What I Read This Week – Main Street

I’d been meaning to read this book for years. I’m fascinated with the 1920s and while this book isn’t actually about the 20s, it was a bestseller of that era. The story takes place the decade before and is about of a college educated city woman who marries a village doctor and moves with him to his hometown in rural Minnesota.

She’s a feminist who wants to to make a difference in her newly adopted home. She’s full of modern ideas to make the town a better place. No one cares. The townsfolk prefer to keep things status quo. She longs for culture and a greater purpose but her husband would rather her forget about the highbrow stuff and just be a normal wife. For years she tries to settle in, but can never really accept the narrow minds, gossip and her role as housewife.

The novel was intended to be a satire about small town life in the United States and the tone was a little on the bitter side. I really liked it though. The plot was slow in parts but you couldn’t help but get sucked into the town’s little dramas and scandals. I was never sure who’s side I was on. While I pitied the protagonist at times, she wasn’t really likable. She reminded me of an early 20th century Diane Chambers . The rest of the characters weren’t exactly endearing either, but you had to respect their right to enjoy life in their own way. It takes different strokes, of course

I was impressed at how relevant this novel was, considering the story takes place before the first world war and was published 90 years ago. While I’ve never lived in a small town like the one depicted in the story, I understood the complicated dynamic and politics of being part of any small group. Whether its a classroom, workplace or neighbourhood, if you’ve ever been part of one of these microcosms, on some level, you can relate to Main Street.

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What I Made This Week

Another throw pillow for our sofa.

We can never have to many of these. Our cats occupy the living room most of the time and every pillow eventually becomes their new favorite place to sleep, so we’re constantly washing or tossing pillows. This one has only been out for a few days and it’s already covered in fur.

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What I Read This Week – The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

I’ve been thinking about my blog lately and it occurred to me that I almost never write about the books I read. Reading (mainly fiction) has always been one of the cornerstones of my existence and a common bond I share with most of my friends and family. I read a lot of fantastic books (and some lousy ones too) so you would think that among the frivolity I write about here, I would mention the occasional piece of literature.

Maybe it’s because I read so many books, that I never write about them. Once I’ve finished a book, I’ve moved on to another before I’ve had a chance to sit and jot anything down about it. Going forward, I’d like to share some thoughts about what I’ve been reading. Starting with The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, the novel I finished last night.

Mystery novels are one of my guilty pleasures. I’m especially fond of anything that comes in a series and features a spunky, independent female solver of mysteries (I guess I’ve never really gotten past my Nancy Drew phase). There are so many of these out there, but most of them are mediocre at best. To me, the Sue Grafton alphabet series is the gold standard, but I am always looking for another good one to fill the time in between letters.

I was interested in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency because the story takes place in Botswana, a refreshing change to a genre that tends to be a little too formulaic at times. I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery that wasn’t set outside of North America or Europe. I must confess, I had to actually look up Botswana on a map though. My geographic knowledge of Africa was a little hazy.

Overall, it was a good read. The heroine is an older, single woman who used her inheritance to open a detective agency. It was a risky business venture in her country, where traditional gender roles are still the norm. She’s clever and fearless. With her creative approach to solving mysteries she nearly always gets the job done.

While the book was enjoyable, it was also forgettable. There was something missing, although I wasn’t able to pinpoint what that something was. Usually, when I pick up a mystery I have trouble putting it down. I wasn’t in a rush to get though this one and so, I can’t see myself running out to pick up the next volume of this series. Instead, I’ll go back to wondering what V will be for…

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