Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend Reading

I feel like I've been in a "reading groove" here lately. I've been enjoying everything I've read and have been able to do quite a bit of reading. I've actually read 15 books since January 1, which puts me way ahead of my target of 50 books for 2008. Dare I dream of reaching 100? Let's not get ahead of ourselves! Life has a way of knocking me off track every now and then. But for this weekend, I have nothing planned. So, I plan on finishing The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, which is fiction and (you guessed it!) deals with some of the same themes that have been in his other writings. But, he's a really good writer and even though all of his books contain some of these Christian themes, the reader doesn't feel as if they're being preached to. On the contrary, the books simply make the reader think, which is always a good thing. This is a short book, so I hope to move on to some other reading. I have two arcs that I need to read, and I would like to start on Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, which is the March selection for the Year of Reading Dangerously challenge. I have soooo many books that I want to read, it's hard to choose. I haven't been talking much about all of the books that have been coming into my house, but rest assured there are enough to keep me busy. In fact, I'll have to live to be 150 as it stands now to get all of them read. Have a great weekend!

Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

After leaving Narnia, our class has moved on to some of the adult fiction of C. S. Lewis. We read Perelandra (1943), which is actually book 2 in his Space Trilogy series. Out of the Silent Planet (1938) is the first book, and That Hideous Strength (1945) is the last book. Like the fiction Lewis wrote for children, Perelandra is full of symbolism, and certain spiritual themes run throughout the story -- "struggle between good and evil and the consequences of rebellion against God's laws." Ransom is a college professor who has traveled to Mars or Malacandra where he met creatures besides the Martians. There he met the eldila, which are spiritual beings much like what we think of when we think of angels. Now, the Oyarsa of Malacandra (the great eldil ruler) has come to Earth or Tellus to ask Ransom for help. It seems that Evil is planning an attack on Venus or Perelandra. The attack is to come in the form of temptation, not war. Perelandra is still a young planet and is only inhabited by a King and Queen who live in a perfect world where they know no sorrow or pain. It is much like the paradise of Adam and Eve before the Fall. That's what Ransom is charged with doing though he doesn't know it until he gets there. He must stop them from making the same mistake as the first people on Earth. Much of the story of Ransom on Venus is the description of the planet, which is a series of floating islands with a golden sky.

Ransom isn't the only person from Earth who makes the trip to Perelandra. He's followed there by Weston, who's also an academic. However, Weston is the antithesis to Ransom. He's a scientist and has no ethical qualms about using science in the name of progress no matter what the cost. Weston is primarily concerned with interplanetary conquest. He sees the inhabitants of these other worlds as savages. Weston's philosophy about good and evil is that they're one in the same. According to him, what Ransom calls God is what we are striving for and what Ransom calls the Devil is the energy or force that pushes us towards what we desire. (This is what Lewis was saying in the Narnia series when the Calormenes say that Tash and Aslan are the same thing just called by different names.) Weston is eventually taken over by Evil and begins trying to convince the Queen of Perelandra that Maleldil (God) wants her to disobey him. There is one commandment that He has given her and the King and that is that they may not spend the night on the fixed lands. He doesn't give them any reason for this taboo. He simply wants them to obey out of faith and love. Weston's arguments are difficult to rebut because they always contain just enough truth to make sense to the Queen. He takes what is good and perverts it to his own needs and desires. (Again this is directly out of the philosophy of Lewis who believes that evil doesn't exist in and of itself, but rather is a perversion of good.)

Perelandra is full of symbolism, but it's not simply Christian fiction. It's a story of good vs. evil in all its forms. The book is well-written and makes the reader stop and think about things in a new way. I highly recommend this one to everyone who likes a good story.

The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari

I received this book back in January from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. It's taken me this long to read it not because it's a long book, in fact, it's quite short (less than 200 pages), but because it's difficult to read. It's heartbreaking and surreal. We hear a little about the situation in Darfur every now and then, but we remain safely removed. The book tells the story of what's happening to the people of Darfur as I write this. It's been going on for years, and the issue is extremely complicated with many different factions and rebel groups.

This book tells the story of Darfur through the eyes of Daoud Hari. He's lucky enough to have had a good education and can speak several languages -- Arabic, English and his native Zaghawa. After his village is destroyed, he decides to use his skills to become a translator for reporters or anyone else who is willing to go into Darfur to get the message out to the rest of the world. The message is clear -- there's a genocide of massive proportion being carried out in Darfur. This is not a war; this is not a civil war. This is a genocide. Women, children, and the elderly are brutally slaughtered as whole villages are systematically wiped off the map.

The world has been slow in sending help. There are refugee camps set up along the border of Darfur. However, these camps are not much safer than being in Darfur. It's crowded; there's not enough food, and it lacks adequate shelter from the harsh conditions. But worse than all of this, the women and young girls are extremely vulnerable. They're repeatedly raped when they're forced to hunt for firewood in the woods surrounding the camps.

"Three young girls in another tent also must gather firewood. The oldest of these is fourteen. The youngest, maybe nine, wears a dusty black shawl that covers her head like a hood to hide her face. She never looks up and it seems she is willing herself into the sand. They have been raped many times, but they need to go back again soon for more fuel. They cry to talk about it."

After many captures, beatings, and imprisonments, Daoud Hari finally escapes the region with the help of some of the journalists and officials he met from the U.S. and the U.K. He now lives in the United States and continues his efforts to bring attention to the situation in Darfur. This book is something that everyone should read. It's painful, but it sheds a brief light on a situation that demands out attention.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Creative Bookshelf

This is a really creative solution to the problem of what to do with all of those books we all have piling up all over the house. It makes me wish I had a second story so I could copy this. I guess I'll have to be content with a more traditional bookshelf. My husband has agreed to make me some nice custom bookshelves, but I can't decide where to put them. I'm leaning towards our bedroom right now. When it happens, I'll post some pictures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

"In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women.

I love the first line of this book. The reader knows from the beginning that this is going to be a fun book. Elizabeth Gaskell doesn't disappoint. There are some men in the story, but they remain on the sidelines. They are not essential to the story. In fact, that's quite the premise of the book -- men aren't necessary. Considering that Gaskell wrote this book in the early 1850s, this is quite shocking. During her day, women were expected to be dependent upon men for everything. So, Gaskell does something quite out of character within the Victorian period by fleshing out these eccentric women who are quite independent. The book was first written and published in installments in Charles Dickens' Household Words beginning in December 1851. The book is written as a series of vignettes as we follow the women throughout their lives. There really is not much of a plot, but rather brief glimpses into the lives of these women.

The women all abide by a very strict code of propriety. For example, visiting hours are strictly kept to after twelve noon. It would be unheard of to come to a neighbor's home before this time. The women also practice what is called "elegant economy." They feel it vulgar to discuss money, and everyone pretends that they have more than they do. For instance, they pretend that they walk instead of getting a buggy because it's a beautiful night -- not because it's expensive. They want to keep at bay any appearance of impropriety, which also extends to their household help. The maids are forbidden to have "followers" or boyfriends. One exception to this is later in the book when Miss Matty is older and her sister has died. She allows her maid Martha to have a follower, although it still bothers her. It's as if these women are holding out against the changing times. But, eventually they begin to see that change comes to all of us no matter how hard we try to hold it at bay. This is a delightful little book. The women are eccentric, kind, funny, strong and yet vulnerable. I highly recommend this one.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Last Battle

Whereas The Magician's Nephew tells the Narnian creation story, The Last Battle tells the story of how Narnia ends. The last king of Narnia, Tirian, is under attack from the Calormenes and calls for help in the name of Aslan. Tirian knows that throughout Narnia's history, the children have come from another world to assist Narnia in times of trouble. This time is no exception. Jill and Eustace appear ready and willing to help the King fight the evil forces at work in Narnia. Instead of a wardrobe or a pool, this time there is a stable that serves as a passage into another world.

However, things don't seem to be working out the same way this time as they have in the past. In fact, it looks as if Narnia will be destroyed. The stars are falling out of the sky. The waters are rising up and flooding the earth. Could this really be the end for Narnia? Will Aslan intervene or is it simply time for this world to end?

I don't normally read fantasy, but I really enjoyed these books. As I said earlier, I'm sure part of it is the fact that I had a great deal of background information on Lewis and his beliefs, which helped in understanding it. However, even without that, I think I would have liked these stories. Lewis is a really good writer. He tells a good story, and his characters are well-rounded.

We are on to some of Lewis' adult fiction now -- Perelandra. I've just started it, so I don't really know what to expect from it, yet. But, if the Narnia books are any gauge, I'm sure I'm going to love it.

The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew is probably my favorite of the three books that I read in this series. The protagonists in this story are also children --Digory and Polly. The children stumble upon Digory's Uncle Andrew in the attic of their row house while exploring. Uncle Andrew is dabbling in magic. (Lewis had a great respect for science, but he didn't believe it was right to try to alter the natural order of things.) Uncle Andrew has been successful in sending a guinea pig to "another world" and wants to see if he can succeed with a human. He tricks Polly into touching a magic ring, which indeed does send her to the Woods between the Worlds. In this place, there are numerous pools that connect to different worlds.Digory takes a ring and goes to find Polly and bring her back. However, once there they decide to explore a little more before returning home. They end up in a world in which they come across Jadis, the White Witch. In this world, everything is dead or dying, including the sun. They find out that there has been a great cataclysmic battle that has destroyed everything in this land known as Charn. The children try to escape from Charn, but Jadis grabs hold of them as they slip on their magic rings to return to the Woods between the Worlds. Eventually, Jadis follows the children back to their world in London where she wreaks havoc on the city. Digory is forced to use the magic rings one more time in an attempt to remove Jadis from their world and return her to Charn. During a struggle, quite by accident, the cabby with his horse and Uncle Andrew are transported along with Digory, Polly, and Jadis back to the Woods between the Worlds. However, instead of returning Jadis to Charn , they end up in the wrong pool and find themselves in a world full of darkness. They hear a voice singing far off and are mesmerized by it. Then strange and wonderful things begin to happen all around them.

"There were no words. There was hardly a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn't come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand , thousand points of light leaped out -- single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky in that one place, grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see the shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing. The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward towards the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills.

They finally get a glimpse of the Singer himself:
"It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song..."

The Lion continues his song and he sings the grass and trees into existence. Then the animals began to come up from the earth.
"Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into humps. They were of very different sizes, some no bigger than mole-hills, some as big as wheelbarrows, two the size of cottages. And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump there came out an animal."

Then the Lion touched a pair of each kind of animal and he breathed on them and gave them awareness of themselves and the gift of speech. He told them to love, to think, and to speak. In other words, they were created with a purpose.

Aslan addresses the children and tells Digory to go to a specific mountain and get a silver apple off of a tree. There is a warning on the gate telling all who enter to only take an apple for others or beware. Of course, Digory is tempted to eat one himself, but he gets frightened when he sees a bird watching him from one of the branches of the tree. Then much to his horror, he discovers that Jadis is in the garden, as well. She tries to get him to take an apple for his mother who is ill back in his own world. Jadis tells him that he wouldn't have to tell anyone that he took one to his mother. She overplays her hand by saying that he could just leave Polly in Narnia and return to his mother. This breaks the spell. Digory knows that the witch is evil and couldn't have any one's best interests at heart if she thought he could possibly leave Polly behind. So, he once again withstands the temptation and flees. Aslan uses the silver apple to plant a tree that will protect Narnia for a while (but not forever because Digory brought evil into Narnia when Jadis came in with him). This is how Narnia is been born.

Leaving Narnia

As I've mentioned before, I've been reading and discussing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle in my class on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. There are four other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series that I would like to go back and read at some point. But, I'm actually quite sad to be leaving Narnia for now. I know without a doubt that I've gotten so much more from these books having discussed them in class than I would have had I read them on my own. That makes me wonder what I may miss when reading outside of a classroom setting. I think that's one of the reasons I like participating in online book discussions through blogging. It gives me the opportunity to get the opinions of other readers. Because we all bring preconceived notions, our own life experiences and likes and dislikes to our reading, we're bound to glean different things from the same book. The same is true of books that I discuss with my face to face book club, as well. I may not always agree with the opinions of other readers, but I think I always get a better understanding of the work through discussion.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book Lewis wrote in this series, but it's not the first in the story chronologically. The Magician's Nephew, which was actually published next to last in the series actually tells the story of the creation of Narnia. There was a movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe put out in 2005, which was pretty good. However, there are a number of differences between the book and the film, which is usually the case. The story opens with four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy arriving at the country home of an eccentric old professor. The children are sent away from London due to the bombing raids of WWII. (Lewis himself actually took in some orphans from London during the war.) During a game of hide-and-seek, Lucy stumbles upon a magnificent wardrobe in an empty room of the sprawling house. Once inside, she discovers that there is another world on the other side of the wardrobe. Within minutes of being in Narnia, she meets Mr. Tumnus, the faun who intends to kidnap her for the White Witch, Jadis. The witch is well aware of the prophecy that declares four humans will one day rule over Narnia and return things to their rightful state. All the inhabitants of Narnia have been given strict instructions by Jadis to immediately bring to her any "sons of Adam" or "daughters of Eve" that may appear in Narnia. Mr. Tumnus can't bring himself to turn Lucy over to Jadis, so he lets her go. She returns to the professor's house through the wardrobe. Of course, her brothers and sisters don't believe her when she tells them of this other world. This is the beginning of the children's adventures in Narnia. Eventually all the children will find their way to Narnia. Aslan is the creator of Narnia. He is described as a good lion, but not a tame lion. This is in reference to Lewis' belief that when faced with God, depending upon what is in some one's heart, they will either find perfect love and peace or fear and hatred. He also believed that evil is simply the perversion of good. In other words, evil doesn't exist on its own. The witch's spell over Narnia begins to break when Aslan returns.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Update on Class

I have been meaning to post something about the class I'm taking on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien but haven't gotten around to it until now. I am really enjoying this class -- especially the part where I don't have to turn in assignments or take tests. I just read at my leisure, show up and take part in the discussion. It's great!

The first half of the class is devoted to Lewis, and I didn't know a great deal about him before I began. He's a fascinating guy. He is most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia series. However, first and foremost Lewis was a scholar and wrote extensively on a wide variety of subjects -- Christian apology texts, literary criticism, literary history, philosophy, and theology. Much of his academic writing is erudite to say the least. The most difficult piece to this point has been The Abolition of Man, which is "an exploration into the nature of humankind and morality." He thinks about things in a way that I think most people never dream of. I'm not sure I would have understood a great deal of this without the class discussion.

Lewis was raised in a house full of books. He describes a childhood in which he was given access to the seemingly endless supply of books in his house with no restrictions. He was free to read anything he could get his hands on. He spent hours reading and honing his imagination. Following the death of his mother when he was young, Lewis lost all faith in God. His eventual conversion to Christianity happened over a lifetime, which gave him a unique experience in many ways.

Outside of academic and Christian circles, he is most well-known for The Chronicles of Narnia series. There are seven books in the series, which begins with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and ends with The Last Battle. It's interesting to read about how he wrote these books. Many people think that Lewis set out to write a children's series to introduce children to some of his ideas about Christianity. Lewis says that he never intended to write a series with an overtly Christian message. In fact, Lewis explains his philosophy about writing in one of his essays. He believes that you must start with a good story and then if there is any message there, it'll come out of its own accord. He insists that the series began with a single mental image that came to him when he was about sixteen years old. This image was of a faun in a snowy wood carrying packages. Later, other images came to him, including the lion (who would become Aslan in the stories). He didn't do anything with these images until much later when he actually began writing the first book in the Chronicles series. The book was actually written for his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield. After reading some of his academic pieces, there is much of his philosophy that becomes evident in these stories for children. We are currently discussing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and then we'll begin the Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle.

We won't start talking about Tolkien, who was a close friend of Lewis, until the second part of the semester. I'm not sure I'll enjoy it quite as much, but I'm willing to give it a chance. As I've said before, I haven't read any of the LOTR, which is required reading for the class. So, I need to get started on that pretty soon so I'll be ready for the discussion. But for now, I'm happy in the land of Narnia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Bluest Eye

This was the second book in the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1993, is the author of this short but powerful novel. The reader knows from the beginning that this isn't going to be a "feel good" book. The story is told from different points of view and is divided into four sections -- Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Fall. We meet Pecola Breedlove in the opening pages of the novel where we find out that she is having her father's baby. The author tells us that the Breedloves are ugly people. When it comes to Cholly Breedlove, (Pecola's father) she is talking about his character as much as she is his physical appearance. Morrison uses the Dick and Jane stories from our childhood to exemplify the vast disparity between the idealic world of white middle class America and that of Pecola Breedlove. The book begins with descriptions of Dick and Jane and their families. At the beginning of each chapter, phrases from these books are continuously repeated as if they were a mantra being chanted over and over in Pecola's head.

Pecola longs to be beautiful. She longs to have that fairy tale existence that she sees in books. For her, the ultimate would be to have beautiful blue eyes. If she could only have that then people would look at her and notice her. She wouldn't be invisible to the world any longer. She goes so far as to visit a charlatan who claims he can make that happen. In the end, Pecola can no longer deal with the trauma she has endured in her few short years. She retreats within herself and believes that she does indeed have blue eyes. She walks the streets talking to her imaginary friend about how beautiful she is now that she has blue eyes.

The edition I read has an afterword by Morrison in which she describes the girl who inspired this story. She actually went to school with a little black girl who dreamed of having blue eyes. This horrified Morrison even at a young age. Later she would never forget the 'racial self-loathing' that she saw in that little girl. She wanted to discover how and why that happens to someone.
Interestingly, Morrison also explains what she sees as a failure in many ways to accomplish what she wanted to with this novel. It is after all her first published work. This book brings to light the horrific damage that we do to our children when we offer them unrealistic and unattainable ideas of beauty and worth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Widow of the South

My book club meets tonight to discuss The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, which is set during the last months of the American Civil War. The Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) happens right outside Carrie and John McGavock's plantation, Carnton, on November 30, 1864. Due to Carnton's size and proximity, Confederate commanders inform the McGavocks that they will use their home as a hospital. However, this is not the first tragedy to to come home to the McGavocks. They have recently lost three of their five children to illness and are struggling with overwhelming grief. Carrie retreats within herself. She rarely leaves her room and refuses to give up her black mourning clothes. She is so devastated that the doctor fears she may accidentally overdose on the laudanum he prescribes. So, John only gives her one dose at a time. She decides that she doesn't want to take it and hides it in another bottle. She takes comfort in the fact that she could drink the whole bottle if she decided to. She doesn't really want to die, but she doesn't know how she'll live either. Women of her day had very few options. Carrie keeps this option open to herself. She questions her faith in God and struggles with an irrational guilt because she couldn't keep her children alive.

It's not until the first soldiers begin to arrive that Carrie begins to wake from her living nightmare. In the beginning, it's simply the overwhelming amount of work involved in caring for so many badly injured and dying men that keeps her going. She begins to take comfort in the fact that she is needed and can be useful. There is one soldier in particular that she is drawn to -- Zachariah Cashwell. In chapters that alternate between the characters, we learn about Zachariah's past. Beyond the physical wounds he suffered in battle, he bears the emotional scars left following his mother's abandonment when he was a small boy. The pain is what seems to draw Carrie and Zachariah to each other. There is a physical attraction, as well. But, they both know that they shouldn't do anything about it, and they don't.

Over the course of weeks following this devastating battle, she writes letters home for the soldiers, tends their wounds and directs their burial. Through her relationship with Zachariah and the care she gives the soldiers, she is able to let go of some of her own grief. She realizes how odd it is that something this horrible could help her deal with her personal grief.

Many of the dead were buried where they fell on the battlefield. To preserve the remains and honor their sacrifice, Carrie has the bodies reburied on her land. The cemetery is laid out systematically to include areas for each of the states. So, all of the Alabama boys are together and all of the Tennessee men are together. She also painstakingly records the names and states of the soldiers whenever possible in a book, which she keeps on her person at all times.

As usual, life goes on and everyone deals with the changes wrought by war. Carrie decides that she will never quit wearing her mourning clothes. She will spend the rest of her life tending the graves of the men and boys who died during the Battle of Franklin. She will not let them be forgotten. She becomes somewhat of a heroine to many. People from all over the South write to her trying to find information on their husbands, sons and fathers. She is the keeper of the book. She is the Widow of the South.

This book is written as historical fiction. It is based in fact on the actual battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864. Carrie McGavock is real and was known as the Widow of the South for her efforts during and following the war. An Author's Note at the end of the book gives information about Carnton and John and Carrie's descendants. The cemetery at Carnton in Franklin, Tennessee, is still the resting place for more than 1500 (of the over 9,000) young men who died that day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett weighs in at a mere 120 pages; however, he packs this short little book with a lot of fun. The premise is simple. The (fictional?) Queen of England takes up reading one day quite by accident. She is chasing her barking dogs in her garden when she stumbles upon a bookmobile parked near the back of the castle. Once inside to retrieve her dogs, she feels compelled to check out a book. She has never been much of a reader to this point, but over time she becomes the type of reader we would all recognize in ourselves -- the obsessive kind. By page 19, she is already keeping a list of books that she wants to read. She begins with light fare and grows with her passion to include some of the more difficult books in the world of literature. Much to the dismay of those around her (especially her private secretary), this passion is fed by Norman, a page in her employ. One books leads to another and this one in turn leads to another. The Queen feels that all too familiar feeling that assails bibliophiles at times -- the overwhelming anxiety that one will never be able to read all the books on that reading list. She also begins to regret the many opportunities that have passed her by in life. After all, she's met nearly everyone of any importance whatsoever, including many famous authors. At the time, she didn't have anything to talk to them about because she hadn't read any of their books. Now, what she would give for an opportunity to sit down with some of these people to discuss their works. There are also some authors she would like to 'take to task.' She begins to exhibit even more symptoms of bibliophilia. See if you recognize any of these signs. She begins talking to everyone around her about what she's reading and begins giving people books to read. She begins to lose interest in everything else around her. Though usually punctual, she begins to be late for appointments. She begins to care less about her appearance. Sound familiar? I had to wince a little when reading this because I wondered just how many people had rolled their eyes when I talked passionately about a book I was reading or generously offered to let them borrow one of my many books.

The Queen describes how she feels about reading when she says, "The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic. Actually she had heard this phrase, the republic of letters, used before, at graduation ceremonies...It [reading] was anonymous; it was shared; it was common." All this reading does make an impact on the Queen. She begins to notice things and people around her. She begins to think about things quite differently.

This is a fun little novella and a must-read for anyone who couldn't imagine a life without books.