Friday, August 31, 2012

 Treacherous Beauty : Peggy Shippen, The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold's Plot To Betray America
by Mark Jacobs and Stephen H. Case

Peggy Shippen was born in Philadelphia in 1760. Her family was quite wealthy and they lived in the best neighborhood (Society Hill). Peggy became quite the society girl. Men were infatuated with her calling her the most beautiful woman in North America. But she was not dumb. She was quite savvy with finances and had a clear-eyed view of both political and social situations. When it came to marriage, though, Peggy was not so astute. She fell in love with a scoundrel: her husband was Benedict Arnold. Peggy joined Arnold in a treasonous plot and was able to convince George Washington and other high-ranking men of her innocence.
The authors believe that she was the instigator but there is no concrete evidence. All of her papers were destroyed so it's just conjecture. Most of the book, actually, is about Arnold and the fighting between the British and the Americans. There's some interesting trivia about the Shippens and Philadelphia. Several times, I almost stopped reading it because the writing is extremely dry. But I continued with the book because it is the only nonfiction ever written about Peggy Shippen and I thought I would learn something. If you like stuff on the American Revolution, give this a try.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Little Red Guard : A Family Memoir
by Wenguang Huang

As Wenguang Huang was growing up in Xian, China, his entire family was obsessed with the proper burial of the grandmother. She thought that she would die relatively early but she lived longer than anybody thought. Wenguang's father built her a coffin and it stayed inside the house for fifteen years. She didn't want to be cremated which was the traditional practice in China and hoped to be buried in her home village.
The most interesting parts of this book are reading about China under Mao, being a Communist Party member, and China today. Unfortunately, Wenguang doesn't write very cohesively and he jumps around with different time periods all at the same time. There's also problems with misspellings, misplaced words, and missing punctuation.
Wenguang is a translator and I think that he should just stick to that profession and forget about doing any more writing.