Tag Archives: house

Booking Through Thursday: Real Life

Booking Through Thursday asks:

I am paraphrasing from a friend’s Facebook wall her question:

“How would a teen-age boy who is going to work with his hands ever use Literature of England in his work?”

The age-old “How am I going to use this in real life?” question. How would you answer it?

Very interesting question with, of course, multiple answer approaches.

I have to channel my 11th-grade English teacher a little here, because the vague question amuses me. When I wrote essays in high school, he brutally used his pen to scratch any mention of “this.” This what? He would ask, and he would waste class time to lecture us every time he encountered it. “Explain yourself. This what?”

So this question brings back memories of that guy, his eccentric hatred of the word, and I think I know why he disliked it so much. This what? How will I use what in real life? The knowledge I gained from literature, both instructional and cumulative?  The stories I enjoyed? The act of reading (closely)? Or just books in general?

Let’s insert them one by one into the question and answer them. The answers overlap in their most basic ways, such as to expand knowledge base or to connect, but each one highlights a different application of literature. To me, at least.

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The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Rating: 5/5 stars
Length: 496 pages
Synopsis:

I don’t remember how I picked up this book, but I’m glad I did. The House at Riverton is told through the eyes of 98-year-old Grace Bradley, looking back through her memories of being the house servant at Riverton Manor for the Ashbury family in 1914. The book covers the time when society changed from a Victorian perspective, where duty comes before everything else, to the roaring ’20s’ indulgence and excess.

19-year-old Grace enters the Manor grateful for having been given the honor to serve the family, but as she serves, she begins to learn what that means, including keeping the family’s secrets, working without complaints, and giving up independent thoughts. She sees, but not allowed to say; observes, but cannot judge. In this capacity, she is an honest chronicler of what happens with the Ashbury family. What society knows and what she knows differ, and she is bound by the code of servitude to never reveal. She carries their stories until her dying age, when she is forced to revisit the Manor by, but who else could it be, the media.

The media here isn’t portrayed negatively. A filmmaker came to research because she wants to find out the truth for a commemorative movie in-the-making that seeks to uncover Grace’s secrets. Can Grace let go of them after carrying them for so long? The world wants to know what happened to the Ashbury siblings, David, Hannah and Emmeline, especially to the sisters. They were close, up until a tragedy occurred at a society party in 1924, when a poet committed suicide and the sisters never spoke to each other again.

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The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey

Rating: 2/5 stars for the solid writing, but somehow I couldn’t relate.

I just finished reading this book by Margot Livesey called The House on Fortune Street. What a depressing book. It had good prose, very readable but the subject at hand…so awful.

It tells the story of four people, each of whom had done a terrible thing and were dealing with what happens afterward. It talks about mendacity (a word I picked up from this book), euthanasia, infidelity, and pedophilia. What a sad bunch of words.

I don’t like it. The writing is good but what a downer of a book. I didn’t relate to any of these people and I did not feel anything for them, except for one character who suffered the most. Though I can’t believe her reasoning: why did she do what she did? I didn’t buy it. It’s true that all kinds of things happen to all kinds of people but I couldn’t put myself in her shoes. Not the fault of the author. I just couldn’t relate. There are rave reviews on Amazon (here) so that might put things into perspective if you’re trying to decide whether to read this.