Friday, August 2, 2013

A Love Letter (review of The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler)

This book is a loveletter both to New York City, to individually owned bookstores crammed to the ceilings with used books. Esme garland (great name! Esme is an English girl, a grad student on scholarship working on her masters in Art History on scholarship at Columbia(a Froster schorlaship at that!). We meet her as she struggles with the sudden realization that she is pregnant,

Esme is a female character that defies description. She is not a chick lit character, obsessed with makeup and shopping and "boys." Nor is she a truly nerdy girl. She loves what she loves and who she loves, and is serious and thoughtful about people. She is open, in a way I think most native New Yorkers are not. She seeks the good in people, a quality rare in anyone these days, in our cynical socirty. But she is not a dupe, nor is she stupid. She is kind. 

Esme's story centers around her studies and her job at The Owl, a small, independently owned boosktore that buys and sells mostly used books, and most predominantly, her pregnancy and relationship with the father of that baby. meyler does a wonderful job of letting you get to know Esme and her friends. Never forced, the author carefully reveals the thoughts of Esme and her feelings about those around her so that finally, you feel like you really KNOW Esme. And adore her, as well as her friends. 

This book was not perfect, it had a few weak plot moments that I wished were different, but I really loved reading it. It was entertaining, and I was swept up into Esme's life. A perfect little summer read.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mary Anning: Female Fossil Hunter

I have recently (in the last couple of years) been fascinated by the life of Mary Anning, a female fossil hunter who was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England.

From a poor family, but with a dreamer father who was a fossil hunter himself, Mary grew up exploring the rocky and often dangerous coast that was right outside her door. Her family suffered the loss of several children, and though her father was a cabinet maker by trade, he searched for and sold "curies" to tourists, and his children, Joseph and Mary often joined him on these searches. Mary continued with her fossil hunting after her father died. It definitely generated income from them, both from the souvenir business and selling to serious collectors of paleontological specimens at the time.

I have read three different books specifically about Mary, two are novels, and one a biography of her life that reads like fiction. And her life was very much like a Dickens novel (and he was also interested in Mary, and even wrote about her life in his literary magazine, All The Year Round, and certainly had elements of an Austen heroine's struggle as well.