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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Books of Summer - My Turn

My bag has been mixed too; I've spent a lot of time traveling, so I've chosen some titles as quick plane reads and others have been inspired by the places I've visited. I started with two Anne Tyler books; I've enjoyed her work since I stumbled across The Accidental Tourist several years ago. As always, her characters are charmingly bumbling and the stories held my interest (through very long flights). Back When We Were Grownups tells of a 53-year old woman, long-widowed, who is trying to reclaim the girl she once was. A Patchwork Planet's Barnaby, is, by society's definitions, a loser, but Tyler has you questioning those definitions by the time you close the cover.

Okay...I picked this book primarily because of the picture on the front. I needed something that would be light and keep my attention during a long flight. This one did the trick. It took up a big chunk of time as we hurtled westward from Shanghai toward Paris. I did quit a few chapters shy of of the end; I could tell it was a tear jerker, and I didn't want to cry in front of my fellow passengers. I finished it up our first night in Paris when I couldn't sleep anyway because I hadn't yet adjusted to the six hour time difference, and yes, I did sob. It's primarily a contemporary story of friendship among middle-aged women--I guess I'm the perfect target audience.

And now to the Renaissance. Since the last leg of our summer marathon was going to be spent in London, I decided that Philippa Gregory's first book in her English royalty series would be the perfect read. At one point in my life I could recite each of the six wives of "bonny Prince Hal" aka King Henry VIII, and the years of their reign, and many other related bits of trivia no one should clutter their brain with. It seemed fitting that I should delve into this story of his second wife, told from the vantage point of her sister, Mary. I've always thought she was the lucky one--despite the fact that she spent several years as Henry's mistress and bore him two children, she managed to escape with her head.

I picked these two up at the National Trust Gift Shop around the corner from our flat in London. While there, my husband was teaching a class on World Wars I and II, so these two titles, which focus on the experiences of women during the second of the wars seemed appropriate. I liked Chocolate Girls, which was made into a BBC movie, better than Kate and Olivia, which struck me as quickly thrown together after the commercial success of the author's earlier novels.

While we were touring Blenheim Palace, our engaging tour guide mentioned that Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough Balsan's autobiography was available in the gift shop. I made sure to stop before we left the magnificent grounds of the palace and purchase my own copy. Several years ago I read a biography that focused on a number of the Vanderbilt women, and I have since been intrigued by Consuelo, the prototype Gibson girl, forced by her mother to trade her fortune for an English title. She tells her side of the story with grace and wit, even with some understanding for her mother (which I have a hard time mustering).

That's all for now; I'll add the rest of my summer reading list later.


Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

These look good, Jane. I love to read fiction books based in my travel destinations. It gives you another way of seeing, I think.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard that someone was nominated for an Emmy for the miniseries, Back When We Were Grownups. I missed it! I loved the book and hope it reruns.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

I love the Books of Summer series. The tour guides at Blenheim must be very well trained because I bought The Glitter and the Gold for the same reason!

Thanks for all the good leads on reads.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Leigh Forbes said...

I noticed that the book choices for both Jane & Melba look like they're primarily for females. There's an initiative for males as well called "Guys Read" at

Right now the site primarily targets school aged guys but recognizes authors for adults. It is looking for guys to add their reviews/recommendations of "guy" books much like you've done on this blog.

Thought it would be worth pointing out in case there are some guys looking for summer reads too.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

Ah, I must confess to being girly! And at my age! Thank you, Leigh, for providing some balance and a good url.

2:08 PM  

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