with a young man, under the watchful eyes or her parents and the disapproving glare of the local priest. It is a year of changes, of union unrest, family tragedy and joy. This is a short, quick read, printed in a large, double-spaced type. I read it in a couple short sittings. 

Nets to Catch the Wind by Elinor Wylie. Elinor Wylie lived a short life, but she wrote many poems during her short tenure here on earth. Born in 1885 and like May Fitzsommons, a New Jersey native, Wylie did her growing up in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. Her father was a politician and wealthy, but Wylie rebelled and scandalized the society of her day with her affairs and several marriages. Despite disapproval, broken marriages and poor health, she was a prolific writer, producing four books of poetry and four novels between 1921 and 1928. This one, Nets to catch the Wind, is a slim volume that is considered to contain some of her best work. This is an excerpt from her poem Wild Peaches, my favorite in the collection:

When the world turns completely upside down
You say we’ll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
We’ll live among wild peach trees, miles from town,
You’ll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
Homespun, dyed butternut’s dark gold color.
Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
We’ll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

Now I'm finally getting to The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, and a couple poetry collections that have been waiting their turn. What have you been reading during these locked-down days?

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


  1. I think I would really like the 1910 diary one. I wish my grandma would have had a diary. She's (Lucy) the one I wrote my fictional book about. She got married in 1908. Believe it or not I'm still working on it, but I'm about finished and ready to publish it. I have it up over 50,000 words now, so it should qualify as a novel :o), instead of a novella.

    1. Yes, it's a very similar time period, although a very different environment certainly!But I think you'd enjoy it, Janet. When this mess is over, I'll lend you my copy if you haven't got one by then.

  2. The diary book sounds interesting. I've been living with my middle daughter and family since end of February. With a 7 and 10 year old at home all the time now, I've found my time goes by too quickly each day. When things get back to normal, I hope to enjoy one of the books you feature on your reviews. Thanks for doing them. It's great to learn about books I may not have discovered otherwise.

    1. I have wondered how you are getting on. I bet it's lively at your daughter's home! The diary book is interesting, especially when she describes the hat-making process.


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