Read any good books lately?
by Jennifer Bain
In case you hadn’t heard, last week (25th Nov – 1st Dec) was Book Week Scotland. “Says who?” and “Since when?” I hear you cry. (Or at least, that’s what I thought when I was told about it…) To satisfy this question, I did a spot of googling. To quote Book Week Scotland’s Facebook page:
“Initiated by the Scottish Government and supported by Creative Scotland, Book Week Scotland will again be delivered by Scottish Book Trust…”
The same page tells me that it was launched on the 18th of June 2012. So there you go. (See end of blog for more info.)
In-keeping with a fortunate combination of Book Week Scotland and Greener Kirkcaldy Book Club’s latest venture, I was recently asked to read a 2012 book called “Flight Behaviour” by American novelist Barbara Kingsolver, set in the modern day Appalachian mountains. (Okay, so it’s not a Scottish book, but it is a book and I am reading it in Scotland… And according to Wikipedia: “A relatively large proportion of the early backcountry immigrants [to Appalachia] were Ulster Scots…” So there’s some vague Scottish link there.)
by Barbara Kingsolver
I must admit that, for some, (especially men, I’m guessing), the first few pages could prove to be a turn-off as it takes you through the thoughts of a frustrated young wife and mother of two named Dellarobia, about to embark on a passionate love affair with an even younger man. So far, so cliché. Sounds like the sort of book that frustrated wives and mothers like to read.
And so, full of prejudice, I cringed my way through the first chapter, regretting having agreed to read it, let alone comment on it. But as I read on, the plot quickly diverged into new territory as the focus shifted from romantic fantasy to one woman’s struggle to find purpose in her small backwater town of Feathertown. As she climbs through the mountainous woodland on her husband’s family farm for a rendezvous with her new lover, she comes across a spectacle never before seen in these parts. Stopped in her tracks, she begins to see her new fantasy venture – a path well-trodden by many before her – from a more realistic angle. Sure, she could throw away her married life of boredom, returning to those reckless high school years before she was married in haste, but for what? A mere boy with nothing more to offer her than a change of scenery.
When Dellarobia’s husband, Cub, tells her of the up-coming logging contract his father is about to get involved in due to financial difficulties, she encourages Cub to take his father to scope out the mountain forest before signing anything over. The wildlife spectacle turns out to be a flight of butterflies of biblical proportions. Excited by the sight he discovers there and his wife’s apparent premonition of it – “There could be more treasure than you think in your own backyard” – Cub announces her “vision” in church the following Sunday and the pastor concludes before the congregation that Dellarobia has received “special graces”, much to the chagrin of her proudly religious mother-in-law.
Word quickly spreads and strangers begin visiting the town to see the butterflies. After a Mexican girl from her son’s kindergarten class shows up at the door with her non-English-speaking parents, to ask about the butterflies, Dellarobia becomes aware of the spectacle’s wider significance. She discovers that the girl and her parents recently suffered a devastating change of circumstance, possibly linked to the new appearance of the Monarch butterflies or “King Billies” in Feathertown. As more foreign and diverse visitors from various walks of life begin to take an interest in Feathertown, Dellarobia finds herself in the centre of something much bigger than she anticipated…
Flight Behaviour unfolds into an exploration of various human issues ranging from personal worries and desires to world-wide environmental destruction. Told from Dellarobia’s personal perspective, I quickly began to sympathise more deeply with the character and the limitations of her small-town experiences bringing up children under tight financial restraints, as she strives to learn more about the wider world around her and just how significant seemingly small climatic changes can be. The book remains true to life in its honest and often humorous portrayal of life for a smart but strapped-for-cash young mother in a relatively poor and uneducated community in the South-eastern US.
For everything you need to know about Book Week Scotland, take a look at the Scottish Book Trust website.
Last but not least, if you enjoy discussing reading material with others, why not join a club? Get in touch if you’d be interested in a Greener Krikcaldy Book Club in the new year.|