As I sat down to write this morning, our furnace roared to life for the first time this season. Yes — we keep our heat absurdly low and I’m sure we could have used some heat in the house on the few sub-30 degree nights that we had in October. But as I type, it’s 27*F outside and the house has gotten chilly enough for the heat to kick on. This is exciting to me because we might finally be moving into fall for good! There’s snow in the forecast for next week; maybe we’re skipping fall and going straight to winter?
Matthew has had a stretch of days off (Friday through last night) so my days have felt so jumbled. I wake up not knowing the day of the week until I study my calendar carefully. And with him home, my evening routine is different so my reading has dipped slightly this week. And that’s okay! Because it’s almost felt like we’ve been on vacation, which is a very welcome feeling. This week I have two books to share with you and I enjoyed them both tremendously.
BOOKS FINISHED THIS WEEK:
The Song of Achilles won the Women’s Prize in 2012. This book is difficult for me to describe because I have a hard time keeping all of the mythologies straight, but there were familiar names scattered throughout and it made me want to study the classics with a renewed fervor. There is so much to learn in this life! This story of Achilles is told by Patroclus, a boy who is exiled by his own father and sent to live with Achilles’ family. They grow up together and Patroclus became his constant companion. Perhaps this is a side of Achilles that never made it to the mythologies? I’m not sure.
This tale was gorgeously written. I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be because of my lack of knowledge of Achilles and because the cover suggests that it’s a tale written during a time of war (and indeed – much of the story was during The Trojan War, a 10 year war to rescue Helen of Troy), but I found myself lulled by the writing and the sensuality of the descriptions. These modern retellings are the best possible way for me to learn about mythology because they’re so enjoyable! I have Circe on my shelf and will try to prioritize it in 2023.
Bronwyn and I finished Happy Birthday, Kirsten this week. And this one might be my favorite Kirsten yet! Her mother is very pregnant with a new baby and Kirsten has to help a lot more around the house. But she and her friends are learning to quilt (!!) and she’s sad that she can’t spend more time stitching with her friends. Kirsten is clearly a girl after my own heart. After the baby is born, Kirsten’s work only increases and she watches as her friends finish up their squares for the quilt they’re making together. Just before Kirsten’s tenth birthday, her family has a barn raising party and they celebrate Kirsten’s birthday at the same time. Kirsten’s sweet friends have a lovely gift for her to honor how hard she’s been working to help her family. Now we’re on to Kirsten Saves the Day!
SLOW AND STEADY:
Babel is my current slow and steady read. It’s not absurdly long, just 542 pages, but I don’t want to rush through it because it’s a stunning novel. Set in Oxford in the mid-1800s, it almost feels like it picks up where Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell left off. Except now, the magic is in silver bars with carefully inscripted definitions chosen by highly qualified translators from around the world. You’ll understand what I’m talking about when you read the book. And it feels so much like The Secret History – a small cohort of select students bouncing around Oxford together. Studying hard with their fountain pens and notebooks. A murderous secret that bands them together even more tightly. They’re so similar that the word bacchanalia is used in both books. I don’t think I’ve ever come across that word anywhere else!
This book is about so much: the power of language, how language becomes lost through the generations, how cultures stole languages to meet their own needs. It’s about colonialism and stripping cultures of their resources and then blaming those cultures for their lack of “progress.” It’s about people of color feeling guilty about their own success while so many others suffer, their experiences in mostly white spaces, and the overt racism that gets ignored day after day. It’s about being hesitant to give up our own creature comforts for the good of others. So much! It’s about so much and I’m enjoying my time with these characters. So 40 pages a day feels like a very good pace.
Yesterday was Election Day here in the US and I’m so glad it’s over. I’m always on pins and needles while the results roll in and I can’t stand watching the coverage. But Matthew and I ordered takeout and I nervously knit, which made the process a bit more enjoyable. I’m relieved by some of the results that I’ve seen so far this morning, so we’ll see how things play out in the coming days. I’m planning to be back on Friday with a quick update on my stitching life. Until then – take good care!