Brrr. It was every bit as cold, wet and dreary out as it looks in these photos. This is where I was on Saturday morning. The first Farmer's Market of the season. It was a bit empty since there's not a lot of produce yet to sell and it wasn't a particularly pleasant day to spend time outside browsing the food and craft stalls. The Old Market is one of my favorite weekend destinations. It's a nice leisurely fifteen minute walk from my house and I'd been looking forward to a little weekend shopping, though not in such brisk (it was around 35F/1.6C) weather conditions. I at least came away with a bunch of yummy green onions, a jar of creamed cinnamon honey and some delicious Dutch apple jelly (it has chunks of apples and raisins in it...I don't think it will last long in my refrigerator). Nothing artistic about my photos I'm sorry to say, my fingers were too cold and numb and I just wanted to get home with my goodies.
Sunday morning was spent inside a coffee shop with a hot cappuccino and a bag of dried mangoes and my copy of Charles Palliser's Quincunx. I guess if nothing else, the cold weather gives me a good excuse to remain in hibernation mode. I should be writing about some of the books I've recently finished, but as I have spent time with some new books and am close to finishing a few others, I thought I'd share another sampling of my reading.
I've done another shifting about of books. It's hard to believe that we are almost midway through the year and I'm feeling a little claustrophobic about my reading piles. I need to clean things up and reassess, return books to shelves that I think might be better read at a later time and finish those that have been lingering. To that end I've made a nice (long) list of books I want to finish, noted page counts (what I have left) and am trying to get through them in a more orderly manner.
High on my list of books to read at the moment is Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times. I should be able to finish it in another day or so. It's hard to put down, but also is nicely organized in manageable bite size pieces, too, so if you can only read it in fits and starts you won't feel adrift. The book is organized in chapters that are loosely connected recollections and remembrances of people, both nurses and nuns as well as patients, that Worth worked with in London's East End. They can almost be read as character studies. She portrays life in the Docklands so vividly. I imagine now that area of London has been revitalized and no doubt property is a hot commodity, but in the 1950s it sounds like it was massively overcrowded, pockmarked by uncleared bomb sights and filled with terribly outdated deteriorating housing--much of it having been condemned years earlier but was still being lived in by (often large) families.
"Victorian tiles flagged the passageway which passed a staircase with a fine carved oak bannister. This was still in beautiful condition, although the stairs were crumbling and looked highly dangerous. I was glad I did not have to walk up them, The house had obviously been part of a fine old Regency terrace once, but was now in the last stages of decay. It had been classes as 'unfit for human habitation' twenty years previously, yet people were still living there, hidden away amongst the rats."
There are two more books by Worth that are part of her memoirs. Although I've seen the first season of the TV adaptation, I plan on waiting to watch the others until I've read all three memoirs. The show is every bit as good as the book by the way!
I had high hopes that I would be able to read a baker's dozen of books by Canadian authors within the span of a year. I'm blaming it on the odd weather we've been having--this endless winter. It has totally messed me up, allowing the year to slip away without having any of the normal markers along the way to recognize the passage of time. You know, things like winter's gradual giving way to so spring-- sunshiney, breezy days filled with warmer weather, buds on trees and bushes, daffodils and tulips bringing color to the ever present shades of winter grey and brown. It all has just melded together. I truly feel like, with the biting morning winds, that it is still March and not May. But it is May and there are only two more months before the challenge finishes and I've only just finished book number seven, Timothy Findley's The Wars. It's mostly just poor planning on my part and not giving the books I had picked up along the way a good chance (two have now gotten reshuffled back into the TBR pile).
But I have started Louise Penny's award winning first Armand Gamache mystery, Still Life. I've heard many good things about it and have fallen quite naturally into the story, which is set in the small village of Three Pines south of Montreal. It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and one of the locals has tragically been killed as the result of a hunting accident. Or was it an accident? Already I have been introduced to some of the quirky village residents and just today Inspector Gamache, his wife Reine-Marie and Agent Yvette Nichol who is being called in on her first homicide investigation. I think this is going to be a case where the place is almost as important as the cast of characters.
"Yvette Nichol rang the doorbell within fifteen minutes of hanging up the phone. Standing awkwardly on the stoop she looked around. This was an attractive quartier, within an easy walk of the shops and restaurants along Rue Bernard. Outremont was a leafy neighborhood populated by the intellectual and political elite of French Quebec. She's seen the Chief Inspector at headquarters, bustling through the halls, always with a group of people in his slipstream. He was very senior and had a reputation for acting as a mentor to the people lucky enough to work with him. She counted herself fortunate."
I suspect I'll be looking for more books in this series since this one has started out so promisingly.
Okay, one more and I'll keep it short since my post seems to have gotten away from me. I started Charles Palliser's rather chunky Victorian-ish novel, The Quincunx. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Teeny tiny print, oversize trade paperback that is pretty hefty, and an alphabetical character list that is almost four full pages long. The story kicks off with two gentlemen discussing an unnamed third party--there is a hidden document (no doubt of great importance that will make or break some poor man or woman), and then a passing of money from one to the other.
Now quickly pan to another scene--the countryside. Quiet, idyllic, a young boy swinging on a fence quite contentedly. Watched over by his nursemaid and mother. There is no father about. Who was he, and where he's gone or what happened to him is so far a mystery--to both the reader and young Johnnie. It reminds me already of a good Wilkie Collins story, so yet another promising beginning. I won't share a quote now, but expect to hear more about this one soon.
Along with these three I'll be reading (and finishing) Martha Grimes's Hotel Paradise. As much as I have enjoyed lingering over the story I think it's time to finish it and move on to the next Martha Graham book, which sits by my bedside. It's joined by a small (new) stack of library books and two new Persephone Books . . . But more about those later.