Note: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!
What I read in June
This is rivaling Price and Prejudice for my favourite Austen novel! I thought it was written very well and the style seemed a bit more modern to me. I felt like it would be a good option for someone who hasn’t really read classic literature before but wants to give it a go. I don’t love the character of Emma very much because she’s incredibly self-absorbed and snooty, but there is something about her that makes it pleasant to read about her life. Love/hate, I guess!
This is a fascinating book about the differences between American and French parenting. While I don’t have children yet, I see no harm in arming myself with information. Plus, the areas of psychology I was always most interested in were child development and parenting, so there you go. Anyway, I absolutely loved the book. Not gonna lie, I’m a Francophile and am unrealistically and romantically biased toward almost everything French. That being said, the French view of parenting and childhood is something I have always felt akin to. It’s less helicopter parent and more parents have identities outside of being parents but children are loved and valued still. I learned that the stereotype of French pregnant women drinking wine every day and smoking is generally inaccurate, and corporal punishment is not a common occurrence anymore (at least among the middle classes of Paris, anyway). French parents believe in having firm limits for their children, but allowing them to have a lot of freedom within those limits. Babies are treated as rational beings and parents are encouraged to speak to their babies and explain what they’re doing and why. Babies are generally sleeping all night from about 3-months, which is partly attributed to French parents pausing when baby makes a noise during sleep, rather than rushing in to soothe at the first sigh or cry (because babies do make noises in their sleep and will often settle back down if left for 5 or so minutes). Children are expected, from very young, to be polite (table manners, greetings, appropriate address of people), but play is highly valued and they are allowed to run amok in daycare and at home.
The only thing I found really shocking was the attitude toward breastfeeding in France. Most women only do it for a short period of time, and some not at all. This is partly because women typically return to work anywhere from three to 12 months post-birth, so for ease and practicality, breastfeeding falls away as formula comes in. There’s a general attitude that formula milk is just as, if not more, healthy than breast milk. In my own culture, and that of other English-speaking ones, the whole Breast Is Best message is so strong that even I cringe slightly when someone willingly chooses to formula feed. Which is awful because that kind of attitude will potentially affect mums who can’t breastfeed for whatever reason. But in France, it’s just accepted and you will be considered strange if you breastfeed for a year or more.
The whole reason I ended up reading the previous book was because it was mentioned in this one, about the anthropological record of childhood around the world. I haven’t yet finished this book, but it’s been an amazing read so far. It’s definitely a book for people who are interested in attitudes toward children throughout the world. It details a rich ethnographic record of so many cultures, from isolated tribes to modern-day Western. It looks a little at the archaeological record of childhood throughout history as well. The overwhelming message, for me, so far is that the way we do things in the West is the anomaly. Compared with the rest of the world, we’re the weird ones, the different ones, and potentially “backward” ones (though I’m still fond of our medical knowledge and the fact we’re more likely to base what we do on scientific research).
What I want to read in July
Because I’m generally terrible at completing my reading lists for the month, except those I need to read for book clubs, I’m just going to include my book club read for the month.
I seem to recall having read this one, but maybe only once? I’ve already started this, and I’m using a speed-reading method in which you listen to the audiobook at 1.5x speed while reading along. It’s reminiscent of childhood, but I have managed to read about 60% of the book in four days, so I think it’s working!