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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
The Way Some People Die
Ross Macdonald
Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace
The Fellowship of the Frog
Edgar Wallace
Code of Conduct (The Jani Kilian Chronicles Book 1)
Kristine Smith
A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton

Shadows on the Rock

Shadows on the Rock - Willa Cather This is a historical novel set in Québec at the turn of the century—18th century that is—when Quebec was a French colony and Louis XIV was king of France. For the most part, it deals with the life of an apothecary and his 12-year old daughter. The apothecary accompanied the Count of Frontenac to Québec some 8 years previously. He was in essence the personal physician to the Count, also a close neighbor and confidant. A few years after they arrive, the apothecary's wife dies, but not before, she hopes at least, her daughter, Cécile has been properly trained to keep house for her father.

We follow their lives through a calendar year and learn about the isolation of the winter when the St. Lawrence River freezes over and shipping is stopped. We learn about the lives of some of the people with whom the apothecary and his daughter interact: a fur trapper; the two bishops of the town, one rather worldly; religious mystics and missionaries; the lost son of a fallen woman; a disfigured and rather strange homeless man who makes his way doing odd jobs for food. And so forth. In a way, little happens in the book. In another way, what we have is a nice description of people's lives in that time, the people who long to return to the glorious France they have left behind and those who only know the life of the glorious New France in the wilds of Canada.

Like all Willa Cather books, this one is well written, calm and engaging. I never expected that I would ever grow up to read all of Willa Cather's works, but I expect that will soon be the case (two or three to go). And I am all the richer for it. Actually, I never expected to read any of her books, after feeling some vague distaste for her from high-school English. I mean, what could be less cool than a spinster woman from the Midwest with a hick name like Willa? What in the hell could she know? Yeah, at 17 we definitely know more than our teachers (although I do admit that I am forever hopelessly in love with my 11th grade English teacher, Miss Garner). Whatever, someone made me read one of her books, twice actually (Death Comes for the Archbishop). It wasn't so bad. I stumbled across a couple more at the church fair book table. They were quite good. So, now I've become rather a fan of old Willa. She is a true literary gem who deserves much more acclaim that she is now generally given.