This week I read The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits by Elizabeth Peters. I’ve read all of her Amelia Peabody mysteries. I haven’t liked her other books as much as that series but they are entertaining. This book was written in the early 70s about a girl who goes to Mexico to talk to her estranged father. Then there is a mystery about drugs and why her father is in Mexico and people keep trying to kill her. As you can see I’ve already forgotten most of it in the few days since I read it but it was a entertaining read.
My first plane reading book was Contract With An Angel by Andrew Greeley. A nasty businessman is confronted by an angel and forced to sign a contract agreeing to make up with the people that he’s harmed in his life before he dies. I’ve read a lot of this author’s books too. The only complaints about them is that they have way too much sex. The author is a priest and seems to have a celebate’s conviction that married people (and only married people) have sex 2-3 times a day. It is always mindblowing too. He gives the impression in his books that if this isn’t want your life is like that’s because you aren’t in a good relationship. Maybe I’m the unusual one but I have to go to work and do the laundry occasionally.
Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove. I loved this book! A spoiled, man-hating, single lawyer and mother wishes for a life in a simpler time. She wakes up in 2nd century Austria in the body of a widowed tavern owner. She has to learn to survive in her new world. It challenges all her 21st century politically correct values.
I’ve been slacking in the reading department lately. All I have to report is two books on tape and a book for the library book club tonight.
Country Matters: The Pleasures and Tribulations of Moving from a Big City to an Old Country Farmhouse by Michael Korda. I liked this book a lot but the main thing that kept going through my mind while listening was, “They must have sooooo much money!” As the owner of a house in the country who is trying to get it up to what it could be I can sympathize and only wish I had the ability to write a check every time he complained about paying to have something done. He also won my everlasting sympathy because he had deadbeat contractors too.
His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of Our Time by Carl Berstein and Marco Politi. This book covered the reign of John Paul II up to 1996. It focused mostly on the role of the Pope in the Solidarity movement in Poland. The last part of book discusses his views on issues such as women and abortion. I’d recommend reading this one and not listening to it because it is pretty demanding at times. I’d have a moment of lapsed attention (like to avoid hitting someone) and then be lost.
A Single Pebble by John Hersey of HIROSHIMA fame. This the book for the book discussion tonight. It is the story of his trip up the Yangtze in China in the early 20th century. He was going to propose building a dam. He rode on a ship that needed to be towed up the river by the crew. The story is of his relationship with the towers. He saw that he could simplify their lives but they distrusted him for wanting to change the river.
I spent the weekend reading two books that are semi-related. The first is called Devices and Desires – A History of Contraceptives in America by Andrea Tone. I like medical history and women’s history so this was a very interesting book for for me. This is the first book I’ve read on the subject that discussed motivation for the Comstock Act that made mailing information about birth control illegal. It doesn’t excuse the damage that the act caused but discusses the personal factors that I haven’t heard discussed before. It also discusses ordinary people who made fortunes manufacturing birth control before it was regulated by the FDA.
The second book I read was The Story of Jane – The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service by Laura Kaplan. This book is about a service nicknamed Jane that operated in Chicago in the late 60s and early 70s. It started as a referral network to locate competent abortionists for women. It evolved into the women in the service performing the abortions themselves. The author was a member of the group.
This book disturbed me for several reasons. First of all no members of the group had any medical experience but they considered it their right to learn how to do abortions. They refer repeatedly to the doctors as technicians and get angry that they want to be paid. They talked a bit about what would happen if someone died but mostly they just hoped it wouldn’t happen. They also considered abortion to be an empowering experience for a woman. I’m not a supporter of abortion so this bothered me. At one point they need to provide 10 women a week to a certain abortionist to get a volume discount so they start recruiting for patients.
The other thing that this book touches on is the workshops that were going on at the time that had women use a speculum and a mirror to examine their cervix. I have never been able to understand that one. What can possibly be that interesting about a cervix? They say that it was teaching women to accept their bodies. Ok, that’s important. But why the cervix? It would be a lot more useful to find your clitoris and you don’t need a speculum. I think that’s my upbringing coming out. I was raised by a sex ed teacher and never realized that sex was something most people considered personal and didn’t normally discuss casually over dinner with their parents.
I’ve decided that Liz in Sweden has a fine idea of listing all the books that she has read. I can’t even remember all that I’ve read in 2005 so I’ll start with what I’ve read this week.
Here’s the key to the grading system:
Loved It! Highly recommend it!
Would read it again if I was bored
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler This story was entertaining and it helps if you have some knowledge of Jane Austen’s books. I don’t know them all and I understood the story but I’m sure I missed some fine points.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon It took me a long time to find this book to read because I could never remember the exact title and my library’s computers are very picky about that sort of thing. This book is told from the viewpoint of a teenage autistic boy who decides to investigate the murder of a dog. Interesting but the math gets a little heavy.
The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith This book starts a new series by the author of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. This time the detective is in Edinburgh instead of Africa. I had read No. 1 Ladies earlier this year and was disappointed. It reminded me of the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries I read as a kid. Each mystery she solved seemed disconnected from the rest of the book. There was one mystery through the whole book but it was resolved very abruptly. The Sunday Philosophy Club started out much better. I liked it until about halfway through. Then it got bogged down in philosophical asides. It seemed like he needed something to fill pages because the story wasn’t long enough.
The Widow’s Tale by Margaret Frazer This mystery takes place in 1449. The detective is a nun. There is a lot of good historical detail because several of the main characters are real people although the story is fictional. It got a little heavy going in the middle but the ending was good.