Monday, March 26, 2012

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston was a really fun book. It's meant to be fictional character Frankie Pratt's actual scrapbook. The book has all sorts of items you might find in a scrapbook: photos, letters, tickets, etc. 

I really liked the premise of this book. The reader follows Frankie for several years while she graduates high school, attends college, and experiences the world. Frankie grew up in a small town and was excited to see the world. She attended Vassar with scholarships and a small windfall from an interesting source. She travels and lives in Paris.

For a young woman in the 1920s, Frankie has some unusual experiences. I was a little skeptical of them--I couldn't quite picture Frankie being a real person in the 1920s with all the events she goes through and where she ends up. Sometimes I wonder if women in historical fiction novels are written more with modern sensibilities and attitudes than the real women might have had during that time period.

Because of the format, it's a really fast read. If you like historical fiction novels, give this a try even if you aren't too sure about the format. Looking through Frankie's personal items makes the book feel more like reading a friend's story than that of a random character in a novel.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild is the story of the Belgian Congo. In the second half of the 1800s, King Leopold of Belgium decided that Belgium needed colonies like other European countries had.

I have an impression of Belgium being a pretty forward thinking place, so the horrors that took place in the Congo under Belgians seem even worse than they already are. Experts estimate that 8-10 million natives died during the Belgian occupation. The Belgians were brutal. Leopold basically used slave labor to enrich himself while fooling the world into thinking his role in the Congo was a humanitarian one.

King Leopold's Ghost was pretty eye-opening. The Belgian Congo wasn't something I knew much about, though I know a little bit more about the region at a later date. It is the setting of The Poisonwood Bible, one of my favorite books. 

Another favorite of mine is The Heart of Darkness, which was written by Joseph Conrad who visited the area. If you've read it you might think that Conrad exaggerated how bad things were. Not really. There were Belgian soldiers with heads on spikes.

King Leopold's Ghost isn't one of those non-fiction books that I'd suggest to anyone. It's not that easy of a read , but it covers some really incredible stuff that you might not know.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Love at First Bark

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam is a memoir of working with dog rescues. My husband and I have been volunteering as a foster family through a basset hound rescue for almost three years. I was interested in reading someone else's thoughts on these experiences.

One thing that really seemed crazy was Klam's own dogs--dogs that had accidents all over the house all the time. This horrified me. She talked about how potty training dogs in NYC is difficult, especially if you live on the fifth or sixth floor of a walk-up like she did. I think that would be extremely hard, but I really can't imagine my dogs shitting all over my house all the time. (Incidentally, potty training is a great reason to get a rescue, you can pick a dog that's already trained!)

Overall, the book was interesting, but nothing special. I'm sure there's a better book about being a dog rescuer out there.