One of the things I miss most about teaching is having a captive audience for my lame jokes. There’s really nothing like watching thirty fourteen-year-olds groan and roll their eyes at the same time. It’s most satisfying. My best worst jokes were usually about something literary. For instance: Why did the literary chicken cross the road? Because he forgot his book, book, book. Sigh. I love that joke. If I’ve told you that before, I apologize. Another good thing about teaching is that the kids changed every year, and I could repeat all my jokes. Ha. So let’s talk about book, book, books, shall we? The book, book, books of summer. There’s nothing better.
I love paintings that depict people reading. And in my search for images of paintings to use on the blog, and the subsequent search for attributions, sources, copyright information and permissions, I always find art that I love and artists with whom I am unfamiliar. Like the painting “Robin in Her Zone” by Laura Lee Zanghetti above. Laura says this is a painting of her friend Robin on a trip to St. Martin years ago. I love the bold colours in this painting. Or “Girl Reading” by Clay Olmstead, which makes me think of rolling around into all kinds of positions when I’m in the throws of a good book. Plus I love the wash of gold in that one. And then there’s “No Place to Sit” by Darren Thompson, of a girl standing reading on the subway. Thompson has a whole series of work depicting people reading in odd and uncomfortable places. I love these paintings. Because who among avid readers has not perched or leaned somewhere unlikely and precarious while lost in a book?
For most of today I’ve been scrolling through paintings when I should have been writing about books. But that’s the nature of blogging, my friends. At least for me. I fall down a rabbit hole easily. And when I was exploring, I ran across this article on the Royal Academy of Art website. Ten Novels About Art You Won’t Put Down by Connie Sjödin. Favourite fiction about art recommended by art experts, there must be something on that list that we want to read.
In fact, I just ordered the Katie Ward book called Girl Reading, the “intimate tales behind the creation of seven portraits.” Portraits which depict, you guessed it, women reading. Ward’s book was recommended by Hilary Mantel. And both reviews I read of the novel said it wasn’t a perfect book, but well worth reading. So I’m going to give it a try.
I thought I might also read The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. But just now while looking up Chevalier’s book, I found a new one of hers which appeals to me more. A Single Thread is set in 1932 in Winchester, UK where Violet Speedwell becomes part of a society of “broderers,” women who embroider the kneelers for the cathedral in Winchester. I love a book about craft. I’ve just ordered this one. And hopefully I’ll get back to the other Chevalier book soon. But as Robert Frost said in “The Road Not Taken” … “knowing how way leads on to way,” there’s a good chance I won’t.
And speaking of falling down rabbit holes with recommendations and links and more links, I’ve just read this article in The Guardian on summer reads, as suggested by some of the best writers working today. Like Hilary Mantel and Maggie O’Farrell. Lots of ideas for our summer reading here, my friends. And might I just add if you haven’t read O’Farrell’s Hamnet… what are you waiting for? It’s an amazing book.
Sigh, My ‘books of summer’ pile grows, even as I write.
I’m about to start reading A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. Recommended on a Slightly Foxed podcast, this classic novel deals with a man who has been damaged by war and a failed marriage, who finds healing when he spends time restoring a medieval mural in small Yorkshire village in 1920. This book sounded like it was right up my alley. I’m looking forward to reading it.
I’m also looking forward to reading the novel Crow Winter by Karen McBride. McBride is an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec. Crow Winter is the story of “a young Indigenous woman named Hazel Ellis, who has the magical power to cross between the spiritual and material worlds. Following the loss of her father, Hazel returns to Spirit Bear Point First Nation reserve to be with her mother and to reconcile her grief.” You can read the rest of the article about McBride’s novel here, and listen to her chat with Shelagh Rogers from CBC radio.
Now in case you thought I was veering into a season of purely literary novels and abandoning my love of murder and mayhem, you’d better think again. Ha. Hubby and I have been indulging these past couple of weeks in a murder mystery series that we have rediscovered lately. Sally Spencer’s early books used to sit mostly unread on the shelves at Manotick library. Or at least that’s how it seemed to us. Whenever Hubby had nothing to read he’d decamp to the library and come back with a Sally Spencer. He always liked them.
Only lately when I was searching on Libby for something to read did I discover the wealth of books this writer has produced. Sally Spencer is a pseudonym, by the way, for husband and wife writing team Alan and Lanna Rustage. So Hubby and I have embarked on the second series of mystery crime novels by Sally Spencer, namely the DCI Monika Paniatowski series, set in Lancashire. We’ve both read several in the past two weeks: The Ring of Death, Echoes of the Dead, and Backlash. Hubby is pressing on with Lambs to the Slaughter. But I’m taking a break to revel in some gentle reading and my J.L. Carr book.
The Sally Spencer books are competently written. I like the characters and the plots. They are a fun read, which sounds a bit macabre to anyone but a murder mystery lover. Plus I love a series with a continuing back story. Similar to how we watch the lives of D.C. Smith in the Peter Grainger books or Ruth Galloway in the Elly Griffiths novels unfold, the mystery in each individual Sally Spencer book overlays a developing life for the main characters. This gives a mystery novel depth and richness, in my opinion. As my friend Susan and I were discussing the other day, these are books that you should read in order to really enjoy.
So that’s my tale of the books of summer, from my lounge chair anyway. I’ll report back on those books I have yet to read. I still haven’t started my new Paula McLain book. I seem to want to save it for a delicious treat. Maybe when Hubby goes on his fishing trip in September and I am all alone in splendid isolation Ha.
I’ve been loving all the artwork I found today in my travels across the net. How many beautiful paintings over the years have been made of women reading! What is it about that act of reading that inspires a painter, do you think? Is it the fact that behind the reader’s stillness, and their downcast eyes, they could be anywhere, experiencing anything, on some secret adventure that the observer cannot know? I like that idea.
I love the painting above by Scottish artist Donald Moodie. The gorgeous colours. How the woman is engrossed in her book despite being at the beach. How she’s at the beach in her pearls. The kerchief around her hair, love that especially. And despite the fact that the painting was done when I was two years old, I’d probably wear that outfit now. Minus the pearls.
Ah. Some things are predictable aren’t they? Here I am talking about books and high culture and somehow outfits have to come into it. That reminds me of my friend Wendy from York’s comment a week or so ago on the post Getting Patio Ready. Avid gardener Wendy said she thought from the post title that I was going to write a gardening post. But she should have known better. That’s right my friend. You should have known better. 🙂
Over to you now, fellow readers. Tell us about your books of summer.
P.S. The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission. All the other links are just for fun and further exploration.