Family Dramarama in They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

For my hygge reading, I picked They Were Sisters during the holiday season. I adore Dorothy Whipple's writing style. She wrote about the struggles of middle class English women in the earlier half of the 20th Century. She really gets into some serious issues in They Were Sisters.

Lucy is the eldest sister of the Field family. Her mother died when she was in university and she left school to help raise her siblings. This was the expected turn of events and Lucy did it all without complaint. Things became difficult for her as her two younger sisters, Charlotte and Vera, grew into women. They resented her involvement in their lives. Lucy ended up feeling like an outsider, like a woman many years older than her mid-twenties.

Wishing for their freedom, Lucy's sisters marry men they shouldn't. Charlotte marries an emotionally manipulative, mentally abusive selfish monster. Vera, the most beautiful among them, marries the richest man she can find, even though she doesn't love him. Eventually, Lucy gets married herself. Though she wishes for children, none arrive. She does have several nieces and a nephew. Because of their parents' terrible choices and behaviour, she finds herself still "meddling" in their lives as she tries to protect the children and give them the love their parents are unwilling to provide.

As an elder sister, I really felt for Lucy. It's frustrating to watch your siblings make decisions you don't agree with but can't do anything about. For Lucy though, the choices her sisters make have dire consequences. At this time period, there was little a woman could do if she married a terrible man. She had to stick with him until one of them died. The men could do whatever they wanted. In They Were Sisters, whenever a man has a bit of a rough time, he heads to Canada and promptly disappears from the narrative. The women stay where they are and play the hand they were dealt. The women aren't just fettered by legal chains, but societal expectations as well.

Fundamental rights?

Lucy must constantly walk a fine line, never appearing too meddlesome, but helpful, so that she keeps access to the children. Any one of the parents can cut her off at anytime. But even when they lock her out, she is ready to jump back into their lives whenever asked in an attempt to make things better.

They Were Sisters isn't always an easy to read book. There is cruelty, neglect, substance abuse, and infidelity. The worst is how the children are treated. Still, it's got a hopeful ending. What always impresses me about Whipple's writing is how she gets into the heads of her characters. Everything they do seems to have a logic, even if the reader doesn't agree with it; it makes sense to the character.

I liked Someone at a Distance more, but They Were Sisters is still an excellent book. You should read it.

Why is They Were Sisters hygge? Dorothy Whipple writes about the home, about families. Not everything is perfect in her homes, but without problems there would be no story. These are domestic dramas with the friction that drives the plot between people and their relationships. The drama stays within the walls of the characters' homes and rarely strays elsewhere.

Let's Talk About Stats, Baby!

It's the sexiest time of the year. The time of year when everyone is talking about their staaaaaaaaats! So hot.

In total, I read 48 books last year. This is how it breaks down.

  • 38 women authors 
  • 9 by POC authors
  • 22 books were on audio
  • 9 non-fiction (5 were essay/memoir)
  • 4 short story collections
  • 3 graphic novels of some kind
In 2015, I read 60 books total. The biggest change this past year was my listening to 22 audiobooks compared to 2015's 15. (And I don't want any grief about audiobooks. I can listen to them at work. They help me keep my sanity.) Also, I read 16 graphic novels in 2015 and only 3 in 2016. Huh. 

I increased my ratio of women writers- 79% compared to 73% the year before. My POC reads dipped- 18% last year compared to 25% in 2015. 

One of my reading resolutions last year was to read more worldly. More than 50% of the authors I read in 2015 were from the United States. I felt this needed to change. Here's how that turned out. 

2016: 52%
2015: 52%

Sigh. Yeah, literally no change there. And while I ended up reading more international authors, my own country of Canada suffered from this with only 6 Canadian authors read this year. Since it's Canada's 150th anniversary this July, I'm going to make an effort to read more Canadians.

Here's the break down by country*:
  • 25 American
  • 6 Canadian
  • 3 UK
  • 3 Nigeria
  • 2 India
  • 2 Sweden
  • 2 Australia 
  • 1 Japan
  • 1 South Korea
  • 1 Cameroon
  • 1 Italy
  • 1 Russia

Now that I've analyzed last year's stats, it's time to make plans for 2017. While I plan to read whatever floats my goat, I still want to have an idea of how I want my 2017 reading year to look.
So. The plan...

  1.  Read more Canadians.
  2. Continue to read internationally.
  3. Keep reading the ladies.
  4. Read from my own damn shelves.

I have some idea on how to tackle #4. I think I'm just going to go shelf by shelf, start reading something from it, and if it doesn't do it for me, put it in the give away pile. Let's see if that works.

So, that's my look back on 2016 and my plan for 2017. What's your reading resolution if you have one? 

*By country I mean country they were born in. I don't have time to check everyone's current citizenship or residence status, people.

Talking As Fast As I Can- On Audio

It's no coincidence that Lauren Graham released her new memoirs, Talking As Fast As I Can, just four days after the revival of Gilmore Girls hit Netflix*. Her book is the perfect accompaniment to the new series as she spends a good part of the book discussing her time working on the new show.

Talking As Fast As I Can briefly touches on Lauren Graham's childhood and school years. She recounts her years working toward her dreams of broadway, only to end up in LA. Mostly it focuses on how she came to be the young mom of Rory Gilmore on the early 2000s series.

If you are looking for juicy gossip, you won't find it here. She talks a bit about her boyfriend and co-star on Parenthood, Peter Krause, how they met and later starting dating. It's very sweet. It's the kind of conversation you might have with a nice lady you met at the hair dresser while you were having your roots touched up. Nothing too deep, but a pleasant diversion.

The real reason Talking As Fast As I Can pairs well with Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life, is the excepts from the journal she kept while filming the new series. If she ever had a bad day, you wouldn't know it. I was so glad to have listened to the audiobook read by Lauren Graham herself, because her unbridled enthusiasm for the show, its creators, and her costars pour out of her voice. It was so fun to hear the affection she has for Gilmore Girls. It was obviously a big part of her life for many years. (If we ever get a memoir from Kelly Bishop, I want to read that. I bet she'd have some stories.)

The audience for Talking As Fast As I Can is 100% Gilmore Girls fans. Maybe 45% of this book is about other things, but even Parenthood doesn't factor into the narrative it as much as GG. Lauren Graham knows who to pander to...and I'll take it! It was fun and she seems like a doll.

Since this was a review copy of an audiobook, I didn't have access to the photos she makes reference to throughout the book. I'm a bit bummed about that. But if you do buy the audio, and I recommend that you do, there is a pdf of the photos included.

*Yes, I watched the new series as soon as it came out on Netflix. I think it had problems, but overall I loved it.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy via Volumes. All opinions are my own.

Wow! Ten Years! Can You Believe It?

Yes, I started this blog 10 years ago today. I know I haven't been blogging regularly lately, but 10 years is a big deal, I had to say something about it.

I had no idea where blogging would lead me. It's been a bumpy ride! At that time, I needed something to keep my mind busy while we waited to start building our house. So much has happened since then. Good and bad. My life is not the same. Thinking about how fast ten years went by makes me feel old. Dudes, it's been a whole decade! What were you doing ten years ago? 

So, ten years. Wow. Will I be here ten years from now? I don't know, honestly. Blogging has taken a back seat to make room for so many other things in my life. There was a time when I read over 100 books a year. In 2016, I read 48. I know that's still more than the average person, but it's not like it was. I used to review everything too. Now I feel less compelled to write about books that didn't move me.

But book blogging has been so fulfilling! I "met" so many great people. We contact each other in so many ways places now. Some even through snail mail. I've read a lot of great books, and learned a lot. I discovered new authors, genres, and new ways to get books into my brain. I had lots of fun participating in community events, readalongs, and readathons.

Book blogging helped me grow as a person. I am not the same person I was ten years ago and I'm sure book blogging has played a part in those changes. Blogging has changed so much too. I could never have predicted where it would go then. I'm sure it will change beyond what it is now. There are more platforms for discussing books popping up everyday.

So here's to ten years! Chrisbookarama, you have been good to me. I thank you for all that you've done for me. And here's to you to, Readers, you've made many a day a little brighter, made me laugh, and made me think. Thank you!