Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

So much to learn...


I am a greedy reader and, as I have often said, biographies. autobiographies and memoirs are among my favourite reading.

However while I am greedy, I am also selective about which biographies I read.  Celebrities?  Not as a rule.  Sportspersons?  Ditto.

Writers, often.  Artists.  More women than men.  And travellers, particularly women travellers, capture my interest very rapidly.  If the travel takes place in a country/culture/time which is foreign to me, it is almost a done deal.

Over the years I have read a lot of travel memoirs and biographies of the travellers.    Among my Christmas hoarde this year was 'A Time in Arabia' by Doreen Ingrams.


I picked it up with eager anticipation, and was flummoxed in the introduction!!!

Doreen Ingram was compared (favourably) to Freya Stark, and Mabel Bent.  And my ignorance was exposed mercilessly.  I have several books by Freya Stark, and others about her.  And I had never heard of either Doreen Ingrams or Mabel Bent.

Doreen travelled to what was then South Arabia and is now known as Yemen with her husband, a civil servant, arriving in 1934.  She and her husband had taken the time and the trouble to learn Arabic before they went, and spend as much time as possible living within, not apart from the communities.  She worked both with her husband and independently promoting peace, education and women's rights.

And there is a lot of charm in her writing too.  How do you identify your cloak from all the other identical black and shapeless garments?  By the lingering smell of your own perfume...

And when she arrived she was childless.  'One of the Sherifas asked if I had any children of my own flesh and blood, and when I said no, she took my coffee cup, spat in it, and handed it back saying "I am a Sherifa, if you drink this you will have a child"'.  She did drink it, and did have a child - who travelled with her, with an abandoned child she adopted.

Having finished the book, I am now determined to find out more about her - and about Mabel Bent too.  So much to learn, so many books, so little time...


102 comments:

  1. The man in the picture has the features of an Australian indigene.
    I shall have to do a spot of Googling too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are a reader born!

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    > < } } ( ° >

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cloudia: A reader born, made and growing...

      Delete
  3. Wow! That sounds SO cool! Thanks for sharing, EC!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cathy Olifffe-Webster: It was. Very cool.

      Delete
  4. I just finished "West with the Night" by Beryl Markham, an aviatrix in Africa in the 1930's--I think you'd love it!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. fishducky: I have it, and you are right - I did love it. I am currently reading about young English women sent out to India in the hopes of marrying well. Also fascinating.

      Delete
  5. One of the joys of reading Biographies and Autobiographies is the exposure to other real life people. I find that one thing always leads to another, and before you know it, you are reading in a new circle of events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sienna Smythe: Oh yes. Which is part of the reason they are a passion of mine. And my besetting curiosity of course.

      Delete
  6. That book sounds interesting. I will try to find it. I love reading, just don't have as much time as I'd like to do it. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason and Michelle: Welcome. It is a really interesting book. A brave and resourceful woman too.

      Delete
  7. What an interesting introduction to this book.
    That's the wonderful thing about one author leading to another, then another.
    With so much on our plates, it's no wonder we yearn to be able to read/do the things we wish we had more time for.
    But, think of the richness woven into your tapestry of knowledge even now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vicki: My tapestry of knowledge is missing quite a few stitches and the pattern is unclear - but I am adding to it. And hopefully will continue to.

      Delete
  8. oh! you lost me at spitting in the coffee! I have to go and brush my teeth now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. River: She was braver than I think I could have been - on this and on many other counts. She did get her daughter from it though...

      Delete
  9. So much to learn, so little time left . . . I have just got an iPhone and find my capacity to learn stretched. I did not get a new phone by choice but by age-relatedly misplacing it somewhere at home, probably in the safest place possible, with all those single socks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arija: My phone is frequently beyond me - and spends most of its time firmly turned off.

      Delete
  10. I'm afraid I'm past reading serious books now but I always enjoy seeing your posts about the books you read. This one sounds a very interesting story but, like River, the coffee bit got to me too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mimsie: It was interesting. Very. And I cannot see how she could have turned down the coffee without offending her host - but admire her courage.

      Delete
  11. I 'm not sure about the spitting in the coffee, I could have sworn you got pregnant from the other end but you never know.
    It does sound like a good read.
    Merle................

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merlesworld: Perhaps I am childless because no-one ever spat in my coffee... And I would love to see a doctor's face if somene suggested that as cause of infertility.

      Delete
  12. To add to your woes, have your read anything of or about Isabella Bird? I enjoyed this book very much, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. A sole female traveller in 1800s Japan was something quite special.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrew: I LOVE Isabella Bird. I have several of her books, and work about her too.

      Delete
  13. You are way ahead of me in the reading stakes of late.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. J Cosmo Newbery: And you are ALWAYS way ahead of me in the writing stakes.

      Delete
    2. J Cosmo Newbery: Finely honed succinct and telling terse verse.

      Delete
  14. Fact is so much more interesting than fiction...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lynners: And often less believable too.

      Delete
  15. What an interesting life this woman had. I think it's wonderful you read so much and such varied things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lynn: How nice to hear that you support my reading greed. Thank you.

      Delete
  16. What? You haven't read Justin Beiber's autobiography? LOL! I love these "stars" who write an autobiography when they are 12 years old :-)

    Hmmm... A Time in Arabia. Adds another to the already overlong list. I'll have to stop sleeping to get through them all.

    I am also very fond of biography, especially historical biography across a wide range of times. I went through a stage of reading biographies of European royalty from Medieval to modern times last year and before that of Western women soping with life in various colonial outposts. But I've not ventured into Arabia as much, having only read Georgina Howell's book about Gertrude Bell called "Daughter of the Desert" and Janet Soskice's "Sisters of Sinai" about the Smith twins who crossed the Sinai Desert and discovered the Syriac Sinaiticus.

    A couple of other interesting biographical books you may like (if you've not already read them) are Jennifer Niven's "Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic" (a follow up to her book "Ice Master" which was also really gripping. Life doesn't come more extreme than in the remote Arctic. I also liked Janet Wulsin's "Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925" (loads of fabulous photos in it as well).

    Then there's Glynis Ridley's book "The Discovery of Jeanne Baret" about the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1700s. Jo Anne van Tilburg's book about Katherine Routledge's exploration of Easter Island ("Among Stone Giants") was also one that was hard to put down. And I also really liked Vicki Leon's lightweight but enjoyable series of books on "Uppity Women" (you just have to like that title!) They cover different times (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, New World etc) and while there are the usual big names, there are also other women I've never heard of, who were doing extraordinary things -- both good and bad. It was an interesting introduction to a few of them and led me to try and dig up more information about them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marie: How I would love unfettered access to your book shelves. I have a biography of a Chinese Empress in my Christmas pile which I am itching to get too.
      And, your comment reminded me that I haven't read biographies about the Arctic. Something I will have to rectify. Soon.

      Delete
    2. I wish I owned all of these books, even though our "library" fills floor to ceiling across three walls of opur living room, two walls of the dining room and two walls of the bedroom as it is! Both of us are rabid readers and often have a "snap" moment, when we each hold up a book and it's the same title (his in Swedish, mine in English - eg at the moment we're both reading Michel Faber's "The Crimson and the White" in our respective mother tongues because we've downloaded the mini-series and want to read before we watch).

      No, I have access to every library here in Scandinavia, absolutely FREE OF CHARGE. As English is my mother tongue, they have a policy of giving native speakers access to any book in that language if it is in a library here. So, I access LIBRIS, search for the book and order if via inter-library loan online. It gets delivered to my local library and I get a month to read it. All this costs me nothing. I get books from Stockholm and Gothenburg University, the Royal Academy library in Stockholm, local libraries, institutional libraries, even from Norway, Denmark and Finland. It's all very socialist and part of their philosophy that knowledge should be shared and available to every citizen.

      It must cost them a bomb and I expect that at some stage in the future a non-reading bean counter will start charging us for it, but in the meantime I'm using it shamelessly to get as many good books as I can.

      I like explorers and have read a lot of books about people searching for the new world, including a lot of the Australian explorers. Yes, the polar regions have always held a fascination for me. That must be why I live at the North Pole now :-) I was entranced by Shakelton's expedition as a teenager and read a lot about it, as well as poor old Scott and then later Mawson in the Antarctic. I also saw a film of the ill-fated S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition (great film if you can find it, with Max Von Sydow) and that spurred me to read a little on Arctic exploration, then about the people who live in these regions. Those people are amazing - tough and so resourceful.

      A couple of books about voyages that went belly-up in those regions in the 1800s (aparty from Shakelton's stunning account of survival) are John Druett's fantastic account of the shipwrecks of the ships Invercauld and Grafton on Auckland Island ("Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World") and one whose title ought to appeal to you about the schooner Sarah W. Hunt called "The Elephant Voyage" (also by John Druett. Happy reading!

      Delete
    3. Blonde moment! That should read Joan Druett! Doh!

      Delete
    4. Marie: I am filled with envy. What a wonderful Government initiative. Sadly the bean counters here have already come into power. Rather a lot of the things I think are most important like health, and education have been subjected to them. The user pays philosophy enlarges the gap between people like almost nothing else.
      And I will have to track down rather a lot of the books you mention. I may have to start a list...
      Thank you. Lots.

      Delete
  17. I recently read "The Curve of Time" by M. Wylie Blanchet, another one you would enjoy. She took her entire family of five (plus dog) on a 26-foot boat to explore Puget Sound in the 1920s and 30s. It was a lovely book! Our local library doesn't seem to have the Ingrams book. Boohoo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DJan: You are right - The Curve of Time sounds right up my alley - I will have to track it down.

      Delete
  18. Like you, I love to read biographies and also then seek more information about the subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe: I am so very sorry that history was, I think, badly taught when I was at school. Dates and battles, rather than people's lives. I came to it late, and am completely fascinated.

      Delete
  19. You are my reading authority. Off to Amazon to place my order!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joanne Noragon: That is a huge responsibility. I hope I don't steer you places you don't want to go...

      Delete
  20. Whilst I have read quite alot of biographies, they have mainly been the ones my ma buys, which are all film stars. It's an area I should investigate for sure, this one looks very interesting. Like you mind, I have a long list of books sat waiting to be read at this very moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All Consuming: Film stars rarely float my boat. Which, given the size of my unread pile, is a good thing.

      Delete
  21. A fascinating book. I would like to read this one. Thanks for the great review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DeniseinVA: It was fascinating. If you do read it, let me know what you think.

      Delete
  22. This sounds so interesting. Thanks for the review. I'll write it down on my wish list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Myrna R.: I hope when you get to it you enjoy it too.

      Delete
  23. You are right...so many books, so little time!

    I have found some of the best reads have been books but unknown or local authors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Birdie: Snap on the unknown or local front.

      Delete
  24. Have you read any books by Robert K. Massie? He's amazing; I loved, loved, LOVED "Peter the Great." Have "Catherine the Great" sitting by my bed. (Well, you know what I mean.)

    "Nicholas and Alexandra" and "The Romanovs" also were extremely interesting and well written.

    Pretty sure people have spat in my beverages before, but I'm childless. Hmmm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ms. CrankyPants: It seems that just who spits in your drink is important. Nice to know.

      And, drat you, I am going to have to explore Robert K Massie.

      Delete
  25. Visiting that country itself would be interesting, but double so considering the time period.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex J. Cavanaugh: It would have been fascinating. I loved that she felt that Britain gave them their independence too late as well.

      Delete
  26. A lovely review, EC, thank you. You have led me in delightful paths so far and I trust your judgement. Keep reading and sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol: Thank you. I hope to keep reading until my last breath. I plan to keep reading till then.

      Delete
  27. ** So much to learn, so many books, so little time...**

    I've often thought this very thing, dear. Xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My Inner Chick: It is wonderful isn't it? Scary, frustrating and wonderful. Hugs.

      Delete
  28. I found Andre Agassi's autobiography a wonderful read and would recommend it to anyone.

    Thanks for this review, EC....I might just pay a visit to the local library tomorrow while I'm nearby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee: Drat you - that would come into my 'not for me' pile. And now I may have to go and look...

      Delete
  29. you see, this is exactly the kind of books I love to read too!!! thanks for sharing it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy Theriault: They are a delight aren't they. Windows into other lives...

      Delete
  30. As a whole, I haven't read too many biographies but women travelers piques my interest greatly. I'll have to look her up...as soon as I finish my Book of Poisons...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. River Fairchild: Book of Poisons? Reading it? Writing it? Or just research... I am intrigued. And could use it.

      Delete
    2. Reading...for research purposes on writing a story, mind you...
      *crosses fingers behind her back*
      Forensics is next. :)

      Delete
    3. River Fairchild: Research never goes astray... and can often come in useful in unexpected ways. Forensics too? Your story/mind is taking you to some dark places. Again.

      Delete
  31. Oh, she sounds so very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ladyfi: She was. A woman I would have loved to meet.

      Delete
  32. I shall leave a nice, short comment. Sue, I'm intrigued with that book you so eloquently featured. I'm also very impressed with your ability to be a greedy reader. I hardly find the time to read "Reader's Digest." I think there was a pun in there, somewhere....

    Gary :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. klahanie: I make time to read. Other things (rather a lot of them) suffer. And I do admire your puns.

      Delete
  33. What a brave and bold lady she must have been! Spit in coffee than is the secret for fertility? Who would have guessed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan Kane: Brave and bold indeed. Not just anyone's spit will do the trick on the fertility stakes...

      Delete
  34. Hi EC. Thank you for sending me a comment and telling me that my problem might be about add ons. how I am not sure what to do about this. Did your problem reserve itself or what did you do to resolve it. Please make it simple as I am not so good on the technical side of things.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hi EC. Many thanks for getting back to me. now I do not have that program running now did anything tell me it was wrong so I think that might be my answer but I will look into it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret Adamson: Good luck. Those problems are soooo frustrating.

      Delete
  36. Lol. I like a biography that gets you wanting more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lady Lilith: The very best sort of education.

      Delete
  37. I love the expression greedy reader. That's me, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Riot Kitty: I don't even feel (much) shame about this particular greediness.

      Delete
  38. I read a lot of memoirs in preparation for writing my first one - and now I'm hooked, too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark Koopmans: A good one is a joy and a delight. And an education too.

      Delete
  39. I like true stories of women we have never heard of. By reading them ad encouraging others to read them, we are advancing women's stories and lives. Thanks for this story of a woman who was traveling and learning about a world mostly hidden to us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Practical Parsimony: A world which is still mostly hidden to us - more than fifty years later.

      Delete
  40. I would have remained childless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grannie Annie: Perhaps that is why I AM childless. The right person (if there is one) never spat in my coffee.

      Delete
  41. So many interesting books out there and I especially love "real stories" from real people. Sci-fi never really did it for me. Very rare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deb: Truth is often fascinating. However, I do like good speculative fiction too. Less so, hard-edged science fiction, but I won't rule it out either.

      Delete
  42. This book sounds fascinating and makes me realise I must find more time to read. Working full-time and doing my artwork in any spare time I have doesn't always allow this. There's always a way :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angela: Reading is something I make time for. Always. But if I was, as you are, an artist it would slip a bit.

      Delete
  43. Sounds interesting, definitely a subjects I'd like to learn more about.

    ReplyDelete
  44. oh this sounds like a wonderful book, I've been reading so many mysteries I have grown tired of them and need to venture into a new venue of reading I have several at my bedside I will do a post on them soon. One I am reading now I am sure you would enjoy, I am not sure I would have had the courage to drink that coffee, ha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda Starr: I am a mystery reader too, but almost always have at least on biography on the go as well.

      Delete
  45. This sounds like the kind of woman I could admire. Thanks for introducing me.

    It’s time I picked up something other than a novel or a mystery. I keep the novels fairly worth reading, but the mysteries are totally light-weight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Friko: Light-weight reading is always on my agenda too. I usually have both on the go at once, and like it that way.
      She was an admirable woman. And, as I said, not one I had ever heard of. Which both saddened and irritated me.

      Delete
  46. Replies
    1. Jerry E Beuterbaugh: Welcome. And yes, it was intriguing.

      Delete
  47. That sounds like a fascinating book. Travel was such an adventure back then! And not easy either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie K: Not easy, not safe to travel then. And 'immersion' travel is much the best kind in my eyes. Fly in, fly out tells you very little...

      Delete