The Summer Book – Tove Jansson (1972)
I don’t know if irony is the right word for this, but the fact that my reading challenge suggested I read a book about summer in autumn was a little odd! I actually am not a huge fan of the summer, I live in Queensland, and it’s too hot. I am sensitive to the sun, overheat really easily and sunburn with hanging out just one load of washing outside! So I was not sure where to begin in reading a book about summer. Thankfully, after searching ‘summer’ in Apple iBook’s, this little gem popped up.
A book about an elderly Grandmother and her very stubborn and strong-willed six year old Granddaughter living on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland, The Summer Book is peaceful and kind and relaxing. It is a gorgeous book and I am so glad it was translated into English in 2003, or I may never have had the pleasure of reading it! I found myself laughing out loud to this book, it is humorous, inspiring and warm. Tove wrote this with her own family in mind and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did take some learnings away from this book which were:
- Some days it is important to slow down;
- Soak it all in, every pebbly, stick and change of wind – pay attention and enjoy it all;
- Love those closest to you, quirks and all; and
- Perhaps our lives are over-complicated for no real-good reason and we would all benefit from a tiny little island off of Finland occasionally!
Poems by Emily Dickinson – Series One – Emily Dickinson (1924)
I will be honest, I am not a poetry fan. I don’t really understand it, I certainly respect those who do, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I also don’t really understand art, I know that makes me sound ignorant but really, I just do not get it. Fortunately, however, I realise that ‘understanding’ poetry, does not directly correlate to your ability to understand life. Really, art and poetry are the same – it is a form of expression. On the other hand, photographs speak to me. That I understand, it must just be how my brain is wired.
My reading challenge had a book of poetry listed and I had been avoiding it for weeks on end, because I just don’t like poetry. Emily Dickinson’s series one book was very sweet, with poetry about nature being the sweetest. I cannot help but feel bad for Emily that during her life less than 12 of her 1800 poems were published, and it was only after her death was she considered to be one of the most original and influential 19th century poets. Look, there is no point lying – I just do not like poetry and every page was a struggle, but I can certainly appreciate Emily’s talent and ability, like all poets – I take my non-creative hat off to you!
Stripped: Twenty Years of Secrets from inside the Vegas Strip Club – Brent Jordan (2010)
Okay, so I still am not entirely sure why I chose to read this book, I think it was free on iBook’s and I had downloaded it, so may as well read it! What I thought was going to be an eye-opening look-see behind the dark world of strip-clubs and debauchery in Vegas, turned out to be a basic and repetitive story form a security guard’s point of view. It wasn’t written very well, but it also was not fiction, so you can’t expect it to be twists and turns the whole way through. It certainly opened my eyes to a few things but it was pretty boring and I would not recommend it to anyone looking for something juicer. Mind you, I am completely turned off by the entire world of dark and smoky strip clubs, not really my scene. I think the man who wrote it, Brent, has suffered terribly in his short time physically for his role and I winced whenever I read about the pain he was experiencing and the possibility of lung cancer due to other people smoking in the clubs.
It is a book of sex, cash, violence and greed but not at all as entertaining as you would like it to be. My only take from this book was don’t become a stripper and don’t let my husband become a security guard at a strip club. You know, the basic sort of life warnings you give yourself ;).
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985)
As one of my absolute favourite books for the year, The Handmaid’s Tale was again chosen due to the mini-series coming out on SBS this year. I knew I couldn’t start it until I finished the book and once I started the book I am pretty sure I read it in two or three days. With only 311 pages, I was not expecting there to be so heart-stopping. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, established and enforced by the Sons of Jacob. You remember Jacob right? According to the book of Genesis, he was the third Hebrew progenitor with whom God made a covenant, he also had two wives – Leah and Rachel (sisters) Jacob had 12 sons and each son became their own family and were the Israelites. Let me just leave this little pearler for you ‘Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30:1).
Okay, that’s enough old-testament speak from me, but I am sure it gives you a little background into The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred is a Handmaid, her job is to get pregnant to her Commander and his Wife (read: slave captors). Women are not allowed to read, write, or leave the area. Handmaid’s are valued only if they are fertile. Offred had a Husband and daughter, a job and was a free woman in Boston – but not anymore.
This book is terrifying and the mini-series is even scarier. You know what is scarier though? It is not really that far from fiction. Perhaps the fertility aspect of it – but not the slavery, woman’s right, loss of freedom side of things. I recommend you give it a read and be very, very thankful for where you live in the world and the rights we have, there are far worse situations out there in the world and we should all be ashamed and frightened for it.
To be continued…