Friday 6 December 2019

Catching up, a gardening book and Moby-Dick

A catch-up post while I actually have time. Two brief reviews, first up, A Little Light Weeding by Richard Briers. This is my 24th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2019.

Richard Briers (1934 - 2013) was a household name in the UK, I can remember him in the 1960s in a comedy called Marriage Lines with Prunella Scales (Fawlty Towers and canal cruising docs. with her husband, Timothy West on ITV). But he's probably most famous for the 1970s comedy series, The Good Life where he played Tom Good, who with his wife, Barbara, played by Felicity Kendall, went self-sufficient, growing veggies and keeping livestock in the back garden. Apparently he got really interested in gardening around the time of that series, hardly surprising I suppose. Anyway, A Little Light Weeding is full of excerpts from all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about gardens and gardening. There are headers for sections such as 'Daffodils', 'Gooseberries', 'Spring', 'Bees', 'Class in the garden', 'Birds', and so on. There are tips, observations and complaints. And poems. I liked this one:

Awake my muse, bring bell and book
To curse the hand that cuttings took.
May every sort of garden pest
His little plot of ground infest
Who stole the plants from Inverewe,
From Falkland Palace, Crathes too.
Let Caterpillers, capsid bugs,
Leaf-hoppers, thrips, all sorts of slugs,
Play havoc with his garden plot,
And a late frost destroy the lot.

Lady MaConochie of Inverewe

And this quote:

One of the most pleasing sounds of Springtime to be heard all over the country, is the contented cooing of osteopaths as Man picks up his garden spade.

Oliver Pritchett

A lovely book for casual dipping in and out of or for an undemanding bedtime read.


Next, Moby-Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville.

What on Earth to say about this? I haven't the skill to review it I'm afraid, so what shall I write? Well, it took me just over six weeks to read, I did actually think it would take me longer, up to Christmas and possibly beyond. It wasn't really what I thought it would be. I thought it was a book about hunting down a white whale and it is, but the white whale is hardly there until the very end so it actually isn't, not to my mind anyway. What it's about is 'Whaling'. I knew nothing about that before I read Moby-Dick and now I really do. I'm sure it's been said before that if you want to know about the whaling industry of the 1800s this is the book to read, but it's worth saying again, 'It definitely is'. I read all about the anatomy of whales, their habits, the catching of them, the men that went after them, the boats they sailed in, where they came from... Nantucket mostly... the differences between how one country went about whaling and another, how the whale was butchered... in minute detail. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, it's no good whatsoever reading this with your 21st. century sensibilities on full alert: it would make you feel quite ill. I can't say that I 'enjoyed' this book. It was interesting, in parts. Rather tedious in quite a lot of other parts. Written in a manner that I struggled to understand a lot of the time, I did a lot of rereading. There's no doubt about it, this is a work of genius but I'm simply not intelligent enough to fully appreciate it. For me there was too much rambling in a style of language that I just couldn't get my head around, try as I might, and I did try. I'm glad I've read it. I've learnt a lot and that's always good, but I was not much entertained by it and have no wish to read it again, so in the charity shop box it shall go. (And, *whispers*, good riddance.)

I do have, on my TBR pile, this book:

Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund.

The blurb from Goodreads:

A magnificent, vast, and enthralling saga, Sena Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife is a remarkable epic spanning a rich, eventful, and dramatic life. Inspired by a brief passage in Moby Dick, it is the story of Una, exiled as a child to live in a lighthouse, removed from the physical and emotional abuse of a religion-mad father. It is the romantic adventure of a young woman setting sail in a cabin boy's disguise to encounter darkness, wonder, and catastrophe; the story of a devoted wife who witnesses her husband's destruction by obsession and madness. Ultimately it is the powerful and moving story of a woman's triumph over tragedy and loss through her courage, creativity, and intelligence.

Now that sounds interesting and will be one of my first chunkster reads for 2020. So while I turned out not to be Moby-Dick's biggest and most enthusiastic cheerleader, I have a feeling it 'will' inspire me to read other books connected with the subject, even if only vaguely. So, it's all good.



DesLily said...

Wow... just, wow!

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Fantastic - and a great review of Moby Dick! think I'll have a go next year at reading it. Have you come across In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick'by Nathaniel Pilbrick? I haven't read it yet, so don't know if it's any good ...

Sam said...

Your reaction to seeing the backside of Moby Dick was much like mine. Total relief to have finally finished it, but also a feeling that if I could get through this one, no telling what I might conquer next.

Like you, I didn't try to do a normal review of the novel, and found myself talking more about the challenge, the experience, and my basic takeaways from the novel and the times. But you, at least, got it in one try. For me, it was multiple tries spread over a decade, and because I waited so long between tries I had to start over each time. I got stalled around the 200-page mark more than once, making me wonder how many total pages of Moby Dick I actually read over all those years. Probably enough to have read the book three times if I had gone all the way through. But, never, never again am I going to allow myself to struggle with a book so long.

So, congratulations are in order, Cath. Congrats!

Cath said...

Pat: LOL! I know, it's crazy.

Margaret: Thank you. It's worth having a go and if you do I would be very interested to hear how you get on. Yes, I have come across In the Heart of the Sea, in fact I own it. What I didn't realise was that it had anything to do with Moby Dick! So I've yanked it out and will read that next year.

Sam: I have that same feeling about being able to conquer anything now that I've ploughed my way through Moby-Dick. Determined next year to read some Dickens novels that I've never read.

Well at least you were brave enough to give it a try a few times. I haven't been brave enough to even do that until now. Too funny that you reckon you may have read it several times over by the amount of pages of it you've read.

Nan said...

Thanks, Cath. I'm going to search out the Briers book. I always felt he had such a kindly face. And he was president of the UK Wodehouse Society. I belonged for a while, and it pleased me to think I was in the same group as he was.
I did love The Good Life, which over here was called Good Neighbors, but I didn't like how they flirted. Silly, maybe but it made me feel uncomfortable.

Nan said...

I found a lovely used hardcover with his picture on it for $5.25. It is coming with from England with free shipping! The thing I love the most about the internet!

TracyK said...

The gardening book sounds very good. We had lots of rain in the last week and now all I have in my tiny "garden" is weeds. I think you did a very good job of reviewing Moby Dick and I now feel sure I don't want to read it.

Cath said...

Nan: Glad you found a copy and really cheap too. I liked The Good Life well enough but my favourite of RB's comedy series was Ever Decreasing Circles. The actress who played his long-suffering wife, Penelope Wilton, was really wonderful in it.

Tracy: The gardening book was interesting and fun, I like these occasional different little books. Thank you. You're not alone in not wanting to read Moby-Dick and honestly... I cannot say that I blame you.

Susan said...

You finished MOBY DICK! Wow! I'm impressed. I have absolutely NO desire to ever read that book. LOL.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

You are definitely a more focused reader than I, to have even considered reading such a chunkster as 'Moby Dick'. In fact I am really put off by a book with so many pages, no matter how good it sounds, so I really admire your tenacity and staying power.

I actually had a copy of 'A Little Light Reading' donated into the charity shop recently and now I wish that I had spent a few moments browsing its pages, before putting it on the shelf for sale (which it did very quickly).

'The Good Life' and 'Ever Decreasing Circles' were such staple television viewing when we were first married, that even the re-runs are still coveted viewing. Richard Briers always seemed like such a nice, genuine person and I couldn't believe the amount of other acting roles he had over the many years of his career, until I saw them all written down.

You really have worked your way through such a diverse range of books, authors and genres this year - Well Done you!! :)


Cath said...

Susan: Yes, unbelievable. Not sure how I managed it because there were some *very* tedious sections and you're not alone in deciding not to read it. LOL

Yvonne: I too can be put off by the size and density of some of these larger books. But just occasionally I decide to focus on something like Moby-Dick and get it read regardless of the fact that it's a tedious in places. I think I mentally prepare myself and then I'm good to go.

I think Richard Briers definitely comes or came under the heading of 'National Treasure'. I think he took up Shakespeare in his later years which surprised a lot of people.

Thank you it's nice of you to say so, I do like to ring the changes although crime stories are very much my favourite reading matter.

Have a lovely weekend.