I went away for an extended weekend and was so excited to bring a bag full of books with me to read. Days and days worth of uninterrupted reading time? Please. This is the stuff book nerd dreams are made of. I tend to put more thought into what books I’m bringing on any trip than what I will be wearing. Sometimes it’s a plane trip and that kind of reading is going to be vastly different from a car trip. Lake side reading is going to be different from foreign locale reading you know?
Anyway, it’s been quiet around here because I left town and access to internet.
I also feel a little bit like I squandered my reading time with poor book material. It’s not that any of the books I brought were bad but none of them particularly grabbed me and most of the time I was hoping to finish the book I was reading so that I could start something else. This is no way to spend uninterrupted reading time!
When we went away I was in the middle of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth. I was promised that this tale of a young seamstress who falls in love with a rich guy and then gets pregnant by him before she is abandoned was the perfect Victorian novel. And in many ways it was: examination of the class system and the role of women? Check. Characters obsessed with the idea of doing and being good? Check. Idealized portraits of hard lives? Total check. But Ruth lacked any of the spunk or “vigour” that I’ve come to expect from my Victorian heroines and all we’re left with is a crappy life where a woman is punished for something that she definitely didn’t make happen all by herself.
I thought that Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess would probably make excellent holiday reading, it falling firmly in my categorization of “guilty pleasures.” But it, like its predecessor The Kingmaker’s Daughter, frustrated me with its tale of things happening around a woman. Elizabeth of York is struggling to find her family’s footing in a world with a Tudor on the throne. When Henry VII makes good on his pledge to marry her and unite the warring families, she must figure out where her loyalties lie. But Henry VII is horrible to her, forcing himself on her before they are wed to ensure that she isn’t barren and never trusting that she isn’t trying to screw him and put her family back on the throne. The entire time they are dogged by the ghost of her brother who was supposed to die in the tower. Gregory definitely thinks that it was Henry VII (or his mother) who made the Princes in the Tower disappear. Once again we’re treated to a history lesson of all the battles and men that made history while the women, even Queens, sat at home sewing and popping out babies.
As our holiday was winding down I started reading Sarah Bradford’s Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy. I had read Bradford’s biography of King George VI and really enjoyed it. I’m still trying to make my way through Lucrezia Borgia and it seems like a case for a Do Not Finish. I have a hard time putting a book aside so this should tell you how much I’m not enjoying it. I think part of the issue is that it’s probably really hard to put together a complete picture of a Renaissance woman; the information available can’t be super complete. But I’m getting really tired of letter fragments and all the things that all the men around her did. If I wanted to read a biography of the Borgia men, I would have picked up a biography of the Borgia men.
The one book that I did manage to enjoy was the Agatha Christie book I brought along, Cat Among the Pigeons. But then when does Mrs. Christie ever disappoint? (Never. The answer is never.)
What do you think? Book rut or bad luck?