Category Archives: Favorite authors

A Favorite Character

 

Virago Press has an Instagram meme for this month called “#BooksforChange“.  I’m really enjoying the photos that people are posting in response to this meme, and these daily prompts inspire lots of ideas to think about regarding my reading.

Today’s prompt is favorite female character,” and it didn’t take me very long to decide that Penelope Keeling, from Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers, is one of my all time favorite female characters. I liked her very much when I first read the book as a young mother, but I like her even more now that I am approximately the same age as the character.

Some things I love about this character: I love that she’s a gentle, thoughtful person, that art and beautify help her survive the terrible losses in her life, that she has an inner strength that guides her well through the relationships in her life, and that she finds joy in the little things in life — “the gentle powers,” she calls them.

“I’ve lived with sadness so long. And a loneliness that nothing and nobody could assuage. But, over the years, I came to terms with what had happened. I learned to live within myself, to grow flowers, to watch my children grow; to look at paintings and listen to music. The gentle powers. They are quite amazingly sustaining.”

In the two different movie versions of this book, the character of Penelope Keeling was played by two lovely actresses — Vanessa Redgrave and Angela Lansbury. Both of them were perfect for the role.

Crooked House

Last week I finished reading Crooked House, by Agatha Christie, but it’s been such a busy week and weekend, that I’m just now getting around to posting about it.  I’ve read many of Agatha Christie’s mysteries over the years, starting with And Then There Were None when I was in the 5th grade many, many years ago! I’ve read quite a few since then with Miss Marple as the detective, a number with Poirot,  and one or two with Tommy and Tuppence. And, happily, there are still a lot of them I can look forward to reading!  Crooked House is a stand alone novel, not part of one of her series, but is a very enjoyable mystery to read!

From the Agatha Christie web site, here is a synopsis of the story:

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionaire’s granddaughter…

In this book, I was particularly struck by Christie’s chilling description of the mindset of a murderer:

“What are murderers like? Some of them,” a faint rather melancholy smile showed on his face, “have been thoroughly nice chaps.”

… “Murder, you see, is an amateur crime. I’m speaking of course of the kind of murder you have in mind–not gangster stuff. One feels, very often, as though these nice ordinary chaps, had been overtaken, as it were, by murder, almost accidentally. They’ve been in a tight place, or they’ve wanted something very badly, money or a woman–and they’ve killed to get it…

…”But some people, I suspect, remain morally immature. They continue to be aware that murder is wrong, but they do not feel it. I don’t think, in my experience, that any murderer has really felt remorse…And that, perhaps, is the mark of Cain. Murderers are set apart, they are ‘different’ — murder is wrong– but not for them — for them it is necessary — the victim has ‘asked for it,’ it was ‘the only way.'”

Crooked House was one of Christie’s own favorites of the books she wrote:  “Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best.”

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

A Long-Awaited Pre-Order

Audible just told me that my long-awaIted pre-order will be available in 13 hours. I know what I will be listening to tomorrow while I try to finish up my current knitting project! I love the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear and am so looking forward to reading this latest installment, In This Grave Hour! I read the first book in the series, but have listened to the audiobooks of all the rest. Orlagh Cassidy if a wonderful narrator and, in my opinion, a perfect voice for Maisie Dobbs.

In the Wet

This week I finished reading In the Wet, by Nevil Shute. I love reading anything written by him, and I did enjoy this one although I found it to be quite quirky. True to all of Shute’s books, it’s quite a story. This one has a rather complicated plot — it was published in 1953 but the story takes place in 1983 — so it’s a tale of the future. There is also a time warp aspect to the story, which was very interesting. I think Shute was experimenting with different ways of telling a story, and although it was not a perfect book, it was certainly an interesting one. It’s not my favorite of his books, but as always, I find something that really strikes home with me. This time it was the ending paragraph…

“All that this strange experience has taught me has gone to confirm what I think I already knew, secretly perhaps, and deep down in my heart. If what I think I have been told is true, then it means that we make our own heaven and hell in our own daily lives and the Kingdom of Heaven is here within us for those who have gone before.”

I’m So Sorry, Mem Fox!

mem-fox

Mem Fox has long been a favorite author of mine and of my students over the years. Her books are very special and dearly loved by group after group of my second graders. So, tonight, when I read a news article about the treatment she received upon entering the United States for a conference — please click here to read the article — I felt absolutely sick with sadness, embarrassment, and outrage at what my country is becoming. When the leader of the country and his minions demonstrate bullying and hateful behaviors on a daily basis, their behavior gives permission to other cowards and small-minded people to behave the same way. Mem was subjected to that ugliness, and I just want to tell her how very sorry I am that that happened to her and how ashamed I am of those people in my country that are so consumed with hate and meanness … and that have been given free reign to bully.

Anais Nin

anais-nin

When I was younger I read all of Anais Nin‘s diaries and many of her other works. They were fascinating! I took many notes, copying out different quotes from her insightful and eloquent ruminations. There was so many things she said that put into words for me my own experiences or inner thoughts. She was born on this day in 1903. I celebrate her today and the influence she had on me as a young woman.

“There are books which we read early in life, which sink into our consciousness and seem to disappear without leaving a trace. And then one day we find, in some summing-up of our life and put attitudes towards experience, that their influence has been enormous.”
― Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays

the-diary-of-anais-nin

Wallace Stegner’s Typewriter

In celebration of Wallace Stegner‘s birthday today, I share this photograph I took of his typewriter. It’s on display in the Special Collections section of the University of Utah library in Salt Lake City.  Although this isn’t a great photo, I do love seeing desks or tools used by wonderful writers!

stegner

Novels by Wallace Stegner:
  • Remembering Laughter (1937)
  • The Potter’s House (1938)
  • On a Darkling Plain (1940)
  • Fire and Ice (1941)
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), semi-autobiographical
  • Second Growth (1947)
  • The Preacher and the Slave (1950), reissued as Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel
  • A Shooting Star (1961)
  • All the Little Live Things (1967)
  • Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel (1969)
  • Angle of Repose (1971), winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • The Spectator Bird (1976), winner of the National Book Award
  • Recapitulation (1979)
  • Crossing to Safety (1987)