I managed to get three books read during February. The Knit the Classics group was reading Brideshead Revisited, and though I've read it and liked it, I just wasn't in the mood to read it again right now. So I decided to see what else I could find, and they all turned out to be good ones:
1. Girl Sleuth : Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, by Melanie Rehak. This book was a lot of fun to read, and really interesting to boot! I was a big Nancy Drew fan as a kid, though I will admit that I was always puzzled as to why her "roadster" wasn't just called a car. Also, I will admit that for years as a kid, I thought "sleuth" was pronounced "slee-uth," until one day when I actually came across the word with pronunciation in the dictionary. But I digress.
This book talks about the creation of Nancy Drew - not just who created her, but why, how, and what she was supposed to be about. At the same time, it manages to be a social history of life in the U.S., a sort of history of publishing, and a sort of women's history as well. One thing I found particularly interesting was not just that Carolyn Keene was not a real, single individual, but that anyone who was hired to be Carolyn Keene was prohibited from revealing it by the Stratemeyer Enterprises, owners of that series as well as a few others. It reminded me of the old Hollywood studio system, where certain stars "belonged" to studios, and were prohibited from working for other ones.
I would recommend this book to anyone who was/is a Nancy Drew fan, or just interested in how writers write. Though it is academic in nature, it's an enjoyable read, and you come away with a whole new view of Nancy and her mysteries.
2. Beautiful Lies, by Lisa Unger. I had read a review of this one somewhere, and thought I would give it a try. It's a suspense novel, and a really good read. The premise is that one day, a young woman who lives in New York City, notices that a little boy is walking into the path of an oncoming car, and she manages to whisk him out of harm's way just in time. She is of course, hailed as a heroine, and appears on local news casts, as well as in newspaper stories describing her action. Then one day, she opens an envelope in the mail, containing an old newspaper clipping, with a photo of a woman, man, and little girl. The woman looks just like her, and the story is about the woman's murder, and the little girl's subsequent disappearance. There is a note enclosed with the clipping that says simply, "Are you my daughter?"
From there, the story goes in all kinds of directions, as the main character tries to figure out who she is, which turns out to be a lot harder than she expected. As usual, there's a conflict between the woman's current boyfriend, and a new man that she meets, but it plays out in an interesting fashion. By the end of the book, you realize that hardly anyone in it was who they seemed to be. It's an enjoyable and pretty quick read.
3. Letters from Yellowstone, by Diane Smith. Oh, do I love this book! It's the story of A.E. Bartram, who signs on to an expedition to Yellowstone in 1898 to document the plants in the park. The surprise for the other researchers is that A.E. Bartram is Alexandria Bartram, and none of them has any idea that they have added a woman to their research team. The book is written in epistolary format, which gives you the points of view of each member of the expedition.
Many of the themes are ones still being discussed today: how to handle tourism, what kinds of transportation should be allowed in the park, whether or not to allow hunting, how best to preserve the area without completely outlawing visitors, and how much growth - as far as building and commercial development - should be permitted in the park.
The writing is really impressive, given that the author is giving voice to several characters, as well as moving the story along in a reasonable fashion. As is the case when you hear different people talk about the same event, your opinions and allegiances shift among them the whole time. This is a book I can imagine reading again sometime in the future.
In other news ...
I finished the Odessa hat this past Wednesday evening, and it doesn't look half bad. I have been trying since Thursday evening to post pictures for you to oooh and ahhh, but Blogger won't let me. I either get returned to the screen to upload photos, with the various fields blank again, or I get an error message. I do promise that if I am ever again able to show you pictures, I will!
After my frustration on Thursday, I moved on to something else, and finished sock #1 of the pair I'm knitting for myself. I'm really pleased with how it looks, and have started the second one. Usually I try to knit both socks more or less at the same time, i.e., the cuff of one, then the cuff of the other, then the leg, and the rest. These socks are being knit one at a time because a single skein of the yarn makes a pair, and I have neither the equipment or the patience to divide it in half. Perhaps someday I can post a photo of the socks. Perhaps not. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.