Hello Fellow Readers!
How did the month of February treat you reading-wise? Did you discover something great to read (or watch)? I had another good month, reading The Midwife by Jennifer Worth which I loved.
The Midwife is about young Jenny Worth’s experiences as a midwife in one of the poorest areas of London. The time is the early to mid 1950s and the setting is the East End of London, an area that is still feeling the effects of being heavily damaged in WWII.There is a lot of sadness and suffering in these stories, but there is also joy and laughter, community and life.
Jenny’s comfortable upbringing doesn’t prepare her for the hardships she encounters in the slums, but her compassion and understanding grows quickly. Some of the stories are very funny and some are heartbreaking. As you would expect from a book set in England, there are many eccentric characters and lots of “stiff-upper-lip”. I choose this book because it was about nursing and although I never entertained the idea of pursuing that career myself, my Mom was a nurse in the 1940s (she retired after serving in the US Army during World War II to become a farm wife and raise her family). Although The Midwife takes place 5-10 years after she practiced, I gained a lot of insight into medicine and health practices similar to what my Mom worked under and found it fascinating.
Now, some untangling of the title of this book. It was originally published with the title The Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times which is actually the first of three books (the other two are Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End). The BBC created what became a very popular tv series based on these books, using the title Call the Midwife and the books have been republished with the new name. The beloved series is running on PBS here in the United States with DVDs available of the earlier seasons.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read for this month of the Online Reading Challenge?
How is your reading going this month? There’s certainly a lot to choose from! I hope you’ve had a chance to stop by one of our locations for ideas on what to read.
If you’re still stumped, or pressed for time, how about a movie? All those great clothes (And hats! Everyone wore hats!) and classic cars – movies and television shows are a great way to immerse yourself in mid-century atmosphere. Here are some suggestions.
That Thing That You Do – Tom Hanks directed and starred in this charming story of a group of teens that are propelled into stardom in the early days of rock and roll.
L.A. Confidential – Gritty, complex and riveting, this look at a corrupt Los Angeles police department is chilling. Outstanding performances by Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Kim Basinger among others.
M*A*S*H – The classic television series starring Alan Alda. It’s a comedy (“Frank Burns eats worms!” still cracks me up) but it’s also a drama with an unflinching examination of the cost of war.
Mad Men – An inside look of the world of the glamorous and high-powered “Golden Age” of advertising, ruled by the men of Madison Avenue. A riveting examination of the times and how much things have (and haven’t) changed.
The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, tells the story of Tilly Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet. This movie is based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. Tilly is an accomplished dressmaker who spent years traveling the world learning her trade. She has returned to her small Australian hometown in 1950s Australia. Tilly escaped from this town when she was young after being accused of murdering a young boy. She has returned to learn the truth.
Upon arriving back in town, Tilly finds her eccentric mother, played by Judy Davis, living in squalor. She begins taking care of her and scheming to get revenge on those who accused her of murder. Tilly’s way of dressing shocks the town. She begins to offer her dressmaking services to women in town, seemingly as a kindness, but really as a way of revenge. She begins working with the local sergeant, a man who has secrets of his own. Tilly also falls for a local farmer, Teddy, a man who lives next door to her mother and whose family has been stopping in to care for her mother while she’s been gone.
This small backwoods Australian town is rife with secrets and scandals, more than just Tilly’s exile for the supposed murder of her young classmate. More and more of these secrets are exposed as Tilly works her magic on the local women. This movie shows that nothing is what it seems and that everyone has secrets. Tilly struggles to find out the truth, remember her past, and clear her name. I really enjoyed this movie because Tilly clearly knows how to get revenge on people. While she may appear strong, she also has a lot going on under the surface.
If you’re a fan of Mad Men, you’ll appreciate this Mad for Mod series. The hero is Madison Night, an interior decorator, who models herself after Doris Day. One subplot revolves around a local theatre that is gearing up for a Doris Day festival.
Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere appeals to those who may have an interest in mid-century design, a unique Dallas neighborhood (the M streets), and, to a lessor extent, an actual mystery.
Madison and her circle of acquantances (swimming, decorating, and film) are well-drawn and their various interactions serve to flesh out the philosophy and aesthetic of fifties and sixties clothes and furniture. The appeal of the colors, textures, and fabrics of this era are made tangible and specific when she discovers a great bedroom set, pillows, crockery or formica table. Part of her business model is to dress the part – always outfitted in color-coordinated outfits and high heels.
A good companion would be The Thing About Jane Spring by Sharon Krum. The heroine of this novel adopts the clothing, attitude and lifestyle of Doris Day in order to improve her romantic prospects.