Bits and Bobs (the struggling woman edition)

I tried to find a picture of the Queen Mum looking mean
but they really don’t exist. This was the best I could
come up with. But I thought the unwritten rule is that one
doesn’t take photos of the Royal Family eating.

[3/19/12 Update: Boy, did I forget to proofread this. It should be better now.]

Was the Queen Mum cold hearted, or a hypocrite?  
I knew that would get your attention.  Am I about to trash the Queen Mum? No. At worst I am ambivalent about her, but I did wonder as I read Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson if the QM suffered from a little cognitive dissonance when it comes to marrying for love. In Ferguson’s 1937 novel, the heroine marries for love and ends up old and impoverished. Now, the Queen Mum is said to have been a great admirer of this book. So why did she love this book? Was she clueless to the fact that her life-long grudge against the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson was similar to the class-induced opprobrium Lady Rose faced? Or, more sinisterly, did she relish the comeuppance Lady Rose got for marrying below her? If either of these is true I tend to think it is more the former than the latter. Or was she so caught up in this romantic paean to Scottish life that she couldn’t think clearly?

I don’t really feel strongly enough to care one way or the other, but it was on my mind the entire time I was reading Lady Rose. And for the record I really enjoyed the book. Highly recommended for Persephone fans.

Why those ungrateful…
My second struggling woman for the week is Patricia Lindsay (née Crispin) the heroine of Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan. We follow Patricia as she gets her own lesson in marrying beneath her. She sacrifices much for her insecure husband and her ungrateful children. In a town and gown story as old as the academy itself, Patricia’s eldest gets the newsagent’s daughter preggers and marries her much to his mother’s horror. Patricia’s distaste over the marriage is not dissimilar to her mother’s, but Cannan does such a good job describing the mock gentility of the newsagent’s wife and daughter that it was hard not to chuckle at the characterization and sympathize with Patricia. Does that make me a snob? Yes, but so be it. I know I would have trouble if my (non-existent) son married a woman with all the crass, intellectual idiocy of Sarah Palin–albeit in this case non-political idiocy. The second son falls in love with his friend Peter, I mean with his friend Peter’s love of the Oxford Movement. This makes his high church, only on Sundays mother openly hostile. And then the daughter…what does she do that is so wrong…I don’t remember. Was it that she loved cars more than horses?

Thankfully we see Patricia at middle age (my age) seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  Another Persephone I thoroughly enjoyed.

This story had very little to do with spoons
I think my third struggling woman for the week struggled more than the other two combined. In Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns, artist Sophia Fairclough her artist husband Charles marry young, and (surprise) against the wishes of his family. Unlike her marginally talented husband, Sophia takes work so she can keep them fed and housed, a task that becomes harder when she has a baby. There is much about Sophia’s fertility that I would like to talk about but that would be too spoilery. But I will say that it makes me even more crazy that Rick Santorum and idiots on the far right are talking about contraceptives these days as if we were about to enter the dark ages again.

One of the great things about this book is that you never quite know where it is headed. The only constant is that one keeps hoping for Sophia’s day in the sun. Whether or not she makes it is something you will have to find out for yourselves. I highly recommend this (and the other other Barbara Comyns book I have read The Skin Chairs).

Struggling is not just for women
My struggle these days has been to find time for blog reading and blog writing. Happily my work has my brain occupied such that I don’t have as much mental stamina for appreciating the blog world as I had when my work didn’t engage me so. I fear I have turned into a once a week kind of guy. Hopefully that will just make you all fonder of me rather than make you forget about me. I do know that I have too many blogs in my feed reader and the sheer number of unread posts makes me not want to look at anything. So today I am going to do a huge cull and only keep around those that regularly interest me. I might try and sequester the ones that only marginally interest me into a separate folder, but if the result is that the unread posts for those still show up in my total of unread posts–thus triggering my OCD–I might have to give them the boot altogether.

Struggling through the Century?
No. Even though I have only read 14 of 100 books for the A Century of Books challenge, I am kind of enjoying paying closer attention to when books were published. For a while I even entertained reading my TBR pile in chronological order. I was reading the oldest, then then newest, then the oldest, then the newest, etc. But then I bumped into Women in Love and that took away my desire for chronological symmetry. I still might try and finish “that bastard book” (to paraphrase Corky St. Clair from Waiting for Guffman, one of the best movies of all time) D.H. Lawrence, but it is going to be a slog. I also updated my Century list today with books from my larger TBR pile (i.e., outside the nightstand).


4 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs (the struggling woman edition)

  1. travellinpenguin March 17, 2012 / 6:33 pm

    Am interested now to read Our Sppns….woolworth's. will find a copy. New to your Porch and enjoying it very much so far so even if you only write once a week, keep going.


  2. Susan in TX March 18, 2012 / 8:43 am

    We've been traveling this week (which for me means going backward about 10 yrs. technology-wise – no smart phone, no internet), and coming home and being “behind” in reading/commenting on my regular blogs was almost stressful. I say “almost” b/c it occurred to me that there is much grace in the blogging world. I like to comment when I can to affirm the writers and show my appreciation for the time that has been put into informative/entertaining/interesting posts, but occasionally life demands that I spend my time elsewhere. You shouldn't allow your OCD to cause you stress about this (okay, I know it's easier said than done ;) ). We'll “take you when we can get you.” It's nice that your work has become so interesting and I'm guessing more intellectually rewarding as well.
    As for the century reading, I love that you updated your list – it may help me to find some titles when I get to “holes” in my own list. I'm sitting at 13 at the moment. The biggest surprise for me this year has been the number of books I've read that have been published post-2000. (Still reading from my shelves, although the pressure to break the double dare before the 13 days are up is mounting! :) )
    Sorry about the verbosity – another byproduct of being away. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


  3. Karen K. March 18, 2012 / 4:17 pm

    I understand completely, my work schedule has just forced me to choose between reading and blogging when I get home from work — and after about 8 hours in front of a computer monitor, reading usually wins out (or, dare I say it, the TV). I'm getting to be about a once-a-week blogger myself, and I'm also going to have to cull my google reader, there's just too many to keep up with.

    After perusing your century of books list, I highly recommend The Pursuit of Love for a fun read — you may end up reading Love in a Cold Climate as well, if you haven't already!


  4. Thomas at My Porch March 22, 2012 / 11:08 am

    TravellinPenguin: I am glad you found me, especially since I now know about your great blog.

    Susan: I may stray from the 20th century once the TBR Double Dare is over. There are some recent books that are calling my name these days.

    Karen: Well I love TV so I can't fault you for that.


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