The book started out as an assignment she completed in 1936, when she was an unemployed zoologist and freelance writer for the U.S. Bureau of FisherieThe book started out as an assignment she completed in 1936, when she was an unemployed zoologist and freelance writer for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Asked to write an introduction to a brochure on marine life, she submitted an essay entitled “The World of Waters” neatly typed by her mother, as all her manuscripts would be.
The next day Carson sat in Higgins’s Washington D.C. office waiting for his verdict.The government ichthyologist knew at once that it was unsuitable. What he was reading was a piece of literature. Carson never forgot the conversation: ‘My chief…handed it back with a twinkle in his eye. ‘I don’t think it will do,’ he said. ‘Better try again. But send this one to the Atlantic Monthly.’
The essay was a narrative account of the countless sea creatures that cohabit in and underwater and introduced her two most enduring and renowned themes: the ecological relationships of ocean life that have been in existence for millenia and the material immortality that embraces even the tiniest organism. It was the essay that spawned a classic in nature literature.
Under the Sea-Wind is structured in three parts, and in each part, we view the sea and sea life from the point of view of one of its inhabitants.
In Part One, Edge of the Sea, written for the life of the shore, and inspired by a stretch of North Carolina sea-coast, we meet a female sanderling she names Silverbar, it is Spring and the great Spring migration of shore birds is at its height and concludes with the end of summer where the movements of birds, fish, shrimp and other water creatures heralds the changing of the seasons.
She describes the terror of the shore birds as they hide in the beach grass from the noisy, boisterous migrating flocks that briefly occupy their territory; the terrible snow storm that will freeze hundreds of egg embryos, where only the fittest and strongest survive; the way the birds lure a fox away from their nests and the day the parents finally abandon their young, their job complete.
Part Two The Gull’s Way, is dedicated to the open sea, a parallel time period in the open ocean and here we encounter Scomber the mackerel, following his journey from birth through infancy and youth in a quiet New England harbour, only to join a school that follows its instinct into the great sea where numerous predators await. As the fish move from one location to the next, trying to outwit predators, including man, the sea becomes the scene of a thriller and Scomber the mackerel, our fugitive!
Part Three River and Sea is written in the deepest, darkest, fathoms, we follow Anguilla, the eel from the far tributaries of a coastal river pool, downstream to the gently sloping depths of the sea, ‘the steep descent of the continental slopes and finally the abyss’.
After 10 years of uneventful river habitation, the eels are drawn by instinct downriver returning to their place of birth, a deep abyss near the Sargasso Sea where they will spawn and die. It is the most remarkable journey, as is that of the newborn spawn originating from two continents, who float side by side and drift towards those same coastal rivers their parents swam from, a voyage of years and over time the two species will separate and veer towards their continent, the US or Europe.
Rachel Carson writes about the sea, the sand, the birds, fish and the smallest of creatures and organisms in a way that makes us realise how little we observe of what is occurring around us, though we may stand, swim, float or fish in the midst of it. For the sea, its shore and the air above thrum like a thriving city of predator and prey of all sizes and character, constantly fluctuating, its citizens ever alert to when it is prudent to move and when it is necessary to be still.
Original, enthralling, it opens our eyes to much that we do not see or understand, I am in awe of shore birds, mackerel, eels, the sea, streams, rivers, ponds and the interconnectedness of them all.
Enchanting indeed! I knew what to expect from Elizabeth von Arnim having already read Elizabeth and her German Garden and I recognise the same tracesEnchanting indeed! I knew what to expect from Elizabeth von Arnim having already read Elizabeth and her German Garden and I recognise the same traces of character in her four ladies that have gone off to Portofino for a Ligurian holiday here.
San Salvatore, the villa where they will spend their month becoming acquainted with each other as they are virtual strangers before this "women escaping husbands and other drudgery" holiday, acts like a magic spell slowly infiltrating the stiffness, solitary natures and self-absorbed natures of four women who begin to blossom like the spring blooms they are surrounded by.
And as that process begins its transformation, they are ready for the unexpected visitors, which could easily have turned to tragedy, but instead the author, who too was bathed in the magical beauty of this beautiful costline of Italy while writing, allows them to indulge their newly awakened states and dwell in it till the end.
Charming! And now looking forward to reading the contemporary take on this newly published Penguin Classic, Brenda Bowen'sEnchanted August.
My complete review,including details of the Elizabeth Arnim conference coming up in Sept 2015 put on by the Katherine Mansfield Society, here at Word by Word....more
More than just a reading experience, this has been a journey, from seeing the incredible theatre production, to listening with my French students to aMore than just a reading experience, this has been a journey, from seeing the incredible theatre production, to listening with my French students to a BBC audio adaptation for English learners, to the original text writtten by Mary Shelley, that continues to inspire them all.
Sad, tragic, poignant, it displays our passion and our flaws, the best and worst of human nature, of curiosity, neglect, exploitation versus caring and the inevitablity of death.
The book starts out with letters written by a Captain R Walton, who is in St Petersburg preparing to leave for an excursion of discovery to the North Pole, to his sister Margaret in London.
Like Victor Frankenstein, the young scientist he will rescue from an ice floe in the Arctic and whose story he will listen to day after day while trapped in the ice, Walton has a thirst for knowledge and an agitated spirit that pushes him forward in his quest. He wishes to make his mark on the world and make a difference. Like Frankenstein he has immersed himself in studies of logic and now desires to achieve something of magnitude, having already failed to become a significant poet.
His prose is now dedicated only to his sister Margaret, through whose letters we will learn of Walton's failed voyage and the story Victor Frankenstein will narrate to him, as he too gives up his pursuit of the Creature that was to be his mark upon the world, one that had already made a difference, though in ways he never dreamed of and lived to regret.
Upon hearing the voyager's naive hopes, Victor Frankenstein shares his own story in an effort to try to thwart Walton from following his ideals into what may become yet another foolhardy madness.
"Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!"
The story he tells is of his own youthful thirst for knowledge, his fascination with science, alchemy and existence itself. His obsession with creating life above all else, with no forethought of the consequence of such an act, his fear and neglect of that which he created and the terrible consequences wreaked upon him, his family and those closest to him as a result.
Victor Frankenstein grew up in the countryside of Switzerland, in a kind of reverie, with his adopted sister Elizabeth whom he always viewed as a gift, initially from his mother who brought her into the family and eventually as his future bride. But first he wished to fulfil his destiny, that alchemy of existence, he wanted to create a sustainable life-form.
He pursued it with zeal, neglecting all else, only to run in fear of what he had done, until it pursued him, confronting him. The Creature forced him to listen and hear of the curse he had inflicted on him, by making him in such a way that all humanity would abhor him, sentencing him to a life without love, without friends, unknown.
"I expected this reception," said the daemon. " All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."
Victor Frankenstein listens to the Creature and is moved from the desire to kill his creation to consider creating another, a companion, the only chance he may have to live in harmony in this world, for to be alone has driven him to madness, murder and mayhem.
The book, while framed at both ends by the letters from the explorer to his sister, the middle part is split into three, the first and latter parts as told by and from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein, while the middle part recounts the Creature's tale of exile and in doing so gives voice to the creature.
Throughout his years of exile, his interactions with others teach him to survive, to communicate and slowly to understand the capacity and flaws of humanity. With understanding comes grief, he knows what is possible, that which will always be unreachable for him, a creature that thinks and is capable of acting as one of humankind but who will always be hated, rejected and worse, hunted to extinction.
"I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!"
An astounding read and such a pleasure after the introduction I had via the theatre and audio play. It's true I'm not a great reader of the classics, but when they are given an alternate context and serve as inspiration in the way this creation has, I can't help but read in awe the achievement that continues to inspire such great works in themselves....more
A somewhat nostalgic memoir of childhood in a Cotswold village, remembered from when the author is about 3 years old, surrounded by sisters and siblinA somewhat nostalgic memoir of childhood in a Cotswold village, remembered from when the author is about 3 years old, surrounded by sisters and siblings, the father having long abandoned the family and leaving his housekeeper who became his wife to raise the children of his first marriage and the four he gave her.
Rather than a tale of struggle and poverty, in Laurie Lee's hands, it comes across as a bundle of memories and anecdotes that celebrate village life, sibling love, old lady madness and making the most of it.
Laurie Lee paints a picture of village life that is vivid and alive with character and memory as if it happened today. He tells it all but never loses his respect for any of the inhabitants, even at their most villainous, he narrates their history with compassion and mild regret.
His narrative captures the passing of time, the slow encroachment of city life and innovation that will ultimately kill that old village way of life that encapsulated them all, from the Squire down to the struggling newborn. He does so by sharing the stories and anecdotes of others seen through his eyes, rather than turning his gaze inward.
A wonderful narrative of a not so distant time, lost forever.
A novel of Paul Baumer, a now 20 year old German soldier, he and his friends are pressed by their schoolmaster to join up early, to fight in WW1.
HereA novel of Paul Baumer, a now 20 year old German soldier, he and his friends are pressed by their schoolmaster to join up early, to fight in WW1.
Here he narrates his journey, their comradeship, their fear, their daily survival. Their small joys often centred around food, their occasional escape, a mild wound or a leave pass and thoughts of how they might ever continue a life other than this if ever there is a peacetime. It is something few can imagine and most don't want to, it isn't relevant.
I read this on Armistice Day, 11 November, the day that an armistice was signed in France between the Allies and the Germans in 1918, commemorating the end of hostilities in WW1.
Although it is fiction, it read like a true account and the author was indeed a soldier in WW1. It is a remarkable book, it shares both the physical and mental aspects of youth at war and their slow realisation of its personal consequences. It is tragic, sad and true and there is an element of hopelessness, that even though we can come to understand what will happen to those affected by war, there is little to be done to prevent it, whilst we as humanity continue to choose it as a method of punishment, it is certainly not a method to achieve peace, perhaps just a temporary quiet....more
A tour de force, not a word wasted, and so much more than is written is understood. I feel as though I watched it happen, not read about it. Nothing pA tour de force, not a word wasted, and so much more than is written is understood. I feel as though I watched it happen, not read about it. Nothing passive about reading Steinbeck.
I have to be honest and say this was an absolute chore to read, it reminded me of the time I finally went to see a Frank Auerbach exhibition after myI have to be honest and say this was an absolute chore to read, it reminded me of the time I finally went to see a Frank Auerbach exhibition after my brother had raved abut him to me. I walked in and looked at canvas after canvas and felt a rising panic as I just saw paint, lots of splodges of paints without form amid many others appreciating their beauty. I couldn't see what they saw, I felt nothing but panic at not being able to see.
Virginia Woolf's waves came at me, one after the other and dumped me recklessly, without allowing me the distance to appreciate their beauty.
Though it should be said, that with time I began to see was Auberbach was doing, so I'm not entirely giving up on Woolf yet, more curious perhaps to understand the reasons for the works lack of resonance with my own reading desires....more
Opening the first page and reading this book, it's unexpectedness, it's chronic revelation, our observation of what happens, what is said, what is lefOpening the first page and reading this book, it's unexpectedness, it's chronic revelation, our observation of what happens, what is said, what is left unsaid - is a little like the experience of the protagonist Andrea herself, when she arrives late at night having been delayed by three hours, alone, to stay with her grandmother and uncles while she will attend university. It was something she had looked forward to and yet those first grey images as she enters the building and sees them like an apparition in half light are a precursor for the strange year that will follow, that feeling she had in her village of joys, love and good times ahead, suspended until the day of departure when she will feel them again and remember the feeling, with the reservation of one who has been possessed by the spectre of disillusion.
The depth of the prose is extraordinary and intriguing, the kind of work that makes a reader want to listen to the writer talk about what inspired them and what was going through their head when these words flowed onto the page. Just magnificent.
Edith Grossman's translation is excellent, I read it as if it was written in it's first language and the introduction by Mario Vargas Losa needs to be reread at the end, he describes it so well and yet is equally mystified by how this author Carmen Laforet, in her twenties was able to write such an extraordinary portrayal of:
a society brutalised by a lack of freedom, and by censorship, prejudices, hypocrisy and isolation
and create a protagonist, witness to it, oppressed by it and oblivious to it all, yet capturing it with an intensity that creates an anguish that sits uncomfortably with the reader throughout. Spellbinding.
She achieved this, and half a century after it was published, her beautiful, terrible novel still lives. Mario Vargas Losa
A baby left in a basket at the door of the caretakers, one legged gardener Albert and his caring wife Jeanne, is where we meet Jean Arnaud, in a cominA baby left in a basket at the door of the caretakers, one legged gardener Albert and his caring wife Jeanne, is where we meet Jean Arnaud, in a coming of age story that drifts between him and the du Courseau family who live in a grand home named La Sauveté in Grangeville, Normandy.
Wondering who this foundling might be, we follow him through his childhood and adolescence, in the shadow of the residents of the grand house, the story sometimes meandering off to the south of France with Antoine du Courseau in his Bugatti car, who has an already warm bed at every stop. Actually a number of the male characters drive unusual, expensive cars and it is something of a coincidence that Jean Arnaud often finds himself the passenger. (author fetish perhaps)
Jean too discovers a travel bug and will visit London, bike through Italy on the trail of Stendhal with a young German following Goethe's footsteps, run off to Paris and come of age right at the precipice of WWII.
It is an engaging read interrupted on occasion by the author's ambitious presence, making his voice heard directly to the reader. He is a good storyteller, although I did have a moment reflecting on how he portrays female characters in the book. Although I concede, that according to research as recent as 2012 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln concludes that we all view women as sexual objects and men as people. And no surprise then, that they say and is the case in this book that:
"It might be a natural tendency, in some regards, to reduce women to their sexual body parts, but in the long term, that's going to interfere with your ability to form good relationships with women."
A great read, albeit a little disappointed with the caricature of women.
I came across this book by chance, first published as Die kremetartekspedisie in its original Afrikaans in 1981, it was translated into English by NobI came across this book by chance, first published as Die kremetartekspedisie in its original Afrikaans in 1981, it was translated into English by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, initially in 1983 and again in 2014.
I had never heard of Wilma Stockenström, but after a little digging, I find:
It is a quiet, compelling, stream of consciousness narrative of a slave woman who finds refuge in the hollow of a baobab tree, attempting to survive following the death of her third master, finding herself abandoned in an often hostile wilderness.
"I was sold off a second time on the square near the sea where even then the raggedy castor-oil trees were standing. Was sold secondhand. I was a damaged plaything, my bundle of baby and myself bid for separately and disposed of separately. Simply playthings. Useful, certainly. My owner thought he had wasted his money."
Embracing this newfound freedom of her body, mind and time, she thinks back over the years, reflecting on what her existence thus far has meant, the role of her three masters, moments shared with a friend, the loss of her children and the inclinations of man, something she has witnessed both in captivity and in this solitary freedom, where she finds a kind of disturbed though preferable peace.
"I know the interior of my tree as a blind man knows his home, I know its flat surfaces and grooves and swellings and edges, its smell, its darknesses, its great crack of light as I never knew the huts and rooms where I was ordered to sleep, as I can only know something that is mine and mine only, my dwelling place into which no one ever penetrates. I can say: this is mine. I can say: this is I. These are my footprints. These are the ashes of my fireplace. These are my grinding stones. These are my beads. My sherds."
She is viewed by a tribe of small people who make a pilgrimage to the tree and recognise her as some kind of deity. It is their generosity and ritual of giving alms that aids her survival.
She notices everything, she appreciates her surroundings and tunes into small changes and disturbances in it. She becomes it.
Haunting, lyrical, this work is unlike any other narrative of the life of a slave woman I have ever encountered....more
Chapter One introduces Eugene while chapter two introduces the characters he meets when he moves to the countryside, descriptionsChapters 1 & 2
Chapter One introduces Eugene while chapter two introduces the characters he meets when he moves to the countryside, descriptions of Eugene are superficial, he lacks depth, something he may encounter soon perhaps.
The commentary is accessible and mildly humorous with its use of French words and an I'll write how I like attitude.
Eugene Onegin is bit of a dandy. Son of a lavish spender who clearly didn't instill much of a work ethic into his son. Then thanks to the legacy of a rich Uncle, he will spend more time in a dressing room, than any character I've ever read of.
Not interested in history or politics or activism, he possesses a wealth of well polished stories to offer at the many social engagements he attends. Hates the Greek heros and prefers the theories of economics. Something of a chameleon, a charmer, dare I suggest, a manipulator, seducer? Prefers balls to ballet, the city to the countryside, yet tolerates boredom, cynicism suits him.
Chapter Two begins to broaden the range of characters and they provide a welcome contrast to Onegin assisting him to see things through different eyes. He is charmed by his friend, the poet Vladimir Lenksy and enjoys listening to his outpourings of emotion through poetry.
Olga, the subject of the poets verses since boyhood, the loved one and her elder sister Tatyana, the dreamer, the loner, living vicariously through her books.
I can see the benefit of reading and rereading, going back and reading earlier passages a second time enlightens the story further.
Chapters 3 & 4
Eugene Onegin inquires as to how his friend the poet spends his evenings and thus finds himself invited to join him for a family evening at the home of Olga and Tatyana, where they receive warm, old-fashioned hospitality, though afterwards he cannot remember which girl was Olga and which Tatyana. While the evening failed to ignite significant interest in our hero, it did set tongues wagging among the locals.
Conjecture found unending matter: there was a general furtive chatter, and jokes and spiteful gossip ran claiming Tatyana's found her man;
The girl who spends her hours immersed in romantic novels let her imagination run wild and fell for the insinuations, if not the man himself, suffering from a love sickness of her own making, culminating in a letter (in French) to the imagined hero she has shaped from the form of Eugene Onegin. A baffled Onegin, clearly does not read the same literary genre.
Who taught her an address so tender, such careless language of surrender? Who taught her all this mad, slapdash, heartfelt, imploring, touching trash fraught with enticement and disaster?
I can't help but laugh, it is perhaps the poetic form combined with the ignorance of the hero, this bringing together of polar beings, to create such a discordant clash of romantic versus pragmatic. And so we wait to learn what will pass, when by chance the two meet, and Tatyana must listen to the unfeeling hero speak from a detached but well intended heart, warning her against baring her soul so easily in future.
But I was simply not intended for happiness – that alien role. Should your perfections be expended in vain on my unworthy soul?
Though it is true, he tolerates and listens easily to similarly themed devotions from his friend the poet, for whom such outpourings are his raison d'être.
And finally the long autumn and winter bore him sufficiently and he agrees to a second visit, one that will fall on Tatyana's name day celebration!
Impressions of Tatayana and Olga
Tatyana is distant and aloof socially, yet vulnerable to the roller coaster of emotions she reads and studies at length in her romantic novels. Her falling in love is not as such inspired by meeting Onegin or anything he says or does in their first encounter, it is by the idea of him inflamed by the wagging tongues of neighbours, that allow her, now that she has some distance from the man himself, to imagine herself in love. She has a need to express herself and because she hesitates to ever do so in person, pours her emotion into the written word – a letter.
Olga we only see through the eyes of the enraptured poet Lensky, he is always with her, walking with her, reading to her, writing poems about her, he gives and receives love easily and neither of them appear subject to the more tumultuous vagaries of passionate love.
Onegin's Reaction to Tatyana?
An almost fatherly response, he was concerned that she should not respond in the same manner when next she looks for love, outwardly he shows little emotional response to her revelations, however there is a hint that the words may have affected him at a more sub-conscious level that has yet to make its way into his more intellectual self. Fortunately, he does show careful consideration for her feelings, by refraining at least from criticising her too harshly or outrightly rejecting her. Ironically, it is his constant boredom that will lead back to the warm hospitality of her family home.
Overall, these two chapters are much more dramatic and throw us deep into the story, they entertain, they shock and delight. It is a pleasure to read and I am looking forward to what the next two chapters will bring....more
That Vera Brittain chose to name her autobiography a Testament, at first seems like an assertion of her intellectual inclinations, particularly in ligThat Vera Brittain chose to name her autobiography a Testament, at first seems like an assertion of her intellectual inclinations, particularly in light of the decision she made to pause her hi-brow Oxford University studies when the First World War began as her closest friends, her fiancé Roland and brother Edward all signed up to participate, one by one departing for France.
She had fought hard to be accepted into Oxford, at a time when women were not exactly welcome, her own family and many of their social peers thought it a waste of time. It remained important, but while those she was closest to were sacrificing everything, it felt indulgent to be pursuing anything intellectual. She volunteered to become a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse as she sought the diversion of physically demanding work to lessen the idle hours of mental anguish concerning her male contemporaries at war.
Testament is more than one woman’s intellectual account, it is evidence of a generation’s stunted youth, a youth stolen by war and loyalty, one that for the men who participated, would continue to be acknowledged and remembered, their efforts appreciated and honoured. For Vera Brittain it would bring grief, disappointment and disillusionment.
She recalled one of her last bittersweet moments, punting up the river in Oxford with her friend Norah, whom she would not see again after the end of that term.
‘No evening on the river had held a glamour equal to that one, which might so well be the last of all such enchanted evenings. How beautiful they seemed – the feathery bend with its short, stumpy willows, the deep green shadows in the water under the bank, the blue, brilliant mayflies which somersaulted in the air and fell dying into the water, gleaming like strange, exotic jewels in the mellow light of the setting sun.
I had meant to do such wonderful things that year, to astonish my fellows by unprecedented triumphs, to lay the foundations of a reputation that would grow ever greater and last me through life; and instead the War and love had intervened and between them were forcing me away with all my confident dreams unfulfilled.’
Her nursing efforts took her out of the northern provinces of England for good, away from her studies at Oxford to a military hospital in London, until events would propel her to volunteer for a foreign assignment, taking her to Malta and then close to the front line in France for the remaining years of the war.
Her account is all the richer for the journals she kept from 1913 to 1917 and rather than present them in full, she selects extracts to bring the era to life, sharing the angst and idealism of her youth, simultaneously looking back and narrating from the wisdom of early middle age, for she was 40 years old before she would finally see the much revised autobiography in print.
The book contains snippets of letters to and from Vera and her fiancé Roland and her brother Edward, they were her life blood, her motivation to face the relentless days in the hospital, where their work offered so much and yet did so little to stem the flow of blood and severed limbs, pain and hopelessness.
The letters that pass between Vera and Roland reveal the slow loss of hope, optimism and valour as they struggle to find meaning in war. Despite the often depressing content, they are fortunate to have each other, writing letters prolifically, drawing each other deeper into a love that they knew could be destroyed on any day.
After the war, Vera returns to Oxford and finds herself isolated. She has difficulty articulating her experience in a way that is understood and instead invites scorn and derision. A new generation of youth has swept up behind her and they have little time for the lessons that might be gleaned from a mature student who forsook her youth for volunteer nursing abroad. She gets involved in the debating society, and in one of the more excruciating passages in the book, valiantly tries to prove her point only to discover it will be she who is taught the lesson.
'In the eyes of these realistic ex-High-School girls, who had sat out the war in classrooms, I was now aware that I represented neither a respect-worthy volunteer in a national cause nor a surviving victim of history’s cruellest catastrophe; I was merely a figure of fun, ludicrously boasting of her experiences in an already démodé conflict. I had been, I suspected, largely to blame for my own isolation. I could not throw off the War, nor the pride and the grief of it; rooted and immersed in memory, I had appeared self-absorbed, contemptuous and ‘stand-offish’ to my ruthless and critical juniors.’
Vera’s hope and her life purpose after the war, was to try to understand and then participate in any action that could prevent humanity from making the same terrible mistakes that caused the loss of so many lives. She changed her focus from Literature to History and searched for proof of anything that had been put in place to prevent such destructive hostilities from wiping out a generation of youth. She found what she was looking for in treaties and agreements and became an international speaker for the League of Nations attempting to advance understanding and awareness among the common population.
The book impressed me with its honesty, particularly as Vera Brittain was not afraid to portray her flaws; through the extracts from her journals we have a real sense of the character she was in her twenties and though she is the same person after the war and we recognise her inclinations, her direction in life is permanently altered by the experiences of those years.
The combination of experiencing the present through her diary and letters and her observations from the maturity of having survived war and gained some distance from it, from which to observe her former self, provides the reader a unique insight into humanity.
For me, it was a gripping read and although we learn much of the story in the opening introduction, it does nothing to lessen the effect as we witness Vera receiving news she has dreaded from the beginning and more than the individual events, the observation of emotional ups and downs and the effect of war on a generation seen from a young woman’s perspective is more insightful than any rendition of battles or victories I have ever read....more
A tale of capable spinsters, otherwise known as excellent women, always to be relied upon, often taken for granted and hardly deemed for marriage. MilA tale of capable spinsters, otherwise known as excellent women, always to be relied upon, often taken for granted and hardly deemed for marriage. Mildred is one of those excellent women who might just make it up the aisle if the book was allowed to continue on for a few more chapters. In the meantime there are many who need comforting by her, not to mention endless cups of tea. Set in London Victoria, though it seemed much more like village life to me. Happy to have finally become acquainted with the infamous Barbara Pym in this her anniversary year....more