Miss Potter – A Novel by Richard Maltby, Jr
Richard Maltby, Jr was on a holiday, in the year 1991, when he raided the bookshelf in the hotel he and his family were staying in, in search of something for his kids to read. He found a book of stories by famous children’s author Beatrix Potter there, among other books. Glancing at the author’s biography in the book, he discovered that Miss Potter fell in love soon after she decided to publish her children’s stories, in her thirties, was then faced with a tragic loss, after which she married – and then stopped writing books altogether. Richard was intrigued by this last line in her biography – why would an author who was happily married stop writing totally? Shouldn’t her writing get all the more prolific, in that case? Thus began Richard’s research on the life of Miss Potter, which ultimately led to the making of this book and a screenplay, which was later made into a movie by the same name.
It is a pity that I never discovered Beatrix Potter when I was a child; I read her The Tale Of Peter Rabbit only recently. However, I am glad I discovered this life story of hers. Miss Potter was a highly imaginative child, who used to make up rhymes and stories about the various animals she encountered, on the spur of the moment. Much to her mother’s chagrin, she refused to be a proper English lady, and insisted on talking to her animal friends at all times of the day. Judging by the book, Miss Potter was quite a remarkable woman, much ahead of her times.
The author has done a wonderful job on the book, I must say. The book is very sensitively and simply written, in a way that touches your heart. Miss Potter’s creativity, wit and determination shines through in the prose. I had an absolutely delightful time reading this book, and I hope all of you will, too.
My copy of the book came with colour pictures from the film Miss Potter – an additional treat, indeed!
A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
I had heard so much about the quirkiness and the dark humour of this book that I decided to gift it to myself for Diwali. Sadly, I didn’t like it at all.
Nikolai is a Ukrainian living in the US of A, an ex-engineer, now in his eighties. Two years after the death of his wife Ludmilla, his daughters Vera and Nadezhda discover that he is in love, again, with Valentina, a ‘fluffy pink grenade’ of a woman who is just 36. Valentina is a Ukrainian, too, and a divorcee, and Nikolai seems to be ready to do anything and everything to bring her and her son Stanislav to the USA. Vera and Nadezhda soon smell something fishy in the whole affair, and are determined to break apart the union, come what may. However, they would need to set aside their petty feuds in order to be able to do so.
Honestly, I didn’t find the book funny or full of sarcasm and wit. Nikolai seems plain dumb, to get married to a woman who clearly is a gold digger, for her ‘superior breasts’ (not my words!). Vera and Nadezhda seem to be living in worlds of their own, with no real affection for each other or their father. Valentina comes across as plain cruel and selfish. No character is likeable.
In the course of the story, Nikolai attempts to write a book on tractors – A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian. The evolution of tractors in Ukraina is shown to have parallels with the life of Nikolai, an intelligent way of narration, according to me. Slowly and gradually, the characters begin bonding with each other, and discovering why their family is the way it is, with all its faults and foibles. I felt the story had so much potential of being a touching, beautiful family saga, but ended up becoming something not-so-great.
This book was not my cup of tea, but I will tell you that I have read mixed reviews for it.
Ex Libris: Confessions Of A Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
I took a long, long, long time reading this book – not because it was too difficult or uninteresting to read, or because it was too long. I wanted to savour each word of this book, soak it into my conscience, delight in finding someone who is even more passionate about books than me. Yes, this is that beautiful a book. And it is all about books!
Anne Fadiman is, by no means, a ‘common reader’. She is an author, newspaper columnist and editor, the daughter of Annalee Whitman Jacoby Fadiman, screenwriter and World War II journalist, and Clifton Fadiman, author, critic, and TV and radio personality. She is someone who has grown up reading, and has parents and siblings who are voracious readers. Her spouse is a bookworm, too. Her parents’ house as well as her own home is full of books, spanning a vast number of genres and authors. Is it any wonder that such a woman loves reading and books, and grows up to write about them? 🙂
Ex Libris: Confessions Of A Common Reader is a collection of essays, each one of them about some aspect of writing, books and reading. I read it one essay at a time, off and on, whenever I wanted the pleasure of doing so. ‘Marrying Libraries’ is about the delights and follies of merging the libraries of two people when they marry, while ‘The Literary Glutton’ is all about the descriptions of food that we find in books and the effects they have on us. ‘Secondhand Prose’ speaks about the joys of buying pre-loved books, while ‘My Ancestral Castles’ is about introducing books to children. This is only a sample of the many book-related essays in the book, mind you!
Each essay is written in Anne Fadiman’s witty, reflective style, and is an absolute pleasure to read. I could relate to all of them, especially the ones where she talks about letting children play with books and learning to read them.
This is a book that I would heartily recommend. Go, grab a copy, if you haven’t already!
Have you read any of these books? Your views?
What are you reading now?