It’s Not All Mary Poppins


I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Neither writing posts nor reading others’. I no intention of quitting, but this week I haven’t had the usual “Oh! I have to write about that!” impulse.

Instead of writing, I’ve been reading. Not blogs, but books. Oh, how I’ve been reading. This afternoon I suddenly became aware that the usual stack of books on the end table behind the couch are all finished. In the last ten days, I have devoured:

The Bad Mother’s Handbook
by Kate Long

Tread Softly
by Wendy Perriam

Astonishing Splashes of Colour
by Clare Morrell

The Virgin Blue
by Tracy Chevalier

Man and Boy
by Tony Parsons

I skimmed through
Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas
by Ann Douglas

I dipped into an old book once again:
Birthday Letters
by Ted Hughes

And I finally finished a book begun a month ago:
The Nurture Assumption
by Judith Rich Harris

A productive few days! Well, productive if these things are judged by internals, as I think they ought to be more often than they are. Only gradually has it come to my consciousness that I’m seeking some input to my well of words, in order to balance out my near-daily output. Input of ideas, perspectives, words. So I’ll just revel in the book-wallowing, and we’ll see what comes of it in another week or so!

© 2006, Mary P

October 25, 2006 - Posted by | books


  1. how delicious to have curled up with all those books! i’d love to look over and see an empty bedside table.

    Comment by kyra | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  2. I’d be interested to hear the premise of The Nurture Assumption. I recently read Freakonomics, and it devoted a chapter to this concept. The authors studied reams and reams of data to support what they had to say about it (in short, the way kids turn out has more to do with who the parents are than what they do to create an enriching environment for the child).

    Interesting stuff . . . .

    Comment by Sharkey | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  3. Wow, you’ve been busy! I’m amazed you can make the time for so much reading – some day I hope to get there.

    Comment by Kristen | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  4. I’d be interested to know what you thought of these books!

    Comment by Leigh | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the books to add to my “hold” list at the library. 🙂

    Comment by shizzknits | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  6. I’m with Leigh. Are you going to start doing book reviews here? Mary P readers want to know!

    Comment by stefanierj | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  7. Echoing the comments above, what did you think of the books? Any particular recommendations, or warnings? =)

    Comment by chosha | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  8. Your lengthy list of reading shames me. Even I, as a student forced to read, have not completed so much page turning this past week. I commend your literary efforts.

    Comment by Haley | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  9. I wish I could or would sit down and open a book more often. Thanks for the motivation!

    Comment by kimmyk | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  10. Kyra: It was lovely, though an empty bedside table just makes me twitchy. I need to have books around me!

    Sharkey: “What the parents are”, meaning, genetically, or more generally? The Nurture Assumption would be in agreement with Freakonomics in that Harris believes the research proves that we grossly overestimate the long-term effects of parental guidance. It works inside the home. Outside the home? Peers are far, far more significant. I am in agreement with her initial premise, though she and I part company over the significance, and particularly the mechanism, of the peer group’s influence. Fascinating book, though: well worth the read.

    Kristen: “Make time for” kind of implies that everything else gets done, and all this delicious reading, too! Um, not quite. When I’m onto a reading binge – happens in cycles – people have to start watching their step when they walk through the house, and checking for sharp object before they sit down. When I’m on a reading binge, I allow the important (reading) to take precendence over the urgent (housework).

    I’ve combined parenting and reading from the time I discovered that breast-feeding was a perfect opportunity to read! (Sometimes I’d read TO the baby as s/he nursed. Is that why my kids are so smart??)

    Leigh, Shizzknits, Stefanierj, Chosa: In very short: I liked them all except perhaps the Douglas one (mostly because it wasn’t what I expected and I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of book) and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any to a friend. It would take longer to write full reports than it did to read all those books, but in brief, going down the list from top to bottom:

    Long – funny and a ‘real page-turner’, even if the problems do resolve themselves in a rather abrupt way, particularly the mother’s.

    Perriam – one thread that carries you through is the woman’s struggles with her bunion surgery and pain, which makes it sound farcical and even petty, but it’s not at all. She learns things about herself and her marriage, faces a couple of demons, makes some friends and some huge life changes, and is arranging a creative resolution for all her loose ends when the book ends, very satisfactor-ially.

    Morrall – despite its nomination for the Mann Booker, this was not as satisfying a read as the Perriam. When the main character heads into an adventure in which she takes a child to the seaside, the author was losing my interest. ‘Enough already, you’ve made your point about this fatal flaw/point of tragedy in her life’. Still, it’s an interesting book about very quirky people and well worth the time.

    Chevalier – two plots weave their way through this shorter volume, one set in the 1600s in Hugenot (sp?) France, once set in modern-day France. The old plot is gripping, with an element of the horrific; the modern plot is interesting, but the main character’s relationship with her husband lacks form, and thus her decisions regarding it lack conviction – at least to this reader. My daughter and one step-daughter (both bright 13’s) both read it and liked it.

    Parsons – Touching and funny, and at times (if you’ve ever been divorced) utterly enraging (particularly when the mom and dad talk about custody); still, it’s a light, quick, easy read. The speed at which the ex-spouses fall into new – heavy-duty, committed – relationships is unrealistic (and just plain stupid), but the story is good.

    Douglas – not what I expected when I pulled it off the library shelf without much looking at it. Some people find this kind of book interesting, but I found it dull: lists of sociological development on a huge number of fronts – home appliances, birth control, women in the work force, famous Canadian women in a variety of categories. If you like Guinness Book of World Records, you’ll like this.

    Hughes – he was Sylvia Plath’s husband. It’s a collection of poems in which he speaks of their relationship. Lovely, and accessible.

    Harris – Fascinating. Provocative. Dead-on in some respects. Weak in others. She picks apart the flaws in the research in a very compelling manner; her tendency to interject personal anecdotes as if they really prove the point is irksome. I would recommend this book to anyone, parent or not.

    Haley: It would take me MUCH longer to wade my way through the stuff you read in a week!

    Kimmyk: For me, it’s more of an addiction. If I don’t have a book when I need one, I go through withdrawal, get twitchy and irritable, start pacing the house. I can’t NOT read. And my family knows it: “Mum’s getting cranky. Is she out of books?”

    Comment by Mary P. | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  11. We’d like to know which of these were your favourite(s).

    Comment by kittenpie | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  12. Hm. Reading.

    You’re talking to someone who reads like other people breathe. And I don’t really have time right now. Am a wee bit jealous 🙂

    Comment by Nicole | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  13. I can probably skip the first one–did I mention the kids and I all had pudding before 10am yesterday?!?!?
    (And NO, there is absolutely no chance it was homemade!)
    The others look interesting, though!
    Now I’m realizing how many remain on my nightstand…

    Comment by LoryKC | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  14. I have been feeling exactly as you are feeling about blogging, both reading and writing.

    I am having to force myself to write.

    Comment by Jenorama | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  15. Good for you! As you know I’ve recently taken a blogging-hiatus and, though I should’ve picked up a few books to read myself, I feel that it was the best thing for me! I now feel a little more energized and not so frenzied to write about every. single. little thing happening in my life – just the really cute/important ones that strike me. I think we all need to wallow in a sabbatical every now and again.

    Go and enjoy your reading, you deserve some time to feed your mind with other things than posts about people’s lives.

    I’ll miss ya though…take care!

    Comment by Jennifer | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  16. i have not read ANY of those. and i love a good referral.

    about the other – i think it’s an ebb and flow…you’ll be pulled in the right direction as you need to be, yes?

    book reviews are a lovely idea.

    Comment by jen | October 29, 2006 | Reply

  17. I’m finally catching up with some books too. The 13th and last Lemony Snicket is out, so that is on the plate soon!

    Comment by Lady M | October 29, 2006 | Reply

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