Sunday, June 14, 2015

grief and summer

Times have been hard.

Two weeks ago, Claudio's mother died from ovarian cancer. She was Naomi to my Ruth - I've talked before in this space about how I got to keep my in-laws in the divorce, and how they embraced Berowne and treated Perdita as their biological grandchild. It's a horrible loss for everyone who knew her.

There's also work madness afoot, and a baby with diaper rash so bad that for several nights I had to get up every three hours to change her, and though I have managed to snatch reading here and there, because that's what I do, I'd been reluctant to blog here. Partially because when Perdita naps on the weekend, which is prime blogging time, really all I've been capable of is napping myself, and partially because I didn't want to write about the death. I don't feel I have the words to do her justice, or to express the magnitude of the loss, and this entry felt all too likely to turn into a litany of complaints that includes death of a mother figure, work irritation, and "my toddler has an eczema raccoon mask and people stare at us in the store", and makes it sound like I consider all those things to be on the same level. Ugh.

Anyway. The reading, such as it is:

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, by S. W. Gwynne. A fascinating biography of a man I knew very little about. Very well done, and Gwynne actually makes battlefield maneuvers clear and understandable in prose (he barely resorts to maps at all), which is so rare.

Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman. Penman writes historical fiction that is only fiction in the sense that she imagines dialogue and usually adds one minor made-up character; her research and detail are amazing. This is the third in her series about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In this one, their children are grown and rebelling against Henry and each other just all the damn time, which I know is historically accurate but still gets grimly hilarious after a while. Seriously, how did anyone living at the time even keep track? And given that the book is over seven hundred pages, you feel like you're living it in real time, too. Good stuff but I don't need to read another of hers for a while.

Rosanna, by Maj Sjöwall. Total ugh. This was touted as having been the precursor to all the popular Scandinavian mysteries - it was written in the 1960s - and also as having aged well. I dunno, maybe if you think the idea that a sexually aggressive woman deserves death is still okay, then it ages just fine. For me, it was an unpleasant read and I shouldn't have bothered to finish it.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, by Héctor Tobar. Excellent reporting: compassionate and comprehensive. Tobar's writing walks that fine line between elegant and overdone, and is for the most part lovely.

There have been lovely things in our days as well, even in the last two weeks. Yesterday we took Perdita to the beach, and within fifteen minutes she went from crying because the water is so cold to gleefully running back into the ocean, like the little nautical girl she is. It's iced coffee season. Nights are not yet too hot for sleep but warm enough to have the windows open. Floppy hats abound in our household. There is grief, and always will be, but summer shouldn't be taken for granted.