MRS. LORIMER’S QUIET SUMMER, A calming, soothing read

When turning on the news became too bad to bear–Covid, Haiti, Afghanistan, hurricane headed our way–I turned to this quiet book on a quiet topic to calm down.

This book helped me through a stressful end of summer.

Molly Clavering writes charming books. This 1953 novel is her most autobiographical of all she has written because it features a middle age writer (based on a friend of hers, Mrs. Lorimer, whom she described once as “that quiet woman”) and her best friend, also a middle age writer (based on herself, Miss Gray Douglas). The characters go about the ” happenings of everyday life…offering one another advice and support in a lively border village in England.”The story opens shortly before “The Show,” a village fair where Mr. Lorimer will exhibit his prize vegetables. Mrs. Lorimer is wrapped up in the lives of her grown children and their “entanglements,” and Miss Douglas is wrapped up in being a good friend and confidant. Clavering’s books were popular in England, where they are set, and in America , especially during the 50s and 60s. The story begins with these words, “It was generally considered that Mrs. Lorimer, that quiet woman, was not a sentimental person.”

This calm, quiet way of writing pervades throughout the novel, and no matter how exciting or alarming the happenings that occur are, they are accepted with calm and serenity. Examples: Guy, Mrs. Lorimer’s son falling for “That Smellie Girl (that is the girl’s last name) or her daughter wrecking her husband’s “other love interest,” his lovingly refurbished antique roadster on purpose–these things are accepted and “righted” with aplomb. It is a family story about family life.

When life became too much for me, I read a chapter or two of Mrs. Lorimer, and immediately felt better and was able to uphold the English tradition to “Carry on…”

Thanks, Evin

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO by George Saunders: A Review

This book was published back in 2017, and I have “been meaning to read it” since then. I heard so much about it, not all of it good, BTW. It definitely is different. I finished it the weekend before this one that just passed.

I checked this out from my local library after my friend, Debbie seemed surprised I hadn’t read it yet.

The back cover describes the novel as “original, transcendent, and moving,” and it certainly is. The setting, one year into the Civil War, in a graveyard with its (trapped) inhabitants providing a chorus of voices, reminiscent of a Greek chorus in classical plays. Lincoln’s son, Willie, the one most like him and his favorite has died at age eleven. Lincoln’s grief is heroic and utterly devastating. Newspapers of the day report that Lincoln actually did return alone and grieving to the crypt where his son’s body lay, and at one point (at least) took the body from the coffin and cradled it against his own body. There is enough fact and truth in the story, with enough imagination provided by comments of the dead in the cemetery to describe marvelously Lincoln’s emotions and actions against the background of his grief over the splitting of the country of which he was President, and the war that pitted brother against brother.

The format of the book is also very different.

Pages are divided into quotes, some from historical statements, documents, and journals of the time; others from “quotes” by imaginary residents of the graveyard, who are all rooting for the young child to find peace in the afterlife. (The Bardo is a Tibetan traditional state after death, a kind of purgatory or waiting place. ) They are also aware of the grief and depressed state of the President, for whom they want peace and comfort. Both the format and the theme are highly imaginative/original, presenting a “kaleidoscopic state,” a disorganized tangle of living and dead, historical and invented by the author’s imagination. The philosophical question Saunders poses is, “How can/should we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?”

SPOILER ALERT–You may wish to skip these last few lines.

The ending of this emotionally written book is extremely satisfying. We see the boy’s transition into the afterlife and Lincoln’s easing of the great grief and guilt he experienced as he resolves to continue the fighting of the war he believed in so strongly at its inception.

It turned out to be a “reading experience” for me. I highly recommend it.

THE NINTH HOUR by Alice McDermott: A Review

A calming, soothing story full of character development and compassion.

At first I thought I was not going to like this 2017 publication because it began with a suicide. However, when the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor arrive and try to cover up the suicide, so the surviving widow can bury her husband in concentrated ground, my interest perked to attention. Set in Catholic Brooklyn in the early 20th century, this novel presents Annie, the pregnant widow and then her daughter, Sally who are taken under the wing of the caring nuns, and follows them through their lives until Sally is old enough to consider taking a vocation. What she decides and why she decided it was a surprise to me, as were many other twists and turns the novel took, right down to the end, where the ending itself was a surprise.

The Ninth Hour has “quiet power,” one of the characteristics of literary fiction. The novel’s basic themes are “love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.” Sister St.Savior and Sister Jeanne are unforgettable characters who will remain with one long after they have turned the last page. It is definitely a “darned good read.”

Books can bring comfort as well as diversion from life’s troubles.
Thanks to my young blogging friend, Evin for the special sign off.

BOOKS FROM THE BACKLOG

Carole at Random Life in Books created this meme to bring attention to books you want to read or have read that have not received enough exposure.

Today I was thinking about creativity and reading an old handout from many semesters ago that I asked students to respond to entitled, “Can Creativity Be Taught?” I remembered reading back in 2015 Gilbert’s book which explored just that question.

BIG MAGIC: A Review

This 2015 self-help book by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, is proof the author has still “got it.” As a matter fact, I liked this non-fiction exploration of “Creative Living Beyond Fear” much more than her earlier bestselling hit. In Big Magic, Gilbert discusses her own creative processes and her life as she expresses the wonder and joy of Creativity. She has written many “pieces” for magazines, novels, and non-fiction books, so she is definitely the one to consult concerning “Creativity.” She insists everyone has the ability to “make something”–create.

In her last section, “In Conclusion” she writes:

“Creativity is sacred and it is not sacred./ What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all./We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits./ We are terrified, and we are brave./Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege./Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us./Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise–you can make anything.”Advertisements

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Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching “under my belt.” I have taught all levels from pre-K “(library lady” or “book lady”–volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the “difficult years.” I had some of the “funnest” experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the “young, fun teacher,” I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a “dream-fit” for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is “in my blood,” so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to “come out and play.” View all posts by Rae LongestAuthor Rae LongestPosted on Categories UncategorizedTags bestsellersCreativityPWR recommendationreviewsself-help booksEdit”BIG MAGIC: A Review”

If you have not read this Book from my Backlog, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll learn something.

THE LAST BOOK IN THE MADELINE L’ENGLE TIME TRAVEL QUINTET

As part of a personal “project” on Madeline L’Engle, I reread and reviewed all five books of her Murray family saga, both Many Waters and An Acceptable Time were read about the time I started blogging, so I didn’t have to write the review fresh, but could share an old review written years ago. Finishing up with books four and five completes a “chunk” of the project’s goals. Here is a review of the final book in this series:

AN ACCEPTABLE TIME by Madeline L’Engle: A Review

Polly, daughter of Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, and neice of Sandy and Denys Murray of Many Waters, is spending time with her mother’s parents in New England. A neighbor, “Bishop Nase” manages to open a Time Gate which transports individuals back in time.  Both the Star Gazing Stone and the Old Wall act as portals for Polly on several occasions.  Meeting Anaral, a Druid who travels back and forth, and other characters from the time period, Polly and her cowardly friend Zak manage to become stuck 3,000 years before the present.

Back in time, Polly finds herself with The People of the Wind, and later captured by their enemies The People Across the Lake. They are besieged with drought and believe that a blood sacrifice is necessary to bring rain to their land and tribe.

Although the novel is not traditionally religious, it is spiritual and offers something for both believers and non-believers.

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Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching “under my belt.” I have taught all levels from pre-K “(library lady” or “book lady”–volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the “difficult years.” I had some of the “funnest” experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the “young, fun teacher,” I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a “dream-fit” for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is “in my blood,” so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to “come out and play.” View all posts by Rae LongestAuthor Rae LongestPosted on Categories UncategorizedTags Madeline L’Englereviewssci fitime travelYA novelsEdit

SIMON THE FIDDLER by Paulette Jiles: A Review

When our Third Tuesday book club read Jiles’ News of the World, which was the Gulf Coast read that year, we all enjoyed it so much!

One of my best reads ever, and My Better Half agrees

Simon the Fiddler was published in 2020, and we “jumped on” picking it for our May selection like a chicken on a June bug. Because it was the first time we had met in person in over a year and were combining our meeting with a going away party for two of our members who are moving, we didn’t give Simon the time due it. However, although we all said it was ok (Our minds were on other things.), we all agreed it was nowhere near as good as News.

The novel is set at the tail end of the Civil War (when both sides were seeking deserters). After a fight at the tavern where they are playing, A “rag tag band of musicians”, with Simon, the Fiddler as its leader, are conscripted into the Confederate army , and although Simon was only 23 and not interested in serving, his life as a soldier included “cushy” jobs thanks to his skill with his fiddle. After walking away from a battle, Simon and two army friends are hired to play at a party for a Colonel’s daughter that Simon meets and falls head-over-heels for her Irish lady’s maid (indentured servant), Miss Doris Mary Dillon. It was love at first sight.

Captain Kidd from News of the World makes a short, cameo appearance in this second novel.

The story becomes a “captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to to to fulfill his heart’s yearning.”

After a brief dance at the party, Simon and Doris are separated, he hitting the road to escape Confederate troops looking for deserters; she traveling to San Antonio with the family who “owns” her. The scraggly band members join Simon, and traveling together, the men have many adventures and some misadventures as well. My favorite was Simon dealing with a huge ‘gator on his river trip to San Antonio to reunite with Doris. After a letter exchange begins, Simon realizes Doris is having to deal with the drunken, lecherous Colonel, and he can’t get to her side fast enough.

Jiles’ second book is good, but not good enough to measure up to her first. However, Fiddler is a fine read on its own.

STARTED IN 2018, FINISHED MAY, 2021, THE BROKEN EARTH SERIES by N.K. Jemison

This is the best science fiction series I have read since reading Dune in the 70s. I had been “off” sci fi in general for some time, but saw this first book in the trilogy reviewed by my blogging friend, Sarah at Brainfluff. I ordered the first book, which I reviewed back in 2018:

This was my introduction to this wonderful author.

THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemison: A Review

This is the first book in the Broken Earth series, which was published in 2015.  I found it reviewed on Brainfluff, and it seemed like a really good story. As soon as the other two books came out, I also ordered them, and last summer My Better Half and I finally got around to reading the books. We decided to read it aloud to each other at night, and it has been an excellent experience.  We finished Fifth Season at the end of the summer and have moved on to Book Two, The Obelisk Gate. We hope to finish by the Holidays.

It is a strange, intricate and fascinating book, which includes a map of The Stillness, which is the known earth in The Fifth Season.  Seasons are eras, some a few hundred years, some thousands in the earth’s history, usually indicated by tectonic plate shifts, earthquakes and weather phenomena. The book begins,

“Let’s start with the end of the earth, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things…”  “This is the way the earth ends, for the last time.”

There are difficulties in reading the book, a vocabulary of words: “roggas,” “sessapinae,” “orogenes,” etc. that we had no idea how to pronounce, but we overcame this problem with pronouncing them however we wanted. A glossary in the back explains many of the words, but if the reader is good at context clues he/she can usually figure out what is going on without stopping and turning to the book’s end. NPR described the series as “astounding.”

Another challenging aspect is that the characters and times shift back and forth, and the reader can get confused.  This, however, was one of our favorite parts of the book, for as we read, it was revealed that main characters in different chapters were actually the same characters we had read about earlier as adults in their childhood days, or that a certain character was a character we had read about previously, but he/she/it ws in a different form.  All of this confusion is worth it to enjoy the beautiful, often poetic writing which makes the reader feel the movement of the earth or see the beautiful power of the gigantic obelisks.

The narrative itself is a “grabber,” which carries the reader along with the action throughout the twists and turns of the plot. We often exclaimed, “Oh, that’s the…” or “Wow! That’s why (the character) said or did so and so…” We felt so intelligent (LOL) that we figured out the revelation just before it became obvious in the “tale.” The author’s way of writing is unique. She feeds the reader information on a need to know basis and lets him/her draw the conclusion on matters just as the character concludes the same thing. The style is masterful, the word choice and phrasing original and spot-on, and the author’s imagination unlimited.

This is a must read.

This was a magnificent book with amazing descriptions and action-packed scenes as well. And while all of this was going on in the author’s writing, the characters were developing into ones the reader really cared about.

It took another year or more to finish the second book, The Obelisk Gate, and I didn’t review it, but looking back there are several mentions in old posts of an ongoing engagement in reading the book. I would pick it up and read for several days, then put it aside as I found other books that piqued my interest. Finally, when I did the Alphabet Challenge, Title Edition, I needed a book beginning with an “O,” and started the book from the beginning again.

In January of 2021, I took out the third book, the final book, which I completed in May of 2021.

The concluding book lived up to the promise of the first volume, something few series achieve.

THE STONE SKY by N.K. Jemisin: A Review

The third book in this powerful sci fi trilogy was published in 2017. Here are the opening lines: “Time grows short, my love. Let’s end with the beginning of the world, shall we? Yes, we shall.” The narrator continues, “The person who witnessed these things firsthand is me, and yet not.” The story continues in this strange, eerie way to tell of strange and eerie events. Essun, the mother from The Fifth Season, an orogene, who has passed down this trait to her daughter, Nassun, has gained control of the obelisk gate. She is also beginning to turn into a stone-eater, with her arm solid stone, after completing her mission with Alabaster of the fulcrum. She has a job to do–“Just catch the moon.”She also has a personal quest–to find her daughter. She is wounded, ill, and carried by stretcher as the book opens.

Hoa, the stone-eater, Tonkee, the old woman, and Lerna, the doctor, all of whom were introduced in the previous book, are carrying her. Nassun, in the meantime has killed her father in self-defense and has been staying at the Moon Compound, a sanctuary and training school for young orogenes. She, too, must take a journey.

The reunion of the mother and daughter, each set on opposite missions to carry out their destinies–one to save the earth, one to destroy it–provide a dramatic, exciting, breath-holding climax.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2021) finds me with over 50 years of teaching “under my belt.” I have taught all levels from pre-K “(library lady” or “book lady”–volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the “difficult years.” I had some of the “funnest” experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the “young, fun teacher,” I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a “dream-fit” for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is “in my blood,” so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to “come out and play.” View all posts by Rae Longest

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READING IN BED by Sue Gee: A Review

If a book is about books or reading, it hits my TBR pile or folder. Reading in Bed’s cover grabbed me immediately, as did its title–something I do frequently.

I started this book during Dewey’s Readathon in April and finished it a few days afterwards. I never reviewed the book, however, and it deserves at least that for being a “darned good read.”

Georgia, recently widowed, and Dido have been best friends for years. The novel opens with the two women returning from a book convention/fair/retreat. As they separate and return to their homes in different towns, each re-evaluates their everyday, “normal” life apart from the literary world they have just left. Georgia is lonely, odd-friend-out at all gatherings, struggling with her relationship with her daughter; and Dido finds “evidence” that her husband of so many years may be having an affair. Through all the details of their lives, their connection with each other remains sturdy and strong.

Georgia has a side-plot, an eccentric, elderly cousin of her late husband”goes completely off the rails,” and it is up to Georgia to step in and “do something.”Dido also has a side-plot, the marriage and family life of her children and grandchildren, and shockingly, the true story behind the “assumed” affair of her husband. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to titillate the most demanding reader. Both women find themselves “…turning to a well-loved book or a true friend” to get through the situation.

As one critic cited, Reading is “an insightful, witty book about life, friendship, and love.” I loved the book and everything about it, making it a darned good read!

WEDNESDAY, What I’m Reading

Here it is Wednesday of Spring Break. Some of my Advanced Writing students are traveling; some are trying to work ahead. I have enjoyed my time “off” and have kept busy with projects and have managed to have some social contact with friends. The reaction to our second Covid shot is done, and by the 23rd of this month, I will be “fully protected.” PTL!

I recently finished this fine novel.

This novel is definitely a nominee for my best read of 2021. Lily King knows her topic: the lives and loves of aspiring authors. Published in 2020, the novel follows the life of Casey, age 31, whose mother has recently died, and who is facing a mountain of debt. It is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1997. Casey had been a child prodigy in the world of professional golf, but she hasn’t played in years. Her father, with whom she has a complicated relationship, was her manager. She rents a tiny room, attached to a garage, which was formerly a potting shack, and the room smells like it. She has spent the past six years writing a novel and is currently supporting herself and making minimum payments to her creditors by waitressing. Desperately “balancing the conflicting demands of art and life,” Casey meets two attractive men at the same time of her lonely life.

King writes with “humor, heart, and intelligence,” describing what it means to be a writer and what it means to write. The book was a Read With Jenna selection, promoted on The Today Show on NBC.

I can’t believe my Spring Break is halfway over!

Yikes

READ AN E-BOOK WEEK, March 2nd through 8th

In honor of Read an E-Book week, I bought and read this E-book:

I enjoy Ebooks a great deal.

Queenie Malone is a flamboyant character, and her hotel and its occupants are as outrageous as she is. Reminding me of the line from the movie AI, “I see dead people,” we meet Tilly, the daughter, and explore her relationship with her mother (who in real time has recently died). Chapters vary from those told by Tilly, the child, then Tilda, the adult. As the book opens, Tilda comes “home” to deal with her mother’s estate. She meets well-drawn interesting characters, but also can see characters that others in the real-time story cannot. She also has a disturbing habit of lighting matches which grew out of a childhood obsession of playing with fire. The story is tinged with the supernatural, and family mysteries appear and are resolved as well.

The themes of mothers and daughters, “choosing” one’s family, and the “disappearance” of fathers round out a riveting narrative. As in Hogan’s other novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, the reader learns that, “It’s never too late to write your own happy ending.”

The surprise at the end is less of a revelation than a gradual, “Oh, that explains so many things” as the reader nears the finish line. Queenie is an exceptionally well written book, and I highly recommend it.