Collie Creating
Codex Firestarter


A Temporal Literary Triptych of Women

by Collie Collier
April 2004 Firestarter column

Traditionally April first is All Fools' Day, full of tricks and mischief. Not being much of a practical joker, I decided instead to simply do something different, instead of mischievous. Therefore the Firestarter for this month is three reviews of books I've recently read and enjoyed.

The reviews are in a chronological order of sorts. The fictional historical novel set in the 17th century is first, followed by the adventurous autobiographical tales set in Africa in the first half of the 20th century. Finally we have the most contemporary autobiographical one, which is set in the US and whose author is still alive today.

Clicking on each title will open a new window for you to read the book review in. Enjoy, and if you like the reviews, please buy the books too! They're all fascinating women in their own way -- even the fictional one.

Girl With a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier

A fictional creation to explain the identity of the mysteriously enigmatic woman in Vermeer's painting of the same name.

West With the Night
by Beryl Markham

Autobiography which reads like an adventure story -- of the incredible life of an amazing sportswoman, daredevil, and pilot in colonial African during the first half of the 20th century.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou

The classic first book of five, relating Angelou's autobiography of her difficult, inspiring childhood as a black girl in Arkansas.

03.04.04: Pat's comments

(and my replies)

Just finished reading your three reviews and am really impressed with your work!!! Especially enjoyed the review on Beryl Markham's book. Actually I have that here -- read it some years ago when first published and found it very interesting then.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the reviews!
Yes, I also was quite impressed with Beryl Markham's story. You remember the movie "Out of Africa," with Meryl Streep, which was about Isak Dineson (who was for a while a friend of Beryl)?
Remember the part in the movie where the woman's lover, the famous hunter Denys Finch-Hatton (played by Robert Redford in the film), pretty much dumped her for another flier?
Well, that person was apparently Beryl Markham. She had a just amazing life, I must say.

Also have the Angelou book which I haven't read yet, but certainly will get to it now. 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' have not read but as the movie is around would like to see it. However, much prefer to read before seeing Hollywood's version as it allows me to paint my own picture.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the reviews!
I found the Angelou book a bit creepy, but then I've never been able to quite grasp that level of vicious racism she had to deal with.
Fair warning, there's a child sexual abuse scene in the book, and I found the book itself inspiring in its relating of the occasional triumph over adversity... but it's not really what I'd call a joyously uplifting or happy-making read, you know?
I've been reliably informed the plot of the movie "Girl With a Pearl Earring" doesn't do the book justice.
On the other hand, the woman I spoke to at the book club meeting said the actress they have playing the girl occasionally was just creepily effective at replicating certain paintings of Vermeer's -- it was quite literally like seeing the painting suddenly come to life, she said.

Anyway, all I can say is well done -- I'm impressed!