Reading Woman, circa 1900
I want to thank you for all of your "get well soons" in the previous post. Thankfully, the mystery rash turned out not to be chicken pox or shingles, but a strange allergic reaction to I know not what. I'm pretty much back to normal now, although still a little tired and swollen (on my extremities!), and I hope to be back in blog action from now on. I've been doing quite a bit of reading over the past week, but feel a little too lazy to write a proper book review (I'm like a hungover university student at the moment) so I thought I'd find you a few choice quotes and give you a little overview of each book I've read (re-read). Enjoy, bookish huswyfes!
Cold Comfort Farm
I'm not a big fan of Thomas Hardy, or DH Lawrence for that matter. All of those rural drama-queens fighting and fornicating get right on my pip. I want to walk right into the novel and boss them all about, teach them a few lessons on counting their blessings and introduce the main protagonists to nice boys and girls who will treat them well and keep the cottage garden neat and tidy. I can't help but think that Stella Gibbons felt the same, and that is why she invented monumental bossy-boots Flora Poste. To cut a long story short, armed only with a delightful and suitable wardrobe and her favourite book, The Higher Common Sense, Flora moves in with her disastrous rural cousins the Starkadders and tidies up their lives. It's a jolly good read, a well achieved satire and often laugh out loud funny. I enjoyed it very much, and you will too if you have a slight bossy streak. Here's an extract.
"By the way, I adore my bedroom, but do you think I could have the curtains washed? I believe they are red; and I should so like to make sure."
Judith sunk into reverie.
"Curtains? she asked, vacantly, lifting her magnificent head. "Child, child, it is many years since such trifles broke across my web of solitude."
On Green Dolphin Street
I'm quite a fan of Sebastian Faulks. He has a knack for writing about love, and how women love, in such a real and sympathetic manner. His prose is absolutely beautiful and he's not a bit tricky or self-satisfied. When I'd finished this novel I wanted to hug him, just for being such a very good writer. I suppose the subject matter of the novel is a little tricky though, particularly if you're a Christian, as it concerns a woman's deep and loyal love for her husband and children and the passionate love she develops for another man. Faulks is neither judgmental about the woman's choices nor does he justify them, but simply describes the woman's relationships with tenderness and honesty. For a long time the affair she embarks on is reminiscent to that in Brief Encounter, however, towards the end of the novel, her relationship with Frank is consummated, and Faulks' prose gets a little, well, saucy. I found it very moving. Here's an extract from the beginning of their romance.
She said, "I want you to know for today, tomorrow, for the rest of your life how much you have meant to me, how much you have touched me with your ..." she smiled, feeling tears pricking at her eyes "...your tour of the city. I want you to remember always what a fine man you are, or so you seem to me. I so much admire your dedication, how much you've done, how hard you've fought for yourself. And your kindness, your manners, your...Well, everything about you. I think you're wonderful. Wonderful."
Frank sat staring at her for a few moments. He looked now exactly as he had on the first night she had met him, after the party, black marks beneath his eyes, his tie half mast, his cropped hair slightly rumpled.
He said, "Have you finished?"
She bit her lip and nodded.
He said, "I'm in love with you too."
The Pace of a Hen
The Pace of a Hen is the best book I've read on Christian homemaking, this is because the writer sees the homemaker's role one of providing stability, support and sound teaching. She uses the shape of the cross to teach women how to lead a truly balanced Christian life and pass this sense of balance onto our husbands and children and the wider community. She believes that a Christian's life should compromise prayer, recreation, work and family and I think this idea of leading a truly harmonious life for Christ is incredibly pertinent in today's world, where the work/life balance is so skewed in favour of work that many of our families become fragmented, dysfunctional and just plain old tired out. There is so much great advice in this book, that I'm a little spoilt for choice in choosing an extract, but here's what Josephine Moffett Benton has to say about creativity.
The results of creativity need not always have visible shape and design. The main field of creativity in our day, Fritz Kunkel once said, should be human relationships. Listening to a neighbour can create friendship; listening to a bird can create worship; listening to God can create a soul.
Our minds need many kinds of exercise, and creativity which uses mind and muscles is a source of balance and a wellspring of joy. A woman who walks in the woods, who makes a lampshade, who bakes a loaf of bread, who refinishes an old chair, has not time for bitterness and depression.