Cold, wet wintery days and two books with less than 300 pages have meant a strong start to the 10 Books of Winter Challenge. After standing on one leg scratching my head and constantly changing my mind I decided to let random.org decide for me the order I would read them in.
News From The City of the Sun by Isabel Colegate
To nine-year-old Dorothy Grant, the abbey is an enchanted new world. Here, in the drab, conventional Thirties, the Whitehead brothers - autocratic but non-violent anarchist Fisher, Arnold, the practical plodder, and visionary, depressive Hamilton - have collected together a colourful array of adherents to their co-operative Utopia.
Living near and intermittently attached to the community, which shelters under the northern escarpment of Salisbury Plain, Dorothy observes the ebb and flow of its shifting and sometimes mismatched philosophies from the Thirties through to the flower children and mind-expanding drugs of the Seventies.....until beautiful Marilyn Skinner's revolutionary ideals lead to violence and death.
I like Isabel Colegate's writing style and enjoyed the first part of the book, up to the end of World War II, very much but then it seemed to start rushing through the decades, characters were growing up in a few paragraphs , which was all a bit muddled and confusing.
The ever-changing social background of England through four decades was most interesting and something the author portrays very well.
The title puzzled me all the way through. I couldn't see the relevance to the story so I did some googling and discovered that in 1602 a gentleman called Tommaso Campanella wrote a work of utopian fiction called City of the Sun so there is the connection to the abbey and the Whitehead's vision. I might have to read it again and look at from a different perspective.
Bound Feet & Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang
The author spent many hours with her great-aunt, Yu-i, drawing forth the story of her life. Born at the beginning of the 20th century Yu-i grew up in the perilous years between the fall of the last Emperor and the Communist Revolution, her life marked by a series of rebellions , including the first and most lasting: her refusal to have her feet bound. An early,unhappy marriage to a well-known Chinese poet brings her to England, a divorce and being left to raise her son alone. It's the story of a strong woman struggling to emerge from centuries of custom and tradition and find independence.
Listening to Yu-i, Pang-Mei begins to understand her own ambivalence towards her Chinese heritage, the tug-of-war between her American upbringing and the familial duties still expected by Chinese parents.