The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, Kristin Kimball
Kristin Kimball was a total New York City girl, until she fell in love with a handsome, charming, exasperating farmer. This is the story of their first year running a farm in upstate New York, when everything could (and did) go wrong. Despite the trials (and the dirt), Kimball fell deeply in love with her new life and work. She writes beautifully about that year’s triumphs and griefs, about finding new reserves of strength in herself, about struggling forward each day. Lovely and wise.
Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin
I loved Benjamin’s latest, The Aviator’s Wife, so I picked up this novel narrated by Alice Liddell, the original Alice in Wonderland. Benjamin explores Alice’s childhood and her (rather fraught) relationship with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). I am not an Alice in Wonderland fan; I find the story confusing and creepy. But I enjoyed the descriptions of Oxford in the 1860s/1870s, and I found Alice herself a complex, intriguing character. Benjamin also details Alice’s later life, about which I knew virtually nothing, and which I found fascinating and heartbreaking. A gripping (if at times uncomfortable) story of an unusual woman.
The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends, Humphrey Carpenter
I’m fascinated by the Inklings and enjoyed this “group biography,” meticulously researched and detailed. Because I recently read a new C.S. Lewis biography, the first part (about him) was repetitive for me, but I learned a great deal about Charles Williams, and about the group’s evolution over the years. (It saddens me that it eventually dropped off.) Carpenter’s fictional re-creation of an Inklings meeting, drawn from diaries and letters, is particularly spirited and fun.
The Plain Old Man, Charlotte MacLeod
I needed something light after Alice I Have Been, so picked up this sixth Sarah Kelling mystery. Sarah gets roped into painting both scenery and faces for her Aunt Emma’s community theatre production. All is well until an heirloom painting disappears and a cast member turns up dead. This story started slowly, but the pace picked up later and the eventual solution was clever. Part mystery, part comedy of errors, part wacky family story (as always). Good fun.
The God of the Hive, Laurie R. King
Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell’s tenth adventure finds them separated and on the run, from enemies known and unknown. Russell lands in a forest at a hermit’s cabin, while Holmes makes for Holland with his injured son. After resting and regrouping (and some great use of the Times agony column), they head for London and a confrontation with their foe. Fast-paced, with (thank heaven) more moments of levity than The Language of Bees. I was pleased at the return of Holmes’ bolt-holes around London and his well-known deductive reasoning. Lots of fun.
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What are you reading lately?