Poem for a Thursday

Shamelessly stolen from Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. I hope you don’t mind! As I am grieving a close relative at the moment, I have turned to the wonderful Mary Oliver, who always provides comfort and grace. I chose this poem because I saw these lovely swans on the way to the funeral. And while it isn’t necessarily about death, somehow it rings apt. I hope you like it, too.

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating–a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers–
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company–
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
touch the shore?

– Mary Oliver 

Recent reads, February

img_1459I am so happy that I managed to read a couple of books this month! I am really missing my hobbies, and it feels like a big accomplishment to have learned to read one-handed while feeding Mabel. Finishing a book feels even more amazing! Both of my reads this month (okay, since November) are popular recent (by my standards) titles centering around women’s relationships and roles in society.

Women and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

I’ve not read anything by Beard before, but was looking forward to this after a friend recommended it. In the end, though, I gave it only 3 stars on Goodreads. The subtitle of this book is <em>A Manifesto</em> and for me that’s where it fell short. To be fair, this book is based on a series of oral lectures, and I find this often doesn’t translate well into written books. The intention/purpose is different, and so inherently are the means used to achieve those. More on this later in the post. The upshot is, I judged this book as a manifesto and to me, it wasn’t a good one.

Beard is a classicist, so I guess it’s no surprise that the parallels she drew between Greek and Roman civilization/literature and today’s society were compelling. It was frankly depressing to read about how the same stereotypes about women that were established so long ago continue, though – think the Medusa figure, women speaking in public being shrill, etc. I found these discussions fascinating, but to me the book never really went further than this into the territory of being a manifesto. Beard does pose questions about what we can do to change the situation and says the only way to change things is to change the structure and how society perceives what power is. The ideas were interesting but I found them underdeveloped; I would have loved to see Beard cite some modern feminist theory, perhaps. I think this is where the lecture/book difference comes in. For me it’s acceptable for lectures/speeches to be a little off the cuff and have fewer sources in a way that I’m not happy for books to be. The notes/bibliography at the end were great, though! Overall I’m glad I read it; I would recommend it to others, and it was thought-provoking at the time. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll find it memorable or worth rereading yet, though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

This novel is much acclaimed, both critically and amongst my friends, so it’s another one I was looking forward to reading. It tells the story of two girls growing up in a poor part of Sicily and is set in the 1950s; it’s also the first in a quartet. I really enjoyed it! I’m not sure it 100% lived up to the hype, but it was an excellent, engrossing book that I would probably read again. I am a sucker for <em>bildungsroman</em>, and this novel is pretty good as an example of the genre. The writing is clear and precise, and the character development is excellent. I also found it a realistic portrayal of childhood &amp; often made me think of moments from my own. I wasn’t absolutely sold on the beginning (it felt forced, particularly when the rest flowed so well), but am looking forward to seeing if that short narrative is further developed in the rest of the quartet.

I’m continuing the theme of female authors by reading Louise Erdrich at the moment. I’ve also got Knitlandia on the go. I bought the latter to read in hospital when I had Mabel. How naive! I’m enjoying it, though, and should be able to finish it this week.

Have you read either of these books? Any other female authors I should be reading this month? I’d love your thoughts.


Some good books

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I wrote about anything I’ve read. How has it been 5 months? I have definitely been doing plenty of reading; I’ve just gotten too distracted to write them up. This is, therefore, an unintentional roundup of some of the most memorable books I’ve read so far this year. Feel free to pop over to my Goodreads page to see a full list of what I’ve been reading.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo

I am terrible about keeping up to date with fiction, but as I have an interest in anything to do with Lincoln, and have heard great things about Saunders, I wanted to try this one. It takes place over one night, and to me it read more like a play than a novel. Saunders skillfully transitions between conflicting voices; each of the characters were distinctive, well-rounded, and introduced/developed at a good pace. Having a novel that is set in only 2 places is also a challenge that Saunders handled really well. It’s hard to believe many authors could set a novel in a mausoleum without making it feel morbid. I particularly admired how well emotions were conveyed throughout the book; writing about the loss of a child can so easily be overly sentimental, but I thought Saunders portrayal was really authentic and quite heartbreaking. Overall, I found it a thought-provoking novel that I felt I needed to re-read to absorb fully, yet struggled to put down while I was reading. I would definitely recommend it to others who are in the mood for a challenging yet engrossing book.

The Power by Naomi Alderman


The Power has been everywhere this year, and why not? With an endorsement from Margaret Atwood and the Bailey’s Prize, it is hard not to be persuaded to at least read this book. And for me, it did live up to the hype, even if I am not sure it will be a long-term favorite. The Power is a dystopian sci fi story where the women of the world, starting with the teenagers, suddenly find they have skeins of power (literally, as in electricity). The story then follows what happens, both in the lives of a few specific characters, and the wider world. It was a thought-provoking book, and I loved the detail of the illustrations, but the structure didn’t quite work for me. I’m really glad I read it, though.

East West Street by Philippe Sands


Having really enjoyed reading a ton of non-fiction a few years ago, I recently realised how much I missed it. I think I read a review of East West Street on the NPR book blog and decided it would be a good one to try to get me back into the habit. It tells the stories of three people – the author’s grandfather, Hersch Lauterpacht (who introduced the term crimes against humanity), and Raphael Lemkin (who originated the word genocide). All three were originally from the same city, now Lviv in Ukraine. The book starts off as 3 biographies, each of which are interesting on their own, but overall the book didn’t pick up for me until the second half, where Sands discusses the impact of Lauterpacht and Lemkin’s work on the Nuremberg trials. The story of Sands’s grandfather was really interesting, but for me it didn’t have a strong enough connection with Lauterpacht and Lemkin to fit in this book. Perhaps it would’ve worked better on its own as a short book. Nonetheless, I’m really glad I read this & would recommend it. It was a well-written book with a compelling narrative, and I learned a lot while reading it.

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us

A friend loaned this to me shortly after I told her I was pregnant. It’s not a pregnancy book, though; it’s about evolution and how that is reflected in human development. It was fascinating! And it pretty much blew my mind, too. I mean, the development of the heart in a fetus? Wow. Just wow. It made me understand exactly why I was so shattered during the first trimester in particular. I’ve not read anything by Alice Roberts before, and haven’t seen any of her documentaries, but she was a very persuasive writer. The bibliography was extensive, too, which is always important to me when evaluating the quality of a non-fiction book. I have to be honest & say I may not have enjoyed this quite as much if I weren’t pregnant…but I still would have given it 4/5.

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims

Set at the beginning of a modern ice age, The Sunlight Pilgrims takes place in the far north of Scotland and tells the story of Dylan, Estella, and Constance, who are living in a caravan park as an iceberg approaches the Scottish coast. It’s a surprisingly gentle book focusing on human relationships in spite of huge, overarching things happening in the wider world. So basically, it’s quite relevant to real life in that sense. It’s both apocalyptic and personal, quite a hard balance to capture. I picked this up because I loved The Panopticon so much. I didn’t like this novel quite as much, but still found it quite an interesting one.

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (The Grantchester Mysteries #6)

Ah, Grantchester! I love this series. All the characters seem so flawed and human. Also, I’m a sucker for a clergy detective. I do watch Grantchester on TV, but I prefer the books. The last one was a bit disappointing, though, so I was unsure about picking this one up. I’m glad I did, as it was back to the feeling of Runcie’s earlier books. The stories aren’t overly complicated, and this was a perfect summer read, which I got through in about a day sitting in my garden. There are some very sad (and shocking) events in this particular volume of Grantchester, yet it was still a comforting read – just what it should be.

Yarnalong: the one with a cheesy ornament

This week I’ve put aside my knitting projects, apart from one little one. Every year, I make R an ornament. Every year, I say it’s going to be something pretty or classy, but the reality never matches up to the picture in my head. This year I’ve decided I’m just going to go for cheesy so I can’t fail. It’s based on the McCain’s advert with a man wearing a CHIPS jumper. R always tells me I should make him one, so this year I’ve made a mini one using a pattern from 20 Mini Christmas Knits.


I’m back to the Temeraire series, which is fun as always. I’ve also got a pile of Christmas reading, which includes A Monster Calls and Eligible among others. I’ll be spending all 3 days at R’s parents, which means plenty of time for sitting & reading. Lovely!

I’m back Save

Wednesday Yarn Along

What I’m knitting: Knee highs

I’ve finished the mystery knit and am back to the knee highs. I’m now in a dilemma, as I’m out of yarn and have about 6-8 inches to go. A couple of weeks ago, John Arbon didn’t have it on their website, but now they’ve dyed some more. So the question  is do I unravel a bit of the other sock, or do I spend the eyewatering £16 to buy more and hope the dye lots are close enough? I wouldn’t normally spend £16 on yarn- the skein I have, I bought for about £6 at a yarn festival. What would you do in my place?


What I’m reading: Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer

This is another sci fi book. I really enjoyed the Annihilation series by Vandermeer, so I thought I’d try this one out. It’s about a pair of detectives investigating a double murder in a world ruled by fungus. Yup, really. I’m not very far into it, but it’s quite interesting. I’m not entirely sold on it yet. Hopefully it’ll improve, though.

As always, check out the Yarn Along page on Ginny’s website to see what others are up to this week. And feel free to share what you’re working on in the comments!

Yarn along & teapot hat: better late than never

I know I’m meant to share my Yarn Along post on Wednesday, but it has been quite a busy week. At least I’ve remembered to do it now. 🙂

I also thought I’d take the opportunity to share a picture of the aforementioned teapot hat  made by my friend which, as I pointed out in the comments, is not shaped liked a teapot, but rather has a teapot motif. Sorry, I know you were all hoping to see a teapot on my head. I did once actually put a tea cozy on my head by accident, though fortunately there is no photographic reminder of that moment. Whew.


The teapot hat pattern is the Tea Jenny hat by Kate Davies, if you’re interested in making it yourself. My friend has made at least 3 and says it’s really easy.

I’ve finally finished the first of my knee highs and have now started the second one. These are actually a very quick knit, but as I’ve been reading instead of knitting, they are taking longer than they normally would.

I’m a pretty indiscriminate reader, so please don’t judge me for reading M.C. Beaton! I just wanted to read something quick and mindless. I read another Hamish Macbeth story ages ago & remember liking it, but this one was really disappointing. The story was fine, but I think maybe it wasn’t edited very well. Toward the end it started flitting back and forth between different characters perspectives within the same chapter, without any sort of visual distinction. It was really offputting. No more Hamish Macbeth stories for me, I think.

What have you been reading or making this week?

Find out what others are doing at the main Yarn Along page.

Yarn Along: the one with yet more sci fi

Wow, is it Wednesday already? The weeks are just flying by these days. I know it’s not technically October yet, but October is so jam-packed for me that I’m already looking forward to it being over. Is it just me?

Knitting and reading are definitely helping me relax, which is extra important right now.

What I’m reading: In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood

The subtitle of this is SF and the Human Imagination, and it’s another non-fiction book about the genre of science fiction. I say another because you may recall I read a book called The Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of earlier this year. I’m about halfway through In Other Worlds now, and I much prefer it. It’s a collection of essays, divided into three parts. The first is her reflections on the genre of sci fi and why we are drawn to it, the second is individual pieces about sci fi works that are of personal significance to her, and the final she describes as tributes. In the words of the blurb, she “explores and critiques the form, and elucidates the differences – as she sees them – between ‘science fiction’ proper and ‘speculative fiction’, not to mention sword and sorcery, fantasy and slipstream fiction. Atwood’s a great writer, and this is interesting and thought-provoking and critical without being didactic or overly negative (which was one of my key problems with Disch).

What I’m knitting: Zitronenmelisse knee highs


I’m really enjoying knitting these, though I’m starting to worry I might not actually have enough yarn. I can’t decide what to do about that. If anyone has ideas, I’ll happily take them!

Linking up with the Yarn Along. Let me know what you’re making or reading this week!