SANDRA CAREY CODY ON: OH, THE PLACES I’VE BEEN
I keep a reading journal and have gotten into the habit of beginning a new year by analyzing the books read in the year just past. Looking over my 2010 entries, I’m struck by how appropriate is the phrase “Armchair Traveler”.
In 2010, I spent a lot of time in China, much of it with Pearl S. Buck as a guide. I read four of her books during the year. If I had to choose a favorite Buck book, it would be Pavilion of Women. I was still in school when I discovered this gem. I had just finished The Good Earth for a class and enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want it to end. In an attempt to prolong the experience, I reached for another book by the same author. I had another good experience but, as so often happens, not the one I had anticipated. Reading The Good Earth, I became part of a family of Chinese peasants. Pavilion of Women is the story of a wealthy, aristocratic Chinese household and the remarkable woman who guides their lives with an implacable will and a gentle, steely hand. I fell in love with this book on the first page and remember staying up all night, reading parts of it with tears in my eyes. The second time around, while I still loved the book, the experience was more intellectual than emotional. I was awed by how artfully Ms. Buck had constructed her plot and how she had chosen exactly the right details to make her setting come alive. The other Buck books I read in 2010 were Dragon Seed and The Three Daughters of Madame Liang. It was the first time around for these two, so my focus was on seeing what happened next as the characters lived through periods of unrest and revolution. Still on my China kick, I read Anchee Min’s Pearl of China, a work of fiction based on Pearl Buck’s life. And I have to mention Lisa See; Shanghai Girls follows two Chinese-born sisters to America and shows how they learned to balance the old and new cultures.
Where else did I go in 2010? I spent time in England, guided by Jacqueline Winspear, Dick Francis, Elizabeth George, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, P. D. James, G. M. Malliet and Catherine Aird. Tana French and Maeve Binchy showed me two different faces of Ireland. I went on a Louise Penny kick and had some good times (and a few scary moments) in a tiny village in Canada. I fled Paris with Irene Nimirosky. Cutting for Stone and Infidel were vivid and sometimes grim explorations of Africa. Thrity Umrigar’s The Weight of Heaven was a heartbreaking trip to India. And I could never let a whole year go by without at least one book by Alexander McCall Smith. Then, after I left Scotland, I spent some unforgettable, terrifying time in Sweden, as portrayed in Stieg Larsson’s books. Talk about pageturners! Please say that the dispute will be settled and there will be more about The Girl …
What about my own country? Yes, I spent anple time in the U. S. and am proud of many of the books written by my countrymen, but I’ll leave that to another time, another blog.
What am I reading now? Another Jacqueline Winspear – The Mapping of Love and Death. Would I recommend it? Oh, yes! Maisie Dobbs never disappoints.