Reading Behind Bars & The Innocent Wayfaring

 Reading Behind Bars by Jill Grunenwald

To begin on a positive note, I learned something about how a prison library works and found that interesting. But from the title, I hoped I'd be reading how specific books impacted individuals, what insights they gained and how it helped them. Instead, the focus was on the author's day-to-day life while she worked at the prison. In the epilogue she talks about the impact the individual inmates had on her, but I don't find the book reflects that. I found her flippant, her tone almost mocking at times. When she tells us how she put certain prisoners in their place, almost gloating, she doesn't cast herself in a favourable light.

Though the blurb on the cover says it's "a memoir of literature, law, and life as a prison librarian", only a few book titles were mentioned and that was as far as the "Literature" part of it went. The writing wasn't great; it seemed to be padded for length or impact or something else that didn't end up being effective. It was short on editing, even proof-reading. Some gratuitous swearing (by the narrator, not the inmates) felt forced and out of place and overall I found it shallow when there was real potential for deeper stories of human connection. 

I didn't like the book or, unfortunately, the narrator.

The Innocent Wayfaring by Marchette Chute

A young girl from a wealthy family runs away from a convent where she's been sent to learn the homey skills needed to make her a good wife. She meets up with a young man who has rejected the life laid out for him as a tradesman for the freedom of life as a poet. They travel and meet with a few adventures together until at last they return to the girl's home where they announce their intention to marry. 

I can't say exactly why I'm not enthusiastic about this story but it's lacking something. The fourteenth century setting is believable, but the plot and characters feel unrealistic and unrelatable. It's pleasant as a fairy tale, and maybe that's what the author intended it to be. Still, even a fairy tale has a point to make, something you can take away from it, but I didn't find that offered here.