"Elizabeth and Her German Garden"

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

  • I couldn't resist this book because of it's title and because Elizabeth Von Arnim wrote The Enchanted April, which I love. I figured anything she wrote would have to be enjoyable.
  • I was right, it was enjoyable. Her writing is pure delight to read and it's a shame her books ever end. 
  • My feelings about this book are very mixed. I love the writing, the setting, and her dry humour, but, oh my goodness, she irritates me sometimes. She lives a privileged lifestyle that few women will ever experience, and yet she tends to look down somewhat on others who don't feel about life as she does. She spends much of her time outside enjoying her luxurious gardens because she prefers that to being confined within walls and she has all the freedom in the world to do so. She has 2 gardeners who do all the work in the garden she's so proud of building, a nurse for her three small children so she has only to play with them and read to them,  a cook to make the meals and do the cleaning up, and maids to do the housework. She does admit to how fortunate she is, but it's a little hard to swallow when she's less than gracious to those less fortunate. At one point she calls her servants "the menials".
  • Conclusion: I enjoyed the reading of it. If I can find more novels by her, I'll read them, but her sometimes flippant attitude toward other people took away some of the enjoyment I might otherwise have found in this personal journal.  

"The Trouble With Goats and Sheep"

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  • I was drawn immediately into the community setting where neighbours all know each other. I felt quite immersed in Britain while I was reading it and that's always enjoyable. I'd rather a book be set in Britain than anywhere else. Except maybe Middle Earth.
  • It begins: "Mrs. Creasy disappeared on a Monday. I know it was a Monday, because...". I think that way of beginning a story is getting worn, but what follows thankfully drew me in very quickly
  • Though I don't really like mysteries as a rule, this one is nicely quirky, and unfolds in a way that had me often stopping to think "hmmm". It showed me things to consider instead of telling me what to think, and built the story gradually. And it's more than just a mystery. It's really the story of a neighbourhood told though the mystery that takes place there.  
  • I have to say I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the last 1/4, but I'm not sure that's any problem with the book. I think I just prefer getting into a story more than I do wrapping it up. I've noticed lately I'm enjoying the first part of every book better than the rest of it. I'm finding there's something so sad about leaving the world you've been living in for the past few days. I miss people, places, houses.  
  • I love the title. It's unusual, and by the end of the book you don't have to wonder why it was chosen. 
  • Some chapters are narrated in the first person by a young girl. Others are written in the third person, letting the reader keep tabs on the various other characters, of whom there are quite a few. I kept a list to sort it all out. The child's chapters are priceless. Children may not understand all that they see and hear, but they are refreshingly honest and direct and I think the author captures that well most of the time. There was only one instance where I thought the reasoning attributed to the little girl was more sophisticated than was probable for child of that age.
  • I quite enjoyed the writing. I found it fresh and even poetic at times. A few examples:
"People drove their cars with the windows down. and fragments of music
littered the street." 

"He had tried to carve into the quiet with the television and the radio, 
and the sound of his own voice, but his noise just seemed to grow the silence
 and make it taller, and it followed him from room to room, 
like water pouring from a glass."

"My words faded in my mouth, because they couldn't decide 
if they wanted to be true."     

  • Somewhere in the second half it began to feel a bit muddled, and at the end I was still thinking "hmmm" about many things. I'd like to read it again (but other books keep calling from the bookshelf), taking notes this time to pick up on any of the more subtle clues I think I must have missed. I enjoy endings that aren't all neatly tied up, but I really do think I missed some things in this one. My first thought after closing the book was how I wish I could talk it over with my book club. There would be so many questions to ask and so many theories to test out; what a fun discussion we'd have had. 
  • Conclusion:  Thought provoking story, fresh writing, engaging characters, appealing setting. Just a little confusing at the end. Very glad I read it.