Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth Goudge!

IMG_3692

Can I introduce you to a dear friend of mine? Elizabeth Goudge. A gorgeous writer who has touched me profoundly. She is in my top five favorite authors.  Someone who you cannot read quickly, you must simmer and savor. Today I celebrate her birthday and like to think of her with a glimpse of the English countryside outside her window, pen scratching the paper, sipping tea, creating unforgettable stories for us to enjoy. They are sweeping, deep, with many layers, and you can reread them over and over and take away something entirely new each time. My favorites are A City of Bells, A Dean’s Watch, and A Pilgrim’s Inn (formally, Herb of Grace, which I like better). Have you read any of her books? Join me today in remembering Miss Goudge! Many happy returns!

~

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, and More Favorites from my 2017 Reading Year ~

IMG_4967

Reading is a vast ocean of beauty, ugliness, and everything in-between. Ideas swish and swirl, changing the shape of our hearts, giving us compassion and understanding, softening our rocky edges. We are continually filled and emptied as we read. A humility, a refreshment, and a cleansing.

I had a wonderful year of reading, I’m so grateful for the beauty of being at home with my children, all reading together, and the time I’m given to share with many great minds through the pages of books. I tried my best to narrow my list down to those that I really stood out to me and that I’m still thinking about, forgive me for so many. I didn’t include The Holy Bible, books read with my children, Charlotte Mason educational volumes, and so many others, you can look under Year in Books, if you enjoy digging through book lists as much as I do.  I broke it into categories so you can skim to those you might be interested in.

Favorite Book of the Year:

IMG_2772

“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transported to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Writing/Author Memoir:

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper  – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Continued here.

Spanning Time: A Diary Keeper Becomes a Writer by Elizabeth Yates – I found this book of Elizabeth Yates diary entries spanning her life absolutely fascinating. I’m still thinking about it, but it covered so much history and just reading from a young girl growing to woman through the early 1900’s in Buffalo,NY, WWI, the delicate and challenging part of being of a wealthy, upper class family, and the privileges yet heavy expectations on her. Continued here.

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury –  I’ve read 7 or 8 books on writing or author memoirs this year, instead of writing, imagine that. Ha. Sad truth. This was just about my favorite. Just so beautifully encouraging and so very inspiring. Bradbury is hard to explain, just sort of explosive, I think is my word for him. I have commonplace quotes to think over, and I’m totally in love with his love of words. Long live logophiles.

Memoir:

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane – This is such a hard book to describe. I loved it! About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. Continued here. 

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through all of Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connecting with the people who lived and died here. Continued here.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (poetry-memoir mix) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Visit her here.

IMG_2499

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – I just loved, loved this! The author’s conversations with herself and stream of consciousness type writing. It was all so real. I could picture myself saying and thinking some of the exact same things. The beginning is a bit slow, but then the beautiful last half as she goes through IVF and adopting from China. Wow. One of my favorite memoirs in a long time. 

O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare by Niall Williams and Christine Breen  – This was a beautiful memoir of two New Yorkers, of Irish descent, deciding to pull up roots and move to Christine’s family cottage in West Ireland. The language and writing of this memoir was so beautiful and of course, the descriptions of Ireland are enough to swoon over. Continued here. 

Education & Parenting:

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (YA fiction, but falls under this heading for me as it was about dyslexia) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

IMG_4077

Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt – Firstly, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. I really enjoyed this memoir!

Fiction:

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute – This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. My second favorite book of the year!

A Far Country  by Nevil Shute – Beautiful!  I really enjoy Mr. Shute!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – his book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood. I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. Continued here

Buried Giant by  Kazuo Ishiguro – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into it. For me this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. Continued here.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – I adored this title. (It ended up being my favorite of the trilogy.) Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. Continued here.

IMG_3692

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. Continued here. 

Difficult Books that I’m Glad I Read:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan – Wow! This book was the longest I read this year. It was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. Continued here.

Silence by Shusaku Endo – I’m STILL thinking about this title.  I don’t think I totally understood it for some reason. 

 

Children’s Classics I Read to Myself:

Dobry by Monica Shannon – I found this book while dipping into a favorite book of mine on reading with children called Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff. Mrs. Duff was mentioning great children’s books with food in them! I was intrigued and picked this one up as it won the Newberry. I found this book absolutely sweet and interesting about a peasant boy in Bulgaria who lives with his mother and grandfather. Continued here.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield – I found this title because I wanted to read a children’s classic for myself over Christmas. I was reading reviews on The Box of Delights and found out this was the first one in the series. I’m so glad I did! What an enchanting, magical British children’s story. Continued here.

Alright, regrettably, one has to stop SOMEWHERE. Ha. There are many others I read this year that I thoroughly enjoyed, including many rereads of favorites, but I think these are the ones that I keep thinking about.  If you made it this far through my list, bravo! A couple of goals I have for the new year are to read these 12 books on this list, read more modern books, especially memoir, and work on quality choices and finishing things. How ’bout you? What was your favorite read from 2017 and what do you want to read more of next year?

And if this isn’t enough reading goodness for you, here is a lovely bookish place to visit.

Here’s to a new year of great books!

~

 

 

 

Christmas-y, Winter-y Reading

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Annunciation

John William Waterhouse – “The Annunciation”, 1914 {Google}

Oh, ’tis the season for a good book. Well, it’s always the season for that, but it’s delightful thing to pick up something related to winter and Christmas. I’ve been inspired by reading other’s Christmas reading.  This list isn’t exhaustive, but I’ve just named a few in each area that we’ve enjoyed or are enjoying currently.

For the Family, our past favorite chapter books:

 

{Goodreads, Google}

The Christmas Stove by Alta Halverson Seymour -We are currently reading another Christmas story of hers and loving it. These are set around the world and The Christmas Stove is set in Switzerland.

On That Night by Elizabeth Yates – this book fostered many good discussions and I hope to reread it again another year. Lovely, heart-probing story.

Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink – a lovely story from the author of Caddie Woodlawn, another favorite title of ours. A family struggling during the Depression, end up staying in someone’s summer cottage. A heart-warming tale set in winter-y Wisconsin.

Currently, we are reading two new tales to us, and are really enjoying them:

 

{Goodreads, Google}

The Wonderful Winter by Marchette Chute – don’t let that cover fool you! We found an older copy of this lovely story. An orphaned boy runs away to London and spends his best winter ever with an acting troupe! We haven’t finished this, but the writing is GORGEOUS.

I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge – I’ve been wanting to read this story for years and now we are finally getting to it. Polly lives with her poor aunts and is hoping for a Christmas surprise. Charming story surrounding the Christmas carol of the same name. I am a huge Goudge fan, so I’m delighted with this!

For myself to enjoy, I was trying to remember ones that I have really loved over the years:

 

{Goodreads}

A Christmas Book by Elizabeth Goudge (not pictured) – I fondly remember this book from years ago and hope to revisit it in the future. A collection of stories from her previous novels, centering around Christmas, and a few new stories, make for a charming read by the tree, sipping hot chocolate.

Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read – I’m a huge Miss Read fan, albeit I haven’t read much of hers recently and need to remedy that! I enjoyed this story, Miss Read is so good at cozy stories centered in little villages and you can’t help fall in love with what’s happening in the villager’s lives  and the subtle humor throughout.

Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch – this may be a bit too sad for the feeling of the season, but I adored this memoir. Filled with Susan’s delightful illustrations, she shares how she pursued her dreams of drawing & painting, finding a darling little home of her dreams, helping her heal and work through a hard divorce.

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – I read this with my children and was deeply moved. This is a good title for deep winter, angling into spring. A little family decides to move to a small cabin they’ve inherited that is filled with great summer vacation memories. Dad is suffering from PTSD from the war and it hasn’t been an easy time as a family. This is written so beautifully and surprising wisdom and beauty sneak up on you all the time. I hope to reread this later in winter.

Honorable mention: Jane Austen’s 6 novels often make it into my winter reading rotation. My favorites, currently are, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Pride & Prejudice.

We also enjoy many different pictures books and devotional type readings together, but I’ll stop for now. How ’bout you? What titles have you enjoyed during the winter season?

~

 

June Reads

IMG_2068

{Gulf of Mexico – February 2017 – Books, sand, sun, and little driftwood boat from my boy.}

What did you read for June? I’d love to hear.

 

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –

“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transformed to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I adored this title. Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. I feel such a kinship to her thoughts and feelings on nature, people, and how so much beauty is running a constant thread through her mind and heart, just begging to get out and be shared with those around her. This one was my favorite between the first two and I’ve begun the third. I read somewhere that there are elements of autobiography in the Emily stories of Lucy Maud’s life.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (*****) – This was a reread and if possible, I enjoyed it even more than the other times I’ve read it. It is SO quietly humorous and full of scathing criticisms that sneak up. I laughed so much while reading this, Miss Austen, you were brilliant.

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden (****) – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connected with the people who lived and died here. I loved how this title opened up as Marsden was working on restoring an old home for his wife and children. This title was very specific to this area and I really loved the map in the front of the book and would refer to it often! Even though this was intellectually a bit heavy at times, Marsden is such a beautiful writer and I felt often transported to the various areas he was visiting by his love of the natural world and his close observations. He often chatted with various local connections and I felt like I was getting to know these people with him over tea and cake.

The only hard thing for me in this title was occasionally I got bogged down by all the terms of geological formations/landscape and place names. However, I really loved the definitions and translations that Marsden would give about Gaelic or Welsh words and the meanings behind them, overall he did a good job of sharing, stopping just at the point of getting a bit heavy/tedious. I’m very glad I stuck with this lovely travel, homey-ish memoir. I enjoyed it very much.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. I am just so blessed, inspired, and swept away after reading Goudge titles. I can’t tell you how much they make me hope again and want to love the people in my life deeper. She is so good at transporting you to the place and gently leading you into, through, and with the characters to profound spiritual truths. She isn’t afraid of stretching your imagination, following through generations, using visions, and sometimes bordering on spiritual mysticism. I love Goudge’s quirks and weird, magical bits for the most part though because the depth of everything all tied together creates such a sense of being right THERE.  Doctor Crane is my absolutely favorite character in this book! Old Sol is lovely too…and the main star of the book Stella Sprigg is so interesting too…sigh. Does it have to be over?

Boxers & Saints  by Gene Luen Yang (two separate titles)  (****) –  These graphic novels were recommended to me after I read Silence by Shusako Endo. These portrayed the Chinese Boxers and the Christian converts perspectives. My children and I found these so interesting, enlightening, and challenging. We liked the legends and myths of their Chinese heritage mixed in with the historical story. Violence and a little language.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac (***) – 2.5 stars – The plot was interesting concept, the idea of seeing the internal workings of a mega church intrigued me. First, I feel a bit sick of stereotypical views of PK’s (preacher’s kids), so Josh’s secret was predictable, and the romance was meh – again mainly physical-attraction based vs. character, what was with him always loving seeing Paige disheveled? Maybe a subtle dig at pressure in church leadership to be “perfect”? Second, at times I felt breathless, like the writing was rushed? or just flowed without taking a breath? It made me tired.

 The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Kings, Proverbs, Galatians, Ephesians.

 

Drystone Walls {English Memories}

 

Once Upon a Trip to England –

I can’t remember when my love of England really took root in my heart. Unable to pinpoint it, I know that it’s grown and been watered by the amazing literature and many of my favorite authors being from Great Britain. Elizabeth Goudge, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Mason, Miss Read, to name just a precious few. The descriptions of the beauty, the history, and charm of the people continue to soak into my heart. As an American, we have a large connection to England, really much of Europe, from the foundation and birth of our country.

Needless to say, to visit, was a wild idea, one that I still can’t believe came true. My husband was so supportive, and I will never forget the amount of work he took on for me to be able to go. Being able to go in June of 2016 with my mother and sister was unforgettable.

One of my first memories, oddly enough, is of the drystone walls and buildings. I had read so much of hedgerows and am fascinated by them, but delightedly, the stone took me by surprise. Hedgerows tend to be more in the south of England and unfortunately, I didn’t get as close look at these, however, in the north we were surrounded by the drystone walls.  The ancient history represented in each stacked stone made me feel a connection with the people who toiled over them. As I’ve been reading about them, I have found myself learning about decline of feudalism, sheep farming, the “sheep-creep” holes in the bottoms of the walls, and the barren, wild landscape unscathed by human touch, except these stone enclosures. Once again, so many relationships, connections, and beauty all in one little feature of the land.

I was curious if this technique of wall building followed immigrants to America, and it does seem like there miles of drystone walls in New England, especially, and I’d like to dig further. I think there is something about using part of ones natural landscape that really speaks to me and why I find these walls so beautiful. There is nothing like fog lying heavily over the vale and fells, miles of these stones stacked silently throughout.

For further reading, I found these two articles especially interesting: Drystone in England and The Walls of New England. I’d love to hear anything you may know on these walls and their history. Books of interest or personal stories, feel free to share!

~

Supreme Beauty

IMG_3692

There was a leap of joy in him, like a flame lighting up in a dark lantern. At that moment he believed it was worth it. This moment of supreme beauty was worth all the wretchedness of the journey. It was always worth it. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It was the central truth of existence, and all men knew it, though they might not know that they knew it. Each man followed his own star through so much pain because he knew it, and at journey’s end all the innumerable lights would glow into one.

Gentian Hill

Elizabeth Goudge

p.208

(emphasis mine)

~

Monday Ponderings {May 22nd}

img_1007

Could mere loving be a life’s work?

 

The Dean’s Watch

Elizabeth Goudge

p. 122

(I can’t tell you how much this line impacted me this weekend. The surrounding passage is beautiful. This book is lovely, but it would have been worth reading for just that one line. Praying and pondering over this thought.)

April Reads

IMG_2587

 

Silence by  Shusako Endo – (*****) This was an interesting and challenging book. The descriptions and writing style were beautiful. It made me think deeply. That is why I rated it so highly. However, I didn’t really love this book. I have a longer review on Goodreads, if you are interested.

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas – (****) I loved these! A bit creepy, mysterious, and romantic. Short tales and legends with Scottish charm. Children would love these as much as I did!

The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove -(**)   Last month, I talked about the first two in this YA series. I was looking forward to this last title in the trilogy. Unfortunately, I was so disappointed!  I liked that questions where answered that had been asked earlier in the series and there were some delightful moments, but overall, this got a bit preachy for me on social issues (ie. war etc) and I thought it got a little weirder with the fortune teller and the grove of memories was too vague. Bummer.

Stillmeadow Daybook by Gladys Taber – (*****) I often read Gladys’ seasonal memoirs to coincide with the current month or season I am in. So it takes me awhile to get through her books. However, that is not a problem, as she never fails to delight! I was so enchanted and once again I found myself slowing down to notice little things about my daily homemaking, my family, and the nature around us. This is one of the three Taber titles I own, so I’m glad to read more of my delicious library shelf titles.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – (***) I loved Margaret Lea and the beginning part of this book…I wanted to just follow her around and hear more about her life and dig around her and her father’s bookshop together. Yes, I’m THAT boring. I did not like so much the mystery or Vita Winter’s life. Maybe I’m too hopelessly romantic or something or too unrealistic. Miss Winter’s life was SO dark and hopeless and I was just like, “What about you Margaret?” Also I did not like the switching of perspective between Margaret, Vita, and the character’s in Vita’s story…I got confused…a few times I skimmed over parts. The writing of this book was BEAUTIFUL, Setterfield is a fantastic writer, I just wasn’t loving the grim, darkness of the horrible life lived by “Vita Winter” and her family. I did appreciate Margaret’s sorrow over her family secret etc, but the tie in with Vita’s was strange to me and felt forced, dark, and hopeless. I don’t like hopeless fiction. The ending felt sad too, and again hand me an ice cream and a fuzzy puppy, I’m not that great with sad endings. Overall, I was drawn in and this was well-written, it’s probably just my taste.

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge – (*****) I’ve read this title many times, so a reread for me. There is something about Jocelyn trying to find his way through his darkness and despair that just grips me. The beauty of words, the house & bookshop, the beautiful cathedral town in England, the family relationships Jocelyn fosters (especially with his Grandfather), and the mystery surrounding Ferranti, a reclusive man, draw you in. I love that Ferranti’s writings and the bookshop full of beautiful books are the bases for Jocelyn’s journey towards healing. Highly recommend.

Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner – (***) This book is VERY slow reading because of the heavy character driven descriptive style. However, I love Turner’s way of writing about someone outside of the Christian faith looking into it. This had a simple plot, and you spent an huge amount of time inside the main character Perry’s mind and what he was thinking about all the people who were around him. I enjoyed it, but it did not move you along, you were standing still, listening into conversations and thoughts. S – L – O – W. I appreciate Turner’s writing style and think it is beautiful and thoughtful. So far, my favorite title of this author’s is Winter Birds.

Judges, Ruth, Acts: The Holy Bible (*****)

~

Elizabeth Goudge

IMG_2772

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Goudge. I can’t tell you what an impact your books have made on my life. Your fiction is so beautifully real, full of vitality, moments that you have read and lived, a compost of life. Your non-fiction collections inspiring and beautiful. If there is one of way of describing what you wrote it would be that you have found romance in real life. The sweeping nature observations, your love of England, your beautiful turns of phrase, and your real, troubled characters that could be anyone of us. Their thoughts and feelings ring true. I love that your writing forces me to slow down as not to miss one single thing. It makes me realize how fast I live, how distracted I exist, and what a gift I’ve been given by God here in my place on earth. I realize that I’m gushing and I know you weren’t perfect or that we would have really seen eye to eye on everything, and yet, this stay-at-home mother has found in your words, a feast for the cracked edges of her soul. I have found that my heart is turned toward my Creator and the imperfect, yet lovely relationships with people all around me. I have reread Pilgrim’s Inn and A City of Bells many times, and others I still remember in detail. Your words have become cherished friends and I will continue to revisit them for years to come.

“In times of storm and tempest, of indecision and desolation, a book already known and loved makes better reading than something new and untried … nothing is so warming and companionable.”

Elizabeth Goudge, A City of Bells

 

~