Monday, July 2, 2018

Internal and external journeys

(Originally published April 28, 2018)
After my mid-May retirement from Peter White Public Library I will have endless time to read dozens of library books. My latest job was to choose and order materials for adults, after doing the same work in the Children's Room for many years. There were, and continue to be, so many great new books, more than any one person can read. Additionally, as the shelves are weeded to make room for new books, I've come across many older books that invite one's curiosity.

An older book we recently replaced is the 1946 epic, Independent People by Halldór Laxness. Set in Iceland in the early twentieth century, the novel concerns a sheep farmer determined to be emancipated from the landowner for whom he has slaved for many years. His daughter, too, wishes to be free, to live independently from him. The battle of wills between father and daughter, and the war the farmer fights within himself, are the heart of this book. (adult fiction)

Many patrons know that Circulation staff member Ben Sargent's favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This book has been on my reading list for over 35 years.  A brutal landlord is murdered. The murderer's identity is revealed through the investigation and trial in this story of good and evil, innocence and corruption. (adult fiction)

Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon was published in 1940. This account of a
journey through Yugoslavia looks at that country's people, landscape, history, and politics in the context of the Balkans' troubled history and the relationships among its various ethnic and religious groups. (914.97We v.1, v.2)

Several years ago, a patron's request introduced me to Patrick Leigh Fermor's travel book trilogy, A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and The Broken Road. In December 1934, at the age of 18, Fermor began a walk across central Europe starting in Holland and ending in Constantinople. His journey took a bit more than a year and coincided with Hitler's coming to power. Fermor noticed everything, and describes the plants, animals, architecture, geography, art, music, food, religion, customs, and people he encountered, capturing the joy of travel with boyish enthusiasm. He wrote decades after his walk so was able to provide historical depth to his descriptions of pre-WW2 Europe. The third book was finished after Fermor's death by John Murray, drawing on Fermor's diary and an early draft of the book. (914.96Fe)

My journey will be to Ireland. Several relatives and I will travel to the birth towns of our grandparents and meet relatives who stayed. In preparation, I will read as much as I can, including The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen. This gothic novel takes place in an Irish castle full of secrets, tragedies, and ghosts, all with ties to the legend of the Darkling Bride. Two stories thread their way through the book. The current thread concerns a Chinese-American bookworm hired to catalog the castle's library. The parallel thread, set in 1879, follows an English novelist who falls in love with the castle's mistress who dies. The cataloger and the current viscount who is both handsome and brooding, of course, work together to solve the mystery of various untimely deaths over the centuries and their ties to the Darkling Bride. (adult fiction)

In My Father's Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love and Die, author Kevin Toolis deals with his father's death by writing about the historical tradition of the Irish wake and the ancient Irish way of working through the mourning process. Toolis' father died at home on an island off the west coast of Ireland. He was cared for and watched over as he died and then honored with the old rites and rituals carried out by his whole community. Toolis compares this tradition to much of the modern world's way of putting death into the hands of experts. He shows how community and tradition helped him deal with his father's death and his own mortality in this work of memoir and anthropology.  (new adult nonfiction 393.93To)     

After the southwest peninsulas, we plan on visiting Northern Ireland which brings to mind the Irish crime novels by Adrian McKinty. The Belfast born writer is best known for his noir crime series featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic policeman in the Protestant RUC during the Troubles in the 1980s. The sixth book in the series is Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly. Number seven, Detective Up Late, is expected later this year. McKinty's description of Belfast including historical events and people, his hardboiled characters, snappy dialogue, and thrilling plotting, are full of witty Irish language.  (mystery books and audio CD)
Then a bus trip to see friends in Dublin. In award winning Irish author John Banville's latest work, Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, we tour Dublin through Banville's personal reminiscences. In conversational style, Banville reveals how the city shaped his life. We get to see cultural, political, social, and architectural aspects of the city as Banville writes of the people and places he knew through childhood birthday visits and those he knows now since his return. His meditations are accompanied by Paul Joyce's photographs. Banville also writes the Detective Quirk novels under the name Benjamin Black. (new adult nonfiction 914.1835Ba)

Good travels, no matter if your journey is inward or across the world.

--Cathy Seblonka, retired librarian

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