Saturday 2 November 2013

A Literary journey

I unintentionally started a WW2 theme in my reading this year and ended up reading four books set in that time period. Three of the stories took place in France and by the time I'd finished I felt I'd had a good look at the effects on civilians in WW2 generally but in particular an insightful glimpse into people's lives in the devasted and demoralised French nation also.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
An Australian WW2 classic, was the first one I read and I wrote about earlier this year.
I enjoyed this book so much that I decided to read Pied Piper, another of his books with a WW2 theme, which was also very good.

Then Zana, my daughter, pointed this book out to me while we were hunting in an op shop looking for vases for her sister's wedding. Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates. She recognised the title from a poem she'd read in Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savery (a great book, by the way). I thought it might have been from Shakespeare but it was actually written by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) and is titled Agincourt:

FAIR stood the wind for France
When we our sails advance,       
Nor now to prove our chance    
    Longer will tarry;         
But putting to the main,                        
At Caux, the mouth of Seine,    
With all his martial train
    Landed King Harry. 
I'd heard of the author but hadn't read anything of his before. I liked his style but I didn't think he was as skilled or as convincing as Nevil Shute. Reading his book after Pied Piper added to the picture of occupied France and together both books helped capture the turmoil and pain of the people at that time and the frustration of their allies who were trapped there. I don't think it would have done this for me if I hadn't had the groundwork laid by Nevil Shute.

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

This was a different aspect of WW2, a story which chronicled the emotional and psychological journey of a Englishman whose French wife had been killed and their young son lost during the war in France while he was absent. He returns to France after the end of the war upon receiving news that his son may have been found and the book details his conflicting emotions as he tries to come to terms with the fact that this may or may not be his son and his agony over whether he wants to open himself to the pain of an encounter.
The writing is excellent and it was a very good book but I was more engaged by Pied Piper, which had some similarities, because Nevil Shute is so good at getting into the skin of his characters.
My copy is a lovely Persephone Classic. I love their covers.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

This book reminded me of Wuthering Heights, perhaps because of its setting on the bleak and desolate English moors and the violent, brooding nature of the main antagonist. Du Maurier is a deft and engrossing writer and is very skilled at unexpected twists in her plots. Unlike Wuthering Heights there is no real sense of redemption in the story and I was left with the feeling that the heroine had escaped from one calamity only to enter upon an uncertain life with her rescuer.

Ethan Frome and False Dawn by Edith Wharton

Two excellent short stories from a wonderful author. Elizabeth Klett does a very good Librivox recording of Ethan Frome.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A re-read of one of my most beloved books. Each time I read this story I enjoy it more. I wrote a bit about what I appreciated about it this time around here. (scroll down)

I have this lovely copy below which also contains Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey.

10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child  by Anthony Eoslen

I've shared my thoughts about this book here and here. Very thought provoking, although I didn't find anything I hadn't really encountered  before or knew intuitively, he caused me to think more deeply about choosing ways to nurture my children's imaginations. I didn't find his writing style easy to read. It reminded me a little of the way Edith Schaeffer writes, rambling and wordy, but maybe that's good because it slows me down, makes me mull and chew over the content a bit more in order to get my head around what he's saying. I'm still going over parts of the book and I've got asterisks and underlinings all through its pages.

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason

I've been reading this aloud during our together time for about a year now with children aged between 7 and 17 years. I've been enjoying this book very much, taking it slowly, and it has generated some interesting discussions.

Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason

This is Volume 5 of her Home Education series, another slow read and quite different from her other books in the series. I find I need to read a whole chapter at a time to keep the flow of this one so it's not so easy to pick up at spare minutes but like her other books it has been rich.

A Living Sacrifice by Helen Roseveare

I've seen this author's books many times over the years and knew vaguely about her life but I hadn't read anything she'd written until I picked this up secondhand a few months ago. This was a quick, easy read, not especially well written but she shared her heart and her experiences as a medical doctor in the Congo so honestly that I'd like to read her other books.

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
A wonderful book which I wrote about here.

Sarah's Cottage by D.S. Stevenson

I listened to this on audiobook and although it didn't have a particularly riveting storyline I liked the author's way of writing. I hadn't read anything by her before but I'd be happy to try her other books, of which there are many. I wrote some thoughts here.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

This has been my year not only of the Russian novel but also the year of Nevil Shute. This book was completely different to the others above in that it was a sort of apocalyptic/dystopian look at a community of people in Australia preparing for the arrival of airborne radiation which has already wiped out the population of the Northern Hemisphere. Nevil Shute has an ability to tell a good story and to centre his tale around ordinary people and bring out the tenderness of their relationships during adversity. It had a somewhat depressing ending but what stood out to me was the way he kept the integrity and faithfulness of two of the main characters intact when other authors might have gone along with the attitude of 'Who cares, the world is about to end anyway...'

Madame Curie by Eve Curie

A biography of Marie Curie by her daughter which is available here for free. It was originally written in 1937 but was republished in 2001. I'm only part way through this book and after an initial sluggish beginning I'm beginning to enjoy it.


Natasha said...

Thanks, Carol! As I mentioned to you before, I am just getting back into the habit of reading again. Although it has been difficult and slow I am beginning to enjoy it again. I was just curious as to whether you have a few books going at one time or like to focus on the one book.

We are also reading Ourselves aloud. Sometimes I feel like most of it is going over their heads but then at random times they will bring up something we read and relate it to a situation.

Carol said...

Hi Natasha, I have a few going at once. I started reading this way about 2 years ago, reading a chapter or 2 a week from each book; also like to have an audiobook or 2 for when I'm ironing etc.

Re Ourselves, I only read a small section each time and not every week. We've been reading it for 2 years and have done about 120 pgs. (AO recommends 22 pages per term all through the upper years)

If you look here: CM said, "We spread an abundant and delicate feast...... and each small guest assimilates what he can.' Sometimes I'm surprised by what they 'get,' I've learned not to worry about what they're absorbing, I just keep spreading the feast.