Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Town Like Alice – Review

Currently on loan from the Library: 

Cleopatra  – by Stacy Schiff

The Legend of Broken  by Caleb Carr

The German Bride  – by Joanna Hershon  (I’ve already finished this.  But I don’t really have anything in particular to say about it.)

Other books I’m currently reading: 

Anathem – by Neal Stephenson  (This one is going slowly, but it’s going)

I was going to save my review of A Town Like Alice until after this month’s book  club meeting.  It was the book that I chose for the club.   However, we’ve had some scheduling issues this month that have put the club meeting off until the third Monday, instead of the first.  So I’m going to write my review now while this book is still sort of fresh in my mind.

A Town Like Alice  has long been a favorite of mine.  The author, Nevil Shute, is better known in the States for his nuclear holocaust novel On the Beach.  He was however, a fairly prolific writer starting in the late 1920’s.  A Town Like Alice  was published in 1950.  On the Beach was published in 1957.  I first found Nevil Shute in college.  I’ve read On the Beach, as well as many of his other works exactly once.  On the Beach, by the way is one of the most heartbreaking novels I’ve ever read.  I keep coming back to A Town Like Alice over and over again.

I think A Town Like Alice has become so important to me because of the heroine Jean Paget.  Every time I read the book she cleanses my palate of all those Chick Fic heroines with their Prada, and their “do these jeans make my ass look fat” and their but I want what I want or else attitudes.  Jean is not a feminist.  But she could have been.  This does not stop her from embodying the values of an earlier generation.  Jean is a grown up.  We know that she is attractive.  But it’s not the important thing about her.  She is so much more than her face, or her boobs.  She’s courageous.  She’s determined, but not rude, or vulgar.  She’s got character and grace, and brains.  More than that.  She carries herself in a way that earns her respect, and not in away that demands people give her respect even if she’s acting like an overgrown child.  If more women aspired to be Jean Paget, and not Carrie Bradshaw, the world would be a better place.

The book is narrated from the point of view Jean’s lawyer and eventual friend Noel.  Jean’s uncle, who she has met perhaps twice in her life, leaves Jean a trust fund.  An inheritance that makes her an independently wealthy woman.  Noel is the administrator of the trust, who has to hunt Jean down so she can inherit.  Part of the problem is that Jean and her brother were caught in Malaya during the Japanese occupation of World War II.  Jean’s brother dies building a railroad for the Japanese.  Jean and the other English women and children she is captured with are marched around Malaya as prisoners of the Japanese.  As she tells her story to Noel, and he tells her story to us, Jean figures out how to spend her new wealth, and to continue her life.

Jean is honorable too.  She pays her debts.

Eventually, as many of Shute’s books do, we end up in Australia.  In Australia Jean figures out how to be happy, even living under difficult circumstances in the out back.  I’d say more, but that would spoil the end.

This book is well worth the read, even now.  There are many plot twists and turns.  It’s not a heavy read, or a very long one.  Still, it’s a gem of a book that I’m sad more people haven’t ever read.

Enjoyably:  This is a five-star book for me.  Plain and simple.  

Where to read this book:  Anywhere.  Anytime.  In fact go get it now.  The Kindle download is $2.99.   

Further Reading:  Anathem  and the rest of Cleopatra.  Both are going really well.  


Three Cowls

Once again it must seem that I’ve forgotten how to knit.  I haven’t.  With moving houses, I haven’t had anywhere to pin out my work.  So now I have a back log of knitting posts.

Having moved back to the midwest, and wonderful wonderful snow, I have come to appreciate the beauty of the cowl.  They’re warm.  They stay in place.  If they’re long, they’re helpful in wind.  They are fantastic.  So naturally I made one and ended up making a total of four.

The first one was this green number.  It’s a long broken rib stitch cowl made from Misti Aplaca’s Pima Cotton and Silk Worsted.  I have a special place in my stash for the Pima Cotton and Silk Worsted.  It’s one of those yarns that I buy in every color they have when I DCIM100SPORTfind it on sale.  It’s so very soft.  I have only made two projects out of it so far.  But I love and wear both of them all the time.  I admit.  The yarn does shed.  I know some people find that upsetting   However, I’ve found that the shedding generally stops after the first washing.  Plus it’s so comfortable to wear it’s like taking your favorite baby blanket with you everywhere.  In a slightly more mature form.  I really enjoyed this cowl pattern too.  The pattern is simple to keep track of, and easy to understand.   Here is the free pattern link:   I wear this project everywhere, and I’ve gotten tons of complements on it.  I may have to make myself another one in a slightly different color though.  Acid green doesn’t go with as much of my wardrobe as I’d hoped.

The second cowl is one that in no way should work.  And I know that.  I made this one from left overs of three yarns.  One cotton sock yarn.  One DK weight soy yarn that I got from a grab bag sale.  One solid purple wool based sock yarn left over from a shawl project earlier this year.  It’s a simple knit sitch with barber pole stripe.  But somehow it worked out.   DCIM100SPORTIt’s got nice drape.  It is holds snug around the face when it’s worn up.  Which is nice for windy days.  And it’s comfortable to wear.  I like the lighter weight for warmer days.  I also like that it’s an experiment that worked out.  Finally.  Not everything I knit as an experiment turns out so well.  The thing  I like least about this one is that it does not photograph well.  At least not for me.  I’ve taken about 500 pictures of it.  This one is the best of a bad lot.  So there we are.  I tried to get closer so everybody could see  the lovely variegation in the cotton sock yarn.  Purple, green, and orange.  No dice.

Finally there is this little blue number.  Made out of Lion brand recycled cotton yarn.   DCIM100SPORTIt’s a short one.  I mostly wear it around the house.  I got this pattern free too.  Here is the link.  I would have made this one longer, but I just flat out ran out of yarn.  Still I really like it.  Also, my four year old thinks it makes a great turban.  Kids.

There is another cowl waiting to be washed and pinned in my stack of finished objects.  That’s going to have to wait a couple of days.  So hopefully look for it later this week.  Along with a lovely half circle shawl I can’t wait to wear.

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