October was spent exploring the Danube, wandering the streets of Prague, and soaking up some Vietnamese sunshine. That left little time for literary exploration, however, I did manage to peruse the pages of a few books.
While my September Reading List hit a few different genres, this month was inspired by my travels.
amazon description: When Anna Estcourt was twenty-five, and had begun to wonder whether the pleasure extractable from life at all counterbalanced the bother of it, a wonderful thing happened. She was an exceedingly pretty girl, who ought to have been enjoying herself. She had a soft, irregular face, charming eyes, dimples, a pleasant laugh, and limbs that were long and slender. Certainly she ought to have been enjoying herself. Instead, she wasted her time in that foolish pondering over the puzzles of existence, over those unanswerable whys and wherefores, which is as a rule restricted, among women, to the elderly and plain. Many and various are the motives that impel a woman so to ponder; in Anna’s case the motive was nothing more exalted than the perpetual presence of a sister-in-law.
I wish I had stumbled upon Elizabeth Van Arnim’s writing years ago. It is beyond enjoyable, and has the lovely qualities of fiction written during the early part of the last century that I adore so much. She has a style all her own but in my opinion can stand among the classics.
Van Arnim introduces us to a young women, dependent on others and then frees her from constriction and sets her loose in the dark German “wilds”, or countryside. It was fun to read a book about a young woman on her way to Germany, as I myself was on my way to Germany. A pleasant camaraderie developed between myself and the author.
This book is perfect as you can get the kindle for free, or listen to it for free by using Librivox. Enjoy!
goodreads description: From the unforgiving Australian Outback to the jagged beauty of the Amalfi Coast, along the pebbled beaches of Brighton & Hove and down the busy streets of late night Barcelona, this collection of short stories highlights how travel intersects and enriches all of our lives, often without us realizing it…
Even though I love traveling, I tend to strongly dislike “travel” stories and books. I am not sure if its the underlying ethnocentrism in many of them, or just that as books like “Eat, Pray, Love” have become more popular most travel books have the vibe of “spiritual awakening” but in an annoying commercialism type way.
I was intrigued by this compilation as I’ve read some blog posts by the author and find her writing style pleasant and easy to read.
The writing is good, the stories aren’t preachy, and they don’t try too hard to push the reader toward any conclusion. If anything, they are snippets of people’s lives with a very loose theme of travel woven through them. It’s a quick enjoyable read that is perfect for short layovers.
amazon description: One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.
I did not enjoy this book, but I don’t believe enjoyment is its purpose. I read it in preparation for my two-week trip to Cambodia. It is one thing to learn the bare facts about world events, the dates, the names, and numbers. It is another thing entirely to read a personal account of extreme suffering and brutality.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are planning to travel to Cambodia it is a must, but even if you never journey there I would strongly recommend reading it anyway.
While I think everyone should read this book, I believe it is extra necessary for U.S. citizens. Over the last 40 years the U.S. has had waves of refugees and immigrants from south-east Asia that have found sanctuary here. While not identical to this story, many of them have lived through traumatic events that we cannot even fathom. A book like this, a retelling of a persons real life experience will hopefully help all of us be more compassionate to those we meet that are new to our country.