Volatile Rune

For Life and Literature in a Volatile World

Nearly Nonfiction November

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It’s almost November – time for my favourite reading challenge of the year.  I shall be taking part in Nonfiction November again this year hosted by Katie@Doing Dewey, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction. Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction and Jaymi @ The OC Bookgirl.

Here is the timetable:

Week 1: (Oct 31-Nov 4) – Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? (Katie @ Doing Dewey)

Week 2: (November 7-11) – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title (or another nonfiction!). It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. Or pair a book with a podcast, film or documentary, TV show, etc. on the same topic or stories that pair together. (here with me, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction)

Week 3: (November 14-18) – Stranger Than Fiction: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic. (Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks)

Week 4: (November 21-25) – Worldview Changers: One of the greatest things about reading nonfiction is learning all kinds of things about our world which you never would have known without it. There’s the intriguing, the beautiful, the appalling, and the profound. What nonfiction book or books has impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way? Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in? (Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction)

Week 5: (November 28-Dec 2) – New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! Pro tip: Start this draft post at the beginning of the month and add to it as your TBR multiplies. (Jaymi @ The OC Bookgirl)

Other Reading This Week

Meanwhile, this week I have read another book on my Classics Club List  The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart.   I grew up with Mary Stewart, her books I mean.  My grandmother and mother both loved her work – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, Wildfire at Midnight, Thunder on the Right, This Rough Magic.  I remember loving them all, particularly the Merlin trilogy.

I was a bit shocked then to find that with this current read of The Moonspinners that I didn’t love it at all.  The characters were quite stereotyped, both goodies and baddies.  The narrator is Nicola,  a 22 year old assistant from the British Embassy in Athens who comes to Crete for a few days holiday.   She gets involved in some unpleasant goings on which she immediately takes charge of in the most unlikely manner.

There are an awful lot of convenient timings; people turning up or failing to turn up at crucial moments.  A cousin, Frances,  is supposed to join for the holiday but is running a day late so our intrepid heroine has a day alone to get herself into all sorts of difficulties.  Although Frances does turn up  – every time something relevant happens she is conveniently somewhere else, or has twisted her ankle so I failed to see what purpose she served.   But of course that exactly is the point.  Because at the time the book was written it was unlikely that a single woman would have taken a holiday alone; the Nicola needed a sort of chaperone who would prove ineffective and stay out of the way. The adventurous heroine able to make decisions and cope with situations for herself was considered a novelty in fiction in the middle of the twentieth century and Stewart was largely responsible for popularising this idea which combined mystery with female derring-do.

Therefore when I complain about stereotyped characters, let me not forget the giant upon whose shoulders today’s feisty heroines stand.

But…  moan… moan.  Just about every bit of dialogue is exposition – characters relating the plot to one another for our benefit.  There’s a chase at the end which struck me as borderline silly.   In fact the whole plot is borderline silly particularly the romantic element.   I thought the narrator summed the whole thing up wonderfully when, swimming out into the bay for purposes of her own towards the end of the story,  she says:  ‘behind me was an alien land where I had behaved foolishly’.  Well, yes.

Much more exciting though I have discovered README.txt the new memoire by intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning which I am currently reading.  This is much more my style. I shall be reviewing this one shortly.

8 responses to “Nearly Nonfiction November”

  1. I’m really looking forward to NonFicNov though some fiction will feature too, inevitably. I’m also doing Novellas in November and AusReading Month so a busy one for me! Have fun with your nonfiction reads.

  2. I enjoyed The Moonspinners when I read it for the first time a few years ago, so I’m sorry you didn’t like it. It can often be disappointing, though, when you revisit an author you used to love. I’m not officially taking part in Nonfiction November this year but I do have one or two nonfiction books lined up to read if I have time.

  3. Non fiction being my preference, am looking forward to getting some new ideas from your blog (as have often done before) Have read some good – and not-so-good – non fiction titles this year. Without doubt my winner for every week of this challenge is the biography of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgson by Georgina Perry. She changed the world knowledge of crystallography (me neither), won the nobel prize, while somehow bringing up half a dozen children with no help from her husband

    • Fantastic. Gotta read that too. My TBR list is getting very long. J says Rosalind Franklin was a pioneer of X-ray Crystallography too. There’s an RF Institute at Birkbeck.


The Volatile Muse

Poetry, literature, film and all things in between

Runes are ancient scripts, magical signs for secret or hidden laws.   I chose a name which I felt brought to mind the infinitely variable nature of the written word.


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