Category Archives: Summer reading

The Solitary Summer

“In the Garden”, by Helen Allingham (British, 1848-1926)

The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim is a short and lovely summer read. It is a sequel to her famous book, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, which I read years ago and loved. Click here to read my review. Elizabeth’s idea for her solitary summer is described in the quote below from the book:

May 2nd.

Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, “I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I’ll lie on the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me. Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have discovered there is peace.”

She did indeed have her solitary summer, even though husband and family were there at home with her. But she spent her days outdoors in the gardens and reading, and she had the freedom she so desired. Her ruminations on the books she read, and the flowers and plants she loves, are life-affirming. Her descriptions are lovely, and I felt as though I was there with her savoring that magical summer. All the way through the book I kept thinking of the saying: “If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need.”  And she said it even more eloquently in the book:

What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.

 

 

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

 

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, WANDERLUST: Reading the World,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the countries of the world. This book took place in Germany.

 

…painting by Sally Rosenbaum

 

This book is also part of My Garden Reading.

 

 

July Reading Reflections 2019

July fields of gold…

July was another fun reading month. I am revisiting favorite books from my growing up years, reading books I missed as a child, pursuing my garden reading passion, starting a new “reading around the world” focus, and simply enjoying my time outside reading on the porch!

I read ten books in July, and spent quite a bit of time going back and forth to the library. My favorite book of this month was Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing. And I loved reading two children’s classics that I hadn’t read as a child: Pollyanna (review coming soon), and A Dog of Flanders. Overall, a very pleasant reading month!

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.
~ Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

The books I read in July:

Cherry Ames, Nurse

Many many years ago, I found the book series Cherry Ames in the library. I read the first one and was hooked. I was determined to read every single one that was published, and I’m pretty sure I did.

During another trip to the library, 60 years later, I found the first one on the shelf and decided it would be fun to re-read it. It was fun! And since the library had a four-books-in-one ebook available for my Kindle, I went ahead and re-read the first 4 books in the series!

I can easily understand why the young me liked this character so much. She was an intelligent, independent, compassionate young woman with a strong sense of purpose. She wanted to be a nurse to help people, and that’s what she did, even if it got her in to trouble. She had a great sense of humor, and also a temper that would flair when she perceived injustice. She was a natural leader, and was not afraid to speak up to authority when she thought it was important. And she was an excellent nurse!

I thought I would describe her as a “woman ahead of her time,” but I actually think that she was vey much a woman of her own time. The first books were written during World War II, a time that called on the strengths of women as well as young men. It was so interesting to see the attitudes toward women at that time, and how doors of opportunity were opened to women because they were so needed during the war. I wonder if I keep re-reading the series if I will see within the stories the closing of many of those doors when the war ends and the men return home?

It was interesting to revisit something that had a powerful influence on me as a young person. Do we have series like this these days that encourage young people to make an impact on the world?

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables

This beautiful book called to me from the library shelf just recently. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am sad to have to return it soon. The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, by Catherine Reid, is the story of the author, L.M. Montgomery, and her beloved fictional character, Anne Shirley. It is an exploration of place, creativity, and the inspiration of the natural world. I love reading books about authors, especially authors of favorite books, and this one was lovely. The place where L.M. Montgomery lived, Prince Edward Island, shaped and inspired the author in her own life and became central to her writing and to the life she created for her character, Anne.

In the journals she kept throughout her life, Maud Montgomery reveals so many similar experiences to those of Anne Shirley that much of the novel appears to be autobiographical.

I didn’t know that much about L.M. Montgomery, so it was very interesting to learn about her life. The photographs of Prince Edward Island were beautiful. That beauty was a driving force in Montgomery’s life and work.

What we do know of Anne is that her goal is to create something beautiful, something memorable, as she says in Anne of Avonlea, “I’d like to add some beauty to life.”

For Maud Montgomery, writing was all those things and more, as necessary as sleeping or eating, providing her the moments when she was most alive and happy. Through writing, she brought together her fertile imagination, her love of beauty, and her reverence for the natural world.

“Oh, as long as we can work we can make life beautiful.”

…photo from blackberryrambles.blogspot.com

It was lovely out this evening. I went up over the hill in the clear pure November air and walked about until twilight had deepened into a moonlit autumn night. I was alone but not lonely. Thought was quick and vivid, imagination active and bright. . . . Then I came in, still tingling with the strange, wild, sweet life of the spirit, and wrote a chapter of my new serial—wrote it easily and pleasureably, with no flagging or halting. Oh, it is good to feel well and vivid and interesting and all alive! ~ from THE SELECTED JOURNALS OF L. M. MONTGOMERY, VOL. 1

Learning more about the life and work of L.M. Montgomery made me want to visit Prince Edward Island and experience that beauty and inspiration firsthand. It also made me want to read and re-read all her works. Somehow I missed reading the Anne of Green Gables books when I was growing up. My Mom and I discussed that at one point and couldn’t figure out how we missed those wonderful books! What a lovely summer project it would be to read/re-read them all, one after the other!

If you love Anne Shirley, this book about Maud and Anne and Prince Edward Island is a must!

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book from Canada.

Reflections: June 2019

My June reading was a total pleasure! I didn’t read as many books as I have in each of the last few months, but I enjoyed every minute of the books I did read. It was the beginning of my summer reading, and the weather was nice enough to allow me to sit in my favorite reading spot on the porch for much of the time. July will get too hot for afternoon reading out there, but for now it’s just perfect.

It’s hard to choose my favorite of the month because I read some terrific books! I absolutely loved The Ravenmaster, by Christopher Skaife, a book recommended to me by my bird-loving daughter. The audiobook is the way to enjoy this book because Christopher Skaife narrates it himself which adds tremendous fun to the experience. His stories of the ravens that live at the Tower of London are both fun and fascinating. I learned so much about ravens from him!

I just loved Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee, which I also listened to on audiobook and which was also narrated by the author. Mr. Lee’s voice was full of nostalgia and emotion, and I felt as if he was sitting right next to me sharing his memories with just me. I was reminded of my grandfather, and my father, both great storytellers.

A different type of memoir stole my heart next — Susan Hill’s The Magic Apple Tree is one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a long time. I was so captured by her beautiful writing and her remembrances of her life in the English countryside! Even before I finished the book, I started searching for two others that she wrote in a similar vein. They were hard to find, but I ordered them from Abe Books and was delighted when they arrived. More summer reading!

Some time spent reading The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy, and then re-watching the movie with my husband was fun. A light mystery, a classic science fiction novel, and a return to my childhood with a re-reading of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse rounded out the month.

I hope you are enjoying your summer reading as much as I am enjoying mine!