What I Read in February

I had big reading plans for February, and then I worked 180 hours over 13 days (aka half the month in February) and basically only worked and slept for the second half of the month. So I didn’t really read anything for half the month, which kind of worked against my goals.

Although I feel weird about having reading goals. I used to devour books, reading was my only hobby for most of my childhood. Then in high school and university, particularly through university, that really fell away. There was so much reading and your brain is working so hard that I don’t know very many people who read for fun during uni. And then I got back into reading over the last year, and the commitment to these posts mostly helps, although there was a month last year where I didn’t read at all, so it’s not perfect. But reading has yet to become what it was to me, and I don’t know yet if I want it to.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

This was so good, it was fascinating. It’s a non-fiction book about the language cults and other organizations use to enthrall us and make us want to be part of the group. Grace Atwood recommended this book, and when I posted it on my IG story a bunch of friends said that they were also fascinated by the book.

It details the language that many different cults used to recruit members from Manson, to Jonestown, to Children of God, to Scientology, and then looks at the use of language in group fitness classes and MLMs. The author also has a super interesting perspective because her dad grew up in a cult, and used to sneak out to go to the “outsider’s” high school, so she was raised to be hyper-aware of the language predatory recruiters use and then also became a linguist. It was also a really interesting read around the same time that I watched The Tinder Swindler and after watching LuLaRich. But really the takeaway is never let anyone tell you that words don’t have power.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

This book was a tome. It is very long and very good. It follows three women, two real, one fictional, connected by an old Chateau in a remote mountain town in southern France. We have Adrianne, the Madame Lafayette, yes that Lafayette, famed victor of both the United States and France, the father of two democracies. However, their work in the beginning phases of the Revolution and their ideal of a constitutional monarchy, not to kill the King, nearly resulted in their execution and did result in most of Adrianne’s family being beheaded, and Monsieur Lafayette fleeing the country and reveals just how influential his wife, our heroine was in the policy, governance, and trade between the USA and France, and just how often she saved his life.

Our second real woman is Beatrice, also the wife of a famous man, however a much more forgettable famous man than Lafayette, who becomes a hero in her own right for her work in France in World War One and who rediscovers the Chateau and turn it into an orphanage and a preventorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. Beatrice was hugely influential in swaying American public opinion towards involvement in the Great War and the aid that soldiers on the frontlines received before American forces got involved officially.

Our third character is Marthe, she is our fictional character, an amalgam of famous women living in Free France during the German occupation of France in World War II. Marthe was raised in the orphanage that Beatrice founded, all she knows is that she was found in a bombed out town during the Great War and was one of the first children at the orphanage. She is a talented artist, but never wins the annual scholarship competition to study art in Paris, she oversees the judging committee discussing how it isn’t worth it to give a scholarship to a girl, who will just get married. However, since she ends up staying in the Chateau as a teacher, she ends up in the Free Zone of France living under the rule of the Vichy Government at first and the Nazis later. As the Resistance rises, Marthe finds a way to help, and learns about herself, that the story she’s been told of her origins is a lie, and about Adrianne.

I’m aiming for smaller books in March. The Chateau of Lafayette was a great book, but it was a lot of reading. Oh, and I’m thinking about books set in warm climates.

What are you reading next?

Laura

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