After quite a long winter break, I’m ready to get back to my Regularly Scheduled Life. I went to see the warmer part of the world for a few weeks (Mexico, via cruise ship) and since I had so much free time, I did what any self-respecting reader would do. I read a lot of books. I read, walked (miles!) and ate. In other words, pretty much perfection!

I started with Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson, and it was the only book I actually bought – the digital edition. My husband is still travelling with a bunch of paper (books, journals, etc.) which is adorable, but, at least for travelling, I have gone completely paperless.

I have found that almost everywhere I go these days there are books to borrow.  On the ship I took out Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, and Ya-Yas in Bloom, both sequels to novels I enjoyed. In fact I’d already read Ya-Yas in Bloom once and its ‘mother’ Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood many times. Ya-Yas in Bloom was not as satisfying a story as Divine Secrets but it provides a rich back-story, and a forward-story into the lives of Vivian Abbott Walker’s children. Revenge Wears Prada was entertaining but I ask you, are we really expected to believe that Andy, who became at least knowledgeable and appreciative of High Fashion in The Devil Wears Prada, would revert to being clueless about what to wear? I think not.

But getting back to Tracks. I only became aware of the book after seeing the movie trailer and since I love autobiographical books about women travellers I thought this was right up my alley. I still haven’t seen the movie and I’m glad I resisted until I’d read the book. To say it was interesting doesn’t do it justice. I am in awe that Davidson survived to write about it. Passages keep floating back to me about the physical and emotional pain, beauty and ugliness. she experienced. I’m glad I bought it because I know I will read it again.

I don’t know if it is a coincidence or the times we live in, but both Tracks and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (which just came out as a movie) focus on travelling as a healing journey. I read Wild about a year ago and I just saw the movie.  I was happy to see the movie stayed true to the book and that it touched me even more deeply than the book did.

Oh, I almost forgot. I reread Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman which I also have in digital format. It is interesting, entertaining and a good read which will make you healthier if you follow any of the advice.

Back on solid ground, (more or less, since I have been suffering from Mal de debarquement after getting off the cruise ship. and reading is an excellent recovery strategy since the swaying zaps my energy,) it has been a Jane Austen couple of weeks. Well, Jane Austen modern-day versions. I started with Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith, a writer I hugely admire, and finished with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, which I didn’t have high expectations of. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed it more than the ‘weightier’ Emma.

First I must comment on Jane Austen. Emma was the assigned reading for Jane Austen when I was doing my English Lit. degree and I found Emma Woodhouse to be a such an unlikable character that I gave up on Austen before I really gave her a chance. If I had read Pride and Prejudice first my studies would, I imagine, have gone in a completely different direction. However, all of Austen’s novels dealt with the limited opportunities for women during her time, as well as class differences, and for the most part, her main characters are modern women, compared to the norm. For both Jane and Emma, marriage (at any cost) is not their goal, although for Emma it is because she is in the rare and fortunate circumstance of not needing marriage (or partnership of some kind) for financial security.  That’s modern, even today.

I’ve been trying to figure out why McCall Smith’s Emma didn’t resonate with me. Perhaps it was that his Emma didn’t feel modern. For one thing she is meaner. Austen’s Emma is for the most part accidentally mean, more a matter of her not thinking. and her transformation which comes as an awakening of the impact of her words and actions makes her more likeable. McCall Smith’s Emma is more deliberately mean and I wasn’t convinced of her redemption. But Austen’s novels are complex and multifaceted and I have no doubt other readers saw things I missed. I do agree with one reviewer however who said that “Mr Woodhouse’s Gluten-Free World was the spin-off novel he would have preferred to write.” (Viv Groskop, The Observer.) I hope he will.

The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennett was certainly modern. Lizzie is taking a Master’s degree in Communication and begins posting an online journal on YouTube. I didn’t know until the end of the book but theses videos are actually on YouTube and the book came out of the videos. (Check out The Lizzie Bennett Diaries on YouTube). It is a great concept and, the book at least, is very well done. It stays fairly close to the plot while adding amusing touches, like Mr. Bingly is Bing Lee.  There are only 3 daughters in this version, but Lydia gets a cat named Kitty, and Mary is a cousin. It is witty and fun.

That’s all I have for you. I plan to be taking a reading break for awhile but then again I heard about a new Elizabeth Gilbert novel…and by no means does a good read require a warm sunny place. That is just the icing on the cake.

Winter Reading List



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