It's time for a new edition of "Packing for a Reading Retreat," where I imagine which books I would take with me if I were heading to a reading retreat, where there would be no distractions and I would be free to do nothing but read for a week. I might imagine packing two kinds of books: those that are "New to Me" (books I've never read before) and "Old Favorites" (past reads I'd like to revisit).
New to Me
The Bone People, Keri Hulme
The Bone People is not exactly new to me. I read about two-thirds of it during a Spring Break during PhD school about five years ago. And I loved every sentence of this Booker-winning novel from New Zealand. The novel begins with Kerewin Holmes, a New Zealander of part Maori and part European descent, who lives a life of content isolation until a strangely silent child and his foster father wander into her life. What follows is a sometimes dark, sometimes funny character study of these three and their interactions. The novel was a casualty of graduate school--a not-for-school book which I was enjoying but eventually abandoned because of the demands of school--and I've been meaning to return to it ever since, to start at the beginning, love every sentence all over again, and finally get to the end.
How to Cook a Wolf, MFK Fisher
MFK Fisher writes these nifty little essays which appear to be about food and recipes but which are really about life. (Well. And the food.) They are some of the best examples of what the essay--the writing form which attempts--can do, where it can go, and what it can discover in the process of its unfolding. How to Cook a Wolf was written during World War II, and was meant to encourage people during the shortages. I recently read Fisher's Consider the Oyster, and I'm excited to carry on to Wolf.
Tin Toys Trilogy, Ursula Holden
Tin Toys Trilogy takes place in Ireland in the 30s and 40s and follows three sisters as they grow up and deal with various tragedies of life. The trilogy is being reprinted by Virago Modern Classics, and is said to be an excellent exploration of childhood. I'd never heard of Holden before I came across the news that Virago was reprinting her, and there seems to be a general opinion that her work should be more well-known and may be on the verge of a renaissance.
The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant
I often find myself itching for some good historical fiction, set in pre-1800s Europe with a female central character. No, really. I do. And I can never seem to find something that will scratch that itch and be written well enough that I won't stick a pencil in my eye and be historically accurate. I have a notion that there's more of this out there than I know about, but those that come to my attention generally seem to fail at either not-pencil-in-the eye writing or accuracy. I have high hopes that Dunant's work will fit the bill, and scurried home with three of hers from yesterday's local Library Book Sale.
Previous Editions of Packing for a Reading Retreat