My feelings about this book are a bit muddled for several reasons: 1. I eat up memoirs and historical accounts, but the writing here is a bit contrived...moreMy feelings about this book are a bit muddled for several reasons: 1. I eat up memoirs and historical accounts, but the writing here is a bit contrived at times, thick (i.e. dull), and perhaps a bit biased. I enjoy a challenging read, but it wasn't always challenging for the right reasons. 2. I was really looking forward to reading about this fiercely independent, intelligent, and visionary woman who made her own place in the world. While all of this is true and I respect it, I deeply question her (Britain's) motives for "helping" the Iraqi people and can't exactly relate to her as I thought I would because she sometimes comes off as too rich, spoiled, or severely egotistical. 3. I loved learning more about the tribes that roamed Persia and Mesopotamia and the formation of Iraq. You can tell the author did some really great research (just as Bell did), even though much of the issues and facts are written from a flawed early 19th Century perspective. Of course, this is the world of Gertrude Bell herself..i just thought the reader would benefit from somehow incorporating a fresher contemporary perspective that is less one-sided. 4. The author does cover some of Gertrude Bell's failings/weaknesses. I understand that one might not want to spend the time writing a biography of someone unless they really looked up to them, but I felt that these failings/weaknesses could have been shown with more honesty. 5. Most of my complaints are balanced by the fact that the author really has outdone herself with her program "Seeds of Peace" that promotes understanding and growth among the youth of fueding groups in the middle east. It's some outstanding stuff and shows the author's passions and concerns for what they truely are.
All in all, I'm glad I read this. I learned a lot and would certainly recommend it to others interested in the history of the area, but would urge that the reader take it "with a bit of salt." If ever get the nerve up again, I'd consider reading some of the other biographies that exist on Bell for comparison and definitely some histories on the area from an arab perspective.
One other thing I might note: As I was finishing this book in an airport over Christmas, I was able to discuss it with a very intelligent Iraqi woman sitting in back of me. She had heard me explaining the book to the person with me and even though I normally do not like engaging in airport conversation with strangers, I'm so glad i did because i learned a lot from her about what the war is like on the ground in Iraq and her first-hand understanding of her people and the middle east. I never imagined what it would be like to have to evacuate my own home because there was a ticking bomb in the back yard and I hope she will never have to again...whoever you are, thank you for sharing your life with me. It is a wonderful and hopeful thing to be able to meet the individual faces behind an ugly war and to be able to share a mutual understanding.(less)
another book that I wanted to love but only liked. I'd heard so many good things about it and did find a lot to like but was ultimately disappointed i...moreanother book that I wanted to love but only liked. I'd heard so many good things about it and did find a lot to like but was ultimately disappointed in some of the writing style itself. It's a wonderful story, just not always wonderfully put-together.
For the most part, the author's voice is very clear and poignant, a joy to read. The landscape, food, and daily life comes alive brilliantly. However, all too occasionally, she goes off on these tangents of train-of-thought writing into memories of her childhood. etc. that she can't seem to connect back to the rest of the book very well. These sections become aimless and disconnected from the rest of book. It's like she's trying too hard to be deep and intellectual, so instead of adding a layer of insight into her childhood/lifeview, she just taints the rest of a beautiful memoir of a beautiful place.
I don't want to be too harsh, I'm sure the sentiments are true and meaningful, but I just wish she would have left some more of it in her personal journal and stuck to what she does best (i.e. not deep diving pyschology). Just because you have the money to buy a place in Italy and have other people restore it for you, does not mean you are an intellectual god. I am at once attracted to the life of a priveledged intellectual as I am repelled by the inescapable pretensiousness of it.
What does she do great? The recipes for instance! What a great way to bring that aspect of the book full circle. I would love to see a well-designed/scrapbookish/full color version of this book with photographs of the places and food.
She really opens this personal world up to the reader and brings them into the house and gardens, a warm and welcoming place where i would like to spend so many afternoons drifting into my own dreams of owning and restoring an old house.(less)
one of my favorite Hemingway books and favorites all around. It's a standard so you should read it anyways, but it also provides entertaining and inte...moreone of my favorite Hemingway books and favorites all around. It's a standard so you should read it anyways, but it also provides entertaining and interesting insight into the young Hemingway and the world of expatriots and literature he was stepping into. In addition, I think it's a wonderful and personal account of Paris in the 20's.
Hemingway has gained such an uber-macho reputation in his later years, but his younger self is much more likeable. Much more open to the possibilities of what lay before him, generally happy, and not the tormented man we see later on. We see him building his reputation and character as a writer/man, and socializing with some of the best writers of the period. Odd to see him looking up to other writers and beginning with self-doubt--very human here and i think it's quite refreshing.
Interesting historical account about the man behind the Smithsonian and the world he lived in. Interesting, that is, without reading like a textbook.
B...moreInteresting historical account about the man behind the Smithsonian and the world he lived in. Interesting, that is, without reading like a textbook.
Based on the reviews on the back, I was really hoping for a more gripping tale though. I would still read it again regardless of this, but I feel that was slightly misleading as some of the writing can really get tedious and meanders as the author skims the bottom of the well for "facts" about a man we know so very little about. It is more an account of assumptions about what his life may have been like and why he chose to donate the money rather than providing any substantial new findings.
The title/cover is also misleading because the book hardly deals with John Adams at all. He makes a brief appearance at the end. While this is fine and dandy and is fine reading, I just wish it was represented accurately in the way the book is being marketed.
The author comes from a backgroud in journalism and I found her choppy sentences and bird-walking-esque reporting style of writing to be distracting at times.
I'm being pretty hard on it though because it was worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the formation of the United States, The Smithsonian Institution, James Smithson, Early American Presidents and the Congress/Senate, as well as British and American relations in those early formative years.(less)
A great writer, whether you like the terrain or not.
I have not read any of her other books, but I am a big fan of this one. It is humourous and dear,...moreA great writer, whether you like the terrain or not.
I have not read any of her other books, but I am a big fan of this one. It is humourous and dear, ripe with blasphemy and deep spirituality all at once, which is just how i like it.
Anne Lamott writes about life and christianity with very real and human eyes. She is blunt but tender in her thoughts, highly educated and yet unafraid to show sentimentality. She is a bundle of extremes that work together beautifully with all their flaws and jumbled opposites. She embraces the grey that invariably lies between the black and white of life and christianity.
I am not the type to read a lot of self-help or religious material, but this book stands apart from such a sordid lot of those types and offers great insight and great storytelling. I would highly recommend this book.(less)
I'm not sure where you would even find this book in print anymore as I read my mom's old paperback copy from the 70s and I have never seen it in store...moreI'm not sure where you would even find this book in print anymore as I read my mom's old paperback copy from the 70s and I have never seen it in stores.
If you can find it though, it's definitely worth it, especially if you enjoy historical fiction. The book follows the life of Desiree, the woman who was engaged to Napoleon before he "hit the big time." Instead though, she eventually marries one of his rivals and complications ensue.
It's very readable and really interesting because it's all based on the true life events and individuals of the Napoleonic period. Of course it relays much of the information about the wars and political intrigue, but it is much more about the life of the lead female as an aristocratic woman and her personal struggles in relation to the volatile national events of the time. Kind of a love story, but so much more.
I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend reading it if that is your cup of tea.(less)
I try to avoid the kind of book about the typical young woman growing up in turmoil as I read one too many of them in high school and slowly realized...moreI try to avoid the kind of book about the typical young woman growing up in turmoil as I read one too many of them in high school and slowly realized that after you've read one or two, they are really all the same.
I think this book carries a certain element of that but it only starts there and I enjoyed that it took the story a few steps beyond that. The author's voice is much more mature and the storyline takes the reader into truly thoughtful experiences as you follow the author through her adventures as a freelance photojournalist in war, famine, poverty, and environmental extremes.
Her insights as an independent woman traveler and photographer are honest and I enjoyed this close-up look into a field that I had considered for so long. It really brought out the gritty side of this glamorous world while still keeping an optimistic outlook for adventure and self reflection.(less)
I'm not sure how it happened, but i read this book in just two days...working weekdays i might add. It's been awhile since I had something I could eas...moreI'm not sure how it happened, but i read this book in just two days...working weekdays i might add. It's been awhile since I had something I could easily just flip thru without straining to decipher the several layers bound into each sentence and so I found myself enjoying her easy but intelligent and unpretentious writing, loving her (sometimes curiously brief?) descriptions of food and cooking, and slowly but surely finding myself understanding her story as a bit more than just another paperback of the independant female finding her path thru food and travel and men.
I liked it when Francis Mayes included recipies in her books on Tuscany, and find that Reichl used this practice to even greater advantage because the recipies don't just match up with part of the story, they tell part of the story themselves--some are delicate and sophisticated, showing her knowledge and appreciation of "culinary sensuality."; others allow the reader to see that even a gourmet afficianado such as Reichl can appreciate the simplicity and heartiness of sturdy american cooking--coming from the Michigan myself, i really appreciated her nod to this area; and then some, such as her Mother's, I don't really want to believe were included for actual use, but rather as very creative/thematical (is that a word?) evidence of this woman's 50's inspired kitchen nightmares.
All said and done, this book was warm, smart, entertaining, and relatable...perhaps not classic material, but certainly worth picking up if you find yourself interested in the subject area. (less)
Prior to a couple of years ago, i had not even heard of it or knew of any Tolkien writings other than those on middle earth. This is an incredible col...morePrior to a couple of years ago, i had not even heard of it or knew of any Tolkien writings other than those on middle earth. This is an incredible collection of letters which Tolkien wrote to his children each year in the guise of Father Christmas and his various helpers, most notably the North Polar Bear. Many of the original letters and beautiful drawings have been reproduced here, not just printed out. Also, this particular publication includes many previously unpublished bits and is chock full of Tolkien's doodles. His story of Father Christmas is indeed a good one that you'll want to follow through letters but perhaps my favorite aspect is how Tolkien himself speaks to his children through the lines and what we are able to glean about their family life and the changes the world is going through during the time in which the letters are written.
This book is fast becoming a favorite in our house as an annual christmas tradition and i hope that someday we will read it aloud to our own children each year.(less)
This book was written by my English professor from college who I will always have a deep and lasting respect for as she is an incredibly intelligent,...moreThis book was written by my English professor from college who I will always have a deep and lasting respect for as she is an incredibly intelligent, funny, personable, and sharp individual whom it was a pleasure to know. She always had these great stories from her life to share with us as anecdotes to express a point in class when it came to writing about oneself and I am looking forward to reading her now published work that fits into this very same vein. I also took a couple of classes with her now former husband and so on another level, I hope reading this will bring some peace to the back of my head on the matter of their divorce...I know she has come out alright in the end and I can only wish them both the best.
******************************************* Just finished reading this and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a lot. I sometimes was a bit fuzzy as to the direction of the narrative, but ended up enjoying the loose arrangement of memories mixed with more current experiences and the thought patterns which evolved from both and shaped the author.
I was surprised by how personally revealing the book was and enjoyed her self-deprecating but warm and inviting tone, her motivation to remain a thoughtful and independent-minded woman during such personal strife, and her clearly delineated intelligence and honesty. I might also add that I very much appreciated the stories of her conservative up-bringing as I was raised in a very traditional German-Lutheran family and can most definitely relate to the weird food, ancestral culture, and the journey of evolving from the conservative mindset of childhood by way of education and travel.