The idea of The Sunday Salon is to imagine we’re in a large reading room discussing the books we’re reading.
Today is a good day for reading. Yesterday the sun was shining drawing me outside. But today the sky is grey, the light is dull and I’m content to stay indoors and read. So far, however, I haven’t done much reading. I’ve watched Countryfile, tidied up a bit, made soup and done an Alphapuzzle or two. Countryfile was good – John Craven visited Kew Gardens to celebrate its 250th anniversary, there was a fascinating film of salmon migrating to their spawning grounds in the River Severn and what was to me a truly terrifying look at a mountain bike trail in the Lake District, plus lots more.
Back to books, this morning I continued reading two of the books I have on the go – The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro and The Madonna of the Almonds by Marina Fiorato. Both are proving to be absorbing reads. For links to these books see the sidebar.
My Tuesday Teaser this week was from Alice Munro’s book, with a brief description of the lower Ettrick Valley where her ancestors came from. The Laidlaws emigrated to Canada in 1818 and the account of their voyage across the Atlantic is made more vivid by entries from Walter Laidlaw’s journal. He had brought with him a book to write in and a vial of ink held in a leather pouch strapped to his chest under his shirt. He had the idea from his cousin, James Hogg, the poet and shepherd. It doesn’t sound an easy crossing:
On the afternoon of the 14th a wind came from the North and the ship began to shake as if every board that was in it would fly loose from every other. The buckets overflowed from the people that were sick and vomiting and there was the contents of them slipping all over the deck. All the people were ordered below but many of them crumpled up against the rail and did not care if they were washed over.
Inevitably reading this book has raised more questions for me – just who was James Hogg for one? My own resources are a bit limited but I do have A Book of Scotland, edited by G F Maine. This is an anthology of Scottish prose and verse and comments on Scottish life and character. It contains several poems by James Hogg who was born in 1770 and died in 1835. I also have Scotland: the Blue Guide, which tells me that he was known as the “Ettrick Shepherd” and was a protege of Sir Walter Scott. There is a monument marking his birthplace and his grave is in the churchyard. He and other men of letters including Scott, Carlyle and Stevenson used to meet in Tibbie Shiels inn. This led me on to look at various websites and well away from Munro’s book, but it’s fascinating how one thing in a book leads on to more and yet more. I found this website about Tibbie Shiels Inn – the inn is in the Scottish Borders 48 miles south of Edinburgh overlooking St Mary’s Loch, on the isthmus between St. Mary’s Loch and Loch of the Lowes about halfway between Selkirk and Moffat. Now I’m wondering if it’s possible for us to stop and have a look at it on our way to see my son and family next time we visit them.
I also found another helpful website Books from Scotland where I came across a book on James Hogg called The Electric Shepherd by Karl Miller. This looks absolutely fascinating. James Hogg taught himself to play the violin as well as writing poetry and the novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner and was a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge.
I don’t want to write about The Madonna of the Almonds today because I’m enjoying it so much I just want to get on with reading it. But I have to mention my reaction to the title. I associate it with paintings of the Madonna and Child, most notably The Madonna of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci and in a frivolous vein with”The Fallen Madonna of the Big Boobies” by the fictional painter Van Klomp from ‘Allo, ‘Allo!
And so now after looking at what others are reading in the Sunday Salon it’s back to books before cooking dinner.