The Week In Books, No. 4

Despite the glowing reviews on the book jacket, I have to say I found “The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn” to be lackluster. I’ve read a number of books about this time period, and this one is not near the top of the list – if you’re interested in Elizabethan England or Henry VIII’s wives, there are better books out there to read. I guess my main problem with the book is that while it purports to be a historical novel, it doesn’t FEEL like one. In construction and description, it reads like a work of modern trash/beach fiction that happens to be loosely based on a series of historical events. Maybe I’m too picky, but I’m glad that I only spent $2 on this book at the Barnes and Noble after Christmas sale, and I plan to turn around and sell it to the second hand book store the next time I go.

Benjamin Rush: Patriot and Physician” is another of my Barnes and Noble sale finds – a hard cover book originally $35, I only paid $2.50! Sweet. I chose the book because, as you will know if you ever took my fabulous tour of my alma mater (yes, I was a tour guide, and yes, it’s really very difficult to conduct an hour long tour of Princeton walking backwards in high heels and keeping it funny and interesting and talking loudly enough that the laggards in the back can hear), Benjamin Rush was the youngest ever graduate of Princeton. He graduated at the age of 14, and that was back when Princeton was a 5 year institution and applicants were required to be fluent in classical Latin and Greek to gain admission. Rush was admitted as a junior when he was 13. So yeah, he was pretty smart.

The book contains a lot of interesting Revolutionary War era history, as well as medical history, and anecdotes from Rush’s life. Rush was an ardent and respected patriot, and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although he was ahead of his time as a physician in many ways, Rush was not immune to the frankly frightening medical ideas of the day. Some of the things he suggested were just funny:

“…[I] recommend it to reapers never to drink while they are warm without first wetting their hands or feet in cold water or grasping the cup they drink from (provided it is made of earth, glass or metal) for about a minute with both their hands….”

But some of the prescriptions were horrifying and deadly, such as when Rush earned the moniker “Dr. Dracula” for his excessive bleeding of his yellow fever patients. I have to say that it seems in most, if not all, cases back then, the patient would have been better off had the doctor NOT been called!

I thought Brodsky’s style was a little verbose and flowery, but not enough to make me put the book down entirely. He does seem to have a problem with plagiarism though! For example, on page 214, Brodsky writes, “While Benjamin Rush was incorruptible, he was opinionated and impetuous, given to scolding and being importuning.” Then on page 215, the facing page to 214, Brodsky directly quotes Rush biographer Carl Binger: “If he was opinionated and impetuous, he was also incorruptible.” Hm. Did this guy not have an editor???

Overall, the book was ok, worth checking out of the library or buying on sale. I can’t imagine many people would be tempted to spend $35 on it, even if it does contain a lot of Princeton references!

Hannah and I read “The Wind in the Willows” this week. We have the Tasha Tudor illustrated edition, and again her pictures really added to the story. The language in this book is so entertaining and droll! I love old British stories! The animal characters are lively and well-described, and their adventures are funny and convincing enough that you almost forget that it’s weird for toads and rats and moles and badgers to casually interact with humans.

I also finished the books of Matthew and Acts this week.

Currently Reading:
Exodus, Psalms, Mark, Romans
“The Robber Bride” by Margaret Atwood
“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” by Kate Douglas Wiggin (to Hannah)
“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade (as a family)

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