Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me by Gina London

Last week I read an e-Because I'm smallbook called Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me: The World According to my Four Year Old by CNN reporter Gina London.

Synopsis: This is the story of a small girl, her funny sayings and the family’s life in Paris France, USA and Arezzo, Italy.

 Review: They say never to compete with children and animals and the author wisely avoided this dilemma. Instead she has turned it on its head, using her daughter’s humorous comments and world-view to tell a delightful tale of life in three countries. Her professional skills  leavened with some maternal cynicism as well as pride, make it an enjoyable and amusing read, though perhaps not one which would appeal to those with an aversion to children. Personally I found it enchanting.

Lulu is a bright child who knows her mind and leads her parents something of a merry dance..challenging but rewarding and adaptable! Parents and grandparents may well find themselves thinking “why didn’t I write something like that?”…probably because, unlike the author, many of us simply think it’s cute on the day, and don’t record the saying or the context. There are elements of familiarity here and it could easily have turned saccharine but for the spicy dollop of cultural differences quite unlike other versions of “my life in Tuscany/Paris”.

library thingThis is a fairly light book which is easily read but it reminds us just how adaptable children can be…Halloween visits at midnight anyone? And as someone who can’t manage to roll their “r’s” I can empathise with Gina’s dilemma.

 Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Library Thing on the understanding that I would write an honest review.

Magic Carpet Factor: 3.5

Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen by Jane Hawking

Travelling to infinityWhile at the library recently I picked up Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking. I often borrow books from the library that I might not otherwise read and this is one of them.

Synopsis: This is the biography/memoir of Jane Hawking, wife for 25 years of Stephen Hawking the famed physicist. It traces not only their lives but that of their families as well as his remarkable scientific discoveries and the impact of his degenerative illness, motor neuron disease, on himself, his wife, family and colleagues.

 My thoughts:

I was intrigued by this story and astonished that a woman as young as Jane married and took on the responsibilities associated with a brilliant but increasingly ill man. The rigours of their lives and the physical and emotional hardships were perhaps made more difficult, rather than less, with a husband who was a scientific genius. Everyday people would have most of the same strains but presumably not the added pressure of a brain which far outstripped anyone else’s. Jane’s persistence and determination and her family’s support are remarkable. The sheer generosity of Stephen Hawking’s students and colleagues is also amazing.

Throughout the story, I was increasingly annoyed with Stephen Hawking’s selfish disregard of his wife’s needs and lack of recognition of her academic ability which is evident throughout the memoir. While not reaching Stephen’s standard of genius, it’s plain that Jane is no slouch intellectually. However she sacrifices a great deal for her husband’s well-being both physically and intellectually. He appears not to have reciprocated her generosity or regard.

While the details of the science, and sometimes her own linguistic endeavours, were often lost on me (or I didn’t bother to try to keep on top of them), the life story was intriguing.

While it could be argued that she has “puffed herself up” this is not how it strikes me, rather the opposite if anything. As the book neared its conclusion I was increasingly irritated with Stephen Hawking’s lack of respect and regard for his wife and her significant contributions to his achievements. His fame seems to reflect this grandiose view of himself, which is perhaps the real reason why he becomes besotted by his nurse. After all, in traditional terms nurses are accustomed to deferring to the supposed greater intellect of the medicos, a phenomenon which is perhaps less common today. And yes, Jane does have a relationship with a “family friend”, initially platonic and later physical, who continues to help the whole family, at great sacrifice to himself. Who could blame her struggling with the depths of despair.

Frankly I wondered why Jane Hawking continued to denigrate her own abilities and remain in the marriage. Stephen Hawking’s elitist perspectives were increasingly infuriating to me as he appeared to intimidate, if not bully, his wife and family. As the famed scientist his needs were held to be greater than those of the rest of the family. Personally I agreed with the local minister who assured Jane that irrespective of intelligence or genius, each member of a family has equal rights if not always equal needs.

Magic carpet factor: 3.75 

Aggravation factor (with him!) 4.75


Fifties Fun and Frivolity

P1190432In My Day, subtitled You and Me before TV,[i]  could be easily dismissed as a bit of reading fluff. It isn’t full of beautifully crafted phrases and concepts. Nonetheless it is a magic carpet ride, taking Aussies of a certain age, back to life as it was, not just before TV, but somewhat after that as well.

The book was gestated during a sudden power outage, reminding the author and her friend of just how much their lives had changed over the decades. (I did smile at that because with Darwin’s lightning season, we get a fairly regular reminder of life-without-power).

If you want to know how your parents or grandparents lived in those ancient days of the 1950s, or even the 1960s, a quick dabble in this book will reveal new and astonishing realities. If you lived in those decades, or even earlier (heaven forfend!) you will enjoy a walk down memory lane, bringing back events and experiences long vanished into the recesses of your mental hard drive.

Hands up who remembers Mum’s washing copper and the rituals of Monday washing day (it was always Monday!)…as a child there always seemed to be jobs for you to help with on a Monday. How about the ice man, dunny man, butcher’s and baker’s vans? The corner store with its large glass jars of lollies. Saturday afternoon (arvo) at the movies (flicks) and maybe rolling Jaffas down the aisles.

TThat warm milk each day at school. Getting the cuts (cane) if you misbehaved in class. Boys dipping the girls plaits in the ink well. Scratchy slates, then pencils, pens with nibs (when you’d grown up), chalk on the blackboard. Remember when a biro was a novelty? Pounds, shillings and pence in the pre-decimal currency days of the “14th of February 1966”.

And then there are the stories of children being set free first thing in the morning on weekends or holidays to roam all day, only returning as dusk fell. This always mystifies me, because never in a million years would that have happened in our home, and yet we lived in a safe neighbourhood.

One thing I remember that isn’t in the book is the rat catcher. Did other cities have these, or only sub-tropical Brisbane? A Council worker would tour the street, eager fox terrier at his side, on the hunt for rats in the neighbourhood. This always induced a sense of anxiety because you really wouldn’t want to have him find a rat in your yard, even if he never had before.

The book has one or two page aides memoir with space at the bottom for you, the co-author, to add your reminiscences. I’ve had my copy for a long time so it may not be readily available but if you can find it in a library, why not borrow it and see how much you remember. Or read in astonishment.

[i] In My Day, You and Me before TV. Whitcomb, N. Adelaide 1996