Monday, March 30, 2020

Testament of Friendship by Vera Brittain

Testament of Friendship
The Story of Winifred Holtby
Vera Brittain
Published 1940
English memoir/biography

After extremely enjoying Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain, I was encouraged to read Testament of Friendship, also by the same author. Brittain has a deeply emotional writing style, which I like, and she does not disappoint in this fairly long biography about her intimate relationship with Winifred Holtby. 

Winifred Holtby
They met at college (1919) and flourished into a genuine friendship until Holtby's death in 1935. If you do the math, you will see they only had about fifteen years to grow together, but it was so full of experience and history that it was equal to a lifetime. Brittain said of their relationship, 
Although we didn't exactly grow up together, we grew mature together, and that is the next best thing.
You could say they were cut from the same cloth: both were history majors and both became journalists, authors, lecturers, and activists. They travelled together and were roommates for a while. When Brittain married, Holtby lived with Vera, her husband, and their children. They also encouraged and inspired each other in their careers and private lives, which actually weren't so private since they knew everything about each other. Both women were essential parts of each other's lives.

Just a sidebar: My children and I are reading about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and I chuckled to find her companionship with Susan B. Anthony and the parallels of their passions extremely similar to Brittain's and Holtby's relationship and inspirations. Stanton was the married mother, like Brittain, and Anthony remained single, like Holtby. Anthony was so close to Stanton and her children that she was known as "auntie," just like Holtby was. 

Vera Brittain
Back to Testament of Friendship...there was much history in this biography: the attack on England during the War, conditions of post-WWI Europe, the problems with the League of Nations, the state of English occupied South Africa, the issues of feminism, and so much more. Brittain purposefully used the opportunity to give a thorough picture of the historical setting of her friendship.

I finished this book a few months ago and found it wasn't as intense as Testament of Youth, the powerful memoir of Brittain's experience during WWI. Friendship does not compare to Testament. Instead, I was left smiling and coveting that Holtby left such an impression on Brittain, inspiring her to write and paint a most beautiful picture of their relationship. It should make all of us wish for such a friendship with another human being. I suppose that is what I take away most from having read this. 

I did wonder the validity of their platonic relationship, and apparently I was not the only one. Brittain denied any questions about a lesbian romance, and frankly, it is not important because it is their business. But there was no denying that they cared intimately for one another, and their friendship was a blessing to have during life's greatest trials of war, heartbreak, pain, and suffering. We need to have more friendships like this.


If you like biographies, memoirs, history, feminism, and poetry -- Holtby was a poet -- and you appreciate deeply emotional narratives (told at a slower pace), then you may like this story about love, life, and friendship.

Friday, March 27, 2020

One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along Week #3

I sure hope I am right in my summaries. These are my marginal notes that I record while I read, and I have to return to them and try and make sense of them. But are there any incorrect understandings to One Hundred Years of Solitude?

REVIEW OF CH. 8 - 11

Chapter 8: I was wrong! War was not over. In fact, war and rumors of war continued. There was so much war, it had hardened many hearts. In fact, there was so much hardness of heart, many characters retreated into solitude. As a result of alienation, immorality was encouraged. For example, A.J., who deserted the rebel army, pursued an incestuous relationship with his Auntie Amaranta.

Meanwhile, José Moncada, a compassionate official, became the mayor of Macondo. Ursula resisted aging. Twins were born to Santa Sofia de la Piedad and Arcadio: Aureliano II and José II, as well as a daughter, Remedios "the Beauty." And A.J. was determined to make an honest woman of his Amaranta, but he should have known she would never marry any man, least of all her nephew.

Col. Aureliano had 17 sons with 17 different women, and then led "the most prolonged, radical, and bloody rebellion of all those he had started up till then." Ursula had this to say about her sons:
They're all alike. At first they behave very well, they're obedient and prompt and they don't seem capable of killing a fly, but as soon as their beards appear they go to ruin. 
A.J. was shot and bled to death. General Moncada entered the war to defend Macondo against Col. Aureliano, but was captured and executed by Aureliano, who's heart, as I said earlier, had been hardened by war.


Chapter 9:

Col. Márquez became the new military leader of Macondo. As the war spread, it became more clear that war was empty and served no purpose. Meanwhile, Col. Aureliano was drunk with his own power and lost the use of good judgment. He knew "that all we're fighting for is power." Soon Col. Márquez was also condemned to death. Ursula was angry with her son, threatened him, and told him,
It's the same as if you'd been born with the tail of a pig.
That night Col. Aureliano had a change of heart. He had spent twenty years at war, and his children hardly knew him. So he agreed to a peace treaty and went home to seclusion. I think he needed time to assimilate after all those years of war. He needed time to get his memories back.

Chapter 10:

This chapter focused on Aureliano II and his life. There is a lot of back and forth.

Aureliano II married Fernanda. They named their son José Arcadio. Ursula was frustrated with the repetition of names and thought it a "tragic sign."

The story retraced the history of the twins, Aureliano II and José Arcadio II. One wanted to see an execution and the other was curious about the locked room. Ursula permitted her great grandson to enter the room, and there he had meetings with the ghost of Melquíades.
Aureliano II recognized him at once, because that hereditary memory had been transmitted from generation to generation and had come to him through the memory of his grandfather.
When they grew up, the twins shared the same woman, Petra Cotes. Eventually, J.A. II quit his sexual escapades with Petra, but Aureliano II continued. Their wild sex life has an affect on Aureliano's farm animals, multiplying them and making him very wealthy.

Poor Ursula was disgusted by the immoral behavior of everyone, and begged:
Dear Lord, make us poor again the way we were when we founded this town so that you will not collect for this squandering in the other life. 
Then I'm a little unclear of what happened next: A carnival came to Macondo and Remedios the Beauty was crowned the most beautiful woman ever. And the Conservatives opened fire on the Liberals during the celebration, and a bunch of people died. Six months after the massacre, Aureliano II married Fernanda, whom I told you about at the beginning of the chapter.

Chapter 11:

Fernanda and Aureliano had a poor start to their marriage because she had a complicated upbringing. Well, and Aureliano continued his affair with Petra, and Fernanda found out. She had difficulty being accepted by the Buendia family. Nonetheless, she and Aureliano II had two children: José III and Meme, short for Remedios.

A celebration was set to acknowledge the peace treaty from chapter 10, but Col. Aureliano did not participate because he believed the treaty was a mistake. But his 17 sons, all named Aureliano, showed up to the celebration, and one of them, Triste, looked for a house to rent. He discovered an abandoned house, but there was a woman living in it. It was Rebeca! She was totally ruined and not worth discussing.

Macondo was growing and expanding, and Triste decided the town needed a railroad. So...he built one.



I'm beginning to see themes that I did not the first time. Besides solitude, memory is an essential theme. The need for memories, the loss of memories, and the purpose of memories are present throughout. There is also something very cyclical about One Hundred Years. Besides the repetition of names and behaviors or personalities through the generations, we can see through Ursula, the strongest and most well grounded character, when she called Col. Aureliano's repetitive work "an exasperating vicious circle." (Just like their generations.)

He was seeking consolation for his abrupt solitude, for his premature adolescence with women who smelled of dead flowers, whom he idealized in the darkness and changed into Amaranta by means of the anxious efforts of his imagination.
They brought children of all ages, all colors, but all males and all with the look of solitude that left no doubt as to the relationship.  
More than mother and son, they were accomplices in solitude. 
...overcome by the unbearable weight of her own obstinacy, Amaranta locked herself in her bedroom to weep over her solitude unto death after giving her final answer to her tenacious suitor: Let's forget about each other forever... 
Col. Márquez looked at the desolate streets, the crystal water on the almost trees, and he found himself lost in solitude. 
Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

The Road to Wigan Pier
George Orwell
Published 1937
English non-fiction

This book was enlightening. It began with Orwell's grim observations of the working class in the industrial towns of Northern England, post WWI, and closed with an autobiographical sketch of the author's upbringing, how he came to support socialism, and why people were repulsed by socialism.

The last thing I ever want to do was like a book arguing for socialism - though that is not entirely the premise of Orwell's argument. He argued why the argument for socialism was not working. Nonetheless, he presented what appeared to be strong arguments for his argument; I just see through them. But the reason I was intrigued at all was because his presentation was very orderly and concise. Orwell was a very good writer.

I took many notes, which was not simple because I borrowed this copy from the library and obviously could not write in the margins. Instead, I used a little notepad and scribbled like crazy. Now I get to revisit my scribbles and try to make sense.


The ordeal of the coal miners and their treacherous work was astounding. Orwell went with them into the pit. Just getting to the pit where work began was a dangerous job in itself and time consuming, and neither were they paid for that travel time, which took 1 - 3 hours. Of course, the work was backbreaking, filthy, and dangerous, and Orwell described all of that.

The coal miner families lived in the slums, where the homes were uninhabitable. These living conditions did not encourage self-respect, and they tolerated the misery.

The author addressed the issue of unemployment. He said that people were on the dole for so long that they became accustomed to it; lower standards was a way of life.

The "common man" title separated the lower and working classes from the bourgeoisie. The lower classes resented this treatment and developed crude behavior as a response. One of the most offensive distinctions was that the "lower classes smelled." Physical repulsion cannot be ignored. "Smells divide us!" Author Maugham said of this issue:
The matutinal tub divides the classes more effectually than birth, wealth, or education.
To eliminate class distinction, it would be necessary to understand class image through their eyes and remove the prejudices learned in one's childhood to fear, hate, and despise the working class.

The younger working class of men who returned from World War I rebelled against the older, upper classes because they felt sacrificed by the older generation that sent them off to war while they sat in their safe places. Ideas of antimilitarism, antiauthority, pacifism, internationalism, humanism, divorce, free love, atheism, birth control, and feminism grew like tumors in the minds of the youth. The Christian religion was mocked, and even Lenin was hailed as a great leader. They had returned from war with a soldier's mindset.

At this time, Orwell was in his late teens, and he adopted these revolutionary attitudes. He did not understand socialism, but he called himself a Socialist.

While Orwell worked as a police officer in British-occupied India, he began to understand the wrongs of Imperialism. When he returned home, he was interested in the problems of the working class and decided to investigate by living with them. Everyone agreed with the problems of English Imperialism, but no one wanted to do anything about it; same with the class issue.


Orwell argued that to defend socialism, one must attack it. Why was socialism unacceptable? Because socialists were hypocrites, and socialist writers were boring, "empty windbags." It wasn't socialism that was despised as much as socialists themselves.

The intellectual socialist was far removed from the working class. They desired "hypertrophied order." They were less concerned with misery and wanted to control the world like a chessboard. Socialism attracted inhuman, unfeeling types. They did not understand the consequences of eradicating poverty. Most of them would become fascists in five years anyway.

Socialism demanded central control, uniformity in education, equal standards of life, and extreme organization. But the biggest problem with socialism was that it was bound up in machine production.

Man was told that machines would save humanity and set them free and physical dangers would be eliminated; but how would physical courage survive? or physical strength when not needed? These were admirable qualities. A safe and easy environment would produce softness in men, which was not very attractive. Socialism presented contradictions in progress.

So if machines saved a man from work, what would he do when he desired to work and wanted to use his hands? Machines would only suppress his efforts and creativity. This was why socialism was not very attractive to others.

Orwell said we could not turn back progress to a "simpler life." Frankly, no one really wanted to return to an agricultural lifestyle. (Admit it: we're soft! The machine has a hold on us.)
There are now millions of people, and they are increasing every year, to whom the blaring of a radio is not only a more acceptable but a more normal background to their thoughts than the lowing of cattle or the song of birds. 
In the end, Fascism, which rejected progress, was socialism's greatest competition; but it would win if the socialists were unable to remove the stigma of progress. Orwell pleaded with the working class to stand together; it would be either socialism or fascism. And he asked them not to be upset with him since he did not work with his hands. He was still part of the working class, and he was on their side.


If you like history, social science, economics, politics, and George Orwell, then yes. Of course, if you are a socialist, then you absolutely should read it.

I also like Jordan Peterson, and he shared this great talk on The Road to Wigan Pier, Marxism, and the working class. So I'm leaving that here:

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway
Published 1926
American novel
Unread Shelf Project (longest unread), The Classics Club III, 

I'm so excited to have finished this book because it had been sitting on my shelf since before the turn of the century. My husband had to read it in college back in the late 90s, and this is his copy. He hated this book, but I'm not surprised that I enjoyed reading it. 

The Sun Also Rises is the story about a group of young Americans living in Paris, following WWI, who traveled to Spain to see the running of the bulls and a bullfight during the long siesta. They drank, smoked, and ate continuously. They rarely slept. They were literally lost, and maybe that was why they were referred to as the Lost Generation.

The running of the bulls in San Fermín

The plot was light and the writing simplistic or minimal; but the themes were numerous. For example, the theme of masculinity was significant, especially because it involved the main female character, Brett. She was assertive, racy, and promiscuous for her time. She fit in like one of the boys. She could drink liquor like a man drank, wore her hair short, and was sexually assertive the way men so wantonly were. She could not commit to anyone or anything. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, the male characters struggled with their own masculinity. This affected the relationships with one another, as well as their connection with Brett, whom they were all in lust and had each been intimate with her. It made for uncomfortable moments, increased tension, and unbridled conflict.

Another theme was restlessness. There was the burden that life was flying by and the characters were not taking advantage of living. Maybe that was why they never slept and were always searching for adventures, afraid to miss something. There was a fear of having not lived enough. 

It helped to understand that the male characters were soldiers during WWI. After the War, they were left feeling dissatisfied and discontent. 


I also think there was something going on with the bull and steer motif because it seemed to mirror the male characters' relationships with Brett. Was she the steer that led the bulls into the ring? Or was she the matador who killed the bull at the end of the bullfight? I'm not sure, but maybe both ideas work.


This story was really effective because the reader is on this journey with the characters. You travel through Spain and see the sights and hear the sounds and feel the seasons change and experience the excitement of the crowds, the running of the bulls, and the tension of the bullfight. You may be tempted to think that there is no plot to the story due to its simplicity, but it is not true. 

Overall, my favorite part of reading The Sun Also Rises was the experience itself because the story or atmosphere felt similar to that of The Great Gatsby, by Fitzgerald, which was published in 1925. You truly get a feel for the time period by reading these two books.

If you have not read Hemingway, this is a good place to start, or you could begin with The Old Man and the Sea. Again, his writing style is minimalistic and light, but he incorporates themes and ideas to know and think about. Hemingway demands sympathy from his readers, and he doesn't write without purpose. 

And, if you want to visit Spain, well, this is one way to do it, and you won't regret the sights; but I apologize now for the company you will keep. Our characters are troubled.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along Week #2


What a week! It seems it was a completely different century when I last posted One Hundred Years of Solitude WEEK #1; and how ironic that the title consists of the word SOLITUDE. There are a few extrovert-types in my household who are climbing the walls because of all this "solitude."

By the way, I'm not one of them.

Monday, the state of California issued a "stay-at-home" edict, permitting essential businesses to remain open, while requiring others to close to the public. A lot of folks have been laid off, while some are able to work from home. Basically, our economy has tanked. How are we going to take care of all these people, many who are financially unprepared for this? Nor do I know how long some will be able to contend with this long-term isolation.

Escaping isolation
On the grocery front, I continue to add items I still cannot find no matter where we go: eggs, rice, pasta, and chicken breast, which are staples in our house, and everyone else, obviously. (I knew we should have raised hens!) My husband told me he found a store today that received a shipment of  flour, but the employee didn't want to unbox it yet, and my husband didn't want to wait 20 minutes when she expected to shelve it. So...I told him to see if they had pancake mix or Bisquick. In these times, one is forced to be resourceful. And I'm fine with that.

Finally, after five days of no gym, no dance classes, no piano lessons (we homeschool, so we didn't need to change routine for school), we decided to go OUTSIDE today! Yes, we got into our van and went to the Mojave Riverwalk. The kids rode bikes or rollerbladed, and we even met some friends who were out doing the same with their kids. It was finally a beautiful day. It felt like a little bit of sanity. So many people were using the riverwalk, and everyone said hello and good morning. Humans! It was a relief to have some connection with the outside world. Not surprisingly, we introverts need people connections, even if it is in passing.

Now...on to bookish stuff...


Chapter 5: Aureliano and Remedios were married. Father Nicanor Reyna remained in Macondo because he believed the people were living in sin and needed religion. Pietro and Rebeca's wedding was postponed because his mother died (but that was a lie). Amaranta poisoned Remedios, who subsequently died; hence, Aureliano plunged back into solitary work. It was discovered that José Arcadio Buendia was not mad, as assumed, and he could speak Latin.

Later José Arcadio (the son) returned to Macondo and shared his wild adventures and also married Rebeca -- you snooze you lose, Pietro! So Pietro asked Amaranta to marry him. And for the next three chapters, Macondo became immersed in elections, corruption, politics, violence, murder, and war between the Liberals and Conservatives. (Sounds so familiar.)

Chapter 6: Col. Aureliano went to war for the liberal resistance. He also fathered seventeen kids. Arcadio (José's and Pilnar's kid) was in charge of the village during the rebellion, and he was cruel and overbearing...and creepy. He tried to sleep with his own mother, but she staved him off by sending him a virgin, which obviously worked because they had three children together.

Ursula wasn't having any of Arcadio's crap; she challenged him and basically took over the town. She found her husband, JAB, peaceful and decided to release him from his tree-arrest. Meanwhile, Pietro proposed to Amaranta, who rejected him; he, therefore, committed suicide. Arcadio surrendered and the resistance was ended. His last wish is for his daughter to be named Ursula. He was executed.

Chapter 7: So the Libs lost the war, and Aureliano was captured then freed by José. Aureliano planned a second uprising, then failed and was abandoned by the government. But he captured Macondo anyway, until he realized his rebellion was based on his pride. José died, and his wife Rebeca became a hermit. Did she really murder him? It seemed obvious, but no one knew the truth. His blood traveled all over Macondo. Almost restless. What's worse? The town thought about "seasoning him with pepper, cumin seeds, and laurel leaves and boiling him for a whole day over a slow fire..." Very concerning. Finally, JAB was visited by the ghost of the dead guy back in chapter two, and then died peacefully; tiny yellow flowers rained down on Macondo.


Again, this past week's reading centered mainly on the conflict of Civil War between the brothers, and ended with the death of the patriarch, who wasn't very present or effective, especially spending much of his parental life tied to a tree. I'm still looking for that timeline of real world history compared with that of Macondo's history, but I did find a timeline of characters. Someone took the time to create this.


The death of Remedios had not produced the despair that he had feared. It was rather, a dull feeling of rage that gradually dissolved in a solitary and passive frustration similar to the one he had felt during the time he was resigned to living without a woman.
As soon as they took the body out, Rebeca closed the doors of her house and buried herself alive, covered with a thick crust of disdain that no earthly temptation was ever able to break.  
I'll be back next Friday when I check in with my third review of One Hundred Years (chapters 8 through 11). Are you reading along, reading ahead, or dragging behind? How are you doing with the novel? And how are things in your part of the world? Are you in solitude? Keep us posted. And stay well!

Go to Silvia Cachia;s: WEEK TWO POST

Monday, March 16, 2020

Do you need perspective during these hard times?

Do you need perspective on how to live during hard times? 
Try The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We Americans are pampered and spoiled and are not accustomed to waiting in long lines to get basic necessities, such as food, daily supplies, or medicine. We are definitely not used to seeing empty shelves. The last controlled situation or shortage I remember in my lifetime was when I was 8 or 9, back in the 70s, when my parents could only get gas on specified days. But I've never had to deal with this...







Over the weekend my family was in Arizona to attend a Spring Training Dodger game on Saturday -- which was suspended beginning Friday by Major League Baseball for two weeks --  but we went anyway because we had plans to meet up with long lost friends.

The week before we left for Arizona, I had heard about the run on grocery stores for items like toilet paper and water, and I told my husband I didn't want to stand in line for toilet paper; so we chose not to go shopping that week, and subsisted on whatever we had already at home.

We had left our pantry and refrigerator bare while we were on our trip, and considered while we were in Arizona to see if conditions were better as we searched for some items we did need; but even there, the shelves were bare.

When we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, we knew we needed to just brave it and go to Costco and Winco, where we normally shop. The stores had crowd control systems in place, which worked efficiently. They were totally out of chicken, so we got steak instead. And my patient husband stood in line for newly arrived toilet paper and grabbed some coconut milk, while I got the frozen fruit for smoothies. We can live on fruit smoothies for awhile, I imagine. Unfortunately, they were out of dish soap and didn't have the laundry detergent I wanted.

We thought we could get those things at Winco, but as you can see from the pictures above, Winco was in a worse predicament than Costco, and they were out of mostly everything. Instead of frozen chicken, I had to buy a cooked whole chicken. Instead of sliced bread, we bought frozen rolls. Instead of grape jelly, we had to buy blackberry jam, (which my son said was actually good). I'm definitely bummed about not having a banana every day. 

Since the store was out of soap, I bought dish soap and laundry detergent online, and thank God I found something available via Amazon because most everything was unavailable, though I think my items are not expected until April. Although we use laundry berries to wash most of our clothes, I like to use the detergent for towels and sheets and other things I want to be disinfected. So we aren't totally out of a soap option because we have plenty of berries left.


So...while I was bagging my anemic shopping results, I worried..."How am I going to feed my family this week?"

And that is when I thought about the Ingalls family during the Long Winter. They did it for months. They lived on brown bread and potatoes. (Which reminded me, there were no potatoes either!)

"We can do this," I encouraged myself. We are far better off than the Ingalls during the Long Winter. I will be resourceful and creative. And we will talk to the kids (for the millionth time) about being conservative with their servings and portions. We need to make our food and supplies stretch because I refuse to hoard or panic in fear like so many others.

In fact, God will provide. Immediately I got ideas like how to make my own disinfecting wipes, since we are out of Clorox wipes and they are not available online or at the store. I still have a few packages of baby wipes left and I have hydrogen peroxide that I can use to wipe down surfaces if I need to. See? Simple enough!

I really think it is probably time to reread The Long Winter...again! If you need perspective on how to live during hard times, how to be resourceful, how to be neighborly, and how to be encouraged and strengthened by God's provisions and timing, then this is the book to read.

Friday, March 13, 2020

One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along Week #1

This is the end of week one of the One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along, hosted by Silvia Cachia and myself. Have you completed the first four chapters? What are your  impressions so far?

This is my second reading. While my first experience was reserved, this time I am treasuring it as pleasurable and entertaining. It is a simple and rapid read, not loaded down with heavy themes or long-winded emotional narration. Yet, it is not a typical novel, often jumping into the future and back into the past. Has anyone else found this challenging?

What about keeping the characters straight -- especially when same names are used for multiple people? This is still a frustration for me. Given that this story is focused on multiple generations of the Buendía family, a family tree visual or map may be helpful. I like the ones with images or illustrations instead of only names. It helps to put a face with a name. By the way, has anyone noticed that the surname Buendía means good day?


Buendía Family Tree


Chapter One: The story began and then immediately jumped into the past, to Col. Aureliano's youth, as he remembered his former days. His father, José Arcadio Buendía, and mother, Ursula, had two sons, Aureliano and José Arcadio II. Buendía was not a present father. He was fascinated by knowledge and spent hours experimenting, while Ursula was a strong character, who challenged her husband and grounded her family. Aureliano was mystifying, but José II was strong and much like his father.

Chapter Two: Going back further to the beginning of the history of the Buendía family and the founding of Macondo, the experience was similar to the retelling of the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. It was like the beginning of time; however, readers know there is a whole world beyond Macondo, but the gypsies are the only connection the people of Macondo seem to have with civilization and the rest of the world.

Ursula and Buendía were cousins and afraid of having deformed offspring; therefore, she had avoided her husband until he won a cockfight and his opponent mocked him. Buendía killed the man, ultimately solving the matter with his wife. The ghost of the dead man haunted them until Ursula and Buendía left their home and, along with some friends, traveled for two years until they settled down and founded the town Macondo.

As an adult, José Arcadio impregnated a woman named Pilar, then abandoned her and his future child, and left Macondo with the gypsies. Ursula searched for him for five years but never found him; however, she did find the route her husband had been searching for out of Macondo.

Chapter Three: Pilar gave birth to a son and named him José Arcadio, but was referred to as Arcadio so as not to be confused with his father or grandfather. The Buendía family adopted a young orphan girl named Rebeca. She had insomnia, which spread throughout the town and eventually developed into anemia, so that people lost their memories, which was a terrible thing. However, the gypsy, Melquiades, found a cure using a daguerreotype, a kind of camera that made photographs.

Then, Don Apolinar Moscote moved into town and set up a magistrate, ordering everyone to paint his house a particular color. José Arcadio Buendía ran him out of town, but Moscote returned with soldiers. Buendía agreed Moscote could remain the magistrate, but only if people could paint their houses the color they like and that the soldiers leave, which he agreed to.

Moscote also had a very young daughter, Remedios, whom Aureliano fell in love with.

Chapter Four: OK...following are my actual margin notes for chapter four:
Aureliano slept with Pilar (the one José impregnated). Amaranta (third child of Buendía and Ursula) and Rebeca (who eats dirt) fell in love with Pietro (the Italian piano guy). They are lovesick. Pietro wants to marry the dirt-eater, while Amaranta vows revenge. (So soap opera-ish!)

Meanwhile, Aureliano will marry Remedios, who is still in diapers. Gypsy, Melquiades died. Pilar is pregnant with Aureliano's baby. Buendía goes mad because he is obsessed about knowledge. He is tied to a tree in hopes that he will calm down, but he remains until the end of his life.


I sure did leave out a lot! This is only the tip of the iceberg. So much is happening -- some of which is comical, though should be read without giggling. One thing I did not discuss is the historical timeline that coincides with the fictional story of Macondo. The time line is 1850 to 1950, and through chapter four, South America is experiencing Civil War. I will try to find an historical outline that matches with the fictional timeline of Macondo.

Other than that, I find this story reads a lot like a soap opera, but in an intriguing and interesting way. Be sure to share what you have been getting out of your reading, if you have joined us.

Anxious for solitude, bitten by a virulent rancor against the world, one night he left his mingle in the tumult of the fair.
Then he gave himself over to that hand...not knowing what he was doing...and the bewildered anxiety to flee and at the same time stay forever in that exasperated silence and that fearful solitude. 
He really had been through death, but he had returned because he could not bear the solitude.
He looked for her in her sisters' shop, behind the window shades in her house, in her fathers office, but he found her only in the image that saturated his private and terrible solitude.

I love book covers. Book covers equal art. Here are 100 Covers of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (from 1967 to 2018). This one is my favorite ------>


This is unrelated to better things like reading literature and talking about it...but I can't ignore this anymore: the world has been turned upside down because of this stupid virus. It has been a major disruption, and the way the world and individuals are responding has been irritating. (There was a run on toilet paper at our local Costco! No pun intended. My family was ready to go to Arizona for a Dodger game this weekend, and it looks like they are suspending spring training. It's utter madness!) Having said all that, I cannot help but think about you all, especially those in other regions hardest hit, and I want you all to be healthy. Take care of yourselves and don't get sick. Ever. OK? Praying this all passes soon so we can return to common sense.

Silvia Cachia's: WEEK ONE POST

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in Eighty Days
Jules Verne
Published 1872
French Literature
Back to the Classics (19th C.), The Classics Club III

Jules Verne's most popular book, Around the World in Eighty Days, is an adventure story about a wealthy British gentleman, Mr. Fogg, who bet a high wager with members of the Reform Club that he could circumnavigate the globe and arrive back at the Club on that precise day and set time, in exactly eighty days.

Along with his canny French valet, Passepartout, the pair set out east from London and made their way by various modes of transportation available in 1872, through Europe, Asia, and North America. Not surprisingly, they were met with dramatic adventure, perilous conflict, and confounding challenges all while racing against the clock. Passepartout's character also added greatly to the entertainment and comedy of the story.

To complicate matters though, a crime had been committed in London, before Mr. Fogg's departure, and he happened to fit the description of the thief. Hence, a British detective, Mr. Fix, pursued Mr. Fogg for the entire length of the journey with an elusive arrest warrant. In addition to all of the unexpected incidents, Mr. Fogg picked up a female companion in India who loyally remained with him, all the way back to London.

This story is dated, which is historical because it is set during a time when Britain colonized Asia, but the book is also probably politically incorrect by today's standards, especially when the troop travel through the United States. Apparently, Verne took this story from real life, as it had been written about already numerous times before this book was published.

In the end, there was a slight miscalculation, which was a little unbelievable given the exactness of Mr. Fogg. And apparently, this calculation was known at the time of publication, though Verne used the error to the benefit of the story. In case you have not read this, I won't reveal what it is, but you can figure it out on your own, if you do read it. It was very obvious.

Overall, my kids enjoyed this story, and with the exception of the some difficult vocabulary, it is the perfect book for elementary age readers. After we read the book, we enjoyed the 1956 film version of the book, which deviates a few times from the modes of transportation, as well as places en route. But Passepartout is so comical and is a nice touch to the seriousness of the story.

Around the World in 80 Days, 1956,
Det. Fix, Aouda, Passepartout, and Mr. Fogg

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Unread Shelf Reading Project 2020 and Beyond

I have talked about this at the end of December HERE and I meant to create a book list post to keep me accountable and motivated. I am seriously determined to read all of the books on my shelves and weed out what I know I won't ever read again. My personal goal is to keep only what I would reread and then actually begin rereading them. 

The general idea of The Unread Shelf Reading Project is to read those unread books on your bookshelf. Whitney, at The Unread Shelf, suggested choosing 10-12 books to commit to reading in 2020. I went overboard and chose all of my unread books. The first list I hope to read this year and next, the second list, when I finish the first, in 2022-23, and the third list, after I complete the second, in 2024 and beyond.

Whitney assigned monthly challenges to make it interesting. I listed the categories I wanted to use in blue parentheses

As I finish a book, it will be linked to the review post, and my final decision will be listed in yellow brackets.


Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (completed/no review) [probably not]
Lewis: Babbitt (any unread book) [keeper]
Adler: How to Read a Book (keeper) [keeper]
Shakespeare: Hamlet
Brittain: Testament of Friendship (gifted to me) [keeper]
Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Hardy: Under the Greenwood Tree
Thomas: Sacred Marriage
Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises (owned the longest) [keeper]
Adams: Watership Down
Murphy: Eight Twenty Eight (recently obtained)
McCullers: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Mann: The Magic Mountain
Brown: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Wells: Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells
Dinesen: Out of Africa
Eliot: Mill on the Floss
Equiano: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings
Haley: Roots
Prior: On Reading Well (shortest read)
Turner: These is My Words
Robinson: Gilead
Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms (forgotten how I acquired this)
Royster: Southern Horrors and Other Writings
Rand: Atlas Shrugged
Bergreen: Over the Edge of the World
Tomalin: Thomas Hardy (favorite genre: biographies)
Twain: The Innocents Abroad
Ryan: The Longest Day
Austen: Sanditon, The Watsons, and Lady Susan
Stone: Love is Eternal
Irving: Old Christmas
Owen: Mortification of Sin
Morrison: The Bluest Eye
Tan: The Joy Luck Club
Twain: Roughing It
Hardy: A Pair of Blue Eyes
Hardy: The Trumpet Major
Twain: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
Twain: The Prince and the Pauper
McCullough: 1776
Verne: 20000 Leagues Under the Sea
Reagan: An American Life
Dickens: Bleak House (scared to death)
Rand: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind
Frazier: Cold Mountain
Dickens: David Copperfield
McCullough: John Adams


Eliot: Middlemarch
Somerset: Of Human Bondage
James: The Turn of the Screw
Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
Collins: The Woman in White
Bédier: The Romance of Tristan & Iseult
Achebe: Things Fall Apart
Steinbeck: To a God Unknown
Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Sinclair: The Jungle
Polo: The Travels of Marco Polo
Douglass: My Bondage and My Freedom
Hirsi Ali: Infidel
Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
Stockett: The Help
Shetterly: Hidden Figures
Johnson: A History of Christianity
Yousafzai: I Am Malala
Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tennyson: Idylls of the King
Henty: In Freedoms Cause
Moyes: Me Before You
Scott: Ivanhoe
McCullough: The Pioneers
Powell: Julie and Julia
Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur
Marshall: The Light and the Glory
L'Amour: The Lonesome Gods
Hugo: Les Miserables
Lowry: Number the Stars
White: The Once and Future King
Reagan: The Reagan Diaries
Reagan: In His Own Hand
Lawrence: Sons and Lovers
Kilmeade: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
Torrey: To the Edge of the World
Noonan: What Character Was King
De Laclos: Dangerous Liaisons
Tuchman: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century


Churchill: The Age of Revolution
Churchill: The Great Democracies
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar
Anderson: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Whitman: Leaves of Grass
Markos: On the Shoulders of Hobbits
Wilder: Our Town
Thackery: Vanity Fair
Smith: The Wealth of Nations, Volumes I-V
Milton: Paradise Lost
Shaw: Pygmalion
Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France
Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet
Unk: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Virgil: The Aenied
Stone: The Agony and the Ecstasy
Bailey: The American Spirit, Volume 1
Zusak: The Book Thief
Coffin: The Boys of '76
Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
Aristophanes: The Complete Plays
Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. II
Reagan: The City on a Hill
Zola: The Kill
Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince
Buck: The Good Earth
Vasari: Lives of the Artists
Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
Dante: The Inferno
Dostoyevsky: The Idiot
Angle: The New Nation Grows
Homer: The Odyssey (Ed. by...)
Homer: The Odyssey (Ed. by...)
Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher & Other Stories
Zola: The Earth
Moliere: The Misanthrope, Tartuffe, and Other Plays
Emerson: The Portable Emerson
Dante: Purgatorio
Unk: The Thousand Nights and One Night, Vol. 1-4
Unk. The Song of Roland
Sophocles: The Theban Plays
Basile: The Tale of Tales
Hardy: A Laodicean
Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Schweikart: A Patriot History of the United States
Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire
West: Adam Smith
Unk: Beowulf (Ed. by...)
Boc...: Decameron
Bulfinch: Bulfinch's Mythology
Miller: Death of a Salesman
Weisberger: The Devil Wears Prada
Sparks: The Notebook
Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
Goethe: Faust
Grant: The Patriot's Handbook
Hamilton, Jay, Madison: The Federalist Papers
Ibsen: Four Great Plays
Lattimore: Greek Lyrics
Wadsworth: Poems
Austen: History of England
Homer: Iliad of Homer (Ed. by...)
Dodds: Married to a Difficult Man
Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia
DIckens: Nicholas Nickleby
Coffin: The Spirit of Liberty
Doyle: Sherlock Holmes Mysteries
Rand: The Virtue of Selfishness
Popov: Tortured for His Faith
Foley: These are the Generations
Bainton: The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century
McCarthy: The Road
Trifkovic: The Sword and the Prophet
Rand: The Romantic Manifesto
Kirk: The Roots of the American Order
Limbaugh: Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner
Limbaugh: Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims
Limbaugh: Rush Revere and the American Revolution
Limbaugh: Rush Revere and the First Patriots
Limbaugh: Rush Revere and the Presidency
Journo: What Justice Demands
Ghate: Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism
Sures: Facets of Ayn Rand

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

Queen Victoria
Lytton Strachey
English History 
Published 1921

When I began reading through the Well-Educated Mind, in 2012, I expected to purchase every book (used) on the list -- all 147 of them. Some books I was "lucky" enough to find at a used bookstore or the used book sale of my library, but most I ordered through used booksellers. It was important to have my own copy so I could write in it and keep it as long as I needed.

That got old quickly, and lately I have been borrowing them from the library. If it turns out to be a good book, something I know I would read again, then I may buy a copy later. Unfortunately, now that I am taking so long to write reviews, I have to return the book and no longer have any details to share. I suppose I need to take notes in the future.

Queen Victoria, 1839

Queen Victoria, by Lytton Strachey, is one that I borrowed from the library and read for my WEM histories. It was a decent read and quite informative. I really enjoyed my time in it, but since I returned it weeks ago, I can only  share my overall impressions.

For example, the book is well written -- a very pleasant read -- in chronological order, from the time of Victoria's birth (1837) until her death (1901). The narrative does not jump around, making it simple to follow. Her mother raised her to be an honorable and good girl, and Victoria made a promise to be a good queen. She was coronated Queen of the United Kingdom at the tender age of eighteen.

Soon after, she was encouraged to marry her cousin, Prince Albert, of "Germany," which she did reluctantly. But, WOW! Did she soon develop a change of heart! Victoria was so proud of her cousin-husband. Everything he said and did was right and good and perfect. She believed him to be intelligent and creative. She was enthusiastic about his ideas and how he assisted with running the State. Sadly for her, it was more like he was King than she was Queen.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1861

To complicate matters, life in England was evolving rather quickly, and the people (and Parliament) asked, "Why do we even need the Crown in the first place," as more and more power was transferred to the Prime Minister(s) and Parliament.

However, the most distressing change for Victoria was the loss of her husband, in 1861. Immediately following his death, she retreated from public and desperately worshiped her husband's image and his memory.

When she recovered herself, she felt a protective motherly approach to governing and caring for all those under her safekeeping. She even showed herself to be a little more feisty and assertive in her decision making. In the end, she kept her promise: to be a good queen.

After finishing this book, I was left with an impressive opinion of Queen Victoria. She seemed to be a great lady. I would love, love, LOVE to read her journals. Yes! She wrote...a lot! So I look forward to getting my hands on those in the future.

Family Portrait: Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children

Should You Read This?

If you like biographies, biographies about great women, biographies about monarchs or royalty, biographies from the history of England or the United Kingdom, or you just like anything about Queen Victoria - and you have yet to read Stratchey's work - then yes, by all means, read this.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler & Charles VanDoren

How to Read a Book
The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren
American non-fiction
Published 1940

This book is so cool and amazing and extremely readable. Mr. Adler and Mr. Van Doren knew how to write constructively and intelligently. The main topic is "the art of reading good books when understanding is the aim."
...a book is like nature or the world. When you question it, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself. 
In How to Read a Book, Adler and Van Doren take their readers through a very clear instructional journey of how to read and what to do about it. The majority of their book is to give instruction to those readers who want to learn something, especially for information and knowledge, particularly of non-fiction books. However, about a third of the book is dedicated to how to read novels and stories, poetry and the like. Nonetheless, the instructions are still helpful to reading in general. Here are some of my notes:

Part One: Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading:
I. Elementary Reading: grade school learning, focused on language and what the sentences say and what words mean.
II. Inspectional Reading: skimming, pre-reading, and investigating what the books is about.
III. Analytical Reading: best kind of reading, chewing and digesting, and focusing on understanding the author.
IV. Syntopical Reading: for comparison reading and building a bibliography.
Reading is the cornerstone of the democratic way of life. 
Inspectional reading is when true reading begins. The first thing you should do before you read a book is to examine it to better understand what it is about. Inspect the title page, the preface, table of contents, index, the chapters, and flip through the pages, even reading a paragraph or two. The authors suggest that during this phase of initial reading, you should read quickly through the book in one sitting. Do not stop to look up words or get stuck on confusing passages. Just keep reading. When you get to analytical reading, then you can invest more time on difficult passages.

How to be a demanding reader

While you read, ask yourself these questions:
1. What is the book about as a whole? What is the leading theme?
2. What is being said in detail and how? What are the main ideas or arguments?
3. Is the book true, in whole or part? After you answer the first two questions, you understand the author; therefore, you are obligated to make up your own mind. 
4. What of it? Why does the author think it is important to know these ideas?

How to make a book your own (I love this part)

Read with a pencil in your hand. Writing in your book indicates "alertness while you read."
Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of by writing in it.  
Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Marking (in) a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreement with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him. 
Part Two: Analytical Reading

Part Two is an extensive section on the third level of reading -- analytical reading

Stage one: classify the book, determine what it is about; outline the book's parts; and define the problem(s).

Stage two: interpret the author's key terms; grasp the author's propositions; know the author's arguments; determine which problems the author solved or failed to solve.

Stage three: suspend judgment until you fully understand the author; do not  disagree contentiously;  demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and personal opinion by providing evidence for your criticism. In addition, show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete.
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom in learning from books as well as from nature.
To be well read refers to the quality of the reader NOT the quantity of books read!
The great authors were great readers, and one way to understand them is to read the books they read. As readers, they carried on a conversation with other authors, just as each of us carries on a conversation with the books we read...
This is the section where I needed most instruction because I began to wonder about my own personal understanding of books I have read and how critical I have been. I was very critical, but did that mean that I fully understood the author, OR did I permit my personal feelings to influence my response? I think more often I am guilty of the later accusation. This is something I need to work on.

Part Three: Reading Different Material

Part Three focuses on how different materials, such as practical books, imaginative literature, stories, plays, poems, history, science, mathematics, philosophy, including theology, and finally, social science, demand different ways of reading. 

Part Four: Syntopical Reading

The final section deals with a fourth level of reading: Syntopical Reading, reading numerous books on the same topic. This is useful if you are writing a bibliography for an idea, or if you ever wanted to put together a catalogue of books based on a time period or historical event. Most people would never get to this point, unless they were a researcher or writing a book or thesis. I have always wanted to do this to organize my books according to time periods, but I won't hold my breath that I actually make time to do it.

Finally, the authors close with a word on "what good books can do for us," and they have added a recommended reading list (of mainly non-fictional books) and exercises and tests for the four levels of reading, which I have yet to utilize.

Should You Read This Book?

No, if you only read for mindless entertainment, but yes, if you are a serious, deep reader. Even if you are investing your time in creative fiction, you should be getting something out of it...I hope. This book offers ideas to help you understand how to figure out the author and his message -- how to have a conversation with him. Especially if you read for knowledge and information, this book is like a bible on how to read properly, effectively, and essentially. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Treasure Island Books via

Pete Halewood of ClassicReader is inviting readers to play...
Treasure Island Books
You are stuck on a ‘Treasure Island’ for 1 year, which you landed on due to a complication during a parasailing event. You walk through the island and find a treasure trove. Contained in the treasure are the books you will spend the next year with. They can be books to gain knowledge, information, understanding, spirituality or just to entertain, it’s completely up to you.
Which books would they be? Here are the rules:
8 books you have read of your choice. Any 8 books you wish to spend the next year with. Pick wisely, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. In principle, the books you love the most or want to spend more time with.
1 book which you have never read before. You know, all those books on your book shelf, that have been there for years? You get to take one. Which one do you want to read the most?
1 ‘the complete works of’. Now, this can add some volume to your treasure trove. Yes, pick 1 author who you get to take the complete works of with you. You don’t have to have read everything at this moment by the author, but enough to make you want to read everything they have over the next year.
Well, here are my choices...
8 Read Books:
1. The Bible: This I read every day anyway, and I cannot think of life without it. 
2. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom: An amazing true story about endurance, resilience, forgiveness, and trusting in God.
3. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: Another true story about coming of age and seeing the world through the eyes of innocence and hope. Even though it does not end well for the author, her message still lives on in her reader's hearts.
4. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: I love this story because the author was bold and courageous to tell the truth at a time when it was dangerous and unpopular to talk about slavery. 
5. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: This story is epic, and since I would have a year, this is the one I want to ruminate through.
6. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: I had to bring a Hardy. This is my favorite. 
7. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: This is one of the most beautiful-feeling stories ever written. Each time I read it, it lifts my spirit. 
8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Again, another epic. Tolstoy is the philosopher king, so I could spend a year studying this story. 
1 Unread Book: 1776 by David McCullough: I haven't read a McCullough book, and this is on my unread shelf TBR. It's one of my most anticipated. 
1 Complete Works of: Laura Ingalls Wilder: Just give me all of Laura's books, and I'll be content forever.
* * *
This was difficult because I was only given 10 choices, but it was good because it helped me to narrow down the books that are really important to me. I decided I would only want to take those books that were encouraging and edifying, in some way. 
Some books that almost made it to the list were Wind in the Willows, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and Unbroken.
All of the books listed, except 1776, are from my PERSONAL CANONI've been compiling a list of books I love because one day I hope to move, and I only plan to take those books that make it to the list. That way I am downsizing and taking only those books that are essential to my life. it's your turn. Visit and make your list. Which "ten" books would you live with for a year on Treasure Island?