Oh, what joy! Looking for something to read, I realized that there on the bookshelf beside my much-read copy of Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, was a clutch of her other books, bought at a library sale many years ago and never read.
Why never read, I can't say. Maybe because I loved Brede so much that I just kept re-reading it and ignored these others because they weren't about Benedictine nuns. Or it just wasn't the time.
But finally the time had come. I picked up The Greengage Summer and fell into the world of four English children staying at a French hotel whilst their mother is sick and in hospital. Godden, I've come to realize, does children exceptionally well. There are charming characters, discovery, first love, betrayal -- and magnificent description.
The River is also about children -- with similar themes and equally wonderful description -- but this time the setting is India, where Godden was brought up. Though she is quintessentially English, Godden's love for India shines through every word. This is a beautiful little book, centered on a young girl's coming of age and her ruminations and discoveries about the nature of death and love and life.
With Black Narcissus it was back to nuns -- but not the peacefully running English Benedictine Abbey. No, this is a small group of English nuns struggling to establish a foundation in a remote village in Tibet. The added complication of an intriguing Englishman nearby and the seeming curse on the house they have been given to turn into a school make for a good story. Apparently this was a very popular film as well.
A Candle For St. Jude is the story of Madame Holbein's ballet school/theatre -- with all the clash of temperament and ensuing drama one might expect. A most satisfying read.
My favorite of this lot was China Court -- the story of an English country house and the family who has lived there for five generations. The characters are real and compelling and the descriptions are lush. Again, a good story with a satisfying ending.
Godden's writing style is masterful -- the past is always present in her characters 'minds and a word, a sight, a sound in the present often triggers a brief memory from the past. The stories are so rich, so multi-layered -- one of the reasons I've read and re-read Brede -- that they are like 3-D with Surround Sound -- or like life itself.
Godden wrote over sixty books -- I have two or three yet unread on the shelf. Then I'll have to go exploring...
Back to the letters I had my characters write me., telling me what to say in the novel. We've heard from Judy and from Col. Keith. This is Marthy's letter. There really was a Marthy -- but almost nothing is known of her. She is described in the official records as 'an idiot girl.' I have taken the liberty of imagining her not an idiot but a mute.
To Miz Lane -- I can't mouth the words myself so I'll be right proud to have you speak for me. O, my head is so full of words, rising and falling and trying to escape, like birds in a net. They beat at the back of my throat but still my tongue stays tied.
So you tell my story. Likely if anyone remembers me it'll be as the "idiot" girl what was hung up and whipped by the Secesh. But there was so much more -- and now here you come, offering to give me words and life.
So tell of my love -- my loves. The first and the last. The way my heart swelled in my bosom. The way my heart broke. . .
And tell of the sweet times along with the bad. The happiness of families, the light sifting through the poplar trees, the animals kneeling at midnight on Old Christmas, the fun of our play parties and the feasting after pig killing.
It's a terrible thing not to be able to voice my sorrows and pain. But it's somehow even worse when you can't give tongue to joy. I want you to do that for me.
There is still room in the 15 week critique workshop I will be leading beginning next week. If you are a writer in the Asheville area and you'd like some good feedback on your prose, check out SYNERGY CENTRAL -- an advanced creative prose workshop offering students the chance to have up to fifty-four pages( eighteen pages at a time) of their work -- fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or any combination thereof -- critiqued by their peers and line-edited by the instructor.
There will be brief in-class writing sessions but the focus will be on responding to each writer's work with thorough and constructive critique. It's been my experience that the synergy emerging from groups like this can inspire, energize, and propel a writer to the next level.
The class will meet at The Asheville School on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:30, beginning August 30.
My life runs on rather predictable lines, these days, but now and then I'm reminded that one never knows what's behind the next door. Recently, it was a visit from a girl -- well, now a woman -- whom John and I taught forty-some years ago at Independent Day School in Tampa. She and her husband were in NC to view the eclipse and they extended their trip to come catch up with her old teachers.
Cindy was a seventh/eighth grader back then and she and her best friend Alicia (who visited us back in March and whom I wrote about HERE) were the most creative and dynamic duo imaginable, as well as being seemingly impervious to peer pressure and the usual downsides of being teen aged girls.
Cindy and her husband Edwin (a musician) live in Florida where she went from a career as a designer and art director with Disney's 'imagineers' and Creative Entertainment divisions, to starting her own company, Now Cindy White Art works with theme parks all over the world. (I keep up with her on Facebook and it seems she's always jetting off to Japan.)
It's such fun to see that a kid you really admired has fulfilled all the promise they showed so long ago. And it's weird and wonderful to be enjoying their company adult to adult instead of in a student teacher relationship.
Like her friend Alicia (and they are still friends, despite living on opposite coasts,) Cindy and her husband (a very charming and interesting fella-- not that I would expect otherwise) are of the same liberal political persuasion as John and I, and once most of the catching up had been done and the old stories told and memories resurrected, we talked about politics and the Current State of Things.
We said goodbye the next morning as they set out for Florida and I set out to have lunch with Jane, another new friend. Jane has invited me to speak to her book club in October but she wanted to get together for lunch and talk books and writing.
Well, of course! And what a pleasant lunch it was as we discovered so much common ground. Jane, who is another writer had wonderful stories and insights to share.
The perfect book to finish up just as the giant star goat takes a big bite out of the sun . . .
This important and highly acclaimed book has been on my To-Be-Read list more or less since it came out. So when I found a copy (left by Nancy, my co-grandmother) sitting in front of me down at Justin and Claui's, I picked it up and started in while Josie napped.
I was hooked right away by the gorgeous prose and by the engaging characters-- Marie-Laure, the blind French girl, and Werner, the German orphan -- both infinitely resourceful and both caught up in the maelstrom of World War II.
As their paths move toward convergence during the siege of St. Malo, every word, every action, seems to glow with preternatural clarity.
I found myself trying to slow down and appreciate but still reading and reading to find out what happened. And when I reached the last page, having satisfied my curiosity, I ordered the book on Audible so that I will be able to savor every scene and pay closer attention to the glorious writing.
And now I'll go looking for another of Doerr's books -- any suggestions?
We viewed the eclipse from the end of our porch. (Josie slept through it.) It wasn't total -- 90 something percent -- and I was surprised at how light it still was when only a slender crescent of the sun remained uncovered.
It was a somewhat eerie light -- not like dusk -- and the temperature dropped appreciably. Ominous.
No birds sang but crickets chirred and both dogs spoke, saying in unison Trump must go!
(Some of the above is Fake News.)
We had glasses, of course, but we had fun trying to see the progress without looking up. A steamer insert yielded some crescents.
But my favorites were the 'wild' captures, on the stepping stones under the Kousa dogwood.
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