Category Archives: The Classics Club

November Reading, 2021

November has been a busy reading month for me. Here are the books I finished this month:

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And here are the books I’ve been reading in November that are taking longer to finish:

Summer at Fairacre

Chalgrove, England: watercolor by Ian Ramsay

The author, Dora Saint, whose pseudonym is Miss Read, wrote two delightful series about life in an English Village as described through the eyes of the village school teacher. The first series is the Fairacre series, the second is the Thrush Green series. As a personal project, I have slowly been reading my way through the Fairacre series, and enjoying each volume and growing to love the myriad of characters that live in the village. I’m looking forward to moving on to Thrush Green soon!

Summer at Fairacre starts with the first day of spring and ends at the beginning of autumn. It is an ode to the loveliness of the village during the warmth and beauty throughout the summer months. First, there’s the anticipation of the warmer months and the freedom that arrives with them. Then, there’s the changing of the season, the storms, the gardens, the birds, the quiet moments of just sitting and enjoying the warmth of the sun. And interwoven with all of this was the school, the children, and the schoolmistress, with all the complications and joys of daily life.

The golden weather continued. For week after week the sun had gilded all with glory, and it came as quite a shock to realise that July was upon us, and still the sun shone. Soon it would be end of term, with all that that involved for a schoolmistress…

The only major drama in this story concerns the cantankerous Mrs. Pringle, the school cleaner. She’s so difficult to get along with, but keeps the school sparkling clean. Unfortunately, she gets offended easily, and this time decides to quit her job, out of spite, it seems.  But more unfortunately, finding a permanent replacement for her proves to be almost impossible.

We all know that summer goes by too quickly, and that was the feeling in Summer at Fairacre. While living their everyday lives, the people of Fairacre celebrated the season and appreciated each other, even when that was difficult to do.

It grieved me to think of the waning of this most glorious of all summers, its joys and its splendours. Well, we had celebrated it, every one of us, and must face the inevitable, I supposed.

This was a gentle and humorous read. If you need a break from the stress and hustle of the holiday season, and perhaps are missing the warmth of summer, I recommend this book and series as a healing antidote.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit, read by Andi Serkis

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is a book I’ve read so many times I’ve lost track of the number. But every time I reread it, I find something new to enjoy about it. This time, I listened to the new audiobook version narrated by Andi Serkis. What an incredible talent he has for voices, dialects, and everything it takes to bring such a story to life!  Just in case you don’t know, Andi Serkis was the voice actor and motion capture actor for the animated character of Gollum in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And he did an awesome job of narrating The Hobbit!

from the publisher:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.   Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit has sold many millions of copies worldwide and established itself as a modern classic.

If you are looking for a delightful audiobook for the whole family to listen to during the holidays, look no further! This is just a delightful entertainment for all.

Smaug, illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven, begins with a diagnosis.

painting by Emily Carr

The doctor said to the Bishop, “So you see, my lord, your young ordinand can live no more than three years and doesn’t know it. Will you tell him, and what will you do with him?” The Bishop said to the doctor, “Yes, I’ll tell him, but not yet. If I tell him now, he’ll try too hard. How much time has he for an active life?” “A little less than two years if he’s lucky.” “So short a time to learn so much? It leaves me no choice. I shall send him to my hardest parish. I shall send him to Kingcome on patrol of the Indian villages.” “Then I hope you’ll pray for him, my lord.” But the Bishop only answered gently that it was where he would wish to go if he were young again, and in the ordinand’s place.

So the young vicar, unaware of his diagnosis, went to live in the village of Kingcome. Over time he learned the Kwákwala language. He learned about and appreciated the old ways of the people of the village, and came to understand the struggles of the young people. He became close to many of the villagers, and they came to him for support and guidance. But it was the villagers who would teach him the most fundamental things about life and death.

About the people:

There was pride in his eyes without arrogance. Behind the pride was a sadness so deep it seemed to stretch back into ancient mysteries…

Kingcome villagers…

About the village:

“The Indian knows his village and feels for his village as no white man for his country, his town, or even for his own bit of land. His village is not the strip of land four miles long and three miles wide that is his as long as the sun rises and the moon sets. The myths are the village and the winds and the rains. The river is the village, and the black and white killer whales that herd the fish to the end of the inlet the better to gobble them. The village is the salmon who comes up the river to spawn, the seal who follows the salmon and bites off his head, the blue jay whose name is like the sound he makes—‘Kwiss-kwiss.’ The village is the talking bird, the owl, who calls the name of the man who is going to die, and the silver-tipped grizzly who ambles into the village, and the little white speck that is the mountain goat on Whoop-Szo.

A village at Kingcome Inlet…

When after his few years of living with the native tribe, the young vicar finally understands what is happening to him, and that he will have to leave his place in the village, that someone will arrive to replace him in his work, he  tries to come to terms with such a change, and tries to come to terms with the end of all things.

How would he live again in the old world he had almost forgotten, where men throw up smoke screens between themselves and the fundamentals whose existence they fear but seldom admit? Here, where death waited behind each tree, he had made friends with loneliness, with death and deprivation, and, solidly against his back had stood the wall of his faith.

And what had he learned? Surely not the truth of the Indian. There was no one truth. He had learned a little of the truth of one tribe in one village. He had seen the sadness, the richness, the tragic poignancy of a way of life that each year, bit by bit, slipped beyond memory and was gone. For a time he had been part of it, one of the small unknown men who take their stand in some remote place, and fight out their battle in a quiet way.

It was the village that reached out to him to ease his mind at that point in his life.

“Stay with us. Marta has told us. We have written the Bishop and asked that he let you remain here to the end, because this is your village and we are your family. You are the swimmer who came to us from the great sea,” and he put his arms around her and held her close, finding no words to say thank you for the sudden, unexpected gift of peace which they had offered him in their quiet, perceptive way.

It is a poignant but uplifting story. The descriptions of the land there and the villagers’ relationship with the environment, are beautifully written. It is a quiet, honest book, a true classic, and I loved reading it.

The author, Margaret Craven, lived in the village of Kingcome, in British Columbia, for awhile before she wrote the book. The photos I chose for this post are from that area, so I hope they help give a visual reference for this story.

https://www.sfu.ca/brc/virtual_village/Kwakwaka_wakw.html

Kwakiutl canoe

Reading The Three Musketeers


One classic book that has been on my TBR list since long ago is The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. It is one of the books I included on my new Classics Club, List #2, for my second round of reading fifty books in five years, and I’m looking forward to finally reading it.

I discovered that another member of The Classics Club is hosting a read-along for the book. The challenge is set up in a chapter-a-day format, which simply takes the hesitancy out of starting a long book or series. This read-along started yesterday, October 25th, so I will read two chapters today, and be right on track. I’m so looking forward to reading this wonderful old classic!

A special thank you to Nick Senger (Deacon Nick) for organizing and hosting this read-along!

Click here to read information on the read-along.

 

Spin Book Reading

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Today, the number was chosen for The Classics Club Spin #28. It was book #12 on my list, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain, so I will be spending the next few days immersed in this story.

I actually have both the print version and the audiobook version. The audiobook is narrated by Nick Offerman, so I know it’s going to be a fun listen!

Happy reading to all who are participating in this fun event!

The Amethyst Box

The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green, was a short mystery that kept me guessing until the end.

Two young women, their fiances,  and a group of friends were gathered for the wedding of one of the young women, Gilbertine. Both she and her cousin, Dorothy, were accompanied by their Aunt, who is their tyrannical and cruel guardian. Gilbertine and Sinclair’s  wedding was to be held the next day, but that night, just after everyone had retired for the evening, a piercing scream was heard and the Aunt lay dead. Natural causes? Nope, although it looked that way at first.

Sinclair had brought with him from his collection of oddities, a tiny amethyst box, a beautiful and rare trinket containing a tiny vial with one drop of the world’s most potent poison. It went missing in the early evening, so Sinclair and Worthington (Dorothy’s fiance) began to search. With the Aunt’s death, they realized that they were too late in finding the poison. Who had stolen the vial and administered the poison?  It seemed the two most likely suspects are Gilbertine and her cousin, Dorothy!

Anna Katharine Green wrote many mystery/detective stories in the early 1900s. She was actually a poet, but couldn’t make a living with her poetry, so turned to mystery writing, instead. She was wonderful at creating enjoyable plots, so her mysteries are compelling and she became an influential author in this genre.

Anna Katharine Green (photo by Hulton Deutshc)

I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XVI challenge. It was also a book chosen to read for my The Classics Club, Round 2.

Classics Club Spin #28

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Sunday, 17th October.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 12th December, 2021.

Here is my list of 20 books. Check back here on October 17th to see which book I will be reading for this new Spin.

  1. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  2. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
  3. The Little Bulbs, by Elizabeth Lawrence
  4. The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
  5. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  6. Home, by Toni Morrison
  7. The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. In Morocco, by Edith Wharton
  9. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  11. Summer at Fairacre, by Miss Read
  12. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain

  13. The Cossacks, by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  15. Night, by Ellie Wiesel
  16. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
  17. Round the Bend, by Nevil Shute
  18. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  19. House Made of Dawn, by M. Scott Momaday
  20. Malgudi Days, by R.K. Narayan

The Fortnight in September

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What a sweet way to end my summer reading! The Fortnight in September, by R.C. Sherriff, was a delightful ode to family and summer vacations. Every September for many years, the Stevens family has been making their end-of-summer pilgrimage to the same seaside town, staying at the same (now aging) inn, and enjoying the break from all their usual activities. In this quiet, slow-paced book, you get to know each member of the family and what that fortnight in September means to them. That’s it…nothing earthshaking, just a regular family on vacation. But this author is masterful at capturing the nostalgia of such a yearly vacation over time, and capturing the sunshine and joy of time away from the usual hustle and bustle. It is a timeless story, and full of sunshine for the soul.

Walking with Thoreau

Walking on a trail in the Hoh Rain Forest, 2019…

Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay called Walking, which was published as a long article in The Atlantic in 1862. Although some of the words he used are dated — we seldom use “methinks” anymore — his ideas are still clear and fresh today, and it is very readable. In this essay, he expresses his need for long walks in nature, and laments the loss of “wildness” in our culture and the encroachment of private ownership of great parcels of wilderness areas. Looking back at his world of 1862, when there were still great areas of unsettled land, and where woods and forests still remained right outside of towns, easily accessible for long rambles, it makes me sad to realize how far away we have come from that closeness to nature.

He reveled in the beauty of nature on those walks, a phenomenon that was mostly unknown to the village dweller who sat indoors all day:

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow east-ward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

And he prized “wildness” over “civilized.”  Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance—which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones.

He used the word “sauntering,” and gave the history of the word from the Middle Ages, which basically meant a type of “crusade.” So walking was not merely taking a walk, but was a devotion, a commitment to immersing oneself in wildness.

If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again — if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man — then you are ready for a walk.

I enjoyed his musings on being in nature, and I admired his commitment to living in wildness. He was a unique individual with unique circumstances that allowed the freedom he had to devote his life to nature. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by what I perceive as his fanaticism, but he reminds us of what we have almost completely lost today: the incredible restorative power on the human soul of being outside, in the wild, in nature.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50 books in 5 years for The Classics Club, Round 2.

The Classics Club, Round 2


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I first joined The Classics Club in March of 2017 and signed up to read 50 books in 5 years. I just completed those fifty books and it turned out to be a really enjoyable reading experience for me. I do love reading the classics, so here I go with a second round of reading 50 books in the next 5 years!

As with my first list, my reading will be a mix of novels, novellas, non-fiction, short stories, and poetry — a combination of adult and children’s literature. This time I’ve decided to create a pool of classics I’m interested in reading, add to it often as I run into other books I’d like to read, and choose my 50 from that pool of books. I will keep a running list of the books I read along this journey, so please check back here to see my progress. My new time goal for completing this second round of reading 50 books in 5 years is October 1, 2026!  Once again, that sounds so far away, but I know that five years goes by in a flash, and what pleasurable reading years they will be!

(Click here to see my completed Classics Club List #1)

Classics Club List #2    

GOAL DATE: October 1, 2021 – October 1, 2026
Progress = 7/50

Red = Link to my review
Blue = Read but not reviewed yet

  1. Walking, by Henry David Thoreau
  2. The Fortnight in September, by R.C. Sherriff
  3. The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green
  4. I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven
  5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Summer at Fairacre, by Miss Read
  7. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  8. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
  9. The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
  10. .
  11. .
  12. .
  13. .

CLASSICS I’M INTERESTED IN READING, found on my shelves or on my Kindle, collected over the years:

Adams, Douglas:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

Agee, James:  A Death in the Family

Allende, Isabel:  The House of the Spirits

Arkell, Reginald:  Old Herbaceous

Armstrong, William K.:  Sounder

Austin, Mary Hunter:  The Land of Little Rain

Baldwin, James:  The Fire Next Time

Beston, Henry:  The Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm

Bronte, Anne:  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Bronte, Charlotte:  The Professor

Bronte, Charlotte:  Shirley

Bronte, Charlotte:  Villette

Bronte, Charlotte:  The Green Dwarf

Buck, Pearl S:  Sons

Buck, Pearl S:  A House Divided

Buck, Pearl S:  Mandala: A Novel of India

Burnett, Frances Hodgson:  A Little Princess

Burnett, Frances Hodgson:  Little Lord Fauntleroy

Burnett, Frances Hodgson:  The Land of the Blue Flower

Camus, Albert:  The Stranger

Carson, Rachel:  The Sea Around Us

Chekhov, Anton:  The Black Monk

Conrad, Joseph:  The Secret Agent

Conrad, Pam:  My Daniel

Craven, Margaret:  I Heard the Owl Call My Name

Dickens, Charles:  The Chimes

Dickens, Charles:  The Holly Tree

Dinesen, Isak:  Winter Tales

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor:  The Idiot

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor:  White Nights

Douglass, Frederick:  A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Doyle, Arthur Conan:  The Sign of the Four

Doyle, Arthur Conan:  The Hound of the Baskerville

Doyle, Arthur Conan:  The Valley of Fear

Du Bois, W.E.B.:  The Souls of Black Folk

Dumas, Alexandre:  The Three Musketeers

Dumas, Alexandre:  Twenty Years After

Dumas, Alexandre:  The Vicomte of Bragelonne

Easwaren, Eknath, translator:  The Bhagavad Gita

Eliot, George:  Daniel Deronda

Emecheta, Buhi:  The Joys of Motherhood

Farley, Walter:  The Black Stallion

Fleming, Ian:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car

Gaskell, Elizabeth:  Ruth

Gaskell, Elizabeth:  Mary Barton

Goldman, William:  The Princess Bride

Green, Anna Katharine:  The Amethyst Box

Green, Bette:  Phillip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon

Gunther, John:  Death Be Not Proud

Hamilton, Virginia:  The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales

Hardy, Thomas:  The Return of the Native

Harrer, Hermann:  Seven Years in Tibet

Hesse, Hermann:  Siddhartha

Heyer, Georgette:  Footsteps in the Dark

Hudson, W.H.:  Green Mansions

Irving, Washington:  Tales of the Alhambra

Irving, Washington:  Old Christmas

Knowles, John:  A Separate Peace

Kundera, Milan:  The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Lawrence, Elizabeth:  The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens

Lee, Laurie:  As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Lee, Laurie:  A Moment of War

Lee, Laurie:  A Rose for Winter

Lofting, Hugh:  The Story of Dr. Dolittle

Macdonald, Betty:  The Egg and I

Mansfield, Katherine:  New Zealand Stories

Matthiessen, Peter:  The Snow Leopard

McGraw, Eloise Jarvis:  The Golden Goblet

Momaday, N. Scott:  House Made of Dawn

Morrison, Toni:  Home

Narayan, R.K.:  Malgudi Days

Nichols, Beverley:  Garden Open Today

Nichols, Beverley:  Garden Open Tomorrow

Okakura, Kazuko:  The Book of Tea

Perenyi, Eleanor:  Green Thoughts

Proust, Marcel:  Days of Reading

Proust, Marcel:  Remembrance of Things Past

Pym, Barbara:  Some Tame Gazelle

Read, Miss:  Summer at Fairacre

Read, Miss:  Mrs. Pringle

Rushdie, Salman:  The Enchantress of Florence

Rushdie, Salman:  Luka and the Fire of Life

Scott, Sir Walter:  Ivanhoe

Shakespeare, William:  Hamlet

Sharma, Bulbul:  The Ramayana

Sherriff, R.C.:  The Fortnight in September

Shute, Nevil:  On the Beach

Shute, Nevil:  Marazan

Shute, Nevil:  Round the Bend

Shute, Nevil:  What Happened to the Corbetts?

Smith, Betty:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Sorensen, Virginia:  Miracles on Maple Hill

Soseki, Natsume:  Kokoro

Taylor, Mildred D.:  Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

Thoreau, Henry David:  Walking

Tolkien, J.R.R.:  The Hobbit

Tolstoy, Leo:  The Cossacks

Trollope, Anthony:  Barchester Towers

Trollope, Anthony:  Doctor Thorne

Trollope, Anthony:  Framley Parsonage

Trollope, Anthony:  The Small House at Allington

Trollope, Anthony:  The Last Chronicle of Barset

Twain, Mark:  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Tzu, Lao:  Tao Te Ching

Verne, Jules:  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

von Arnim, Elizabeth:  The Caravaners

von Arnim, Elizabeth:  Princess Pricilla’s Fortnight

Washington, Booker T.:  Up From Slavery

Welty, Eudora:  Delta Wedding

Welty, Eudora:  Losing Battles

Wharton, Edith:  In Morocco

Whitman, Walt:  Walt Whitman’s Diary: A Summer in Canada, 1880

Wiesel, Elie:  Night

Wiesel, Elie:  Day

Wiesel, Elie:  Dawn

Woolf, Virginia:  A Room of One’s Own

Zola, Emile:  Therese Raquin

Reading on the porch…

 

 

A Completed Challenge: The Classics Club, Round One

On March 7, 2017, I joined The Classics Club and made a commitment to read 50 books in 5 years. I just posted my 50th review and completed this challenge!

I loved the reading I did for this challenge, and because I enjoyed it so much, and because there are endless classics to read, I’ll be signing up in the next few days for another 50 books in 5 years!  Watch for my post: Classics Club-Round 2!

You can click here to see my Classics Club-Round 1, with the list of the books I read and the links to my reviews.

Woohoo!!   And now… back to my reading!

“Figure in Backlight”, by Pietro Scoppetta, Italian 1863-1920