"To The North" and "The Princess Saves Herself In This One"

To The North by Elizabeth Bowen

Well did I ever have the wrong idea about this book. It’s been on my shelf for a long time and I was sure it was about a woman who moved to the far north with her husband. I thought it was about them scratching out a living in the snow and ice of the Northwest Territories. I’ve read several similar stories and wasn’t yet ready for another one so I kept putting it off. When I make my quarterly reading list I always include one book that’s been on my shelf far too long and this time my attention turned to To The North because I’m tired of seeing it there.

What a surprise. It has nothing to do with wilderness life, but is in fact set in 1940’s London amongst well-to-do people with names like Julian and Cecilia. Svelte dresses, cocktails, and beautiful homes are the stuff this book is made of. So I went from thinking ‘pioneer drama’ to ‘upper class fluff’, but surprise again, this is nowhere near fluff. It’s a serious story about how we live our lives on one level while showing the world another, nicer, level. These characters are very human, deeply flawed, and trying to make the most of lives they find unfulfilling.

I love Elizabeth Bowen’s writing style and was pleased to discover a backlist of novels I’d never heard of. So not only did I enjoy a book I was dreading a bit, but I discovered an author with a whole list of books I can now look forward to reading. Success on every level.    

The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace

This is a book of poems that tell the story of a girl who worked her way from abused and depressed to strong and free. It’s written in free verse and I’ve read some of the criticisms that say it’s not really poetry, but I disagree. Yes, there are some that read like an ordinary sentence with the words written in a column instead of a line, but there is more that does read like poetry, in that much meaning is packed into few words. In poetry every word, every image, every figure of speech has a purpose and I see that in these poems. I did think it was a bit self-indulgent at times, but then I don’t know the author or what she’s been through. It's possible that if I read it again, and I want to, I may not feel that way.

Overall I liked it. It’s easy and smooth to read as far as language goes (fyi, there are a few f-bombs) and easy to understand. I got through it quite quickly but it would be possible to spend more time in it absorbing the impact of her words. I do think it deserves that.  


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