Wednesday, May 16, 2012
"C" Women Memoirs
During my junior college experience, before transferring to Brigham Young University, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the college library. I wasn't there just for the books. I had discovered the music listening room with its earphones (very large ones, this was 1971-72) and large collection of albums. I added Carole King's Tapestry and James Taylor's Sweet Baby James to my listening repertoire during this time period. One of my favorite concerts ever was the Troubadour Reunion Tour featuring Carole King and James Taylor with members of their original bands which came to Arizona in 2010.
It was only "natural" that I would want to read A Natural Woman written by Carole King over a course of 12 years. I found this memoir fascinating as it not only chronicled the life and music career of Carole King but also the music history of a time I knew and remembered so well. As I read the book, I found myself going to the computer and Youtube over and over to listen to another song. Carole thought it important that this book be written in her own words and I appreciated and felt that I was indeed hearing her "voice."
I just finished another book about the life of a woman with a name that began with "C." I first heard the author talk about his book on NPR and then put it on my hold list at the library. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie is long but interesting although I found myself skimming through the political posturing parts. Catherine's reign was during the same time period as the Revolutionary War. When England asked to buy the services of the Russian Army, Catherine declined and the German Hessians came instead. Catherine was highly educated and a disciple of the Enlightenment Era and as she came to power she hoped to rule with "enlightenment" but soon came to understand that learning and literacy for her subjects would have to come first. She wished to do away with the Serb situation in Russia but as with Slavery in America was puzzled as to how to bring this about.
The first half of the book is largely based on Catherine's own memoir written during her twenties and up until about the time she became Empress. I found the first half to be the most interesting. During her time she was the wealthiest and most powerful woman in the world. The Hermitage began under her watch as she bought up art collections across Europe and England as they became available. She also engaged architects and builders who brought about the beautiful city that is St. Petersburg. Under her watch, Russia was able to extend its borders to the Crimea and the Black Sea.
Now for the part I found disturbing about the lives of both of these women with names that begin with "C." Both, though living lives 200 years apart in time, were financially independent women who through their circumstances and talents could pretty much control their own life choices. Those choices included a series of partners, save for first marriages, who were significantly younger than they were as well as financially reliant on the women for support.
I realize that when I am reading books I often share them in "two's." Can't seem to help myself. That's what my brain seems to want to do, compare and contrast. I've sat on this post for a week or so wondering at my moral high ground. My mother was 5 years older than my father when she married him in her late 20's. Carole and Catherine both had unsatisfactory first marriages in their late teens. I just find it hard to understand why one would want men in their 20's even as one marches on through their 30's, 40's, and beyond. However, I really enjoyed these two books which opened a window into the lives of both women.