There are times as a reader when you pick up a book and you think you know exactly what you’re getting: this is an historical romance; this is a novel about a family. And you’re right, but you also discover that it is deeply about something else. That was my experience with the two novels below, novels which contained a surprising-to-me amount of high quality embroidery content.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (historical romance)
In the early 1800s Lucy, a scientist and an astronomer, has spent her youth helping her father with his work and publishing work under his name. After his death, she travels to London to apply to the Polite Science Society, a premier scientific organization of the day, and to try her hand at translating a French astronomy text. Turned away by the Society because she’s a woman, Lucy finds refuge with Catherine, a society widow who spent years supporting her explorer husband and is now interested in being Lucy’s patron. There is a lot here about the science of the era and the way it existed as a kind of gentleman’s pursuit; the roles available to women; and, for sure, the love that grows between Lucy and Catherine (this is a romance novel, so expect some steamy sex scenes). But I devoured it because of the detail lavished on Catherine’s hobby: embroidery. She embroiders maps, and botanical motifs, and the night sky on a finely woven scarf! The description of Catherine’s work made me hungry to see the way embroiderers blend colors, how elements of the natural world can be depicted, how craft becomes art. Continue reading “Unexpected Embroidery Content”
Losing a pet is always hard. I recently lost my 20 year old cat, Stella. She was older then both of my children. Stella and my daughter had an unbreakable bond. My daughter’s first word at 8 months was “itty” as the cat would head bump against her. My daughter at times tried to say it was her cat but Stella and I really knew who the owner was.
The refrain “new year, new you” is a popular one around the first of the year, exhorting you to fix bad habits, set new resolutions, and generally get your life in order. Maybe it’s time for a change; maybe it’s time to read some books that help you focus on the joy and purpose of doing less. (Sure, this anti-resolution is still a resolution, but I like that it’s less focused on demonstrable achievement). Here are a few books to get you started.
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the AttentionEconomy by Jenny Odell
Called “a field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it)” by her publisher, Odell starts by looking at how pervasive technology leads to 24/7 availability, which feeds into an expectation of constant productivity. How do you step back, divert your attention, and reclaim your right to do nothing? Odell has some ideas, as well as examples of how she has done it in her life.
The Art of the Wasted Dayby Patricia Hampl
In this reflection on leisure, and more specifically on daydreaming, Hampl examines the ways in which quiet reflection feed the soul. Behind her own life of wandering and wondering, Hampl visits the homes of great thinkers of the past (Witman, Montaigne, Gregor Mendel) to reflect on how they wrote about and made use of often-solitary reflection. Continue reading “New Year, Do Nothing”
Whether reading is part of your New Year’s resolutions, or already a tried-and-true habit, here are some new novels coming out in January 2020 to consider.
1/1: Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg – Recently promoted as the youngest female homicide detective in the history of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Eve finds herself faced with a crime scene of horrific carnage, but curiously absent of bodies, with just her instinct to go on and a lot of people looking for her to fail.
1/7: The Heap by Sean Adams – In this near-future dystopia, a 500-story building has collapsed, becoming The Heap. Except there’s a survivor, Bernard, somehow broadcasting a radio show from inside the wreckage. Can his brother find him, or will corporate interest prevail?
1/7: Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey – This novel about sex, violence, and self-loathing consists of conversations between women over 20 years in the life of an unnamed narrator.
1/14: Cleanness by Garth Greenwell – An American teacher, living in Bulgaria, grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his time abroad and reflects on a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love.
1/14: Followers by Megan Angelo – Budding novelist Orla and aspiring A-lister Floss come up with a plan to launch themselves using social media; 35 years later, government-appointed celebrities live every moment on camera, and one of them discovers a buried connection to Orla and Floss. Continue reading “New Fiction Roundup, January 2020”