Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and passionate reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

Six Books

 

Me on the Argentine pampas in 1967.

Although this has been a difficult year for me in many ways, a year of loss, it has also been a year of reading. Since July, reading has been my solace and a way to honor the memory of my special reading mother.  I have read 91 books so far this year, unlike in1967 when I only read six books!

1967 was the year I was accepted into the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs) as an exchange student to Argentina. I spent a year there, which was an absolutely incredible life-defining experience. It was not an easy year, especially in those days before computers, cell phones, and instant world-wide communication with everyone you know!  Letters often took two weeks. Phone calls home were wildly expensive so I only made one call home during the entire year. I was far away from home and relatively isolated as I went through the inevitable culture shock and adjustments to my new language and my new family. But after four months, I could speak fairly well, began to dream in Spanish, worked hard to begin reading in Spanish, and became more and more fluent in the language over the year. It was an amazing experience, to state it simply.

But one of the most difficult things for me that year, as an avid/obsessed reader, was that I had little access to books (in English), and, of course, my reading focus needed to be on learning and reading in Spanish. So over that year, I only read 6 books in English. Those six books are seared into my memory because each one was like a little oasis in the desert of my reading that year. It was very hard for me NOT to be able to read much that year, and it made me appreciate deeply the freedom of my yearly reading experience ever since. However, giving up reading-like-crazy for a year in order to have the experience of a lifetime…was so worth it!

Here are those six books:

 

 

No Holly for Miss Quinn

No Holly for Miss Quinn, is the 12th book in the Fairacre series by Miss Read. There are a number of books in the series that celebrate Christmastime in the wonderfully imagined village of Fairacre. They have all become favorite holiday reads for me.

from the publisher:

Nobody in Fairacre knows much about Miss Quinn, which is a rare state of affairs and much regretted by the villagers. Apart from the fact that she lives in the annex to Mrs. Benson’s house and that she works in Caxley, her past history and the amount of her salary remains a tantalizing mystery.

In fact, Miss Quinn is a highly efficient secretary to a Caxley businessman. She runs him, and her own affairs, with terrifying competence. She is completely unsentimental and plans to spend her Christmas exactly as she wants, without fuss or family.

But before the great day, her brother rings to say his wife has been rushed to the hospital, and could she come and cope with the children? Secretly dismayed, Miss Quinn sets out to do her duty.

Miss Quinn’s Christmas becomes so much more than “doing her duty.” It’s really a lovely story about family, growth and change. I love Miss Quinn’s independence and strength, and her love of solitude. But I also loved that she experienced the magic of Christmas with her nieces and nephew, and came to know and appreciate her beloved brother and his wife in a whole new way.

A wonderful holiday story that can easily be read each Christmastime.

Reading Miss Read

In the last few years, I have fallen in love with the Fairacre series, by Miss Read (the pseudonym for English author, Dora Saint). Fairacre is an imagined English village, and the stories about the life and people in this village as told by the village school teacher are absolutely delightful. Not everything is idyllic in the village, but nonetheless, I would love to live there, and I thoroughly enjoy my time spent there when I’m reading one of the books in the series. When I finish reading the Fairacre series, I will most happily move on to her Thrush Green series. Thrush Green is another village full of more delightful stories.

This is an ongoing personal reading challenge…one of my “Reading Journeys.”  I haven’t been reviewing each of the books I’ve read in the series, but this post is where I will keep track of the ones I read and link to the ones I review.

The Fairacre series:

  1. Village School – 1955
  2. Village Diary – 1957
  3. Storm in the Village – 1958
  4. Miss Clare Remembers – 1962
  5. Over the Gate – 1964
  6. Village Christmas – 1966
  7. Fairacre Festival – 1968
  8. Emily Davis – 1971
  9. Tyler’s Row – 1972
  10. Christmas Mouse – 1973
  11. Farther Afield – 1974
  12. No Holly for Miss Quinn – 1976
  13. Village Affairs – 1977
  14. The White Robin – 1979
  15. Village Centenary – 1980
  16. Summer at Fairacre – 1984
  17. Mrs. Pringle – 1989
  18. Changes at Fairacre – 1991
  19. Farewell to Fairacre – 1993
  20. A Peaceful Retirement – 1996

The Thrush Green series:

  1. Thrush Green – 1959
  2. Winter in Thrush Green – 1961
  3. News from Thrush Green – 1970
  4. Battles at Thrush Green – 1975
  5. Return to Thrush Green – 1978
  6. Gossip from Thrush Green – 1981
  7. Affairs at Thrush Green – 1983
  8. At Home in Thrush Green – 1985
  9. School at Thrush Green – 1987
  10. Friends at Thrush Green – 1990
  11. Celebrations at Thrush Green – 1992
  12. Year at Thrush Green – 1995

The Caxley Chronicles:

  1. The Caxley Chronicles Omnibus: The Market Square/The Howards of Caxley

Other Works by Miss Read:

  1. Tiggy – 1971
  2. Fresh from the Country – 1955

 

The Door in the Wall

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli, was published in 1949 and received the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature in 1950. It is a book I remember reading and loving when I was ten or eleven.  And as a school teacher, I used it for a novel study when I taught my 6th Grade unit on the Middle Ages. It’s a wonderful story and teaching tool for that period of history, and for that age group.

The story takes place in the 14th century, and Robin, who comes from a noble family, is expected to become a knight.

Ever since he could remember, Robin had been told what was expected of him as son of his father. Like other sons of noble family, he would be sent away from his mother and father to live in the household of another knight, where he would learn all the ways of knighthood. He would learn how to be of service to his liege lord, how to be courteous and gentle, and, at the same time, strong of heart.

Robin’s father was away fighting in a war, and his mother was called to serve as a Lady-in-Waiting to the queen, so Robin was supposed to start his long training for knighthood. However, before he could leave home, he and the servants that were caring for him while his parents were gone became ill. Most of the servants died, and Robin was left alone, ill and forgotten. A kindly monk, Brother Luke, heard that a child was left alone and came to help him. He nursed him until he was well, but the illness left Robin extremely weak and without the use of his legs. The story of his recovery and of how he overcame his limitations both physically and emotionally is what makes this book a wonderful read.

Brother Luke was a kind and gentle teacher and caretaker. He and the other monks took Robin underwing, and taught him to read and to do many things for himself.

“Always remember that,” said the friar. “Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.” “I will remember,” Robin promised, but he wasn’t sure that he knew what Brother Luke meant to say.

“Whether thou’lt walk soon I know not. This I know. We must teach thy hands to be skillful in many ways, and we must teach thy mind to go about whether thy legs will carry thee or no. For reading is another door in the wall, dost understand, my son?”

The language of the book is challenging for young readers, but the story is compelling and captures the reader. The history and culture of that period of time are masterfully presented and it’s a wonderful immersion into Medieval daily life.

But my favorite thing about the book is that it focuses on what is really meaningful in life, then and now. It’s a story about overcoming adversity and learning to understand and accept one’s own strengths and weaknesses. It shows the importance of doing one’s best and being open to opportunities that help you find an enjoyable and meaningful way to give back to the community. And it’s a story of a boy learning how to embrace life, despite the difficulties he faces daily. It’s a story full of wisdom, and our classroom discussions about the ideas in the book were wonderful. 

None of us is perfect. It is better to have crooked legs than a crooked spirit. We can only do the best we can with what we have. That, after all, is the measure of success: what we do with what we have.

A wonderful read and highly recommended!

This book was on my list of 50-books-to-read-in-five years for The Classics Club. It was also on my list of Birth Year Reading, a personal challenge.

November Reflections 2018

With the darker, colder days arriving, I found it much harder to keep my spirits up during November. That’s not unusual for me, or for many people at this time of year, especially in the Pacific Northwest.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. The change of light, the shorter days, and staying indoors more on colder days can lead to melancholy or depression. My reading is my personal antidote to that SAD feeling. It broadens my perspectives and gives me new ways of looking at the world. That cheers me up and also gives me a new appreciation for friends and family.

So with that said, November turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I enjoyed getting lost in a variety of books — a mystery, some classics, a Christmas book. I read a number of graphic novels this month, and I’m liking that genre more and more. I especially loved Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and look forward to her new book, Book Love, to be released in the U.S. on January 1st. My favorite book this month was Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, because it was full of courage and dignity, and hope.

For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, I hope your reading in November was enjoyable and an antidote to the darker, colder days. And for the rest of you, I also hope your November was spent immersed in wonderful books!

My November reads:

 

Currently Reading: My Spin Book

I’m up early this morning (thanks to the sounds of a squirrel in the attic) and so decided to start my book for the Classics Club Spin #19. The Spin number was just announced this morning and that number was #1. I made a large cup of tea and am starting Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, which was the first book on my Spin list.

Americanah is the perfect book for me to read at this point in time because this book, (along with her book, We Should All Be Feminists) was chosen by the Multnomah County Library for the Everybody Reads 2019 in Portland, Oregon!  Discussions start in the various libraries in January, and she will be speaking in Portland in March. Unfortunately for me, that event is already sold out. But how serendipitous that this was my book chosen to read at exactly the right time!

Don’t know what we’ll do about the squirrel in the attic, though…

The Haunted Bookshop

 

The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley, has been described as “a love letter to booksellers”, and I agree with that. It’s also just a fun “entertainment,” to quote Graham Greene. As well as many interesting thoughts about the importance of books to individuals and to the nation, and many fun references to books and more books, the story also contains suspense and romance, and a lot of humor. It is not, however, a ghost story. The bookshop is haunted not by ghosts, but by the “ghosts of great literature.”

It is the sequel to Parnassus on Wheels, a book I loved. This one didn’t capture me in the same way, but I did enjoy it, as will anyone who loves books and bookshops. I highly recommend it!  Start with Parnassus on Wheels, though, and then move on to enjoy this one.

from the publisher:

“When you sell a man a book,” says Roger Mifflin, protagonist of these classic bookselling novels, “you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life.”

Some favorite quotes from the book:

Never argue with customers. Just give them the book they ought to have even if they don’t know they want it.”

You see, books contain the thoughts and dreams of men, their hopes and strivings and all their immortal parts. It’s in books that most of us learn how splendidly worth-while life is.

Books are the immortality of the race, the father and mother of most that is worth while cherishing in our hearts. To spread good books about, to sow them on fertile minds, to propagate understanding and a carefulness of life and beauty, isn’t that high enough mission for a man? The bookseller is the real Mr. Valiant-For-Truth.

“Of course one can’t help loving one’s country,” he added. “I love mine so much that I want to see her take the lead in making a new era possible. She has sacrificed least for war, she should be ready to sacrifice most for peace. As for me,” he said, smiling, “I’d be willing to sacrifice the whole Republican party!”

 

Click here to see a Wikipedia list of the book references included in this book that made it so much fun.

 

This book was one of my choices for The Classics Club.