Thursday, December 06, 2007


This week's reading

Another busy reading week. I finished everything from last week, and then read Joyce Maynard's memoir At Home in the World and Michael Ruhlman's House, then started Rosemary Verey's gardening book A Countrywoman's Year, and finally read, from start to finish on Sunday afternoon, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I don't think I can even talk about I Capture the Castle. I'll try. It's one of those books when what finally happens is so not what one most wishes for a much-loved heroine, in fact it's the opposite, and it becomes too much like what happens in real life, and not enough like the happy ending of an otherwise perfect and beautiful novel. The only thing I think I could compare this feeling to is the way I felt when Jo did not marry Laurie in Little Women (or possibly when Dorothea did marry Casaubon in Middlemarch). Or when I thought, the first time I read Persuasion, that Jane Austen wouldn't allow Anne to have a second chance at true love. That's how upset I was. I won't say any more. Otherwise, what a book. Cassandra, the heroine, says this about neighboring country house, Scoatney Hall, the first time she goes there (p.112):

"There was a wonderful atmosphere of gentle age, a smell of flowers and beeswax, sweet yet faintly sour and musty; a smell that makes you feel very tender towards the past."

And that's exactly the tone of of book, one of tenderness, toward our youthful selves, follies, the aliveness and desperateness of first loves. After I finished it, I had an hour of daylight left and went outside alone to cut the last of the dead flowers out of the garden before the approaching snowstorm covered everything over for the winter. That was the only thing I felt I could do that would do justice to the book. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Read it. (You can't have my copy.)

After that, and then reading Joyce Maynard's shocking (and riveting! and harrowing! I loved it!) survivor-memoir At Home in the World, about her coming of age as a woman, including the details of her relationship with J.D. Salinger, I really needed some basic comfort about the perils of the human condition. So now I'm reading another Louise Andrews Kent book, The Winter Kitchen. She has a briskness and no-nonsense intelligence and joy for living that makes her prose so hopeful. About this time of year in New England, she says (p.4):

"Water runs downhill - except in winter. This statement can be the basis for the conversation of seventeen people for a whole evening."

And that's the truth. When life gets to be too much, or emotions are running too high, we can always talk about the weather.

I hope you posted the heading by accident, because there's nothing in the post. What happened this week?
I did, historia, thanks for noticing - here's the full post, finally!
I adore I Capture the Castle, too. I've read it many times and each time I find a new aspect of it to admire. Have you read Rebecca West's 1957 novel The Fountain Overflows? It has something of the same bittersweet quality. Regards, Nicola
I haven't read it, Nicola, but I'll look for it now... thanks -
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