Wednesday, May 18, 2011



Once you've read one Deric Longden you want to read them all. Here again we enter in the life of Deric, his wife, and their cats -- a life I for one love to share. Lots of humor and some tears, a book that makes you wish you could live next door to the Longdens.


BROOME STAGES - Clemence Dane

This book by a popular English writer of the first half of the last century and friend of Noel Coward (she was the inspiration for Madame Arcati in his play, Blithe Spirit) is a seven hundred page saga of a theatrical family in England starting in 1715 and ending in 1930.  Filled with fascinating characters and incidents,  it is a real page turner as the reader becomes engrossed in the intrigues and romances of this family and the changing life of the world and the theatre over two hundred years.

Virtual catalogue, Amazon

Monday, May 9, 2011


Aunt Jane's Nieces and Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad - L. Frank Baum

Being a lover of the Oz books, I was pleased to discover on Kindle for free this series of romance and adventure books for young women by Baum.  In the first book, he brings together three girls all nieces of said Aunt Jane who have never met their aunt, a rich recluse, or each other until Jane summons them to her home for a visit in order to decide which one will be her heir.  Each girl is a distinct and interesting personality abd they form a bond which continues through the series. In the second book, Baum includes a description of Naples after Vesuvius had erupted having himself been traveling in Italy when that event occured.

I am saving the rest of the series to read when I want the diversion of this delightful real life Oz.


DREAM DAYS - Kenneth Grahame

A poignant and humorous memoir of childhood days by the author of The Wind in the Willows. Included among the memories is his story of the reluctant dragon.

Kindle free


THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND - William Makepeace Thackery

I read this novel because Anthony Trollope thought it the greatest English novel - better even than Pride and Prejudice, one of his other favorites.  I can't say I share Trollope's enthusiasm.  Although it is certainly a good novel, it had too many descriptions of battles for my taste, and one of the female characters was too good to be true. The woman we are supposed to dislike I found the most interesting because she was so truthful about her own fault, and was quite accurate in her realization that had the hero won her he would have been miserable within weeks.

library, Kindle (free)


Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther, In the Mountains, Christopher and Columbus, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight

 On my Kindle I've rediscovered Elizabeth Von Arnim, whose reputation was revived a few years ago when the movie of her novel Enchanted April was a popular success. I have yet to read that book, though it is on my Kindle list.  I read The Parson's Wife several years ago, but this time started with Christopher and Columbus, a humorous novel about twin girls of eighteen orphaned and sent to relatives in England at the beginning of World War I. Being half German and half English, the girls were a problem for their aunt and uncle who subsequently sent them to America hoping that business friends of the uncle would take them in. The girls are beautiful, charming, naive, and their subsequent adventures are humorous while also being a social commentary on the treatment of Germans in America during the war. 

In the Mountains is a poignant story of a woman who returns to her vacation home in Switzerland from England after World War I, having lost in the war all of those who had spent the summers with her before the war. The early book consists of reflections on her pain.  "You see, what has happened has taken away my faith in goodness," she tells her journal."and the hurt goes too far down to be healed. Yet I know time is a queer, wholesome thing. I've lived long enough to have found that out. It is very sanitary. it cleans up everything."  At another point she writes, "What shall we do when we all get to heaven and aren't allowed to have any patriotism? There, surely, we shall at last be forced into one vast family.  But I imagine that every time God isn't looking the original patriotism of each will beak out, right along throughout eternity."

The main character is engaging and her reflections and memories so interesting (including a letter from Henry James), that the book held me despite its seeming lack of plot - and then half way through two English women arrive at her garden exhausted from walking up the mountain. She takes them into tea and they stay for months. They prove to be both a diversion as now there is conversation but also something of a trial, not because they are difficult but because of their extreme politeness, and a mystery for although they converse there is also much left unexplained.  The main character however persists in attempting to break through their reserve. She suspects one of the sisters, for they are sisters, had a German husband that they fear to divulge.  When the truth comes out finally, the tone turns light and soon a romantic interest arrives to bring more sunlight into their lives. I'm not saying more, read the book.

Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther is a delightful tale of love gone awry and a heroine who will not be put down by love or loss, The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight is a charming modern fairy tale. Eliizabeth and her German Garden is a wry picture of a woman enjoying herself and her garden despite her husband, whose name we never know. He is always referred to as "the man of wrath".  What is so enjoyable about von Arnim is that her books are not conventional, I couldn't predict what was going to happen, but was quite pleased with all the endings.  Von Arnim was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield. Her maiden name was Beauchamps but she married and later divorced a German count, who gave her five children and material for many novels.

virtual catalogue, Kindle (all free)



A series of letters discussing the varieties of prayer. Much of discussion concentrated on prayers of petition - the question being why ask an all-knowing God for something since obviously such a God already knows what the problem is and from experience we know that not all prayers are granted. He points out that encouraging people to expect their prayers to be answered is a scenario for turning them away from belief at the first unanswered prayer. Lewis discusses Jesus's prayer in the garden as a petition but one which ends with "thy will not mine be done". This being an example of asking but with the understanding that the petition may not be granted for reasons we can sometimes discern and sometimes cannot. I found the book to be wandering and not very satisfying as a guide for someone actually wanting insight into the act of prayer. I did laugh at the truth of one of Lewis' observations however: "It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see him."

virtual catalogue, Amazon