I initially started this blog not only to talk about books, but also teas I enjoy! My husband and I have been guzzling loads of tea lately; one I have been especially enjoying is Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea. It is a nice, hearty tea that really tastes amazing with a bit of milk added. Good for a morning pick-me-up or for a lazy afternoon.
I picked up this collection of short stories last weekend from op.cit. books on a whim. It is a pretty neat book. All but one of the stories center around a unique female protagonist: some are children, some are married, some are sisters, some are lonely. (In the one story with a young male protagonist, he is becoming increasingly infatuated with the sweet, outspoken girlfriend of his friend’s father.) There is a dark humor to quite a few of the stories – such as a potentially embarrassing puppet show on an 8-year-old girl’s birthday – but most are just dark. Abandoned mothers, adolescent cruelty. Bad decisions heaped on top of bad decisions, only to see them delicately break apart. Despite all this, the theme seems to be one of rebellion rather than caution, though what kind of rebellion is a little difficult to say.
Each page is full of flawed yet savvy, yearning women who are smarter and more sensitive than the situations that present themselves to them. (Which, if we think about it, is probably how we all look back on most of the unpleasant moments in our own lives.) What is especially telling of the tone for these works is a reading group question in the back of my copy of Boys and Girls: “Are any of these characters actually happy?”
This is another book lent to me by my cat-loving coworker Laura. It is a sweet story about a man living in the English countryside during the 1960s who finds a dying cat and her two weak kittens during a snowstorm. The mother and one of the kittens cannot be saved, but Denis has a feeling he can nurse the tiny black and white fluffball back to health. He does so after lots of sleepless nights and names the cat Toby Jug.
The book is divided into chapters based on the seasons of Toby Jug’s first year with Denis, plus a closing chapter about Toby Jug’s final days twelve years after that blustery winter night that he was rescued. The closing chapter is very touching, and some of the ins and outs of veterinary health and rural English life during the 60s and 70s are quite interesting, but overall the book is a tad dry. I found it to take a sometimes clinical, sometimes overly zealous view of owning a cat, especially after reading Kitty Cornered by Bob Tarte, which is so thoroughly alive with humor and self-deprecating wit. (To be fair, Denis O’Connor is a professional psychologist and lecturer, not a writer per se; he wrote this book after vowing to Toby Jug at his death that he would do so.)
I would recommend it to animal lovers nonetheless, because there are many beautiful details about not just cats but wild birds, forest creatures, and a quite affectionate horse that Denis and Toby Jug take camping with them one summer. It is also a very quick read, so the dry parts often easily give way to cute imagery of Toby Jug chasing moths or a funny neighbor telling Denis how to rid his ancient stone cottage of bees.