Saturday, 26 March 2016
The things I get up to . . .
I wish that you could hear what I heard this morning outside my backdoor when I put Mitzie out for her morning ablutions. The most beautiful birdsong ever . . . the sun was just rising and this most beautiful melody was ringing out over the dew sodden grass of the back garden . . . blackbirds in Spring. Can there be a more beautiful song? I think not. All the music composed by man in all of the world and time can not sound as beautiful as a blackbird or indeed a robin . . . singing in the early mornings of spring.
I have always loved to read. When I was really small and could not read for myself, my father read to me. I can still hear his voice making up all of the different voices of the characters in my story books and there is one that we both remember by heart, he read it to me so much. A story of Tom cat and Jerry mouse and a picnic. I credit my father fully for instilling in me my love of reading . . . he has always read and does read still, my mother never read books at all. Just the newspaper or magazines.
As a child one of my favourite stories was a Scandanavian Folk Tale, entitled "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." It is the tale of a poor peasant who had so many children he could not properly care for them all. All of his children were beautiful, but especially his youngest daughter. A big white bear comes to him and tells him he will make him rich beyond measure . . . all he has to do is to give him his youngest daughter. The White Bear takes her off to a rich and enchanted castle. At night, he takes off his bear form in order to come to her bed as a man, although the lack of light means that she never sees him. I won't spoil it for you, by tellling you the rest of the story, but it was a story that both thrilled and frightened me at the same time. Most fairy tales are like that You can read this one for yourself by clicking on the link above.
I have had many favourite stories and books through the years. Some of them I visit time and time again. I thought it would be fun to tell you about a few of those here this morning. Perhaps you might find some similarities to ones you like, or you may find one you haven't read and might want to read for yourself!
Emmeline is a book by Judith Rossner. Published in 1980, Emmeline details the local legend of a woman who becomes ostracized by everyone in her hometown in Maine after a shocking, long-held secret becomes public. The story is a fictionalized account of the life of Emeline Bachelder Gurney. Both anecdotal and documented evidence have been found about Gurney's life. I do believe that I have read this book a bazillion times. Well, a slight exaggeration, but it is a book I revisit every couple of years. I just love it. It is a fascinating tale. Somewhat heartbreaking. I love novels based on true stories. Emmeline Mosher, who, is sent from her home on a farm in Maine (just before her 14th birthday) to support her family by working in a cotton mill in Massachusetts. The year was 1839. It is the story of a desperate young girl thrust into one of America's early industrial towns, which includes a haunting tale of seduction and a heartbreaking result. I find the story very compelling and wonder that it has never been made into a film.
The Commoner, by John Burnham Swartz. I have always been fascinated by Oriental Culture, and this book is the story of how, the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family was, at the age of 24, exposed to brutal public scrutiny and the unyielding rigors of royal life, robbing her of her identity and sending her into a crushing depression.
With a quiet layering of details, “The Commoner” follows Haruko Endo from her childhood through a heady courtship by the crown prince. When she marries him, Haruko begins a life of miserable isolation in which not even her children are truly her own. In the book’s final quarter Haruko sees her life reflected in the suffering of her daughter-in-law, Keiko (modeled on the real-life Crown Princess Masako), also a commoner who marries into the royal family.
This is compelling reading and a book I have read several times and find myself wanting to revisit it again and again.
The Snow Child, by Fowyn Ivey. This is a book I first read a year or so ago and have already revisited once. Mabel and Jack cannot have children. They move to Alaska to start a new life, one without the pressures of polite society. However it is not easy, the farm work is hard for her husband and money is tight. They struggle to survive the dark, cold winters and start to move apart. One night, as the snow falls, Mabel is overcome by a childish urge to make a snowman, no, a snow child. She gives it mittens and a hat and Jack carves a beautiful face in the ice. The next morning, the snow child is gone, but there is a trail of small footsteps leading into the woods.
The Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairy tale, Snegurochka, Little Daughter of the Snow. Moved to the wild and isolated Alaskan frontier in the twenties, it beautifully describes the land, the snow and the hardships of making a living there. This book has a timeless feel to it. I just love it.
Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth. has combined historical biographical fiction with the famous fairy tale, Rapunzel, written by Charlotte Rose de Camont. The result is a lush tale that combines the individual stories of three women. In seventeenth century France, Charlotte Rose de Camont de la Force, is banished from the opulence of the royal court and sent to live an austere life of severity in a rigidly ruled convent. There, she meets Sister Seraphina who tells her the story of Margherita (Persinette or Little Parsley) a young girl imprisoned in a tall tower by a witch named La Strega Bella. The novel’s storyline unfolds piece by piece through the voices of these three fascinating characters.
The strength of this novel lies in the wonderfully imaginative plot and superbly developed characters. Some scenes are very dark, with each character facing horrendous adversity that enthralls the reader. Some scenes are incredibly warm and heart-warming, filled with romance and success. In between is a very fast paced story with an ever evolving plot with plenty of twists and turns.
Despite the fact that Rapunzel is a fairy tale we are all familiar with, the author’s writing style makes it not only plausible, but very realistic and believable. The historical portions of the story are also vividly depicted and are well-researched. Most appealing is the fact the author does not shy away from extremes – poverty and wealth, innocence and corruption, good and evil, illness and health. Reading this book is a pleasant surprise. It is a novel written with insight and depth, and is immensely entertaining.
Beauty, by Susan Wilson. When Alexandra Miller takes off for a remote spot in New Hampshire to paint Leland Crompton's portrait, nothing has prepared her for what's in store. The house is almost a castle, with its massive chimney, mullioned windows, and iron-work gate with wrought-iron roses. The housekeeper is unnerving. And Lee himself is hideously disfigured by a rare genetic disease. But in their long hours of work together deep in the wintry woods, Alix discovers that beneath Lee's disturbing exterior lies a true prince. Gradually, she realizes that she loves him. And he absolutely refuses to believe her. This lives on my bedside table and I take it out every so often to read again. Every time I read it, I fall in love again.
A Fine Romance, by Susan Branch. I love, love this book. I think I have read it at least three times now and it has a permanent spot on my bedside table. I have always loved everything by Susan Branch. I think it is because she is "me." Anyone who reads her stuff will know what I mean. When you are reading it, you find yourself thinking that that is exactly what you would do, or feel, etc. She has a way of getting right in to your heart and putting the human experience of being a woman, a child of the 50's and 60's into words that are so compelling and telling. This book is one of my favourites because I have been to many of these places and done many of these things. I have travelled across the Atlantic on an Ocean Liner, albeit as a child. I have been to all of these gardens and historical homes, etc. As a North American now living in the UK, she has put a voice to alot of the same feelings I have had and still have with the landscape, the people, the quirks, the driving, etc. It's just a fabulous book. And as an Artist myself, I love LOVE the illustrations. It's a book I could have written.
The Fairy Tale Girl, by Susan Branch. Again this lives by my bed, and I have read it three times in the year or so that I have had it. Even Todd has read both of these books. I love the paper . . . the illustrations . . . the book mark . . . the insider's view of a fascinating life. I have felt many of these same things in my lifetime. I have done a lot of them too! I've experienced the wonder of first love and the heart ache of broken marriage. Again it reads like "me." I think that is probably one of the greatest talents Susan Branch has, aside from her multitude of artistic talents . . . the talent of putting the human experience of being a woman into words that all women/girls can relate to. Her honesty and warmth are compelling. I just love all that she touches, which makes me very excited . . . because . . .
I know that sometime soon over the next few weeks an autographed copy of this will be falling through my letter box and it seems like I have waited forever for it! I know it will be devoured and find a special place on my bedside table just like all the others. It is destined to "become" a part of my family of books.
And I guess that is what all of these books are to me . . . and that is family. Looking back on all of them, even that story I loved as a child I can see that I have a definite penchant for fairytale types of books. Fairy Tales with a thread of reality running through them.
Anyways, I hope that you may have discovered something you will want to read here. By no means are they all of the books that I have fallen in love with through the years, but just a few that I thought you might like. Who knows . . . perhaps one day I will tell you about some more!
By the way what are some of the books you have enjoyed through the years and that you love to revisit and why? I really want to know! I might find something new to read through you!
A thought to carry with you through today . . .
The best way to get things done
is to simply begin.
Cooking in The English Kitchen today is Easter Dinner. From an Apricot Glazed Gammon/Ham to Carrot Casserole and Scalloped Potatoes like mum used to make. Delicious!
Wherever you go and whatever you get up to today, may it bring you joy. Be safe and be happy and don't forget . . .
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And I do too!