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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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The C-Word

The C-Word by Lisa LynchWhen you’re 28 you don’t expect to find a lump in your breast, but that is precisely what happens to Lisa Lynch in the early summer of 2008. The lump turned out to be grade 3 breast cancer.

During the next year she went through all the treatment for “The Bullshit” and told people about it on her blog Alright Tit, a blog that became hugely popular.

The C-Word is written after the treatment was over and is in many ways an elaboration of and comment to the blog. Every chapter starts out with an excerpt from the blog, the earliest from June 2008 and the last from July 2009. The rest of the chapter is about the same events, but written after the treatment was over. The differences in the here-and-now-writing and the in-hindsight writing makes it extra interesting.

You wouldn’t think it, but this is a very funny book. She certainly doesn’t sugarcoat any of the aspects of having cancer. Going through a mastectomy, chemotherapy and  radiotherapy, losing you hair and buying wigs, feeling awful because of the treatment, having to face never having children, getting a breast reconstruction and a new nipple, living on an emotional rollercoaster… it’s all there. So are the good things like being given as good a treatment as modern medicine can offer and having the love and support of a great group of family and friends.

The C-Word is not a “helpful” book with lots of advice on the do’s and don’ts for cancer patients, but then it never pretends to be. What it is is a very readable, honest and funny account of what it’s like getting cancer before you’re thirty, when you’d rather be out having fun with your friends and not have too many cares in the world.

Alright Tit is still being updated. So you can keep up with what has been happening to Lisa after the book ends in July 2009.

Book beginnings on Friday: May 6th 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Here’s what you do: share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section . Include the title and author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and if you liked or did not like that sentence. Link-up each week at Katy’s place.

This is the beginning of the book I’m currently reading; The C-Word by Lisa Lynch.

The C-Word by Lisa Lynch

“On my lenghty ‘Things To Do Before I’m Thirty’ list (see Northern Lights, get pregnant, write book, lose stone, own Christian Louboutins), I hadn’t factored in beating breast cancer. But them’s the breaks.”

I was already interested in reading this book after reading about it, reading the blurb and looking at the cover, and the beginning of it certainly didn’t scare me away. I’m almost done, and it’s still very good.

Book beginnings on Friday: March 25th 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Here’s what you do: share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section . Include the title and author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and if you liked or did not like that sentence. Link-up each week at Katy’s place.

Don't be such a scientist by Randy OlsonI’m back to non-fiction again this week. Don’t be such a scientist : talking substance in an age of style by Randy Olson.

Introduction

You think too much! You motherf***ing think too much! You’re nothing but an arrogant, pointy-headed intellectual – I want you out of my classroom and off the premises in five minutes or I’m calling the police and having you arrested for trespassing. And I’m not f***ing joking, you a**hole.”

That’s his acting teacher yelling. And she didn’t throw him out.

Randy Olson was a professor of marine biology before starting a second career as a filmmaker. This book tells about the culture clash that often occur when scientists try to talk science to the general public, and has some advice to offer.

I was alreay wanting to read this book after hearing a very short interview with Randy Olson on the radio, and it certainly has a feisty start. I’m still enjoying it on page 50, but there hasn’t been much swearing after he stopped quoting his acting teacher.

Monday morsel – The Vorkosigan Companion

Monday is here, and instead of moping about getting up early I ask you to enjoy this little morsel from a book.

This week the morsel is from a non-fiction book, It’s not something I do much, but I’m a great Bujold fan and is having a great time reading The Vorkosigan Companion in between reading fiction. I’m reading it on my Kindle as Baen was nice enough to include a cd-rom with e-editions (in several different formats) of all the books in the Vorkosigan saga when you bought  the hard cover edition of the latest Vorkosigan book, “Cryoburn“. Thank you!

Shards should have been classified as a “gateway drug”. Once I read the story of Captain Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan, the Butcher of Komarr, I was doomed. Since then, I’ve read and reread every novel Lois McMaster Bujold has ever written. (And checking facts for this essay kept hooking me into still more rereading!)
— Mary Jo Putney in the essay “Aspects of the Vorkosiverse : Romance in the Vorkosivers” —

I totally agree. If you’re going to read any books by Lois McMaster Bujold you should start with “Shards of Honor“.

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