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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Maverick Mountaineer by Robert Wainwright

It's surprising to learn that steely-eyed actor Peter Finch's father (or step-father) was just as interesting as he was! Maverick Mountaineer by Robert Wainwright tells the fascinating story of George Ingle Finch, a scientist and mountaineer.  Even people who are not at all interested in climbing, are likely to enjoy this tale of adventure and heartbreak set in colonial Australia, civilised Europe and the then mysterious Himalayas.  (I even liked Wainwright's descriptions of mountaineering, and I get vertigo!)

Finch started his climbing career near Orange where his science-loving father owned a large property. However, the young boy eventually lived with his beautiful, society-loving mother in Europe and finished his education there, eventually studying science and becoming a lecturer.  He had several gifts, including being able to play the piano at concert level. The 'wild colonial boy' went climbing with his brother Max at a young age and soon made a name for himself as an accomplished mountaneer who conquered the highest mountains in Europe and even invented useful products for the steep, icy slopes.  Unfortunately, the Australian Finch was considered an outsider by some of the rather snobbish and jealous Establishment figures in the climbing world, and this was to lead to several unfortunate episodes.  For example, he was left out of an expedition to Mount Everest, and there was also a battle about the use of oxygen on the mountains.

The book also recounts Finch's troubles with women, for example, Peter Finch's mother. She was a pretty young socialite who broke George's heart by constantly being unfaithful.  He punished her by gaining custody of Peter but then left Peter with his grandmother.  Peter lived an enjoyable life in Paris with Laura, George's mother, but the poor young boy ended up in Sydney at a house run by Theosophists and  unwanted by most of his relatives, although his grandfather looked after him for a while.

I highly recommend this book if you like enjoyable biographies about eccentric characters, especially if you are interested in the connection with Peter Finch.

I received this free ebook from Harper Collins Australia via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Wainwright, Robert     Maverick Mountaineer

Paperback   $32.95

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Badass Book of Saints Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live Maria Morera Johnson Ave Maria Press Pub Date: Nov 20 2015 |

This is an inspiring and enjoyable book to read if you are interested in learning about women saints, and women who were 'saintly' in a feisty way.  Maria Johnson includes saints, such as Sr. Blandina who was sent to the Wild West which was full of lynch mobs and St Teresa of Avila who founded seventeen convents and fifteen friaries over the age of fifty. Sr Blandina got rid of one of the lynch mobs by taking an accused man to the bedside of the dying man he had assaulted. The dying man forgave him, so he was tried in a court of law rather than a vigilante mov.

Maria Johnson also has sections on women, such as Nancy Wake and Audrey Hepburn. The Australasian Nancy Wake was known as the 'White Mouse' because of her work for the French Resistance during the war.  Hepburn also helped the resistance in her native Holland, but she is better-known for her acting and her charity work for children. I was glad to see Nancy Wake in the book, although I think that she might be surprised!

I also liked Johnson's relating how learning about these women helped her through very difficult times, such as teaching poor migrants and her parents' sickness and deaths.  They are still assisting her to cope with the hardship of finding out that her husband has Lou Gehrig's disease.

This includes study guides and questions for each chapter.  It would be a great book for teenage girls!

I received this free ebook from Ave Maria Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Maria Morera Johnson, My Badass Book of Saints Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live
Ave Maria Press Pub Date: Nov 20 2015  |
paperback $14.95

Joy Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria

The story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman is one of the great love stories of all time, as Abigail Santamaria writes in her well-written and interesting biography.  However, I found this book difficult to read because Joy was so unlikeable compared with her rather jolly and fun-loving husband.  I thought that it was amazing that Lewis fell in love with this annoying woman!

However, Lewis had a strange history with women.  He lived with his friend's mother for many years, and some biographers think that this was a platonic relationship, but it is a mystery.  She was 25 years older, divorced, and demanding.  The young academic was, no doubt, looking for a mother-figure because his mother died when he was very young.

Like Mrs Moore, Joy was divorced and didn't have much money.  However, she was also a much younger intellectual and writer.  Many people found her abrasive and inclined to be shocking.  She also seemed to neglect her sons and hit them a lot.  I tend to agree with Lewis's father who said that his son was 'impetuous' and 'kind-hearted' so he 'could be cajoled by any woman who had been through the mill'.

This book is a thoroughly-researched analysis of Joy's character and her famous love affair and marriage.  I look forward to reading more of Santamaria's books.

I received this free ebook from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Santamaria, Abigail, Joy Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardback  $28.00

Sunday, September 20, 2015

C.S.Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian by Gregory Cootsona

Theo's Little Bot, C.S. Lewis aged 50, Wikipedia Commons.

I actually read this while my mother was dying only a few weeks ago, and it helped me a great deal.  Although I found reading about C.S. Lewis's crises of belief rather heavy-going, I found that reading about the crises that he faced in his life, especially the grief that he felt when his beloved wife passed away was easy to relate to, and I am not surprised that so many people have turned to the famous writer in times of trouble.

Some of Lewis's opinions about Christianity will seem out-dated to some readers.  For example, one of the reasons for his conversion was that human beings yearn for another world, and this convinced him that heaven does indeed exist. Lewis also thought that suffering is good for the soul, and this won't appeal to many people today, although I tend to agree with him.

If you would like an introduction to Cootsona's writing before reading this book, I highly recommend his wonderful post, "C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of Death".

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Dress by Kate Kerrigan

A fast-paced and beautifully written saga, this book tells the story of two generations of women - Lily  and Honor, and moves between London, Ireland and New York. When Lily, a lover of vintage clothes, discovers a stunning dress designed by a relative, she decides to make a copy of the dress. But how will this affect her relationship with her best friend?

Honor, a young and ambitious Irish designer, creates the dress but it causes her a lot of trouble, because she falls in love with her client's husband. This leads to a huge fight with Joy, who doesn't want to let her husband go.

How will these stories be tied up at the end?

This kept me interested until the last page, but there were some modern expressions in Honor's story that I found jarring. These included 'hanging out' and 'reaching out'. They only originated a few years ago!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Mother Passed Away Last Week

My beloved mother passed away last week. I may not feel like writing any blog posts for a while.