Friday, June 16, 2006

The end of the week in books

There was a Rebecca West in the library last night checking out videos. This was the most exciting event that took place at the library all week.

Books read this week:

Remember the Patrick O'Brian novel where Jack Aubrey takes a French frigate so easily that Aubrey cannot understand why the outmanned ship bothered to put up a fight? Aubrey and his naval surgeon find an especially large egg that's clearly on the verge of hatching in the metal-reinforced cargo hold. Naturally the hatchling prefers Stephen Maturin to all others and Stephen must resign his shipboard duties to care for the young creature. And after a disastrous dinner party ashore, Stephen joins the Aerial Corps and trains to fight Napoleon's forces from the back of his dragon and . . .

Oh wait. I didn't read O'Brian this week; I read Naomi Novik. Novik evokes the Aubrey/Maturin series in His Majesty's Dragon, the first installment of the Temeraire series. Blending fantasy with history, Novik imagines what the Napoleonic wars could have been like if dragons had been part of the mix (there's a brief mention of dragon participation during the Crusades that I hope Novik chooses to expand upon at some point).

Captain Will Laurence begins the novel clearly in the Aubrey role, willing to do his duty when the just-hatched dragon Temeraire selects him as his handler but regarding a life in the Aerial Corps as quite a step down for a Navy man: he won't be able to marry, run an estate, or go about in society, as aviators aren't regarded as quite respectable and are required to live in remote areas of Britain where the dragons cannot disturb anyone. As the novel progresses Laurence's deepening concern for Temeraire and his fellow dragons makes him assume more of Stephen Maturin's characteristics, but it is Temeraire himself who plays Stephen's role in the various philosophical discussions between the two (while all the dragons can talk, Temeraire is very intellectual and interested in obtaining knowledge from books). I was pleased to see the Principia being read to Temeraire (who understood it rather well) since I'd so recently encountered it as the narrator of The Last Witchfinder.

I'll be reading the rest of the series to find out what's in store for Temeraire and the rest of the dragons. The fate of one in this volume had me in tears.

Also read Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The Slaves of Golconda discussion will take place on June 30, so I have nothing to say about this one yet.

Checked out from the library:

The Stone Reader. A dvd recommended by MFS in comments on Monday. A delightful documentary about books and readers that I hope to watch a second time before taking back to the library. Sparked an interest in Catch-22 in my son, which I deepened by telling him this was the book his dad brought me to read while I was in the hospital after having him.

The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion. According to the cover flap, the Vermillion gang "can transform A Midsummer Night's Dream into grand larceny." Should be fun.

The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis. I checked this one out previously, but held back on reading it since there was talk of a discussion with local Readervillans, but after reading an interview with Davis this week, I don't want to put it off any longer.

A Student of Living Things by Susan Richards Shreve. I love the cover and it looks as if it would read quickly.

And, although I meant not to buy books this month, I made a trip to the used bookstore this afternoon and came home with a few. My excuse is that my sister, who has been saying for months that she wanted to see An Inconvenient Truth and was supposed to come to Charlotte today to see it with me since there's no chance it'll ever play in our hometown, decided late this morning that she wouldn't be coming today. With a free afternoon ahead of me, I decided to take a load of books to the store to trade for credit. Unfortunately, and very very par for the course where this store is concerned, only one of the books was deemed worthy of trade-in, and I was forced, forced I say, to justify my trip across town by buying books instead. (I'm sure you all understand.)

Books bought:

The Judge by Rebecca West

H.G. Wells and Rebecca West by Gordon N. Ray

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende

The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman. The book that inspired The Stone Reader mentioned above. This one is definitely not going to be a quick read.


  1. I love Ceremony. Haunting and sad, but great literature.

  2. Anonymous7:52 PM

    You are the third person (besides myself) that I've seen posting on their blog about reading 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' this month - how strange! I also saw the movie this past week - Maggie Smith is just amazing.

    How did you like 'The Last Witchfinder'? I have that one on my wishlist.


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