Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm Reading

Re-posted, because for some reason blogger didn't put it at the top.

Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
This is the third Lisa See novel I've read and definitely up to her standards. The first two novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, were set centuries ago. Shanghai Girls is a departure from See's earlier works as it is more contemporary, beginning in the 1930s in Shanghai and following the lives of sisters May and Pearl. Their lives are turned upside down when they learn their family is bankrupt and they are being sold into marriage. This is the first time Pearl and May learn that things are not as they seem, a theme which is repeated throughout the novel. Watching Pearl and May grow and create new lives is by turns fascinating, frustrating, and compelling.

The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough
I've been interested in the Johnstown flood ever since I read a novel about it for a fifth grade class. In 1889, a huge storm overwhelmed a dam in western Pennsylvania, leading to one of the worst natural disasters the US had seen at the time. The town of Johnstown was completely destroyed and thousands died. David McCullough is a well known historical writer who manages to deliver tons of data without being dry. This was no exception; at one point I stepped outside and was surprised to see that it was sunny instead of gray and raining. The book is especially interesting for anyone from Pennsylvania or Penn Staters as it was not far from where we were. A word of warning: probably best not to read this during a rain storm for those of you in low lying areas!

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
I've been a fan of Philippa Gregory ever since The Other Boleyn Girl came out (the book, not the movie). In The White Queen, Gregory goes back further than the Tudors to the War of the Roses. It's a period I'm much less familiar with and in her author's note she admits that this book has more fiction as there is simply not as much material available. Despite this, the book is enthralling and her ability to allow a little bit of the mystic is well woven in without feeling contrived. I've read so many books about the Tudors (including some excellent biographies by Alison Weir for those who are looking for nonfiction), and it's nice to start learning about another period of history. I see that Weir has written a biography of the Princes in the Tower and that will be added to my reading list. As for The White Queen, it's apparently the first in a series Gregory is writing about this period and I look forward to reading the rest.

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