Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: The Paris Wife

I finally finished the Glass Castle...great book, really enjoyed it. I am starting the Paris Wife today and will tell you more about it when I finish it. In the meantime, here is a review from GoodReads and an interesting video.

In this novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, the object of the 20-year-old Hemingway's affections was Hadley Richardson, a pretty but unglamorous Midwesterner who was eight years his senior. It was Richardson who shared Hemingway's years as a poor, still-unknown writer in Paris. The story of their romance and marriage has been fictionalized in Paula McLain's new novel, The Paris Wife.
Hadley Richardson appears here and there in Hemingway's book about his Paris years, A Moveable Feast — and these glimpses of Hemingway's first wife caught McLain's eye. They made her curious about this woman whom Hemingway seemed to idealize in the memoir he wrote toward the end of his life.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: The Glass Castle

I love this book. I'm half way through and have slowed down considerably because I don't want it to end. The following is a review from Goodreads:

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. 

Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days.

As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Appalachia: Dispelling the myth

"...So many lies have been written about us, the mountain people, that folks from other states have formed an image of a gun-totin', tabaccer -spittin , whiskey drinkin', barefooted, foolish hillbilly who never existed except in the minds of people who have written such things as The Beverly Hillbillies...No matter what we do, we can't make folks believe we are any different...we have been disgraced in the e yes of the outside world."  from What My Heart Wants To Tell by Verna Mae Slone, Lexington, Kentucky 1978.

When I moved to Kentucky and discovered how beautiful and interesting it was, I wanted to know all about it. I was fascinated by the history, especially that of the folks in Appalachia. I must admit that I am one of the people who had a stereotypical impression of that area. Being extremely curious and an avid reader, I started reading a lot about it and came across the quote at the beginning of this chapter. I was so struck by the pathos of it that I had to know more about the people.

I had the good fortune to have a couple of professors from the University of Kentucky come to stay with me, Elizabeth and Charlie. They both were sociologists and Charlie was an expert on Appalachia and would talk to me for hours about the area and the people. He completely changed the impression I, like so many others outside the area, had.

I learned that the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in the U.S. state of Alabama. And that the cultural region of Appalachia typically refers only to the central and southern portions of the range. I was surprised to find out that in 2005 approximately 23 million people lived there. Along with Scotch-Irish immigrants, there were German and English settlers in western Pennsylvania, Northwestern Virginia, and Western Maryland.

Charlie and I spent hours talking about the discovery of the Cumberland Gap in 1750 and the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 and how after that settlers moved deeper into the mountains of upper Eastern Tennessee, Northwestern North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, and Central Kentucky. He told me about the treaties with the Cherokee and other tribes that opened up lands in North Georgia, Northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley, the Cumberland Plateau regions, and the highlands along what is now the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

I had always pictured an Appalachian hunter or pioneer wearing a coonskin cap and buckskin clothing, and carrying a long rifle and shoulder-strapped powder horn like Daniel Boone, living on high mountain ridges and fending for themselves against the elements and attacks from the Indians. Charlie said this was pretty much accurate.

*This piece is the first in a series of excerpts from a longer article I wrote some time ago. If you found this one interesting, you might enjoy returning to read the next three. I will publish one every Friday while I am part of the blogging challenge.  Thanks, Nancy

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