BrokenTune

Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Not So Quiet...

Not So Quiet...: Stepdaughters of War - Helen Zenna Smith

Not So Quiet... was one WW1 novel that I had not heard of until a couple of weeks ago but that will now remain on my shelves for quite a while.

The book was written in 1930 novel by Evadne Price. She used the pseudonym "Helen Zenna Smith", and given that the narrator's name is Smith, or "Smithy", also, the book may seem like work of autobiography, but isn't. 

 

In fact, Price was asked by publisher Albert E. Marriott to compose a spoof of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. She declined on the basis that "Anyone who wants a skit on this book wants their brains dusted."

This really resonated with me because that also was the first that I thought when I read about Marriott's proposal. As it turns out, Marriott was later exposed as a fraud and con artist.

 

Anyway, Price was able to persuade Marriott that he should publish a serious work telling of the work of women ambulance drivers in WWI.

So, the book is fiction but was based on the diaries of a real woman ambulance driver, Winifred Young. I gather that the diaries are now lost. 

 

I thought the book was fantastic. It was as gripping as it was harrowing.

 

From the very start of the book, we are thrown into the deep end of living conditions of the ambulance crew at the front. The stench, the cold, the hunger, the sleep deprivation, the bullying, the stress of having to live up to the expectations of parents and relatives safely back at home, the inability to communicate the madness of it all to anyone outside of their group...or anyone who was not there, at the front. 

 

Price/Smith tells all of this with attention to detail. Scratching and itching and trying to get rid of bugs and lice while avoiding the mess tent and living off Bovril because the food is entirely disgusting. 

It is not comfortable reading, and this is even before we go out on duty with the women, picking up the wounded - stinking, faceless, screaming - and trying to convey them to a field hospital in the pitch dark while being targeted by raids.

 

It made for truly gut-wrenching reading. 

 

What made it worse was to watch the characters unravel. Some die, some go mad, some we watch drifting into depression that cannot be healed by sick leave. And it is the visible detaching of the characters from any sort of feeling of life that is just heart-breaking. 

 

With all of this, I usually start to wonder when reading books about this kind of conflict how the characters would fare once the war is over. How would they be able to adjust back to "civilian" life? 

 

In this as well, Price/Smith did not disappoint - sorry, long quote ahead:

"What is to happen to women like me when this war ends ... if it ever ends. I am twenty-one years of age, yet I know nothing of life but death, fear, blood and the sentimentality that glorifies these things in the name of patriotism. I watch my own mother stupidly, deliberately, though unthinkingly - for she is a kind woman - encourage the sons of other women to kill their brothers; I see my own father - a gentle creature who would not willingly harm a fly - applaud the latest scientist to invent a mechanical device guaranteed to crush his fellow-beings to pulp in their thousands. And my generations watches these things and marvels at the blind foolishness of it ... helpless to make its immature voice heard above the insensate clamour of the old ones who cry: "Kill, Kill, Kill!" unceasingly.

What happens to women like me when the killing is done and peace comes ... if ever it comes? What will they expect of us, these elders who have sent us out to fight? We sheltered young women who smilingly stumbled from the chintz-covered drawing-rooms of the suburbs straight into hell?

What will they expect of us?

We, who once blushed at the public mention of childbirth, now discuss such things as casually as once we discussed the latest play; whispered stories of immorality are of far less importance that a fresh cheese in the canteen; chastity seems a mere waste of time in an area where youth is blotted out so quickly. What will they expect of us, these elders of ours, when the killing is over and we return?

Once we were not allowed out after nightfall unchaperoned; now we can drive the whole night through a deserted countryside with a man - provided he is in khaki and our orders are to drive him. Will these elders try to return us to our conventional pre-war habits? What will they say if we laugh at them, as we are bound?

I see in the years to come old men in their easy chairs fiercely reviling us for lacking the sweetness and softness of our mothers and their mothers before them; chiding us for the language that is not the language of the gentlewomen; accusing us of barnyard morals when we use love as a drug for forgetfulness because we have acquired the habit of taking what we can from life while we are alive to take ... clearly do I see all these things.

But what I do not see is pity or understanding for the war-shocked woman who sacrificed her youth on the altar of the war that was not her making, the war made by age and fought by youth while age looked on and applauded and encored. Will they show us mercy, these arm-chair critics, once our uniforms are frayed and the romance of the war woman is no longer a romance?

I see much, but this I do not see."

 

I'm so glad I found this book. I now may also need to have a look at the sequels that Price wrote (also under her Helen Smith pen name).

Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 280 pages.

Shylock Is My Name (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Howard Jacobson

Yeah, this is still decidedly "meh".

Some thoughts on dealing with Spam

Reblogged from Peregrinations:

I've been thinking about this.

 

Spam is the bane of our existence. We all hate it. We all want it to go away.

 

Spammers love our attention, whether it be positive or negative. The more we respond to spammers, the happier they are and the more they want to keep posting here.

 

In light of the fact that for all intents and purposes this community is entirely without moderators who can deal with spam and delete spam accounts, here is what we should do with spammers: We should make this place as uninviting as possible for spammers, a place where they are entirely ignored.

 

 

1. DO NOT respond to them. Do not add a comment to any discussion.Do not comment on any post. Do not engage. Period. (Yes, I know this is hard but don't do it! Not even to warn others that we have a new spammer; we are smart enough to figure it out for ourselves.)

 

2. DO NOT block them unless they are following you, because to block them you have to follow them first and following is engaging.

 

3. The only reason to visit a spammy looking discussion is to change the notification setting to "no notifications" -- and then only when you receive a notification. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

4. Check your follower page regularly and block spammers.

 

5. DO NOT keep returning to spam discussions. Do not add to the visitor count. Do not feed the spammer ego. Make this place as unfriendly as possible.

 

The more of us who follow the non-engagement plan, the less inviting we will become.

 

If you think this plan will work, please feel free to pass it along. The more times this is re-blogged, the more active members will see it --and maybe even a few spammers.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 27 out of 280 pages.

Shylock Is My Name (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Howard Jacobson

"Bali is one place I haven't yet been to," Plurabelle said. "What's it like?"

"Sad."

Plurabelle shook her head in sympathy. "I can imagine," she said. Then, after a moment's contemplation, she asked him, "Do you think it's because we have too much?"

"We?"

"Us. You and I. People of our sort. The advantaged."

"But are we advantaged?" D'Anton asked. "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

"That's so beautiful," Plurabelle said. "And so true. It makes me want to cry. Paulo Coelho often makes me want to cry."

"A greater man than Paulo Coelho said that," D'Anton surprised her by saying. She didn't know there was a greater man than Paulo Coelho.

"Nelson Mandela?"

"St. Paul."

"So would we be less pierced with sorrows if we gave all we have to the poor?"

He didn't know but said he sometimes asked himself whether the sadness problem, for him anyway, wasn't money but modernity. "Do you ever feel," he asked her, "that you are too modern?"

Plurabelle liked the idea. "Too modern - yes, you're right," she said. "Too modern. I have often felt that, yes I have, though until now I didn't know I'd felt it. Too modern - yes, of course." Then she had a thought. "But that doesn't explain," she said, "why Aborigines and American Indians always look sad on the Discovery Channel. They can hardly be called modern."

"No but that's a different kind of sadness, isn't it? The cause of their sadness is that they have been made abject. It's been done to them. They are sad because they are victims."

Hmm,.... I'm not sure I'm going to love this book. 

 

The audio narration by Michael Kitchen (he also can read crisp packets to me) is excellent, but the book itself so far seems full of sadness and contempt and TSTL characters. 

To be fair....that does match some of the sentiments of The Merchant of Venice, but it also feels like the author's style gets away with him at times and leaves me wondering whether there is a point ... eventually.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 13 - Advent

Door 13:  Advent

 

Task 1:  Share a picture of your advent calendar.

 

I know I should have one but I have just not been in the Advent mood, yet, so there is no advent calendar this year. 

 

Task 2: Tell us: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

 

This isn't a general holiday tradition, but it has become tradition in my home. My best friend from school and I always try and meet up for brunch at my mum's over the holidays if we are lucky enough to both be in town...sometimes this has to happen over an hour while one of us is one the way to an airport but we do tend to take this seriously enough to have made the brunch happen every time we have both in town over the past 18 years. 

 

So I guess this is a tradition now. :)

 

I will try and remember to post a picture of the spread this year. We have fun with this, but usually end up sitting and chatting and catching up, not eating much at all because everyone is so stuffed from all of the holiday food. No matter. It's a brilliant time and I look forward to doing this again this year. :D

 

Task 3: Prepare an apple cider wassail bowl or a wassail bowl containing your favorite drink or fruit. Post a picture and enjoy!

 

(wip)

 

Task 4: Tell us about an event in the immediate or near future that you’re looking forward to.

 

See Task 2. We're having the brunch this year as I am going to Germany for the holidays and my BFF is travelling back for family visits, too. 

 

Book: Read a pastiche, a book authorized by a deceased author’s estate, the 4th book in a series, a book with the word “four” in the title, a book featuring four siblings, or a book with a wreath, pines or fir trees on the cover.

 

I may not get around to it but I have been eyeing up Sophie Hannah's Poirot books recently. I'm just too damned intrigued. 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 11 - Thanksgiving Day

Door 11:  Thanksgiving Day

 

Task 1:  If you have kids or pets, tell us about something “bad” they did that was so funny you couldn’t help but forgive (“pardon”) them. If you have neither kids nor pets, was there such an event in your own childhood – or with kids or pets in your family or circle of friends?

 

Skipping.

 

Task 2: Tell us: Of the books that you read this year, which are you most thankful for, OR was there one that turned out to be full of “stuffing”? Alternatively, which (one) book that you read anytime at all changed your life for the better?”

 

There were a few books this year that were full of stuffing, but I've moved on and can't even recall the titles. 

 

The thought of books that I have been thankful for this year is much more pleasing. 

 

There is Gaudy Night, of course, which stands out together with its sequel (of sorts) Busman's Honeymoon, but there are lots more books that I am thankful for having read this year: 

 

Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy, John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, Madeleine Miller's Circe, Colm Toibin's House of Names, Raymond Postgate's Verdict of Twelve, John Curran's Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, Lindsay Fitzharris' The Butchering Art, Doran and Sher's Woza Shakespeare! and many, many more.

 

Task 3: Share your favorite turkey or pie recipe.

 

(wip)

 

Task 4: Send a friend you’re thankful for having a postcard (in the mail!). Snap a picture of the postcard image (not the message) and share it with us.

 

Skipping.

 

Book: Read a book with an autumnal cover, set in New England, where a turkey shows up in the story, with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover, or with the theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.

 

(wip)

24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 - Russian Mother's Day

Door 10:  Russian Mothers' Day

 

Task 1:  “Three Russian writers walk into a bar …” (Take it from here – the wilder the merrier!)

 

Skipping.

 

Task 2: Towards the end of the 17th century, there was a Russian apprentice carpenter and shipwright going by the name Peter Mikhailov in the Dutch town of Zaandam (and later in Amsterdam), who eventually turned out to be none other than Tsar Peter the Great, whose great interest in the craft would become pivotal to his programs for the build-up of the Russian navy and naval commerce.
So: Tell us about a favorite book, either nonfiction history (demonstrably true facts, please, no conspiracy theories or unproven conjecture) or fiction – all genres, not limited to historical fiction –, dealing with a member of royalty “moonlighting” as a commoner.

 

TA has already beat me to it, but the first book that came into my mind is A Scandal in Bohemia...in which a king is pretending to be a mere count. Not exactly a commoner but the lowest that the king in question would stoop.

 

And because there can never be too many Jeremy Brett pictures, here is one more:

 

 

Task 3: Until WWII, the most famous part of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg was the so-called amber room. It was looted, lock stock and barrel, by the Nazis, and has since vanished from the face of the earth, with its fate a complete mystery to the present day. Let your imagination run wild: What do you think may have happened to it? (Kidnapped by aliens? Spirited away by dwarves and hidden in a secret cavern deep below the face of the earth? Sold, piece by piece, to finance … what? The Nazi war effort? The restoration of the Romanovs to the throne of Russia? Stalin’s pogroms? What else?) Don’t hold back, we’d love to know!

 

I think the room was stripped bare, then the items were put into storage and onto trains and somehow ended up being shunted onto the wrong tracks and sent in the entirely wrong direction, thus proving wrong the stereotype that all Germans are well organised. I guess after that the freight was unloaded and forgotten, and finally disappeared bit by bit as there was no other use for it...and no one wanted to own up to having seen it.  

 

Task 4: Forget-me-nots and handmade medals of honor are important Russian Mothers’ Day gifts. Create a medal of honor (with or without the image of a forget-me-not) for a favorite book character or for a family member or friend of yours that you’d like to pay respect to.

 

Skipping.

 

Book: Read a book set in Russia, by a Russian author, featuring a story within a story (like a Russian “matryoshka” doll), or featuring a character who is a mother.

 

I've got two options at hand for this but am not sure I will get around to reading either before the year is out:

Option No.1 is Tiger by Polly Clark. I've been wanting to read something else by the author since I read Larchfield for my RL book club and loved it (much in opposition to rest of the book club...). All I know about Tiger is that it is set in Siberia.

 

Option No. 2 is The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin.

 

I'm just jotting them down for now to remind me.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 14 - St. Nicholas' Day

Door 14:  St. Nicholas’ Day

 

Task 1: Write a book wish list to St. Nick / Santa Claus for books that you’ve been eyeing but can’t justify the expense of purchasing. (E.g., art books? Collector’s editions? Boxed sets?)

 

It's not so much art books or new releases for me but - going to opposite way - antiquarian books or ones that are out of print. I would love to have an original edition of Phyllis Bottome's The Lifeline, the book that, imo, gave life to James Bond. Last time I checked, a copy of the book would have set me back £250, which is not something I would like to justify when the book is available for free electronically...but still, I like the idea.

 

There are others, too. First editions of the Wimsey novels, Christie's works, or Tey's books. Some of these are not that much out of range when it comes to budget, but I would end up looking to complete sets and that would soon add up.  

 

Task 2: In the Netherlands, ‘Sinterklaas’ is celebrated with ginger biscuits, marzipan and hot chocolate with cream; in Germany, it’s St. Nicholas’ Day with gingerbread, chocolate and / or nut or almond cookies, chocolate candy, and tangerines (or oranges). Choose one or more of the above as a holiday snack and post a picture for us to drool over.

 

(wip)

 

Task 3:  St. Nicholas is a man of many names in English alone – Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas … although in the English speaking world he only comes once (at Christmas, not also on December 6 – whereas in Germany and the Netherlands he makes his visits under different names on both occasions). Which of your favorite books were published under different titles in the same language, e.g., in North America vs. Britain? Have you ever bought a book under a title unfamiliar to you, only to discover belatedly that it was one you already own / had already read under a different title?

 

I actually can't remember if I ever have started a book only to find out that I had read it before. The only time I came close was when I bought an English version of a German book that I had forgotten I owned in German already. The title was Putting Away Childish Things by Uta Ranke-Heinemann, which I don't even regret having two copies of because it is excellent.

 

Task 4: A Czech Republic tradition for St Nick's Day is groups of three "people" – St Nick, Angel, and Devil – to roam the streets the night before St Nick's Day and stop children to ask them if they have been good during the year or not. Most kids say yes, sing a song or recite a poem. The three "strangers" then decide if the children are telling the truth. The good kids get candy / treats from the Angel, bad kids get potatoes or coal from the Devil. So: Post a song or poem (your own or someone else’s) that involves candy, potatoes, or coal.

 

(wip)

 

Book: Read a book with an orange or red cover, set in the Netherlands or Germany, by a Dutch or German author, or with nuts, chocolate, coins, canals or beer on the cover.

 

(wip)

Next up in the Will's World Project...

Shylock Is My Name (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Howard Jacobson

I've not composed my thoughts yet for either The Merchant of Venice nor The Winter's Tale...and come to think of it, not Love's Labours Lost either. I'll remedy this before the year is out. 

 

And even tho I found The Winter's Tale disappointing, I still want to see a couple of different productions of it - the 2015 Branagh/Dench production and the Doran/Sher one. 

I should be able to see both this week, then find The Gap of Time at the library.

 

For the next book choice, tho, I have collected Shylock is My Name from the library. I've deliberately not read any reviews of the book. Not reading reviews beforehand has been quite a good approach for me for the project and will be one to continue. 

 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 12 - St. Andrew's Day

Door 12:  St. Andrew's Day

 

Task 1:  Tell us: Who is your favorite Scottish (or Scots-born / -descendant) writer?

 

That's a tough choice because there are quite a few authors that tie for the spot of favourite and I am not going to choose one over another - so in no particular order:

 

Ali Smith - because her use of language astounds me every time, her quirkiness inspires me, and her empathy with the world around her gives me hope.

 

Josephine Tey - because she was a bucker of trends and showed that genre fiction can include intelligent discourse and detailed research and still be riveting. She wrote other books, too, that are not Golden Age mysteries and which I am very much looking forward to as I am sure they will provide me just as much enjoyment as her dramatic works published under her other pseudonym, Gordon Daviot. 

 

Arthur Conan Doyle - The master. That is all.

 

David Hume - because I read one of his books very early on when I first became interested in philosophy and it completely opened my eyes to a new world of thought.

 

Task 2: Ian Rankin likes to say that the Scottish national diet is sugar, fat and alcohol. The traditional Scottish dessert, Raspberry Cranachan, contains all three of these (and of course the alcohol in it is the national drink, whisky), but it's also delicious! So, make Raspberry Cranachan: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/2852/raspberry-cranachan.aspx (For a non-alcoholic version just omit the whisky; or substitute with orange juice.)

 

Nope. I am not going to make cranachan. I really don't care for it...or any other dessert that involves lots of cream. 

 

I have opted to celebrate St. Andrew's Day (today) with a different combination of Rankin's requisite ingredients:

 

I'll leave it up to our Game Hosts whether this is enough to claim the point.

 

Task 3: St. Andrew was a fisherman by trade: Which book(s) from your TBR that you read this year turned out to be the year's greatest "catch"?

 

Without a doubt, the greatest catch has been Gaudy Night, which I read in January, then promptly re-read in June already, and from which I am still "hungover".

 

Task 4: If you could create your personal tartan, what would it look like? Or if you have a favorite existing tartan, which one is it?

 

I do like most of them, actually, especially the darker ones featuring blue, black, dark gray offset by something bright. However, I am not keen on the Royal Stewart one. The abundance of red in that one irks me. 

 

Book: Read a book set in Scotland.

 

Once I finish Not So Quiet, I hope to get to The Weatherhouse which was written by Nan Shepherd about the impact of WWI on a small rural community. The book was published in the same year as Not So Quiet, 1930, and I look forward to seeing what parallels, if any, there are to Not So Quiet, The Road Back (which was the sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front), and Sunset Song (which is set in that same time and almost the same place as The Weatherhouse).

Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 172 pages.

Perseus in the Wind - Freya Stark

"I have not been much educated myself, so that I am a puny fighter in the ring, but for better or worse I would like to have learnt four things when the passing bell puts an end to schooling, and of these only one can be called intellectual. I would like to command happiness; to recognize beauty; to value death; to increase, to my capacity, enjoyment. Around the cardinal points, and inevitably attained by their attainment, I should place the conquest of fear, whose elimination must be the final aim of teachers. The rest of education deals with technical means for living, and is of secondary importance whatever economists may say. It is chiefly because they have reversed our order and made the technical intellect supreme that we are suffering in the world today."

This is from Stark's short meditation on Education. I could have quoted much of the book so far but this section is one I stopped at last night and it has been on my mind ever since. 

At the heart of her contemplation is the fallacy she sees in the purpose of education being the pursuit of intellectualism and gain the ability to accumulate economic wealth. 

 

Stark sees this as the loss of our ability to think for the pure enjoyment of thinking. 

 

I really like her idea here.

Reading progress update: I've read 129 out of 176 pages.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

Poirot said: ‘You are content for the murderer to escape unpunished?’

‘There are probably several undiscovered murderers at large in the world.’

‘That, I grant you.’

‘Does one more matter, then?’

Poirot said: ‘And what about the other members of the family? The innocent?’

She stared. ‘What about them?’

‘Do you realize that if it turns out as you hope, no one will ever know. The shadow will remain on all alike…’

I completely forgot this reference to Ordeal by Innocence was in here.

Weekend Reading Plans

Not So Quiet...: Stepdaughters of War - Helen Zenna Smith Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha Christie Perseus in the Wind - Freya Stark Shakespeare And Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher And The Other Players In His Story - Stanley Wells The Winter's Tale: Arkangel Shakespeare - Ciaran Hinda, William Shakespeare, Sinead Cusack, Paul Jesson, Eileen Atkins, John Gielgud

I have another long weekend coming up and really need it, too. This time of year is really taking it out of me with having to adjust to the lack of daylight. It's not helped that the weather has been really damp, overcast and just crap, too. Today has been the first day in two weeks that has seen some sunshine...tho I was too late to catch the sunrise this morning for the 24 Tasks.

 

Anyway, I'm looking to finish off the Poirot story tonight. Then hopefully get to go for a good wander tomorrow - the forecast says "baltic but dry" - and finish Not So Quiet, which has been an excellent read but not one I can read "on the fly". 

 

After that, I am looking to make more progress with Shakespeare & Co. and Perseus in the Wind. These are also two books that want to be read at a slower pace. I love Wells' writing and don't want to miss his snark. And I also love Stark's way of pondering about ideas, and I want to give these ideas time to think about them.

 

What is exciting, tho is that there is a broadcast of the 2015 performance of The Winter's Tale starring Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh on Wednesday at a cinema near me and I am not going to miss that for anything! So, I will spend some time reading the play this weekend also. I am very excited about this. 

 

And of course, I may just have requested some additional material from my library, including the dvd of Greg Doran's production of the play and Winterson's Hogarth Shakespeare revamp The Gap of Time...

Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 176 pages.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

I have read this story several times now, and still the TV adaptation smudges my memory of the setting - Poirot does make his points about "the central heating" but it is in very different circumstances to those in the adaptation. I'm not complaining - I love the adaptation because they made the change in the best possible way and bring out the humor that I am certain Dame Agatha intended...after all the (absence of) central heating is a recurring theme.

And I love the setting in the book because it provides a connection with another Poirot story that I am fond of but which I won't mention because the scene in this book (Hercule Poirot's Christmas) actually includes a spoiler, which is also very unusual for Christie.

‘Nothing like a wood fire,’ said Colonel Johnson as he threw on an additional log and then drew his chair nearer to the blaze. ‘Help yourself,’ he added, hospitably calling attention to the tantalus and siphon that stood near his guest’s elbow.

The guest raised a polite hand in negation. Cautiously he edged his own chair nearer to the blazing logs, though he was of the opinion that the opportunity for roasting the soles of one’s feet (like some mediaeval torture) did not offset the cold draught that swirled round the back of the shoulders.

Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, might be of the opinion that nothing could beat a wood fire, but Hercule Poirot was of the opinion that central heating could and did every time!

Oh, and I will be using this book for the Christmas Task.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 176 pages.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Agatha Christie

It's time for the annual re-read of one of my favourite seasonal mysteries.

 

Bring on a big mug of tea and Poirot shivering in poorly heated rooms.

Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 172 pages.

Perseus in the Wind - Freya Stark

I have had Perseus in the Wind on my "currently-reading shelf" for quite some time, but it never felt like the right time to start the book in earnest. I had only ever made it past the Foreword before now. 

 

It just shows me once again that quite often books, not me, choose when it is time to read them. 

 

I grabbed the book in the early hours of this morning to accompany me on a short work trip, and spending the evening in my hotel room with little other distraction - it's cold, wet, and miserable outside, so not great for venturing into town earlier this evening - has been the perfect time to read Stark's meditations. 

 

This is a book about travel, but it is more a collection of her thoughts on different themes like paganism, service, happiness, etc. than a travelogue about a specific place. 

 

From what I have read so far this will be a 5* read for me.  

"Then the pass becomes a gateway to the stars.

Beyond a black saddle, between buttresses whose detail is lost or wanly shining perhaps with snow, the stars hand as if the edge of the world were there and one could reach them. They swing in the night-wind that makes them twinkle and never touches the earth; and their shivering light, and their steadfast journeying and their repeated presence make them companions as one lies sheltered in some corrie, a part of the shadow of the hills.

It happened that in this Elburz summer the constellation of Perseus night after night spanned the gap of the pass with his scimitar. He danced in a wind whose earthly brother blew thin from the north and the Caspian Sea. I came to feel his stars as a friendliness and a bond in the gaiety of spaces and the cold of night. The memory has remained and has given the name of Perseus to this book, in which I have written about things that are beyond our grasp yet visible to all, dear to our hearts and far from our understanding as the constellations; a comfort for the frail light they shed. 

Without being astronomers, in our separate darkness, we rejoice in them, and from our caves, our twilights of belief and ignorant names and lonely journeys, feel that we a fellowship that looks to the same stars."

Currently reading

The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories by Various Authors, Martin Edwards
Progress: 64%
Shakespeare And Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher And The Other Players In His Story by Stanley Wells
Progress: 28/285pages
Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark
Progress: 36/172pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 481/1344pages
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair
Progress: 30/741pages