Review: The Forbidden Notebook by Alba de Céspedes, translated by Ann Goldstein


Thank you to The Book Jotter for introducing me to this book.

WordPress is still not working the way it is supposed to. I have reached out but nothing has helped. I’m sorry if this isn’t as well formatted as usual.


Thank you to The Book Jotter for introducing me to this book.

WordPress is still not working the way it is supposed to. I have reached out but nothing has helped. I’m sorry if this isn’t as well formatted as usual.

My Interest

The idea of a woman with college-age children keeping a notebook–well, I must say, it grabbed my attention! I love epistolary books–stories told through diaries, letters, e-mails or whatever. That was a bonus.

The Story

“I can’t find peace anywhere. When I am at home, I always have a desire to hurry to the office. And when I’m in the office the happy excitement that animates my every gesture seems duplicitous, so I yearn to go home and feel safe.”

“…his sweet persuasive words reached me if through glass. Glass separated me from everything now….”

Valeria is a woman in Rome circa 1950, whose husband works in a routine job in a bank. He now calls his wife “Mama.” A portrait of his mother is in their bedroom. Valeria works, too, for “the Director” in a company he started as a clerical/secretary/admin. At home she has a daughter and son–both in college, both starting out on adult life. Her daughter is “modern” and is working for a law firm while attending college. She is direct and knows what she wants–and her parents be damned. The son is weak. He has a goal but not really. Valeria’s husband is bored by his job at the bank and amuses himself writing movie scripts when the office is quiet. One weekend, Valeria buys a notebook. She starts writing in it and her life is not the same. Not her marriage, nor how she views her job, nor how she relates to her family–all are changed by her thing things she writes in this new notebooks.

My Thoughts

Post-war Rome must have had many women like Valeria–many were war widows, but some must have been married with children like she was. Working to help support her family gave her a feeling of fulfillment, or power. When she finds herself drawn back to the office on Saturday–the office, where she is seen as “Valeria” and not as “Mama’ as even her husband now calls her, is intoxicating. She is valued and makes real contributions. At home, the mending basket is always full, the spaghetti and eggs she makes after work for the family’s dinner is ho-hum and she knows it. Her visits to her elderly parents on weekends are rushed. Her children get on her nerves in new ways. Her husband no longer seeks her “at night,” but she is “young” in her own mind. Her work life [no spoilers] provides stimulation in countless ways.

I have felt nearly everything Valeria feels! I may be older, but life expectancy is longer than in 1950’s Rome! I wanted to tell her to grab that brass ring! Let the family sort it out their own way. She has too much spirit to be the family’s drudge. The son ….no words. The daughter….at least she’s a survivor and goes after what she wants. The husband….hmmmm……

I LOVED this book. It hit me at exactly the right time in life.

My Verdict


Read what the New York Times had to say about this book

Marmee the Woke? Review: Marmee: A Novel of Little Women by Sarah Miller


My Interest

Little Women is my fourth most read novel after GWTW, The Joyous Season, and Auntie Mame (the last two both by Patrick Dennis), so of course I had to read/listen to this one. I also enjoyed, March: A Novel by Geralidine Brooks–“Father’s” story from Little Women. If asked for a preference on movie versions I would say the 1990’s Winona Ryder/Claire Danes/Susan Sarandon’s version, even though that cuts out Katherine Hepburn. But Kate was TOO OLD to be Jo! There. I’ve said it.

Also, I liked the author’s book, Caroline: Little House Revisited.

The Story

“Little intimidates a man more than a learned woman.”


Margaret March, the mother in Little Women known as “Marmee” was an interesting woman. Author Louisa May Alcott’s family was part of the society in Concord that included Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau. Written as very long, prose-y diary entries, the story starts where Little Women starts and ends where it ends.

We see Marmee as a crusader for the poor and the immigrants, helping in the Relief Rooms in Concord and on her own time in back alleys. We learn of her struggles to bite her tongue and control her anger. We hear her thoughts on her husband, who even when present in the home was largely “absent” in the world of his own thoughts and dreams. She loves him and enjoys him, but is not blind to his faults. She struggles to accept his sincere and childlike belief that God will provide for his family even if he himself does not always do so.

Marmee enjoys her children, enjoys friends, and enjoys taking time with her own thoughts. She is as spirited and active as you imagine her to be in Little Women. She takes time to help her children develop their character without putting preachy lessons on the subject before them

It is her love and acceptance of Beth as being too gentle to face the real world (though at times she does). The joy of Beth’s gentle spirit and lovely music bring to the family together. She also adopts Laurie as a son his grandfather as a new father for herself.

My Thoughts

At first, the “woke-ness” grated. Then I laughed at myself. What transcendentalist-Unitarian WOULDN’T be “woke?” They invented it! LOL. Then I relaxed. There are very real parallels between the Civil War and Reconstruction and today. We ARE on the verge of a 2nd Civil War–at least in terms of culture. The Civil Rights hammered out in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments during the story ARE in real danger of being lost today. The same anti-poor, and anti-immigrant phobias rear their heads in each generation. 

Two small spoilers.  Two teeny-tiny parts of the story made me snort with laughter. I knew the current day debate on gender would get in there somehow and it did–Marmee sees Laurie as drawn to the male part of Jo. Snort! She also seems to hint that Jo might not be made for marriage in a way that isn’t about her independence. Hint only. And, then there was the “give the money” away plan that a couple in the story espouse.  Not in an Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates way of having too much to ever spend, but as “vocation.” Ok then….

I loved that while Marmee was practical, she acknowledged that her husband was right–God had provided for them every time. That was amazing in a book today. I thought it sad that with so many unchurched and the media of today so anti-everything Christian or Church, the author had to explain how Unitarians differ from other sects. Sad, too, that many who read it may have to Google to see what the Trinity is.

All in all, I thought the author did a commendable job of bringing Marmee to life. I felt she owed a bit to Susan Sarandon’s wonderful portrayal of Marmee in my favorite of the Little Women movies, but….

The Author’s Note at the end is very interesting–don’t skip it.

Now I want to watch Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon again!

My Verdict




A few other “what if” books on the real life Alcott family or on the fictional March family that I have read and reviewed:

March by Geraldine Brooks (My review was lost on my old blog)

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Like a few other well known writers or famous people, Louisa May Alcott has been turned into a fictionalized sleuth though I have not read these books. Louisa and the Missing Heiress by Anna MacLean is book #1. I’ll add her to my next update of my post on real people made into fictional slueths.


Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever (my review was lost on my old blog)

American Bloomsbury also by Cheever covers Louisa, Margaret Fuller, Thoreau and Hawthorne (I skimmed it).

The Concord Quartet covers Louisa’s father and the other Concord luminaries, Emerson, Hawthorn and Thoreau (I skimmed it).

Eden’s Outcasts is about Louisa and her father. (I skimmed it).

Review: Mary Churchill’s War


My Interest

Embed from Getty Images

I collect everything on the Churchills, so this is a natural for me. Seeing it on #Netgalley, I had to have it. I will be buying the print book, but this review is based on the audio in which the editor (and reader of the text connecting sections of the diary) is Mary’s elder daughter, Emma.

Winston and Clementine Churchill suffered the sort of loss all parents dread. Going away and leaving the children with a nanny only to be called home to a dying child. Their fourth child, Marigold, died, soon after her parents returned home. A year later, Mary was born. Unlike the older children, Mary was cared for by a distant relative who had trained as a Norland Nanny. Winston and Clementine were very involved children for their class and day. Winston had been so neglected by his own father that he destroyed his son Randolph by spoiling him and never correcting his bad behavior. The three (surviving) older children all had difficulties with relationships and with alcoholism. Mary, however, was married for life to one man, had five healthy children, many grandchildren (one of whom was a bridesmaid Princess Diana–a very distant relative). Winston and Clementine both gave of their time and love to all of their children, but Mary having had a very stable and well-regulated childhood, turned out the healthiest. [In this the Churchills and the Roosevelts were so much alike–disasterous marriages for the children, etc., only it was FDR’s mother who spoiled them. FDR and Eleanor lost a baby son. Their 5 children had around 14 marriages between them].

The Story

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When the Diary starts, Mary is about to be 18, World War II is starting and Winston is not yet Prime Minister. Mary is in the last days of school–still a fairly rare thing for a girl of her class (Clementine had gone to school though). The Churchills included their children in the luncheons and dinners they gave, so their children were very well versed in public affairs, the arts, and literature from this exposure alone. Randolph only was indulged and allowed to argue and debate with guests even if it sent his mother from the table in anger and disgust. The girls, were to make polite conversation. So Mary often had a ring-side seat to some of the greatest moments in 20th Century history and met most of the Allied war leaders including Roosevelt. (She found FDR not as brilliant as her father and found FDR Jr, very handsome but a bit tedious; She admired Eleanor).

Her diary has the usual confidences about young men, about what she sees as her personal failings and, funnily enough some Bridget Jones-ish moments about her weight! She confides her thoughts on her siblings (she finds she can no longer lover or like her brother), her sister-in-law Pamela (whom she often calls “Spam) [and who would always be charitably described in books and memoirs as a “courtesan”] and on finding her eldest sister, Diana, a bit difficult (she was 13 years older). It is her sister Her cousin, Clarissa (later to be the 2nd Mrs. Anthony Eden–click for my post on her), who ran with a very artsy crowd, worked at Vogue and skipped any military service, she found hard going (as did I when I read her memoir). Her sister Sarah, the actress, and her mother, Clementine, she mostly got on well with and enjoyed spending time with each of them She and Sarah shared the duties of ADC to her father on his long trips to the wartime conferences (a role the Winston must surely have wished Randolph to have been capable of undertaking). But, it is her father whom she openly idolizes, adores, cherishes. He is almost a religion to her. She is so grateful (which is a huge sign of maturity I think) when he takes time out to speak to her. But, Mary, too falls afoul of “Papa” when she criticizes the sainted son, Randolph. She bitterly and quite rightly resents this.

One fun note–her thoughts on the movie Mrs. Miniver were like mine. It was a lovely film, but the family didn’t seem very British or middle class! I’ve always thought Walter Pidgeon was too “American”–Leslie Howard would have been a better choice to me.

My Thoughts

Mary shows herself to be a a little (and understandably) priggish, very upper-class, and yet also very sincere. Her religious faith, her sense of duty, and her devotion to family and country are very typical of her time. She would go on to raise a Member of Parliament who became a Cabinet Minister (oldest son, Nicholas) and was wife of an MP & Cabinet Minister who also severed as the UK’s Ambassador to France and as the man who handed Rhodesia over to become Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (where her daughter had an affair with Andrew Parker-Bowles). Her home “training” stood her in good stead to be the wife of a successful politician–which it did, especially when Churchill suffered his stroke after the war–but that’s in a different book!

I wasn’t sure what I would be listening to when I started this book, but in the end I found it to be much, much more interesting than I had imagined. It’s too bad that Mary didn’t go on to try for Parliament. I think she’d have given Mrs. Thatcher some serious competition even without a University degree.

Mary Churchill’s War by Mary Churchill [Soames] and Emma Soames

Epistolary Books Part III : Stories Told Through Diaries, Letters, Notebooks or Other Episodic Forms of Communication



Photo credit (click)

I LOVE books written as a series of letters, or as a diary, or even more modern methods of communication. “Epistles” aren’t just for the Apostles, you know! We used to write a lot of them.



Love & Saffron is the newest epistolary novel I’ve read. It combines foodie adventures with a warm, caring, friendship. Click the link to read my review HERE. I seem to find a lot more British novels of this sort, or diaries of real people who are from the U.K. (the country–not the University). This is one or two American books in this list.


Logan Mountstuart starts writing a diary at his lesser public (private) school in about 1920. As the years go he crosses paths with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during their wartime exile to the Bahamas where a famous murder took place. You can read my entire review here. Any Human Heart by William Boyd.


Mrs. Tim is an Army wife, traipsing around making a home as her  husband’s regiment shifts location. She is of an indomitable breed that once built an  Empire. She’s also wickedly funny.  A classic in this genre. You can read my full review HERE. 

Diary of a Provincial Lady and The Provincial Lady Goes Further are classics in the genre. (The links are to my reviews) A rather ordinary woman develops and not-so-ordinary life for herself! (Be careful! Some cheap Kindle versions are not the real thing).



This marvelous little book is a “sort of” epistle so I’m including it here. It is one of the most interesting royal books ever. All kinds of indiscreet comments, snatches of conversation, and what-have-you from the notes made by JPH during his time penning the great official biography of Queen Mary. This book is currently heavily discounted to $6.99 for kindle and I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite recent royal books, but somehow I neglected to review it here. The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy.


James Lees-Milne Diaries–Often hilarious, sometimes snarky or even biting in his commentary on well-known people of his day. I love dipping into this one rather than reading it cover-to-cover. My review will happen, but it could be years from now.


Letters of a Woman Homesteader (the “other” American book in this list) was an interesting read. I found this in my search for a book set in Wyoming to finish my 50 states reading project. You can read my review HERE.

Can you recommend other fictional or nonfcition diaries or books of letters, notes or similar? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

Previous Epistolary Posts

My Favorite Epistolary Books Written by Real People

Favorite Nonfiction Diaries of Royals and War

Fave….Fictional Stories Told Through Letters, Emails, Tweets or Texts

My Fave…Fictional Diaries

Review: Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay


My Interest

An epistolary novel–a story told in letters, that concerns friendship, mentions many books, and tons of great food? You bet!

The Story

The less we cement ourselves to our certainties, the fuller our lives can be.”

Joan is a young woman in Los Angeles stifled by her job as a secretary for a drugstore. She reads a colorful column in a magazine about clam digging on the coast of Washington near Seattle. [The column is included after the author’s notes]. She writes to the author, Imogen (“Immy”) and Imogen writes back. A friendship is born.The time is October 1962 (when I was 7 months old!). The friends become early “foodies” and try new things and learn to cook fresh, exciting food. They share their hearts with each other about life, their men, world events, changes in the world and more. Imogen is 10 years older than Joan’s mother, but she feels like Immy could be her sister.

Note: Don’t skip over the author’s notes or the surprises at the end! So good. There are even recipes!

My Thoughts

A little disappointing. It’s hard to write too much about the story–it would all be spoilers. I must say this book was partially a disappointment–and I had truly expected to love it. An historical fiction pet peeve or two reared its/their head(s) [this ambiguity in counting is dependent upon how you view them].  Times were changing in the early to mid 1960s. but some attitudes expressed in the story were dangerously close to modern. 60 years ago was not today. At one point one of the ladies all but admits she discovered her “white privilege.” Lots of people were waking up to racism, its true, and women’s liberation was getting a great start, but it was laid on a little thick in this instance.

Also, there were things that were a bit prescient–mentioning how Scoop Jackson and others were said to be working on civil rights legislation and how cool it was to be alive at that point in history is an example. Those were a bit much. There were a few others–but that’s sampling enough of that sort of thing. I also felt having Joan, who wrote about food, being given an assignment to interview [no spoilers] had too tenuous a tie. That one was an eye-roll.

What I Loved. I liked the friendship that developed and though, probably due to today’s page limits, it had to develop quickly I did not find that difficult to accept. I liked the way Joan’s career progressed in a believable way from secretary to writer since she had the education necessary from Stanford and UCLA. I do wonder how her male friend felt about her new career (no spoilers) since he sort of got her started. I liked their relationship, but …[no spoilers]. I thought the Tijuana story, while it’s ending was the one I hoped for, did him a grave injustice.

I’d love to have know Joan, her mother, her male friend, and, especially, Immy, and Francis–and their University foodie-friends in real life. I shared Immy’s angst over the Pike Place Market in Seattle being threatened. Indianapolis’ City Market was reduced to a food court for a number of years–great lunch spot, but not what it was meant to be, so I loved the discussion of that. Urban Planning and “Urban Renewal” were very hot topics well into the 1970s–I have a great memory of that I’ll share another time.

I would enjoy reading the author’s other novel and her Vietnamese travel and cookbook and will request them from the library. She tells a good story. And, I’m in awe that she got to work at Elliott Bay Books! I loved that she, too, had an inspiring great aunt (I had more than one) who shared the New Yorker and more with her as mine did with me, and that her aunt was the model for Immy.

My Verdict


Love & Saffron by Kim Fay


Review: Dear Hugo by Molly Clavering


How glorious the autumn colours are, though the ground is sodden. The woods, the dying bracken and withered heather on the hillside, all seem deepend and enriched by the rain, and now that the sunlight is falling on them they are glowing with russet reds and  browns turning to deep purple in the shadow. (p. 159)

My Interest

I have fallen in love with Dean Street Press! Their books are so gentle and good–the perfect antidote for today’s world. Dear Hugo is one step better–it is an epistolary novel, a story told in letters. I am a big fan of such books told in the form of letters, diaries, emails or whatever. “Epistles”–like those in the Bible, or “serials” are stories told in “episodes” or small chunks. I like that.

The Story

It sounded affected to say that I had nothing to wish for, thought it was true enough. For I have what I need, and I am content, and I did not thick that to wish for a slightly larger oven or a new vaccum-cleaner was the right kind of which, somehow. (p. 44)

Scotland in post-war was a refuge for Sara Monteith. One of many women denied the dignity of widowhood by the cruelty of war, Sara, whose fiance, Ivo, was killed before they could marry, has moved to a cottage in the place where he grew up. Written between June 1951 and just after the Coronation in June 1953, her letters are addressed to his brother Hugo, who is out in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Along the way she acquires guardianship of sorts over her cousin’s son, known as “Atty” when he is home from his pubic school (boarding school or prep school to Americans). Sara’s letters show her healing from her loss, her involvement in her local community and the cast of characters who live there. And, a little later in the story, the wonderful Pam appears. Pam (male) is a standard poodle.

He was looking at me with a puzzled expression on his face–one of those rather craggy faces, very brown, with his cheek bones and a big nose, that go so well with the glengarry bonnets worn by Highland regiments. (p. 35)

My Thoughts

The curlers, too, have been in their element, and tremendous day-long battles between rinks from all the villages round have been waged. The deep-toned ring of the stones over the ice could be heard long after the sun set like a huge orange balloon among smoky clouds, and the moons sailed up over the shoulder of hill …  (p. 77)

Typical of Dean Street Press books, Dear Hugo, moves at the pace of it’s own day, not of ours, but the end, again, had me not wanting to put it down–to see how it ended! And, again, I did not see the end coming (it is nothing horrible). This was a beautifully paced book, and Sara, is a much more generous soul than I can ever be! (No spoilers). Her simple contentment is an inspiration without ever being precious. I loved her and Atty and Pam and several others in the village of Ravenskirk.

“The average raincoat is a depressant in itself.” (p. 73)

My Verdict


The ending made me rate this even higher.

Dear Hugo by Molly Clavering is on sale for Kindle for only $2.99 and at 200 pages of actual story, I think it would work for Novellas in November just fine.

Review: American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis


Helen Ellis came to my attention via her essay on how the husband didn’t want a divorce like his wife thought–he just wanted the dining room table to be clean and clear of clutter. Helen is like David Sedaris, and Bailey White–born to be beloved by NPR listeners. While her book, Southern Lady Code was a collection of humorous essays, American Housewife is a collection of short stories. Like the Haruki Murakami collection, I turned to this earlier this week, American Housewife was available when I ran out of audiobooks. Unlike the Haruki Murakami collection, I’m glad I did. Her writing just plain delights. Add in one story told in epistolary form, a fabulous cover, and you’ve got me completely hooked. Did I mention the author is a pro poker player? Or that her husband vacuums glitter in one story? Now I just have to talk myself off the ledge for liking both Chardonnay and wainscoting….

“I fix myself a hot chocolate because it is a gateway drug to reading.”

My favorite of the stories was Dead Doormen. Not because of the doormen, but because I’d LOVE to see that penthouse apartment! I’d love to go through that library of gardening books the late mother-in-law carefully annotated as she grew her terrace garden over the years. A four-bedroom penthouse in a coop by the park in NYC with a terrace garden, fine artwork, and original furnishings kept in museum quality. What’s not to love?

“Just because it’s gorgeous outside doesn’t mean you have to go outside.”

Hello! Welcome to Book Club is part Mafia, part sorority, part dream vacation. An elderly New York Grand Dame funds it all, and a Talbot’s store manager gives everyone her employee discount, add in a couple of “failure to launch” young people thrown in with the 50-60-somethings who comprise the world’s most privileged book club and you have a book club you won’t forget. The thing about Book Club is, you must pick your Book Club Name. “Mary Beth” is not pleased that “Bethany” encroached on her name, so no more anything like “Mary” or “Beth.” These gals will have you “elbow-deep in the onion dip” and grateful for the cocktails, “please and thank you.”

My Novel Was Brought To You By the Good People at Tampax imagines a world in which writer’s receive corporate sponsorship, but all the compromises that demands. I took it as a rift on the way publishers today seem to demand certain insertions in novels that pay homage to political correctness, or now, woke-ness. Maybe I’m right? It was quite a read, regardless of my guess.

“Fertile as a Duggar”

How to be a Patron of the Arts tells of both how to avoid writing and how to make a life for yourself when you are a stay-at-home, childless wife of a loving husband, while going everywhere with gay male friends. Too much to love here.

The Wainscoting War is the battle of wealthy apartment dwellers with a shared landing. It becomes all-out war both by email and by actions. Unforgettable. And, remember, “the only thing with less character than Chardonnay is wainscoting.”

Pageant Protection is a somewhat troubling, dark-humored account, of “rescuing” and “relocating” child pageant victims. It is stressed that the child supposedly applied for this help, but it depicts child abduction all the same. I get it–child pageants are horrendous. I hope pageant Moms who might stumble upon it get the message–or at least take photos of their daughter(s) sans makeup, flipper, wigs, hairpieces, and all the rest.

“Inspired by Beyonce, I stallion walk to the toaster.”

Among the short stories are little bits of essay or free form verse or jottings–How To Be A Grown Ass Woman lists qualities, actions, etc. I loved it.

Most of all, in all of Helen’s writing, I love that she is happily married to a successful man who seems to adore her in return. The little rituals she talks of–sitting with him as he changes out of his suit, even taking him breakfast in bed, are fun and loving. Who wouldn’t want that life in that apartment with that garden, those books, those friends, and all the rest.

An American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

My Verdict



You can read more by and about this author here: NPR Book Review of American Housewife by Hellen Ellis.

My Review of Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

Review: Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart



The Story

Back in the early part of the last century, around 1909, Elinor Rupert was a single mom working as a washer woman. Like many young woman she had found life in the city (Denver) to be harder than life needed to be. She also had a spirit of adventure and so the presence of her young daughter as nothing to stand in the way of that spirit. So, she took out a homestead claim in Wyoming. While working to “prove up” her homestead and gain full title to the land, she worked for a neighbor as a housekeeper and helper.  While doing so she wrote these entertaining and educational letters back to the lady for whom she used to do wash (laundry).




What I Loved

I loved that while allowing that a person’s temperment had a lot to do with things, Elinor believed homesteading to be a much better and, frankly, easier (in spirt and mostly in body) option than the sort of work women had to take in cities to support their children. The lost of washer women, hired girls, cleaners and the like, was very hard. Missing a day’s work almost surely meant missing a day’s wages. I liked her moxie–both in asserting this and seeing women’s work for the drudgery it was and often still is.

What Bothererd Me

Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House fame, was seen as a self-taught “natural” with a pen, when in fact her daughter Rose edited, re-wrote or coaxed from her mother most of the prose. I was left thinking–wow, for someone with no formal education, no real teaching she certainly came away able to write very, very well. In a day when libraries were just starting to take hold, she must have really gotten her hands on a lot of fine books to get such a consistent voice to her writing. I was especially perplexed when her young daughter (admittedly very young) wrote a letter and used incorrect grammar and the like freely. I admire the educator Charlotte Mason, so I want to believe all her reading let Elinor write so beautifully, but I have to suspect an editor was heavily involved. Like the Little House books, though, the “back story” of the writing really doesn’t matter that much. The stories are perfectly told in the letters.

I also found it odd that she neglected to mention a couple of important life changes–one of which tempered my view of her as a lone woman homesteader [no spoilers!]. My mind was soothed some by her complete determination to learn and master all the skills necessary and to do all of the labor for proving up her homestead. This she truley did.

My Verdict

If you enjoyed the Little House books, you will also enjoy this book very much. You can read more about the author, Elinor Pruitt Rupert Stewart in this article from the Wyoming State Historical Society.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart

I listened to the audio version.


If you enjoy this era of history then try this book as well:

This book is a MARVEL! What an unexpected gem of a book! I loved every word of it. Society girls, sick of the round of parties and good works while waiting for husbands to arrive on the scene take a bold step and change lives. Like modern day Peace Corps Volunteers they journeyed to a remote part of early-20th Century Colorado to teach school. Just read this one–you won’t regret it. A definite possibility for my “Must Read Book of the Year.” Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. (9/27/2011 from my old blog).


Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson


The Story

A lonely farmer’s wife in England writes a letter to the author of a book who has already died. A chance correspondence grows between the man who answered the letter and the farmer’s wife.  Through there letters both sort things out in lives and become caring friends.

My Thoughts

I love epistolary novels–stories told through letters, e-mails, texts of diaries. This one had such believable characters with such realistic life stories that I place it up there with the non-fiction 84 Charing Cross Road in my affections. A  higher recommendation than that I cannot offer! Tina and Anders, like Helene and Frank, will live on in my heart forever.

I could relate completely to Tina’s remarks on Daphne. In fact, many of them could be summed up as the story of one aspect of my life.

Yet again I am blown away by the knowledge that this is the author’s first novel. Well done! Even better to me, an aspiring writer, is the fact that she was first published later in life (she is in her 70s).

I am grateful to blogger Cornflower Books who first made me aware of this treasure of a book.

My Verdict

4 Stars

Meet Me at the Museum by Ann Youngson


Review: Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart


First of all, thank you to Jessie at Dwell in Possibility for bringing this book to my attention here. You should go check out this awesome book blog.

The Story

Two sorority sisters from the University of Iowa house of Kappa Kappa Gamma (Jane Pauley’s house at Indiana University, by the way and, more recently the house at Northwestern of Meghan Markle aka Princess Harry aka Duchess of Sussex.) head to New York in the summer of ’45 hoping to find fun jobs and party with other “sisters” staying nearby. By weird luck they wind up as the first female “pages” at Tiffany–as in Breakfast at Tiffany’s-Tiffany as in living a bit Audrey before there was Audrey! [See my week of Audrey Hepburn series that starts HERE.]

My Thoughs

First the good: The basic story was great–a fun look at a summer when 21-year-old females were still very much “girls” who fell in love, went on dates, but didn’t [usually] hop into bed until marriage or at least much, much later in the game. And due to one story line [no spoilers!] I was shocked by the “after Tiffany” follow up. The end of World War II made a nice counterpoint to the girls’ work and dating lives.

Now the bad: Sadly, this book fell into the trap that often brings historical fiction to its knees. That putting the words of guidebooks and newspapers into the mouths or, in this case, letters of the characters. I love books that tell at least some of the story with letters, but this device failed on a second level as well. We’d just heard what Marjorie was doing, but then we heard it again, interspersed with tourist guide lingo and newspaper reporting, when she wrote to the folks back home in Iowa. Then there was the name dropping. Marjorie says she misses the reporting of Eric Severied–“isn’t he related to the Severieds in [our hometown]?”  None of that is very entertaining. These faults took my rating way down.

My Rating


Summer at Tiffany: A Novel by Marjorie Hart


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