Book reviews for winter reading challenges

This 2018-2019 Winter, I had two special reading challenges:

  1. The Classics Club, Classics Spin #19
  2. A book chosen for me by the staff of my Public Library

So here is what I had to read:

  A Moveable Feast  Visiting Tom

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1964
Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Graceby Michael Perry, published in 2012. 

Both books are nonfiction and written as memoirs honoring the beauty of events experienced in a specific place.

From my younger days, I just remember not liking Hemingway‘s books – even The Old Man and the Sea didn’t conquer me. So I approached this challenge with fear and trembling.
It turned out to be a wonderful experience, probably because this was a memoir instead of a novel. The book specifically concerns the years 1921-1926 that Hemingway spent with his wife in Paris. He refers to many people he met there, such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald, to name just a few.

The title comes actually from a passage Hemingway wrote to a friend in 1950, a passage used as the epigraph of this book. For the few of you who may not yet have read the book, here is this beautiful quotation:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

I really enjoyed the way Hemingway evoked his time in Paris, with its simple joys and many difficulties. I particularly noticed his beautiful descriptions of the seasons, and the trees along the Seine, for instance page 48:

amoveablefeast p48

Pages 39 and following are really neat on Shakespeare & Company.

Shakespeare and company

Now, let’s go from Paris to Wisconsin, shall we?
This library challenge was supposed to help me get out of my comfort zone. Well, looks like the librarian who picked my book didn’t know how much I love the rural life – for having actually spent most of my life in those areas, whether in France or in the US (Iowa). Hiking and birding precisely in Wisconsin is a common and very enjoyable experience of mine.

In Visiting Tom, the author tells about his life in rural Wisconsin. He alternates chapters between his own life and his visits to his neighbor Tom, for the purpose of getting small repair jobs done, but also of hearing from his wisdom.
Tom is quite a character, as well as a super resourceful man, who made many of his machines to work around his farm, including a snowblower.
The passages about Tom try to capture the conversational tone, including the local accent.
There’s also a lot of technical vocabulary related to his tools. That was the challenging part for me, and I have a feeling it might be the case also for Native English speakers. But all the wonderful descriptions about simple rural life made it worth it.

A major issue keeps recurring all throughout the book: the irrational decision by the city to redesign their road, supposedly for security reasons. But the reconfiguration means that the author and his wife can no longer climb up the hill leading to their home as soon as there’s a bit of snow. It’s a real battle. I can imagine how crucial this is, but I thought there was too much on this.
The book opens with another road issue: how the interstate the way it was designed literally went through Tom’s backyard.
Both road issues ultimately highlight how modern life totally disrupted the local natural landscape and wildlife balance, compared to the way the author experienced them as a kid.
A good book on the impact of development on fauna and flora.

What did you think?


Other great memoirs of time spent in France:

From Here to Paris  Grape Expectations  One Sip at a Time

Books related to nature:

unseen-city  H is for Hawk  Flight Behavior

23 thoughts on “Book reviews for winter reading challenges

  1. I also am not a fan of Hemingway so I had left A Moveable Feast off my 1964 list. You have persuaded me to add it, though I am looking forward to finally finishing that list.
    My parents lived in the country in Michigan in their later and last years. Oh my, did I hear a lot about the roads from my dad!
    Great that you enjoyed your challenges!

    Liked by 1 person

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