Austen’s Men: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It has been years since I wrote my last blog post about books.  I haven’t stopped reading or writing, but I did switch my focus quite a bit.  Two years ago my last living grandparent passed.  I know that seems so unconnected to my book blogging, but there is a connection.  I piled my four children into our minivan and took off for Utah.  My poor husband had to travel for work so I was basically on my own for the two day drive. That’s a long time to stay awake, and I started to struggle.  Eventually I started thinking about something I’d heard years ago that I thought could be made into a story.  I spent the four days of driving creating a story in my head.  When I finally got home I spent the next months (maybe a year, but who’s counting) writing that story.  I submitted the manuscript to a publisher this month.

I have spent countless hours writing for the last two years.  I wake up, get the kids to school, and write until I have to pick them up.  I’ve submitted the first book.  I’m in the process of editing the second.  The third is about 33% written, and yesterday I had a great idea for the fourth while mowing the back yard.  I’m loving it so much I just want to plunge in headfirst.  Before I can do that, though I have to do some research.  It’s going to be fun.  I’m going to reread all of Austen’s books.

You might remember that I am a huge Jane Austen fan.  I have loved her works for more than twenty years.  One of the first books I ever bought myself was Pride and Prejudice, and it remains my personal favorite.  Mr. Darcy isn’t the reason that I love Pride and Prejudice.  There, I admitted that out loud.  Please don’t hang me in effigy.  I like him just fine, but I love Elizabeth and admire Jane.  I even have a soft spot for poor plain Mary.

Mr. Darcy pic

There are so many Austen men.  Mr. Darcy, Wickham, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Knightley, Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, Captain Wentworth, Edmund Bertram, Mr. Rushworth, Mr. Crawford, Willoughby, Mr. Collins, and so many more.  Some are good upstanding citizens.  Some are patently ridiculous, while others are complete scoundrels.  There are many who are a mixture of good and bad, and I find it fascinating that most of these men tend to lean toward dishonorable by the end of their story.  I don’t know if Austen was trying to make a statement about bad habits getting the better of people, or if she simply wanted to make it clear that the hero was the best choice after all.

All of us who have read Austen’s works have our favorite male character, and I suspect we also have our favorite to hate as well.  My absolute favorite is Mr. Knightley.  I like his steady character.  I like that he cares about people’s feelings.  I like his capacity to endure the ridiculous without making fun of it.  He is a thoroughly good guy.  As for my favorite to hate, that is a lot harder for me to choose.  I don’t like Wickham, but I do appreciate that he gets stuck with the flighty Lydia.  You know life with her wasn’t fun.  I am sure she turned out worse than her mother when she got older.  If I had to pick, I might have to say Willoughby.  He sucks you in with his charm, his good looks, and free manners, but when push came to shove he chose himself every time.  He chose his wife for money.  He chose to keep up his infatuation with Marianne over honoring his marriage vows.  I really don’t like that.  Selfish jerk describes him pretty well, in my opinion.

I have a question for all of you.  Who is your favorite character?  Who can’t you stand? Why do you feel that way?

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Ivanhoe: Better Than I Remembered

It has been twenty years since I read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott for the first time.  Twenty years?  Ack, that means I graduated from high school twenty years ago and college fifteen years ago.   Has it really been that long?  If anything, that twenty years has given me a world of experience I could only imagine as a teenager, which has, in turn, changed my perceptions and perspectives quite a bit.  It is, therefore, appropriate that I revisited this work of literature as part of the 2016 Back to the Classic Challenge by Books and Chocolate.

Sir Walter Scott was a wordy wordy wordy writer of prose twenty years ago.  I’d be lying if I said that I approached this reread of a book I read in high school with anticipation.  Trepidation is a much more accurate description.  From my high school perspective Sir Walter Scott did not know the word pithy or its meaning.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary website pithy was in use by 1562 so I guess Sir Walter Scott might have been familiar with it.  Anyway, in my humble high school opinion, the plot of Ivanhoe was buried underneath a veritable load of words, a good story disguised by verbiage.

As I read the first chapter or so I waited for the wordy deluge to begin, but to my surprise and delight Sir Walter Scott was not the spewer of extraneous paragraphs that I recalled.  To be pithy, he crafts an exciting adventure set in a beautiful, if occasionally over-described, setting. Isn’t it exciting to know that my taste, ability, and adaptability in reading has grown and transformed over the last twenty years?  Hurray me!

With that said, I enjoyed Ivanhoe much more than I really expected.  Scott did tend to be a little over descriptive for my taste, but it truly wasn’t terrible or out of place.  In fact it was a nice change of pace for more modern writers who write nothing but dialogue with nothing to flesh out the story.  The plot advanced at a nice pace and with enough twists and turns to keep me glued. I barely remembered the story from high school so it was rather akin to reading it for the very first time.

The antisemitism of that time is very evident in the plot and attitudes of the characters.  Its blantantness made me feel a little uncomfortable since I don’t identify myself or my Christian beliefs that way, but I know enough history to know that was common during that era.  The general treatment of the Jews in the story sounds about right for the 12th Century.   The cowardice and conciliatory manners of Issac of York along with his greediness were reminiscent of general attitudes, although I did wonder how Scott himself felt about Jews because the character of Rebecca is so much more nuanced and prominent than that of the imperious but insipid character of Lady Rowena, her rival for the affections of the Knight Ivanhoe.  Of the two of them I feel that I would rather be friends with Rebecca because she promises to be much more interesting and fun to be friends with of the two.  Lady Rowena, for all that she is the love of the title character, seems insignificant.

Something else I noticed this time is that Ivanhoe doesn’t actively participate in a lot of the story.  He is the character that ties everyone and the action all together, but he spent a lot of the time injured and lying on a pallet being tended by Rebecca.  Unlike the One Direction Song, this novel is not really the “story of [his] life.”

The perception we have of Robin Hood as cheerful thief who helps the poor if directly correlated to Ivanhoe.  In fact his name Robin of Locksley seems to have been an invention of Sir Walter Scott in this novel.  Robin and his band of merry men, including the Friar, play a crucial part in the action.  I enjoyed the Friar immensely this time around, especially when the Black Knight shows up and plans to share his humble abode for the night. I had figured out who the Black Knight was at that point which just made it all the more enjoyable.  What really cracks me up is that the illustration for the Kindle version (pictured above) is an illustration of Robin of Locksley, not Ivanhoe.

Something that I noticed in particular is the hypocrisy of many of the Christians in this novel.  The worst ones were the very people who were sworn to love Christ and lead virtuous lives.   The Prior Aymer and the Knight Templar Brain de Bois-Guilbert were both very corrupt men.  The Prior used every excuse he could find to indulge himself in rich clothing, food, and wine.  The Templar used his service in the Crusades as an excuse to ravish any woman he wanted, and woe to the women who caught his eye.  His battle with himself at the end of the novel did not raise him in my estimation at all, but it did make him seem a little more human.  Even the Friar didn’t escape a touch of hypocrisy with his love of rich food and wine and willingness to fight.

This story is set in medieval times when chivalry was the thing, and yet, most of the people fall quite short of the ideal.  The most heroic of the knights ends of being King Richard and Ivanhoe.  By all accounts in the book Richard ends up being a capricious ruler.  As for Ivanhoe, he is heroic and chivalrous, and yet I’m not entirely sure that he ends up living happily ever after.  Scott wrote that he wouldn’t say whether or not thoughts of Rebecca and her dark beauty ever crossed Ivanhoe’s mind after she left England for Granada.  I confess that it made me wonder if Scott himself didn’t really prefer Rebecca over Lady Rowena.

All in all, I am grateful that I chose this book to reread.  I was right for liking the story in high school.  The story sucked me in, and I enjoyed it even more than I did in high school.  In fact, I am going to be looking for Rob Roy, another Scott novel, so I can read some more.

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The Art of Tyranny in Animal Farm

Reading Animal Farm by George Orwell has been an intellectual treat, if not exactly the soothing balm to my soul kind of treat that I usually enjoy in my spare reading moments.  I have heard about this book since my high school days.  I wonder why I never read it back then when I was on my snobbish literary kick of thinking that classics are the only books worth reading.  Whatever my reasons, I am glad that I did not for the simple fact that I don’t think I would have understood most of the content beyond the story line.

Animal Farm made me sick to my stomach when I read it Saturday for the first time.  For such a short book it sure packs a punch.  Just a note, don’t let this scare you from reading it if you haven’t already done so.  It is neither very graphic nor full of bad words.  The understanding of what is actually happening disturbed me, as well as the fact that the characters cannot understand or articulate their unease at the changes.  I chose to reread it a second time with a much more methodical approach.  I took notes, six pages of them, as I analyzed what I was reading.

On the surface Animal Farm is about a group of farm animals who overthrow their drunken abusive farmer and take over the farm to run it for themselves.  Their rebellion is foreseen by Old Major, a prize winning boar on his deathbed.  Before he dies Major tells them that the time will come when animals will overthrow their masters, and when this happens they must take care to not adopt the habits and vices of humans.  He lays out several points in his lecture that the animals all espouse.  Two other pigs named Snowball and Napoleon use the things that he told them to come up with Animalism, which they then teach to the other animals.

There is a vain and pretty horse named Mollie in the story who struggles with the new doctrine.  She is used to having ribbons in her mane and sugar lumps to eat.  I found it very telling that she struggled with accepting the idea of liberty because it meant the sacrifice of her ribbons and sugar lumps.  Snowball asks her, “Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than ribbons?”  His question made me stop and think about the things for which we give up our freedom.  Some of us give up our personal liberty to addictions.  Some of us give up our freedom for a perceived security.  Some of us give up our liberty to get in debt for the newest technology.  There is not one person on earth today who hasn’t at one time or another given up his personal liberty for something that figuratively glittered, like Mollie’s ribbons.

The thing is, not one of us looked at it that way when we were doing it.  Did Mollie ever regret giving up her liberty for ribbons?  I don’t know.  She seemed pretty satisfied to be adorned rather than to make her own choices.  When my husband and I first got married and used credit cards, we never ever viewed it as giving up our liberty, but the reality of our credit card use resulted in a long painful process of having to scale back our purchases and using all our “extra” money to pay those credit cards.  We gave up a significant amount of our personal liberty just to go out to eat and generally live just a smidgen beyond our means.  I know that this isn’t what Animal Farm is actually about, but it is applicable.

After the animals overthrow the farmer and take the farm for themselves they have to create some sort of society for themselves.  The interesting thing to me is that almost immediately the pigs Snowball and Napoleon, creators of Animalism, emerge as the leaders.  They reveal to the others that they have taught themselves to read and write and with this new talent they have come up with Seven Commandments for Animalism.  All the other animals are ecstatic with these new principles which include things like “all animals are equal” and “no animal shall kill any other animal.”  Eventually these get boiled down to a slogan that is a pretty famous quote, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”  The sheep in particular like this slogan.

But inequality creeps in that very first day, and, like an insidious weed in a garden, it grows until equality is snuffed out beyond resuscitation.  Based on their superior education and brain powers the pigs become the leaders which means they need special treatment.  At first this simply means that they need the milk from the cows and the apples from the orchard to keep them healthy.  Eventually it turns into them living in the house and engaging in trade with human.  Each step along the path of inequality is small and easily explained away by a very persuasive pig named Squealer.  They need the milk and apples to stay healthy.  They need the beds to keep their minds fresh and alert.  Interestingly enough every explanation is accompanied with the oblique threat that Jones the Farmer will come back if the pigs don’t take that small step.  Eventually the oblique threat is accompanied by the very real and present danger of dogs brought up by Napoleon, think Hilter’s Youth on steroids.

There is a real art to tyranny as exposed by George Orwell.  Each step is simple at first and easily explained by Squealer.  The milk and apples, for example, he explains are necessary for the health of the pigs.  Because they are the “brainworkers” they need to stay healthy.  It’s not even that they like the milk and apples, but they are willing to make that sacrifice to keep the farmer away.  When Napoleon announces that there will be no more debates or voting, Squealer comes along behind him and assures the animals that the pigs are willing to sacrifice and take over the decision making because the animals might make the wrong decision and Jones might come back.

All of the changes lead to excessive amounts of work for the animals, less food called readjustments instead of reductions, and no retirement.  The animals are slowly wore down until they can barely remember why they rebelled.  This is tyranny by starvation and work.  Then there are the purges conducted by the pigs and the dogs; tyranny by intimidation and terror.

The windmill is heartbreaking.  The animals toil so hard to get it built as they dream of running water and lights and heaters during the winter.  When it is finally finished they are sorely disappointed because Napoleon announces it is better to work hard and live frugally than it is to have luxury.  No one dares complain because they have been conditioned to think that Napoleon can do no wrong.  Propaganda is an art of tyranny.

Another of the art of tyranny has to include the use of people as a distraction and a prop.  The pigs use the dogs as a means of intimidation and violence.  The sheep, with their brainless acceptance, become a major distraction at crucial points when they bleat their slogans so long and so loud that more rational animals do not get a chance to speak before it is too late.  This happens when Napoleon appears, waking on two legs and carrying a whip.  Orwell wrote:

There was a deadly silence.  Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard.  It was as thought the world had turned upside-down.  Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything -in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticizing, no matter what happened – they might have uttered some word of protest.  But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of – “Four legs good, two legs BETTER …. Four legs good, two legs BETTER!”

It went on for five minutes without stopping.  And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse.

Those sheep were a pretty useful tool, don’t you think?

I could go on and on with more things that I found in my perusals of Animal Farm.  I probably could find even more if I read it again and again, but no one pays me to do that.  I’d actually like to learn more about the rise of Stalin before I read it again.  Orwell wrote it as an satirical piece about Stalin.  I’m sure if I knew more about that time in history I would see even more in the book.  I’m not sure if I could say that I actually enjoyed this book, but it did make me think.

What do you guys think about Animal Farm?

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Classics Challenge for 2016

My sister and fellow blogger of My Soul Doth Delight has invited our family to join in the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge posted on Books and Chocolate.  We changed it a little for our family, but it is still an intriguing idea.  The basic idea is to read one classic book a month over the course of the year and then post a review of it.  That is right up my alley, even if I haven’t posted any reviews lately.

It’s been an incredibly full year for me.  I faced some momentous health decisions that ended up including a surgery and hospital stay.  Recovery was a long drawn out process.  Almost as soon as I had recovered school ended and summer began.  It’s almost impossible to get any quality reading time during the summer.  At the end of the summer we made an emergency trip to Utah when my grandpa died.  When school started we had a freshman in high school, and that took our level of involvement up about ten notches during football and marching band season.  Add a month of flu and sinus infections to all of that and you have my year.  So a back to the classics challenge sounds incredibly wonderful right about now!

If you want to participate in the actual challenge you will have to head over to Books and Chocolate for all the rules and guidelines.   But basically here are the categories:

1.  A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.  Example authors – Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stephenson, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll, Braham Stoker, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Millville, Nathanial Hawthorne, Jack London, O’Henry, Edgar Allen Poe, H, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jules Verne, Howard Pyle.

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1966. All books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later.  Example authors – Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Pearl S. Buck, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gene Stratton Porter, Marguerite Henry, Herman Wouk, E.B. White.

3.  A classic by a woman author.   Author ideas: Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Mary Shelley, George Eliot (pen name), Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Ann Bronte, Frances Hodge Burnett, Johnna Spyri, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pearl S. Buck, Dorothy Sayers, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gene Stratton Porter, Marguerite Henry, L.M Montgomery, Charlotte Yonge.

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Dumas, ‎Miguel de Cervantes, Durante degli Alighieri (Dante’s Divine Comedy), Carlos Collodi.  I Promessi, Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni

5.  A classic by a non-white author. Can be African-American, Asian, Latino, Native American, etc.  The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Booker T. Washington, Fredrick Douglass, Indian Boyhood by Charles Eastman, Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.

6.  An adventure classic – can be fiction or non-fiction.  Kenneth Graham, William Defoe, Robert Louis Stephensons, Jules Verne, Hugh Lofting, Alexander Dumas, William DeFoe, Howard Pyle, Charles Kingsley

7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. Dystopian could include classics like Animal Farm and 1984. Farenheit 451 byRay Bradbury, Animal Farm or  1984byGeorge Orwell, Jules Verne, Dracula by  Braham Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Utopia by Thomas Moore, H.G. Wells,

8.  A classic detective novel. It must include a detective, amateur or professional.  Example authors  Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, Wilkie Collins, Josephine Tey, G.K. Chesterton, Mary Robert Rinehart.

9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.  It can be the name of a house, a town, a street, etc. Examples include Bleak HouseMain StreetThe Belly of ParisThe Vicar of Wakefield, Mansfield Park, Wuthering Heights, Girl of the Limberlost, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Secret Garden, Utopia,  The Old Curiosity Shop,

10. A classic which has been banned or censored. If possible, please mention why this book was banned or censored in your review.  There are lots of lists, just google it.

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  If it’s a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it’s a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?

12. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories. It can be an anthology of stories by different authors, or all the stories can be by a single author.   Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (cute stories), Beatrix Potter, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Willa Cather, Dubliners by James Joyce OR The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, etc.

That is quite a list (thank goodness for cut and paste so I can just use my sister’s work!) with lots of intriguing possibilities.  Here’s my list of chosen books.

  1.  19th Century Classic – Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.   I have read a lot of his books, but I haven’t read this one.  At least I don’t think I have.  If I have I will change it to something else.
  2. 20th Century Classic – This is of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  3. Classic by a Woman – My Antonia by Willa Cather.  It’s on my shelf and it’s time to change my good intentions to actions.  Besides I’ve devoured all of Jane Austen’s works, as well as Louisa May Alcott’s, and the Bronte sisters.  I’ve got a whole shelf of Pearl S. Buck, most of L.m. Montgumery’s books, and so I had to look for someone else to read.
  4. Classic in Translation – The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.  I’ve read a couple of his other books, and I know someone made a movie of this so it should be interesting.  And, no, I have not seen the movie.
  5. Classic by Non-white – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  6. Adventure Classic – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.  I inherited this book when my grandpa passed away this year.  I got lots of great books!
  7. Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Dystopian – Animal Farm by George Orwell.  I actually had this one in my stack when my sister issued the challenge so I will just wait a few weeks to read it.
  8. Classic Detective Novel – The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  This category was the hardest one for me to choose from.  I have read all of the Lord Peter books by Dorothy Sayers.  I’ve read all of the Sherlock Holmes.  I’ve even read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.   So hopefully I like the Josephine Tey book.  If not,  I will see if I can find an Agatha Christie published prior to 1966 that I haven’t read.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure I have read all of those too.
  9. Classic with a Place in the Title – The Vicar of Wakefield.  I’ve heard of this book from numerous other books I have read, but I haven’t read it.
  10. Banned Classic – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  I read the synopsis.  It sounds pretty interesting.  A world without books sounds pretty bleak.
  11. Re-read a Classic From High School or College – Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.  I really enjoyed it in high school, even if he was a wordy kinda guy.
  12. Volume of Short Stories – Tales by O’Henry.  It’s another one that is on my shelf that I haven’t conquered just yet.

I plan on posting reviews of my selections as I read them.  I also do not promise to just read one of them each month.  I might get it done a little faster than that…  Now if I just didn’t have to wait another ten days to start.

How about you guys?  Are any of you interested in joining the challenge to read some classics?  What are some of the titles you might consider?

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When A Son Loves His Father

I wasn’t very old when George H.W. Bush was elected President of the United States.  I was only in sixth grade.  I don’t remember much about his presidency beyond Operation Just Cause in December of 1989 when the United States invaded Panama to depose Manuel Noriega and Operation Desert Storm of 1991.  I was very personally affected by Operation Just Cause because my beloved sixth grade teacher was in Panama for her Christmas vacation.  I worried about her and prayed for her until the whole thing was over.

Other than those two things I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the political world during George H.W. Bush’s administration.  I was a little more concerned with school, boys, zits, and having fun.   In fact politics were pretty boring stuff until I hit my later teens.  These are my reasons for not really being acquainted with the presidents after Thomas Jefferson and preceding Bill Clinton, with one or two exceptions.  Of course, after Bill Clinton came along things got really interesting…

Anyway, before I get really sidetracked!

I am a fan of George W. Bush.  I really admire the person he became during his life, even if I don’t always agree with all his policies.  However, I do admire his and Laura dedication to this country.  I think they are real patriots in a time when being a patriot isn’t always admired.  Because of my admiration for the two of them, I have made it a point to read the books they have written.

The latest book by George W. Bush is 41 A Portrait of My Father.  He recalls life with his parents, most particularly his father.  He details the service his father gave to this country.  He talks about the influence and support that his father gave him during his entire life.  Through everything that he wrote, the admiration, inspiration, and love that George W. feels for his father shines through.

I laughed quite a bit.  I cried several times.  George H.W. Bush came to life as I read.  I had no idea that he had worked so hard to earn his own way instead of falling into a family job that would have guaranteed financial success.  I never knew he had served the United States in so many capacities.  I didn’t know that he was so patriotic that he enlisted in the military on his 18th birthday, approximately six months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and after graduating from high school.  The more I read the more my admiration grew.

George W. Bush doesn’t spent a lot of time on politics in this book.  Because of the nature of his father’s life he does mention a lot political situations, but usually it was done in a way that demonstrated the effect politics had on his father.  I was impressed by the sheer amount of personal relationships George H.W. Bush maintained through his life.  I would have loved to have been invited to some of those family barbecues his son talks about, where political leaders and Bush neighbors rubbed shoulders.  It must have been fascinating!  In fact, I am looking forward to reading more about the first President Bush.

I think this is a book that could be enjoyed by anyone, despite their political views.  It really is the story of how a son feels about his father.

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It’s True: Everybody’s Got Something

I read this book at a perfect time in my life.  Robin Robert’s memoir Everybody’s Got Something really struck a chord in me.  Because I have been dealing with some health issues for the last six or seven months that climaxed in major surgery two weeks ago, Robin’s account of her latest health scare really resonated with me in a very personal way.  I actually read it before I went to the hospital, but I knew that the surgery was coming.

I have watched Robin Roberts for years in little snatches here or there, mostly because my closest local station happens to be an ABC station.  I knew she’d been dealing with health issues on and off, but I didn’t really know what the issue was.  I did catch several episodes of Good Morning America that dealt with her hospitalization and recovery.  So when I saw the book I wanted to read it.  The title is such a true statement.  I think that is what really drew me to the book.  I was dealing with my own something at the time.  (Click here to learn more!)

While Robin takes you through her experiences and the effect they had on her life, there is one constant refrain.  It’s something her momma used to tell her.  “Everybody’s got something.”  It’s a saying that has made an impression on Robin, and now the people who have read the book.  It’s a reminder that no matter what you are going through, you really aren’t alone.  Everybody else is going through their own trials.

Remembering that everyone else is dealing with their own problems is a great way to see beyond your own grief and pain.  It helps to build compassion and empathy for others.  So whether your something is on national television or hidden behind the doors of your home, you aren’t alone and God is there to extend His grace to you.

I loved that Robin acknowledged the role that faith and family played in her recovery.  I appreciated her honesty in addressing the many issues that health scares create in our lives.

I don’t know how much of this book was written by Robin and how much was written by Veronica Chambers, but it is a good book.  It is definitely worth taking time to read it.  I’m glad that I did.

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Unsinkable A Memoir

The very first time I watched Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown I fell in love with her work as an actress in musical movies.  I’ve watched a lot of her movies made in the fifties and sixties, thanks to Turner Classic Movies.  The Unsinkable Molly Brown remains my favorite, with Bundle of Joy right behind it.  My kids loved her in Singing in the Rain.

Because I have enjoyed her work so much, it was a no brainer to scoop up her memoir Unsinkable when I saw it at the library.  I have not ever known anything about her other than the fact that she made some great movies.  Having read the book, can I just say Wow!

I think perhaps my favorite part of this book was her story of being discovered.  She entered the Miss Burbank beauty contest because all contestants received a free blouse and she just wanted the blouse.  When her parents found out she had taken the blouse without any intention of actually competing they threw a fit.  Apparently they thought she should actually do what she said she would do. (Novel idea, right!?!)  So off she went to compete.  She lip synched for her talent, relying on years of experience performing with her girl scout troop.  She actually won and caught the eye of some studio executives in the process who offered her a contract.  Not bad for signing up to get a free blouse.

A lot of the book details her efforts to start of Hollywood museum to house all the props and costumes she had purchased over the years.  She had an amazing collection at one point, including Marilyn Monroe’s famous subway grate dress.  I think it is a real shame that she was never able to get her museum off the ground.

She also talks quite candidly about her awful third marriage that just about wrecked her life.  Apparently she had a hard time picking out good men to marry.  The end of that marriage sounds like a very terrifying experience.

I love how she took the role of Molly Brown to heart in her own life and kept coming back. She talks about this in her book, and that is why she titled the book Unsinkable.

There are some uncomfortable moments in this book as Miss Reynold talks quite candidly about some of the hard things in her life.  She also uses profanity here and there throughout the book.  I could have done without the profanity.  Other than that it was a pretty interesting book.  I enjoyed it very much.  I love how she talks about each movie and her experiences making it.

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