The White Monkey

John Galsworthy



In this, the fourth of nine novels in the Forsyte Saga, the focus shifts from Soames to his daughter Fleur. I wish I could like Fleur more, but I find her as unsympathetic as her father. Completely selfish, she feels  injured because she can’t have the man she wants, so she settles for Michael Mont, a decent, hardworking man who loves her completely.

Bored and restless, she decides to have a child. It will please Michael, and she might find it amusing. Like the white monkey of the title (an oil painting acquired by Soames to put into his growing collection), Fleur sucks the goodness out of the current moment and discards the rind. As a picture of the post-WWI twenties, she lives for pleasure.


Ask Me About My Uterus

Abby Norman


In 2007 experiencing excruciating abdominal pain, Abby Norman started on a long journey to find relief. Fobbed off by doctors who didn’t believe her, she struggled to find a diagnosis and treatment. Finally years later, doing her own research, she discovered endometriosis as the cause of her pain.

Her search didn’t end there. Next she had to find a doctor who would believe her, take her seriously (without her boyfriend accompanying her to attest to her pain), and find an effective treatment.

Just to muddy the waters were her mental problems and instability. Doctor after doctor brushed her off as she proved a difficult patient to treat. When she didn’t respond to their treatment, she was labeled as resistant and mentally ill. Apparently, if you have mental problems, your pain will not be taken seriously. It’s all in your head.

Finally, after years of suffering, Ms. Norman found a doctor and treatment for her condition. Endometriosis is taken more seriously now, and treatment is available.

Her harrowing account of her attempts to find relief should be required reading in medical schools.



Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse

Jennifer Worth

Unlike the other two Call the Midwife books that I have read, this book tells the life stories of two characters that the author encountered working at Nonnatus House. The first, Jane, is a quiet, fearful young women. She fears her own shadow, and cannot be trusted with any responsibility due to her fear of making a mistake. The other character, Mr Collett, a soldier who fought in the Boer war, begins as a client needing a nurse, and becomes a true friend to the author.

Jane’s story is the story of the workhouse, a horrible institution that punishes people for being poor. Starting out life as bubbly, charming, intelligent little girl, Jane’s spirit is completely broken by the inhumanity of the workhouse system.

The soldier, Mr. Collett starts out as a patient, but moves into the category of friend as his wounds heal. His life story is gradually revealed as her visits become more social than professional.

Both stories reveal the humanity of the people who came into contact with the sisters and nurses of Nonnatus House, until changing economic times forced the end of the East End and the need for the services of Nonnatus House.

My Cousin Rachel

Daphne du Maurier


Well, did she or didn’t she? Or is it all an illusion in the mind of an immature boy? These are the questions raised but never answered in du Maurier’s cleverly constructed book.

I read a lot of du Maurier when I was younger, but I moved on to other books before I reached this one, and I’m glad. I’m glad I read it when I was old enough to appreciate the deft handling of her character and the pacing. The book starts slow and picks up speed, until by the end, it is racing along, taking the reader with it.

Here’s the set up: Philip Ashley  is the nephew of Ambrose Ashley, a bachelor, who raises the boy  with a love of the estate which is to be his one day. In middle age, Ambrose travels to Florence for his health and the warm climate. He sends home a few mysterious letters, which describe his declining health and his marriage to a widow, Rachel. Then he abruptly and unexpectedly dies, leaving everything to Philip.

Philip is stunned and builds an imaginary picture of Rachel, blaming her for his uncle’s death. When she appears in England, he is stunned to meet a beautiful, delicate widow. Vulnerable and delicate, she evokes a passionate love from the boy.

The deliberate ambiguity of the book is never resolved. Is Philip under a delusion of love? Is Rachel deliberately playing with his emotions? Is she an innocent victim or the manipulative woman taking advantage of the infatuation of a raw, inexperienced youth?

You decide.



The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

I can’t make up my mind whether this is an adult fairy tale masquerading as a book for children or a children’s fairy tale appealing to adults. I am confused by Gaiman’s skills as a writer (which appeals to adults) or to the age of the characters (which appeals to children). On the whole, I’d choose to put it in the adult fantasy genre. I think the character of Ursula Monkton and the actions of the father are too frightening for children.

The use of the maiden-mother-crone imagery for the Hempstock women is the most appealing aspect of the book. The life-threatening actions of Ursula and the boy’s father under her influence are the most frightening. Children need to trust in their caregivers, not be afraid of them. This element was what I found most troubling about Coraline as well.

Things are often not what they seem, and that can be frightening to us adults as well as children.


Women Like Us

Jason Pomerance

Women Like Us by [Pomerance, Jason]

I bought this book with low expectations. What man would dare call his book ‘Women Like Us’ without writing under a pseudonym? Well, as it turned out, this is a pretty good read. At first I thought is was to be the story of Susan and Andrew, an freelance chef and her boyfriend blueblood Andrew. Ultimately, though the story is taken over by her pushy, efficient mother-in-law, the Pasadena matriarch Edith. The book crackles when Edith is around, and soon I found myself caught up in the story. Bravo, Edith!

Spirits United

Alice Duncan

Spirits United (A Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery, Book 11)

I don’t know how she does it. I’ve read other series that run out of gas about the third book, but Alice Duncan’s series just keeps chuggin’ along. Each one seems as fresh and entertaining as the first. I’m so involved with Daisy, I worry about her sometime. Looks like she’s headed for the altar, and I wonder how her new husband is going to  like her continuing to work as a medium/spiritualist/amateur sleuth?

Oh, well, I’ll just have to trust Alice Duncan to work things out.

Mock My Words

Chandra Shekhar

A perfect little gem of a book. It tells the story of David, who has difficulties with spoken English, although he writes beautifully. His two books have been international bestsellers, leading to an offer from a private college to teach English Lit. Unfortunately his students are not willing to meet him halfway, and his difficulties with spoken English make communication a challenge. He has trouble at home, too, with a wife who is struggling with her own challenges at work. She is too wrapped up in her own problems to pay attention to David. I thoroughly enjoy this book and found the only criticism was that it was too short. I hope a sequel is in the offing soon. I love David and his struggles.

Flight Behavior

Barbara Kingsolver


Dellarobbia Turnbow has a good life. She and her husband have to scrimp a little to pay their bills and feed their two kids, but her husband is a good man. A little unimaginative and too subordinate to his mother to suit Dellarobbia, but a good man. Then her life is turned upside-down by an invasion of monarch butterflies. Her church thinks it’s a miracle. Her in-laws think it’s nuisance, interfering with their decision to sell the trees for the price of lumber. To Dellarobbia it’s an invitation to a new world.

The Dark Labyrinth

Lawrence Durrell


It took me two attempts to finish this book, and I wouldn’t have finished it the second time if it didn’t fill a block in my Book Bingo card (published in the year you were born). Maybe I would have been better off with The Diary of Anne Frank after all.

The set-up is given right at the beginning: an ill-assorted bunch of tourists are trapped in a labyrinth by a cave-in. This is followed by flashbacks telling the history of the people, in more depth than is interesting. In fact, by the time came for the cave-in, I couldn’t have cared less if all of them had been smooshed. Some survived and some didn’t, and it didn’t much matter to me which category each character fell into. The only way I could finish this book was by skimming over most of the description.

I don’t think the author was any more interested in his characters than I was.