Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy

By: Flora Thompson

Published: 1939-1945


"Flora Thompson's immortal trilogy, containing "Lark Rise", "Over To Candleford" and "Candleford Green", is a heartwarming portrayal of country life at the close of the 19th century. This story of three closely related Oxfordshire communities - a hamlet, the nearby village and a small market town - is based on the author's experiences during childhood and youth. It chronicles May Day celebrations and forgotten children's games, the daily lives of farmworkers and craftsmen, friends and relations - all painted with a gaiety and freshness of observation that make this trilogy an evocative and sensitive memorial to Victorian rural England. " (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

I have been faithfully watching the BBC adaptation and I can't wait till my copy of the book arrives.

A Lantern in Her Hand

By: Beth Streeter Aldrich

Published: 1928


"Piercingly beautiful. . . . Aldrich's pioneer woman was based on her mother, and the integrity of her depiction of life in a sod house in the late nineteeth-century Nebraska speaks to her readers. . . . In her own introduction Aldrich writes of wanting to tell her mother's story after her mother's death: 'Other writers had depicted the Midwest's early days, but so often they had pictured their women as gaunt, browbeaten creatures, despairing women whom life seemed to defeat. That was not my mother. Not with her courage, her humor, her nature that would cause her to say at the end of her life: 'We had the best time in the world." (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

I have yet to read this, but will soon. Aldrich is a family name. I hope we're related!

Up a Road Slowly

By: Irene Hunt

Published: 1966 (I may have to remove this one from my list because it does not fall within my date range)


"If you were ever a child, ever an adolescent, you will understand Julie. I saw a lot of myself in her when I read this as a middle school dreamer. Irene Hunt's coming-of-age novel is a remarkably moving work - and therefore, timeless.

Little Julie Trelling and her older brother Chris are left to live with their firm, but kind Aunt Cordelia when her father is widowed. Bright, sensitive, and a bit of a rebel, Julie faces the tough challenges of growing up smart and female. During her childhood, Julie learns bittersweet lessons in heartbreak and compassion and justice and love as only as children do. As idyllic as her country life seems, there is prejudice, meanness, and smallness of human spirit in all corners of the world. Hunt emphasizes her point by making the time and place settings vague. We could all be a Julie living in a no-name town.

As Julie grows up from a young child of seven to seventeen, she tells her story in a voice both immediate and honest. So you feel her triumphs, spirit, wrongs, and experiences in "real time." Hunt creates a vibrantly alive character who draws you in with her compelling point of view. While this is primarily Julie's story, you meet the formidable Aunt Cordelia, whose own life could have been Julie's life. Both women are strong, admirable portrayals, making this an excellent book for girls. Other memorable characters are Alicia, Danny, Carlotta, and Aggie.

The book isn't all lessons and wisdom. It's mostly evocative and reflective, stringing together significant moments in growing up with precise detail of everyday things (like windowsills and bowls of berries), rather than being action-packed or plot-driven. Hunt tell us that growing up isn't simple, but you're also never alone even when you want to be, as even enemies and bad experiences shape us as much as the loved ones and good times do. Up a Road Slowly is written poignantly and intimately." (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

I just placed an order for this and am excited to read it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Room with a View

By: E.M. Forster

Published: 1908


"This charming little novel which has recently celebrated its centenary can be easily put down as a period piece. E M Forster foresaw it already in his note which he added to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first edition. Yet a prospective reader would be most wrong to do so. There is a lesson here which still needs to be learned by many. The title gives away some of the content - the main heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, needs to get away from the stuffy atmosphere of late Victorian England in which she was brought up - the symbol of which is for EMF the room. Her escape takes place in stages - the first of them is her trip to Italy where she finds landscapes and people most different from those she was accustomed to. It is also there that she meets the man she falls in love with, George Emerson. Yet these changes come too quickly for her. Lucy yields to the demands of her chaperone and escapes back to England, finding on the way a more appropriate suitor, Cecil Vyse. When the three young people meet again in England, a fight for Lucy's soul begins anew. Lucy has to decide whether she prefers Cecil who will keep her under his protection in his house as a work of art for others to admire, or George with whom she will have to face the challenges of the world but be free. What is the lesson for us today in a world where there are no chaperones or stage-coaches? We also must make similar decisions - choose freedom which always comes at a cost or safety for which we must pay with our freedom. We choose between being true to ourselves or satisfying the demands of others. Lucy's adventures may serve as a perfect food for thought for those facing seemingly dissimilar but actually very similar decisions. It is the more valuable as Forster does not show easy decisions or easy solutions. The happy ending is never free and yet still worth striving for." (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

I struggled with whether or not to put this one on the list because it is not very much like the others. It requires a lot more thought and challenged me more than I expected. Having just read it for the first time, I found my self continually wishing I had read it when I was a teenager because I would have found a kindred spirit in Lucy. And it is for that reason that I am making it apart of this database.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


By: Maud Hart Lovelace

Published: 1940


"There are lots of children on Hill Street, but no little girls Betsy's age. So when a new family moves into the house across the street, Betsy hopes they will have a little girl she can play with. Sure enough, they do--a little girl named Tacy. And from the moment they meet at Betsy's fifth birthday party, Betsy and Tacy becomes such good friends that everyone starts to think of them as one person--Betsy-Tacy. Betsy and Tacy have lots of fun together. They make a playhouse from a piano box, have a sand store, and dress up and go calling. And one day, they come home to a wonderful surprise--a new friend named Tib. Ever since their first publication in the 1940's, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers." (Amazon.com

Elsie Dinsmore

By: Martha Finley

Published: 1867

"Living with her uncle's family on a southern plantation in the mid-nineteenth century, motherless eight-year-old Elsie finds it difficult to establish a relationship with her worldy father who seems indifferent to her religious principles." (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

I have never read the Elsie books. My mother loves them, but I don't know if I am in the mood for that long of a series or a protagonist that is even more virtuous than Alcott's earliest heroines. While in 1893, The Ladies Home Journal proclaimed, "There has been almost no character in American juvenile fiction which has attained more widespread interest and affection than Elsie," there is so much against her! In L.M. Montgomery's Emily Climbs, Emily is told in a derisive comment by Mr. Carpenter to "go read the Elsie books." Elsie is also mentioned in Maud Hart Lovelace's book Betsy in Spite of Herself. When Betsy's friend Tib buys them theater tickets, Betsy remembers how Elsie Dinsmore would have handled what she considered a somewhat shocking proposal, then dismisses it--"[she] had never thought much of Elsie Dinsmore." Elsie is also mocked by O Henry, and in other books and films. In a recent article commemorating the Anne of Green Gables centennial, it was notes that "Elsie was famous for her pietistic priggishness. She was born good, lives a good life and never changes ... She had conventional good looks, an angelic face... If you look at Anne in contrast, she's quite a departure. She's a skinny, angular child. She was freckled at a time when ladies tried to keep a porcelain complexion and red hair wasn't admired. It was seen as a mark of a flaring temper." (Thestar.com)

Despite all this, I think that Elsie and the young girl serial paved the way for authors like L.M. Montgomery, who wrote a half a century later and were able to humanize their heroines. Martha Finley may simply have been writing what she knew would sell, what parents would want their daughters to read and emulate.

Little House on the Prairie

By: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Published: 1935


"Meet Laura Ingalls, the little girl who would grow up to write the Little House books. Pa Ingalls decides to sell the little log house, and the family sets out for Indian country! They travel from Wisconsin to Kansas and there, finally, Pa builds their little house on the prairie. Sometimes farm life is difficult, even dangerous, but Laura and the family are kept busy and are happy with the promise of their new life on the prairie. Laura and her family journey west by covered wagon, only to find they are in Indian territory and must move on." (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts:

This book is very close to my heart, though I haven't read it in years. As a Wisconsin native, I grew up with Wilder's stories. And legend has it, that my family is distantly related in Laura through her mother's family. My first experience in an archives (my now chosen profession) was when my father took us to look through the records to find out where Caroline was born, and we discovered that it was ten minutes from my parent's house. I remember my mom reading aloud every one of these books to me during my home school years, and waiting every week for a new (rerun) episode of Little House. Wilder and I are forever linked through those experiences.