A Summary of September's Reading

The Curate's Awakening by George MacDonald - I discovered George MacDonald years ago when I read one of his children's books. Later I learned that C.S. Lewis considered MacDonald one of his major influences and that pushed me to search out more of his work. I love the stories he tells and the language he uses to tell them, but this one stands out for it's theology. Some of G.M.'s books can be preachy, but this one is full of love - what love is, how to live it, and how it is the very basis of Christianity. This book took me back to the basics of my faith, reminding me that no matter what else I do or say, it is only the love I share that reflects the life of Christ in me and draws people to Him.

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman - I loved this amazing story. Mrs. Mike is a young girl from Boston who marries a member of the R.C.M.P. and moves to the far north to live a very different kind of life than she is used to. It may not be great writing, but the story is based on an actual person who lived that life and it is worth reading. In fact I think it's one of those books that should be read, maybe in high school as a hearty dose of reality before heading out into the world. If ever a book could help a person step back and get a better perspective on life, this would be it. Highly recommended.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell - I'm finding it hard to put this one into words. The basic plot has a family living in a charming little house in the Cotswolds, seemingly happy and well-adjusted, but with something feeling just a bit off. It moves on to the mother's hoarding obsession, the break-up of the marriage when Mom has an affair with the neighbour lady, and the four kids growing up with lots of emotional baggage to complicate their own lives. Actually one of them doesn't grow up but you'll want to read the details about that yourself. It all sounds slightly preposterous, but the thing is, this family felt real to me. There is plenty of dysfunction in my own family and though the circumstances are completely different, I recognized the fear and denial, the silent ignoring of things that should be faced and talked about, and the emotional fallout from years of not dealing with anything.

I found the book well-written and the characters well-constructed. It hit me hard, and maybe that's what I liked about it, but I thought it was very good. 

Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox - It wasn't quite what I was expecting but I did enjoy it. I was interested in seeing how he handles life with Parkinson's Disease while still keeping a positive outlook. I don't have Parkinson's but I do have Fibromyalgia, a condition that has changed my life in a thousand ways, and I was interested in hearing how he copes with it all.  He talks about the difficult decision to leave his tv series, his subsequent involvement in politics, his Fox Foundation's efforts to raise money for PD research, his family and his faith. His outlook on life is encouraging; he sums it up in the very bold statement that he believes Parkinson's has given him and his family far more than it has taken away.

Village Affairs by Miss Read - Picking up one of Miss Read's books feels like going home. After reading the previous books in the Fairacre series, I feel I know the people and their quirks, the village itself and the surrounding countryside. In this one the town is alarmed to hear rumours of the school closing, in particular Miss Read herself who is the schoolmistress and must now consider a future elsewhere.

Catching Up

I've been looking at the list of books I've read this year and feeling a bit guilty about the rather large number I've neglected to say anything about. I feel I should at least say if I liked them or not. So here is a line or two about each one, and I'll try to do better next year.

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (re-read) - I love this. It's beautifully written, easy to read and an amazing story about the expulsion of the Acadian people in 1755. Every time I hear the first line, "This is the forest primeval...", I am transported to another time and place.

The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan - It was interesting while I was reading it, but I don't remember much about it now.

How To Read Slowly by James Sire (re-read) - helps you get more out of the books you read. He tells you what to look for and how to evaluate what you're reading. Very good, very helpful.

All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky - I read this early in the year and I remember only that I found it disappointing,

Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery - not my favourite LMM but still charming as all her books are.

La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales - This is an ode to the Italian language. The author thinks it is the most beautiful language in the world and gushes accordingly. Lots of interesting stories from history, and about cuisine, famous people, literature, and other things I can't remember now. An enjoyable read. 

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider - I didn't enjoy this one. I felt I was being preached at about how to live properly.

The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain - The French President leaves his hat at a restaurant, where a man who can't believe his luck picks it up and takes it home. Then he loses it, someone else finds it, etc. The hat has a unique effect in the life of each person who possesses it, usually positive as I recall. A fun read. 

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James - this is considered the most difficult of his books, and it certainly is a challenge to read. It is so worth it though. You can analyze the characters and the plot forever, never really feeling you've come to the end of what you can get out of it. I found it mentally exhilarating.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - I enjoyed this one. Well written, an unusual plot,  and it took me inside a culture about which I knew nothing. I found some of the things the characters did strange, but that's half the fun of reading stories set in different times and places. A good story.

The Dance of Time by Michael Judge - this is about how we came to measure the passing of time the way we currently do. Some fascinating facts and stories. Interesting.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens - Loved it. Every Dickens book I've picked up has been a wonderful reading experience. I love the era, the setting, his characters, his writing style, his humour, his compassion, and the social and political impact he's trying to have on the world he was writing for. He had a lot to say, and I'm glad I get to read it.

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau - I can't remember much about this book. It won a Pulitzer in 1965 and I see I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads so I must have found something profound in it. It's a family saga set in the deep south and I think the plot was a good one. I probably didn't make an emotional connection with the characters and that's why it didn't have a lasting impact on me.

Emily Davis by Miss Read - I love all Miss Read's books. If you've never tried them, you are missing out. Find the first one in the Fairacre series and see if you don't quickly become addicted.

Tyler's Row by Miss Read - Another quiet, homey read with warm, wonderful characters.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky - What can I say? His books give you a lot to think about and leave you analyzing his, and your own, thoughts and behavior long after you've read them. I feel like I'm obligated to read them because they are held in such high regard. I'm always glad I did, even if I am somewhat relieved to finish them. The Russian characters with their roller-coaster emotions are a bit over the top for me, but I accept that this is probably a cultural thing that I may never completely understand. This book, like all the great books by the great authors, needs to be studied, or at least read slowly and pondered to really hear what he's saying about good and evil, faith and family, and love. I didn't give it the time it deserves.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Khun - This was a fun look at what might happen if the Queen decided to go AWOL and a handful of her employees frantically tried to locate her before the press got wind of it. It was enjoyable to read, but as always with fiction about real people, you can't take any of it seriously. Who knows what really goes on in Her Majesty's head? I have a fascination for the monarchy so I liked this novel.

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy - It's Thomas Hardy. How could I not like it? His writing is exquisite, his characters are wonderful, and the setting always makes me want to move to England  (19th century England) immediately. As is usual with Hardy, nobody really gets what they want in the end, but that's part of the Hardy experience. Loved it.

Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin - Wow. This was a brutal reading experience. It's well written, a really good story with characters so vivid it feels like a memoir more than a novel. The brutality is in how people treat other people, and worse than reading it is knowing that life was, and still is for some people, very much like this. It hurt to read, but I needed to know. 

The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - I read this only because I was tired of not having read it when it's on every list of must-read books I've ever seen. It was easy to read, funny in places and weird. And I'm pretty sure I missed the point entirely.

Great Village by Mary Rose Donnelly (re-read) - a wonderful story, set in small town Nova Scotia, about two women adjusting to age and making the best of whatever life brings their way. The location is really another main character and I love it when the author does that. Very, very good.