Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Birth of Love

I finished a book! Haha! I actually finished it last week, but it's taken me until now to decide exactly what to say about it.

I first became interested in reading Joanna Kavenna's novel when I read Jackie's review over at Farm Lane Books. Being a newish mother myself, I can say that I'm newly interested in all things childbirth and motherhood-related. Before Greyson I probably wouldn't have felt compelled to try this book, though having finished it, I think I would've enjoyed it for Kavenna's beautiful writing.

The novel follows three main threads:

Dr Ignaz Semmelweis is a doctor in 1865 Vienna, and he proposes that many women die of childbed fever because doctors don't properly wash their hands between autopsies and births. Simple! However, his peers largely reject his observation and he lands in a mental institution.

Brigid Hayes is a mother in modern-day London juggling the needs of her young son as she approaches her due date. She cycles through feelings of guilt and excitement and stress and exhaustion as she cares for her son and anticipates the new arrival. Reading about Brigid's labor was riveting and exhausting. It was interesting to see those sensations and emotions described on the page.

In the year 2153 Prisoner 730004 is on trial for concealing a pregnancy. There was much more to this thread than I anticipated as several of the prisoners made appearances "interview style" as they were questioned by the authorities of their society for their roles in escaping the city Darwin C and setting up something like a commune where 730004 had her baby.

There's also another thread that I've hardly seen mentioned anywhere. Maybe because it felt unnecessary in relation to the rest of the book. Basically, a novelist named Michael writes the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, gets it published, and deals with his own feelings of hurt and remorse for his ailing mother as he works himself up to go visit her.

So what's so great about The Birth of Love? Quite honestly, there isn't much plot at all. It's small snatches of these folks' lives mingled together by turns. On the other hand, I think that's what makes it interesting. Because it's written in short pieces of each person's experiences, the emotions are heightened. It was downright intense in many a spot. Kavenna's writing is straightforward but her word choice hits just the right note to make some moments heartbreaking. This was one that got me:

She thinks of Calumn, waking in his little bed, wondering where she is. Crying, "Mamamam." She has only spent a few nights apart from him since his birth. Mostly, and in defiance of the opinions of experts, he spends the night in their bed, nestled between her and Patrick. She wonders if he woke in the night, and if he cried for her and found she had gone. Her mother would have been sleeping in the spare room--she imagines Calumn shuffling along the corridor, opening the door of the main bedroom, finding it empty, not knowing where else to look. Bemused and lonely in the corridor, in his little pajamas. She should have told her mother to sleep in the main bedroom instead. She hadn't been thinking, at the time.
Can't you just see him in those little footy pjs? Ugg! Killed me.

At the end of the day, The Birth of Love is a good book because the time periods are varied but cohesive, the experiences seem honest, and the writing is fabulous. There's something for the historical lovers, the sf crowd, and those who just love great fiction. Everything (except that one weird thread I mentioned earlier involving Michael) seemed nicely integrated and nicely planned. All the pieces fit, and letting them unfold was a joyous reading experience.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Post-Christmas Post

Part of our living room Christmas setup.
Merry Christmas Recovery Day to everyone! We had a great time. The family drove out to my mom's for a Christmas Eve lunch, and we hosted dinner for our family and a couple of friends last night. Everyone had a wonderful day of togetherness, food, and gifts, and everyone in my house is still asleep. The kids were up until the wee hours playing with their new iPod touches and Chuck was up processing photos from the big day.

Feel free to "Friend" me on Facebook for more photos. I'll give a little preview of Chuck's handiwork throughout this post.

I have to say, it wasn't a bookish Christmas this time around. With my reading slowed a bit, I just didn't see the point in racking up a whole lot of books, but I did get a green backplate for my Nook. Just something to brighten up the original grey back.

My Christmas goodies were heavily weighted toward fashion this year: new makeup set, makeup brushes, PUREdkny perfume, a new jewelry box, Kohl's gift card, Lane Bryant gift card, and some loose cash for a Pier 1 trip. Y'all may remember that after Greyson was born, I did this whole self-makeover thing, and so far it's working out for me. With the promotion at work it's more pressing that I look nice every day, and my growing shoe collection reflects that. Ha! I'm taking over Chuck's half of the closet and he's a little distressed.

Greyson had a giggly-good first Christmas. He's had a massive influx of toys, and he's trying this best to play with all of them while he's also trying to walk. He's going to skip crawling, I think. He'll inch along and do a crawly thing if he wants something nearby, but for the most part he pulls up, stands, and tries his best to just get on with the walking already.

The Rockets also had a great time. They're growing up so fast it's ridiculous. They both got a lot of clothes this year, and when they're all decked out they just look so mature! Scary!!!

It was lovely to have such a good holiday in the midst of what's been a stressful holiday season thus far. It's back to work tomorrow with lots of course planning and beginning-of-term stuff to get in order, but I'm rested and ready!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sick? Just read!

Yep, the snot monster strikes again. I'm usually head-coldish somewhere round about my birthday in November, but this year it's decided to wait until four days before Christmas. I'm at work like a good little minion, but I don't think it'll last too terribly long to tell the truth.

In good news, I am reading MULTIPLE BOOKS. Can't even tell you how long its been since my readerly mojo has stirred enough to read more than one book at a time.I finished Joanna Kavenna's The Birth of Love last night, and while my Nook was charging I skipped to where the movie left off, and started a partial re-read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Once the Nook was set to go I dipped into Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance.

Other books looming on my shelves for this holiday break: Reginald Rose's play, 12 Angry Men, and selected stories from Stephen King's Different Seasons. I'm looking forward to both. Will let y'all know what else I add to the Lit and Film syllabus.

What are you reading? What good recommendations have I missed in my prolonged absences??

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Blogger Holiday Swapness

Happy holidays! I'm actually singing "happy holidays" in my head. I'm sitting at the library after a second day of marathon grading for my online classes, and I'm so tickled to be done, I could practically piddle myself. The holidays are upon us, oh bloggy lovelies. How do I know??

My Book Blogger Holiday Swap package arrived last week!!! My delightful Secret Santa sent copies of Joanna Kavenna's The Birth of Love and Simon Van Booy's Love Begins in Winter. I was actually already reading The Birth of Love because I'm a very bad, impatient monkey, and I downloaded it to my Nook. However, I'm about 30 pages from the end, and I looooove it. I'm tickled to have a pretty copy to call my own and keep on my keeper shelf.

I feel like a horrible superfan of Van Booy's that I haven't sucked it up and bought my own copy of Love Begins in Winter before now. Thank you, thank you, Secret Santa for rectifying this most horrid mistake o'mine!

And what else was in the package? The COOLEST THING ever for a coffee lover: a fabric coffee cozy! You know, like those cardboard sleeve things you get at Starbucks, but made of pretty brown and white fabric and totally nice to the planet. I didn't even know the crafters of the world made such a thing, but I'm so excited to be in the loop now! It's gorgeous, functional, and super-green. *heart*

You know what the sad thing is about all of this?? I have NO IDEA who my Santa is!!! Chuck threw away the box when I wasn't looking. OH MY LORD! Santa, please come out and show yourself. I need to thank you properly!

*bloggy smooches*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wayward Reader Returns OR The Sunday Salon

That's me! The wayward reader. It was actually pretty nice to take a blogging break. I can't say that I'm out of the woods yet. Tonight I finished final grades for one of the schools where I teach online, I have a buttload of papers to grade for another set of online classes, and there's the usual managerial nightmare of wrapping up one academic term in-person and starting another. I'm jonesing to get some work and reading done over the break. I'll be in the office but the students and teachers won't be! Woot!

One thing I'm really excited about is that I'm teaching an independent study next term!!! It's Literature and Film. Off the top of my head, I think we're supposed to read Stephen King's novella, "The Body" and then watch Stand By Me. I've never read it or watched it (Crazy! I know!). Another read-and-watch is Twelve Angry Men. Despite any readerly cravings I might have, I definitely need to read through these and brush up on my film terms over the holidays. I'm also itching to bring in some of my own short stories and films to the class. Number one among them: a chapter of Ghost World, and the fantabulistic movie. You heard me. Good stuff!

Other literary goings on in the coming semester: I'm teaching Early American Lit and Children's Lit again. Those are always a good time.

And I realize we all know this already, but OPRAH CHOSE DICKENS!!!! It made my Estella's Revenge heart go pitter-pat. I will most definitely buy a copy of this edition for my permanent collection. It's RED AND WHITE AND BLACK (just like my blog), and I've been meaning to re-read A Tale of Two Cities for eons.

Rocketgirl finished reading Great Expectations for school recently, and I'm happy to report that she really liked it. I'm not sure Estella and Miss Havisham had the same impact on her that they did on me as a kid, but she may come around in her later years.

So what have I missed? What are you reading? What challenges are you joining? How is the holiday season treating you all?
Images by Freepik