What sticks in my mind about this book is being consumed with fury for 1/4th of it--and then having the following conclusion be the greatest revenge.What sticks in my mind about this book is being consumed with fury for 1/4th of it--and then having the following conclusion be the greatest revenge. A really excellent novel with some very unreliable narrators and detailed characterization. I was amazed at how everything fit together by the end....more
A masterful biography of Jane Addams, a reformer who worked from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Addams was raised by rich and cultured parA masterful biography of Jane Addams, a reformer who worked from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Addams was raised by rich and cultured parents, but she yearned to minister to the poor. After her father blocked her admission to Smith (the first college in the US to offer women a bachelor's degree) and she found medical school bad for her health, she resolved to work in a settlement house instead. From the English example, a settlement house was meant to be an oasis of art and learning in a low income area. Addams poured her personal fortune into founding Hull House in Chicago, making it the first settlement house in the US. Although she began by offering classes and a library, living amongst Chicago's poor opened her up to all the other areas she could be of use. She devoted the rest of her life to speaking, writing, protesting, organizing, and (eventually) voting for peace and social justice. Addams's true genius seems to have been in empathy, understanding, and helping others to become their best self: she was a masterful organizer, and founded and served on the boards of everything from the NAACP to the ACLU. She advised (or pestered) eight US presidents, pushed through laws at the state and federal levels, led Hull House until 2 years before her death, and worked on a truly international level when most Americans still considered "international" to mean "including Europe and Japan."
Before reading this biography, I'd had no idea of her scope and reach. She's famous in Chicago--I actually worked in a youth group that met in Hull House--but to me that settlement was the extent of her activities. I'd also had no idea how much she had thought about ethics and philosophy. Knight brings together her friendships, work, and words together to create a portrait that seems as real as a living being.
I love the postscript, both as a summing up of Addams's work and for its call to action, and have included most of it here:
On the whole, history confirmed that the fears of conservatives were unfounded. The end of child labor, which Congress banned in 1938, did not force major industries out of business; women's ability to vote did not destroy the family; federal old-age pensions, the federal minimum wage, and state unemployment insurance did not destroy the American capitalist system. The US's membership in the UN after WWII did not destroy the country's national sovereignty, although conservatives continue to claim that it has, or will soon. On the other hand, seventy-five years after her death, many of the problems worked on by Addams and other reformers, of both genders and of every class and race, remain unfinished. At home, we still have poverty, obstacles to labor organizing, an inadequate minimum wage, discrimination against immigrants, unjust immigration policies, human trafficking, inadequate affordable housing, racism, and sexism. Around the world we sill have war, although the work of the UN has prevented or shortened some conflicts. And the injustices that burden women around the world continue... Meanwhile, the two institutions Addams did so much to help create live on. Hull House is the largest social service agency in Chicago. WILPF, the oldest women's international peace organization in the world, is still headquartered in Geneva and still works for peace and freedom."
A novel of the Bronte family, from the children's childhoods to their deaths. It's told in a beautifully elliptical manner. I got the impression of grA novel of the Bronte family, from the children's childhoods to their deaths. It's told in a beautifully elliptical manner. I got the impression of grim, narrow lives with loads of tragedy and lack of opportunities--but also the shining, open vastness of Emily, Charlotte and Anne's imaginations....more
Virginia Woolf's article "On Being Ill" is paired with her mother's guide to amateur nursing, "Notes From Sick Rooms." Hermione Lee and Mark Hussey prVirginia Woolf's article "On Being Ill" is paired with her mother's guide to amateur nursing, "Notes From Sick Rooms." Hermione Lee and Mark Hussey provide wonderful accompanying essays on the context in which these pieces were written and the interesting ways in which reading them together assists in understanding Woolf, Stephen, and illness. I loved the writing in Woolf's "On Being Ill" (I had to pause every paragraph just to savor the words) and found Stephen's guide to be a lovely historical artifact. Both Stephen and Woolf view the ill as being very sensitive to sensation and imagination, but Stephen is more focused on how to make them comfortable, while it seems that Woolf posits the impossibility of understanding or truly commiserating with the ill, and so concentrates instead on how it feels to be ill and therefore solitary and alienated....more
Captain Jack Aubrey and his particular friend, Dr. Steven Maturin, return to England. Within days of his arrival, Jack's credulous nature (at least onCaptain Jack Aubrey and his particular friend, Dr. Steven Maturin, return to England. Within days of his arrival, Jack's credulous nature (at least on land) and kind heart put him in the crosshairs of a political scandal. While he withstands imprisonment and trial, Steven tries to figure out the truth of the matter.
Another beautifully written novel from O'Brian....more
Wilson has written a comprehensive guide to adulterations, alterations, and substitutions made to our food, ranging from Romans sweetening wine with lWilson has written a comprehensive guide to adulterations, alterations, and substitutions made to our food, ranging from Romans sweetening wine with lead to GMO crops in the modern day. Fascinating! (My status updates contain the examples that most struck me.) Wilson's theory is that there will always be attempts to save money or effort by cheating or changing how food is made. Particularly, swindles like making fake eggs out of chemicals or fake tea by carefully coloring and curling tree leaves will happen when the costs of raw materials are high and human labor is cheap. The most effective ways to prevent these counterfeits are: make people aware of what quality food tastes like, so they are aware of when they're lied to. Someone who knows what real milk tastes like is a lot less likely to pay money for whitened water, for instance. Put regulations in place to protect consumers, as in the medieval guild systems or through the government. Regulators have to test constantly and stay on the forefront of science, and these regulations have to have serious consequences. It seems relatively simple, but Wilson documents how time and time again, just agreeing on regulations is hardly done, and even then, enforcement starts strong and rapidly becomes lax or outmoded....more
Books by Pym are always concerned with the inner lives and details of people living quiet, retiring lives in England . As always, there are frustratedBooks by Pym are always concerned with the inner lives and details of people living quiet, retiring lives in England . As always, there are frustrated love-affairs, slightly uncomfortable dinner parties, and carefully examined friendships. Thirty years passed between Pym’s first novel and this one, and the time has clearly made an impression. Most obviously, there is a sizable queer presence in these books. Moreover, the parties and thoughts of the young people described are finally approaching modernity. I initially hated the main character, a middle-aged woman of delicate tastes and beautiful manners. Snobby, self-contained and selfish, she gives little and requires much from the people around her. She’s an older, less dynamic Lily Bart, and it’s actually quite disturbing. But as the book goes on, the subtleties of her situation and mind are revealed, and she slowly becomes more sympathetic. By the end, her own desperate loneliness has been exposed, but because she finally recognizes the truth—that she *is* lonely, and so are other people—it seemed a happy ending to me....more
Over 400 pages of definitions, facts, and glosses for the most alien aspects of 1800s England. And there are a lot of them! The nineteenth century sawOver 400 pages of definitions, facts, and glosses for the most alien aspects of 1800s England. And there are a lot of them! The nineteenth century saw the birth of much of what we think of as unremarkable necessities of civilization: a police force, basic schooling for all children, a national mail system...This is truly a fascinating read, and one I highly recommend for anyone reading regency or Victorian-era literature. ...more
Violet Tempest grows up in a happy household, the beloved only child of amiable and generous parents. She and her father spend their days riding and hViolet Tempest grows up in a happy household, the beloved only child of amiable and generous parents. She and her father spend their days riding and hunting through the old forest that surrounds their home, and Violet (called "Vixen" for her auburn hair and manner) is strong of heart and body, not intellectual but very sensible. The only possible flaw is that her best friend Rorie's mother, the ambitious Lady Jane, does not approve of their close friendship. But then (view spoiler)[Violet's father dies, throwing Violet into deep mourning and leaving her in the care of a foolish widow. Captain Winstanely first courts Violet, but she takes an immediate dislike to him, and so instead he marries her mother, Pamela. This marriage to a younger, poorer man encourages Pamela's worst aspects, her vanity and inability to stand her ground. She sinks into a mere diaphanous shadow in the household, while Violet and the Captain struggle against each other: the Captain trying to save money for himself through smart economies, Violet trying to maintain the old ways of her father (old but beloved servants, open handed generosity to the village, etc). Meanwhile, Rorie has given in to his mother and betrothed himself to Lady Mable. Eventually all comes out right: Mable finds a man whose ambition and interests match hers and breaks her engagement to Rorie, Rorie is free to marry Violet, and the Captain loses both his wife and her income and leaves the country to marry some other heiress. (hide spoiler)]
It's all exceedingly pleasant and diverting, told with a wonderful mixture of light ironic humor and sincere good will. The descriptions of the Violet's forest are captivating, and her love for it is my favorite theme in this book. There's also a running question of the meaning and legacy of people's lives. Miss Skipworth devotes herself to creating a universal religion that will bring glory to her dying name; Lord Mallow to Ireland (though he couldn't bear to stay there more than few weeks out of the year), Lady Mable to writing immortal verse in order to prove she's worth more than other women. And there are the characters who seek more physical and immediate purpose: Pamela and the Captain to physical comfort and the notice of their peers, the Duke to growing gigantic turnips and cattle. Violet and Rorie, meanwhile, each suffer long periods of feeling idle and useless. It is only when they are together that their lives have meaning, and that is of a purely personal sort; they seek only to be happy with themselves, to feel that they've behaved well toward others and love someone worthy. It's a sweet turn on the idle rich, and I quite liked it. In fact, I liked this much better than Braddon's more famous and gothic work, Lady Audley's Secret. I think the writing here is at least as fine, but without all the annoying sexism. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
A fantastic sequel to The King's Peace. In my eyes, these two books are the first to rehabilitate King Arthur and his knights. The Victorians (I spitA fantastic sequel to The King's Peace. In my eyes, these two books are the first to rehabilitate King Arthur and his knights. The Victorians (I spit on their graves) twisted Arthurian myth into a high-strung, overwrought, completely-disconnnected-from-reality farce. Walton brings the myth back to earth. The first book follows Sulien as she fights along side the High King Urdo. Years of battles, strategic marriages, and negotiation later, the island is united under his rule and his Peace. The disconnected tribes, villages and kingdoms of Tir Tinagri are finally recovering from the years of barbarism and regaining civilization--but as peace spreads, so too does discontent and distrust. Sulien and her allies must once more ride into battle to protect the Peace.
I had trouble keeping all the characters straight (they generally appear once or twice and then, a hundred pages later, I have to remember who they are once more), but the battles are well written, the characters finely wrought, and the overarching plot enthralling. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in medieval Europe or Arthurian tales....more
Two princesses from Byzantium enter into the royal family of the newly created Holy Roman Empire , and are swept (or sweep themselves, rather) into aTwo princesses from Byzantium enter into the royal family of the newly created Holy Roman Empire , and are swept (or sweep themselves, rather) into a grand adventure for the security of the realm. This is how historical fiction should read. I liked the characters, particularly the main one, and I was constantly hoping for the best while fearing the worst. This is a good book to read if you’re in GRR Martin withdrawal—it’s not as enthrallingly epic, but the court politics are realistic and the battles are well-written and suspenseful....more
Pym writes loneliness, the urban/modern condition, and humanity’s oft mistaken attempts at communication and companionship very well. Given that her cPym writes loneliness, the urban/modern condition, and humanity’s oft mistaken attempts at communication and companionship very well. Given that her characters are generally overlooked middle-aged people clinging quietly but desperately to a pretense of gentility, one might assume her stories are unhappy. Of course parts of them are, but I get the feeling that her characters are happier by the end of her novels than at the start. They definitely progress, toward intimacy with another person(s) or toward an inner understanding. This book is no exception. Jane is the dreamy, highly educated wife of a vicar; her friend Prudence is an equally highly educated younger woman searching for love. I loved Jane dearly. She’s forever quoting ancient poetry and not setting up for tea and wearing the wrong kind of dress, and she isn’t unhappy about her lapses from femininity one bit. She’s just the sort of person who fuels her mind and heart and lets the rest of the world go to blazes through inattention....more
Lady Sybil was once a very scandalous lady, but after her death she has been reduced to haunting Harroweby House. But then a coming out ball is thrownLady Sybil was once a very scandalous lady, but after her death she has been reduced to haunting Harroweby House. But then a coming out ball is thrown for Selinda, her great great granddaughter, and Lady Sybil has more love affairs to arrange and villains to chase off than ever before. Luckily she has the help of Selinda's beloved younger sister Lucy, who has the Second Sight and more than her fair share of intelligence.
This is a wonderfully fun romp in Regency England. There's a good deal of romance, of course, but what struck me most was the humor, from sly quips to full on prat falls. I liked all of the main characters, from romantic Selinda to soft-hearted Lord Waverly, and the side characters are delightfully colorful and foolish. It's a cheerful and kind book, and it quite cheered me up to read it....more
Tells the tale of a young man born with every advantage nature and fortune can give him, who is yet unhappy and unfulfilled. Sebastion, who is born aTells the tale of a young man born with every advantage nature and fortune can give him, who is yet unhappy and unfulfilled. Sebastion, who is born a duke, struggles against society’s assumptions in a quest for meaning and wholesome goodness. He is alternately assisted and hindered by an old adventurer and his various love affairs. ...more
**spoiler alert** Some atrocities are studied as school children with such a narrow focus that the idea that the atrocity could happen again, to anyon**spoiler alert** Some atrocities are studied as school children with such a narrow focus that the idea that the atrocity could happen again, to anyone, seems impossible. The Holocaust is one--slavery in America is another. There is a glut of fiction written using each as its background, but few stories convey any immediacy or intimacy of the horror. Yolen's The Devil's Arithmatic is one that does; this is another.
The book begins as the reminiscence of a young prince. He is being raised by his mother, a foreign princess, and by a cadre of men known only by their numbers who have taken charge of his education. From a very young age he is taught music, the classics, scientific reasoning. And he is never allowed to go outside. An intriguingly gothic tale, and one that abruptly increases in horror upon the revelation that the prince and princess are African slaves. Their pampered lives are part of an experiment--an experiment drastically changed by the start of the American revolution. This is probably the most hard hitting piece of historical fiction about slavery I have ever read. It drew me in, got me comfortable with its exquisite style, carefully crafted language, and brilliant narrator, and then started punching me in the gut and never stopped.
Although it is excellent, I cannot give this book five stars as I spent a good half of the novel feeling violent and ill....more