It’s March and that means that spring is just that much closer! We’re not safe from crummy weather here until around May, but the sky is lighter in the morning and it’s giving me life.
Also giving me life was our recent trip to New Orleans, where Ben and I spent four days with our good friends eating, drinking, and enjoying the 70-degree weather and sunshine. It. was. amazing. And I want to go back immediately.
I literally forgot that flowers existed…
On to the books!
What Shannon Read in February
I read six books in February, including three books for my When Are You Reading? Challenge. This means I’m actually only two books away from finishing that challenge—that went fast. I now only need to read books for the 1900-1919 and 2000-present categories.
It was a slower month for reading and I certainly didn’t fit in as many books as I did in January. I think that’s mostly thanks to The Persian Boy and Katherine, both of which were long, intense novels that took me awhile to read.
This is the reimagination of real events that took place in Queens, New York in 1965. It’s the story of a woman, Ruth Malone, whose children are murdered. She is put on trial for murder and, thanks to a botchy job by cops who have it in for her, and the prosecutors lambasting her for her reputation as a “loose woman,” she is convicted.
This story is told from several perspectives, including Ruth’s and Pete Wonicke’s, a rookie tabloid reporter who believes Ruth is innocent.
The reader wonders whether Ruth is innocent right up until the end of the story when the murderer is revealed.
Jazz (Read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge):
I love Toni Morrison. She is a master of imagery. Each sentence, it seems, has to be unpacked, dissected, and metabolized before you can know it’s meaning. I listened to the audiobook of this classic, read by Morrison herself, and it was a whole experience. Her reading voice is incredible. I’m so glad I finally read it.
Here’s the Goodreads synopsis if you’re interested in the story:
In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse. This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.
My Happy Life:
I needed an audiobook to listen to before bedtime, so why on earth did I choose this one? This is the story of, ironically, a not-so-happy life narrated by a woman who is locked by herself in a of mental hospital ward when the person who brings her food suddenly stops coming. She whiles away the time telling the story of her incredibly traumatic life.
The writing was excellent; the was story riveting but very hard to get through. Not a relaxing bedtime read at all, but I couldn’t stop listening. *shrug*
A Dangerous Business (Read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge):
This was a very enjoyable read. It’s the story of a woman, Eliza, whose new husband takes her from her parents’ home in Kalamazoo, Michigan to live in Monterey, California during the 1850s gold rush. Right at the start, we find out her husband has been shot dead in a saloon in Monterey and Eliza then takes on the world’s oldest profession to support herself.
She and a new friend, Jean, who is a lesbian and also a prostitute in Monterey, stumble into a murder mystery after women begin to disappear from the town.
I found the setting fun and the story fascinating as Eliza details the characters she meets in her profession. The issues of the day (gold rush, the possibility of a cross-country railroad, slavery and an impending civil war, religion) are touched on with caution and reverence, but they are not the focus of the story. Sexual orientation and gender identity are also themes.
The Persian Boy (Read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge):
This looong book kept me busy for almost half of February. It’s the story of a boy-turned-eunuch in ancient Persia. I don’t want to give too much away, but significant plot points include protagonist Bagaos, um, “servicing” the needs of the Persian king Darius and then, when Alexander the Great rolls into town and conquers everything, Bagoas serves and falls in love with Alexander.
It’s a great reimagination of these historical events. Most of them are true and the character of Bagaos is real. He is sympathetic from the beginning and I loved following his life, and Alexander’s, throughout the book. That’s all I’ll give away. Here’s the Goodreads synopsis if you’re interested.
Katherine (Read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge):
Katherine by Anya Seton, one of my favorite historical fiction writers (sadly, now deceased), is about Lady Katherine Swynford, who lived 1349-1403.
This is the epic tale of her life, which begins with her leaving the convent where she was raised to go to the English royal court. Katherine marries a night, Hugh Swynford, bears children, suffers many trials as Lady Swynford and then, when Hugh dies of supposed dysentery after fighting in Spain, Katherine begins her romantic attachment to the Duke of Lancaster.
The story is a romanticized version of her life, of course, and it is quite romantic as she falls in love with the duke. It’s also an incredibly well-drawn-out look into the distant past, where laws of chivalry, feudalism, and Catholicism ruled people’s lives. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
That’s it for February! Happy March—hope you have tulips and daffodils peeking out of the ground like I do. I can’t wait for real spring to hit. Take care!