Considering the packed calendar this month, I’m somewhat amazed that I read or finished reading the following this month:
1. The Mistress of Husaby by Sigrid Undset.
This is the second in the trilogy of Kristin Lavransdatter and picks up where the first left off, following her through her first ten years of marriage. I am becoming quite attached to this heroine and her friends and family and getting a great peek into Norway in the 14 th century. Undset is a powerful storyteller.
2. Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat.
All the kids in the library say this book is hilarious, and they are right. We read it as a family read-aloud and had quite a few hoots together. If your kids like critters, this will entertain them immensely.
3. The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge.
I have waited for years to read this book, as I mentioned in an earlier post, and it was worth waiting for. Thoroughly satisfying, as usual, Ms. Goudge winds a tale around a cathedral this time (I’ve always considered one of her main characters in every novel to be a house). As well as clocks. It is a timeless tale of suffering souls who find healing and forgiveness in unexpected places.
4. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.
This was my book club’s selection this month and, again, we all received another life lesson in a turn of the century tale of a beautiful, once rich and now penniless girl who is left to fend for herself in New York’s high society. One of the young women in my group reveled in Wharton’s writing style, “It was like reading liquid—it flowed so inconspicuously and beautifully along.” Well put.
5. Standing by Words by Wendell Berry.
This was one of my first exposures to Berry’s writing about eight years ago and I’ve wanted to return to it ever since. It was as excellent as I remembered, but I was able to understand more of his ideas as I have read Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare much more in the interim. If the butchery of the English language and lack of understanding of how literature influences our life bothers you, this collection of essays will be a delight.
6. The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley.
The first time I read this book eagerly, curious to know more about the personal life of the woman who has changed my ideas on education, but this time I read it with many more years experience in that method and for different reasons. One was to glean her approach to teaching the teachers because of the workshop I’m presenting at CMI in two weeks. Little by little, I learn more and more not just about her method, but the person behind it, and it informs so much of how I view my responsibility to teach my children, and the mothers who are seeking to do the same.
7. The Planets by Dava Sobel.
I read this one to help my friend, Nicole, who is writing an astronomy curriculum. I wasn’t as enchanted with Longitude as other friends were, but have to say this book was captivating for me. The author creatively describes the major bodies of our solar system—sun, moon, planets individually from the perspectives of Genesis, mythology, music, poetry, astrology—fascinating. I highly recommend this for junior and senior high living science reading.
8. Benson Boy by Ivan Southall.
I picked this up because of an intense connection I made with this author as an 11-year- old. I remember a rainy miserable weekend when I was in the sixth grade and spent it on Ash Road. I never put it down—not even to eat—until I had finished it. It was about some children in Australia stranded without adults in a dangerous fire in the bush; I wondered if it was really as good as I remembered, but chose a couple of his other titles to investigate. This one would probably be most enjoyed by fourth to seventh graders, about a boy in rural Australia who is awakened in the middle of the night to a family in panic: mother is about to have a baby and a violent storm is in full swing. When Dad disappears into the night, the Benson boy is left to cope with more than a nine-year- old is prepared for. If your kids like action and excitement, this one’s intense.
9. Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. I vaguely remembered the movie, but have had many friends extol this as one of their all-time favorites, so I read it. It is a romantic tale, not quite too syrupy as the main character faces the harsh life of a Royal Mountie’s wife on the frontier of Canada in the early 1900’s.
10. Demelza by Winston Graham.
I read this book 35 years ago, but had not read the previous one in the saga till last month and that drew me back to his Poldark series. Demelza is my kind of heroine and every bit as intuitive, intelligent, loyal, faithful, spirited and witty as they come. Her resilience in every unexpected turn of life is worth emulating. (I just realized this makes three novels about women in their first years of marriage in different countries and centuries I read this past month.) I appreciate Graham’s natural and artful weaving of historical accuracy woven into the twists and turns of events in the lives of strong believable, and vivid characters.
11. The Woman Who was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown.
My dear friend Bonnie has been reading me this biography of the woman behind G. K. Chesterton, his beloved wife Frances. We were at first curious to know more about the secretary of the Parents Union and someone who knew Charlotte Mason personally, and especially so since we so deeply respect Chesterton. The book was thoroughly researched. The author puts together a picture of a woman I did not expect to meet, but who could imagine the kind of woman who would marry and be a helpmate to such an extraordinary man? Frances was not only up to the task, but a brilliant mind herself. An unexpected delight was the inclusion of much of her beautiful poetry.
12. Hill’s End by Ivan Southall.
This, like my childhood favorite Ash Road was a riveting tale of a schoolteacher and seven children who go cave exploring and wind up facing a cyclonic storm that threatens their lives and destroys their small isolated town. How the children cope with unexpected danger and devastation (typical of this author, with all adults circumstantially absent from the town) is realistic and inspiring. This is a book for fourth grade and up. Every child will identify with at least one of the characters in the story and his or her own special challenges. Southall’s formula is a great tool to reveal the strength of character young people display when facing adversity.
For the joy of reading,