One Book, Two Books, Three Books, Four….

I have been fascinated by all of the responses to Simon’s meme, and as I gather my thoughts on my latest read, The Poisonwood Bible, I thought I’d join in for a brief respite from weighty book reviews!

The book I’m currently reading:

They Came Like Swallows, by William Maxwell

I so loved So Long, See You Tomorrow that I raced to the library to see what else I could find to read by William Maxwell, and came away with this intriguing novella set in 1918 Illinois, about a young boy’s relationship with his mother. Exquisitely, sensitively written, it is a beautiful evocation of childhood. I sense a minor obsession with this author will be forthcoming…and I’m eternally thankful to my dear friend Ellen for introducing him to me! Also, as an aside, I am very glad that Vintage appears to be reissuing his novels in the above format – I adore their covers, especially their Yates ones, and think other presses who re-release books should take note of their entirely period and content appropriate choices for their cover art. Though Virago have partially redeemed themselves for me with their new Winifred Holtby covers. Sublime!

The last book I finished:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on this one.  Rich, dense, dark and incredibly thought provoking, this is a marvellous portrayal of the damage inflicted by colonialism and religion and ignorance, as well as a fascinating exploration of the different paths members of the same family can take and what forms and informs us as we progress from childhood into adulthood. It is an angry book, charged with pain and frustration, and it has left me wanting to read more about the Congo and colonialism. I’m so glad I finally read it, and I’m intrigued to read more by Barbara Kingsolver now.

The next book I want to read:

Dark Hester by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

The lovely Heather sent me this when I arrived in America eight months ago, as part of a wonderfully generous welcome package. To my shame I have not yet read it, but keep fully intending to. Anne Douglas Sedgwick was one of those prolific female authors who wrote interesting, topical and well written books that topped the bestseller lists in the early part of the 20th century, and then found themselves lost to the pages of history as literary fashions changed. I am very much hoping to find brilliance within the pages of this. I’ll let you know.

The last book I bought:


Lifted Masks by Susan Glaspell

Found on a shelf in a delightful second hand bookstore in Saratoga Springs, I couldn’t resist buying this beautiful volume of short stories, published in 1912, by one of my absolute favourite Persephone authors. Susan Glaspell’s writing is truly exquisite, and I love her portrayals of daring, convention challenging women who put their hearts before all else. Unfortunately, her books are inexplicably hard to come by, and I have been looking in vain for copies of her non reissued titles since I arrived on her native shore. I love a good short story, so I can’t wait to get started on these.

The last book I was given:

The Magnificent Spinster by May Sarton

I was thrilled to win this book from Thomas after he waxed so lyrically about May Sarton, who was previously unknown to me. I promise I will get started on it much sooner than I have Dark Hester, Thomas!

35 comments

  1. Can’t wait to check my local library for some William Maxwell books. I was born and bred in Illinois, but ironically he’s not well-known in his home state. I’d never heard of him until I saw your book review of “So Long, See You Tomorrow.”

    Also, what a great book meme this is. I’m totally jumping on the bandwagon.

    1. I hope your library has some – I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of him before, but then, I’d never heard of Richard Yates before Revolutionary Road came out – so many fine American writers of the mid century years seem to have fallen by the wayside. Here’s to new discoveries – enjoy!

  2. They Came Like Swallows sounds fascinating, and I love the color. But I’m even more excited to see you post about The Poisonwood Bible. I love Kingsolver, although I’m sure it’ s been years and years since I’ve read any. I’m currently reading a book called One Day I Will Write About This Place; it’s a memoir of a life in Africa, and it’s been reminding me of something (besides Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight) and you have just reminded me of what it is!

      1. But the colour is lovely too!!😉

        I am going to have to take some time over my Poisonwood Bible review…it’s such a dense book that I want to do it justice. It’s also left me with a desire to read more about Africa and the experiences of people who lived there in the days of colonisation. I shall check out the book you mention!

  3. I still haven’t read Fidelity but I loved Brook Evans. I did find a copy of another Glaspell work called Norma Ashe at a used bookstore. I was so tempted but I have sooo many unread books! I may have to go back this week and see if it’s still there. I need to move Fidelity up on the TBR list.

    I love this meme and I think I need to steal it!

  4. What a wonderful title … The Magnificent Spinster, hope it lives up to it! Have you read Time Will Darken It … I think it was even better than They Came like Swallows. But all William Maxwell is wonderful! I’m hoping that So Long, See You Tomorrow will arrive in tomorrow’s post. (Only happy coincidence, not inspired by your review … but was pleased nevertheless to see how much you enjoyed it.)

    1. I know! I shall be reading it shortly so you shall soon know!

      No, the library didn’t have that, but I shall be buying all of his books eventually so it will get read. They Came Like Swallows is going to make me cry, I can tell. It’s very To the Lighthouse I think. Mrs Ramsay reminds me of the mother in They Came Like Swallows.

      What a happy coincidence! Let me know how you find it. I am certain you will adore it as much as I did. Though I am a bit more of a sap than you!😉

  5. The Vintage covers are gorgeous. Good looking books are just extra satisfying!

    The Poisonwood Bible has been on my To Read list for years and I finally get back to full time personal reading this summer so it is going near the top of my list.

    I don’t know which I like more, the cover of Dark Hester or the title of The Magnificent Spinster!

    1. I know! I am normally a diehard hardcover fan when I buy books for keeps, but the Vintage paperback covers (and original green viragos) are my exception!

      Chuck, you have to read The Poisonwood Bible. You’ll love it.

      Ha! I like the idea of the woman on the front of Dark Hester being the Magnificent Spinster!

  6. I am going to reread The Poisonwood Bible! I am so excited, it’s a marvelous marvelous book — by far the best by Barbara Kingsolver, I’m sorry to say. It’s miles ahead of the other books of hers I’ve read (two or three of them). But it’s really, really sad! I can’t reread it too often because it’s so sad.

    1. If you want to borrow my copy let me know!

      I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. I feel very behind the times. It IS sad but I didn’t cry. I expected to cry. I did get a lump in my throat though. So it’s almost crying.

      Really? Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, her book about living off the land? I’m quite interested in reading that. Though it’s non fic so not the same as her novels.

  7. I really like the look of the Maxwell, and somehow in my head having already connected him with Yates am desperate to read him. The only one that the library has though is So long, see you tomorrow. Might give that a go…

    1. So Long, See You Tomorrow is exquisite…and you’d probably race through it in half an hour! Definitely give it a go – I hope you love it!

  8. Ah, you haven’t given us time to find the first Maxwell title before you tease us with another!🙂 This, too, sounds worth finding. I have really enjoyed this meme and yours was no exception. I haven’t read any Susan Glaspell either, but I may have to seek her out as well.

    1. Sorry, Susan! I am just littering the internet with temptation! Oh, Susan Glaspell is DIVINE – you MUST try and get one of her books. Fidelity and Brook Evans are both in print and are magnificent.

  9. Ooh, was the Saratoga bookstore called Lyrical Ballads, by any chance? I found a marvelous copy of She there, and I was going to buy it for Jenny, and then I left town and forgot to buy it.

  10. What a great meme, I’ve got quite a list of titles added to my tbr now! I adore the vintage covers, and I like their print, it’s very reader-friendly.

    You make Maxwell sound so great, can’t believe I haven’t read any of his works!

    1. I have Simon to thank for the meme idea! I’m glad you like the look of some of the books enough to add them to the TBR pile. I think Vintage tick all the boxes for well produced books – I love them!

      I can’t believe I just discovered Maxwell – he’s amazing! I hope you manage to pick up one of his novels soon.

  11. What a beautiful cover! Also, I’m interested in hearing more of what you thought about The Poisonwood Bible – I thought the first 90% of the book was amazing (I loved the religious characters, the wonderful setting descriptions, Kingsolver’s writing style, etc) but then the BIG EVEN happened (you know which one I mean…🙂 and it just kind of fell apart for me from there. I almost didn’t even finish it it fell apart so bad.

    1. Well I have to say I agree…I think the book is overlong and it gets a bit messy after we zoom forward in time…I found a lot of the characters’ actions unbelievable. A bit disappointing but overall I did thoroughly enjoy it and think it is a pretty incredible book. I just think Kingsolver’s indignation at the treatment of the Congolese shows through too much towards the end and it becomes a bit too preachy self righteous for my liking. I totally agree with her, but I just didn’t like the way she expressed herself.

  12. The beautiful cover alone of the Maxwell book would instantly make me want to read it. Now we have your assurance that it’s not cosmetic! Interestingly, the same image on the cover on the Book Depository site looks quite different, more ‘period’. Anyway, both lovely.

    Maxwell is my next big author to discover. His books are set in a time that I love reading about. I think I’ll begin with this one.

    BTW, Rachel, I am reading a book lent to me by an American friend: A Writers’ America (Landscape in Literature) by Alfred Kazin. It is well illustrated with paintings and old photgraphs and discusses the work of all my favourites: Wharton, James, Flannery O’C, Faulkner, E Dickinson, and their accounts about the discovery and shaping of America. If you come across a copy, please look inside. I feel sure you’ll be glad.

    1. Absolutely not only cosmetic, Chrissy – it’s a beautiful novel and I sobbed when I finished it – definitely worth discovering.

      That book sounds wonderful! I shall see if I can track it down – it would be a great companion for me as I wend my way through the history of American literature. Thank you so much for thinking of me and recommending it.

  13. Oh, you’ll love They Came Like Swallows, for sure. Karen (Cornflower) very kindly gave me a copy, thus introducing me to Maxwell. You’re making me want to go on a Maxwell binge…

    1. Oh Simon, it was beautiful! I am definitely going on a Maxwell binge – this is the most excited I’ve been about an author since I discovered Richard Yates!

  14. I loved the Poisonwood Bible – and for me, the family dynamics felt horribly believable. For days I felt like my brain and emotions had been shifted round by the experience of reading it. Lacuna really didn’t do it for me – if you read it I’d be really interested in what you think of the comparison – but I can’t honestly recommend it.

    1. The Poisonwood Bible definitely affected me too, Rose. Such a powerful and thought provoking novel. I’m glad I’m going back to Africa in a few months (for a friend’s wedding), as it has made me hanker for it again.

      I’ve heard a LOT of mixed reviews about The Lacuna and as such I am keen to read it and see what I make of it. It would be a shame to be disappointed after enjoying The Poisonwood Bible so much, but I am certainly intrigued. One of these days I will get around to it!

  15. Sorry it has taken so long for me to get around to commenting on this one, can you tell I am playing blog catch up on a rare free day, as I loved this meme and am thrilled to see that nearly every blog I love has taken part in it. Its such a fascinating way of seeing whats going on in all of our reading lives at the moment.

    1. Oh Simon, no need to apologise! It’s a great meme isn’t it? Simon did himself proud there. I love seeing people’s choices – I’ve picked up loads of recommendations because of this meme!

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