Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Book Review – The Midwife of Venice

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich**

GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog


What is it about?
Hannah Levi is a young, recently married young woman living in the Jewish ghettos of Venice, Italy in the 1500s. She is known in her community as being a very skilled midwife because she constructed “birthing spoons” that help her with some of the most challenging of labors. Late one night, a Christian count appears at her doorstep and begs her to assist her in the labor of his wife who was delivering her fourth baby. His desperation came from the fact that if he did not produce an heir before his fiftieth birthday, from which he was months shy, his title as well as fortune would go to his rather selfish brother. The previous three children his wife had, unfortunately, died in childbirth or soon thereafter. It is very well known that if a Jew assisted in this procedure that it is punishable by torture or even death. Hannah takes this request, however, because she needs the funds to get her husband back as his ship was overtaken in Malta. This story centers on the ramifications of her actions in assisting with this birth as well as encouraging Hannah to reunite with her husband.

Why did I read this?
I honestly don’t know. Hmmm. I think I came across it in Jermaine’s store and thought it was interesting so why not?

What impressed me about this book?
The story’s simplicity! I know that can almost sound like a bad thing but I certainly don’t mean it as such. 2012 has been a year filled with wonderful mysteries that are often complicated with a handful of plot lines. This story was written from the point of view, mostly, of Hannah and her husband and, as a reader you’re cheering them on as they get closer and closer to a reunion. There is, of course, disturbing anti-semitism that existed during this time period. That was rather difficult to read. For example, Hannah’s husband is rescued from the life of slavery in Malta by a nun. She brings him to her house and offers him a life at a convent if, and only if, he converts. She, basically, is offering her Christian virtue so charity so long as he converts. That of course was hard to read but unfortunately that much of the thought back then–that it was Christ’s teaching to punish Jewish people.

But looking at this at its basic levels this story was about a wife doing something rather dangerous to get her closer to her husband and, as a reader, I really couldn’t help but cheer them on.

What disappointed me about this book?
I know this seems odd to say but nothing really. The story was not too complicated so it’s not like I felt that the author could have done a better job at explaining certain components.

I will say though…this should be taken as a compliment to the author…she describes horrible living conditions of the ghetto as well as the bubonic plague quite well. Sometimes too well if you get my meaning :-& amp;

Historical Relevance:
Alright I thought I was going to have make something up with this component but a two second google search had me reading a rather interesting article on the history of forceps! Milestones in the evolution of obstetric forceps Bryan Hibbard asserts that in the Middle Ages the Church was often the only source to discuss midwifery and forceps were often used as a “last resort” when the child was likely dead and they were trying to save to mother. This “procedure” was believed to assist mothers in challenging births in the 11th century. (upon reading this you’ll be thankful for modern medicine)

When there is a difficult labour with a dead child place the patient in a sheet held at the corners by four strong men, with her head somewhat elevated. Have them shake the sheet vigorously by pulling on the opposite corners, and with God’s will she will give birth.

 

Interestingly enough the Chamberlens family in England at this time were fashioning some of the first versions of forceps. The article I linked is quite interesting. Give it a read!


What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade? Rating: ★★★½☆

 

Book Review – City of Ashes

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**City of Ashes by Megan Chance**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
This book centers around two young women. Set in the late 188s, Geneva Langley is a Chicago socialite who loves being surrounded by artists and free thinkers. Her husband, on the other hand, wants her to fit a rather strict mold of upper class woman hood-paying calls, attending balls and being a model wife as his business develops. Geneva (or Ginny) pushes the edge too far and they both find themselves banished to the developing city of Seattle. The second woman, Beatrice Wilkes, is an actress already living in the cut throat world of the newly developing Seattle theater scene. She has lived on her own since her mid-teens and because of this, she trusts no one living in this kind of environment – someone can be her friend one day and then steal her part the next.

These two women might initially strike the reader as opposites – Ginny getting many things handed to her with little work needed on her end and Beatrice who has had to work hard for everything from her food to her position in her theater company. But the Seattle fire of 1889 forces a bond between these two unlikely women and helps them attain what they both want – freedom and position and they pair together in a rather creative way in order to do just that.

Why did I read this?
I read Megan Chance’s book The Inconvenient Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. City of Ashes is set around the same time as this other book but during a more specific event, The Great Seattle Fire. I had never heard of this, unfortunately, so that made me want to read it.

What impressed me about this book?
I’m a sucker for books told in various points of view. Many, if not all, of the characters were sneaky and dishonest. It was interesting read Ginny, for example, see her husband do something out of character and then, in the next chapter from the husband’s point of view, you can read what he was thinking and know why he did it.

I also liked the descriptions of the city both before and after the fire. It made the book quite interesting.

What disappointed me about this book?
Since this was the second book I read by the author, I couldn’t help but see a familiar and almost formulaic timeline between the two books. (I won’t state much else because I don’t want to include spoilers)

Historical Relevance:
When Ginny and her husband first arrive to Seattle, you read of a city with very little archetectural structure. For example, shops are on streets however they’re not all aligned correctly. And many of the buildings were made from wood. So imagine a great fire hitting a city like this? It is because of these circumstances, the fire did as much damage as it did. Because of this, many policies were changed during its rebuilding. I’ll take text straight from Wikipedia:

The city made many improvements in response to the fire. The city’s fire department shifted from a volunteer to a paid force with new firehouses and a new chief. The city took control of the water supply, increasing the number of hydrants and adding larger pipes.The advent of brick buildings to downtown Seattle was one of the many architectural improvements the city made in the wake of the fire. New city ordinances set standards for the thickness of walls and required “division walls” between buildings.These changes became principal features of post-fire construction and are still visible in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district today, the present-day location of the fire. At Pioneer Square, guided tours are also available to paying customers. Also at this location visitors can tour the Seattle Underground, where they can visit remains of buildings that were built over after the fire.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?
Rating: ★★★½☆

Book Review – Blue Asylum

Monday, May 21st, 2012

 

I’m a little back logged as far as books are concerned.

What I’ve recently finished:

 

**Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
OK Tell my why I seem to be drawn to books where women are thrown in insane asylums for crazy reasons? asks the uppity feminist of the 21st century, reading about women in the 19th and early 20th century. All I have to say, that while women still have a way to go in terms of achieving equality, at least we’ve come far away from that! I’ve read my fair share of books with this premise or I’ve marked books like this as “to read” and I just end up feeling so terrible for these women!
Anyway, this specific book is about Iris Dunleavy, a Virginia plantation wife who is sent to the Blue Asylum off the coast of Florida during the Civil War after she is found to be mad for disagreeing with her husband over ideas concerning human decency and property. Iris is sent to an insane asylum with “modern” techniques to “cure” her. As someone in the 21st century reading this, I could not help but see the differences in the definition of slavery in the 1860s vs now. At this facility, she meets a soldier, Ambrose Weller, who is reeling from his experiences on the battlefields of our nation’s Civil War

Why did I read this?
Honestly, I think I was wondering around Amazon one weekend and found it. Luckily my library had it as well and I was one of the first in my branch to read it :-D (It’s the little things, no?)

What impressed me about this book?
I’m not going to lie–excessive descriptions of settings is a personal pet peeve of mine. I pride myself on the visions of the story in my head. That said, this book is essentially set in a swamp area. While I’ve heard DC referred to one countless times (:-)) , even I can admit I’ve never been. The descriptions in this book were clear without being too verbose.

What disappointed me about this book?
One very abrupt ending – I felt like there was very little resolution for many of these characters. I finished the book and I can’t help but wonder: What happened? And not like when you finish a book and you wonder what happens to them afterward. I genuinely felt like questions were left unanswered.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?


What I’m reading and knitting…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

No I did not die. Work picks up in the spring time for me…taxes…and hello surprise root canal…bad Laura is bad!

I recently saw a blog post where the knitter, Carole of Carole Knits, who also does a fair amount of reading, posted an entry about what progress she was doing on both. I thought–What a great idea!

Lately there has been a lot of balance between these to great loves of mine so why not share them? Goodreads is doing a contest on Book Bloggers and I’ve been checking out some blogs to add to my “reading” bloglist. I was quite drawn to the format of Reading with Tequila’s reviews. I think it might take some pressure away from me writing reviews and over thinking if the paragraphs flow well. (Yes. I still get that “I’m-writing-for-an-English-class vibe when I know that I want to write these )

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Birth House by Ami McKay**
**GoodReads**
**Amazon**

What is it about?:
Dora Rare is the only female born into her family in five generations of the Rare family living in Scots Bay near Nova Scotia in the early part of the twentieth century. Eyebrows start to raise at her mere existance because she’s the only female born to her family but also because at the age of seventeen she befriends Miss Babineau, a very experienced midwife who has had something to do with almost every birth in town (and some outside of it as well) When most of her family and friends are searching for husbands, she is given a very eye opening apprenticeship working with Miss Babineau. Working with her, she encounters abusive marriages, an overall lack of sensitivity to women in childbirth, unfullfilling marriages and sex lives, all during a time when no one discussed such things.

But wait–the plot thickens! Dr. Gilbert Thomas comes in and builds a maternity ward nearby and insists that he can assure a way for the town’s women to experience a “painless childbirth.” Granted I’ve never given birth but even I can see how that would make a woman say “You have my attention”

Why did I read this?
You know…thinking about it, I don’t remember…I think I went searching on Goodreads lists. It appealed to me because of its “in with the new/out with the old” quality it had.

What impressed me about this book?
As corny as this might sound, the bonds between the town’s women. At a time when the point of view of women was hardly listened to, you saw characters stand up for delivering their kids according to their own terms. And with some you didn’t. It was interesting to think about these women’s motivations for their actions.

What disappointed me about this book?
Her loveless marriage. It was pretty surprising for me to see a character who has experienced so much of bad experiences of marriage through assisting a midwife that she turns around and tolerates it from her own husband. I won’t say much but there was a satisfying resolution with this aspect of the book

Overall Grade? (out of five)

 

Now Knitting!

I picked up my Apres Surf Hoodie and not I simply can not put it down. It’s pretty funny because I started it over a year ago. Perhaps I might be able to wear it to MDSW?? Maybe?? That said I secretly mock people that wear ridiculous handknits for an outdoor May fesitval. Should you be proud as hell at yourself for steeking that fair isle sweater? Ab-so-lutely but come on…It’s been known to hit 90 degrees…not very bright.

Anyway, I’m quite proud of the progress:

Apres Surf Hoodie

This was taken over the weekend too…I’m more than halfway done with one sleeve too

Are you going to MDSW this year? I’d love to meet up!! :-)

 

Book Review – “The Sealed Letter” & “Her Royal Spyness”

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Actually more but I wanted to do a quick review of two of them.

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue.

Goodreads description:
England, 1864
: Miss Emily “Fido” Faithfull is a “woman of business” and a spinster pioneer of the British women’s movement. Distracted from her beloved cause by the sudden return of her once-dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen’s failing marriage to the stodgy Admiral Harry Codrington. What begins as an effort to help a friend explodes into a courtroom drama muckier than any Hollywood tabloid could invent; with stained dresses, accusations of adultery, counterlcaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy many lives.

My Take:
One of the main reasons I love reading is because I care about the characters. Whether I want them to go away, die, get with their crush and/or survive. As morbid as it might sound, wanting a character to die is some degree of caring. Sure, it’s certainly not nice but it is caring.

With this particular book, however, I didn’t care about any of the characters. I guess that’s to be expected. No one comes out looking wonderful in a divorce. Fido Faithfull is someone I would probably admire if I read about her in history books–she advocated for female independence and employment during a time when women were limited to needle point and seeing guests. But in this book she is so very naive and, because of that, she is led to believe some pretty inaccurate things that the reader is probably seeing straight through. Helen Codrington, the wife in this divorce case is incredibly selfish and heartless. Henry Codrington, like many men of the time, simply wanted a wife to be seen and not heard.

I guess what I found so interesting however was the British history of divorce. It was very hard to get a divorce in Britain prior to 1857 because the only way one could get one was through an act of Parliament! (So needless to say you had to be very rich to get one) Which makes me wonder–how many divorces were direly needed but never received? How many women were beaten within an inch of their life or even to death with little to no hope of ever having an end to their abusive marriage? You can see the history of divorce in Britain here and you can see just how much the woman was at the disadvantage with many of these laws.

Final Rating? Three out of Five Stars

 

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Goodreads description:
Her ridiculously long name is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. And she is flat broke. As the thirty-fourth in line for the throne, she has been taught only a few things, among them, the perfect curtsey. But when her brother cuts off her allowance, she leaves Scotland, and her fianc Fish-Face, for London, where she has:

a) worked behind a cosmetics counter-and gotten sacked after five hours
b) started to fall for a quite unsuitable minor royal
c) made some money housekeeping (incognita, of course), and
d) been summoned by the Queen to spy on her playboy son.

Then an arrogant Frenchman, who wants her family’s 800-year-old estate for himself, winds up dead in her bathtub. Now her most important job is to clear her very long family name

My Take:
Think:

Bridget Jones + Royal Title + Set in England during the 1930s. Then you’ll have this book :-)

What a lovely and quirky lil mystery! Don’t get me wrong–I feel very odd describing a murder mystery as light and fun but…it was!

I’ve been enjoying books about English royalty and this is one of them. I particularly like that the royalty component is from the point of view of such a loving character as Georgie–someone considered royalty (albeit 34th in line from the throne), yet we also see that she has her own life and own set of issues separate from English royalty at the time.

Georgie is requested by the Queen to spy on her first born son and his romance with American, Wallace Simpson, while trying to save her brother from being hung for a murder he did not commit. Pretty busy few weeks! But through all this, Georgie realizes that she does not have to be dependent on her family for money, servants or food. Not to mention fun!

Georgie is a woman with many layers. She doesn’t want to rush into a marriage and her friends encourage her to have sex too! Shocking I know! She has her fair share of emotional issues with her mom too. (Or “mom” as I’d like to say.) She’s clumsy and quirky too, which makes her so endearing. A woman with a royal title but even she has issues with polite manners :-P

I love me a nice murder mystery and I certainly like one that can make me laugh too! I look forward to reading the rest of the books in Bowen’s series! Four out of Five stars.

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