The biggest dream I have for our home one day is for it to have a beautiful library, filled with antiqued copies of books that have sprinkled some amount of impression on my heart. Dark wood, deep window seats filled with pillows, overstuffed leather couches with throw blankets draped over their arms, book shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling, a big fire place, windows that look out over the countryside, and (most importantly) a ladder clinging to the bookcases that slides around the entire room. Ohhh, how I want to go there right now!
I decided that if I'm going to fill a whole library with books I've read, then I better get reading AND collecting these antique books slowly over time. I have already seen how quickly my mind forgets some of the dear friends it's met on its journey through a book's pages, so I want to keep track of a short summary of each.... I want to have a way to jog my memory when Pace asks me, one day, whether this book or that is a good one. So, one of the things I am going to try to do is keep a record here. These are the books I've read since (I just looked back at the last blog entry) the first of March, when I told you about the secret garden. Hopefully, you may find one or two that you'd like to try yourself :)
Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens: Jeremiah gave me a set of antique Dickens books for Christmas this year. I decided I needed to make a dent in them, so I started with Oliver Twist and then moved on to this novel. Honestly, it's not high on my recommendation list. I think a boy would probably like it better than I did, but there was more fighting than love story and that just doesn't suit my taste. Dickens, however, is such a master of description! In my own writing I find that that is what I lack the most, so this book was a very good learning tool.
It is set in 18th century England during the Gordon Riot, which were riots led by Lord George Gordon protesting against giving rights back to Catholics in England. We see the bitterness of these revolts through a love story between two people whose families are on opposite ends of this debate, a young man who joins the troops after losing in the game of love, and a handicapped young man named Barnaby Rudge who is naively pulled into the swelling tide of the riots. One of my favorite things about this book is the relationship between Barnaby and his mother. She so poignantly portrays the fact that there is something especially sweet about a handicapped child... What other boy, at the age of 25, would still lay his head on his mother's lap while she strokes his hair and reads him stories?
All in all, it is a moving story, with many ironically laughable moments. If the Lord ever gives us a child with a disability, I would definitely want to re-read this book. Otherwise, one reading was plenty.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri: After Barnaby, I was in need of a simple children's story! This fit my needs perfectly. Set in the Alps, Spyri tells a sweet story of a little girl with a heart filled with love. She transforms a hardened grandfather, a roguish young shepherd, an invalid old woman, a sickly rich girl, and a grieving doctor all by the way she loves them.
I will also say that all the descriptions of the cheeses, handmade by her grandfather, then toasted over the fire...served with scraps of bread and fresh milk in the cool mountain air...left me craving these items so much that it was all I ate for lunch for many days. I went straight to Publix from the gym one day, just to purchase some round cheese block that I could toast and a fresh baguette of white bread. I WAS in the first trimester of pregnancy, but you may want to go on a diet before you start this one.
The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Yes! this is the same lady who wrote The Secret Garden, but this book is for adults. Don't let the title turn you off, because before NASA, a shuttle could be a lot of things besides a rocket ship. In this novel, it represents the steamliners that carried people "quickly" between England and America. This is a story of love between two cultures, and the differences/similarities between British and American society. Here is a quote from The Shuttle, which encapsulates the novel's feeling on the subject of England:
"What could be more natural? We belong to it--it belongs to us. I could never be convinced that the old tie of blood does not count. All nationalities have come to us since we became a nation, but most of us in the beginning came from England. We are touching about it, too. We trifle with France and labour with Germany, we sentimentalise over Italy and ecstacise over Spain--but England we love.... Why are we not unconsciously pathetic about German cottages and Italian villas? Because we have not, in centuries past, had the habit of being born in them. It is only an English cottage and an English lane, whether white with hawthorn blossoms or bare with winter, that wakes in us that little yearning, grovelling tenderness that is so sweet. It is only nature calling us home."
Oh, don't you LOVE that! The heroine of this novel is a strong and extremely wealthy American girl, who has the sweetest relationship with her father and sister. There is an evil villain and plenty of love to go around. There is even a dear old gardener who will remind you of the one you loved in The Secret Garden. I would have to say that this is a must read!
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: As you can tell by the title, this one was quite a departure from what I had been reading. It was our latest book club selection, and a fun, girly summer read. It begins in the 60's with a group of women who all live on the same street and start a book club...sound familiar Crestwood Literary Society?? :) We see not only the bond between women friends, but also the deeper issues that many have in their lives and how these problems change as they progress from the 60's to the 90's.
St. Elmo by Augusta Evans Wilson: Wilson is a female, Southern-American writer from the mid 1800's. It was so refreshing to read a beautifully written novel--reminiscent of Jane Autsen--set in the countryside of Georgia instead of distant England. To hear some of our own dear towns (like Chattanooga) referenced instead of an English town that I've never heard of, was very fun. I also knew springtime and summer in a southern landscape, instead of just depending on the writer's ability to describe it to me accurately enough.
Besides all that, this is yet another great love story. Sometimes I wonder how long it will take for me to get tired of the same scenario: female character, torn from the one her heart truly loves by insurmountable odds, who eventually finds a way of overcoming the odds for the sake of true love. The character's class, situation, love interest, and setting changes, but the underlying story is still the same. I will say that the heroine in this novel refused her heart just a few chapters too long for my taste, but there were many twists and turns that still surprised me. I would recommend this novel for any Jane Austen lover, especially if you're from the South.
(I need to also mention that there were A LOT of references to Greek mythology in this book that went so far above my head that it wasn't even funny. I don't now whether to tell you not to be discouraged when you're reading because if you're stupid then I'm stupid too, or whether I AM stupid and desperately need a course on mythology :))
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis: The last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and the only one that Jeremiah and I had not read together. I read this aloud to him on our beach trip, and anybody who would read this book, will also have read the others in the series. Therefore, I know I don't need to express the importance of reading this one before you die :)
The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling: I actually listened to this book on CD while I did laundry and other housework over the past month. Just getting prepared for the new release in July!
The Little Minister by J.M. Barrie: Finally, the book I just finished! Set in the small villages of Scotland during the 19th century (I think), we hear the controversial love story of the village minister. The Scottish brogue of the locals is hard to follow at first, but you get used to it. Soon you even enjoy it. It was abundantly clear to me that this was a love story told by a man. Barrie maddeningly leaves out the details of some of the heart fluttering moments. However, there are some fun twists and iconographic characters that make this book worth reading. My favorite quote from this book came right at the beginning:
"So was man created, to hunger for the ideal that is above himself, until one day there is magic in the air, and the eyes of a girl rest upon him. He does not know that it is he himself who crowned her, and if the girl is as pure as he, their love is the one form of idolatry that is not quite ignoble. It is the joining of two souls on their way to God."