Sunday, January 01, 2017

December Reading List





My goal for the year was to read 50 books.  That's how many I read last year, so I figured that was a good number to aim for.  However, I fell a bit short and ended up with 34 books read.  That's 2.8 books per month, so I guess that's not too bad.

This month I finished three books.

The first was The Pianist by Wladylov Szpilman.  This is the true life story of Wladyslaw Szpilman who was a professional pianist. He was also Jewish, living in Nazi-invaded Poland during World War II. This is an incredible story of survival and of horror. It is the story of the death of many around him, but also the story of the indomitable human spirit and will to survive. I saw the movie of the same title before reading the book and thought surely Hollywood made up the ending. But, no, it is what really happened (and I won't spoil it for you!). This book shows the horrible, terrible atrocities carried out by the Nazis. It also shows the way non-Jewish people helped Jews during this time. It's also incredible to think that the book was written soon after the war ended, so all the details are fresh and adequate, not unreliable remembrances from 40 years back. And if you really don't like to read and would rather just skip to the movie by the same name, I can tell you that it is very true to the book.  I don't recommend the book or the movie for younger people and in the movie there are scenes where you will need to look away.  That sad, I do highly recommend both the book and the movie.

The second book I finished was called How to Really Love Your Adult Child by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.  This book is helpful to parents who have young adult children. I think it would be most helpful to those going through the transition of children leaving. Chapman and Campbell include a helpful chapter on why leaving home looks so different for Gen X'ers than it did for Boomers.  The authors have some very practical tips to help parents whose kids have left and come back again (boomerang kids), those whose kids just won't leave, and those whose kids find themselves in dire straits (such as a divorce or death of a spouse) and need to come home for a limited amount of time. They also have a section on encouraging your children who have moved out and are doing well and how parenting looks different now than it did when they were home. It also has a great section on grand-parenting and on leaving a legacy for your kids and grand-kids. Overall I think it's a helpful book.

And the third book was another biography called The Duchess (originally published as Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire) by Amanda Foreman.  I was especially interested in the story because we visited the Chatsworth House, the Cavendish summer estate, in May. That was the first time I heard about Georgiana, so when my sister told me she had just read this book and passed it on to me, I was eager to find out more about her. I found the book interesting, but not riveting.



Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was probably the best-known woman in England in her day. She lived a life of privilege and influence, yet of sadness, dissipation, and was part of a dysfunctional family. She seemed to live a life of contradictions. Georgiana was beautiful and influenced fashion. What she wore one day was en mode the next. Yet her husband paid little attention to her and seemed unimpressed with her beauty.  Later they did seem to achieve a sort of comfortable friendship.  She influenced Whig politics, knew the Prince of Wales and the Prime Ministers of England personally, campaigned publicly, and was a true politician, yet lived in a day when she could not vote. She was wealthy, yet gambled it away. She had friends, yet "borrowed" from them to pay back gambling debts; but instead of paying back debts, she simply gambled more. Georgiana was insecure in her friendships resulting in her deepest friendship being with Lady Bess who moved in with the Cavendishes and had an affair and two children with Georgiana's husband. It is not clear, but the two women may have also had a lesbian relationship. Georgiana claimed to be religious, yet she had several affairs herself and an illegitimate daughter as a result. She was a writer, but never published under her own name. She was a supporter of the arts and influential in all of society.

The book is impressively researched and includes 42 pages of bibliography. However, I found the book to be a bit slow. It spends a lot of time explaining and expounding on the politics of the day. If you just want to know about an important historical figure and if you love history, especially that of the time period of the late 1700's/early 1800's, you would probably enjoy this book. If you just want the story of a historical figure without lots of details, this 
book would bore you silly.

Also, being American and not British, all the different names and titles can become very confusing. Georgiana herself, for example, has her maiden name, Spencer, and her married name, Cavendish. But her title is the Duchess of Devonshire, even though the family estate is nowhere near the area of Devonshire. (The explanation of that is an entirely different story.)



I only saw the first part of the movie by the same title and as much as I saw, they definitely were focusing on the sexual aspects of Georgiana's story (and the way they portrayed it was what they surmise might of happened, so it seemed really fictionalized). But I didn't see the entire movie, so maybe it got better as it went on.

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