Friday, 22 March 2019

The Growth of a Soul: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (1876)

Daniel Deronda was George Eliot’s final novel and her most controversial work.
The book contains a double plot, which was quite common with Victorian novelists such as Charles Dickens and William Thackeray, but Eliot took an unusual direction in this novel by introducing a Jewish theme. Between 1860 and 1874, the idea of re-establishing a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel was the focus of a group of men who came to be known as the Proto-Zionists, or the fore-runners of Zionism and Eliot's story revolves around this.

Daniel Deronda is a comfortably off young man who has no knowledge of his origins and thinks he is the illegitimate son of his benefactor. By dint of circumstance he becomes involved with Mordecai, a young Jewish man dying of consumption, who believes that Deronda has been sent to him so that he may pass on to him his knowledge and vision.

Before he encounters Mordecai, Deronda meets Gwendolen Harleth, a beautiful but self-centred and vain young woman who ends up ‘marrying money.’
Her husband, Henleigh Grandcourt, is decadent, controlling, callous, and extremely wealthy.
Throughout the novel the lives of Deronda and Gwendolen criss-cross and Gwendolen sees him as her saviour in some ways, turning to him for guidance as her husband’s domination and control begins to crush her.

This is a large-scale novel with many twisted strands and each of the chapters tend to alternately focus on specific characters which makes for dense reading at times.

I found the relationship between Gwendolen and her husband compelling reading and when the narrative changed to focus on what was going on in Deronda's life, I felt irritated me at times because I was anxious to see how the couple’s relationship would work out.

Reading about Gwendolen was like watching the slow growth of a soul and it was one of my favourite parts of the book.

Eliot was well-read and intellectual - you don’t have to read for too long to realise that the themes she explores in this novel were assiduously researched. Excerpts, quotations or mentions of art, economics, literature, history, and music plus 683 explanatory notes in my copy of the book (!! and of course, I had to read them all) attest to that. This book is quite different to her other books, especially Adam Bede (which was delightful) and Silas Marner (which I also enjoyed).
Daniel Deronda requires a real commitment to get through, but it’s worth it.

I’ll get back to Gwendolen’s soul journey shortly, but first I have to say that there were some minor characters that were just delightful.

Mrs Meyrick was one of them. She and her daughters lived in a house that looked very shabby from the outside but was, in reality, a place of beauty and culture...

‘...their minds being like mediaeval houses with unexpected recesses and openings from this into that, flights of steps and sudden outlooks.’

She was a kind, motherly woman with much wisdom:

'Don’t be forecasting evil, dear child, unless it is what you can guard against. Anxiety is good for nothing if we can’t turn it into a defence. But there’s no defence against all the things that might be.'

Herr Klesmer was another gem. A first-rate Jewish musician engaged by the wealthy Arrowpoint family to teach Catherine, their only daughter and heiress to the family fortune, a handsome catch for anyone after a fortune, but Klesmer was a proud and honourable man. It was inconceivable that Catherine would consider an attachment to Klesmer...

But along came Mr Bult, a political man of a good family, a ‘new pretender to her hand,’ and Herr Klesmer spoke up...

' are to me the chief woman in the world - the throned lady whose colours I carry between my heart and my once said it was your doom to suspect every man who courted you of being an adventurer, and what made you angriest was men’s imputing to you the folly of not believing that they courted you for your own sake...

It was a bitter word. Well, at least one man who has seen women as plenty as flowers in May has lingered about you for your own sake. And since he is one whom you can never marry, you will believe him...don’t give yourself for a meal to a Minotaur like Bult...'

'Why should I not marry the man who loves me, if I love him?' said Catherine. To her the effort was something like the leap of a woman from the deck into the lifeboat.

'It would be too hard - impossible- you could not carry it through. I am not worth what you would have to encounter. I will not accept the sacrifice. It would be thought a m├ęsalliance for you, and I should be liable o the worst accusations.'

'Is it the accusations you are afraid of? I am afraid of nothing but that we should miss the passing of our lives together.'

This was one of my favourite scenes. They both had to face her parents who were totally astonished and absolutely furious but Catherine had a will of her own and Klesmer didn't care about the fortune.

Now back to Gwendolen.

Gwendolen was self-absorbed. ‘Always she was the princess in exile,’ and was a person who had a ‘strong determination to have what was pleasant, with a total fearlessness in making themselves disagreeable or dangerous when they did not get it.’

But she had one redeeming quality. She loved her mother, although she didn’t really express that very well at times. In fact it was mostly out of fear of her mother being forced to live in poverty that she married Grandcourt.
Grandcourt did provide for her mother after they were married but he shunned any contact with both  the mother and uncle, whose family had been so good to her and this was very painful to Gwendolen.

Eliot’s characterisation of Grandcourt is chilling:

‘...his negative mind was as diffusive as fog, clinging to all objects, and spoiling all contact.

...quarrelling with Grancourt was impossible: she might as well have made angry remarks to a dangerous serpent coiled in her cabin without invitation.

Grandcourt had an intense satisfaction in leading his wife captive after this fashion: it gave their life on a small scale a royal representation and publicity in which everything familiar was got rid of and everybody must do what was expected of them whatever might be their private protest - the protest (kept strictly private) adding to the piquancy of despotism.

The beings closest to us, whether in love or hate, are often virtually our interpreters of the world...may be acting as a melancholy theory of life in the minds of those who live with them...'

The neutral loftiness of her husband chilled Gwendolen but unconsciously she began to appreciate people she had previously held in contempt. In her talks with Deronda he had encouraged her to find some mental enlargement by reading difficult authors so she took to reading Descartes, Bacon, Locke, and others. However, they didn’t blend with her daily agitations and instead she discovered this ‘mental enlargement’ when she reflected upon her family and especially the kindness shown to her and them by her uncle in the past.
She began to see others through a different lens.

'She, whose unquestioning habitat had been to take the best that came to her for less than her own claim, had now to see the position which tempted her in a new light, as a hard, unfair exclusion of others.'

She had married Grandcourt with the idea that she could conquer him as she had done with others but she had not considered that 'the desire to conquer is itself a sort of subjection.' Grandcourt proved to be unconquerable and Gwendolen's humiliation gave her eyes to see others more kindly.

'She was experiencing some of that peaceful melancholy which comes from the renunciation of demands for self, and from taking the ordinary good of existence, and especially kindness, even from a dog, as a gift above expectation.'

Daniel Deronda is really a story of redemption. I haven’t said very much at all about the eponymous hero because Gwendolen’s journey of the soul was the most interesting part of the book for me. He,  too, had a journey of the soul, but I'll leave it at that.

I read this with my book club and it was interesting to hear how differently we engaged with this novel. If you enjoy History there are some very interesting aspects Eliot covers and perhaps if I read the book again I’d concentrate on those more but I found the author’s exploration of character, choice, and growth through suffering full of depth and insight.

Linking to - Back to the Classics 2019: Very Long Novel and The Classics Club

Free Kindle version here.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

A Charlotte Mason Education: Our Week #1

Last week we finished our first week of Year 9 using mostly the Ambleside Online suggestions for this year but with some Australian substitutes and a couple of science additions. Each time we've gone through this AO year we've done things a bit differently.
This time around I have a few other commitments, including having a day with my two grandchildren when Moozle practices her Aunty skills and not a lot of our regular work gets done.
We also have a lot more outside commitments than we've ever had before because I'm only teaching one. This has been a stretch for my less than stellar organization abilities and that is reflected in my plans for the year...I haven't fully decided what we will be using in a couple of subjects at this point.
Anyhow, I thought I'd do a little post on our first week, so here we go:


Captain Cook by Alistair Maclean. This is a substitute for one of the American biographies AO schedule and I've scheduled it for Term 1.

Two more books I'll be including are My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill, which sounds like something from Mills & Boon, but is a superb account of the life of Matthew Flinders, and Currency Lass by Margaret Reason, which is set in the early days of Sydney Town - lots of local history in this, especially of the Parramatta area.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - I'm reading this aloud as part of Science this year and editing where necessary. We're only one chapter in but it generated some great discussion!

The study of Architecture continues and this week Moozle read about Michelangelo in a chapter from 50 Architects You Should Know.

Men, Microscopes & Living Things by Katherine B. Shippen is a Newbery Honor book I've added in for science as we skipped a couple of books from Year 8. I bought the guide to this book from Sabbath Mood Homeschool. It's well done and would be suitable to use with a range of ages. The author includes 'Special Studies' and gives guidelines on how to go about them, which I find helpful as I tend to neglect this after a while.
We only did half of Napoleon's Buttons last year so it continues this year. I'm surprised she likes this book as much as she does because of all the organic chemistry details it includes. We had a home ed high school chemistry workshop a few weeks ago (which she loved) and that was a great way to boost her understanding.
<">Phineas Gageis another book we didn't get to last year so we're doing it now.

The Arts by Van Loon - one of the AO options for this year. We've previously used the Janson book of Painting which is a bit dry whereas Van Loon's book is more engaging, I think.

I bought this Art School Watercolour course during the Black Friday sales last year & Moozle started it this week. So far it looks good & I'll post some more details after she's used it for a while.

John Everett Millais is our current artist. I get Moozle to observe the painting for a week or two and then she writes a description from memory into her notebook.

* Did some hand quilting on her patchwork quilt project while I read aloud - it's getting there bit by bit.

* Orchestra Rehearsal - once a week; preparation for a Musicianship exam and cello practice.

* Commonplace Book - chose a quote from her reading & wrote in in her book

Free Reading

Emma by Jane Austen (re-read)

The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini (re-read) Free for Kindle here. Sabatini is one of her favourite authors.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (re-read)


We started using The Art of Poetry from Classical Academic Press about a month ago. I'll be writing a review shortly.


I'm taking advantage of these free edX courses: Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced Italian. They each run for 12 weeks and may be accessed until 2020.
I'm really thrilled about these being available because Italian would have been my first choice as a foreign language as my Dad's mother was from Molise in Southern Italy although she spent most of her life in Scotland and we were surrounded by Italian speakers when I was growing up.
Due to the lack of resources, especially for younger children, when we first started home educating, we opted for French instead.
The plan was that we'd work through the lessons together but my daughter has left me for dead...I can get the accent easily enough but trying to learn vocabulary when your brain appears to have the dimensions of a pea is very difficult. I have progressed very slightly. She said to me, "I think because I'm young it's easier for me." Never a truer word was spoken.


I read a few of Elizabeth George's books some years ago & liked them and this one, Life Management for Busy Women called out to me from the bookshelf so I thought it was probably time that I read it again.

I've been working on my Christian Greats Challenge. If you have a blog or a Goodreads account feel free to link up with us. Details here.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)

In This House of Brede is a quiet sort of book; reflective and introspective but lively and interesting at the same time.

Philippa Talbot is a successful career woman who joins an order of contemplative Benedictine nuns at the age of forty-two.
Self-possessed, capable, used to giving orders and making decisions, she enters her new life as a postulant with women half her age and finds that it is not a place where she can hide and shut herself off. In this closed community she embarks on a new beginning, comes face to face with the pain of her past, and discovers that others, too, have their frailties and struggles, from the Abbess to the novices.
Phillipa's initial struggles come from unexpected quarters:

'Thank God I shall never gave to give orders again...’ None of the things she had anticipated as being hard, were hard; not the cold, nor the long hours of prayer. It was the little things that were Philippa’s danger; things so little they made her ashamed...the habits of success were fast in Philippa; indulgences that had become habits. Other postulants and novices were not old enough to have them as embedded but for Philippa, in those first months at Brede, they were like hooks being torn out of her flesh.

The daily rubbing of different personalities draws out the little annoyances and personality quirks. One of the Benedictine vows was that of 'conversion of manners,' which involves 'an entirely different way of thinking from the world’s...self-effacement instead of self-aggrandizement: listening instead of talking...being willing to empty yourself...'

'If there is any instability, religious life will make it worse.'

The Benedictine postulants needed to know that there were no compensations to this chosen way of life. A young nun renounces love, marriage, and the gift of children, knowing that ‘the lack of these things will gnaw at her all her life, leave holes in her, yet she must be just as warm, as self-denying and hard working as any wife or mother, and just as loving, without anyone to hold to.’

Somehow most of them did it, as did Sister Cecily whose young man turned up at the Abbey to beg her to leave and marry him.
Oh my! That was difficult to read. I really thought she should leave, marry, and have kids, but maybe that just reflects what I would have done in those circumstances.

An order whose purpose it is to care for the sick or to engage in teaching is understandable to those on the outside, but Brede, being a contemplative order whose main work is prayer, is less inclined to be understood:

'Nowadays there’s a tendency to make everything utilitarian - even the things of the spirit,' said Dame Clare. ‘Beware of this,’ and ‘That wasn’t the way of the saints,’ said Dame Ursula. ‘They didn’t set out to be of use.'

Rumer Godden set her book in the mid 1950’s and mentions the death of Pope Pius XII. the election of his successor, Cardinal Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) and subsequent changes in church structure. New recommendations for the nuns’ habit were adopted by some of the Abbeys, which was applauded by some but others said that it was casting away tradition.

There is a sense throughout the story of the anticipation of some major event or great drama about to occur but then it passes and life goes on. Not a great deal happens outside of the internal crises of the various characters in the 500 plus pages of this book, but Godden’s writing is compelling. I just wanted to keep reading and was surprised it was so hard to put down.

Philippa stays the course and learns that, ‘Nothing less than the whole is good enough for God.’

In This House of Brede is like a tapestry showing the complexities and flaws behind a work in progress, but it also displays the grace that brings about true transformation and growth that makes for something beautiful and whole. It is a great choice if you're looking for a literary book with a Lenten theme.

‘We have chosen a stillness more powerful than all activity.’

Linking to Christian Greats Challenge, No 7 Seasonal Book and Back to the Classics 2019: 20th Century Novel

Friday, 15 February 2019

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

After watching the BBC version of North & South multiple times and enjoying it so much, I decided it was time to read the novel.
What the movie doesn’t portray, due to obvious time constraints, is the depth of thought and exploration of character that Gaskell put into her work. Nuances, pertinent quotations at the beginning of each chapter, descriptions of landscape and people, the thought processes of the various characters etc. went by the wayside in the translation from book to movie. In some ways the movie and book were totally different experiences; almost two different stories, but in other ways they complemented each other.

If you’ve read Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell’s first book, it’s almost a foreshadowing of North & South as it takes place in an industrial town for the most part and deals with the social problems that surfaced in that setting.

Margaret Hale and her parents leave their beloved village in the south of England to live in the industrial north when her father gives up his role of vicar after struggling with a matter of conscience.
Their new life in Milton (a fictional town akin to Manchester) brings them into contact with mill owners and workers and they are caught up in the tension between the two.
The movie focuses on the relationship between Margaret and Mr. John Thornton, an abrasive, driven,  mill owner who had worked hard to rise from impoverished circumstances to his current position.
They meet when the Hales rent a house from him and over time Thornton comes to love her and declares himself. Margaret scorns him at first but over a period of time she begins to appreciate and understand him and see him differently.

The book shows a much better development of this relationship than the movie. I enjoyed this conversation between the two of them early on in their relationship after Margaret asked Thornton if he thought a certain man, Mr. Morison, was a gentleman:

‘I am not quite the person to decide on another’s gentlemanliness, Miss Hale. I mean, I don’t quite understand your application of the word. But I should say that this Morison is no true man. I don’t know who he is; I merely judge him from Mr. Horsfall’s account.’

‘I suspect my “gentleman” includes your “true man.”’

‘And a great deal more, you would imply. I differ from you. A man is to me a higher and a completer being than a gentleman.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Margaret. ‘We must understand the words differently.’

‘I take it that “gentleman” is a term that only describes a person in his relation to others; but when we speak of him as “a man,” we consider him not merely with regard to his fellow-men, but in relation to himself - to life - to time - to eternity. A cast-away lonely as Robinson Crusoe - a prisoner immured in a dungeon for life - nay, even a saint in Patmos, has his endurance, his strength, his faith, best described by being spoken of as “a man.” I am rather weary of this word “gentlemanly,” which seems to me to be often inappropriately used, and often, too, with such exaggerated distortion of meaning, while the full simplicity of the noun “man,” and the adjective “manly” are unacknowledged - that I am induced to class it with the cant of the day.’

Mr. Hale tutored John, who not having had opportunity for a proper education in his youth, now sought to study the Classics. The two men became good friends and Mr. Hale thought highly of his student but realised that his daughter didn’t. In a conversation regarding this Margaret said:

‘He is a man of great strength of character — of unusual intellect, considering the few advantages he has had.’

And Mr. Hales very astute answer, which I think is a wonderful observation about intellect generally:

‘Not so few. He has led a practical life from a very early age; has been called upon to exercise judgment and self-control. All that develops one part of the intellect. To be sure, he needs some of the knowledge of the past, which gives the truest basis for conjecture as to the future; but he knows this need - he perceives it, and that is something. You are quite prejudiced against Mr. Thornton, Margaret.’

Hard times come upon John Thornton and he is tempted to speculate. His father had done so and when his attempts failed he had committed suicide leaving his wife to bring up John and his younger sister on her own. This had left a profound mark on John. His success as a self-made man and his moral character as to how he conducted his business dealings was something he was rightly proud of.
One night he was very low as he contemplated his future. I loved this conversation he had with his mother who was not very endearing in the movie but redeemed herself here:

‘I have so worked and planned. I have discovered new powers in my situation too late — and now all is over. I am too old to begin again with the same heart. It is hard, mother.’

He turned away from her, and covered his face with his hands.

‘I can’t think,’ said she, with gloomy defiance in her tone, ‘how it comes about. Here is my boy - good son, just man, tender heart - and he fails in all he sets his mind upon: he finds a woman to love, and she cares no more for his affection than if he had been any common man; he labours, and his labour comes to nought...
‘I sometimes have wondered where justice was gone to, and now I don’t believe there is such a thing in the world...’

‘Mother!’ said he, holding her gently in his arms, ‘who has sent me my lot in life, both of good and of evil?’

She shook her head. She would have nothing to do with religion just then.

‘Mother,’ he went on, seeing that she would not speak, ‘I, too, have been rebellious; but I am striving to be so no longer. Help me, as you helped me when I was a child. Then you said many good words - when my father died, and we were sometimes sorely short of comforts - which we shall never be now; you said brave, noble, trustful words then, mother, which I have never forgotten, though they may have lain dormant. Speak to me again in the old way, mother. Do not let us have to think that the world has too much hardened our hearts. If you would say the old good words, it would make me feel something of the pious simplicity of my childhood. I say them to myself, but they would come differently from you, remembering all the cares and trials you have had to bear.’

‘I have had a many,’ said she, sobbing, ‘but none so sore as this. To see you cast down from your rightful place! I could say it for myself, John, but not for you. Not for you! God has seen fit to be very hard on you, very.’
She shook with the sobs that come so convulsively when an old person weeps. The silence around her struck her at last; and she quieted herself to listen. No sound. She looked. Her son sat by the table, his arms thrown half across it, his head bent face downwards.

‘Oh, John!’ she said, and she lifted his face up. Such a strange, pallid look of gloom was on it, that for a moment it struck her that this look was the forerunner of death; but, as the rigidity melted out of the countenance and the natural colour returned, and she saw that he was himself once again, all worldly mortification sank to nothing before the consciousness of the great blessing that he himself by his simple existence was to her. She thanked God for this, and this alone, with a fervour that swept away all rebellious feelings from her mind.

It was passages like the one above that gave an entirely different aspect on the character of both mother and son, aspects that the movie didn't portray in any depth. In fact, John Thornton seemed to be quite an irreligious man.

Another character that the movie didn’t really show to advantage was that of Henry Lennox, Margaret’s other suitor. He is shown to be jealous and full of rivalry towards Thornton but he actually helped Margaret and John in the end by bowing out and allowing them to meet on their own. He realised that he would never win Margaret and had the decency not to begrudge another who could. I thought he got a bit of a raw deal in the film.

The more I read Gaskell’s work, the more I appreciate her literary skill and her ability to craft a rich & satisfying story, as may be seen if you compare even two of her books, say Cranford and North & South.
In North and South Elizabeth Gaskell’s Christian beliefs were woven into the story very naturally along with some very thoughtful themes on the nature of man and character traits: rich and poor, masters and workers, men and women, social problems, class structure, trade unions, family life, pride and humility, prejudice and understanding...this is an excellent read and the movie is lovely even if it only deals with a small portion of the whole. I totally recommend both!

Ebooks Adelaide has a free, well done Kindle version.

North & South is my choice for no. 8) A Novel with a Christian Theme in the 2019 Christian Greats Challenge.


Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Summer Smorgasborg: Nature Study, Notebooks & Mother Culture

It's summer in our part of the world and it's been pretty intense weather-wise. Bush/nature walks have been non-existent except for the occasional park early in the morning but we have had some nature finds around our garden.
Birdlife has been raucous with a few new visitors some of which I'm still trying to identify. We hear the birds here but getting a good look at them through the trees isn't easy.
I was excited to spot a lyrebird in a tree as I was sitting outside. That's a first for me.

A very brief spell of rain was most welcome - that was one time I got to go out walking:

“That best portion of a good man’s life, 
His little, nameless, unremembered acts 
Of kindness and of love.”


'There are always two ways of understanding other people's words, acts, and motives; and human nature is so contradictory that both ways may be equally right; the difference is in the construction we put upon other people's thoughts...
Of all the causes of unhappiness, perhaps few bring about more distress in the world than the habit, which even good people allow themselves in, of putting an ungentle construction upon the ways and words of the people they live with...
Kindness which is simple thinks none of these things, nor does it put evil constructions upon the thoughts that others may think in the given circumstances.'

Ourselves: Kindness in Construction.

I think, if for no other reason, this is something we need to nip in the bud so that our children don't pick up our habit in this area. Or if we don't have that inclination ourselves, it stills helps to point it out as something to be avoided.

Moozle's Nature Notebook:

These two book are our mainstays. Australian Nature Studies is used as a reference while Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies is a book Moozle reads each week.

Lots of these around at the moment: Eastern Water Dragon

Stick Insect (Phasmatodea)

Architecture Notebook & LEGO model of the Eiffel Tower - Moozle did this in the holidays. So good when their 'lessons' extend into their free time just because that's what they love to do.

Christmas bush leaves and flowers ravaged by the native birds and dropped on the sandstone capping on our verandah:

Summer Sunset from upstairs looking out over the bush:

Some cuttings left to grow roots on our laundry window sill: Nodding violet & fuchsia:

A late afternoon trip to the beach for dinner after a stinking hot day:

And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us...

Our Natural History book by James Herriot is the second book in this series of memoirs and contains 'Let Sleeping Vets Lie' and 'Vet in Harness.' 
Called out at 2 a.m. on a freezing Yorkshire night to look at a ewe that had given birth earlier in the day, he has to strip off his overcoat & jacket to examine her:

‘There’s another lamb in here,’ I said. ‘It’s laid wrong or it would have been born with its mate this afternoon. ‘ Even as I spoke my fingers had righted the presentation and I drew the little creature gently out and deposited him on the grass. I hadn’t expected him to be alive after his delayed entry but as he made contact with the cold ground his limbs gave a convulsive twitch and almost immediately I felt his ribs heaving under my hand.
For a moment I forgot the knife-like wind in the thrill which I always found in new life, the thrill that was always fresh, warm.

Herriot's memoirs are a delightful  mix of humour, nature study, relationships, and life as a young vet. I've been reading them aloud and they are a lovely way to include some natural history.

Eastern Coast of Australia, Sydney area:

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Classics Club: A New List

I joined The Classics Club five years ago with the intention of reading 50 books in five years. I managed to read and review 71 books in that time so now I'm starting again.
So here we go with some of the books I'd like to read in the next five years. I'm adding some 'modern classics' in - books that were written in the last 25 years and including some that I've already read years ago and want to re-visit.


Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers (1927)
Strong Poison (1930) re-read
Have His Carcase (1932)
Gaudy Night (1935) re-read
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)

The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (1960)
The Castle on the Hill (1942)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1949)

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1924)

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (1956)
Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
Perelandra (1943)
That Hideous Strength

The Lord of the Rings
by J.R. Tolkien (1937-1949)

War & Peace
by Leo Tolstoy (1869)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy (1878)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

Dr Zhivago by Boris Paternak (1957)

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)
Ruth (1853)
North & South  (1855) 
The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)
Wives & Daughters (1864)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852) re-read
Hard Times (1854) re-read

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) 

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811) re-read

John Macnab by John Buchan (1924)

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1943)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)

Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov (1888)

Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar by Jules Verne (1876)

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)

Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-1872)
Daniel Deronda (1876)

Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847) re-read

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848) re-read

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (1922)
Scaramouche (1921) re-read

Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute (1955)
Pastoral (1944)
Landfall (1940)
No Highway (1948)


The Gulag Archipelago
by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1958-1968; in progress)

Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis (1952)
The Four Loves (1960)

The Goshawk by T.H. White (1951)

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (1908)

Modern Classics

The Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara (1974)

How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer (1976) re-read

Educational Classics

Norms & Nobility by David Hicks (1981)

Towards a Philosophy of  Education by Charlotte Mason (1925) re-read
Ourselves (in progress)

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Reading, Thinking, & Domesticity #5

Sometimes it's helpful having your birthday at the end of the year. It acts like a 'pause and reflect' moment before heading into a new year. On my birthday in December, my husband gave me a card with a list of things that happened in 2018:

*  Our third child got married
*  Our second grandchild (a boy this time) was born
*  Our first grandchild turned 1 & we started looking after her one day a week
*  One of our sons completed his plumbing apprenticeship
*  Another son had a major job change
*  Moozle, our youngest, became a teenager & had her Grade 7 Cello exam which she passed with honours
*  We did some home renovations and slept on camp mattresses on a tiled floor for 10 weeks. I ended up with a compressed nerve in my neck and had to have a few weeks of physio.
*  Moozle and I did a 1,600 km (1000 mile) round road trip together

He didn't write it on the card but this happened just before Christmas:

*  After having worked as a contractor for over two years with a company they decided to put my husband 'officially in the system.' This required a police check.
Said police check came back and he was called into the HR office and told to leave immediately as the police check showed a list of serious criminal offences dating back about 7 years, including time spent in prison.
My husband asked for details, said he'd never been to court (except to serve on a jury!) let alone prison, but they refused to give him any information.
He was told he could only appeal via the third party company who conducted the police check. This company sent him emails, which he didn't get because the company he works for locked him out of their system.
Eventually he received a copy of the report and it showed he was working at his present employment while supposedly serving a prison term! Mmmm. Knee jerk reaction from HR who didn't bother reading the report properly.
Ten days later, with no pay during that time, after much to-ing and fro-ing with his employer and the third party who had conducted the police check, he received word that he didn't have a criminal  record after all. No apology or acknowledgement from the third party that he had been falsely accused.

And, yes, he was compensated - well, his company paid him for the time he had off, humbly apologised etc. Most of his fellow workers were appalled and angry and a couple of them knew of others in similar circumstances & they weren't surprised.

This was a very interesting experience in light of our current climate here with the Government's latest Encryption Laws and privacy. We were privy to the details of another man's criminal record, and my husband was automatically deemed to be guilty and had no right to offer a defence to his employer.
It also made us realise how difficult it must be for anyone trying to find work after serving time in gaol.
Francis Schaeffer wrote these words in 1976 and I think they are relevant even more today:

'I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things. Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals - increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth - but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them.' 

World Watch List - a list of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians. India has recently made it into the top ten on this list.

Children & dumbed down reading:

'50 years ago, parents read things to children that children could not read themselves, that were not directed primarily at the senses, and that contained deep formal and material lessons for the children...But it has never been a good thing to indulge the senses as an end in themselves. The senses have always tried to dominate the intellect and to distract us from what matters more.'

A Culture of Reading has some excellent reading suggestions.

An newspaper article I read last month:


Nicholas Clifford, Professor Emeritus at Middlebury Liberal Arts College in Vermont, USA, is a Librivox narrator I've listened to and I've enjoyed everything he's done. Fortunately, he has 79 solo recordings, many of them classics.  

The Vanishing Man by R. Austin Freeman (1862-1943) is an interesting mystery/crime novel with a focus on Ancient Egyptian artifacts and practices.
Many of Freeman's books feature the medical/legal forensic investigator, Dr John Thorndyke.  The Vanishing Man was published in 1911 and was also published as The Eye of Osiris.

My ongoing Hexie Quilt project that's taking me forever. Making progress, though.