Friday, June 30, 2017

Thrush Green by Miss Read

A few weeks back I posted a review of the second of the Thrush Green books, Winter in Thrush Green. When I saw that I could read the first book via a Kindle Unlimited free trial, I jumped at the chance. I'm so glad I got to read the lovely introduction to the series.

The title might as well have been "The Fair at Thrush Green" because many of the events are connected to the magical day in May when Mrs. Curdle's fair comes to town. First we see it through the eyes of a little boy:

He lay there for a minute, beneath his tumbled bedclothes, savoring the excitement. His mind's eye saw again, with the sharp clarity of a six-year-old, the battered galloping horses with flaring nostrils, the glittering brass posts, twisted like giant sugar sticks, the dizzying red and yellow swing boats and the snakes of black rope that coiled across the bruised grass of Thrush Green waiting to ensnare the feet of the bedazzled. (p. 3)

Then we see it through the eyes of  the aging fair owner, the town physician, a pair of young lovers, a cantankerous spinster, and a lonely girl. Miss Read (née Dora Jessie Saint, 1913-2012) wonderfully describes human emotions without sentimentality. Even the way she writes about the lovers is fresh and light (none of the sweaty palms and goose bumps of most romantic Christian fiction.)

He knew, with a deep sense of wonder and inner comfort that was to remain with him all his life, that the girl before him was his forever, to be as essential to him, as much part of him, as his hand or eye. (p. 115)

Though people drink, smoke and swear on occasion, this is an utterly charming community that you will learn to love. Many of the characters face their trials bravely, cheerfully, and with an eye to serving others that I find absolutely refreshing in comparison to the self-absorbed characters in much modern fiction.

There are witticisms such as the food poisoning inflicted by the eccentric Dotty Harmer. Her neighbors are so used to it that they affectionately call it "Dolly's Collywobbles." The writing is gently lyrical: A gray squirrel darted up a tree with breath-taking ease, and the young man watched it leaping from bough to bough, as light and airy as a puff of gray smoke. (p.91)

Blessed are those who have access to these books. I will not be paying $10 each for the Kindle versions, so hope to find some of them when I'm in the U.S. next year. One of the commenters from the original post said she's been collecting all of them to read in order. A splendid idea!

Blessings,

Friday, June 23, 2017

81 Famous Poems

I love poetry anthologies, but am often dismayed by the inclusion of modern stuff that can barely be called poetic. (See my review of The Poet's Corner, for one example.) What a treat to find this audio compilation via my library's digital services.

No fluff here. The poems are all bona fide classics ranging from Milton’s “On His Blindness” to Blake’s “Little Lamb Who Made Thee?” to Robert Burn’s “To a Mouse.” If you want an education on the best-of-the-best, you need go no further. Alexander Scourby, Nancy Wickwire, and Bramwell Fletcher are all exceptional narrators. (A sample of Scourby reading "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" is here.)

I remember needing my college professor to explain “My Last Duchess,” but if I had heard this audio version, I would have had NO DOUBT as to Browning’s subtle meanings. This is probably the most powerful poem in the bunch because of the outstanding narration.

My enjoyment of the readings was enhanced by the fact that I was already acquainted with most of them. (If you are not familiar with them, it would take several listens to get their gist.) A particular favorite is Tennyson’s “The Eagle:”

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Apparently there is no book form of this compilation. It’s a supplement to the larger Norton Anthology of Poetry, third edition. The version I listened to said it was put out by BBC audio, which may explain why it is so top-notch. If you already love good poetry, or would like to become more knowledgeable, this is a lovely opportunity to plunge in. Highly recommended.

Blessings,

Friday, June 16, 2017

Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read

After reading four dreadful books in a row, I was desperate for something light and uplifting. Winter in Thrush Green was just the ticket.

This is my third Miss Read novel and my favorite so far. It takes place in the fictional village of Thrush Green in the 1950s. It’s very British and cozy in that there is no huge plotline. It recounts the ups and downs of the townfolk and avoids sentimentality by showing people’s faults. The characters are summed up in a few eloquent phrases that enable the reader to picture them perfectly:

Winnie Bailey had watched her neighbors, grow from children to men and women, and followed their fortunes with an interest which was both shrewd and warm-hearted.

. . . The rector of Thrush Green bore a striking resemblance to the cherubs which decorated his church and his disposition was as child-like and innocent as theirs. He was a man blessed with true humility and warm with charity. From the top of his shining bald head to the tips of his small black shoes he radiated a happiness that disarmed all comers.

My only complaint is that the author highlights so many different characters that it's hard to feel like you "know" any one person. Maybe you need to read all the Thrush Green books for that.

Miss Read was the pseudonym for British writer Dora Saint (1913-2012). She wrote novels of English rural life in two villages, Fairacre and Thrush Green. They are still so popular that they run about ten dollars for Kindle, so I was happy to pick up this title when it was marked down to $2. Some of her titles are free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Blessings,

Monday, June 12, 2017

Literary Fiction Deals in E-books for June

Most of Amazon's monthly deals are fluffy pop culture titles, so I was delighted to see some heftier titles for sale this month.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries Book 5)
This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry
A Place in Time by Wendell Berry (20 Port William Stories)
Poems by C.S. Lewis
3 James Herriot classics

Rumer Godden is a non-typical author whose books I enjoy, but I rarely see them available for Kindle. So I was intrigued to find The Battle of the Villa Fiorita for $1.99. I have not read this, but reviewers at Amazon write: "This is a thought-provoking novel that explores marriage, divorce, and family life with wit and sensitivity." And "It's well-written, witty and charming, but it's also heartbreakingly sensitive." I'll be giving it a try.

P.S. If your library has Hoopla digital services, you can read most of these titles for free.

Blessings,

Friday, June 9, 2017

On Stories by C.S. Lewis

I've read and appreciated The Chronicles of Narnia and half a dozen other C.S. Lewis titles, but one of my favorites is his lesser known An Experiment in Criticism (which I reviewed in 2009). On Stories is a book of essays that continues with the same theme of literary taste, what it means and how it is formed.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lewis' thoughts on fairy tales, Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers and children's lit because those are subjects dear to my heart. (This is the book with the famous quote, "A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story.") He makes a valiant effort to define good art vs. bad art in his essay, "Different Tastes in Literature." The other essays (on authors and topics that were unknown to me) required perseverance. This is a perfect book for reading in short spurts, giving yourself time to mull over and digest its ideas.

Lewis had a wide range of reading tastes and mentions many authors who were popular during his lifetime but who have since dropped off the scene. The third essay was a tribute to new-to-me author E.R. Eddison. The day after I read that chapter, I saw Eddison listed on Nick Senger's list of 50 classics. (It's #22 - The Worm Ouroboros.) I love making reading connections!

Other authors mentioned by Lewis that sent me scurrying for more information were Tobias Smollet, Mervyn Weakes, John Collier and Alfred Mee. Lewis compliments Henry Rider Haggard for the first lines of the book She and H.G. Wells for When The Sleeper Awakes. He has high praise for James Stephens' Deirdre (published in 1923) and calls David Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus a "shattering, intolerable, and irresistible work."  His referral to Edwin Abbott's Flatland and George William Russell's poetry also added to my "books to investigate" list. Lewis admits that some of these authors have more imagination than writing skill, but that their stories are compelling nonetheless. Happily, most are free for Kindle so it won't be an expensive to explore them.

Blessings,

Monday, June 5, 2017

June Non-fiction E-book Deals at Amazon

There are so many good deals this month I'm breaking them into two posts. First, I'll highlight the non-fiction deals.

Marriage
Cherish by Gary Smalley ($2.99)
The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler ($1.99)
Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb (one of my favorite marriage books, 99 cents)

Bible Study
These 21 commentaries by Warren Wiersbe are $1.99 (rather than the usual $10)

BEST DEAL: Commentaries on ALL of Paul's Letters (9 books for $2!)

Old Testament:
Genesis 1-11 (Be Basic), Judges (Be Available), Ruth & Esther (Be Committed), II Samuel & I Chronicles (Be Restored), Psalm 90-150 (Be Exultant), Proverbs (Be Skillful), Ezekiel (Be Reverent), Isaiah (Be Comforted), Minor Prophets - six books (Be Amazed) three others (Be Heroic)

New Testament:
John 13-21(Be Transformed), Romans (Be Right), I Corinthians (Be Wise), II Corinthians (Be Encouraged), Galatians (Be Free), Ephesians (Be Rich), James (Be Mature), 1 John (Be Real), I Peter (Be Hopeful), II Peter, II John, III John, Jude (Be Alert)

Other Topics
We Cannot be Silent: Speaking Truth to Our Culture by Albert Mohler Jr.
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Honoré (secular but helpful, I reviewed it here)

My next post will be on great deals in literary fiction.

Blessings,

Friday, June 2, 2017

Quotes from The Picture of Dorian Gray

Last week I reviewed The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I wrote earlier that I was flabbergasted by the subtle poisonous theories that Lord Henry teaches Dorian. They sound clever and funny but within the context of the novel, they are deeply disturbing. Here are just a few examples.

The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well-written, or badly written. That is all.

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.

I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.

The people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call loyalty and fidelity, I call lack of imagination.

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it is forbidden to have.

Youth is the one thing worth having... Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing...

To be good is to be in harmony with one's self. Ones' own life - that is the important thing.

It is better to be beautiful than to be good.

The only horrible thing in the world is ennui. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.

Most of Lord Henry's audience do not agree with these ideas, but he spouts them out with such offhand charm, that it's hard to argue against him. Gray swallows them unreservedly and it leads to his ruin. 

Blessings,