I think the title of Jan Karon’s newest Mitford novel, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, encapsulates what I appreciate about the series. For me, being immersed in one of Karon’s books is being somewhere safe. It’s not that bad things don’t happen to people in her books – in this book one character deals with the death of a mother, and a couple deals with a difficult pregnancy, in addition to a variety of other personal struggles large and small. But it is all seen through the lens of Christian faith, in the context of God’s love and grace and sovereign providence.
I read this book because it was recommended in a class I took in September on “The Role of the Supervisor.” Most of my reading lately has been fiction, and it had been a very long time (probably not since I finished my MBA studies in 1996) that I had read a book on organizational behavior. And I was intrigued by the instructor’s brief description of the authors’ viewpoints about organizations as organisms.
I won’t try to sum up the book’s points, because this review does that better than I probably could. If I had enjoyed reading the book, perhaps I would enjoy waxing eloquent about the ideas expressed in it. But frankly, I really struggled to finish the book before I had to return it to the library.
Having enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book so much, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of Caleb’s Crossing. It has a lot of features that appeal to me – it’s historical fiction, and it deals with themes related to cross-cultural communication, religious faith, and education.
I was fascinated by the depiction of life in the 1660’s, told by a minister’s daughter named Bethia. The language uses a variety of words unfamiliar to the modern reader, but never difficult to understand in context. This archaic phrasing helps reinforce the sense of the story being solidly set in the past, in a cultural context very different from ours.
I didn’t even know Dean Koontz had written another novel until I found The City on the “new books” shelves at the library. Naturally I grabbed it, knowing it might be a while before it showed up on the shelves again. Besides, I wanted a good book to take along to the Wee Kirk conference my husband and I go to each October.
It’s a good book, and I enjoyed reading it – Koontz is a good storyteller. But I didn’t find it engrossing like other novels I have read by Koontz. I would read it for a while, then lay it aside and pick up another book. Then after a while I’d go back to it.
I finished The Columbus Affair a few weeks ago, but decided to put off writing a blog post until today. I was busy, and anyway – today just seemed appropriate. I know, yesterday was October 12, but today is the official government holiday. And being an employee of a community college, I get those holidays off. So I have time to reflect back on what I learned about Columbus from reading this book.
It’s fiction, but it’s fiction that deals directly with mysteries surrounding Christopher Columbus. So there’s a fair amount of history related in the novel, as well as some segments of historical fiction where the events described elsewhere are actually taking place. While I was listening to the audiobook, I was skeptical about how much of it could really be historic fact as opposed to the creative output of author Steve Berry’s imagination.
I looked at this audiobook on at least two other occasions before finally deciding to check it out from the library. I’m not sure what made me hesitate – perhaps the phrase “intimate emotional intensity” on the back of the case.
There different kinds of intimacy and different kinds of emotional intensity, some much more pleasant to read about than others. Some books get too intimate, and even with those that are a level – and kind – of intimacy that I would want to read about, sometimes I shy away from because I want to enjoy my commute, not find myself drawn into the wrenching emotional upheavals of someone else’s life.
But I enjoy historical fiction, and I enjoy books about books. I liked the idea of a mystery surrounding a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript, and the different places in Europe where the book had traveled during its long history. I decided People of the Book was worth checking out.
Having enjoyed Dorothy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, I eagerly read some of her other mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Since I like to read books in order, I started with Whose Body? and Clouds of Witness. About all I can say about them is that I’m glad I started with one of the later books, after she had developed more as a writer. If I had started with one of those first two, I would have wondered why she was considered such a great writer and looked around for another author to enjoy.
Next I read Gaudy Night, which I enjoyed very much, but I found it odd that the story was told from the point of view of someone else rather than Peter Wimsey. Indeed, he comes into the story very little until late in the book. But of course now I want to know more about what happens to both characters.
First, however, I wanted to check out The Nine Tailors, which came between Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night. Unlike several books I have read recently that were more or less enjoyable but about which I could find little to say (hence the dearth of my blog posts recently), The Nine Tailors got me interested in learning about something I had never heard of before: change ringing.