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Review: Margot at War: Love & Betrayal in Downing Street, 1912-1916 by Anne de Courcy

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My Interest

Name a British Edwardian of high rank and I probably am interested in them. Margot Asquith, wife of the Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith, and step-mother to Violet (Asquith) Bonham-Carter, the overthrown love of Winston Churchill and future Grandmother of actress Helena Bonham-Carter. Add in Anne de Courcy, as author and you have a must-read for me. Sadly, it languished on my shelf. Looking for an audio for this past week’s commute, I found it on Hoopla through my library.

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The Asquiths photo credit

The Story

Margot Tennant met Herbert Asquith at a dinner party (Cue Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary in season one asking “How many times must I marry the man I sit next to at dinner?” and mother, Cora replying, “As many times as it takes.”) He was widowed, with young children. She was free-spirit with a group of friends who came to be known as “The Souls.” He, by comparison, was a rube, but a powerful one. She waffled about marrying him, partly due to his daughter, Violet, who since her mother’s death had had her bed in her father’s room and was his main confidant in spite of being young enough to require a nanny’s care. Her other hesitations were two former loves–both “Souls.” Eventually the married and like, another much younger Prime Minister’s wife who also sat next to her future husband at a dinner party (Clarissa Churchill Eden) she began doing the wifely behind-the-scenes work of a politicians career: sucking up, entertaining, letter writing, spinning, and schmoozing. In spite of her reservations, she came to adore her husband. Sadly, daughter Violet almost never left them alone.

Free-spirited to the core, Margot even insisted on calling her husband by his middle name, “Henry,” since she did not like “Herbert.” His first wife had based their lives in the family home, outside the world of society (“She lives in Hampstead and has no clothes” was how Margot explained HH’s former life), Once properly introduced into real London society, HH took off–and in many ways, left Margot behind. Thanks again to daughter Violet, he went on to fall in love with her bestie, Venetia Stanley, a move that nearly destroyed Margot. In spite of this, and in spite of spending about as much time alone with their own children as Charles and Diana spent together before marriage, the couple had their times of happiness. Margot thrived on politics and loved being involved in the gamesmanship of it. They also had great sadness of another kind: Like another later aristocrat of much renown (Debo Mitford aka Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire) Margot had a horrible time losing 3 out of her 5 children. It was the life-threatening effects of another pregnancy and the doctor’s order of “no more [fun]” that spurred HH to “pounce” on Venetia. (Today HH would be looked at the way the Left looks at Trump with women}.

I came to all but loathe HH, but I could also see why Margot adored him. The power, the position, the charm, the deepness with which he fell in love, his sense of romance–used for good or bad they were all attractive points. I also felt sorry for Margot and the legions of other women whose life depending on an empty side of the bed at night. Women, as was told in the book, were seen as fraught and emotionally unbalanced. Well, ya think? [Fun at night] is an important part of physical and mental health. How pathetic that though both were needed to cause a life-threatening pregnancy, only the one spouse was expected to remain celibate? Margot, who could go a bit overboard in things, realized, big-heartedly, that HH being under such stress in 10 Downing needed that blessed release. As she was also under a mountain of stress, I’m sure it would have helped her outlook too! In her diary, quoted in the book, she remembers “what fun” they had had in bed together. How she kept from killing step-daughter Violet, I’ll never understand. I’m afraid HH and I would have had a very “fraught and unbalanced” come to Jesus meeting over that little minx very soon after marriage–if not before! Boundaries much, H?

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Violet and HH at the wedding of his daughter Violet to Edwin “Bongie” Bonham-Carter. The bride and groom would eventually be the grandparents of actress Helena Bonham Carter. Bride Violet has her arm around pageboy Randolph Churchill, son of Winston and Clementine. Photo credit.

My Thoughts

Anne de Courcy is one of my favorite social historians. She nails it every time. I also have Margot’s diaries and so plan to skim them a little this weekend for added insight and fun of another kind.

My Verdict

4.0 Stars [or should that be 4 red dispatch boxes??]

Margot at War: Love & Betrayal in Downing Street, 1912-1916 by Anne De Courcy is currently on sale for Kindle for $3.99. The author’s other books are also on sale for Kindle right now.

For more on “The Souls” see Those Wild Wyndhams

See also: Cross-Generational Romance in Real Life at 10 Downing

Hear Margot reminisce:

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Review: The Awakening Land Books 2 and 3: The Fields and The Town by Conrad Richter

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Click on the linked title for my review of The Trees–book one of The Awakening Land by Conrad Richter.

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I cannot recall when I HAD to finish a series! These three books flew by and I enjoyed every listening minute. We started in The Trees with the first settlers entering the Northwest Territory–specifically that part of Ohio where West Virginia (back then still Virginia), Pennsylvania and Ohio border each other. This is a few hours from my house–I’ve been through the area.

“A strange, uneasy feeling ran over him. If he had been wrong about his mother in this, might he by any chance have been wrong in other things about her also? Could it be even faintly possible that the children of pioneers like himself, born under more benign conditions than their parents, hated them because they themselves were weaker, resented it when their parents expected them to be strong, and so invented all kinds of intricate reasoning to prove that their parents were tyrannical and cruel, their beliefs false and obsolete, and their accomplishments trifling? Never had his mother said that. But once long ago he had heard her mention, not in as many words, that the people were too weak to follow God today, that in the Bible God made strong demands on them for perfection, so the younger generation watered God down, made Him impotent and got up all kinds of reasons why they didn’t have to follow Him but could go along their own way.”

(The Town by Conrad Richter)

In The Trees Worth Luckett takes his family and what they can carry away from their former home in Pennsylvania and enters the great forest at the start of the Northwest Territory. Eventually, this becomes the state of Ohio. Now, in book two, The Fields, his daughter Sayward and her family carve out a settlement with school, a church and farms. It is hard to write about this without spoilers! What is going on around them is the formation of the Union. While people do still think of themselves as citizens of their state first, and the country second, soon they have a township, a county and that greatest of great money-draws, a county seat to claim.

As we watch Sayward and her husband (no spoilers) help grow the hamlet of Moon Shine Church [not to be confused with the moon shine produced in the back hills and hollers across the river in “Kentuck”) we see Tatesville be born and provide a comparison of life goals for those still living the “woodsie” life.

In book three, The Town, Moon Shine Church becomes “Americus” and people start to become “townies” while “woodsies” are all but a thing of the past. Sayward, in spite of her husband, clings to her cabin and her woodsie ways. She values the tradition and hard work of her land–and that land is truly HERS. Times are changing. Brick houses, stores, maids, fancy clothing, advanced schooling–all change the way people live. In Sayward’s eye they become too soft.

These books show an essential battle that rages still–not between the forces of change and those opposed to it, but the battle of what it means to be an American. Are we the rugged individualists who went out with an ox and an ax and settled the forest? Or are we a soft bunch who eschew work in favor of convenience and ease. The more things change, the more they stay the same! We even get a sampling of the “woke” of about 1840, spouting much of the same idiotic “share the wealth” nonsense as they do today. The Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun. Remember, those stepping on Plymouth Rock back in 1620 were religious fanatics and real estate developers! Nothing changes.

This trilogy needs to see the light of day. There was surprisingly little that cancel culture would object to beyond an ill-chosen, but contemporary to the story, word for burning tree stumps and some dialect for a Native American (given it was a white man writing it). On the whole I’d say 98% would be acceptable today. Sayward was a model of an independent, broad-minded, hard working women who did what had to be done. Perhaps the story wasn’t depressing enough for school assignments today?

The Fields and The Town--Book Two and Book Three of The Awakening Land Trilogy by Conrad Richter

My verdict for the whole trilogy

4.0 stars

Have you read this trilogy? Or even one of the books? Let me know your thoughts in a comment or link to your own review post.

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Review: The Trees by Conrad Richter

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My Interest

Once again I was in need of an audio book for my commute. I actually found this in my Chirp audio books email. I vaguely recalled Richter from my high school literature course (Conrad is a favorite name of mine). When I read that this story is set in the part of the Northwest Territory that becomes my state, Ohio, I knew I wanted to read it. This was the first time that my mind, after 13 years, registered that I actually live in Ohio and not Indiana! Most of my life has been spent in one of four places in Indiana, with breaks in Illinois (where I was born and went to 2-4 grade) and Wisconsin (K-1 grade) and Kentucky for 6 months as an adult. I’m a Hooiser in my brain. I had state history–a 4th grade staple in the USA, in Illinois and my kids had it in Indiana, so I’m very behind on Ohio history. I read David McCullough’s wonderful Pioneers to fill in many of the gaps. In fact, it makes a great companion to this novel and the two novels that follow in Richter’s Awakening Land Series.

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The Lucketts crossed over from Pennsylvania into what is now Ohio in the then Northwest Territory, not long before Ohio gained statehood. Map found here.

The Story

“As far as the eye could reach, this lonely forest sea rolled on and on till its faint blue billows broke against an incredibly distant horizon.”

Sayward Luckett, is the eldest of the Luckett children. Along with her parents and siblings she moves from Pennsylvania to the Northwest Territory not too long before statehood begins breaking up the territory–say the 1790s or so.. Settlers at this point, must clear a spot in a forest to build a cabin. Her family does just that. While her father hunts to put meat on the table, her mother takes care of the rest of the family’s needs. It is the hardest of “hard-scrabble” lives. A candle is a luxury. But, father Worth Luckett is a man of his time–he wants room to spread out, to hunt, to carve a life of privacy for his family.

“You kin smell the Fall, Sayward one day reminded her mother.

The trials of the family are many, but this is not a depressing book. They are not 21st century or even 20th century people–they expect death, do not know anything but hard, physical work, and have a deep pride in the independence–the way Americans traditionally were before the 1960s counter-culture hit, followed by today’s Oprah-navel-gazing and Woke b.s. These folks stood on their own two feet and asked for no handouts.

Sayward, too, has ideas for her life, as do her siblings. In this book, the first part of a trilogy, we see her reach the age of independence and watch as her siblings, too, start to come of age.

My Thoughts

This is an incredibly well-told and plotted story. The use of the local dialect and historically correct language made it all seem so real. Richter’s use of folklore and dialect led this book to be studied in a paper published in the journal Midwest Folklore in the 1950s and earned the author comparison to Mark Twain. I must point out, if you are an animal lover, iirc it is chapter 8, the wolf story? Just fast-forward or skip. You don’t want that one. It’s a couple of pages at most in an otherwise outstanding book. I liked it so well I have already started the second book.

The Trees (The Awakening Land Book One) by Conrad Ricther

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Review: The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff

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My Interest

For once I forgot to note which blog I found this book on! I always like to give a nice shout-out to fellow bloggers whose reviews get me to read the book.

Regardless of where I noticed it first, this book fit perfectly with my seasonal reading plan and I had a nice long Labor Day weekend on which to read most of it. That it is a Persephone Book is just gravy on top, right?

A Funny Story from History

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That toddler looking up so happily at King George V is today’s Queen Elizabeth II, now aged 95. Queen Mary looks on. This was taken at Bognor. Photo may be copyright protected. I found it here.

The story goes that after convalescing following nearly fatal illness, George V, was visited by a delegation from Bognor–the town where the sea air had restored his health. Told that the delegation wanted His Majesty’s permission to rechristen the town “Bognor Regis” in his honor, George muttered “Bugger Bognor.” [Americans–like F— Bognor, only with a twist in the meaning. Google it.] Although this story is left out, you can read more about the King’s stay in Bognor here.

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The Story

At about the time of the King’s visit, an utterly ordinary English family of father, mother, two sons, and a daughter park their budgie with the next door neighbor, dump the feeding of their cat on the lady across the street and head out on their annual holiday in Bognor–the “fortnight in September” of the title. They have stayed in the same boarding house every year for most of Ernest and Flossie’s married life–almost from the time of Ernest’s hiring as a boy laborer until now, when he is an important man in a shirt and tie in the warehouse office.

Now Mary and Dick have left school (at probably 14 for Mary and 17 for Dick who went to a very, very minor “public” (American private) day school). Mary is a seamstress for a fashionable ladies boutique and Dick has reluctantly hired on with a stationary firm–a “job for life,” as his father proudly put it. Ernie, about 10, is the only one still not contributing to the family’s housekeeping budget.

During father’s micromanaging of every packing detail, his strict attendance to the budget, and his total command of his family, the travel by train to Bognor is accomplished with little stress and the family settles into the boarding house which now is run by the very elderly and apparently failing lady owner and her maid-of-work. The Stevens family notices that things are a bit rundown, but love their holidays and put up with the bolster in the middle of the marital bed and other discomforts for old time’s sake.

In among the details of the holiday though, the author paints wonderfully vivid pictures of each member of the family. We see the train journey through Ernie’s eye’s, through Ernest and Flossie’s stories we see why anti-depressants and television enlivened marriages. Mary is perhaps the least developed character, but it was Dick I saw the most promise in.

Now that there has been a labor Government, with former miners and other laborers become lawyers, MPs, and even Cabinet Minister, Dick is wanting to do the unthinkable–to rise “beyond his station.” He understands his father’s good intentions in securing his a “job for a lifetime” upon leaving school, but he is heartsick at the life sentence he feels the job to be. Like his father, Dick is sensible and works things out on long walks, He comes to see that just like those miners and laborers in the government, he too, can use that job as a mere starting place.

Flossie I found to almost be a ninny. I realize things were very different for women–especially wives back then. She was fortunate to be married to a decent man who put his family, if not quite first to his own needs then put them at 1.5 on the list. He is thoughtful and budgets for Flossie to have a bottle of port for her own enjoyment each evening when he goes to the pub for a pint. We learn that her perspective is not always the same as that of the other members of the family–in fact we see, perhaps, that a little suffragette-like independent thinking has intruded. (Yes, she is still a ninny). Flossie provides one of my favorite moments in the book. On the train she is looking at a magazine and complains to herself in a way that proves there truly is nothing new under the sun:

Mrs. Stevens opened her magazine and looked at the tall, willowy girls on the fashion page. She had grown a little tired of fashion pages, for they never offered suggestions to ladies of her own height. All the girls on this page were at least six feet high, or even more…”

[Reading the recipes for a suggested menu] “It sounded lovely, but why didn’t they sometimes give a new idea for cooking rice and jam–or a new falvour for corn flour shape? (p. 65). Substitute “cheap ground beef” and “skinless, boneless chicken breasts” and it’s today! [If you are curious, there is a vintage recipe in the corn flour shape link–I had to Google it].

In the end the family all seem to realize, but Mary most of all, that this will be their last whole family trip to Bognor. It is the end of an era, but one they will look back on fondly as the do every trip.

My Thoughts

Aside from wanting to give fictional Dick a ticket to America to earn his way through college and become a [No spoilers!] there was nothing I didn’t love about this book. Yes, Ernest was a man of his time and I did not always appreciate his way of looking at his wife, but he was a good man in his time. While Ernest micromanaged, he had a good plan for the holiday–schedule only every-other-day. I liked that–it is good advice. His eye on the budget was necessary–he may have had the possibility of a small pension, but likely not. The first Labor government did bring in a few changes. He would had to have put money away for his and Flossie’s old age. He had stretched and stretched to give his sons a private education to improve their chances in life. That spoke volumes to me.

It was a little scary to see what people had to eat–no wonder health actually improved for some during rationing! Bread and Jam and more bread and jam. I knew that in World War I many, many men were rejected by the British forces due to the stunting effects of malnutrition, worsened by lack of access to sunlight and unpolluted air, but I didn’t expect a family with three members working to eat such an awful diet (comparing with my knowledge of what my own family ate in the 1920s). Ernest has false teeth apparently before turning 50. Our world has changed for the better for many people at least.

While reading about the book for this review, I learned that Dick was at least somewhat modeled on the author–whose script (with co-authors) was nominated for an Academy Award (An “Oscar”) for Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939. My only sad thought is that there is no sequel to this book. I would love that. Ernie would be of age just in time for the War. Mary would probably be married and send her husband off to the Army and Dick would certainly go. Oh well….my imagination will have to develop that story.

According to Wikipedia again, I learned that no less an author than Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day) chose Fortnight in September as his choice of a book to uplift and cheer people during the covid epidemic in this story in the London newpaper The Guardain.

My Verdict

4 Stars

For once I read the Kindle version–I did not listen to an audio book version.

The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff

Here is a link to Jaquiwine’s Journal’s review of Fortnight in September

Here is a link to Diotima’s Ladder’s review of Fortnight in September

Sutherland, David Macbeth, 1883-1973; Bank Holiday, Portobello Beach
Sutherland, David Macbeth; Bank Holiday, Portobello Beach; The Fleming Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/bank-holiday-portobello-beach-218471
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Review: The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

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My Interest

What wouldn’t interest me about this one? Books helping people? A library needing saved? Lonely people helped by a library? Sign me up!

The Story

Mukesh is missing his late wife. Aleisha is putting up with a new summer job and dealing with a lot at home. In the course of Aleisha’s job she finds a booklist and begins to read fiction–not just assigned books for school, but these books. Mukesh’s wife loved reading. He “reconnects” in a way with her thru reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. His young granddaughter also loves to read. When Mukesh gives up his beloved routine of watching Blue Planet on t.v. and goes to the library he finds a new way of connecting with life through the books on the list Aleisha recommends to him. Gradually, the develop of cross-generational friendship based on the books they are reading and tentatively discussing. The healing power of books, the escapism of reading, and the building of both friendships and communities based on shared feelings and interests are themes.

 

My Thoughts

This was a very sweet book. Sweet, but never precious nor cloying. There was an unexpected event that jarred me [nothing crime-riddled, nothing sexual, nothing like that] that brought the story to a good arch of redemption for everyone, in a good and believable way. 

The characters were believable. I could truly relate to Aleisha because of my own hero-worship of my big brother at her age and because of growing up with my Dad’s mental illness. Though he kept going to work, our home life was like Aleisha’s–everything depended on Dad’s needs. I, too, escaped, into books and I, too, learned to cope from books.–though of the books on the list I’d only read Little Women at that age (and watched Olivier in Rebecca). (And, I guessed the “secret” of the list right off). I connected, like Aleisha, with people of all ages through books and in this way found trustworthy adults who helped me at the same time in life that Aleisha and “Mr. P” as she calls Mukesh. I also loved Priya and her hero-worship of Alisha, her thrill at her filling out her library card for her. I had a few teenagers like that as well, and I was Priya after my tween years–always reading. She was sweet and believable.

Even so, I did think a book or so less in the list would have been “more” for the story. It got a little long and once or twice a bit contrived for my liking, but I’m for any nice book that gets people to read other books.

BUT…One bad thing

This book STOMPED on a pet peeve of mine. “Stomped” like in that stage show RENT. Stomped. Everyone who works in a library is NOT a librarian. Surely even the most ill-informed person can tell that a sullen 17 year old with a phone, holding down a desk is NOT a professional?? Do you walk into a bank and assume every person is a banker? Everyone in the drug store a pharmacist?? Of course not! But walk into a library (usually mispronounced lie-berry here where I am or “lie-bree” by the audio book people) and everyone is automatically a “librarian” (i.e. Lie-Berry-EE-An). Ugh Ugh Ugh. I had to have two college degrees to get my job, one of which is Master’s degree in Library Science. That does not mean others could not do it–it just means they would not get hired, ok? Even in a tiny rural public library a couple of specific courses are required. Are there ANY editors or fact-checkers anymore? I actually cheered out loud in the car when someone was finally (or did I imagine it?) correctly called a “library assistant.” I realize this bothered NO ONE but me (and likely a few other librarians who haven’t given up all hope that we might educate people on this!). This downgraded my rating for this book just a little.

My Verdict

3.5

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Let’s hope if they make it into the movie they do not PC it or Woke it in any way. Leave it alone and let the author’s story stand as it is. It does not need to be “corrected” in any way to please any segment of the movie-going public. (I’m still ticked they tampered with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the movie-though I admit changing the title made a ton of sense as did making it the book tilte for future printings. They missed the mark on that before it was published).

The Books

Those I have read are marked with *

To Kill A Mockingbird *

Rebecca *

The Kite Runner

Life of Pi

Pride and Prejudice *

Little Women *

Beloved

A Suitable Boy * (I later learned I had listened to an abridged verision)

Have you read The Reading List? Give me your thoughts in a comment or leave a link to your own review–I’d enjoy reading those. What about the books on the list? Again, leave me a comment or link.

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Review: Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

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My Interest

I learned of this book via The Chocolate Lady’s review The story sounded good and it was set in the summer–I’m doing some seasonal reading this year (as I’m sure you are tired of hearing).

The Story

“The two were friends and had been for many years before Miss Douglas, a little battered by war experiences, had settled down in Threipford, to Mrs. Lorimer’s quiet content. … Both wrote; each admired the other’s work. Lucy possessed what Gray knew she herself would never have, a quality which for want of a better name she called “saleability.” “(page 1)

Mrs. Lucy Lorimer is the mother of four grown children–all but one married with children. The unmarried son and a son-in-law are officers in the navy and the others are making their way in the civilian world. Her husband, Jack, “the Colonel,” is retired from the Army and is devoted to his Labrador. Lucy’s summer gets off to a  rocky start when Jack refuses to buy the bigger estate nearby that would perfectly house their growing extended family of children, in-laws, grandchildren and nannies. Then the “new people” arrive and have a dreadful name, but a lovely daughter just the right age for Lucy’s unmarried son. As the family’s summer house party goes on Lucy helps with her children’s ups and downs, while occasionally dealing with correspondence from her publisher.

“First and foremost, it was a home, a house where people lived happy, useful lives, where a certain standard of conduct and thought was obtained, where money was assessed at its proper value because it had been earned, but was never allowed to usurp too high a position. It was always a servant, a useful servant, never a master. Mrs. Lorimer set the standard by which the household at Woodside was ruled; her quiet personality irradiated its every activity.” (page 29)

The Lorimer’s have two servants–a cook and a young housemaid, and live a life few today can imagine, though Lucy acknowledges that life has become much easier with her earnings from her book sales added to the family coffers. So, in the midst of a summer of family dramas, the return of an old flame, and the county Show [fair] and all its demands, Mrs. Lorimer never has to speed home in her little car and whip up dinner for poor Jack and his dog, June. While the Colonel has taken to Hoovering to supplement his obsessional gardening and daily walks with the Lab, Lucy is able to attend to her writing and do mostly what she likes. Who wouldn’t want that “miserable” of a summer?

“The Colonel never failed to receive news of an impending dinner party with horrified loathing.” (page 106)

“His back was eloquent of dignified displeasure.” (page 159)

My Thoughts

“The ground, far and near, was covered by the glowing mantle of heather in full bloom, the air was sweet with its honey-scent and loud with the bees busy plundering its sweetness. Above arched the faint blue of the sky, and all over lay the lovely clear champagne-coloured light of afternoon.” (Page 127)

While this was a fun little book, I was disappointed that more wasn’t made of the war-time experiences. We hear that Mary was useless as a housekeeper because she’d ferried planes in the war, but that is about it. Nonetheless, there is enough subtle humor in the book, as well as vivid descriptions of scenery, to have kept my attention very well.

My Verdict

4 Stars

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

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A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

 

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My Interest

My review of The Cornish Midwife is here. I enjoyed the previous book so much–I had to know what happens to Ella and Anna and their guys!

The Story

Ella and her boss, Anna Jones, are dealing with the good and the bad of life. The good–both have found love. Anna with Brae and Ella with old flame Dan. But how could such a problem beset two midwives? [No spoilers]. Will they adapt and be happy? Accept only a miracle?

Meanwhile, the two and their fellow midwives care for expectant mothers, deliver babies, and do follow-up visits all while raising money for a great cause now very dear to both their hearts.

My Thoughts

In a Cornwall as different from that of Daphne DuMaurier as night is from day or Dr. Pepper from Champers, I still am in love with this crew! This books was exactly what I needed for my commute this week. I hope there is another book to come!

My Verdict

4 Stars of Fun and Happiness

A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

My review of The Cornish Midwife

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Classics Club Spin #27 Review: Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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My Interest

I love participating in the Classics Club Spins! It’s such a fun way to read through classics you might never try.

 

The Story

Impoverished gentlewoman, Emily Fox-Seton, supports herself being useful to busy ladies. She’s the Victoria equivalent of Door Dash, Stitch Fix, Amazon and more rolled into one. She does errands to keep herself barely above penury. She fears the Work House and lies awake at night fretting that genteel ladies will no longer need her to walk a hundred miles to pick up fish and save their dinner parties from the shame of no fish course!

But, being “the right sort,” only down-on-her-luck financially, she is at least in the company of people who think nothing of hosting a house party for 20 for at least a month. Sadly, the poor thing doesn’t ride–not to the hounds or just in the home park.Nonetheless, her circumstances have the advantage of putting her in the path of well-off men, some of whom are single. Now, she’s a bit past her sell-by date in Victorian terms, but still within her childbearing years albeit at an age where a husband could only likely expect about 10 children instead of 18.

After saving the above-mentioned-dinner-party, she is rescued by the Marquess of Walderhurst–an eligible, older widower with no heir. She is a lovely, quiet, sensible thing and James Walderhurst sees her potential. He has a money-grubbing distant relative as his heir presumptive, so why not take a chance on this little chit who colors so prettily when he speaks to her. Better still, his sister likes Emily, too.

My Thoughts

This was a delightful story. Could you see the plot a mile off? Of course! Was the putative “Cousin Matthew” [Downton Abbey] hatching schemes at a rate that would have made Miss O’Brien need a cuppa and a fag out back with Thomas? [Downton, again]. Oh, yes! But this story is Victorian and we know it ends on a happy note–it must, it simply had to hadn’t it? (Yes, sadly, there are racist comments about an Indian servant. Be aware.)

I listened to the excellent audio book from Persephone Books which is only $4.99 on Audible (linked)

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hogsdon-Burnett

My Verdict

4 Stars

To learn more about The Classics Club and their “Spins” read this post.

For my past Spin book reviews click the title to go to my review:

Wide Saragaso Sea

Tortilla Flat

Excellent Women

Groves of Academe

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Review: The Salt Fields: A Novella by Stacy D. Flood

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My Interest

I remember reading the announcement of this book but dwelling on “ghost story” and how I do not like those. Well, happily, I was once again between audios and this one was available. I’m so glad it was. Some times I enjoy things when I find them at moments like this that I would otherwise skip. A spontaneous “Oh, sure, why not” to a book can enliven my reading. Are you like that, too? Or do you plan all of your reading? I do both. Here is a good discussion (about 10-12 minutes in) on planned vs spontaneous reading on the podcast. Tea or Books? #97: Spontaneous or Planned Reading, and Tension vs Thank Heaven Fasting.

Now back to this incredible novella….

 

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Image credit: Copyright Pearson Education Inc. Found here (click)

The Story

Minister Peters has had enough of the hard life in South Carolina where he is a teacher, but lives surrounded by ghosts. The ghost of his wife, of his little daughter, of family members, friends, lynching victims and more. When a mass grave of infants born to enslaved people is uncovered he is “done” and joins the Great Migration to the North that took thousands of southern Blacks to the great cities of the North.

His journey must start somewhere and his starts on a segregated train, leaving a segregated railroad station. He is thrown together randomly by the availability of seats with a couple–the wife so fair-skinned she could “pass” as white, the husband, a bit of a braggart and player. The other man is a returned soldier, navigating post World War II life back in the world of Jim Crow. Along the way, thanks to the slow-moving, long-stopping local train, they all have new experiences, share confidences and jokes, and reveal themselves carefully to each other.

An “inner dialogue” gives us Preacher’s thoughts and opinions of his fellow migrants and gives us much of his background.

My Thoughts

This is one of the finest “inner dialogue” stories I’ve ever read. The audio is superbly performed by Sean Crisden who should be considered for an Audie Award. If Novellas in November happens again this year, keep this book in mind. It is not to be missed.

My Verdict

4.0 Stars

Salt Fields: A Novella by Stacy D. Flood

Uncategorized

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

My Interest

I liked the sound of the story! And, Lisa Scottoline’s essays are favorites of mine. I’ve read one of her thrillers as well.

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The Story

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro are lifelong friends. Nearing the end of high school, as the world veers toward World War II, the three are coming of age in Rome. Elisabetta, the daughter of an unloving mother and a drunken father, Marco the son of cycling champion turned barkeeper, and brilliant Sandro–a Jewish boy with a future ahead of him as a mathematician. The three are in a triangle as they come to the age of boys and girls starting to fall in love. Elisabetta sees the merits of both young men. Rome has long been a tolerant city–Jews have played a full role in its history. They have been there since the time of Christ and have a treasure trove of libraries and historical records.

Marco’s father is a Fascist of the First Order–one of the first. But, will he follow his father? To modern readers, it is unbelievable that Sandro’s father is ALSO a Fascist. After all, El Duce has a Jewish mistress–he is no anti-Semite, and no one in the 1930s had reason to suspect that Mussolini would partner with Hitler. After all, Romans had gone to school together, played together and have both Catholic and Jewish neighbors. Their families are friends and celebrate with each other. That was Rome.

This is the story of the three young people, their families, their city, and their country both as it moves toward war and then through the war. Elisabetta is the first to take on full adult responsibilities, then Marco, and later Sandro. As their world changes, their hearts race. The boys wondering which of the two best friends will win Elisabetta for his wife. Elisabetta seems to know, but does she?

My Thoughts

Lisa Scottoline has written many a bestselling thriller. This is her first foray into historical fiction. Thankfully, she brought her ability to keep a reader on the edge of their seat with her to this book. She has peopled the books with real folks–and real emotion. Are there flaws? Yes, of course, but minor ones. It was hard to think of the three main characters as high school students even at first. They were so adult. Another was this,  [MINOR SPOLIER ALERT] could someone please explain why the sister came back?? That made no sense to me.  Those are tiny flaws that do not matter in the course of the bigger story.

There were a few others, such as coming dangerously close to my pet peeve of inserting discussions of the news to move the story along, but, never mind–this is a riveting book! Yes, there were some places that were maybe a touch too thriller-ish, but the truth is I couldn’t stop listening. I got through all 19 hours of the audio in ONE WEEK. I loved it. Some have said a few scenes were eye-rolling–no, they weren’t because of how they ended. I sincerely hope Lisa Scottoline writes more historical fiction.

Warning: There is one brief moment that animal lovers may want to skip. No spoilers intended, but its when some extended family moves in–ok? Most people won’t be bothered by it. Just warning those who are extra sensitive about animals. Lisa Scottoline has and loves animals, so this did surprise me, but it is very, very brief.

My Verdict

4.0

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

If you’d like to read my reviews of Lisa Scottoline’s essays, use the search feature.