TBR August 2015Two books that I’ve read this month now I’ve caught up with last month’s reads, and two that really reach back into my earlier reading history in many ways; although the history book was published in the 90s, it forms a continuum with women’s reclaimed lives read in my university days, and I first read Ursula le Guin in my early secondary school days. I have also chosen my next set of #20BooksOfSummer books so there will be a post on that tomorrow, but these two fall into the project so tick off some more of the numbers (I’m barely half way, though – oops!)

Stevie Davies – “Unbridled Spirits”

(29 November 2014 – from Laura)

A study of women of the English Revolution, mainly, for obvious reasons, those who wrote and published, or were written about, that, although published in 1998, seems to have a ring of the earlier works of ‘herstory’ that came out in the late 80s and early 90s, both in the subject matter, reclaiming the lives and words of women from the margins, and in the language it’s written in, which is harder to quantify by definitely half way between polemical and academic writing, with a twist of pro-women language and a consciously partisan way of writing.

It uses women’s own words where possible, and links sets of women together – early Quaker women (this was fascinating, as I didn’t have a grasp of the role of women in forming the Quaker movement), women who preached, women who prophesised, the active and trouble-making wives of men who were imprisoned, etc. Davies brings their stories into the foreground and pulls the threads together, celebrating them in a readable work that does an important job.

This is Book 9 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

Published by Women’s Press, I think this can count in my All Virago / All August project, too (as Persephones are allowed)

This book would suit … people interested in the time period in question, historians, historians of women’s lives

Ursula Le Guin – “Tales from Earthsea”

(10 December 2014, from my BookCrossing secret santa, Julia)

Five long short stories plus “A Description of Earthsea” make up this book that does work best if you already know the main Earthsea books. I’ve read and reread them over a long period of time, but I found that reading the Description first helped a lot in straightening out what was going on and what period of the fantasy land’s history we were in for each story.

The long first part, “The Finder” is set in the very early history and covers the setting up of many of Earthsea’s institutions. “Darkrose and Diamond” is a tale of wizardry vs. love vs. family, “The Bones of the Earth” and “In the High Marsh” deal with wizards in their later years, living out their lives in the real world, and feature characters who we have already come across, and “Dragonfly” is a lovely longer story about a girl who finds her true destiny isn’t quite as she expected and dares to knock on the door of the School of Magic.

I find Le Guin’s books very moving, and these stories show why – although part of the fantasy genre, they are deeply rooted in a realistic, if medieval, world, so a wizard will worry about his chickens when he goes away to try to prevent a catastrophe, and a quite cat gives comfort to a man in distress. The female characters are also good and strong, proud and able, and this theme is woven all through these stories. This makes these books a lot more accessible than some of the other fantasy novels out there, and perhaps more suitable for the general reader.

This is Book 10 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … someone who’s read the other Earthsea books – it won’t make nearly as much sense without them!

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I’m currently reading E.H. Young’s “Jenny Wren” and (still) a hard book for my research …