As promised, here are my reviews of the two non-fiction books I read this month.
Camilla, a Biography of Camilla Eyring Kimball by Edward L. Kimball and Caroline Eyring Miner
I am ashamed to say that I have owned this book for 23 years and have never read it. My parents gave it to my for my 4th birthday (per the inscription by my mother on the inside cover) because she (the wife of the twelfth President of the LDS Church) was the woman I was named after, and by the time I was old enough to read it I had seen it so frequently on my bookshelf that I didn’t even really think about it anymore. It had just always been there, a feature of my room like the light switch or the ceiling fan.
After I moved to Canada my mom sent it to me as a birthday present again (the ultimate regift—smooth, Mom!) partly to clean out my old room and partly, I suspect, to nudge me into being a better woman. Finally I dusted it off and read it this month, and found myself sorry I hadn’t read it sooner. Camilla Kimball was a pretty cool lady, and I am honoured even more than ever to be named after her.
One of my favourite parts was this, an excerpt from her journal:
A woman, to be well rounded in her personality, needs many experiences in and out of the home. She needs to be concerned with church, school, and community. If she buries herself inside four walls, she does not reach her potential.
I reread that paragraph three or four times. For quite a while now I have smugly told myself that I don’t need friends to be happy, and I don’t need to leave my house for anything but groceries and the occasional intercontinental voyage. I felt somehow better than other people for being perfectly content to stay home and never leave except for food and toilet paper. I don’t need to socialize. I don’t need anyone!
But when I read this, it struck me that although I am perfectly content to “bury [my]self inside four walls” and never leave the house, I am actually missing out on quite a lot that way, and worse: I’m preventing Hutch from experiencing the world. There are people who I can help, places that I can visit, and knowledge that I can gain if I choose to stop being so self-centred and just get out and do things. Maybe I don’t feel the need to leave the house, but maybe there are people out there who need me to all the same.
In other words, I need to stop being such a dadgum snob.
Another part that cracked me up was when it mentioned that on a cruise with her husband (not then the president of our teetotaling church) Camilla tasted liquor just to know what it tasted like (though the authors made a point to mention that Spencer W. Kimball refrained).
Also: Did you know Camilla Kimball is related to Mitt Romney? #imaginethat
Final Score: 7/10
Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
I was intrigued by this book several years ago but, as I had no bébés of my own, I refrained from purchasing it. Now that I’m a mother, I couldn’t resist buying it on account of my weakness for all things French, especially all things French that I might be able to adopt as my own. Any thing that promises to make me more chic is a thing I must have. That it boasted to divulge all the secrets of raising a happy, restful, and well-behaved child was just a bonus.
The verdict? I loved it!
But I will warn you, this is not a book full of bullet points on parenting. Instead, Druckerman shares her own personal journey of raising children in Paris. It is part parenting book, part memoir. But for me, the mix was perfect. I found myself reading it in every spare moment I had, even (ironically) neglecting Hutch to do so. (But good news! According to this book, letting my six month old baby scoot around on the clean floor happily gurgling to himself while I read a book only feet away and always within view is *not* neglect, as many American parents might believe, but instead just healthy parenting.)
I found the French parents’ theories fascinating and committed almost immediately to use nearly all of them for myself as Hutch gets older and begins to need actual parenting (as opposed to just the basic necessities of life). I also kicked myself for not reading it before Hutch was born, as apparently most French parents teach their babies to sleep through the night at three months or earlier, and I could have saved myself hours of sleep months sooner. But c’est la vie.
This book meets my standard of “life changing” not necessarily because I can’t stop thinking about it, but because it just made such perfect, clear sense that I have already come to view it as “my way of parenting.” In other words, I don’t feel like I need to think about it constantly because it was so simple and obvious that I’ve already got it in my head.
Also, in reading it I was constantly reminded of my time nannying for a French family in Belgium, and now I have the most intense craving to go back you can’t even imagine.
My one fault with the book is that Druckerman herself says she struggles to parent the way she claims the French do, despite the fact that their way is arguably more effective than hers (at least in the effect of raising respectful, well-mannered children). The concepts themselves don’t seem difficult, so I don’t understand why she struggles. If she likes the French way so much better, why doesn’t she just do it?
Final Score: 9/10 (minus one point for not following her own advice)