Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Beginning of the End

Just a few hours of 2019 left as I type. I took down the seasonal decorations this morning and things look a bit bare, as they always do. I put up my little autumn creations on the autumnal equinox, add the few Halloween-ish things I have for the month of October, and then put up the Christmas/winter stuff the day after Thanksgiving (even though that's not a thing here). For three months there are things hanging round that help me celebrate my best part of the year. When I take them down, it makes me a little bit sad. But I guess that's part of the whole seasonal thing--I enjoy 'my' season all the more because I know it's fleeting.

Happily, no matter the season, there are always books to immerse myself in--what would I do without them?!

Here are the first few books on my last monthly list of the year and decade:
December by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
I re-donated this to a charity shop as soon as I finished reading it, because I figured it was a good time for them to sell it. I loved this book. I could feel for Isabelle and her attempts to control things and her fears about what her actions might unleash.

The book moves back and forth between narrators--sometimes we hear from Isabelle, sometimes her mother, and as I recall, sometimes her father. The ending was a little abrupt, but it did fit in with the storyline.

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy
I first came across this book in e-audiobook format when scrolling through the library website one day. I borrowed it, but didn’t get to it. Then it dawned on me (duh!) that I could probably find the book in a charity shop. I found it in a couple of shops. It’s a short story collection in which all of the stories take place at Christmastime and each has a bit of an edge. It was a pleasant read.

A Woman in the Polar Night: The Classic Memoir of a Year in the Arctic Wilderness by Christianne Ritter, translated by Jane Degras
I came across this title when I was scrolling through the e-book section of the library website devoted to books new to the system and I immediately put myself in the queue. I had access to it earlier than expected, downloaded it and happily read it. This is the blurb from the library site:
'In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to "read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart's content", but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies... But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic's harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

Born in 1897, Christiane Ritter was an Austrian artist and author. She wrote A Woman in the Polar Night on her return to Austria from Spitsbergen in 1934. It has since become a classic of travel writing, never going out of print in German and being translated into seven other languages. Christiane Ritter died in Vienna in 2000 at the age of 103.'

 I loved this book. It’s pretty amazing to consider how they lived in such a place at that time, without all the technology that exists today. It would have been a huge change for her, living that way, especially because she had servants in the home she left in Austria. I was once again grateful to have been able to live in the arctic and sub-arctic before it warms up and melts. I was thinking with sadness about how different this part of the world is now as human-caused climate change speeds up. At one point, she mentions ‘the world war’ and I was reminded that when she wrote this, there had still been just the one, although later in the book, we know they have concerns about what will be coming.

As we begin a new year and decade, I wish you very happy and healthy 2020 and beyond.
Happy New Year!


Vicki said...

I haven't read any of these, but I loved Finding Frankie by Maeve Binchy.

Wishing you and Bill a very happy, healthy, and Blessed New Year!

Brenda said...

Happy 2020

Shari Burke said...

The same to you both!