Sunday, 19 March 2023

Death Makes a Prophet by John Bude (1947)

The British Library has been reprinting some neglected old British Crime Classics. I counted 99 in my last check. The last time I looked there were about seventy-four books by a variety of authors including Freeman Wills Croft, George Bellairs, E.C.R. Lorac, John Bude and others. They're rather expensive to buy here but I have found a couple secondhand and picked up some more when I was in the U.K .a couple of years ago.

I've enjoyed a few by John Bude and thought this one looked promising so I bought a new copy. I didn’t regret my pick and thoroughly enjoyed this droll, and at times a little dark, crime novel.

The Children of Osiris was a cult created and led by the High Prophet, Eustace K. Mildmann, a widower with an only son, Terence, who was twenty-one years of age at the time of this story.

The cult, adopting the initials of their full title, referred to their doctrine as the Cult of Coo, or Cooism. Their dogmas included a mixture of Ancient Egyptian beliefs and bits and pieces of lesser-known religions with a modern twist.

The Cult of Coo believed in ‘magic numbers, astrology, auras, astral bodies, humility, meditation, vegetarianism, immortality, hand-woven tweeds and brotherly love.’ Mildmann was a sincere, dreamy man who believed Cooism was the key to all life’s mysteries.

‘His best ideas had always come to him when sunk in a self-imposed trance, or, as he pithily expressed it, “during a phase of Yogi-like non-being.” (“Non-being” figured as a very important factor in the Cult of Coo, though nobody seemed able to define its exact significance.)’

When he moved to the trendy Welworth Garden City in the 1940’s he found the right soil for his ideas and before long a group of intellectuals ripe for the picking. When the Hon. Mrs. Hagge-Smith came on the scene she totally embraced Cooism and became Mildmann’s patron and financial backer.

The author spends the first half of the book building the scene for a murder by introducing the various characters associated with the cult; their backgrounds, quirks, ambitions and petty jealousies. The second half of the book is more serious, although it still has some sparks of humour, and it’s here that Inspector Meredith makes his first appearance.

There are some bizarre and baffling circumstances for Meredith to untangle. This book was quite different to The Lakes District Murder, mostly because of the humorous aspects that Bude scattered throughout, but also because the plot didn’t go into intricate details about things that I knew nothing about.

Some of my favourite parts are those that deal with Terence. Here was an athletic, practical young man with the appetite of a horse and the physique of a boxer. He was the very antithesis of his father who ‘had done everything to undermine his normality.’ From clamping down on his tremendous appetite with a strict vegetarian diet, giving him a very small allowance of sixpence a week, requiring him to wear ‘rational clothing’ which included shorts in the middle of winter, and making him a Symbol-bearer in the Temple.

One day Terence met Denise, Mrs. Hagge-Smith’s secretary and immediately fell in love with her. She didn’t mind him either.

‘Terence…shot a quick glance at the miracle in his midst and asked abruptly:

“I say, don’t think this is rude of me, but do you have manifestations?”


It sounded as if he were referring to insects or pimples.

“Yes, you know – astral visions and all that sort of thing. Spirit shapes.”

“No – I can’t say that I do. I dream rather a lot after a late supper. But I’m not at all psychic, if that’s what you mean.”

“I am,” announced Terence, to Denise’s surprise. “I’m always having astral manifestations. I get quite a kick out of it.” His eyes assumed a dreamy expression and then suddenly narrowed, as if he were trying, there and then, to penetrate the Veil. “It’s marvellous sometimes how clearly I see things. They’re so terribly realistic.”

“Things?” enquired Denise. “What things?”

“Steaks mostly. But sometimes its mutton-chops or steak and kidney pudding. I just have to close my eyes, relax my mind and body, and there they are…You think it’s blasphemous of me to see things like that, don’t you? I know it’s not very high-minded, but -”

“I don’t think anything of the sort. I think it’s very clever of you to see anything at all.”

Terence just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for peanut cutlets and raw cabbage and he confessed to his new-found friend that he went on the binge the week before and spent ten-weeks pocket money on a good feed.

Inspector Meredith always considered this investigation involving the Children of Osiris to be one of the most interesting, bizarre and exacting of all his cases. I thought it was an unusual mix for a murder mystery but very enjoyable.

Friday, 10 March 2023

Learning with Literature

 During March, Kylie at The Sweet Spot Society is hosting a series of live events on her private off-Facebook community. These will be free, but you will need to register to attend. Sign up at the Sweet Spot link above.

In my session on the 14th of March, we'll be looking at how to instill the love of reading into our children, reading instruction in the early years, investing in our own intellectual lives (known as “Mother Culture’’ in the Charlotte Mason community) and its importance not only for us, but in particular, for our children as they head into the teen years. If we have time, I'll also talk about university entry for home educators in Australia.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 23 February 2023

We Love L. M. Montgomery Week!

 This week is a celebration of all things L.M. Montgomery. Hamlette is hosting a blog party and you are invited to join in. There are games and prizes to be won or you may just read one of her stories, her poetry, or a biography about the author herself. 

A couple of books by Montgomery that I've enjoyed and written about are:

Anne of Avonlea

Rilla of Ingleside

Places of Interest:

L.M. Montgomery Online

Order of L.M. Montgomery Books

Canadian Encyclopedia

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

From My Commonplace Book - Elizabeth Goudge


📚 Elizabeth Goudge’s book, ‘The Child From the Sea,’ first published in 1970, is set around the time of the English Civil War. Lucy Walters, the main character, is devastated when her mother leaves her father. Lucy and her brothers are torn between their loyalty to them both…the tangled threads. This passage where her grandmother on her mother’s side is speaking to Dr. Cosin, a Royalist and high churchman, explains why Lucy decides to go with her father:

“…inborn loyalty has a fearsome strength and can cloud our thinking more than any other emotion.”

“Why do you say a fearful strength?” asked Mrs. Gwinne. “Is loyalty not admirable?”

“Certainly. Do we not suspect turncoats? and rightly. They are not usually good men. But very occasionally they may be. The threads of the web are tangled, madam. That is the tragedy of a world riddled by sin.”

“And you?” asked Mrs. Gwinne.

A smile softened Dr. Cosin’s rugged face. “Madam, I have thought deeply about these things, but I am a hot-tempered man and like all such men deeply committed. I love the King, whose chaplain I am, and the Church of England is my firstborn. That last sentence, madam, is one that could be written on my tombstone.”

It had been a dialogue between the two of them, for Mrs. Gwinnes thoughts had wandered to the book beside his plate, and Lucy could not understand all they said. But she knew about the tangled threads for she had discovered them at home in Wales, and she understood what loyalty was. There was disagreement in her home, forcing her to decision, and day by day for months past her heart had been like a ball tossed backwards and forwards between father and mother. Now, looking at Dr. Cosin’s sternly resolved face, it seemed that her heart was at rest as she thought of her father. “He is my firstborn,” she said to herself. 

Later on in the book... 

'...the dilatory reluctance of the law had as yet brought no settlement between William and Elizabeth, only increasing bitterness that shamed their children, but Lucy was learning to live both with the longing and the shame, to love her father as her firstborn and her mother as much as she could, and to pay no attention to what they said about each other. She was like a mother with two quarrelling children confined in different rooms, and went from one to the other with tolerant tenderness.'

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

For the Family's Sake - Thoughts on each chapter


Monday, 16 May 2022

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (1922)

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini is an exciting adventure story which begins around 1685 when King James II was on the throne of England.

Peter Blood was a thirty-two year old Irish physician who had taken service with the Dutch under the great admiral de Ruyter and fought against France. He spent two years in a Spanish prison and later served with the French in their wars against the Spanish Netherlands.
As the story opens, he was in England working as a doctor, when an attempt was made by the Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter) to overthrow James II after Charles’ death.
Blood watched the men of the town as they rallied under Monmouth’s banner head off to what he knew would be ignominious defeat. It was no concern to him and that night he went to bed early and didn’t wake until 4 a.m. with the sound of hammering on his door.
Blood was called urgently to treat a young nobleman wounded in the rebellion during the night; a man who had been a friendly and generous patron to him and to whom he felt indebted.
This act of mercy was to change his life.

Two months later Blood was brought to trial on a charge of high treason before the infamous Judge Jeffreys. Narrowly escaping the gallows, Blood was sentenced to ten years of slavery in Barbados.
At the first opportunity that presented itself, he devised a means of escaping with a group of slaves. This made a life of piracy their only option.
What follows is a colourful, high spirited tale involving romance, piracy and a good dose of historical detail.

Captain Blood
engaged me from the very first page and never let up with its twists and knife edge escapades. He is a very likeable character, who, despite being involved in piracy, is a man of moral character - you’ll have to read the book to understand this paradox.
Swashbuckling it definitely is. Sabatini was an exceptional writer and it is not surprising that this book quickly became a best-seller after it was published and is still in print.

I was looking through the ‘Old Favourites’ section of a Lifeline book-sale a couple of years ago and an elderly man asked me if I’d seen any books by Rafael Sabatini and explained how wonderful they were. I’d only read Scaramouche so I’ve kept a lookout ever afterwards and picked up a few of his books.
Captain Blood has been reprinted by Dover Publications; they price their books well but they’re not really robust which is a problem when you have a book like this that demands to be read by everyone in the family.
Highly recommended for teen readers or anyone who likes a ripper of an adventure story based on historical events.
Fortunately, Sabatini was a prolific author and his books are available on Kindle quite cheaply.

‘…in the Caribbean, the Spanish Admiral Don Miguel de Espinosa might be said - to use a term not yet invented in his day - to have run amok. The disgrace into which he had fallen as a result of the disasters suffered at the hands of Captain Blood had driven the Admiral all but mad. It is impossible, if we impose our minds impartially, to withhold a certain sympathy from Don Miguel. Hate was now this unfortunate man’s daily bread, and the hope of vengeance an obsession to his mind. As a madman he went raging up and down the Caribbean seeking his enemy, and in the meantime, as an hors-d’oeuvre to his vindictive appetite, he fell upon any ship of England or of France that loomed above his horizon.’

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Goodbye Blogspot - a final post

 After 9 years on Blogger I have decided to move to WordPress. I've spent too much time fiddling around with technology in the last little while and will be happy just to get back to writing!


Come and check it out and tell me what you think. And try out the comment section (hopefully an improvement on the Blogger experience) & follow via email! 

Thanks to the blogging friends who helped me and gave up their time to chat and email. Much appreciated!


Update: All the content from this blog has been transferred over to journey & destination @ Wordpress; AmblesideOnline posts & Australian substitutes have been updated and are listed here.
I have 9 years worth of links from Pinterest & other blogs linked to this blog so I've re-opened it so those aren't lost completely but new content will be posted on the other blog. Sign up over there if you'd like to keep following.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge (1949) #20 Books of Summer

Gentian Hill is a book that is based partly on history and partly on legend. Anthony, a fifteen year old orphan, became a midshipman in the British Navy after the unexpected death of his grandmother who had brought him up after both his parents died.

The British were fighting Napoleon and Anthony, only two months in service, had not yet seen any action. In fact he shrank from it with dread. All his life he’d been afraid and suddenly it seemed to him that it was impossible for him to continue in the navy. When his ship entered the bay at Torbay on the English Channel, the temptation to desert the ship came and he yielded to it.

After spending some time in hiding and in a state of semi-starvation, he found a miller willing to give him work but the man’s son, Sam, who had brawn but no brains, took an instant dislike to the well-educated young man and made life miserable for him. 

The miller was famed as a wrestler and Sam was obviously following in his footsteps and pummeled Anthony at every opportunity. Anthony was left with two choices - to leave the work at the mill, just as he had left the Navy, or stay and learn how to wrestle.

A wrestling match was coming up in a month and Anthony proposed that Sam leaves off his poundings and that he and his father teach him how to wrestle. When the match was held they would fight together and if Sam won, Anthony would leave the mill. 

The match day arrived and as expected Anthony was the loser, although he put up a good fight. One of the spectators was a doctor and when Sam threw Anthony to the ground he intervened and took the young man home to care for him. As he was carrying Anthony to his carriage another man went to help him and so another thread was added to Anthony’s story that would reveal itself at a later stage.

Anthony’s inner demon had always been fear and he had to learn not to be ruled by it. The doctor was instrumental in Anthony’s growth in this area of his life. He helped Anthony to see that right decisions are not always followed by feelings of relief.

‘You’ve done the right thing...though as far as you can see its not done you any good. Not much glory about it, as far as you can see. You feel damnable. That’s of no consequence - feelings don’t matter. It’s action that matters, and from fine action some sort of glory always breaks in the end…’

The doctor gave this advice to Anthony on dealing with fear:

‘To begin with, don’t fight it, accept it without shame, just as you would accept any other limitation you happen to be born with…Willing acceptance is half the battle…Be willing to be afraid, but don’t be afraid of your fear. As a doctor I can tell you that every man has within him a store of strength, both physical and spiritual, of which he is utterly unaware until the moment of crisis.’

There are many other characters in this story that I haven’t alluded to as well as ‘Providential’ threads, a romance of sorts, and a bit of history and legend thrown in.

As is usual with Elizabeth Goudge, she interspersed this story with philosophical rambles and the inner workings of the minds of her various characters which really flesh out the narrative.

‘You’re not befouled by another man’s obscenities and brutalities, but only by your own.’

Gentian Hill is a satisfying story of second chances, friendship and sacrificial love and of course, Goudge’s trademark descriptions of the beautiful English countryside.

'Fear is a lonely thing. Even those who love us best cannot get close to us when we are afraid.'

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (2019) #20 Books Of Summer

Aleppo was a beautiful city before the civil war brought unrest and violence to Syria. The Beekeeper of Aleppo provides a glimpse of this beauty before the civil war swept Syria with violence and destruction.

Nuri was a beekeeper and his wife an artist whose paintings of rural and urban areas of the country won her many awards. They had a three year old son, Sami. Nuri’s cousin, Mustafa, had introduced him to beekeeping and together they ran a profitable business. It was Mustafa who first realised that trouble was brewing and made plans to send his wife and daughter to England while he stayed behind with his teenaged son to see to the bees. 

‘I just can’t abandon the bees, Nuri,’ he said one night, his large hand coming down over his face and his beard, as if he was trying to wipe off the sombre expression he always wore now. ‘The bees are family to us.’

One night vandals destroyed the hives and with all the bees dead, Mustafa was ready to leave Aleppo along with Nuri and his family. But before he could left tragedy struck both families.

Mustafa managed to get out of Syria in time but Afra refused to leave. Trauma had blinded her, physically and mentally, and it took a threat on her husband’s life to awaken her to their danger. 

The political scene had deteriorated so much that men and boys were forced into fighting and leaving the country was fraught with danger.

The story follows Nuri and Afra as they escape via Turkey to Greece and the perils they encounter on the way. They planned to join Mustafa in England but everything was so uncertain and the smugglers they depended upon untrustworthy. Even in Athens there were dangers and it seemed as if they’d never find a safe resting place. Trauma had laid its hand on both man and wife and changed them both. Now they had to learn to know each other again.

Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees and spent time working at a refugee centre in Athens. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a work of fiction but it grew out of what she saw, heard and felt on the streets and camps in Athens. A letter from the author at the end of the book describes how the idea for the story came to her and the impact her work with refugees made upon her.

Lefteri doesn’t shy away from the reality of civil war, the trauma suffered by refugees and especially the danger to unaccompanied minors in refugee camps, but she doesn’t dwell on it either. I thought this was handled well, giving the reader enough details but not too explicitly. It is a compassionate look at the plight of people caught up in messes not of their own making and the choices made by individuals to either to help or prey upon those who have nowhere else to turn. 

One thing I wasn’t enamoured with was the shifting timeline of the story. This seems to be a common device of modern authors but it doesn’t always work. I thought it was confusing in this case.

A plus - two nice full page maps showing Syria and Nuri and Afra’s journey. If I were a publisher this would be mandatory for any book involving a journey.

Monday, 21 June 2021

An Episode of Sparrows By Rumer Godden (1955) #20 Books of Summer

 An Episode of Sparrows is another perceptive and sensitive novel by Rumer Godden. Godden’s writing is spare and unsentimental with a gritty realism, but also much beauty.

In the preface to this book she wrote:

'Finally the time came when I had to tell myself miserably, “You have squandered, muddled, and wasted everything, everything from opportunity to money. Wasted.”

There I was wrong. After the war years of hard work, poverty, and loneliness in Kashmir I needed that space of gaiety, companionship, even luxury, and I have come to believe that nothing is ever wasted; out of mistakes, or through mistakes, something quite worthwhile can come, in my case the seed of another novel.’

Living in the busy whirl of post-war London in a tiny little jewel of a house, she spent as much time as she could in the nearby park where she got to know the antics of the ‘London sparrows’- children from the poorer streets nearby. She picked her way through the bombed-out sections of London where weedy flowers pushed their way up through broken masonry and blossomed in the rubble.

Godden wrote that all her stories have themes underlying them, not actually stated, but there all the same. An Episode of Sparrows grew out of her stay in London but it wasn't until ten years later, in 1955, when she started to write it.

There are multiple characters in this story but the central figure, Lovejoy Mason, is a girl of about 11 years of age whose life held little love and no joy.

Lovejoy’s mother worked on the stage and had casually left her with Mrs Crombie and her husband, Vincent, a superb chef wasting away in an impoverished part of town with virtually no clientele, while she went off all over the place for work. From time to time the neglectful mother would return to her daughter who was devoted to her. Then there came a time when she didn’t come at all.

‘Mrs Crombie was kind, Vincent was very kind, but for Mrs Crombie there was really only Vincent and for Vincent there was only the restaurant. Lovejoy was a little extra tacked on.

She had never heard of a vortex but she knew there was a big hole, a pit, into which a child could be swept down, a darkness that sucked her down so that she ceased to be Lovejoy, or anyone at all, and was a speck in thousands of socks, ‘Millions,’ said Lovejoy, and then there was something called ‘no-one.’

The story revolves around a secret garden. Lovejoy who, with the help of some other London sparrows, steals some good soil from the rich neighbourhood gardens to start their own. Godden’s clever use of shifting perspectives brings in all the other supporting characters and gives us insight into their motivations, reactions and thoughts. 

Olivia and Angela are two unmarried sisters who live in the more prosperous area near Lovejoy. Olivia, the eldest, is dominated by her beautiful, high energy and opinionated younger sister. When Olivia finds a small footprint in the garden bed that points to the soil thieves, she says nothing and her heart is stirred to find out more about the Sparrows.

“It was not the absence of a man that Olivia regretted so much, though she could have wished that both she and Angela had married…that blank in her life was not the worst, but I wish children were not so unknown to me…Olivia divined something in children, not in her nieces and nephews…who were precocious and spoilt, but in the children who were let alone, real children…they seemed to her truer than grown-ups, unalloyed; watching them, she knew they were vital; if you were with them you would be alive, thought Olivia.”

As Lovejoy planted her garden in the bombed ruins of a churchyard, her soul grew along with her seedlings…

‘At night now, when she went to bed, she did not lie awake feeling the emptiness; she thought about the garden, the seeds, their promised colours. She had never before thought of colours…except in clothes, thought Lovejoy; now she saw colours everywhere, the strong yellow of daffodils…the deep colours of anemones; she was learning all their names; she saw how white flowers shone and showed their shape against the London drab and grey. She was filled with her own business. She had never had her own business before; directly after breakfast, on her way to school, she went to the garden and was thinking about it all day long.’

She spent most of her time waiting…for her mother to wake up in the mornings; waiting for her while she tried on clothes or went shopping; waiting outside pubs.

‘Why did people take it for granted that children had all that time to waste? I want to garden, not wait, she thought rebelliously.’

Rumer Godden’s writing is similar in some aspects to Elizabeth Goudge’s. They both were both masters of characterisation and understood human conflict. Godden’s style is terse, Goudge tends to be rambling and more philosophically inclined but both were adept at thematic undertones. I think Rumer Godden had a greater insight into children - The Greengage Summer is another example of her way of seeing from a child’s perspective.

Although both of the books just mentioned are focused on children, there are some themes that make them more suited to older readers. Greengage has some obvious mature content, An Episode of Sparrows only has one aspect that would make me hesitate to give it to a younger person - Lovejoy’s mother would entertain her male friends in her room while her daughter sat forlornly on the steps outside. It was a passing observation so it would probably go over a child’s head. However, I’d hold off until about age 14 because there is an underlying richness that may not be appreciated or understood by a younger child. From an adult point of view it is a story that has staying power and lingers in your mind and heart afterwards.

Both authors have been unjustly neglected but Elizabeth Goudge has made a comeback in more recent years and from what I’ve read this has been largely initiated by book bloggers. (Yay!) Rumer Godden’s works need a similar revival.

Biography | Rumer Godden