Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Years of Grace - Winner, Novel, 1931

Years of Grace
By: Margaret Ayers Barnes
Hougton Mifflin Co., 1930

I have no witty or intelligent comments to begin this one with, so I'll just jump right into it. Years of Grace is the story of the life of Jane Ward, a young girl in the beginning who grows up in the Victorian Age and spends her latter years in the Jazz Age. Interesting, the book is divided into four sections: the first three are named for the man she loves at that time in her life and the last is named for her children and follows their love interests.

I won't go into the many details of Jane's life, but I believe I can summarize the story. Jane spends her early years ahead of her time. She is growing up in the Victorian Age with some very Jazz Age ideas. While the women of her mother's generation spend their time keeping up appearances of propriety while often living secret lives, Jane has very strong feelings that women should be free to make the choices that will make them happy - even if those choices are against what is considered socially acceptable. Then, Jane goes off to school, comes home, marries, has children, and eventually has her own secret life. As the Jazz Age replaces the Victorian Age, Jane's ideas begin their reversal. She sees her own children (especially her daughters) growing to be quite modern but with many of the same ideas Jane had as a young woman. On the other hand, Jane begins to think much more like her own mother did and values propriety as she never had before.

The point that Margaret Ayers Barnes is trying to make is, as in the words of King Solomon, "There is nothing new under the sun." Times may change, but, apparently, people do not.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Road - Winner, Fiction, 2007

The Road
By: Cormac McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

When I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of The Road, I really knew nothing about it. My friend, RC, read the book and provided a great summary, but I decided to put off reading what he had to say until after I read (or listened to) the book. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but The Road was NOT what I was expecting. If you don't want to know what the story is before you read the book (or watch the upcoming movie) skip to my last paragraph.

The Road is the story of a man and his son who are living in a post-apocalyptic world that is inhospitable and often quite dangerous. We never find out exactly what has happened and are not even sure exactly where the man and the boy are headed. But, that is not the story. The story is one of survival and of the love between a father and son.

I can't say that I enjoyed this book, necessarily, because that would seem a bit morbid. But, the story captivated me. I wanted to know where they came from and where they were going. I will say that I enjoyed listening to the story as opposed to reading it. I would recommend reading this book - especially if you plan on seeing the film adaptation that will be released this year.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography - Winner, Biography, 1932

Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography
By: Henry F. Pringle
Harcourt Brace, 1931

I have to start out by saying that I have always been interested in the life of Theodore Roosevelt and was thrilled to learn that I would be reading not one but two biographies of our 26th president (winners in 1932 & 1980). Theodore Roosevelt was president during the early years of my favorite time in United States history - post-Civil War through World War II. I couldn't wait to start learning more about this raucous character.

On reading Pringle's biography of Roosevelt, I found myself a bit disappointed. True, this is a detailed biography of Roosevelt's life, but it is almost purely a political biography. My mom recently read Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (winner, 1980) and told me brief stories of his love life an more. These episodes barely earned mention in Pringle's book. Instead, he turned his focus on every political move made by Roosevelt in his life (and there were PLENTY).

Pringle clearly respects Roosevelt, but you definitely do not come away with any warm feelings for the man. I might have had unreasonable expectations to start with, so I am glad to have the opportunity to read another perspective later and will hopefully learn about other sides of this multi-faceted man.