Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guests On Earth

I really enjoyed Lee Smith's book: Guests On Earth.

I will post one of the professional reviews below as I am always fascinated by the fact that sometimes I come away from a book thinking: "did the reviewer read the same book that I read?"

I am also hoping that I will be able to add the list of research that Lee did in order to write this book.  It is amazing!  I am so used to seeing the footnotes at the end of a genealogical article or historical article....it is refreshing to see the list of misc information consulted in a casual and easy to read form.  I suppose that if I were planning on doing my own research, it would be nice to have it more formal.  But for a novel, it is nice that it is easy and pleasant to read.

So many surprises in this book that I am not going to say much more as almost everything that I might say would ruin one of those surprises.  I do have one question:  "why did Evalina not go looking for Pan?" or perhaps she did....

Abandoned as a child upon her mother’s death in New Orleans in the 1930s, Evalina is sent to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, by her mother’s wealthy lover—a convenient way of dealing with an inconvenient problem. Evalina may be a lot of things—a budding musician, a romantic dreamer—but mentally ill she is not. Yet over time, the mental hospital becomes her home and its staff and fellow patients her family. Celebrated for its unorthodox treatment methods, Highland attracts the penniless and the notorious, and Evalina is influenced by a nearly feral young man and the hospital’s most famous patient, Zelda Fitzgerald. Equally creative, emotive, independent, and adventurous as Zelda, wife of the renowned author F. Scott, Evalina also contradicts society’s standard for female behavior, guaranteeing that no matter how often she escapes or improves, she will always return to Highland. Riding the recurring wave of Zelda-mania, perennially best-selling Smith (Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, 2010) presents an impeccably researched historical novel that reveals the early twentieth century’s antediluvian attitudes toward mental health and women’s independence. --Carol Haggas

Adding the research list is not as easy as I had hoped.  I'll try it again another day.  I read this book via Kobo on my phone.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Born Fighting How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

I am reading this book with an actual paper copy.  I had loaned the book just after I bought it to someone who wasn't that enthusiastic about the book.  So it had ended up on my shelf unread.  For whatever reason it was yelling to me the other night and I picked it up.

The first 120 pages were amazing!  I was unable to type because I was undergoing a lymphedema treatment in which my right arm was bound, so I marked pages that I wanted to write about once the treatment is over.  WOW!  There are probably 15 stickies in the book.  I don't know if I'll get around to doing all of them.  But I found the history of the Scots and their move into Ireland to be absolutely fascinating.  I am not quite as enthusiastic about the history of their move into the forests and the mountains of America as I suppose that I know that history much better.  So my reading has slowed a bit as I begin to read the chapter Westward Ho!

But here are some of the highlights of the first 120 pages:

The author explained that the Scots "embraced members of other ethnic groups".....in the Celtic societies, ....he was "of the kin" so long as he accepted the values and mores of the extended family.  At the idea that the Northern Ireland problem might be solved by importing a hundred thousand Hong Kong Chinese to emigrate to Ulster in order that " new blood might leaven the brawl and even shake away old hatreds"  The thoughtful Northern Ireland native who was presented with this idea said:  "You're wrong because you underestimate the power of the Celtic culture.  We'd absorb them....Within ten years we'd have the IRA Chinese and the Orange Chinese....I laughed out loud when I read this.

And for research purposes:   "English migrations to Ulster did pick up again in the late 1600s, particularly from the northern border areas next to Scotland, where many of the English emigrants shared the predominantly Celtic heritage of the Scots.  Others, such as the Puritans and Quakers who, like the Scots, were "dissenting" Protestants in conflict with the "reformed" English Episcopacy and the Catholics, also trickled into Ulster during this period.  They frequently joined the Presbyterian congregations, intermarried, and thus became part of the Scottish communities.  As a consequence, despite their English antecedents, both of these groups tended to reinforce rather than detract from Scottish dominance of Ulster.  In large measure they also account for the many English-origin surnames that show up among Americans of Scots-Irish descent.  The "notion of Celtic kinship" was again well served, as the Scots characteristically absorbed the new immigrants."