Tag Archives: books

Unravelled

​I found this poem in my facebook memories for today, and had to look it up to discover where it was from. I liked it so I thought I would share it. 

The book was probably the best one I had on pregnancy loss because it was offering art as therapy rather than just commiserating about the loss. As it turned out, the art form I chose was writing (and my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was an unexpectedly intensely personal piece of fiction that I haven’t been able to even go back and edit because it was so raw, but getting it out helped me I’m sure). 

I like this poem because, while it is heart-rending and painful, it is more beautiful than dark. I hope you enjoy it.

After three months
of silent stitching

what finger let slip

what growing row of cells

unravelled, loosing life and

leaving the lap empty?

– Olson Binder, 1993

Quoted in Grief Unseen, Healing Pregnancy Loss through the Arts by Laura Seftel

Pawn of Prophecy

pawnofprophecy

The ME/cfs Book club challenged us to read a book we already read, so I just read this again after 20-ish years, and it’s still good! I love David Eddings’ style and the way he weaves all the strands together. But I’m surprised I didn’t go on to read the rest of the series, as it feels as though it ends with a lot of story yet to be told. So I’ll be hunting down the next one and the rest of the Belgariad series, and maybe all of the David Eddings collection.

Garion is the central character in this first book of the series, with no real idea of who or what he is, and his journey from quiet, inconsequential farm boy to consorting with kings and nobles is really a journey of coming-of-age.

The idea of being a ‘pawn of prophecy’, having a plan and purpose that you know nothing of, and having everything happen around you, with the powers that be moving him around the ‘board’ of life, but at the same time not wanting to believe that such things are true or possible, makes Garion easy to identify with, so I’m interested to know what will become of him (although there are plenty of clues, I won’t give it away – the reader knows really, but Garion still hasn’t quite figured it out).

I’m also hoping that, in the next book, Pol will soften a bit and let in some romance with the trusty Durnik who obviously dotes on her. I hope that’s not too spoily. 🙂

Nice, gentle escapism with a wholly believable otherworld of gods, sorcery and deception, although I did find it hard to keep all the characters, gods and nations straight in my mind – who was who and which nation they came from (especially when they started introducing new names!), who was married to whom etc. But David Eddings’ skillful writing had me so immersed, that I felt I was in the places and journeying alongside the characters. One of those books that I’m really sad to finish!

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society

guernsey

The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

I haven’t read many books this year. I have started quite a few, but not sure I have finished any of them (unless you count textbooks and literature for homeschool, which would bump the number up a bit).

I had forgotten how much I loved reading and enjoyed literature until I joined a new group on facebook, The ME/CFS Book Club. It’s now one of my favourite places online, and certainly my favourite facebook group.

This book was one of their monthly reads and although I am running behind, I decided to get it because the title was so intriguing.

It ended up being the best book I read this year, it was probably the only book that made me enthusiastically want to read it to completion, and I laughed and cried and felt deeply invested in the characters’ lives all the way through it.

It is written in the form of a series of letters, between a young writer, Juliet Ashton, her publisher and friends, and members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society after a Mr Dawsey Adams contacts her about a book of hers by Charles Lamb that had found its way into his possession, and she becomes intrigued about the society’s unusual name.

The setting is post-war London and Guernsey, and the letters convey the story of the German Occupation of Guernsey during the war, the grief, sorrows and anguish as well as the joy and adventures of the eccentric islanders during that time, and the friendships forged through their common experience of war, and the beauty of literature that makes the increasingly brutal occupation bearable.

I loved the lively way the letters were written, the post-war British voices rang surprisingly true considering the authors were American. It was quite unlike anything I have read in a long time.

The ending is surprising and beautiful, with unexpected friendship, love, romance and comedy, and it is filled with delightful literary references and connections. (The story about Charles and Mary Lamb was so dreadfully sad and interesting, since we have loved Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare as a family as part of our homeschool experience.) Mary Ann Shaffer is clearly a fellow book lover. It is all the more poignant because Mary Ann Shaffer was ill during the writing and had to call in her niece , Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book, knowing that it would be her only published novel.

In her afterword, Annie Barrows writes: “This profusion of questions, exclamations, and tales is the new version of the Society. Its members are spread all over the world, but they are joined by their love of books, of talking about books, and of their fellow readers. We are transformed – magically – into the the literary society each time we pass a book along, each time we ask a question about it, each time we say, ‘If you liked that, I bet you’d like this.’ Whenever we are willing to be delighted and share our delight, as Mary Ann did, we are part of the ongoing story of The Guernsey Liteary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” I am glad to be able to offer my small contribution.

 

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction

searching

This doesn’t quite qualify as a book review as it is a book that I read nearly 20 years ago, but I lent it to a friend some years ago and despite my best efforts, did not receive it back, so I decided to treat myself to a new copy.

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction, edited by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, is a collection of essays introducing the topic of feminist hermeneutics, published in 1993 in preparation for the centenary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s ‘The Woman’ Bible’ in 1995.

I bought it in 1996 as a curious non-feminist. I think I would still place myself in that category. Although I accept the basic idea of feminism – the need for equal and fair treatment for women, I am still not quite comfortable enough with the whole feminism entity (as I understand it) to declare myself a member. Beginning to read it a second time with so many years in between, however, I find that I am more ready and able to understand or at least begin to grapple with some of the arguments.

As a caveat, I must say that I have not read or even seen a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s original 1893 book.

When I re-opened the book it fell, appropriately, to Judith Plaskow’s chapter on ‘Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation’. Since this is a subject close to my heart, I thought I would share some of its insights.

Plaskow begins with explaining the significance of Cady Stanton’s book and how, on a basic level, it sought to acquit Christianity by laying its oppression of women at the door of Judaism.

“Anti-Judaism in feminist interpretation signifies both a failure to include all women within its vision and an often unconscious appropriation of anti-Jewish themes and strategies that are as old as the New Testament itself.”

Plaskow talks about the way in which, in order to do this, feminist interpretation unwittingly makes use of quite inappropriately (even patriarchal?) conservative principles of interpretation.

“The claim that ‘Jesus was a feminist’ – a claim first articulated by Leonard Swidler and then taken up by numerous feminist interpreters – can be argued persuasively only on the basis of a negative view of Judaism.”

She outlines some of the ways in which the view of 1st century Judaism as an oppressive patriarchal society is arrived at by picking and choosing sources that seem to agree with that view, whereas there seems to be a lot of evidence for two schools of thought (perhas allied to Hillel and Shammei?) within 1st century Judaism – one of which tended to be more oppressive and the other liberal.

Plaskow also goes on to outline the way in which St Paul’s very difficult, ambivalent attitude toward women is explained away by viewing Paul as being anti-feminist and oppressive in his Jewish identity, but liberal in his Christian identity, a dualism which necessarily ‘others’ Jewish women.

Plaskow says that, with a view to moving toward a more critical feminist hermeneutic, “The first step in eradicating anti-Judaism is becoming aware of its existence, and this means becoming educated about the dimensions of the problem.”

She mentions that “Feminist exploration of Jewish women’s history is a very new field…” – most of the references she gives are essays and articles in obscure periodicals rather than easily accessible books, so I would be interested to know what has happened since the book was published.

In conclusion, Plaskow says that one of the difficulties of dealing with anti-Judaism in Christian feminism is the isolationism, so again I would be interested to know what progress has been made by Jewish and Christian feminists working together since the 1990s.

Searching the Scriptures is a big, meaty volume, nearly 400 pages, so I doubt I will read it from cover to cover in one go – it will keep me occupied for some time, and I will probably dip in and out of it. But Plaskow’s essay has whet my appetite and I will look forward to seeing volume 2 in due course.

Apologies for publishing this blog-post prematurely, and I hope (I can’t see, since I am posting via my phone!) that, having edited, it will all come right in the wash 🙂

I would be interested to hear from reluctant / converted Jewish or Christian feminists, or anybody who can recommend reading in this area.

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

My friend Kathryn (the bookworm) introduced me to the Simple Woman’s Daybook meme, and I thought I would give it a go today:

http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Outside My Window… it’s grey and drizzling. Actually it looks very lush and green out there, I may get everone into their wellies and go out for a splosh in the puddles.

I am thinking…that I should really finish up on the computer and gather everyone into the living room and start school now.

I am thankful for… relative peace in the house this morning! A roof over my head, plenty of food, family, friends, car, all that I need. To have a dishwasher!

From the kitchen…DS has loaded the dishwasher without complaining this morning so all I need to do is tidy up. Oh, and hoover (now that I check, there’s quite a lot of work to do in there 😦

I am wearing… a pink t-shirt and black jogging bottoms, (and bright orange socks).

I am creating… I’m not being very creative at the moment. I might start another scarf (my forte is chunky knitted scarfs using 2 different yarns – one thick and one thin, in co-ordinating colours – it makes a lovely effect). I’m also wondering about making some clothes for my daughter because it’s so hard to find modest clothes for girls. But the price of material is so horrendous, that I’m contemplating making some kind of hippy-looking rag-quilt type clothes from scraps. (Is there a proper name for that?)

I am going…to ballet this afternoon (well not me, my daughter). I’m rather relieve there’s no other activities to worry about any more for a Tuesday… but there’s a possibility of a Hebrew lesson this evening. I’m waiting to hear.

I am reading…a huge pile of books! See yesterday’s entry! The fiction title on the list is “Lucca” by Jens Grondahl.

I am hoping…that school will be a bit more successful today. I’m not actualy feeling too well (I think I’m fighting something off, and I have toothache) and I don’t want to fight with the children again today.

I am hearing… happy noises from the children playing upstairs, the whirr of the computer’s fan, and now the gentle hum of the dishwasher.

Around the house…lots of houseplants without a home (they had been moved into the garden for the summer, but the summer has given up a bit so they had to come in again while the weather is so cold and miserable.

One of my favorite things… bookshops and libraries which also allow you to drink coffee (how very civilised)! We first discovered this concept in Sweden when we lived in Stockholm – especially Lidingo library which remains one of my very favourite places. But failing that, Borders is pretty good.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: actually nothing much on the agenda this week, just Ballet this afternoon, and Girls’ Brigade on Thursday evening, but I’m looking forward to seeing my Swedish/Finnish friend Tieja for coffee at Ikea next week.  I might take a walk into town if the weather clears up, perhaps take the children to a park.

Here is picture thought I am sharing…