Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week: Introduction

Friday, April 24, 2015 | 4 comments

Welcome to Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week! Whether you are a longtime fan or a new reader of Elizabeth Goudge, I hope you will join us in exploring the many treasures to be found in this beloved author's books. Sometimes dismissed as sentimental romances or mere "comfort reading," I believe them at their best to be much more. During this week we'll have the chance to appreciate them from many points of view and have some fun as well.

Here are my current plans for the week (subject to change):

Friday, April 24: Introduction post
Saturday, April 25: Guest post from Fleur in Her World: The Scent of Water
Sunday, April 26: A Visit to Torminster, with giveaway of Henrietta's House and Sister of the Angels, thanks to Girls Gone By
Monday, April 27: The curse of the terrible cover art
Tuesday, April 28: Guest post from Shelf Love: The Middle Window
Wednesday, April 29: An Elizabeth Goudge quiz (created with help from Howling Frog Books)
Thursday, April 30: Guest post from Charlotte's Library: Island Magic
Friday, May 1: Review and post round-up; giveaway ends
As well as enjoying all of these contributions, and taking part in the discussion if you wish through the comments, I invite you to link your own posts (or Goodreads reviews, or what have you). You may use the link-up below, or just include your URL in a comment or in an email to lory [at] emeraldcitybookreview [dot] com. However you submit them, I'll include them in the round-up at the week's end.

What are you most interested in reading this week? I'm looking at The Scent of Water, The Valley of Song, and/or Island Magic. (If you've just joined us and would like to see a list of Elizabeth Goudge's books, you can find one here.) And now, let's get reading!

Link your posts here:
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Top Ten Tuesday: All-time Favorite Authors

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | 28 comments
I couldn't resist joining in with this week's TTT after seeing some others' lists. To help narrow mine down, I limited myself to authors who have written a fair number of books that I have read multiple times over many years and know that I will return to again. This eliminated some childhood favorites and some recent discoveries, as well as certain authors who have written just a few books that I really love -- maybe a good subject for another list!

So here are ten of my all-time favorites, in approximate order of my discovering their books:

from The House of Arden by E. Nesbit
E. Nesbit
The magic of Nesbit never grows old.

Elizabeth Goudge
Obviously, since I'm about to devote a whole week to her work, I'm a fan!

Diana Wynne Jones
I also took a week to celebrate this dazzlingly imaginative fantasy author.

P.G. Wodehouse
For a reliable dose of laughter, I turn to Wodehouse.

Robertson Davies
Davies opened worlds to me through his rich imagination and encyclopedic knowledge.

Elizabeth Gaskell
Gaskell was unaccountably left out of my college English courses, but I'm making up for that now.

Jane Gardam
A contemporary author that I think will stand the test of time.

Willa Cather
Simply beautiful writing that doesn't feel forced or contrived.

Terry Pratchett
It took me too long to discover this seriously funny writer.

Georgette Heyer
Impeccably constructed entertainments, far above the romantic fluff of her imitators.
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Words and Pictures: Sister of the Angels

Monday, April 20, 2015 | 6 comments

Goudge quote Sister of the Angels"Henrietta suddenly caught her breath. Always it seemed to her quite incredible that men could have made this place; people like herself and Hugh Anthony only bigger; how could they have done it? She looked about her. The massive pillars of the nave were so tall that they seemed to be lifting up the soaring arches they carried far out of sight, while below them the aisles stretched away unendingly into shadowed space. The sunshine came through the stained glass windows curiously charged, split up into reds and blues and greens robbed of its brightness and subdued to the colors of mystery. Everywhere was this sense of space and height and a reaching out to an end that was never found. There was no time here. Past and present and future were all one."

Elizabeth Goudge, Sister of the Angels (1939)
Image: William Turner, Interior of Salisbury Cathedral, found here.
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For Love and Money: Doctor Thorne

Friday, April 17, 2015 | 4 comments

Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858; epubBooks, undated)


Illustration by Millais, found here.
 In the third of his Barsetshire Chronicles, Trollope departs from the clerical characters and themes that occupied him in the first two volumes, and takes a look at another segment of Barset society. The novel introduces us to a once-wealthy squire who is down on his luck, the worthy doctor who is his friend, and the county families who form their network of relationships. The main plot has to do with the squire's son and the doctor's illegitimate niece, whose love for each other causes outrage and distress to their relatives, and not a little anguish to themselves. Meanwhile, the doctor has to keep a painful secret regarding an inheritance that might -- or might not -- change everything.

Questions of rank, birth and "blood" are explored through ironic contrasts. There are characters of ignoble birth but the highest moral purity, blue-blooded aristocrats with not a speck of human consideration, and every variation in between. Money, sadly, can erase faults on either end of the spectrum in the eyes of most members of this society, a fact that Trollope is not shy to point out.

There never was a fox yet without a tail who would not  be delighted to find himself suddenly possessed of that appendage. Never; let the untailed fox have been ever so sincere in his advice to his friends! We are all of us, the good and the bad, looking for tails -- for one tail, or for more than one; we do so too often by ways that are mean enough: but perhaps there is no tail-seeker more sneakingly mean than he who looks out to adorn his bare back by a tail by marriage.

My very favorite character was Miss Dunstable, the no-longer-young heiress of a commercial fortune, who keeps a humorous yet unjaded attitude as she deftly eludes the suitors who throw themselves at her. It's refreshing that her healthy bank balance doesn't cause her to lose sight of the true worth of a human being. Along with a few other characters, she reminds us that it is possible not to be a "tail-seeker."

Overall, I found the satire in Doctor Thorne to be gentler than in Barchester Towers, and the characters more congenial. This was both positive and negative; though it made Greshamsbury a more pleasant place to be than Barchester, it was at times somewhat dull, lacking the exuberant awfulness of a Mr. Slope or a Signora Neroni. There were also times when I felt Trollope was going over the same ground repeatedly, and wished he would just move on to the crisis and happy resolution that I knew would be coming eventually. Was he trying to fill pages in a serial publication? The novel's construction could have used some tightening up, but despite this I still read with interest and amusement throughout its 500+ pages.

I enjoyed my latest sojourn in Barsetshire very much, and can't wait to read Framley Parsonage, in which I understand Miss Dunstable makes a welcome reappearance. Thank you to Karen of Books and Chocolate for the incentive to read this in April for her Trollope Bicentennial Celebration! Be sure to check out this event if you're interested in the author and his works. Books as Food is also doing a #6barsets readalong, one book every two months; I'm a bit ahead of schedule with this one but I look forward to the discussion next month.

Review copy source: free e-book from epubBooks

Back to the Classics challenge: Classic with a Name in the Title
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | 6 comments
Here's a fun tag that I saw simultaenously on The Well-Read Redhead and What Me Read. If you want to join in, please do!

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I keep track of my physical pile by putting it in my bedroom where I see it every night before I go to sleep. My virtual pile is tracked in Goodreads.

2. Is your TR mostly print or e-book?
I use the library for most of my books, so when I want to read a book the format depends partly on what the library has and whether I can make it to the actual library (it's a 45 minute drive so I can't go every week, especially in winter). I don't buy e-books so my stack of purchased books waiting to be read is print only.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read?
Mood of the moment. Since starting blogging, I've had to become a bit more organized, though, because of participating in challenges and events, and wanting to coordinate with the publication date of review copies. So I schedule those in and then fill in the gaps around them.

4. A book that’s been on your TBR the longest? 
Hard to say, but maybe Studies in Words by C.S. Lewis. I think I bought it not long after college. I'm trying to read it this year, by only taking on one chapter per month, but I'm already behind schedule.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR? 
February House by Sherill Tippins (recommended by my choir director).

6. A TBR on your list strictly because of its beautiful cover?
I find an attractive cover very tempting, but I wouldn't put a book on my list unless the contents sounded appealing too. 

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading? 
I'm not sure if I'll ever get to some of them because they are too hard to find and I don't want to spend a lot of money on them. The Winged Girl of Knossos is an example, although I really want to read it.

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited about?
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings

9. A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you? 

10. A book on your TBR list that everyone recommends to you?
Everyone? I don't know about that, but a lot of people have recommended The Boys in the Boat.

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read? 
The Valley of Song by Elizabeth Goudge. This review at Charlotte's Library made it sound so fascinating, and though it's rare and generally expensive I managed to snag a copy as part of a bundle of books on eBay that no one seemed to want. It will be perfect for Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week!

12. How many books are on your TBR shelf at Goodreads?
200 today. It will be more tomorrow.

Do you want to play TBR Tag? Please join in and link your post in the comments!
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Literary Blog Hop giveaway winner

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 | 0 comments

Congratulations to the winner of my Literary Blog Hop giveaway of The Dean's Watch, Louise from Australia!

And thanks to everyone who hopped by. I do hope you will consider reading this lovely book, and if you're interested in this author, visiting again during Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week. It's coming soon...
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Shiny New Books: Issue 5

Monday, April 13, 2015 | 0 comments
Happy anniversary to Shiny New Books! The fifth issue is now live and it's another wonderful exploration of the best new fiction, nonfiction, and reprints, along with other bookish features. I didn't contribute any reviews in this issue but I'm working on some for the next one.

In the meantime, my TBR list is growing. Here are some of the reviews that caught my eye...
I'm also excited to see that there will be a new book club feature, with the first session scheduled to discuss The Bees by Laline Paull. I read and enjoyed this book not long ago, so I'm looking forward to a great discussion with other Shiny readers. Join us!
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Houses of Healing: The Eliot Family Trilogy

Friday, April 10, 2015 | 9 comments
In just two weeks, I'll be hosting Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week, a chance to celebrate one of my favorite authors. I hope you'll join us by picking up one of her beautiful and magical stories, or just stopping by to read others' thoughts. Please have a look at the main event page for more information, a bibliography, and a chance to leave a comment letting us know your plans and ideas. And please check out my giveaway of The Dean's Watch as part of the Literary Blog Hop -- participants will earn an extra entry!

In anticipation of the week I recently re-read the trio of books concerning the Eliot family: The Bird in the Tree (1940), Pilgrim's Inn (original title The Herb of Grace, 1948), and The Heart of the Family (1953). In these books, as so often with Goudge's works, the setting takes on an major role, and the family home of Damerosehay, as well as the nearby "pilgrim's inn" named The Herb of Grace, nearly become characters in their own right. If you've ever longed to live in this kind of house, which has sheltered and nourished so many people over the years that it develops its own personality, you'll definitely want to visit Damerosehay.

It was Lucilla, matriarch of the Eliot family, who found the dilapidated eighteenth century house (against the outcry of her more practical children) and claimed it as a home in which to raise her recently orphaned grandson, David. As the story begins, David, now grown, is about to make a momentous marital choice, which goes against everything that Lucilla has worked and planned for all these years. How he reconsiders this choice, under the influence of Damerosehay and its past and present inhabitants, leads to an exploration of what it means to be an individual within a community, and what gives purpose to our lives on earth.

The successive volumes continue to wrestle with these questions -- marriage is definitely not a "happily ever after" situation here -- in a rich and nuanced way, through characters who quickly work their way into our hearts. Their love of their family, of their homes, and of the surrounding land becomes ours, too. Goudge is particularly good at writing children and old people, and there are wonderful examples of both here, who give rise to many delightful and humorous and poignant moments. Another thing that I think she excels at is making us understand and empathize with characters we may not necessarily like very much, or at all -- such as the domineering Lucilla, or her impervious young grandson Tommy. Though we may not always agree with them, they all become very real to us, enriching our experience of the human heart and spirit.

Original Coward-McCann edition
Of the three, my favorite is the middle volume, called The Herb of Grace in the UK and Pilgrim's Inn in the US. The first and third books are more one-sidedly weighted, toward melodrama on the one hand, and philosophical ramblings on the other. In the middle of her trilogy, though, Goudge struck the right balance between incident, description, and character development. In this well-crafted tale, one branch of the Eliot family gets to move into and renovate an ancient inn, creating a haven for themselves and others, and making an exciting discovery. I know I'll return to it again and again for a dose of comfort and enchantment.

The three books are set more or less concurrently with their year of publication -- just before the second world war, just after, and a few years later -- and though the war years are not directly presented, their influence is very much felt. The first book is full of the dread of war, the second and third of how its horrors still persist into peacetime. Yet against these disturbances stand the houses and the families that inhabit them, making a bright space within a dark world, looking toward that other world where war will be no more.

I'm so glad that Hendrickson Publishers have brought these lovely books back into print, keeping the magic of Damerosehay alive for today's readers.

Review copy source: Paperbacks from publisher. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.
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Does spelling matter?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | 43 comments
English spelling is a nightmare, and spell check does a miserable job of correcting it -- because there are so many homophones, words that sound the same but have different meanings and different spellings. It seems as though every time I read something on the Internet, I come across homophone errors, and they are driving me crazy. They're increasingly leaking into print publications as well; many books seem to have been proofread entirely by computer, which is a disaster.

But does it matter? Shouldn't we, along with Humpty Dumpty, be able to force a word to mean whatever we want it to? Isn't it true that we mostly only notice the first and last letters of a word anyway? If our readers can figure out what we are saying from context, do we need to bother about spelling?

Well, I don't know about you, but it matters to me. I feel that making the effort to remember some distinctions is important for those who work with words. It reflects clarity and distinctness in our thinking, without which everything becomes a big sloppy mess.

I know that spelling is easier for some people than others, due to differences in how our brains work, and fully appreciate that our English orthography sometimes seems to make no sense. But learning new things is good for your brain, and understanding what you are talking about is even better. If I were able to spread awareness and correct usage of at least the four word-groupings below, I and spelling-conscious readers everywhere would rejoice. Will you indulge me?

This one has plagued me since my school days. It's really very simple:
it's = it is or it has
Use "it's" ONLY when you can replace the contraction with "it is" or "it has," not when you mean that something belongs to "it." You don't write "hi's," or "he'r," do you? No! You write "his," "her," and "its." Thank you, everyone!

This is a palette, not a palate.

I see these confused more and more, even in printed books. It would be funny if it weren't so sad, because the writers often seem to be proud of using such a sophisticated word -- only it doesn't mean what they think it does. Please, write these on your arm, put post-it notes on your computer, whatever you need to remember the difference:
palette: a range of paints or colors, as in an artist's palette
palate: the roof of your mouth; by extension, the sense of taste (a gourmet's palate)
pallet: a flat structure made of wooden slats; alternatively, a crude mattress 
Now come on, can't you see what nonsense it is to talk about loading some boxes onto the roof of your mouth, or having a meal that is pleasing to your set of paints? It might help to remember that "palate" has "ate" in it.

These words are easy to confuse. Only one little vowel is different! Maybe it would help to remember that you use peek when you are seeing something, looking briefly into it. Not peak -- that means the top, the pinnacle of something. The peak of a mountain is shaped like an A.

pouring/poring - pore/pour
There's no one who is more enthusiastic than I am about poring over a book. That means that you are closely examining it. But please, please don't say that you are pouring over it. Whatever you are pouring (water? lemonade? Champagne?) you'll get it wet and probably not be able to enjoy it any more! A mnemonic for this: you pore over tomes of ancient lore.

What do you think? Am I making a big fuss over nothing? Or do you, too, have spelling pet peeves that keep you awake at night? 

Posted for the 2015 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.  
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Books and Bloggers Swap

Sunday, April 5, 2015 | 0 comments

I've had my eye on this swap hosted by Chaotic Goddess swaps for a while. It looks like a fun way to make new blogging friends! In this swap, you get to know your fellow book-loving partner and send them a fantastic bookish package.

Your package must include: 
  • A book from your partner's wishlist.
  • A book you have read and loved.
  • A book you haven't read, but think looks interesting. (Can also be on their wishlist.)
  • *Optional* Other book-related goodies.   
Sign-ups close on April 6, so hurry if you want to join in. All participants must be approved by the moderators and follow their rules (meant to prevent flaking out and the resulting disappointment to someone else). On completion of the swap, all participants do a post to show off their package. I can't wait to see what comes in the mail!
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