Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Green Books Campaign: Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas
This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.
Incontinent on the Continent is printed on acid-free paper that is forest friendly (100% post-consumer recycled paper) and has been processed chlorine free.
When I requested Incontinent on the Continent: My Mother, Her Walker, and Our Grand Tour of Italy by Jane Christmas, I expected an enjoyable, warm story of a mother and daughter, and their escapades in Italy. It's quite the contrary. It's not enjoyable, not warm, and the relationship between the mother and daughter certainly didn't live up to my expectations.
Jane Christmas and her mother never did get along. There was a "wary coolness" between them, but it was her father's deathbed request that she "make friends with your mother." He had always been the buffer between them. Christmas says her mother judges the entire world by hairstyles, and Jane usually fails. "Over the years, I have made peace with my hair, but I have not done so with my mother. I wanted us to go to Italy to see if I could finally fall in love with her. This trip was my olive branch."
That trip was a disaster. Neither mother nor daughter were realistic about the trip to Italy. Jane's mother never told her about all of her health issues. She was incontinent, had osteoarthritis in her knees, asthma, heart problems, diabetes, and needed a walker to get around. She was not the ideal travel companion for Christmas, a woman who flew by the seat of her pants, and made no more plans than flying in to Italy, with a rental car waiting. They hadn't even packed proper clothes for the trip, travelling out of season, when restaurants and shops were often closed, and the weather was rainy. And, Italy didn't turn out to be very accessible for a disabled traveller.
In some hands, this disastrous trip could have been very funny. Christmas spent three hundred pages complaining bitterly, resenting her mother's physical condition and infirmities. The most I can say is that at least she was brutally honest about their relationship. And, five weeks together did alert her to her mother's conditions and needs as she aged.
But, to be honest, I felt as if I spent five weeks reading this book since Christmas was so grumpy about the trip. I wouldn't recommend Incontinent on the Continent to anyone, unless they were already a pessimist, "knowing" Europe doesn't live up to North America for food, hotels, or accessibility.
Incontinent on the Continent: My Mother, Her Walker, and Our Grand Tour of Italy by Jane Christmas. Douglas & McIntyre, ©2009. ISBN: 9781553654001 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure: This book was sent to me through Eco-Libris, to review for the Green Books Campaign.