Here are the books I read in February:
1. Serving Victoria by Kate Hubbard
This book focuses on six members of Queen Victoria’s court, throughout her long reign. The title infers servants, but this is not the case—members of the queen’s court were Ladies and Gentlemen, people of title. Hubbard chose her particular six people because they had left behind a large amount of correspondence, so she was able to piece together a strong picture of what their lives in court had been like. Unfortunately, it turns out that life in Queen Victoria’s court was dull, dull, dull. How do you make a dull subject interesting reading? This is a question to which Hubbard has yet to find a satisfactory answer. The book assumed the reader had a fairly significant pre-existing knowledge of Queen Victoria and her entourage, so this would probably have been a better read for someone well-versed in the royal family.
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — Official Movie Guide by Brian Sibley
Always an enjoyable delve into movie worlds, Sibley provides another broad view of a major fantasy film. I love all the behind-the-scenes pictures, from so many different departments; it’s a great way of getting an overview of more than just the actors, and I really like the variety of departments he interviews. It’s incredible to see just how much work (and joy) goes into making these films!
3. The Victorian Home by Jenni Calder
This book is from the 1970s, and I don’t know whether that’s what makes the tone different to the recent Victorian-era books I’ve read, or whether it’s simply Calder’s writing style. I found this book difficult to get into—again, because of the large pages, or because of the writing style?—and it felt a bit disorganized, but I did appreciate her insights. Not content to simply state facts, Calder often drew those facts together to create some really valuable conclusions about the era.
4. 100 Ideas That Changed Art by Michael Bird
Who needs chronologies or movements, when you can have ideas. A whole new take on an art book, this volume attempts to distill art into its 100 most influential ideas. Some seem pretty solid; some (“white”??) more questionable. Since I know very little about art, I enjoyed reading about it from this angle—it didn’t feel as overwhelming as attempting to go year-by-year, country-by-country, movement-by-movement—and looking at the pictures on every page.
5. A Most Unpleasant Wedding by Judith Alguire (Rudley Mysteries #3)
The third book in the Rudley mystery series is another fun ride through the Ontarian resort scene. I’ve enjoyed coming back to these characters every time.
6. Llamas: An Introduction to Care, Training, and Handling by Sandi Burt
Want to know whether or not you should start a llama farm? This book won’t be enough for you to actually start the farm, but it will certainly let you know whether you’d be up for the job (I abandoned any idyllic llama-raising dreams around the first aid chapter). Now over 20 years old, at least some of the material is assuredly outdated. But this was one of the first llama care books in North America.
7. The Silence of the Llamas by Anne Canadeo
A llama has been murdered! Oh no! A stupidly easy read (so that’s the difference between literary and mass market) that leant towards vapid, this was still a fun enough volume. It follows the exploits of the black sheep knitting club, as they determine the identity of the llama—and then human—killer!
8. The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz
I struggled with what to think of this intriguing volume of psychoanalysis anecdotes. Grosz tells true stories of encounters he’s had with patients. That’s it. That’s the book. He has selected the stories carefully. We are meant to take meaning out of them without any further explanation, without any sitting us down and checking that we got the message. This isn’t normally how psychology books work. Normally the anecdote draws the reader in, and then the real book begins. But that’s all that this book is. The feeling of half the book being missing stayed with me throughout this quick volume. And yet if anyone could pull off a volume of just psychoanalysis anecdotes, Grosz has done so.
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Read my January book round-up HERE.