Tag Archives: historical non-fiction

Week 13 Reading: “The Sea Shall Embrace Them”

Hi everyone! Sorry for the late posting about this week’s reading. My family and I are busy visiting my in-laws in (not-so) sunny Arkansas. This morning, it rained ice. Not my idea of fun, but the setting is gorgeous, and it’s always nice to be around family!

This week we’re reaching the end of our November “Month of Travel” reading, and capping the month off with David W. Shaw’s The Sea Shall Embrace Them: The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.

Image

This story brings us aboard the American steamship Arctic, and discusses a fateful collision with French steamship Vesta, which killed more than 400 people. The book comes recommended from my stepfather Grant (hi Grant!), and if he goes out of his way to recommend something, I know it’s going to be good! The book jacket comes with great write ups, calling the story “heart-wrenching,” “stunning,” and calls it a story of “anguish and horror, villainy and heroism of duty and death.” Sounds pretty excellent!

I have a feeling this will be another “up until 3am on Saturday morning finishing my book” kind of week, because I have to read an entire novel, and work on three essays for school this week – along with the familial duties of visiting with the in-laws! Wish me luck, and I hope you’re reading along!

 

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

This week’s book, John Berendt’s historical non-fiction, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was the 8th book in our book challenge, and the first non-fiction book of the challenge! With murder, voodoo and… drag queens… Berendt’s novel was a great choice for October’s Halloween themed reading.

Image

Berendt’s novel is less of a “story” and more a dictation of Berendt’s years in Savannah, Georgia. Berendt narrates his own experience in the city, explaining his interactions with the various sides of Savannah society, ranging from the elite, 7th generation Savannahians, to the nouveau riche, to the outcasts of society. Set in the 1980s, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil seems a pretty outlandish story – made even more interesting by the fact that it is true!

A visitor to Savannah, Berendt is immediately swept up by Savannah’s beauty – from it’s gardens to it’s stately mansions – and decides to split his time between Savannah and his hometown, New York City. The longer Berendt spends in Savannah, the more friends he makes, and the more friends he makes, the more exposed he becomes to the underlying tensions in the city. Berendt clearly outlines the still prevalent “caste system,” that places importance not only on socioeconomic background, but on upbringing and, most importantly, race. Savannah may have lead the way in integrating in the 1960s, but it seems it was only to seem “proper” rather than “right.” The defined classes – “old blood/old money, old blood/no money, new blood/old money, new blood/new money, white middle class, white lower class, black” – are ingrained in Savannah more so than the beautiful architecture. These classes also help drive the main drama in Berendt’s novel – a shooting in a stately mansion.

Berendt spends the first half of his book introducing you to the characters. He could have left this out, and the main point of the story (the shooting and the trial) would still have been interesting, but by including such a deep explanation of the characters, Berendt really makes you feel like you are in Savannah, interacting with these people. From the shooter, Jim Williams, to local con-man, Joe Odem, to the “Grand Empress of Savannah” (drag queen) Lady Chablis, Berendt seems to have met everyone of note in Savannah, and been exposed to the various faces of the city. A lot of time and words are spent explaining and introducing characters who have no sway on the main plot line, but these words make the book much richer and much more interesting. It’s hard to believe there are such diverse and interesting people all in the same few blocks of Savannah.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is exceptionally well written! The pages turn quickly, and soon you feel like you are there, walking the beautiful streets of historic Savannah. The story is the perfect combination of drama, snobbery, humor, history and mystery. It really does have something to offer every reader. Personally, I felt the most interesting part of the story was the explanation of the revival of Savannah starting in the 1950s, and how the city was rescued and restored. I’ve always been interested in the beautiful Southern city, and now I’m determined to visit as soon as I can. Berendt tells a wonderful narrative of a typical Southern town – complete with Cotillion balls and elite, membership only organizations – and introduces the “seedy underbelly” that comes with every city – drag queens running a muck, Voodoo priestesses spreading curses. It’s almost too much to believe, but Berendt takes you there.

I really enjoyed this week’s reading. As I said, the beginning of the story was a little slow, but getting to know the characters made me feel like I was really part of the story. I hope anyone who read along with me enjoyed this book, and look forward to your thoughts on this book!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

November Reading List

Wow! We are rapidly approaching the end of October (where did the time go?!), and our Halloween reading is coming to an end. One book (Guilty Pleasures) and two reviews (Guilty Pleasures and this week’s reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) left, and then it’s time for our November reading. I figured I should probably release the list (which just got finished now) so you can pick up the books you need if you are following along! Remember, the library is a great resource (and will more than likely have all of these books), or you could more than likely find these books at a used book store and save some money!

November’s theme is the “Month of Travel.” I don’t know why I thought that up, but… we’re stuck with it. I was having a hard time making selections, but I think I put together a good list:

Nov. 3 – 9 – Letters from Amelia – Jean L. Backus

Image

Backus uses real letters from Amelia Earhart, the famous and doomed pilot, to piece together Earhart’s private life. I’ve always found Amelia Earhart to be an interesting subject – mostly because of the mystery surrounding her death – and thought this would be a good chance to pick up a book about her life. The book is a biography, and will be the first biography of our reading challenge.

Nov. 10 – 16 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Image

This “travel” book takes place in outer space, and is a great sci-fi comedy book to add to our reading list. When you pick this one up at the library, don’t be intimidated by the size. The book is the first of a series, and has been grouped together with the subsequent books to make one gigantic volume (you might find it under The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but we’re just reading the first part, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for this reading challenge. If you continue reading the other books, that’s great! I hope you do (and I hope I’ll get a chance to eventually, also).

Nov. 17 – 23 – Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

Image

I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never read this classic novel! I’m looking forward to picking this one up … especially because my new 17th and 18th Century British Literature class requires me to read it this semester, so I’ll be knocking out two birds with one stone! I swear I had this book picked out and paid for (yay used book store $1.50) before this class opened (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it at all because it’s in my textbook). I’m looking forward to reading this book for the first time, and discovering all about Gulliver and his travels.

Nov. 24 – 30 – The Sea Shall Embrace Them – David W. Shaw

Image

This book is a historical, non-fiction account of “The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.” Shaw writes about the 1854 collision between two steamships, and the “harrowing events” that followed. The book came with a wonderful recommendation from my mom (thanks, Mom!), and was passed on to my husband (who needs to be really bored to read a book), so I am making good use of it and putting it into our book challenge. If my mom liked it, I know I will!

So there you have it, folks! Our reading list for November. It’s hard to imagine we’re so close to the end of 2013 already! Head out to your library and get prepared to read along!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized