Friday, 16 February 2018

Australian Historical Fiction: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman



The Light Between Oceans is M. L. Stedman’s 2012 award-winning debut novel. It is set in Western Australia where the author was born and raised, and is a well-written and heart-wrenching story.
Without giving away too much of the plot...the story takes place in the years after The Great War and centres around Tom Sherbourne, a young man who becomes a lighthouse keeper upon his return from active service. Memories of the war haunt him and he struggles with the fact that so many others did not return, or did so maimed and psychologically ruined. In many respects he is able to pick up his life again but his choice to be a lighthouse keeper is influenced by his desire for a solitary life, a direct result of both his unsettled upbringing and the trauma of war.
Then he meets Isabel, a young woman ten years younger than himself, and she has made up her mind that she wants to marry him.
Well, they do marry and go to live at Janus Rock, a fictitious, remote island off the coast of south-west Western Australia where their only contact with the outside world is the supply boat that visits the island four times a year from Point Partageuse (a fictitious town).




Lighthouse keepers were required to keep meticulous records in a logbook - visitors to the island, wreckage from the sea, every significant event at or near the lighthouse, whether it was a passing ship or a problem with the lighthouse’s apparatus - it was a legal requirement to document those events straight away.
One day in 1926, something occurs that doesn’t get documented. Tom is an honourable man but out of concern for Isabel’s fragile emotional state, he makes a decision that leads to longterm tragic consequences.
The Light Between Oceans is a sensitive story that explores moral choices and the deceitfulness of the human heart. It shows that our decisions do not only impact our own lives but have repercussions for those around us; that our emotions are not always reliable and that we can reason away just about anything if we lean on them alone.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I was impressed by her style of writing and descriptive ability. The historical and technical details about lighthouses and the work of lighthouse keepers were quite fascinating, even for this very non-technically minded woman, and the portrayal of the problems encountered by returned servicemen and their families was handled brilliantly.
The only negative for me was the profanity which became more frequent towards the latter part of the book, although it’s not out of character for the times, or for some people going through the type of circumstances and pressures described.
A very worthwhile book and one of the best written modern books I’ve read in a long time.

Tom's comment about his war service:

‘Being over there changes a man. Right and wrong don’t look so different any more to some.’

The impact of the war:

Throughout its infancy, the unspoken belief in Partageuse was that real hints happened elsewhere...
Other towns in the West had known things different, of course: Kalgoorlie, for example, hundreds of miles inland, had underground rivers of gold crusted by desert...
The world wanted what Kalgoorlie had.

...Then in 1914 things changed. Partageuse found that it too had something the world wanted. Men. Young men. Fit men. Men who spent their lives swinging an axe or holding a plough and living it hard. Men who were the prime cut to be sacrificed on tactical altars a hemisphere away.


The author has a nice way with similes and other figures of speech:

And Janus Rock, linked only by the store boat four times a year, dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica.

‘Tom Sherbourne. Pleased to meet you,’ Tom replied, putting out his hand.
The older man looked at it absently for a moment before remembering what the gesture meant, and gave it a peremptory tug, as if testing whether the arm might come off.



Post-traumatic trauma:

Something solid. He must turn to something solid, because if he didn’t, who knew where his mind or his soul could blow away to, like a balloon without ballast. That was the only thing that got him through four years of blood and madness: know exactly where your gun is when you doze for ten minutes in your dugout; always check your gas mask; see that your men have understood their orders to the letter. You don’t think ahead in years or months: you think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation.

Tom's character:


Regulations require that each Sunday he hoist the ensign and he does, first thing. He raises it too when any ‘man o’ war’, as the rules put it, passs the island. He knows keepers who swear under their breath at the obligation, but Tom takes comfort from the orderliness of it. It is a luxury to do something that serves no practical purpose: the luxury of civilisation.

Other blokes might take advantage, but to Tom, the idea of honour was a kind of antidote to some of the things he lived through.

Thanks to Sherry at Semicolon Blog for mentioning this book. I'd heard of the title but I don't often read modern fiction and probably wouldn't have if Sherry hadn't said how much she enjoyed it.





Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Mr. Standfast - How do I Love Thee? Let me Count the Ways...


This is the third time I’ve read Mr. Standfast by John Buchan. It’s one of my favourite books by this author and the third time around hasn’t diminished my ardour.
Mr. Standfast is the third book of five in Buchan’s Richard Hannay novels that began with The Thirty-Nine Steps, and was followed by Greenmantle. The book was published in 1919 after the Bolshevik Revolution and as World War I was coming to a close. Buchan’s story opens in 1917 when Hannay was serving as a Brigadier in France. He is recalled by British Intelligence to pose as a pacifist in order to infiltrate a spy ring that threatens to bring about an Allied defeat on the Western Front.
Hannay, an upfront man of action, is disgusted with the idea of being a fake pacifist, but he sees his duty, does what is required of him, and by the second half of the book he’s well and truly in on all the action, and nearly gets annihilated a couple of times.
There is a romantic element in this story as Hannay falls in love with the charming Mary Lamington, who is also working for British Intelligence. There are some tense moments for him when the sinister Graft von Schwabing, the German master of disguise, succeeds in tricking Mary. She walks into his trap and finds herself on the 'Underground Railway' heading into Germany with him.


https://www.bookdepository.com/Mr-Standfast-John-Buchan/9781846971556/?a_aid=journey56


What I loved About Mr. Standfast

•    Buchan uses the theme of Pilgrim’s Progress throughout the book. When Hannay is given his assignment via Mary, she tells him to buy a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and ‘get it by heart.’ When he receives letters and messages about his assignment, they are written in a style reminiscent of John Bunyan. Some of the chapter headings are taken directly from Pilgrim’s Progress: The Village Named Morality; The Valley of Humiliation; The Summons Comes for Mr. Standfast.

•    Buchan has a very literary style and perceptive insights into human nature. Add those qualities to his grasp of the historical setting and his ability to tell a thrilling political/spy adventure story and the result is a winner.

•    Buchan was a fellow Scot and I love his descriptions of the Scottish Highlands and its people. He also had a very full and interesting life, living in South Africa and later in Canada where he held the position of Governor General. This wide experience of life is reflected in his writing.

•    Buchan’s characters: Mr. Blenkiron, who starred in Greenmantle makes his appearance again in Mr. Standfast, this time as a healthy man cured of his chronic dyspepsia; Sir Archie Roylance, the light-hearted youth who previously served with Hannay and now is in the flying Corps, and Mary Lamington, the courageous and patriotic eighteen year old girl who wins Hannay‘s heart.

•    My favourite character in this book would have to be the wiry and wise, Peter Pienaar, an old associate of Hannay’s from South Africa who participated in some previous adventures. He had found his niche in the Flying Corps and gained a reputation for skill amongst his fellow flyers, but also from Lensch, the German aviation hero. Peter had been downed by Lensch in a air fight and at the beginning of this story he is a crippled prisoner of war. The Pilgrim’s Progress was his constant companion and he had singled out Mr. Standfast as his counterpart because he did not think he could emulate Mr. Valiant-for-Truth. How wrong he was!

Among the unopened letters was one from Peter, a very bulky one which I sat down to read at leisure. It was a curious epistle, far the longest he had ever written me, and its size made me understand his loneliness. He was still at his German prison-camp, but expecting every day to go to Switzerland...
Peter's letter was made up chiefly of reflection. He had always been a bit of a philosopher, and now, in his isolation, he had taken to thinking hard, and poured out the results to me on pages of thin paper in his clumsy handwriting. I could read between the lines that he was having a stiff fight with himself. He was trying to keep his courage going in face of the bitterest trial he could be called on to face - a crippled old age. He had always known a good deal about the Bible, and that and the Pilgrim's Progress were his chief aids in reflection. Both he took quite literally, as if they were newspaper reports of actual recent events.
Peter preferred Valiant-for-Truth to Mr Greatheart, I think, because of his superior truculence, for, being very gentle himself, he loved a bold speaker...He thought that he might with luck resemble Mr Standfast, for like him he had not much trouble in keeping wakeful, and was also as 'poor as a howler', and didn't care for women. He only hoped that he could imitate him in making a good end.

But the big courage is the cold-blooded kind, the kind that never lets go even when you're feeling empty inside, and your blood's thin, and there's no kind of fun or profit to be had, and the trouble's not over in an hour or two but lasts for months and years. One of the men here was speaking about that kind, and he called it 'Fortitude'. I reckon fortitude's the biggest thing a man can have—just to go on enduring when there's no guts or heart left in you.

Peter was writing for his own comfort, for fortitude was all that was left to him now. But his words came pretty straight to me, and I read them again and again, for I needed the lesson. Here was I losing heart just because I had failed in the first round and my pride had taken a knock. I felt honestly ashamed of myself, and that made me a far happier man.



Mr. Standfast by John Buchan is my choice for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: Re-read a favorite classic

John Buchan's Richard Hannay novels are scheduled as free reads in the AmblesideOnline Year 11 curriculum, but they are also great reading for around age 12 to 13 years and up. My kids loved them.



Sunday, 4 February 2018

Mother Culture: Interior Riches



Interior Riches
I happened upon this fetching little phrase in the second chapter of Elizabeth Goudge’s book, The Rosemary Tree, and immediately thought how well it matched the idea of Mother Culture. (If you are unfamiliar with the idea of Mother Culture, the concept is explained in this article at AmblesideOnline's Parent's Review Archives.)


'...out of chance phrases and flashes of beauty (Michael) had always in old days been able to build for himself his country of escape. “Rest and ease, a convenient place, pleasant fields and groves, murmuring springs, and a sweet repose of mind.” Cervantes had known the same country, and had doubtless retained the power to create it even in the midst of misery, so great were his own interior riches.
But Michael’s imagination had always been dependent upon exterior bounty, and cut off from that he had been cut off from his country too.'

The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
 

Goudge’s character, Michael Stone, has an aura of mystery about him as well as a great affection for Don Quixote.
It’s been said that the inspiration for Miguel Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote, came to him while he was in prison and Michael believed that thinking of the great Cervantes and his suffering helped to keep him sane at times.
Cervantes had a great store of interior riches that he drew upon during his miserable and inhumane imprisonment by Ottoman pirates, whereas Michael was reliant upon external sources, and once they were removed, his imagination was unable to give him a place of rest; to take him to his country of escape. He did not have to power to create a sweet repose of mind, a pleasant place, because he had never made the effort to store up interior riches.

Last year I lost myself in one of the most inspirational autobiographies I’ve ever read: Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng, a woman, who in her early fifties, who was locked up in solitary confinement for six and a half years during the Cultural Revolution. During those years she drew upon her interior riches: Poetry and Psalms she had memorised; the intellectual culture of thinking and remembering she had practised throughout her life while she was still free; not to mention the physical disciplines she made herself undergo to keep her body from total deterioration while enduring the effects of starvation in prison.

Interior riches. We never know when we may be left without external resources to sustain our souls but what we have made a part of us can’t be taken away.

•    Scripture memory
•    Beautiful art work stored in the mind
•    Intellectual & aesthetic culture
•    The discipline of reading, thinking, & remembering
•    Inspiring music
•    History
•    Nature appreciation



Mother Culture: filling my soul with Interior Riches for the present, and to draw upon in the future.


Friday, 26 January 2018

January Notes: Nature, Camping, Keeping & Notebooks

We went on a family camping trip in mid-January which was a great nature study opportunity. We only went about three hours north of our home but it's surprising how much difference that short distance makes in the local flora & fauna.



For years I've heard cicadas but I've only found their shed skins so I was surprised to find full-grown cicadas in plentiful supply while we were away. Most of them were dead & I found out later that that was probably due to the run of very hot weather we've had. The one below was about 3" or 9 cm long. For an article about Aussie cicadas see this newspaper piece.
For a website devoted to them see Cicada Mania. For a poetic piece on these maddeningly noisy but fascinating creatures check out 'The Song of Cicadas' by Roderic Quinn.




Moozle's Nature Notebook



Anatomy & Physiology



Moozle just had her 13th birthday, while we were camping, actually, & I'd been holding off starting a Commonplace Book with her until now. I'd been allowing her to choose some of her own copywork material in the past year or so and lately she'd begun reading out passages in books that caught her attention so I thought now would be an opportune time. She chose a notebook and made a title for the front.





She's acquiring the habit of commonplacing without me reminding her...




My Diary of Firsts - I also record walks, camping etc here:





Happy campers - it rained overnight on the second day, hence all the towels & clothes hanging up around the place.



Not to mention a tent fail. It hadn't been used in a while & when Moozle & Benj set it up they discovered that it didn't have a fly so they got a little wet during the night & the whole thing drooped:





 Wet weather coming in




Goanna - a good three feet in length. I took this photo from a distance with my phone.  





On the first night a fellow camper mentioned to my husband that he'd seen a large snake on the path to the bathrooms so when I woke up in the middle of the night needing to visit the loo, I got my husband to accompany me just in case I met the creature. We decided that as we were up that we might as well go for a walk along the beach, about five minutes away. So in the early hours of the morning we were looking up at the spectacular Milky Way and listening to the sounds of the sea. Living in suburbia you just don't see the sky like that and even where we were camping just over the ridge, the trees obscured a good part of the sky. We also had a great view of bioluminescence as the waves were crashing in onto the beach.


This is the path we walked down on our night visit to the beach. The beach is just past the bushes & down a hill. I'm happy to say we didn't come across any snakes!






On the second night we all had an evening walk along the beach and found hundreds of crabs as it became dark, scuttling around as we shone a torch on them.






Science Notebooks






I read this in Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character last week. Moozle had done two science experiments and decided that she'd like to redo them and make a video. It took quite some time and when her Dad saw them that night he observed that it looked like the science was an aside to the video production. Which was true, but she'd already done the experiment & written it up. However, I can understand Mason's concern that the show of things can take over and fill their minds, with the facts themselves getting lost in the process.


I posted the videos on my Instagram account which I've had for a little while but haven't used much. My old phone made it difficult for me but now I've got a decent one I've started to post there. 

This is one of the experiments she did on the video:




This was an experiment Moozle illustrated after reading about it in The Wonder Book of Chemistry





Anatomy & Physiology






And this is from 'Secrets of the Universe' (see the Science schedule for Year 7 at AmblesideOnline)





As you can see, she has been getting good use out of the watercolour set she received at Christmas. When she's done one of her more artistic notebook entries, I have her explain the concept she's illustrated to make sure she has a good understanding of it, even though she hasn't included a lot of detail in the entry.



Peace

The steadfast coursing of the stars,
The waves that ripple to the shore,
The vigorous trees which year by year
Spread upwards more and more;

The jewel forming in the mine,
The snow that falls so soft and light,
The rising and the setting sun,
The growing glooms of night;

All natural things both live and move
In natural peace that is their own;
Only in our disordered life
Almost is she unknown.

She is not rest, nor sleep, nor death;
Order and motion ever stand
To carry out her firm behests
As guards at her right hand.

And something of her living force
Fashions the lips when Christians say
To Him Whose strength sustains the world,
'Give us Thy Peace, we pray!'

by Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829-1925)



* Bessie Rayner Parkes was Hilaire Belloc's mother. Belloc, a prolific author, who was a friend of Chesterton, is famous for his Cautionary Tales for Children.
 
 

A visitor to our backyard later in the month: a Black (or Swamp) Wallaby






Friday, 19 January 2018

The Refugees by A.Conan Doyle (1892)




The Refugees by A. Conan Doyle is subtitled, A Tale of Two Continents as it takes begins in France and continues in Canada.
In 1598 the Edict of Nantes was signed by King Henry IV of France, granting the Huguenots certain freedoms and rights and putting a temporary stop to the religious wars between them and the Roman Catholics that had been going on in France since the 1560’s. In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV, Henry’s grandson. The Refugees begins just before the Edict was revoked and takes the reader into the court of Louis XIV at a time of great intrigue and machinations.
Louis has a mistress, the volatile and ruthless Madame de Montespan, but he has had enough drama and would like a more peaceable wife. In fact he loves Madame de Maintenon, a very gracious, pious, and beautiful widow, whom de Montespan had employed as a governess. He was impressed with her character and she was considered to be a good influence upon the King, therefore the Church leaders were keen to encourage the relationship for the good of the country.
With encouragement from the Catholic Church leaders, Madame de Maintenon is advised to acknowledge her love for the King and agree to marry him. One of the conditions the Church leaders place on the marriage is that Madame de Maintenon, an ardent Catholic, would influence the King to revoke the Edict of Nantes.
Amory de Catinat is a guardsman in the service of the King. He also happens to be of Huguenot descent and is engaged to his cousin, Adele Catinat, daughter of a famous Huguenot cloth maker. Amory has risen quickly through the ranks of the army and has served his King well. The young man is ambitious and idealistic but when the King puts Amory’s fidelity to the test by asking him to sign an order that the Huguenots give up their beliefs or suffer banishment or captivity, at the same time as he promotes him to a major, Amory refuses.

“Man, you are surely mad! There is all that a man could covet on one side, and what is there on the other?”
“There is my honour.”
“And is it, then, a dishonour to embrace my religion?”
“It would be a dishonour to me to embrace it for the sake of gain without believing in it.”

Driven, but feeling no way out of his predicament, the King asks Madame de Maintenon, now his wife, what he should do and her reply, together with the admonishment of the Bishop and the Abbe, persuades him to sign the document.

De Catinat had taken a step forward with his hand outstretched. His ardent, impetuous nature had suddenly broken down all the barriers of caution, and he seemed for the instant to see that countless throng of men, women, and children of his own faith, all unable to say a word for themselves, and all looking to him as their champion and spokesman. He had thought little of such matters when all was well, but now, when danger threatened, the deeper side of his nature was moved, and he felt how light a thing is life and fortune when weighed against a great abiding cause and principle.
“Do not sign it, Sire,” he cried. “You will live to wish that your hand had withered before it grasped that pen. I know it, Sire; I am sure of it. Consider all these helpless people - the little children, the young girls, the old and feeble. Their creed is themselves. As well ask the leaves to change the twigs on which they grow. They could not change. At most, you could but hope to turn them from honest people into hypocrites. And why should you do it? They honour you. They love you. They harm none. They are proud to serve in your armies, to fight for you, to work for you, to build up the greatness of your kingdom. I implore you, Sire, to think again before you sign an order which will bring misery and desolation to so many.”

As a result of Amory’s intervention, he loses his commission on the spot and rushes away from the palace. Flying to his betrothed's home, he urges her and her father to get ready to leave France.
What follows is a mad dash for safety on board a boat, a pursuit by the King’s men, and a shipwreck.
When they finally reach Canada, their danger is not over for now they have not only the Roman Catholic Frenchmen seeking them in order to send them back to be tried in France, but also the savage Iroquois on the warpath.

The Refugees is an exciting historical novel delivered in Conan Doyle’s wonderful literary style. From start to finish it is full of action, adventure, and historical insight. Interspersed with some humour at times, this is a great read, and as always, I’m left impressed with the author’s knowledge of history and his ability to weave this into an engrossing narrative.

The age suitability for this book is about 14 years and up. There are some mild adult themes to do with the King's mistresses but it doesn't go into too much detail. It is also fairly gory in places and mentions some forms of torture used by the Iroquios.
The book is free online in a nicely done Kindle version here.

Inheritance Publications in Canada has reprinted this book. I've ordered books from them after emailing them for postage & delivery details, and although the books took a couple of months to get to Australia, (which they informed me about) they arrived in good condition & the postage was very reasonable. This is a good option if you were interested in buying a number of books, otherwise if you're in Australia, you'd probably be better off getting the Dodo Press version from Book Depository. I have a few books from this publisher and they are quite good.




The Refugees is my choice for a 19th Century Classic in the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge.

It's also one of my 2018 TBR Pile Challenge reads.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

And There There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)


'Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
 
One choked his little self and then there were Nine...
One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were None.'




An old nursery rhyme forms the backdrop to Christie’s murder mystery, And Then There Were None.
Ten strangers, each with a secret in their past, receive invitations of various sorts to an isolated mansion on Soldier Island. Arrangements had been made by a person going by the name of ‘U. N. Owen,’ the new owner of the island, for the individuals to be picked up at a certain point and then transported via boat to the island.
The guests realise too late that there is no way off the island until the boat returns, if in fact it ever will, and one by one the invited guests are killed in mysterious ways. Those remaining try to figure out who the killer might be and they each view the others as their enemies.

Agatha Christie has been a mixed bag for me. I’ve loved some of her novels: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Man in the Brown Suit, and The Secret Adversary were great reads but although the plot in the book I’ve just finished was clever and interesting, the characters were just awful. There was only one of the ‘Ten’ that I thought had any redeeming qualities; the others were plain old nasty and selfish. It was difficult to feel any sympathy for the cast of characters in this book. Give me Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey or even Margery Allingham instead of Agatha Christie anytime...well, at least until I read another of her books that changes my mind again.






This book is on my list for the 'Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge' and it's my choice of a Crime Classic for Back to the Classics 2018


Thursday, 11 January 2018

Reading, Thinking, & Domesticity #2




We started lessons again this week but we're not back into full swing yet. It will be short weeks for the next little while as we have a camping trip planned. The night sky isn't easily observed where we live so to view the sky we have to get up out of the valley and away from all the trees that overhang us. I want to use the opportunity of being away from suburbia to do some star gazing and hopefully identify some constellations.

Family from interstate visited last weekend and Moozle joined her two cousins and two aunties for a visit into the city. All three girls came back with their hair braided after a visit to a braiding shop.



While the girls were doing this, Nougat drove down to Canberra with his Uncle and his cousin to the Summernats Exhibition - a testosterone-fuelled event of noise, burnouts, and cars in general.

Our weather has been extremely hot so a family trip to the beach late in the afternoon for a dinner of fish & chips went down well last weekend and the girls and I had a couple of visits to Bridal shops this week so that Zana could try on some dresses.

Technology

It's laughable that I could share anything technologically related that would help any of my readers, but you never know...I've had some issues with Blogger over the years that I've had to sort out with a little help on the side from the techy people in the family, who say they know nothing about blogging but usually manage to point me in the right direction.

* At one stage Feedburner stopped sending out emails to some subscribers to this blog. Apparently, whenever I copied & pasted what I'd written from a Word document directly to my blog post, rather than typed directly onto Blogger, it included lots of random HTML code. You can check this out by clicking on the HTML link at the top left hand side of your dashboard. For some reason this can interfere with Feedburner. The problem is, you don't know you have a problem unless someone tells you they're not receiving your blog's emails. The solution was to copy & paste my Word document contents onto an online notepad and then copy it from there onto your blog post. A couple of online notepads I've used are: rapidtables and anotepad.

*  Wordpress users sometimes have difficulties posting comments on Blogger. To fix this, I went into Settings & clicked on Posts, comments & sharing. In comment location you have four choices: embedded, full page, pop up window & hide. I've always used 'embedded' but this supposedly was causing problems, so I changed that recently to pop up window & it seems to be working ok. What I don't like with this new setting is that you can't always reply directly to a comment. Your comment just goes under the last one that was logged so it can be confusing if you don't address each person by name when you reply to them.

*  On occasion, I've used Google Forums if I had a problem. Often you'll find it's not only your own blog but others are having similar issues, like I discovered last year when my followers gadget disappeared.

Reading

These are my unfinished books from last year that I will be reading in 2018. I'm taking ages to read N & N as I really have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. It's good but very dense. Or maybe it's me that's dense:

Norms & Nobility by David Hicks

Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason

Parents & Children by Charlotte Mason

Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen - Esolen throws in all sorts of quotes and references to authors and literature, which is something I enjoy & appreciate, and I like to know what books an author has read or been influenced by.
Esolen's Introduction alone refers to Genesis, Little House on the Prairie, The Screwtape Letters, The Bethrothed, Dante, and Thomas Aquinas!

I read the three books below last year but never got around to writing about them until now:

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt was written in 2007 and is a Newbery Honor book. It is set in 1967 and centres around the mishaps and adventures of Holling Hoodhood, a 7th Grade student, who is forced to read Shakespeare by Mrs. Baker, whose husband has just been deployed to Vietnam.
At first this book annoyed me. It's written in the first person from the protagonist's point of view and it struck me as frivolous at first. It's quite funny in places and when Benj read it at around 15 or 16 years of age he thought it was good. It grew on me as it went on and the conversations between Mrs. Baker and her student about life and Shakespeare's characters showed sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Readers from about age 14 years and up would enjoy this - boys, especially, and particularly boys who don't like Shakespeare! With it's backdrop of the Vietnam War, Holling's family tensions, and even some of the reflections about Shakespeare, some maturity on the part of the reader would be helpful in order to get the most out of this story.

"You know," I said, "it's not easy to read Shakespeare - especially when he can't come up with names you can tell apart."

..."Shakespeare did not write for your ease of reading," she said.

No kidding, I thought.

"He wrote to express something about what it means to be a human being in words more beautiful than had ever yet been written."

"So in Macbeth, when he wasn't trying to find names that sound alike, what did he want to express in words more beautiful than had ever yet been written?"

Mre. Baker looked at me for a long moment. Then she went and sat back down at her desk. "That we are made for more than power," she said softly. "That we are made for more than outr desires. That pride combined with stubbornness can be a disaster. And that compared with love, malice is a small and petty thing."
  
Dombey & Son by Charles Dickens - Paul Dombey is a cold and ambitious man whose wife had died leaving him with two children, his daughter Florence, whom he callously ignores and neglects, and her younger brother, whom he positively dotes on. Pride is the overarching theme of this book and as the Book of Proverbs says, 'Pride goes before destruction,' so it goes with an array of characters in this story; but there is also an eleventh hour where love snatches a life from the jaws of Pride, the destroyer. As is usual with Dickens' novels, it is peppered with deplorable characters, the worst of whom is Mr. Carker, who is an even darker and more dangerous version of David Copperfield's Uriah Heap. A great story!

The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer- I loved this book and I've scheduled it for Moozle in Term 3 of AmblesideOnline Year 7 in place of the suggested devotional book as I thought it would be a better fit for her. The Root of the Righteous is a simple & wise book that I let distill into my soul for the better part of last year:

Speed and noise are evidences of weakness, not strength. Eternity is silent; time is noisy. Our preoccupation with time is sad evidence of our basic want of faith. The desire to be dramatically active is proof of our religious infantilism; it is a type of exhibitionsm common to the kindergarten.

The bias of nature is toward the wilderness, never toward the fruitful field.

Of all persons Christians should have the largest hearts; to them the narrowing of the heart should be an unthinkable calamity...
And one singular characteristic of the enlarging life is that it is quietly unaware of itself. The largest heart is likely to be heard praying, 'Narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge Thou it.'

January Reading:

The Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn - this will take me a few months I expect. Non-ficiton, very readable, but awful in places. Goodness! How can we not learn from history?

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Crafting

This is what Moozle has been working on:




Update: this is what Moozle made after watching the video above. Very cute:


A neat little boxed stationery set


Take the lid off and there's a storage area for cards, notepads, pen, etc


Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)