Monday, April 12, 2010

Kara's March and April Reading


A Girl at Government House, An English Girl's Reminiscences: "Below Stairs" in Colonial Australia, ed. by Helen Vellacott

Recently, I was talking with one of the ladies at church about Kansas and Victorian history. I gave her Pioneer Women; she gave me this. What a fun read it was! It's an edited version of a book published anonymously many years ago. Helen Vellacott found an old copy in a bookshop and liked the story so much that she researched until she found the name of the author. This edition has illustrations and photos of many of the people and places mentioned in the story. It's the memoir of a girl who left England for Australia in the 1890's, and ended up working in the kitchens of several prominent leaders of the day.

Pride and Predator by Sally S. Wright

Second in a series. Dorothy Sayers wannabe, Wright, gives us a story of a Scottish minister killed by bees. I didn't like this nearly as much as Publish and Perish. But that might not have so much to do with the book, as with the fact that I'm a minister's wife.

Changing Planes
by Ursula Le Guin

This collection of short stories soon lost its attraction for me. What began as an intriguing idea (people stranded in airports visiting other "planes") soon flopped, as the stories began to look like anthropological studies. I've since been told that this probably wasn't the best Le Guin to start with.

Bobby Brewster's Ghost by H.E. Todd

Two reasons I took this took this from the shelf: I wanted to read a book that John had read as a child. And my littlest brother had just read it, and given me an enthusiastic report. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Currently reading:

Reformed is not Enough by Douglas Wilson

The Federal Vision book. And I still don't see what the big deal is. I've found the discussion of living by faith in the chapter entitled "Reformation Bona Fides" particularly helpful. I'm still thinking on this: "systematic interpretations may be allowed to interpret what the Scriptures say...but they must never be allowed to replace what the Scriptures say. We can tell we have stumbled at this place when we disallow (for the sake of our systematic understanding) a phrase or statement that the Bible itself uses." (p.54) I'm afraid I've done that before.

The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears

I'm halfway through and I still don't know what's going on. But somehow I feel compelled to finish.

Immortal Lovers: Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning by Frances Winwar

John, Tony (my brother in law) and I were out walking the other day when our attention was drawn to a sign: Book sale, 100m. A little later, there was another: Book sale, 50m. By now, we were excited! This is one of the books I came home with. (John and Tony found several useful Bible commentaries)

Prodigal Press by Marvin Olasky

Not certain one of the major premises is entirely accurate. (Did the U.S. ever have any Christian reporting? Or was it simply that newspapers used the accepted phraseology of the day?) But still a very insightful study on journalism past and present, with a helpful discussion of the ethical issues at stake.

BookSneeze Review: Jane Austen by Peter Leithart

In this slim biography (only 175 pages), Peter Leithart endeavours to counter misconceptions of the "Divine Jane" and to reveal Austen as she was. He shows how her life was idealized in the 19th century, and compares letters quoted in older biographies with the originals. Leithart argues that Austen's satiric, sometimes cutting, sense of humour has been often downplayed or ignored. The Victorian Austen was "an Austen who could never even deign to notice bad breath, much less complain about it to her sister." (page 146)

He also comments on the current craze for all things Austen, labelling it "Janeia". He says that "Jane Austen is now what she never was in life, what what she would have been horrified to become--a literary celebrity." (back cover) Instead, he believes that she was a humble person: "She recognized her own smallness, and she achieved artistic greatness because she recognized her limitations and joyfully worked within them...." (page 153)

I've not read many biographies of Austen, so am not sure if Leithart is really saying anything new. But I found the book a concise, balanced introduction to her life, and a useful companion to Leithart's excellent commentary on Austen's novels, Miniatures and Morals.

Note: Originally, the book was written as part of the Cumberland Press Leaders in Action series, however, publication was delayed when the press went out of business last year. Thankfully, Thomas Nelson decided to print it as part of their Christian Encounters series. I was thrilled to receive a review copy from Booksneeze .