Thursday, April 26, 2018

Miss Buncle: Comfort Read Ahead!

Miss Buncle's Book (Miss Buncle, #1)Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miss Buncle MarriedMiss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not since my mom recommended the Miss Read series almost twenty years ago have I found an author that fits the bill so well when I'm in need of a gentle and humorous look at life. Author D.E. Stevenson was unknown to me until I picked up Miss Buncle's Book at the library, solely because I liked the cover art. How could I resist a stylish flapper with a book tucked under her arm? And while it turns out that Barbara Buncle may never have looked as svelte and stylish the the woman on the cover, her transformation from a small-town dowd to a smartly-dressed and commercially-successful author, makes for a charming tale of a shy woman finding her voice and her place in the world.

When people in the Barbara's village start acting just like their fictitious counterparts in her book, trouble ensues and the residents of Silverstream undertake to unmask the mysterious author, "John Smith," who has created an uproar in their quiet English hamlet.

One of the few people not disturbed by Miss Buncle's book is her publisher, Mr. Abbott.

"Miss Buncle's book intrigued Mr. Abbott, and Miss Buncle herself intrigued him. She was such a queer mixture of simplicity and subtlety (at least he thought she was). She spoke bad grammar and wrote good English. She was meticulously truthful in all she said (it was almost as if she were on oath to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all day long and every day of the week). She lived her solitary life among all those people, with her tremendous secret locked up in her breast; going about among them looking as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, but taking careful note of all they said and did, and then going quietly home and writing it all down. They were after her now like a pack of hounds, but they didn't know that the fox was in the very midst of them, under their very noses, disguised as one of themselves—it was a piquant situation and Mr. Abbott fully appreciated it." (67)

Mr. Abbott moves from intrigue to romantic interest, and the rest you will have to read for yourself. I'm also getting a copy of this book for my mom, to return the favor of her recommending the Miss Read series.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long LifeForty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book several years ago, and its theme frequently comes to mind when someone is being "discussed" in the media.

Many scenes have come and gone unwritten, since it is today the 4th of Sept, a cold grey blowy day, made memorable by the sight of a kingfisher, and by my sense, waking early, of being again visited by "the spirit of delight." "rarely rarely comest thou, spirit of delight." That was I singing this time last year; and sang so poignantly that I have never forgotten it, or my vision of a fin rising on a wide blank sea. No biographer could possibly guess this important fact about my life in the late summer of 1926: yet biographers pretend they know people. —Virginia Woolf, Diaries, September 4, 1927

Churchill biographers—like all biographers—decide their stories and include facts to support them. Someone portraying Churchill as the savior of his country chooses certain facts; someone debunking the Churchill myth chooses others. In deciding what facts to relate—where each detail must stand in for hundreds of omitted details—biographers act like novelists, using theme, irony, motif, metonymy, description, symbolism, morals, and the like to shape a particular image of their subject.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

I Capture the Castle

I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At times this was a solid 5 stars, but then my attention would start to wander, so I'm giving it a final 4 stars. There are more memorable one-liners in this story than I can remember in any other coming-of-age novel I've read.

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”

“I know all about the facts of life, and I don't think much of them.”

“Cruel blows of fate call for extreme kindness in the family circle.”

“Rose doesn’t like the flat country, but I always did—flat country seems to give the sky such a chance.”

I also relished the literary allusions like "“Ah, but you're the insidious type—Jane Eyre with of touch of Becky Sharp. A thoroughly dangerous girl.” You know the heroine is headed for trouble when her sister's fiance is the one who seems most in tune with her inner life and sensibilities.

Once I got used to the idea of being by myself for so long I positively liked it. I always enjoy the different feeling there is in a house when one is alone in it, and the thought of that feeling stretching ahead for two whole days somehow intensified it wonderfully. The castle seemed to be mine in a way it never had been before; the day seemed specially to belong to me; I even had a feeling that I owned myself more than I usually do. I became very conscious of all my movements—if I raised my arm I looked at it wonderingly, thinking, "That is mine!" And I took pleasure in moving, both in the physical effort and in the touch of the air—it was most queer how the air did seem to touch me, even when it was absolutely still. All day long I had a sense of great ease and spaciousness. And my happiness had a strange, remembered quality as though I had lived it before. Oh, how can I recapture it—that utterly right, homecoming sense of recognition? It seems to me now that the whole day was like an avenue leading to a home I had loved once but forgotten, the memory of which was coming back so dimly, so gradually, as I wandered along, that only when my home at last lay before me did I cry: "Now I know why I have been happy!"

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