Alan Cumming’s memoir, Not My Father’s Son, is an important book. Mr. Cumming grew up with a cruel and abusive father, certainly a difficult subject to write about, and one that is often difficult to read. But he wrote it with honesty, courage, compassion, and fairness. And as I listened to the audiobook, which he narrated himself, I found myself admiring Alan Cumming more and more for the way he has dealt with such a dark childhood. He is a good, caring, and sensitive human being, (as well as a gifted actor!) and I appreciate him for sharing his difficult story with the world.
Fall is here and I find myself feeling my usual autumn nostalgia. Three Houses, by Angela Thirkell, was a perfect fit for my changing season days. Her little book of memories from her childhood during Victorian times was beautifully written, with descriptions so lovely that I read them slowly, savoring them. Her memories are tied to three homes from her childhood, homes filled with loving grandparents, fun cousins, family friends, and all those who helped in or visited those households.
Painting by her grandfather, Edward Burne-Jones. Click on the image to visit the Angela Thirkell Society.
She was the beloved granddaughter of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, was a cousin of Rudyard Kipling (first cousin, once removed), and was the goddaughter of J.M. Barrie, so her childhood was filled with art and stories. She became a wonderful storyteller herself, so after this lovely experience, I am looking forward to reading more of her work.
Here’s an example of her magically descriptive childhood memories.
In the larger part of the drawing room was my grandmother’s toy cupboard. Originally begun as a toy cupboard for our visits, it had gradually fallen into her far worthier hands and she kept it and added to it with the collector’s passion. When the oak cupboard was unlocked what an enchanting sight was there. It was like a page from Nutcracker or Mouse King, or a story from Ole Luk Oie. Tiny houses, gardens, hedges, and people. Russian families of painted wood, shutting up one inside the other from grandfather to baby. Merry-go-rounds that made a little tinkling noise as one turned the handle. Tiny shops and stalls with suitable apples, pears, carrots, turnips, and cauliflowers. Flocks and herds that knew no other grazing lands than the table-cloth. Fishes of mother-of-pearl from Chinese seas. Sicilian carts drawn by bedizened oxen. Saucepans and jugs and coffee-pots carved from wood, no bigger than a baby’s finger nail — and whatever more of littleness you can imagine. He friends used to add to the collection and any one who came to Rottingdean bringing some tiny tree, or flower, or figure, was doubly welcome.
A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website. Click on the portrait to visit that website.
Some authors, over time, weave themselves into your reading life! When I was in high school, I read a book by Nevil Shute called On the Beach, a story about nuclear war. I remember only a few details of the story after so many years, but I vividly remember the powerful emotional impact it had on me. Then, years later, when my children were young, the Hubby and I enjoyed watching a series on Masterpiece Theatre called A Town Like Alice, based on a book by Nevil Shute. Again, it had a powerful emotional impact on me and I still consider it one of my favorites from many years of stories we’ve watched on Masterpiece Theatre.
Last month, I discovered the audiobook of A Town Like Alice was available through Audible. I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while knitting, and was delighted to discover how much I enjoy Nevil Shute’s writing and storytelling. This was an amazing story of love, survival, resilience, and hope during and after World War II. When I finished it, I didn’t want to leave his storytelling presence, so I downloaded another of his books. Pied Piper, the story of a 70-year-old Englishman who was able to lead 7 young children to safety during World War II, also captured my heart and I had a hard time taking off the earphones, listening to it in record time!
So over my lifetime of reading, Nevil Shute has “visited” me numerous times. Each time, I have appreciated that he tells his stories with honesty and emotional integrity; that his characters are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times and who meet those challenges with courage and kindness. He reminds me that one person can make a difference.
I look forward to reading my next book by Nevil Shute, and welcome his stories of good and caring people into the fabric of my reading life.
Photograph taken a Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City.
Wow! That was a long blogging break! I didn’t plan to leave my blog for months…it just happened. Summer was full of wonderful reading, travels, family, Grandboy time, knitting! I loved ‘living in the moment’ this summer, unattached to schedules and long-term goals, actually feeling like a retired person! The time I did spend online was much more simple and quick than it is when I sit down a write a blog post. I posted photos on Instagram, wrote an occasional Tweet, and interacted with my Facebook family and friends. The rest of my time was spent simply enjoying the summer. It was one of the nicest summers in years and years.
That said, I’m sitting down today to break the sound of silence here on my blog and to say goodbye to my Summer of re-reading old favorites and of finding new-to-me authors to love. So here are my summer highlights:
Loved rereading the Harry Potter series!
Enjoyed listening to the rest of Jacqueline Winspear‘s Maisie Dobbs series!
Favorite book of the summer? A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute! Does anyone else remember watching the Masterpiece Theatre version of this with Bryan Brown?
Some very pleasant summer reading included books by D.E. Stevenson, Elizabeth Goudge, Rhys Bowen, Susanna Kearsley, and Angela Thirkell.
One book that lingered in my thoughts for a long time this summer: The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa.
I hope you had a nice summer, too, and enjoyed your reading, and life, as much as I did!
On one of our summer walks…
I am completely immersed in this book: The Golden Compass, the first book of Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials series. I read it long ago, (in 1996 to be exact) and remember liking it, but not loving it, and I didn’t continue with the series when the other books were published. What was I thinking? Where was I at that time in my life? Reading it this time, I can’t put the book down! And I can’t wait to read the other books that follow! It just goes to show that “timing” is a very important part of one’s reading.
In The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, a gifted mathematics professor suffered brain damage in an accident that left him with only 80 minutes of working short-term memory. He had been cared for over the years since the accident by housekeepers who ran his household and watched over him. They came and were replaced frequently.
The new housekeeper, however, is different from the others who had looked after the professor before her. A very caring and intuitive person, she (and her young son) become close to him, and their kindness and caring ways bring out the best in all of them. They become a kind of family, sharing a love of mathematics and of baseball, and taking care of each other. But each day, when the housekeeper returns, the professor doesn’t remember the events and interactions of the day before.
It’s a fascinating kind of story. It didn’t have big action or lots of drama, but it stays with you long after you finish the book. I loved the relationships, the math that was explained by this gifted teacher, and the baseball. I read it for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 8, and it was a lovely choice. I look forward to reading more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.
Carl V’s Once Upon a Time reading challenges always end too soon! I enjoyed reading a number of books this time around, but didn’t post about each of them. For me, this time, my participation in this challenge was simply all about the joy of the genre. So here are the books I read, or re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed for Once Upon a Time VIII. Thank you, Carl, for hosting this special annual celebration of the magical!
And some wise words from one of my favorites, Roald Dahl, as a fond farewell to this year’s Once Upon a Time…
Now that I’m retired, summer reading has taken on a whole new meaning for me. For one thing, my summer is longer with much more time for sitting on the porch and reading. Yay! I don’t have to spent most of June finishing teaching units, grading papers, and writing report cards. I don’t have to take classes in July to update my teaching certificate. And I don’t have to spend days and weeks in August preparing my classroom and going to district teacher meetings. Although I miss my kiddos, I am happy now that I can just enjoy reading on my front porch! And doesn’t that sounds heavenly?!
So I decided to start my “Summer Reading” on June 1st this year with a re-read (this is the 6th time) of an absolute favorite of mine: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
It was early in 1968, having just returned from a year abroad as an exchange student, when I read a reprint of an article by W.H. Auden from The New York Times. It was a review of a series of books by an English author, J.R.R. Tolkien. They sounded so good, I quickly went out and bought all 4 books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those delightful hours spent reading those books set the standard for my summer reading. Total immersion into a different world… Traveling there and back again without having to leave my comfortable summer reading spot… Complete enjoyment of beautiful writing and wonderful creativity… I would love to recapture some of those delightful reading moments from long ago!
So… I am reading and enjoying, once again, The Hobbit.
By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…
Hobbit house at the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon…
The lovely Meredith, at Dolce Bellezza, has announced her Japanese Literature Challenge, her 8th time hosting this lovely challenge. I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read for her past challenges and so I am going to enjoy participating in this one once again this summer. My goal is to read at least one book, knowing that my biggest challenge is to actually finish these Challenges I take on. But I will choose from some very interesting books that I already have, or have been interested in reading some day, and, so perhaps I will be able to finish more than one! Here’s my collection of possibilities:
- The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
- Country Teacher, by Katai Tayama
- Tales from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
- The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Theodore W. Goossen
And here are my reviews of books I’ve finished for her previous challenges:
- The Big Wave, by Pearl S. Buck
- Thousand Cranes, by Yasunari Kawabata
- The Bells of Nagasaki, by Takashi Nagai
- After the Quake, by Haruki Murakami
- Twenty-Four Eyes, by Sakae Tsuboi
- Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Akinari Ueda
- Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square
- The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samuari, by Erik Christian Haugaard
- Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
- Summer of the Big Bachi, by Naomi Hirahara
- Kusamakura, by Natsume Soseki
THANKS, Meredith, for organizing another enjoyable challenge and sharing your love of Japanese literature with us!
…Matilda, by Roald Dahl. Wonderful narration by the brilliant Kate Winslet! A very enjoyable audiobook, Winslet’s narration just won an Audie Award for Children’s Titles for Ages 8-12.