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The Glass Castle – Review

The Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsTitle: The Glass Castle : a memoir (Norwegian title: Krystallslottet : en selvbiografisk roman)
Author: Jeanette Walls

Publisher: Pantagruel
Edition: Hardback
Pages: 300
Originally published: 2005

Genre: Memoir
The dice landed on: 6
Did I finish?: Oh, yes!
Do I like the cover?: Yes.

One-sentence summary: Jeannette Walls writes about growing up with alcoholic, but intelligent dad, want-to-be-artist mother, two sisters and a brother.

Jeannette’s parents married in 1956. He was a dashing young officer in the air force and she was an intelligent, artistic young woman who’d trained as a teacher. After getting married he left the air force to better support a family. This could be the start of a stable life with children and good jobs, but that was not the way it turned out.

Jeannette spent her younger years moving around in the desert areas in the western US, relocating every time her dad lost his job and started owing too many people money. The moves usually came without warning, the kids usually only got to take one thing, and longer stays than a few months were a rarity. Rex called every move an adventure and said it was to get away from F.B.I that was too interested in his doings.

The family life was a strange mix of neglect and care. Many basic needs were being neglected, including food and health care,  while the parents also stressed the importance of learning. They always had books around and the children could all read and were doing well in school, when they went to one. The family was always poor, getting poorer as time went by, and any money was spent more on alcohol and art supplies than for food and clothes.

After leaving home, if it could be called home, it’s clear that Jeannette, and her siblings, still love their parents. They are exasperated by them, ashamed of them, and certainly aware that a certain distance is necessary for their own survival. But, they do love them.

So, this sounds like a book that could be full of self-pity, therapy sessions as an adult and loathing for her parents that let them grow up in such hardship. But it isn’t. Jeannette Walls tells the story in a very straight forward manner and manages to convey both the magic times and the increasing hardship as the family slid further and futher into poverty. The details and the tone change as she herself grows older, the magic fades as she understands more of the reality of what goes on, but self-pity and blame never takes center stage.

Very much worth reading.

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December 25th – Christmas Day

Like a lot of other atheists I really like christmas. I like the candles, the colors, the christmas songs (not all the dodgy lyrics), the smell of cooking and the taste of the chrismas food. I really understand that people in the northern hemisphere have been celebrating the winter solstice for a long time, long before christianity hijacked it. I’m also pleased that in Norway we still use the ancient, heden word “jul” (related to and pronounced like “yule”) for this holiday. For me christmas is an opportunity to spend time with my family, and I happen to like them all a lot.

This song by Tim Minchin describes a lot of my feelings towards christmas. I’m lucky enough to live close to my family, but gladly admit to wanting to live somewhere where drinking white wine in the sun is a more likely scenario than shuffling snow. I’d also love for my dad to still be around, we all miss him.

Mostraum weekend

I failed in blogging every day this month, but we still had a very nice summer weekend in Mostraum. The annual barbeque took place with around 70 people and everyone had a good time. Long and light Norwegian summer nights are a treat.

Shevek is enjoying the fresh air.

The Mostraum farm house. I love the smell of the lilac syringa.

My mother is hard at work before the barbeque.

White syringa in the garden and the fjord in the background.

The traditional summer barbeque has started.

Torstein is grillmaster.

Skååååål!

Kristin and Anne Kristin doesn't think the cold breeze is a good reason for staying inside.

One of the few days with enough wind in Mostraum to fly a kite. Sølvi's helping with the take off and Aro is watching.

We have lift off. Torstein is doing a good job.

Friendly competition between the Mostraum and Nottveit farms. Things aren't looking to good for the Mostraum side, but they won because they stayed on their feet.

It's always nice to get a ride.

My dad

Today’s NaBloPoMo promt is something that is hard to write about:
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of your father?

That he almost always had a tan from working outdoors a lot. That his bark was a lot worse than his bite. That he rolled his eyes and hid a smile listening to his adult childrens verbal antics.  That he threw us in to swim or sink, but that he was ready with a life vest if we needed one. That he always supported us, even when he thought we made strange choices. That he was a good husband and father.

I miss my father. He died suddenly in January last year. He said goodbye to my mother and went off to play bridge at his bridge club. While playing he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was in a coma before anyone in the family could get to him.

After the first few days I did most of my crying while driving alone in my car. Not good for road safety.

In time and space – about books

The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry
Time: around 1960 to 2006
Place: Hong Kong, England and Paris
Very good book about Hong Kong, ghosts and a very dysfunctional family. I really liked it.

Other people liked it too: Ghosts of colonies past – The Globe and Mail, Reader’s Corner, The Daily Mail Online, The Independent Weekly, The Bookbag

Stolen av Lucy Christopher
Time: a few months in 200? with glimpses back in time, up to about 25 years.
Place: Bangkok airport, Great Sandy Desert in Australia and London
Gemma writes a letter to her captor Ty who kidnapped her from Bangkok Airport and brought her to The Great Sandy Desert. Good and exciting YA-book about kidnapping, obsession and confusing emotions.

This is what other people think : Wondrous Reads, So many books, so little time, Pure Imagination, Today’s Adventure, The Book Whisperer

Blackout by Connie Willis
Time: 1940-45 and 2060
Place: London, Dunkirk, Oxford and a few other places in England.

It has been 8 years since Connie Willis last published a novel, but when she finally does it’s with volume 1 of a two part story. (It was a relief to be told that volume 2, All Clear, will be published in October, so I guess I can manage a 6 month wait for the book when I could manage the whole year between every Lord of the Rings movie).

Haven’t we all sometimes wished that we could go back in time to see how some event really unfolded? I know that I have. The historians in Connie Willis’ time travel books can do precisely that. But sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as planned, the historians don’t end up precisely where and when they are supposed to, they struggle to get to the drop when they are to report home, and when they manage to get to the drop it’s either not possible to access or just doesn’t open to let them through. When you are a young historian in the middle om wartime England, this is cause to worry. Why haven’t the recovery team come to get me? What’s happening at home in 2060-Oxford? Did I do something that changed the history of the world?

I adore Connie Willis’ books. It was wonderful to meet again Colin and professor Dunworthy from Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, and the historians in Blackout are as likeable as Kivrin in Doomsday Book and Ned & Verity in To Say Nothing of the Dog. I think I’ll have to reread those two books while I wait for the October release of  All Clear.

I’m not the only one writing about Blackout:

Lucky!

Last night we visited one of my brothers and his wife together with my other siblings and their spouses. Around 3.30 this morning we stumbled in the door at home, in a good mood brought on by wine, good food and good company.

I realize  how lucky I am to have 3 siblings that I don’t only love but also like spending time with, and I like their spouses too. I actually enjoy family gatherings.

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