I discovered a little book a while back that I would probably call charming if I was just judging it on looks and size alone, but as you know I NEVER do that and there is much more to it than that anyway.
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman and my copy has been all over the world and is still in remarkably good shape despite its journey from Devon to Chicago, then Germany via London thence to Spain, Oxford and Surrey before finding its way back to Devon after about a year.
I chose it as my entry for a postal reading group I belonged to for a couple of years.The principle is simple on paper, a group of people decide to start a postal reading group, each choose a book and send it onto the next person on the list.At a given moment, all books go in the post and onto the next person until your own book arrives back with you. The best bit is the notebook you include for everyone to write down their thoughts on the book and when that comes back you have a little treaure trove of other reader's ideas on your choice.
The first year I threw in The Awakening by Kate Chopin, quite a challenge, so I went with something easy on the eye and on the reading but with what I thought were hidden depths.
Here's my introduction to Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper in that notebook
"We are not talking high brow fiction here, just a story woven around five paintings by Mary Cassatt of her sister Lydia who was slowly dying of Bright's Disease in Paris in the mid to late 1800's.Bright's is renal/kidney disease and would have resulted in prolonged bouts of damaging and debilitating infections each of which would have destroyed Lydia's kidneys a little more.Still serious today, but eminently treatable, not so in the 1800's.Each bout would have left Lydia seriously weakened and she must have been feeling wretched when many of these pictures were being painted.
It's a swift read but I loved both the insight into the world of the artist painting for posterity and the inner thoughts of a woman hovering between life and death and considering the legacy she may leave.So many touching moments, the way that Mary paints into Lydia's face what she can't bear to acknowledge in words, that Lydia will die.
The analysis of the paintings within the novel started me off on a fascinating closer look at them and highlighted so many little details I would otherwise have missed.
I hope you all enjoy this book for what it is, an imaginary version of events between Mary and Lydia, no in depth literary analysis required, just a thoughtful, poignant read that introduced me to an artist about whom I knew so little and now know a bit more."
I've just re-read it and it has lost none of its original appeal.
I said the principle of a postal reading group was simple on paper, well I was halfway through this round last year and had to pull out, I was having to focus my reading and just not getting the books read. It took the organiser and her highly competent librarian's brain several G&T's to figure out how to solve the problem of a gap and I'm sure she'll confirm that nightmare in comments here, sorry Julie!