Category Archives: Favorite authors

Stuck in a Book Friday

There’s a lot going on around me today…in particular, construction workers in our backyard…but I can’t do anything but sit here and read. I’m completely stuck in a book at the moment. The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny, has captured me and I can’t do anything else until I finish it. I do love it when that happens! (And husband is overseeing those construction workers.)

Goodbye, Rosamunde Pilcher

 

I am so sad today to hear of the passing of one of my favorite authors, Rosamunde Pilcher. She leaves us a lovely collection of her writing over the years — I have many of them on my shelf. And every few years, I re-read her book, The Shell Seekers, which is one of my all-time favorite books. I wish I could thank her for the kind and gentle stories she shared with us, stories that touched our lives is so many ways. Goodbye, dear friend. You will be missed.

Farther Afield

Reading one of Miss Read’s books is like coming home. If the world gets too crazy, or the days too stressful, I can depend on Miss Read to calm the waters, make me smile, and renew my spirits.

Farther Afield was a fun read. The storyline was a little different from the other Fairacre books I’ve read so far in that Miss Read went traveling!  Summer break arrived, the students all went happily on their way, the school was sorted and closed, and Mrs. Pringle arrived at Miss Read’s house to help her with the deep cleaning she called “bottoming.”

Unfortunately, while helping grumpy old Mrs. Pringle, Miss Read has an accident and broke her arm, so all her plans for the summer were dashed. When Miss Read was released from the hospital, she began her recovery at the house of her close friend, Amy, who took loving care of her. And when she was sufficiently recovered to get around, her friend invited her to join her for a vacation in Crete! What a wonderful, healing adventure they had there!

This was a summer of reflection for Miss Read. The travel was wonderful, but returning home was also wonderful. She returned with renewed health and renewed appreciation for the life she lives. Amy was having serious marital problems, and as she watched and worried about her friend, she ruminated about her own life as a single woman, a “spinster” as the village called her.

It is at times like this that a spinster counts her blessings. Her troubles are of her own making, and can be tackled straightforwardly. She is independent, both monetarily and in spirit. Her life is wonderfully simple, compared with that of her married sister. And she cannot be hurt, quite so cruelly, as a woman can be by her husband.

Conversely, she has no-one with whom to share her troubles and doubts. She must bear alone the consequences of all her actions and, coming down to brass tacks, she must be able to support herself financially, physically and emotionally.

I know all this from first-hand experience. I know too that there are some people who view my life as narrow and self-centred. Some, even, find a middle-aged single woman pitiable, if not faintly ridiculous. This, I have always felt, is to rate the value of men too highly, although I recognise that a truly happy marriage is probably the highest state of contentment attainable by either partner.

This was one of my favorite books so far in my reading of the Fairacre series!

 

Goodbye, Mary

Mary Oliver

It is with great sadness this morning that I say goodbye to one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I heard the news of her passing just a moment ago, and I can’t believe her voice is now silent. We will miss you terribly, Mary, but your poems will live on in our hearts. Thank you for what you did with your one wild and precious life, and for all the beautiful poetry you shared with us.

Books Can Change Your Life

My library posted this wonderful quote by David McCullough on Facebook the other day and I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea. It is true that books can change our lives and characters can have tremendous impact on us. In my own experience, I think the book and character of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, read (the first time) when I was in the 7th Grade, had a lifetime impact on me. I read many of the books my older brother read, and I remember that after he finished Jane Eyre he told me he thought I would like that book. I most certainly did!  I have vivid memories of scenes and impressions from the book. The strength and resilience of the character, Jane, made a large imprint on my both my heart and my psyche.

Since then, I have found many influential characters and more favorite books. But that first encounter with a character that I admired deeply, and was so influenced by, was a life-expanding experience for me. And for that, it will always be my “favorite book.”

Which is your special book and life-changing character?

 

The Outermost House

In my reading notebook from long ago, on a page with notes I took while reading a book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, there’s a sentence I wrote down that says, “Who is Henry Beston?” I love discovering new-to-me authors by finding references to them from other authors. In those days there was no Google to instantly look him up. I took a trip to the library to find out who he was and what he wrote. Then I had to track down his book, read it, and finally understand more fully why A.M.L. admired him and his beautiful little book, The Outermost House. After forty-five years, I just reread it and found it even more beautifully written than I remembered.

Henry Beston served as an ambulance driver during World War I. After the war, he began a  writing career. He spent a great deal of time on Cape Cod, and in 1925, he drew up the design for a small getaway cottage for writing. He called it “the fo’castle.”  It was built near Eastham, on the outermost spit of land against the Atlantic Ocean. When it was finished, he went out to stay for a few weeks. Those few weeks turned into a year of solitude and writing. The Outermost House is a memoir of that year of solitude and his observations and descriptions of that “elemental” area that bring it to life for the reader. As I read it I could hear the waves, I could  picture the shore birds, I could feel the wind and the storms. I slowed myself down from the busy-ness of the holidays so that I could read it word by word and enjoy the beauty of those words chosen so eloquently to bring to life a sense of place.

His book was instrumental in, or inspired, the establishment of Cape Cod as a National Seashore in 1961. Unfortunately, although his little house withstood many storms and an everchanging coastline (it was moved inland twice to preserve it), the severe winter storms of 1978 washed it out to sea.

I loved rereading this book. I loved learning more about the life of Henry Beston. And now I would very much love to spend some time on Cape Cod.

Some favorites from the book:

…The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied.

…The sea has many voices. Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear in it a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp, rifle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea.

…We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

“Biographical Snippets” by Jessica Ellen Monk :  Click here to read her full summary of Henry Beston’s life.

  • Born June 1, 1888, Quincy MA
  • Served as an ambulance driver in WW1 – 1915
  • Began a writing career after WWI
  • Had “the Fo’castle” built in 1925
  • Spent much of the next few years there in solitude
  • The Outermost House published in 1928
  • Married Elizabeth Coatsworth in 1929
  • Donated Fo’castle to the Audubon Society in 1959
  • Died April 15, 1968
  • Fo’castle washed away by a storm in 1978

 

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Death Comes for the Archbishop

“During those last weeks of the Bishop’s life he thought very little about death; it was the Past he was leaving. The future would take care of itself.”

Death Comes for the Archbishop is my favorite book written by Willa Cather so rereading it for my Classics Club challenge was a pleasure. It’s such a beautifully written book. It is an historical fiction, based on the life of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, who served as the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and of his friend, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf.

From the publisher:

There is something epic–and almost mythic–about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows–gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. Out of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended.

The character of Father Latour was of a gentle, caring, intelligent and introverted man. This man’s personality was in stark contrast with the rugged western landscapes and the “wildness” of the west at that time, but he showed courage, perseverance, and kindness toward all through the experiences of his life.

But Jean, who was at ease in any society and always the flower of courtesy, could not form new ties. It had always been so. He was like a very few. To man’s wisdom it would have seemed that a priest with Father Latour’s exceptional qualities would have been better placed in some part of the world where scholarship, a handsome person, and delicate perceptions all have their effect; and that a man of much rougher type would have served God well enough as the first Bishop of New Mexico. Doubtless Bishop Latour’s successors would be men of a different fibre. But God had his reasons, Father Joseph devoutly believed. Perhaps it pleased Him to grace the beginning of a new era and a vast new diocese by a fine personality. And perhaps, after all, something would remain through the years to come: some ideal, or memory, or legend.

The stories of the Archbishop’s interactions with the Mexican and Indian peoples and their cultures were poignantly and honestly told. The political problems of both cultures with the American government were complex, but reflecting towards the end of his life, the Bishop said, “My son, I have lived to see two great wrongs righted; I have seen the end of black slavery, and I have seen the Navajos restored to their own country.”

Cather’s  descriptions of New Mexico are exquisite. She uses her words as if a painter and the visions she creates in our minds are full of color and emotion.

“The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was monotonous and still, — and there was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. The plain was there, under one’s feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!”

I do love this work of art and the artistry of Willa Cather. Reading this book fills me with sunshine and deep emotion. I am in awe of her mastery of language.

“Something soft and wild and free, something that whispered to the ear on the pillow, lightened the heart, softly, softly picked the lock, slid the bolts, and released the prisoned spirit of man into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning!”

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It was also a book on my list for my personal reading journey, “May Sunshine Light Your Day.”