Easter, "One of Ours" and an update on other things.

Mum was home for 10 days and is back in the hospital again, this time with an infection. She's weak and exhausted from these constant hospital trips. But tomorrow is Easter, (technically it is now at 1:44 pm.) so we'll take her some flowers and try to brighten her day as best we can.

I finished "One Of Ours" by Willa Cather and found it quite good. I'm a fan of Cather's writing. I find it articulate, down to earth, and easy to read. She tells a good story and makes her settings come alive. This book follows a young man named Claude through his coming-of-age years on his family farm, his education and romances, his dis-satisfaction with his life, and his eventual enlistment and participation in the First World War. Here he found his real purpose in life and could become the man he'd always wanted to be. I recommend the book because of the great writing and good story.

I wish each of you a blessed Easter. This is the most important day in the Christian calendar, a day that gives us reason to celebrate in spite of whatever else is going on, because it's the day that reminds us we are not alone and we shall never be alone again. There is a God who cares about us, and who has made a way for us to relate to Him in a personal way. He's not waiting for us to be perfect, He's just waiting for us to reach out to Him no matter where we are in life, no matter what we've done or neglected to do. Because of Him, we have hope in the darkest of circumstances and peace that doesn't depend on what is happening around us. If you have questions about any of this please feel free to email me at mcfadden(dot)dianne1(at)gmail(dot)com and I would be honoured to try to help you find the answers

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

"The Enchanted April", "Excellent Women", and other stuff.

Mum was discharged from the hospital four days ago. We were all rather alarmed but she is happy to be home. Things are very much still a day by day situation and her health is quite precarious; she's far weaker than she was before she was admitted. Hopefully she'll be able to enjoy some time at home before the next situation arises. The view from her window is at least more spring-like than it has been for months. We've had a long, miserable winter, but today the sun is shining and I can hear chunks of ice falling off the bank into the river. That splash is one of the most beautiful sounds of the year.

Once the emergency was over and things settled down in the hospital I was able to pass some time by reading. I didn't have the mental energy to put a lot of thought into the books I was reading, but it was quite refreshing to read stories and not think about themes, structure, character development, etc. I simply read and enjoyed the reading. It took me back to my younger days when I would hungrily devour book after book without thinking much about them at all.

  One of the books I read was Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. I loved it! The main character is Winnifred Lathbury, a single woman living in post-war London. The story is about her life - her friends, neighbours, church, job - all the ordinary things in a woman's life. The lovely writing, the dialogue, the detail, and the wit all made it a very entertaining book to read, exactly what I was looking for. I'm looking forward to more Barbara Pym.  

The other book I read was The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. I saw the movie a few years ago and loved it, but many bloggers recommended the book over the movie so I've been intending to read it for a long time. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I expected to. I liked the characters and the location was fabulous. Who wouldn't want to spend April in an Italian castle? The descriptions of the grounds, the flowers, the sunsets, and the views made me think about starting a "Going To Italy" fund right away. The story was good, but I found it a little slow going at times. That's my only complaint and it's not much of one. It won't keep me from searching out more of Elizabeth von Arnim's books. I've read great things about "Elizabeth and Her German Garden".

I finally finished the Einstein biography as well but I'll leave that for another post.

Life and "Travels With My Aunt"

My life right now is still split between home and the hospital. Mum is stable at this point, with an infusion of iron giving her some energy and an appetite. It's still a battle to find a balance between heart function and kidney function. They lowered her lasix dosage when her kidney function declined, then the fluid built up again and now they've had to increase the lasix. There's no knowing how long her organs can go on like this. I found out today they are moving her again to another floor. It seems she's in one place till the bed is needed, then she's moved somewhere else until that bed is needed, then she's moved again. She's been getting excellent care where she's been in Geriatrics so I'm disappointed that she's going somewhere else.

I finished reading "Travels With My Aunt" by Graham Greene and was delighted with it. It was an easy read for a stressful time, but more than that it was thoroughly enjoyable. I liked the story, the characters and the language.Since then I've been able to get back into the Einstein biography in a limited way. I read about 20 pages a days so it doesn't get too overwhelming, though it's less daunting now that I'm in the latter part of his life where there is more emphasis on his personal life than on the science.

I've begun reading "Bellman and Black" by Diane Setterfield for book club next week. I probably won't be able to go but I like to keep up on the reading if I can. So far I like the book, but I'm a little leery because it's been called a ghost story and I really don't like ghost stories. I did enjoy her first book "The Thirteenth Tale", and am hoping this will be as light on the ghost aspect as that was.

I'll leave you with this quotation that came in my email today. I thought you might like it:

"Laughter is wine for the soul - laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness - the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living."
Seán O'Casey (Irish playwright)

A Time Apart

I'm not getting much reading done these days. I'm spending a lot of time at the hospital where my 89 year old Mum is in a steady decline. We were looking forward to a 90th birthday party in October but that's looking less and less likely each day. She was in hospital in February for two weeks, then home for three, then back in. It's sad to see how much weaker she is now than she was just a month ago. It's been difficult for all of us to see her suffering with vomiting, pain and confusion. At this point we just want her to be comfortable. 

I had been reading a biography of Albert Einstein but it became a bit too much for my stressed and tired brain so I set it aside and am now reading Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene. It's light and it fits into my purse so I can keep it with me for a few odd minutes reading here and there. The Einstein would require a Uhaul. I'm supposed to read "Bellman and Black" for book club but I'm not sure at this point if that will happen. 

I do have one post I still need to write. I finished "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar" a few weeks ago and I hope to get something posted about it eventually. I didn't like it. That may be all I end up saying.

Wishing you all a great weekend,

"Things I've Been Silent About"

Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi grew up in Iran during the reign of the last Shah. She was there during the Islamic revolution and watched as her freedoms, as a citizen and as a woman, were taken away one by one.

 I read another of her books, Reading Lolita In Tehran, a couple of years ago and was impressed with her intelligence and writing skill, but mostly with her story. She stood up to authorities who tried to stifle her, she spoke out and refused to become the silent, submissive  woman she was expected to be.

Reading Lolita centered around the women she worked with and taught, but this book takes a closer look at her family life, especially her relationship with her parents. She comes from a political family: her father was the Mayor of Tehran and her mother a member of Parliament for a time. When she was growing up, their living room was often filled with intellectuals discussing politics and exchanging ideas about art and literature.

The author had a complicated and difficult relationship with her mother. She was closer to her father, who sometimes used her as a buffer between him and his wife. There was a lot of conflict in their home, but in her writing her treatment of both parents seems as balanced and fair as would be possible in the circumstances. All of this personal conflict takes place against a backdrop of revolution and war and the loss of women's rights and freedoms.

I enjoyed this book on many levels. It's always a treat to read intelligent writing, especially when it comes with a good story, but I was also fascinated with the history lesson it gave. What little I knew about the revolution I'd gleaned from the newspaper and tv reports, which are always limited as sources of information. This book gives us a first hand look at life inside Iran during the turbulent years (are there non-turbulent years in the Middle East?) when their society was divided between the militant secular and the equally militant religious. 

I recommend both Reading Lolita In Tehran and Things I've been Silent About. They provide a great reading experience as well as a close up look at an important part of our world's history. 

"How To Read Literature Like A Professor"

How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster

What a great find! I've been looking for something to help me get more from my reading and was lucky to find good used copies of this one and How To Read Novels Like A Professor by the same author. I expected something along the line of a text book, maybe a bit dry but with helpful information; instead I got one of the most entertaining books I've read in a long time.

Thomas Foster must be popular as a professor. He's smart, funny and down-to-earth and I found myself more than once wishing I could sit in on his classes. Anybody who can make learning this breezy and interesting, and this much fun, has my admiration and my gratitude. 

Some of the chapter titles will give you an idea of the topics covered: Every Trip Is A Quest; Nice To Eat With You: Acts of Communion; When In Doubt, It's From Shakespeare; Is That A Symbol?; It's All Political; Geography Matters and It's Never Just Heart Disease. Every chapter taught me how to look for things that I had been missing much of the time and every book I've picked up since has been more interesting as a result.

If you want to get more from the books you're reading, and you want to have a good time learning how, this is the book for you. If you have an education in literature, you will already know this stuff, but for ordinary readers like me, this is a must read. A wonderful book!