June 15th, 2009

goku - reading

On books and reading...

I went to Half-Price books last night, with the vague idea to seek out some over-the-top Gothics, inspired by [info - personal]rachelmanija's latest review posts, but instead ended up with:

Sheri Tepper Northshore and Southshore
Manly Wade Wellman (forgotten the title and the book is at home, but it's a collection of his Silver John stories)
Ian MacDonald Desolation Road (the first two pages had a real Gene Wolfe Book of the New Sun vibe.)
Bill Bryson Shakespeare: The World as Stage

So I still have that vague urge to read over-the-top Gothics, but none to be had. Hrm.

myrialux got the Branagh version of Hamlet from Netflix the other day. We watched the first DVD on Saturday night, and are saving the second for some other time this week because 4+ hours of The Original Emo Kid is too much for either of us to take at once. (myrialux comment right after he turned off the TV: "Hamlet never stops talking, does he?")

Am bogging down in Clan Daughter, the second book of The Orc Queen trilogy (the first of which I reviewed here a few posts back. I'm still loving the anthropology porn - poking through old ruins, learning nuances of language, running into cultural issues and assumptions - but the plot, not so much.
goku - reading

The Bolter by Frances Osborne

The other major thing I did this weekend (as I had to work Saturday at the ref desk) was to read The Bolter (Powell's link). This is a biography of Idina Sackville*, one of the fastest members of a very fast set** in the first half of the 20th century, written by her great-granddaughter.

There are two perfectly good reviews of the book at Scandalous Women and Jezebel, so I won't bother to do much of that here. This is a book about the British upper class, and deals with the colonial presence in East Africa from the point of view of the British, especially the British Behaving Badly - if you want a book that examines class and race distinction and consciousness at the time, this is not the book you're looking for.***

Idina tends to bolt from each husband, often with her next in tow, directly to Kenya over and over again, where she builds two farms over the course of her life, and along with the Happy Valley Set, as her friends and co-partiers were known, merrily scandalizes everyone, including the British colonial government. Osborne casts Idina's life and actions as a search for stable, lasting love and attention, something very hard to find in such a society as she ran in.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Osborne chronicles the decadence of the sets Idina ran in without wallowing in it, and turns Idina into a reasonably sympathetic character, especially with her love for East Africa.****

What the book also does is give tantalizing introductions to other strong, interesting women who have some sort of connection to Idina's life. Her great-grandmother wrote several books about her and her family's travels around the world on the luxury yacht Sunbeam and others - several of which you can get through Google Books and one at Project Gutenberg. Her mother Muriel Brassey De La Warr, a child during these voyages, was active in the suffrage movement.

So, as I'm getting tired of looking up all these links, I shall stop writing and post. Recommended if you've got an interest in women who reject social norms, the British upper crust of the day, or scandal.

* We shall pause for a moment to get all the "Sackville-Baggins" jokes out of your system.

** Think Paris Hilton fast.

*** Although I think it might offer an interesting comparison with such a book.

**** Something I am overly sympathetic with, having lived in Tanzania as a child.