I didn’t really plan for my new, longer, reviews to pair up non-fiction books, novels and now memoirs (or should I say, “memoirs”), but it’s quite nice and tidy that it’s happened that way, isn’t it? And with just a little preparation, I’ve managed to sustain writing these longer reviews (and fitting them into my notebook, too) – do you like them? Are you finding more to read and enjoy, with a bit more about the content of the books as well as my feelings about them? I hope so, but do tell me!
Anyway, here are my last two reads of April. Watch out for my May State of the TBR (not too bad, actually, thank you) and Upcoming Reads post which will be coming soon – I’ve got a lot of reading projects to get through next month so hopefully won’t acquire toooo many more …
“Letters of an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman”
(09 September 2012 – from Bridget)
The last of my books from Bridget, and this was rather an intriguing one. It’s a set of charming letters – one half of a correspondence – purporting to have been written over the lifetime of an Indian civil servant as he rises through the ranks to become a judge, taking in the sweep of Indian and Burmese history, first published in 1934 so presumably the sweep of history is up until the early 1930s. We get history and social change but seen through the lens of this one side of a rather touching set of letters between this judge and a lady who was once kind to him at a party, including the growing connection between their families. There’s an odd little note in the front of the second edition, the one I have, saying that this is non-fiction and published as such, but that there has been a furore over the book with it being attributed to an author called Dorothy Black. Now, I haven’t had time to look into this, but it does seem a little staged – there are so many coincidences, the writer’s son being employed by one of his own early employers, the connection between the oldest sons of the two families … It doesn’t spoil what is a very nice – if oddly symmetrical – book, which is rather moving in parts around the situation of women and the high infant mortality (although here there seems an odd mix between Hindu and Muslim practices which surely wouldn’t have happened). So, a good read, and a conundrum.
Maybe one of my readers has read this and knows more – do share in the comments if you do!
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan – “The Glitter and the Gold”
(13 September 2012 – The Works)
Real memoirs this time from the pen of the erstwhile Duchess of Marlborough, shipped over to England from America and married off to a Duke, bravely dissolving their unsuitable marriage and going through rather a lot to end up marrying the love of her life. But it’s more than an emotional journey: it’s a portrait of the British aristocracy in a time of immense change between the First and Second World Wars, with Consuelo trying to conform to the stuffy rules, not knowing anything else but blind obedience, then breaking out of her shell as societal changes allow her to, taking up really useful (rather than dabbly and silly) charity work to help the wives of prisoners and unmarried mothers, agitating for women’s rights and giving over her London property to meetings and social organisation. She writes well and clearly, and is affecting rather than affected. You get a good sense of what it was like to be thrown into this rather alien world, and her allies such as her cousin, Winston Churchill as well as royal and aristocratic figures of the day.
The book has a nice introduction by her granddaughter, explaining how distant the life of someone born in 1877 is from her own, and lots of good pictures, but it breaks off rather suddenly in 1940, which is a real shame. There’s a palpable love for France that shines through, and a complicated life and background is made clear and enjoyable to read about – interesting and informative indeed.
That’s April done – not too shoddy at all on the reading volume front, and I’m part way through two very interesting (and different) books that I’ll tell you about soon. What was your favourite April read? What’s coming up for you?