When Jen asked, “What are you reading this summer, Mom?” I hesitated before saying, “Well, I just read Janice Hadlow’s THE OTHER BENNET SISTER.” She picked right up on that hesitation—“Didn’t you like it?” Actually I did like it, but did I like it because I’ve read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, EMMA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE so many times? Hadlow has some of Austen’s sensibility—and her treatment of Mary Bennet is quite good. She develops Mary from the embarrassed piano player we see in P and P to an accomplished and confident young woman. And she also lets us see what Lizzy and Jane are like as married women, and poor Mrs. Bennet is still poor Mrs. Bennet. It’s fun to see Hadlow channeling Austen.
And I’m also trying to read Richard Powers’ THE OVERSTORY. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner; it’s thoughtful; it’s deep; I don’t get all of it. It’s one vignette after another and there’s always a tree lurking, perching, peering in the background—not always the same tree. I’m only about a quarter of the way through it, and now some of the characters are encountering each other—one thing I do know—trees are incredible. In one scene, a scientist is describing how the trees near the river “deliver” water to the trees that are farther away through their root systems—and this is only one way scientists are discovering that trees communicate. I hope someone else will read this book and talk with me about it.
Finally, I’m “racing” (pun intended) through Dick Francis’(who actually was a jockey for Queen Elizabeth’s stable) great mysteries. I’ve read 8 in the last few weeks—the man is an incredible writer—the perfect summer reads! Most of the mysteries involve race horses, race tracks, jockeys, trainers, owners in some way—but are not limited to that. The protagonists are likeable, can-do men and the stories move along quickly. The one I just finished, SMOKESCREEN, has a popular British movie star going to South Africa to check out why the horses owned by a friend aren’t winning when their breeding says they should be. He, by chance, hands his microphone to a bystander to hold until an interview, and the bystander is electrocuted when the microphone is turned on. Of course the movie star knows CPR and saves the bystander—that only leaves getting conked on the head in a gold mine and being abducted and left in the Serengeti to die. But the good guy always wins! Reading any one of these books will make you a Francis’ fan: DEAD CERT; NERVE; WILD HORSES; LONGSHOT. One of my friends, who just discovered him during the “social distancing” is now reading her eighth DF, as we fondly refer to his books.