A slightly belated Happy New Year! My entire family has been visiting from the US since the 21st of December and they just left today, so I haven’t had much time for sharing bookish news. We had a lovely holiday, spending both Christmas and New Year’s in the small town of Colmar in Alsace. Colmar has quite a big Christmas market every year so we spent our days eating pretzels and beignets and drinking mulled wine. Not a bad way at all to spend a week – despite the slushy weather and the somewhat eccentric apartment we rented.
The only reading I did over the holiday was to start a long overdue reread of Little Women. It has probably been twenty to twenty-five years since I first read Little Women and it is quite fun to revisit the story, especially now that I know a little bit more about that period of American history and about the Alcott family (mostly thanks to Susan Cheever’s American Bloomsbury). But this reread is also interesting because I read and enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’s March a few years ago. I find myself reading for the parts of the novel Brooks would have used to help imagine the untold story of Mr. March at war and of Marmee and March’s relationship. Finally, I’m not there yet, but I’m pretty sure I will be just as upset as I was at thirteen to read the part when Jo turns Laurie down. I’m curious whether most readers disapprove of Alcott’s decision on this point, or is it only pre-teen girls?
I didn’t choose Little Women completely by accident – this book is also kicking off my year of reading and reviewing women writers. I spent a few days before the holidays putting together a list of about 100 books that I’d like to read this year. Many of the writers on the list I’ve heard of and even read before, but many are new to me. I’ll be covering about three centuries and jumping continents as often as I can – although the list is definitely weighted toward American writers. I’m very excited about this project!
And finally, I started reading Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women yesterday. What a fun book! I love the way Pym has written Miss Lathbury—she’s such an excellent combination of pitiful and snarky. It’s funny to think of this book coming out right about the same time as Under the Net by Iris Murdoch, they feel very different. I am slowly working my way through Murdoch from start to finish and already have a great admiration for the depth of her writing, but I like the way Pym satirizes her characters. It seems harmless at first but cuts sharply.
So that’s how my reading year has begun – how about everyone else?