Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What's new

Thanks so much to everyone who left me such caring messages on my last post. I really do appreciate your thoughtfulness. My back is feeling better, but is not better - I'm still having pain but I think things are improving slowly.


I have failed miserably at the Non-Fiction Five Challenge. I did read the number of non-fiction books required (actually, more since I read 8 instead of 5) but none of them were on my original list. I think this just goes to show that I am not meant to sign up for challenges. I simply want to read what I want to read when I want to read it. I do feel a bit strange about this, I'll admit. So many people seem to really enjoy doing the challenges, it makes me wonder why I don't want to be so 'challenged', that perhaps I am lacking in some way. In any case, this means no more challenges for me and that is okay. For the same reason, I don't think I would make a very good paid reviewer - not that my reviews are any good, but a bit of the pleasure is gone for me when there are deadlines to be met. Thank you Joy for hosting this challenge - it's not you, it's me!

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On to happier things.

I had the distinct pleasure of watching the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South this past weekend. Oh, my. I loved it, I really, really loved it and would say it is one of my favorite 'costume dramas' ever. I haven't read this book, though it is on my nightstand now, and was surprised at the similarities between this and Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was just brilliantly filmed. The scenes in the Northern city of Milton are so drab and colorless and when the action shifts to London or 'the South' the colors and light are so vivid and dramatic. All in all, very well done, I loved the actors in their respective roles and I cannot believe I waited so long to see this.

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I was lucky enough to be the winner of Karen's BAFTA drawing this past summer. (There is another drawing going on right now, so do visit Karen and sign up). Karen sent me the lovely book you see here - A Childhood in Scotland by Christian Miller and it demanded to be read this past weekend. It is a small book, really that could be my only complaint about it, that I wished it were longer. Childhood is a memoir of Miller's childhood years spend at her family's estate in Scotland in the 1920's and is a wonderful example of what life was like for the upper classes. It is really about day to day life - Miller describes the castle she lives in, how bitingly cold it is, mealtimes, her schooling, the gardens, hunting expeditions - simply a wonderful look at a time gone by. What struck me the most reading this was the experience of children at this time. Certainly Miller's situation was better than most, but reading some the following excerpts made me feel very sad.

"..outside the schoolroom, I was rationed to one question a day"

".. my parents refused to answer me;they looked on my curiosity as mildly amusing, but also as something that should not - because it was a nuisance to grown-ups--be indulged."

"three of the twelve indoor servants....were employed for the sole purpose of making sure that my parents had as little as possible to do with us."

"In my entire childhood, for instance, I only once remember my mother giving me my bath.."

"Our parents never went on holiday with us."

Miller writes at one point that upon her father's death, she is confused as to why everyone expects her to cry - she never knew him, was only frightened of him - why would she be upset?

You could certainly argue that children today have too much say in their own lives and the lives of their families; there must be a happy medium. Thank you so much Karen for such a wonderful book, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Edited to add: If anyone knows if the castle (as she described it) Christian Miller lived in is currently a place that can be visited, I'd love to know about it. Not that I'll probably get the chance to visit it, but there might be photographs online.

13 comments:

Kay said...

Tara, you voiced my feelings about challenges too. I'm so interested in all the ones that everyone seems to do and they sound marvelous. But...I like to read what I like to read and when and it begins to feel like an assignment to me. I will still very much enjoy reading about what others are challenging themselves with, but will merrily go along my own way.

Glad your back is feeling better. Hope it continues to improve.

Bookgirl said...

Oh Tara your poor back! So glad you are feeling better and hoping that you are back to normal in no time!
Regarding challenges, I'm a bit of a junkie. I love them but I do know what you mean. Sometimes you just want to read at whim. I guess I join them to "meet" other bookworms and to add more books to my reading list because obviously I don't have enough on there - snort :) Feel better!

Tara said...

Absolutely Kay, I love living vicariously through other people's lists... and get lots of great ideas as well.

Bookgirl, thank you so much. I've been able to add plenty of books to my TBR list as well. I do see your point about meeting other bookworms - that is a wonderful plus.

BooksPlease said...

Tara, I'm glad your back is not as bad. These things take time to mend, I know.

I know what you mean about challenges. For some reason I find myself resisting and even resenting reading the books I've picked for the challenges - I'm doing two just now. And I decided to do this and want to read the books really. Strange!

StuckInABook said...

I'm still in rebellion after an English degree, and LOVE being able to read what I like, when I like, and not making any decisions about it beforehand. Challenges are great to add structure and themes to reading, but at the moment I'm rather enjoyingt he chaos...

Tara said...

Booksplease, I felt just the same about the books I'd chosen for the challenge - I avoided them. It's just too much like an assignment for me.

Simon, I imagine you more than anyone wants to choose your own reading material - let chaos reign!

GeraniumCat said...

Tara, I think Christian Miller (who was born Christian Grant) lived at Monymusk House in Aberdeenshire; there are some pictures here:
http://www.monymusk.com/index.asp?subsec=14

I've stayed in a Scottish castle and I should think it was every bit as awful as she makes it sound. And sadly, her parents' lack of interest in their daughter was typical of its day, and earlier times; the other Grant who chronicled her life, the Highland Lady, describes similar neglect.

Sorry to hear about your back, hope it gets better soon.

Tara said...

Geraniumcat, Thank you so, so much for the information - I've had a wonderful time perusing the site and have also learned more about Christian Miller/Grant thanks to Google. I do have that other memoir - of the Highland Lady - so will be interested in seeing how their stories compare.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Tara

I haven't had much luck with the challenges either. With regard to the non-fiction challenge I did exactly the same thing you did. I read more than the required number of books, but very few were from my original list. I guess I prefer being spontaneous in my choice of books...the minute I have a list, I seem to want to do everything to avoid reading them!

Glad your back is better!

Gentle Reader said...

I loved the BBC version of North and South so much that I bought a copy for myself and one for my mother. And I reread the book. Also, I feel the same way about challenges. And I'm going to have to get the Christian Miller book, as my father grew up in Scotland, and was born in 1928. Thanks--I'd never heard of it! Hope your back feels better :)

Jill said...

I'm late in expressing my sympathies, Tara. I hope the recovery is going well and that you'll be back up and moving soon. It's hard when you have small children, I know.

At any rate, I loved North and South as much as you did. The book is just as good; read it soon.

Tara said...

Hi Lotus - it just seems too much like an assignment, doesn't it? Thanks so much.

Gentle Reader - Glad to hear you also loved N&S - I am enjoying having this photo of Mr Thornton to admire here! I'm happy to hear that the Christian Miller book is of interest to you - I'm certain you would enjoy it, given your father's history.


Jill, thanks so much. I am reading N&S now. I regret somewhat that I saw the film first as I am comparing the book to it in some ways.

Bookfool said...

I never stick to the books I list for challenges - I'm far too fickle. But I think you're more than successful if you read the goal number (and you exceeded it), so you should be congratulating yourself, not feeling like a failure.

As to challenges in general . . . I really am getting tired of them. I just want to read whatever grabs me and I think after the RIP is over (or, at least, after I've met my goal), that's going to be the end of challenges for me.