The Breaking Wave

thebreakingwave

In the last few months, I’ve listened to two audiobooks by Nevil Shute: The Far Country and The Breaking Wave. I enjoyed both very much. Nevil Shute’s books really speak to me with their decent characters, kind and caring relationships, the sweeping landscapes of Australia, and interesting connections between vast distances in the world that make it all seem smaller and much closer together. His stories are interesting and compelling. The Breaking Wave was a sort of mystery because it started with the suicide of a young English woman in Australia, a former WREN during World War II, and we didn’t find out until the very end exactly WHY she did such a thing, and how she ended up in Australia.

The Breaking Wave, first published as Requiem for a Wren, was a sad story but told in such a way that I wasn’t overcome with sadness. It was a thorough exploration of how war changes lives and continues to play havoc with people’s lives long after it is over.

Even into this quiet place, the war had reached like a tentacle of an octopus. It had touched this girl and brought about her death. Like some infernal monster still venomous in death, the war can go on killing people for a long time after it’s all over.

It was a story of love and loss, and of a generation shaped by World War II.

For our generation, the war years were the best times of our lives, not because they were war years but because we were young. The best years of our lives happened to be war years. Everyone looks back at the time when they were in their early 20s with nostalgia, but when we look back, we only see the war.

Nevil Shute was a wonderful storyteller, and I especially love listening to his stories as audiobooks. I know that for 10 or so hours, I will be completely immersed in a vast and wonderful world filled with characters who have integrity and courage, warmth and caring.

The Dolls’ House

dollhouse

When I was a little girl, I had a dolls’ house. It was made of painted metal, nothing fancy, and although it had little plastic furniture, I don’t remember any dolls that might have come with it. I loved it, though, and with my own collection of dolls spent hours and hours lost in imagination.

Dolls'HouseRumer Godden wrote some wonderful novels for children. I just read her book, The Dolls’ House, and, yes, I would have loved it as a child! And I would especially have loved the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor!

The story is of the dolls who “live in the nursery of two little girls called Emily and Charlotte Dane.” The oldest doll, Tottie, once belonged to Emily and Charlotte’s great-grandmother and their Great-Great-Aunt Laura. Tottie was made of wood, a “farthing doll,” and was a very kind head of the family. We get to know each doll and their unique personalities, but as we all know, dolls depend on their owners to come to life:

It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot ‘do'; they can only be done by; children who do not understand this often do wrong things, and then the dolls are hurt and abused and lost; and when this happens dolls cannot speak, nor do anything except be hurt and abused and lost. If you have any dolls, you should remember that.

The dolls dream of having a house of their own to live in, so they don’t have to live in a shoebox any more. One day, the girls are given an old Victorian dollhouse, and the dolls are wonderfully happy…until Marchpane, a very vain and selfish porcelain doll arrives on the scene.

The writing and the imagination in this little story are lovely and fun. The book was written for those of us who love dolls and were even lucky enough to have a dollhouse at one point in our lives. I just wish I had found this book and read it during my own dollhouse years. It’s one I would have loved and remembered forever.

RumerGodden

Goodbye, Ivan Doig

IvanDoig

Sad news yesterday about Ivan Doig. We’ve lost yet another wonderful author. I have a special place in my heart for Ivan Doig. My father loved reading his books, and so did I. When I read his memoir, This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind, I felt that we were most definitely kindred spirits. In this memoir, his stories of his Dad and his Grandmother and their Montana ranching lives reminded me in many ways of my own Dad and my own Wyoming Grandmother. They didn’t ranch, but they, too, were real characters shaped in similar ways by that western landscape.

As a girl from mountains, I also loved his descriptions of the western landscape that was so familiar to me.

The western skyline before us was filled high with a steel-blue army of mountains, drawn in battalions of peaks and reefs and gorges and crags as far along the entire rim of the earth as could be seen…

When my husband and I decided to relocate to the Pacific Northwest from the Intermountain West 25 years ago, I read his books, Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America and The Sea Runners. Both were amazing stories that capture the heart of the Northwest, and those books, along with Wintergreen, by Robert Michael Pyle, and The Good Rain, by Timothy Egan, helped turn us into Northwesterners at heart.

If you visit Doig’s website, he has a note for his readers. He didn’t consider himself a “western” writer, and this is why:

One last word about the setting of my work, the American West. I don’t think of myself as a “Western” writer. To me, language—the substance on the page, that poetry under the prose—is the ultimate “region,” the true home, for a writer. Specific geographies, but galaxies of imaginative expression—we’ve seen them both exist in William Faulkner’s postage stamp-size Yoknapatawpha County, and in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s nowhere village of Macondo, dreaming in its hundred years of solitude. If I have any creed that I wish you as readers, necessary accomplices in this flirtatious ceremony of writing and reading, will take with you from my pages, it’d be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life.

Ivan Doig was a writer of caliber, and his “poetry under the prose” spoke to me directly and touched my life in many ways. King County Library, on Twitter today, paid him a wonderful, simple and perfect tribute:

“Scene: The flat plain is a brilliant green. A lone figure walks toward the distant mountains. Goodbye Ivan.”

 

picture-1

Author Ivan Doig for Seattle Magazine © Jeff Corwin

 

Oxfordshire in the Blood

inspector-morse1

The Hubby and I just finished watching the old Inspector Morse series (all 33 episodes) which we first watched on Masterpiece Mystery many years ago. The books were written by Colin Dexter; the setting was Oxford, England; and the main characters were the brilliant Chief Inspector Morse and his hardworking colleague, Detective Sergeant Lewis. I’ve never read any of Colin Dexter’s books, although I always thought I would like to because we enjoyed the TV version of Morse so much. On my TBR list! The TV series was intelligent and well-written, very good mysteries, and enjoyable to watch again this many years later.

Thomas Gomm

My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Gomm.

Another reason we returned to the series was because I have been reading some family history. My paternal great, great, great grandparents all came from Oxfordshire. When I remembered that the Inspector Morse series was filmed in Oxford, I thought it would be fun to see the area and watch a good mystery program at the same time. I was not disappointed. The mysteries were great and the filming of that area was wonderful. Many beautiful shots of the city and outlying areas.

Of course, the more I learn of my family history, the more I would love to travel to Oxfordshire and visit the locations where those distant grandparents lived. But that probably won’t be happening very soon, so my reading and TV viewing will have to do for now. Just for fun, I spent some time online and compiled a reading list of books set in Oxfordshire. There are probably many others I missed, but it turned out to be a fun list that would provide me with many hours of reading pleasure. Here’s some of the list I’ve compiled:

  • Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  • A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
  • His Dark Materials (trilogy) and Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse), by Colin Dexter
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
  • Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes
  • Oxford Blood, by Antonia Fraser
  • The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez
  • Byron’s Child, Carola Dunn
G.G.G.Grandparents

Side-by-side photos of my great, great, great grandparents in Oxfordshire…

50 Years Ago…

CatcherintheRye

In 1964, I started keeping a little red and black record book with the titles and authors of the books I was reading. I was faithful to that record book until recent years when I transferred my reading list to a spread sheet and then into LibraryThing. I still love to go back to my record book, however, to see what I read 5 years ago, or as I did this morning, to see what I read 50 years ago today!

That book was The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. The photo above is of my hubby’s copy — his favorite book, well-worn and well-loved and still on our shelf after all these years. I didn’t love the book the way my husband did. I thought it was terribly sad and depressing, and I never reread it. Perhaps, after 50 years of life experience and a lifetime of reading, I should read this timeless book again and see what I think?

The book begins:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

A Parliament of Owls

owl_family1

My family and I have become fascinated by Barn Owls. We are enjoying watching a Barn Owl family on a nature cam located somewhere in Northern California. We found a YouTube channel called SVNature, with its ‘owl cam live,’ and we’ve been watching since the first owlet hatched. What an amazing way to learn about owls!  By checking in on them numerous times a day, we have become very attached to these fluffy little dinosaur-like owlets and their patient and attentive parents.

the_owl_papersWe also discovered an interesting program about Barn Owls on Nature – PBS, called “Owl Power,” and learned a lot more about these amazing birds. And then, because as you all know when you get interested in something you find all kinds of connections and information around you that you hadn’t noticed before, I remembered that I actually have a book sitting on my shelf with two beautiful Barn Owls on the cover. It’s called The Owl Papers, by Jonathan Evan Maslow, and it looks fascinating! I don’t know why it sat there unread for so many years, but it is definitely time to read it.

“With a naturalist’s eye and a poet’s soul, Mr. Maslow pursues owls through history, literature and myth. A superb and utterly fascinating book.”

~ The New York Times

It’s pretty obvious that the reason I became a teacher 30 years ago is because I love to learn. I do love finding new interests and then experiencing the web of connections to that new interest that surround us all. Who knows where this little parliament of owls will lead me?

owlet

Rereading Rosamunde

Rosamunde

At my local library yesterday, I found this photo and quote on the back of one of the Rosamunde Pilcher collection. I really liked it, although I didn’t just discover this favorite author of mine. I found her years ago, read as many of her books as I could find, and loved them. Her book, The Shell Seekers, is one of my all-time favorites.  I recently discovered that her books and short stories are now available on Kindle, so I decided to give myself a treat and re-read them all. What a lovely thing to do for myself!

What do I love about her books? I enjoy her characters who, to me, seem like real people with real emotions. I love her landscapes, beautifully described. They make me want to spend time in Cornwall and London and Scotland, and when reading her books, I feel like I’m there! I really like her ideas about families and loved ones. There are blood families and there are chosen families, and I love that many of her characters find and surround themselves with the people who really mean something in their lives. And, finally, I simply love being part of each of the little worlds she creates in her books and stories.

I’m enjoying this re-reading, and will probably read them again in another few years! I obviously agree with the statement “now that I’ve found her, I’m not going to let her go!”

From the Archives: Click on the highlighted title to read a post I wrote about her in 2007… The Gentle Books of Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde_Pilcher

Shells: A Cameo of Anne Morrow Lindbergh

cal_anne_writting

Anne Morrow Lindbergh is an artist who has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. I was a young mother when I first found her books. Her words touched my heart and my life in so many ways and gave clarity to my own journey to define my Self. I read her diaries as they were published, then her novels and her lovely non-fiction. Then I found her beautiful poetry.

In 1974, I marked with interest the passing of her husband, Charles Lindbergh, but in 2001, I mourned Anne’s passing. She had become a mentor, a guide, an inspiration to me, so I felt her loss deeply.

When I recently discovered there was a little book called Shells: A Cameo of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, by Virnell Ann Bruce, I was instantly curious. I haven’t read many of the biographies written about AML because I preferred to read about her life in her own words, or in her daughter’s words — Reeve Lindbergh wrote some beautiful memoirs of her parents. (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Reeve talking about her mother.) But Shells is actually a one-woman play with Anne Morrow Lindbergh sharing stories and reminiscing about her life. The author has done a tremendous amount of research for this play, (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Virnell Ann Bruce talking about AML) and it’s a lovely way to learn about AML and her amazing life. I would love to have the opportunity to see this play performed on stage.

As I read the play, I bookmarked numerous passages that resonated with me. One passage, in particular, described well what I admired about AML, and why she became my own “friend” and “guide” over the years.

I spent a lot of time over the years, looking inward for myself and my world. It’s hard work to become a whole person, to develop and understand your own heart, your mind and your true spirit. Especially since it’s a continuous process as life changes. While I spent a good amount of time in Charles’ world of action, I think I found my own place in the world. Oh, it included Charles and the children, but it also included my world of books and poetry and art. And I found many wonderful friends in those worlds.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s sensitive and insightful world of books, poetry and art continues to inspire me and guide me on my lifelong journey to understand my own heart and spirit. This little book was another lovely encounter with a beautiful artist.

morrow_1

Mishmash

casserole

Mishmash! Sounds like a casserole or something…but actually it just describes my reading since the first of the year. It’s been all over the place, not following any plan, just going where whim takes me. My reading has often been project-driven over the years, so letting go of plans and just wandering through my bookshelves is very relaxing and enjoyable! Here’s a thumbnail collage of my mishmash of reading since January 1st. Oh, and the photo above is of my vegetarian Paella.