Happy Summer Solstice, my friends! It’s a coolish day here, just right for picking cherries this morning and then reading on the porch this afternoon. I’m going to spend some time today rereading one of my favorite books on my garden shelf: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden. I pull this old volume off my shelf quite often to enjoy once again her beautiful artwork of each month or season in a gardening year.
This is all I want to do today! How about you?
Long before many of the dystopian books that are so popular these days were written, Sylvia Engdahl wrote a very compelling young adult science fiction trilogy. The first volume was called This Star Shall Abide, and I read it last week. It’s a book that has been on my TBR shelf for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to it! It was a read I couldn’t put down, and I was very impressed with the ideas that were the basis of the story. The idea of “truth”, for example, and how important it is to be true to oneself. Such a timely concept! It’s what I used to call a “thinker book” when I was teaching. Books that were full of very human dilemmas and problems to be solved, and books that make for very thoughtful discussions. Those are the kind of science fiction books I really like.
Synopsis of the story from the author’s web site:
Noren knew that his world was not as it should be–it was wrong that only the Scholars, and their representatives the Technicians, could use metal tools and Machines. It was wrong that only they had access to the mysterious City, which he had always longed to enter. Above all, it was wrong for the Scholars to have sole power over the distribution of knowledge. The High Law imposed these restrictions and many others, though the Prophecy promised that someday knowledge and Machines would be available to everyone. Noren was a heretic. He defied the High Law and had no faith in the Prophecy’s fulfillment. But the more he learned of the grim truth about his people’s deprivations, the less possible it seemed that their world could ever be changed. It would take more drastic steps than anyone imagined to restore their rightful heritage.
From The School Library Journal in 1972:
“Superior future fiction concerning the fate of an idealistic misfit, Noren, who rebels against his highly repressive society…. Although there is little overt action, the attention of mature sci-fi readers will be held by the skillful writing and excellent plot and character development.” It received the Christopher Award in 1973, for its “affirmation of the highest values of the human spirit.”
Some interesting quotes from the book:
…“Wherever he went he would be a stranger, for there was no home in the world for such as he.”
…“But as long as he kept on caring, nothing could touch the freedom of his inner thoughts.”
…”Knowledge was what he’d longed for, and he could not believe that the process of absorbing it would be anything but a joy.”
About the Author:
Sylvia Engdahl is an Oregon author, which is another reason I like reading her books. A few years ago, I read her book, Enchantress from the Stars, and loved it. That book received a Newbery Honor Award in 1971. You can read more about her and her books at her web site. http://sylviaengdahl.com
Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee, is a memoir that captures beautifully a time and place. Laurie Lee was a poet, and this memoir (the first of a trilogy of memoirs) was poetic and lyrical and beautiful to read. I also had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook of Laurie Lee himself reading this first volume. For me, it was a very moving experience. His old voice was filled with emotion and nostalgia. As he read, I thought of my grandparents and of my father … the stories Laurie Lee told were familiar and in some ways similar to stories my elders told me as I was growing up. My father, too, grew up in a small village in a small valley. He, too, told stories filled with nostalgia, and his descriptions of the valley and the stories of his childhood became part of me. So I loved this little book and look forward to reading the next two memoirs.
Below are two samples of his storytelling, and examples of why I loved this book.
A brief snippet from one chapter that told wonderful stories about two old ladies in the village, their lives and deaths completely intertwined…
“Me dad planted that tree,’ she said absently, pointing out through the old cracked window.
The great beech filled at least half the sky and shook shadows all over the house.
Its roots clutched the slope like a giant hand, holding the hill in place. Its trunk writhed with power, threw off veils of green dust, rose towering into the air, branched into a thousand shaded alleys, became a city for owls and squirrels. I had thought such trees to be as old as the earth, I never dreamed that a man could make them. Yet it was Granny Trill’s dad who had planted this tree, had thrust in the seed with his finger. How old must he have been to leave such a mark? Think of Granny’s age, and add his on top, and you were back at the beginning of the world.”
A description of his mother’s garden…
“Our terraced strip of garden was Mother’s monument, and she worked it headstrong, without plan. She would never control or clear this ground, merely cherish whatever was there; and she was as impartial in her encouragement to all that grew as a spell of sweet sunny weather. She would force nothing, graft nothing, nor set things in rows; she welcomed self-seeders, let each have its head, and was the enemy of very few weeds. Consequently our garden was a sprouting jungle and never an inch was wasted.”
It’s a warm Sunday afternoon. Our neighbor is burning leaves and stuff in her backyard, filling our yard with the smoke. So we are inside instead of working outside for awhile, and I am listening to a new audiobook: Cider With Rosie, written and narrated by Laurie Lee! It’s like sitting next to my grandpa listening to him telling stories from his life. It’s a lovely old recording, and he is a beautiful writer and storyteller.
I always love that first moment of solitude, when the sound of the birds is suddenly noticed, and the scent of the flowers reminds one of the quiet country pleasures ahead.
~Miss Read, from Village Affairs
I must start this post with an apology for disappearing into silence on this blog. April and May have been a particularly busy time for me as well as an emotional time. (We call May our “tender-hearted month” in my family.) Unfortunately, once I get off track with my posting, I find it hard to get “back in the groove” again. But I have continued with my reading, even being able to read on the porch again when time has allowed, and I am here now to say HI and to reflect on my May reading.
May has been a completely enjoyable reading month. I’ve squeezed in as much reading as I can in between multiple trips to Washington State helping our daughter move and get settled into her new home; helping my husband with his shed building project in our backyard (I’ve always been his construction assistant); trips to the State Legislature with my Moms Demand Action group; and my continuing efforts to get the yard and garden in shape (it still feels like a wilderness area!). I’ve read mostly mysteries, and all have been very enjoyable. I am also half-way through the audiobook of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, and am almost finished reading Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October which I wanted to read before Hubby and I watch the movie again (one of our favorites). I also downloaded the audiobook version (free) of the Mueller Report and am very slowly making my way through it. I feel it is a very important work to read, no matter how long it takes me.
Busy, busy time…and as my friend, Les (Coastal Horizons) said, “Who knew retirement would be so busy!”
Here are the covers of my completed May reads.
For the last few weeks, I’ve had my nose in some very interesting books, as my Dad used to say to me. And I’m enjoying every minute of my reading right now. Isn’t that a nice thing to be able to say!
I finished Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling, a story of another murder in Three Pines (the murder capital of the world?). I loved the references to the artist Emily Carr, and the trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands made by Chief Inspector Gamache as he worked to understand and solve this mysterious death.
from the publisher:
Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.
Then I read another book by Nevil Shute, Mysterious Aviator, which kept me captivated for a couple of days. This book was published in 1928 under the title of So Disdained.
from the publisher:
When Peter Moran, a former World War I pilot, picks up a man on the roadside while driving through a bitter rainy night, he is startled to discover that the bedraggled man is a wartime comrade of his who has just survived a crash landing. As he learns more about his old friend’s strange mission, Moran finds himself entangled in treasonous international plots, flying adventures, and tests of both his bravery and his loyalty.
After the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, I decided to start listening to the audiobook version of Ken Follett’s, The Pillars of the Earth, the first book in his Kingsbridge Novels trilogy about the building of a medieval cathedral, and it has completely carried me away!
And as if listening to 44 hours of The Pillars of the Earth wasn’t keeping me busy enough, I read a lovely review by Jane @Beyond Eden Rock about Greengates, by R.C. Sherriff. It sounded so interesting that I searched for a copy but couldn’t find it at Powell’s or at my local libraries. I finally found that it was available for my Kindle so I downloaded it, started reading, and have loved every minute of it!
From the Persephone Books catalogue:
The plot is timeless and simple: a man retires from his job but finds that never were truer words said than ‘for better, for worse but not for lunch’. His boredom, his wife’s (suppressed and confused) dismay at the quiet orderliness of her life being destroyed, their growing tension with each other, is beautifully and kindly described. Then one day they do something they used to do more often – leave St John’s Wood and go out into the countryside for the day. And that walk changes their lives forever: they see a house for sale, decide to move there, and the nub of the book is a description of their leaving London, the move, and the new life they create for themselves.
I have so many more interesting books to read next, but I also have a garden to plant, much weeding to do, meetings with my Moms Demand Action team, my fitness class schedule, and a 5k race to walk on Sunday morning. All of a sudden, life is very busy!
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.)
My reading time in March was more limited than during the winter months. The nicest reason for that was the arrival of spring blooms and occasional warm-enough days to spend outside cleaning out garden areas, and preparing one area of former garden for the big construction project my husband is undertaking — building a half-garden and half-bicycle shed. That required some transplanting, which we did in the rain.
I also increased my walking time in March, preparing for and then participating in the Shamrock Run in downtown Portland. I was very proud of myself after being relatively sedentary during the cold and icy months. It felt so good to be outside (however soggy) and back in training!
Anyway, I did enjoy my March reading, I just wasn’t as focused on reading projects, which is really OK, I tell myself. And right now, I am happy to have some gardening time (between rainstorms) and as far as my reading goes, I am particularly enjoying reading mysteries again!
Books read in March:
Favorite quote from March reading:
Eugenia Lincoln was very fond of lists. They helped her think. Lists calmed her. They made the world seem orderly and reasonable and manageable, even though the world was none of those things.
~ from Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, by Kate DiCamillo
Some photos from March: