Tag Archives: Ann Hood

The Knitting Circle – Review

How one book can be depressing and inspirational at the same time, I don’t know, but Ann Hood’s semi-autobiographical tale definately fit into those two categories.

The pace of the book was very even, the transitions from scene to scene, character to character, story to story was very smooth and fluid. Its an incredibly quick read. I started it on my lunch hour yesterday, and stayed up until midnight to finish it.

The quick plot summary is that mother Mary Baxter lost her 5 year old daughter, Stella, to meningitis. At her mother’s urging, Mary takes up knitting and joins a Wednesday night knitting group with 5 other women. As the story progresses, these women go from anonymous knitters, to real people with real tragedies and struggles in their lives. Mary befriends these women, who know nothing about her recent loss and slowly is able to learn how to cope with the unexpected and much too early death of her daughter.

I started this book yesterday on my lunch break and I was already teary eyed from the first few pages. The story hit pretty close to home for me. I lost my father to a heart attack when I was 20. A few weeks before, my mom had started teaching me how to knit. My boyfriend, for reasons we’ve both forgotten at this point, asked me to knit him a scarf. Although knitting didn’t provide the same meditative escape described in the book, it did provide a much needed distraction to everyone who came to visit. Throughout that first month, I would sit quietly and knit as relatives and friends came to visit. Everyone had their hands on the scarf, and even knit a few rows themselves, both the men and women. Then they would share stories of sweaters and socks their mother’s knit for them, or how they tried to knit, but failed. I stopped knitting for a while after finishing that scarf, took up crochet a few months later. Then 2 years ago, I started knitting again, and have not stopped since.

Anyway, its a good book. But make sure you have something happy to read afterwards. I am moving on to David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I can always count on him for a good laugh. =)

Find this book at your local library

All the world’s a stage

I like to sit front row, center to watch all the action. I’m going to see my friend’s performance in Bus Stop today, a play written by William Inge. It was also turned into a movie staring Marilyn Monroe in 1956.

IMDB gives the plot summary as:

Innocent rodeo cowboy Bo falls in love with cafe singer Cherie in Phoenix. She tries to run away to Los Angeles but he finds her and forces her to board the bus to his home in Montana. When the bus stops at Grace’s Diner the passengers learn that the road ahead is blocked. By now everyone knows of the kidnaping, but Bo is determined to have Cherie.

My friend plays a waitress in the diner.

In other news, two books I put on hold at the library are ready to be picked up. I’m about 90% done with my graduation project, so I feel no guilt whatsoever in devoting my free time to reading.

I’m currently reading The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, and Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte.

Next up are The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood.

Its interesting with reading the Bookseller of Kabul, in the midst of the fall of the Taliban and the Middle East drama. The book is disturbingly objective, even though its told through stories of one atypical family. The book discusses many things, primarily the history of Afghanistan, the oppression of women, and the life before and after the Taliban. The family being traced is not the typical family because this family is literate and wealthy, unlike the majority of people in that country. Its a good read, well written and very insightful into the Afghani culture.

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte falls somewhere inbetween the writing styles of her two sisters. She seems to be a good compromise for anyone who thought Emily’s Wuthering Heights was too dramatic and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was too dull. Agnes Grey comes from a middling to poor family, seeking out governess positions to help support her family. The children she encounters are incredibly spoiled and rude. I’m about halfway through the book, and there has been no mention of any kind of love-story for Agnes. I hope something comes up soon.

The good book curse

It happens to everyone. You read one book, that’s so exciting, so well written that it ends up spoiling every other book you lay a finger on.

It happens to every avid reader. You’re plugging along, happily reading your books, when you come across one book that takes the wind out of you. Its the kind of book that grips you by the heart and pulls you into the story head-first. You’re not just reading about the characters, you’re living with them, experiencing their joys and crying their tears.

I will be the first to admit that I am overly-critical of most fiction. Its just frustrating when you’re reading a book and you know the author has the potential to make the work more entertaining that what it is. Its frustrating when you know that with just a little bit more editing, and little bit more focus, this book could be extraordinary.

I’m not a writer,  I’ve tried and failed. I know writing isn’t easy, crafting a new world and creating lives that strangers should care about isn’t easy. Most books that I don’t enjoy are usually that author’s first novel.

That being said, I returned the Friday Night Knitting Club back to the library today. Publisher’s Weekly had given this book a decent review, and so far, their reviews have been pretty on target. There wasn’t any real story or character development. The entire book just felt passive to me. It felt as if these characters were just being paraded around as New York caricatures.  The book was Kate Jacob’s first novel, and again, it just didn’t meet its potential. I think the writing was jumpy, w/o good transitions. There were many sentences and explainations that could have been left out, that did not benefit the story in any way.

I want to read The Knitting Circle,  which sounds like the story that The Friday Night Knitting Club tried to be, but wasn’t.

*** Publisher’s Weekly reviews***

From Publishers Weekly (The Knitting Circle)
While mourning the death of her daughter, Hood (An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life) learned to knit. In her comeback novel, Mary Baxter, living in Hood’s own Providence, R.I., loses her five-year-old daughter to meningitis. Mary and her husband, Dylan, struggle to preserve their marriage, but the memories are too painful, and the healing too difficult. Mary can’t focus on her job as a writer for a local newspaper, and she bitterly resents her emotionally and geographically distant mother, who relocated to Mexico years earlier. Still, it’s at her mother’s urging that Mary joins a knitting circle and discovers that knitting soothes without distracting. The structure of the story quickly becomes obvious: each knitter has a tragedy that she’ll reveal to Mary, and if there’s pleasure to be had in reading a novel about grief, it’s in guessing what each woman’s misfortune is and in what order it will be exposed. The strength of the writing is in the painfully realistic portrayal of the stages of mourning, and though there’s a lot of knitting, both actual and metaphorical, the terminology’s simple enough for nonknitters to follow and doesn’t distract from the quick pace of the narrative. (Jan.)

From Publishers Weekly (The Friday Night Knitting Club)
Between running her Manhattan yarn shop, Walker & Daughter, and raising her 12-year-old biracial daughter, Dakota, Georgia Walker has plenty on her plate in Jacobs’s debut novel. But when Dakota’s father reappears and a former friend contacts Georgia, Georgia’s orderly existence begins to unravel. Her support system is her staff and the knitting club that meets at her store every Friday night, though each person has dramas of her own brewing. Jacobs surveys the knitters’ histories, and the novel’s pace crawls as the novel lurches between past and present, the latter largely occupied by munching on baked goods, sipping coffee and watching the knitters size each other up. Club members’ troubles don’t intersect so much as build on common themes of domestic woes and betrayal. It takes a while, but when Jacobs, who worked at Redbook and Working Woman, hits her storytelling stride, poignant twists propel the plot and help the pacing find a pleasant rhythm. (Jan.)