The topic this week is:
What are the best two or three books you’ve read this year?
I took part in the Goodreads’ reading challenge this year and initially tapped in the number 12, as I thought I wouldn’t read more than 12 books this year. I’m now ready to choose my 14th book to take on holiday, so I’m pleased that I’ve managed to complete the challenge. You can see all the books I read if you click on the link below:
I prefer to read psychological thrillers or autobiographies/ biographies and other non-fiction. The 3 books I’ve particularly enjoyed are below, and I’ve added my reviews too (5 stars for all):
|Rejection is not new, as John Keats, had he lived today, could verify. Stung by harsh criticism of his work during his short lifetime of only 25 years, the following words (not even his name) are etched on his tombstone in Rome’s Protestant cemetery:
‘This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who on his deathbed in the bitterness of his heart at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraven on his tombstone: Here lies one whose name was writ in water. February 24th 1821.’
I only discovered this whilst reading Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’, which are essays containing the speeches she gave to students at Girton College, Cambridge in the 1920s. The main subject matter of these essays is Women and Fiction, but as you can see she does deviate somewhat…
Virginia Woolf stated that for a woman to be able to write fiction, she must have a room of her own and £500 per year, which of course was a lot of money in her time. Her aunt had left her this selfsame legacy and she had a room of her own, but she bewailed the fate of females from a lesser social class. These women were poor and controlled by men, reduced to being mere servants and childminders and had no time whatsoever to themselves and no chance of ever writing a poem, let alone a novel.
The middle classes fared rather better, although Jane Austen had no room of her own and had to hide the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice under a blotter for fear of being ridiculed. Charlotte Bronte complained of having to mend stockings when she wanted to travel all over the world. Female authors such as these met much criticism in their lifetimes and the Bronte sisters even had to publish their work using male pseudonyms to have their writing taken seriously.
Noblewomen had the time and money to write poetry, but even Lady Winchilsea was not happy writing poetry, controlled by men stopping her from doing what she wanted to do, and knowing she would be laughed at and satirised as a ‘blue-stocking’ if her poetry came to light. Noblewomen were expected just to write letters, not novels.
The essays are quite fascinating, and the book, a classic, was actually free on Amazon. The lives of women have improved now to the extent where many female authors do have their writing taken seriously, but still many are passed off as lightweight for writing about what they know… family sagas, relationships and romance.
I would agree with Ms Woolf that women do need a good income and a space for them to write in peace, ideally without domestic interruptions. Wordsworth was notorious for entering his house by the back door to avoid ‘domestic issues’. Quite often these days women, like myself, earn an income by working and writing novels in their spare time. However, women today will write whatever their circumstances if the urge takes them. Yes, many might be rejected by agents and publishers, but at least they have the strength of mind to carry on regardless.
Did a room of her own and an income of £500 per year make Virginia Woolf happy? No it didn’t; she drowned herself in 1941 after suffering another bout of mental illness. However, she left a wonderful body of work that will be read for decades to come. Do have a read of her Girton essays if you have some peace in a room of your own! A recommended 5 star read.
|They say that every now and then it’s a good idea to get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before. Dawne Archer certainly did this, when she and an old school friend decided to sign up for a trek across the Sahara Desert to raise funds for Thrombosis UK. Dawne has Factor V Leiden, which means she is more susceptible to blood clots/ deep vein thrombosis, having inherited the gene from both parents (her father died from a blood clot to the lung). She had already suffered a life-threatening thrombosis in her twenties, but now in her fifties she also has other health issues that made her wonder whether in reality she would be able to complete the trek.
With the health problems Dawne had at the time, I would never have even contemplated such an arduous task, but this lady had true grit and a grim determination not to let down her sponsors (all proceeds of the book’s sale go to Thrombosis UK). She and her friend set off with a support team and other more experienced trekkers to discover just what it’s like to walk across the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert in broiling heat. Whether or not she completed the trek you will have to find out for yourself, but the writing is such that you can imagine yourself actually there in amongst the heat, sand, scorpions, blisters, and the endless desert vista stretching for mile after sandy mile.
A recommended 5 star read. Kudos to Ms Archer for having the guts to do something as strenuous as this!
|I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.
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