Week seven of the Summer Reading Challenge, and my book #2 for the week is My Antonia, a story about life on the prairies in the 19th century. My Antonia is so beautifully written that you have to go back and re-read sentences just to taste them once more. It is filled with dark secrets, hunger, cold, loneliness, suicide, murder, and stuff like that, not to mention those horrible prairies, with and without snow. Naturally, you can’t read something like that straight through.

So I watched the movie Casanova, suggested to me by #1 daughter, who said that you wouldn’t think it would be a good movie, but it is. She’s right. It’s light and fun, visually enchanting, and not suited to much thinking. I mean, if you start thinking about it, it will spoil the whole thing, so just watch and enjoy it.

I got a bit of progress made on the sleeve of my Jasmine sweater while watching and enjoying Casanova.

I also read a lighter book. A while back I said some harsh things about Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine’s book What Not to Wear. A stylish reader told me I had read the wrong book, and should read their newer What You Wear Can Change Your Life. So I did.

They do a better job of making themselves look bad in the “don’t” pictures in this book. They still describe themselves in startlingly negative terms (“fat white maggot,” “sagging udders,” and “elephantine legs” are a few of the ones I can repeat). Perhaps this is that British self-deprecating humor of which we hear so much. In a way, though, it is like reading Shakespeare or the King James Bible. At first, you are distracted by the odd language — in this case, vulgar and hyperbolic — but then you get into the swing of it and can appreciate it.

This book, unlike their first, doesn’t focus entirely on “figure flaws,” as though people who like their bodies don’t bother to wear clothes. It doesn’t overlap with their first book, so it really doesn’t discuss how to choose clothes at all, but focuses more on accessories and makeup and so forth. There are sections on pregnancy and travel (including how not to look like a barmaid in your holiday snaps, something I confess I had never worried about). As a book, it is attractive and interesting to read.

Is it useful? Possibly. My favorite part was the section on color. While I would have liked some support for their startling pronouncements (you can’t wear black shoes with gray clothes?), I realize that fashion writers don’t normally expect to have to prove their assertions. But they advocate and illustrate some really interesting color combinations. If you tend to make the same color combinations all the time in your knitting, or just to follow the pattern suggestions exactly because you don’t know what else to do, their ideas might give you a jolt out of that rut. Can you see a sweater in charcoal gray, dark chocolate brown, mushroom, and shocking pink?

There is a section on how to care for your clothes, and suggestions about how to organize your wardrobe, your handbag, and your packing that seem very sensible. They have recommendations on buying underwear, and which old clothes to throw away, and how to swap clothes with friends. The section on makeup was too rarified for me, I am afraid — I don’t even know what half the things they discussed are. It may be that this book will be most appealing to those who are interested in clothes and fashion as a topic and simply like to read about that stuff.

However, I would say this book is worth getting from the library in order to check out the section on color. And it has convinced me to harvest my lavender and make some lavender bags for my lingerie drawer, so perhaps it has changed my life in some infinitesimal way.