November, 2015 Book Wrap Up

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Here is a round up of book related favourites for the month of November, 2015. For a glimpse into October, 2015’s Bookish Favourites please see here.

1. Books

 I  read a total of seven books in November. Two of these books, Emily of New Moon and Little House on the Prairie were part of the #ReadKidsLit read along .

1) Emily of New Moon (4/5*) by LM Montgomery. This is the heartwarming tale of a young motherless girl called Emily who has recently lost her beloved father. Emily’s mother’s side of the family draw lots to decide who will have the responsibility of taking care of the young child. Emily goes to stay with her strict Aunt Elizabeth, loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy at the idyllic location of New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island. Despite her immense sense of loss, Emily draws comfort from her beautiful surroundings, the friendships she makes at every turn and ultimately her new family.For a full review see here.

2) Martha, Eric and George (4/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is the third book in Margery Sharp’s ‘Martha’ trilogy. In this book we follow the lives of Martha, Eric and George a decade after where ‘Martha in Paris’ left us. We learn of George’s upbringing in the hands of his grandmother, of Eric’s disillusionment at being unable to progress in both the personal and professional spheres of his life and of Martha’s tremendous success as an independent artist. Martha’s success prompts her to show her paintings at an exhibition in Paris. In Paris, Martha, Eric and George meet one another and this book deals with the circumstances and repercussions of the meeting between a mother and a child who have been distanced for a decade.

3) They Were Sisters (4.5/5*) by Dorothy Whipple. Three sisters marry three very different men. Lucy, the eldest is happily married to William. Charlotte, is besotted with Geoffrey who is a cruel, dominating husband and Vera, the beautiful youngest sister marries caring, wealthy Brian, whom she marries for  security. The story deals with the fact that choosing a life partner can have far-reaching consequences, and that this decision can dictate to a large extent a person’s individual happiness and the happiness of their families.Whipple delivers a masterful plot and powerful cast of characters. She creates extraordinary drama and turbulence within the boundaries of everyday domestic occurrences. For a full review see here.

4) Little House on the Prairie (4/5*) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This story recounts the brave migration of a small family of five, on a small cart and horse laden with all their worldly possessions from the Woods of Wisconsin to the heart of the MidWest. It also describes the trials and difficulties of setting up house as a pioneer family in a land inhabited by wild animals, and unknown dangers, a land they must share with the Native American people.

5) Illyrian Spring (4.5/5*) by Ann Bridge. This book is a part travelogue, part love story set in 1930’s Croatia, along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast. World-renowned artist, thirty-eight year old Lady Kilmachael, the wife of an eminent economist and mother to three grown-up children, leaves her family and all that she holds dear and escapes to Venice and Croatia’s remote Dalmatian Coast. She fears for her marriage, suspecting her husband of embarking on a possible affair and also is saddened by the strained relationship she has with her daughter. In Venice she meets a disillusioned young man, Nicholas, a man on the verge of being coerced into an architectural career by his parents but desperately yearning to paint. By chance, Grace and Nicholas find themselves on the same cruise to the Dalmatian Coast. Grace is persuaded to guide and train Nicholas in his artistic endeavours and together they spend several idyllic weeks together painting and enjoying each other’s company. However, when young Nicholas falls in love with Grace, she finds she must choose between following her better judgement or her heart.

6) Family Roundabout (4.5/5*) by  Richmal Crompton. This Persephone book looks at the complex relationship between two neighboring families, the Fowlers and the Willoughbys,  whose outlooks on life, are on one hand in opposition to one another, but on the other hand, find their paths unavoidably intertwined. Both the matriarch’s of the families, keep a close eye on the fates of their beloved families, but employ different styles. Mrs Willoughby, has control of the family fortune, and dictates the actions of her family members by way of controlling the money she bestows upon them. Benevolent Mrs Fowler, watches silently, as her children fall in and out of their individual problems. Most of her children appeal for her help when they require it. But despite, however, much the mothers’ try to resolve their children’s problems, new troubles, recur in cyclical events, almost like a roundabout.

7) The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. In this vintage crime fiction novel, a large family gathers together in their large family home, in the country during the Christmas season. The head of the family, wealthy Sir Osmond Melbury, is found dead on Christmas Day by a guest, dressed up as Santa Klaus. Everyone in the house has a motive for committing the murder except Santa Klaus himself. However, Santa Klaus is the only person, in the entire house, with the opportunity, or so it would seem…

2. Blogposts

 I published eight blogposts excluding this round-up post this month. Three were reviews of children’s books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham and Madeline. The rest included reviews of the books-  Martha in Paris, They Were Sisters, Emily of New Moon and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. I also published The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life.

I wrote a blogpost for Budgettraveller.org describing Fifteen Books that Made me Fall in Love with Europe. In doing so I was able to read and re-read a number of delightful travelogues.

3. Movies

We watched Jim Carrey’s ‘A Christmas Carol‘. This is such a delightful movie to watch around the festive season! The special effects are just magical and conjure a beautiful image of Dickensian London during yuletide. We also watched ‘Cheerful Weather for the Wedding‘. I saw the film soon after reading the book by Julia Strachey. As a consequence the dialogues in the book were fresh in my mind and were not faithfully repeated in the screenplay. This rather disappointed me, but if watched independently of the book, this is not a bad film. We also commenced watching Season 1, part 2 of the dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s  ‘Outlander’ series. There is so much drama in this series and very entertaining to follow.

4. Audiobooks

 I listened to the excellent BBC dramatization of Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’ on BBC radio this month. I am also slowly listening to the BBC dramatization of CS Lewis’s excellent Narnia novels. Starting with ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. I also was quite interested in the discussion about Jane Austen’s Emma in an episode of ‘In Our Time‘ hosted by Melvyn Bragg.

5. Miscellaneous

 I indulged in purchasing a few audiobooks this month. These include a series of readings from Anthony Trollope‘s Barsetshire  novels. I also have the recording for  ‘War and Peace‘ at hand. I hope to embark on a reading challenge of sorts next year, centered around either one of these books.

I did a few paintings for my art journal on Instagram. You cnd some examples below.

6. Next Month

Next month I hope to make a dent in my TBR pile. Books that I am looking at are the Mystery in White, Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge and the illustrated copy of Harry Potter.

Wish you all a happy and bookish, festive December!

Please tell me what you have been reading this month?

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Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

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Excerpt: This is the heartwarming tale of a young motherless girl called Emily who has recently lost her beloved father. Emily’s mother’s side of the family draw lots to decide who will have the responsibility of taking care of the young child. Emily goes to stay with her strict Aunt Elizabeth, loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy at the idyllic location of New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island. Despite her immense sense of loss, Emily draws comfort from her beautiful surroundings, the friendships she makes at every turn and ultimately her new family.

  • Title: Emily of New Moon
  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • Published: 1923 by McClelland and Stewart, later published by Virago Press, 2013.
  • Location of the story: Prince Edward Island, Canada.
  • Main Characters: Emily Starr, Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, Cousin Jimmy, Teddy, Ilse, Perry.

Thirty years after I had read the Anne of Green Gables series I picked up Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery.  When I shared that I would be reading this book on social media, many people told me how much I would love the book. I must admit my thoughts were laced with a great deal of doubt. Would an author who had beguiled me in childhood be able to exert the same power over me in my maturity? I can only answer in the affirmative. Undoubtably so.  

The story opens with the revelation that Emily Starr’s father is dying and has but a few days to live. We witness the heart wrenching sequence, where motherless Emily is cruelly introduced to this fact via a woman who is a domestic help to the small family. Emily, a highly imaginative child, finds the luminous, magical world she has created for herself, crumbling before her eyes. Her consumptive father, her one and only mainstay in life, is being taken away from her and she has no-one else, in the whole wide world to call her own, except for her cats.

To add to the heartbreak, Emily’s maternal relatives, the Murrays, people who have shunned her father during his lifetime are charged with looking after the orphan. They do this willingly, as part of their duty towards their long-gone sister, Emily’s mother. The relatives assemble at the Starr house after Douglas Starr’s death, to draw lots and decide who the responsibility of bringing up the child will fall to. Strict Aunt Elizabeth, sweet Aunt Laura and funny Cousin Jimmy bring Emily home to New Moon Farm, on the other side of Prince Edward Island.

Emily’s great grief at losing her father is relieved by a number of factors. One of these are the lengthy letters that she secretly writes to her father. These letters help her to connect with him, allay her loneliness and also allow her to heal via the act of creative writing.

Emily’s grief is also alleviated by the joy she finds in the natural beauty surrounding New Moon Farm. She finds joy in the trees, the flowers and the beauty of New Moon’s surroundings. When Emily sees an object of great beauty or is moved by a vision or a scene, she experiences a moment of great ecstasy, that moves her to write.

…And always when the flash came to her, Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.

Emily is also enraptured with Cousin Jimmy’s beautiful garden. Cousin Jimmy provides Emily with companionship and a shared love for poetry. Due to an unfortunate accident that occurred during Cousin Jimmy’s childhood, that caused irreparable damage to his head, the folk around New Moon Farm are of the opinion that Cousin Jimmy is ‘not all there’.

Emily, who grows to like Cousin Jimmy’s gentle ways, states memorably:

As for Cousin Jimmy, he was nice. Whatever part of him was missing, it wasn’t his heart.

Emily forges a great many friendships. There is the tomboy Ilse who lives next door. Emily and Ilse are constantly sparring but despite this fact, their bond of friendship is very strong. Emily, motivates motherless, undisciplined Ilse to attend school.

Emily also befriends artistic Teddy and helps him to emerge from his possessive mother’s shadow. But most of all, Emily influences, farmhand Perry. Perry tries to learn etiquette and manners and strives to do well at his lessons at school.

Outside of Emily’s close knit circle of friends is kind Aunt Laura. In Aunt Laura’s affection, Emily tries to find the mother that she never knew.

Emily of New Moon, the first book in the Emily Starr trilogy, introduces us to Emily, shows us how she adjusts to the new environment of New Moon Farm, how she makes innumerable, meaningful relationships with the people around her and how she constantly seeks solace for the loss of her father though writing.

Emily’s character, like that of Anne Shirley’s, is laced with faults. We witness her getting into various scrapes but we also see that she is conscientious enough to try to redeem herself in the situation, which makes her character eminently likable.

One cannot help but draw comparisons between Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. Both books are set in Montgomery’s native Prince Edward Island. Both Anne and Emily are orphans who feel unwanted in their future homes, at least initially. Both Anne and Emily find people in the household who are kind and sympathetic to their emotional needs. Anne finds Matthew, Emily finds Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy. Both girls forge close friendships; Anne with Diana Barry, Emily with Ilse. Both girls have potential future suitors. Anne and Emily both have a hard time with their teachers in school. Both girls are highly imaginative, with a love for reading and writing. I must say that I feel Emily gets into fewer scrapes than Anne!

Even though there are undeniable parallels, the story for Emily of New Moon was interesting enough to claim my attention. The writing was especially poignant at times. The death of Emily’s father and her letters to her father are instilled with such pathos that one cannot but weep along with Emily, for her loss and how alone she is in the world. One can take heart though from Emily’s indomitable spirit and her ability to forge friendships and find beauty in her surroundings.

Montgomery has yet again presented to us a passionate, willful young woman with a tragic past, eventful present and promising future.

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They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

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  • Excerpt: Three sisters marry three very different men. Lucy, the eldest is happily married to William. Charlotte, is besotted with Geoffrey who is a cruel, dominating husband and Vera, the beautiful youngest sister marries caring, wealthy Brian, whom she marries for  security. The story deals with the fact that choosing a life partner can have far-reaching consequences, and that this decision can dictate to a large extent a person’s individual happiness and the happiness of their families.
  • Title: They Were Sisters
  • Author: Dorothy Whipple
  • Published: 1943 New York MacMillan, later published by Persephone Books.
  • Location of the story: England, in the years preceding World War II.
  • Main Characters: Lucy (elder sister, married to William), Charlotte (married to Geoffrey), Vera (younger sister, married to Brian).

I was fortunate enough to read an old first edition that my local library managed to procure for me. This was an intense book with so much emotion that it became quite oppressive to read at times. Nevertheless, Whipple delivers such a compelling story line that despite my distress at reading about the most unkind characters and unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to put the book down.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to the Field family. Mr. Field, a lawyer quite suddenly loses his wife to influenza and the responsibility of caring for the large family is transferred to the young shoulders of the eldest daughter of the family, Lucy. Lucy’s siblings include: Harry (the eldest), Aubrey, Jack, Charlotte and Vera. At the time of their mother’s death Charlotte and Vera are just thirteen and eleven years of age.

Lucy sacrifices her entire life to look after the family, a fact that goes largely unappreciated. Charlotte and Vera,love her, but rarely confide in Lucy, preferring to keep their closest secret to themselves. The younger sisters grow up to be beautiful young women, in particular Vera, who draws everyone’s attention the minute she steps into a room. Charlotte falls in love with a young man, Geoffrey Leigh, who delights in partying and playing the fool with her elder brothers. When Charlotte and Geoffrey decide to marry, Vera out of sheer boredom and a need for security marries the attentive,  wealthy, devoted Brian. With Harry and Aubrey emigrating to Canada, Charlotte married and Vera engaged Lucy meets and falls in love with William Moore, at a tennis party.

Soon after Vera’s marriage, Lucy is married herself and goes to live with William in a quaint cottage, in a sleepy village, surrounded by parks and woodland. Despite not having any children, Lucy and William lead a happy, quiet married life, and Lucy finds joy in reading books, taking long walks with her dog and helping the village folk with advice. She is however, very worried by the troubles her sister Charlotte faces in her marriage. Charlotte has three children with Geoffrey and their household is ruled and dominated by high-handed Geoffrey. He critically manages every minute detail of his household, children and wife. He is a manipulative, cruel person who realizes the misery he can produce on other human beings and delights in mentally torturing those around him.He delights in his domination over other human beings. Mostly, he uses devoted Charlotte as his target. In creating the abhorrent character of Geoffrey, Whipple brings to light aspects of domestic cruelty and dominance that may have been prevalent in certain pockets of society, at that time.

Geoffrey’s demeanour is interspersed with  behavioural lapses whereby, he tries to befriend his family again with random acts of kindness.

Geoffrey’s attitude is described in the book in great detail:

Geoffrey’s behaviour went in cycles. He made a violent scene and frightened his family off; he then had an attack and drew them all round him again. Then he was violently good-tempered and took them on a treat.

When I read the book myself, I had periods of anxiety, especially out of compassion for Charlotte. Charlotte, whose nerves are constantly on edge out of fear for Geoffrey’s attacks, takes to drink and anxiety reducing drugs, that slowly but surely, convert her into the shadow of a human being, she once was.

Whipple liken’s Charlotte to a fly described in one of Katherine Mansfield’s stories:

Katherine Mansfield wrote a tale about a fly upon which a man, over and over again, idly dropped a great blot of ink. Over and over again the fly struggled out, dried its wings, worked over itself, recovered, became eager to live, even cheerful, only to be covered by another blot. At last, the fly struggled no more; its resistance was broken. Charlotte was like that fly.

As Charlotte sinks further and further into depression and dormancy, Lucy on multiple occasions tries to save her sister, but to no avail. Charlotte has been reduced to a state where she no longer cares about anything, except that she wants to feel numb.

Watching Charlotte, Lucy was sad. She had loved Geoffrey with all her heart. Too much. “You shouldn’t love as much as that,” thought Lucy,”Its a bit abject. You should keep something of yourself.”

Unable to save her sister, Lucy does manage to create a safe environment for Charlotte’s youngest child, a girl by the name of Judith. Every summer, Easter or Christmas holiday, Judith is welcomed by her childless aunt and uncle and this act of care-giving provides Lucy, at least some comfort.

Charlotte’s plight is largely ignored by her younger sister Vera, whom she was very close to as a child. Vera is unimaginably beautiful, self absorbed and permanently bored with her own life. On one occasion she visits her sister Lucy’s small village for a short stay. The sisters get on to a public bus with the other village folk.

The bus was  a rattling contraption in which the passengers sat facing one another. Usually it was full of friendly talk and laughter but this morning when Vera got in, silence fell and remained. Such beauty was an embarrassment, as if everybody were put to shame somehow.

Even though aware of Charlotte’s state of household affairs, Vera fails to pay any attention to her plight. Vera, also ignores her devoted husband and two demanding daughters. After several years, Vera finds herself in dire financial circumstances due to a turn of events. Lucy is equally upset with the state of Vera’s personal life and that of her families but is again unable to help her sister. This is partly due to the fact that Vera is too headstrong take advice from her sister.

At two ends of the spectrum we witness two very different types of domestic cruelty. That of the dominance and manipulation of Charlotte by Geoffrey. Similarly, we find Vera grossly neglecting and ignoring her husband and daughters in a differential show of cruelty. Will there be any sort of retribution for these acts of cruelty? Will Lucy be able to help her sisters?

This is a frustrating story of sorts. It would be impossible to say anymore without giving away more of the story line. It s a harrowing tale and has affected me more than I can say. Whipple delivers a masterful plot and powerful cast of characters. She creates extraordinary drama and turbulence within the boundaries of everyday domestic occurrences.

 

 

 

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

 

  • Excerpt: This is the story of a day in the life of the Thatcham family, in their English country house. It is however, no ordinary day in their lives. The eldest daughter of the family, Dolly, is to be married that morning. The house is inundated with quirky guests who say and do the most unusual things. A ex-beau, Joseph, is plucking up the courage to speak to Dolly. The bride is upstairs, liberally drinking from a tall bottle of Jamaica Rum while adjusting her toilette. As the time for leaving the house for the wedding ceremony approaches, we wonder what else might occur on this unusual wedding day.  Will Dolly make it to her wedding in one piece? Will Joseph be able to unburden his heart to Dolly?
  • Title: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
  • Author: Julia Strachey
  • Published: 1932 by The Hogarth Press, 2002 by Persephone Books Ltd. 2009 as a Persephone Classic
  • Location of the story: the Thatcham’s house in the English countryside near the Malton Downs.
  • Main Characters: Dolly Thatcham (bride, the eldest Thatcham daughter), Owen (the bridegroom), Mrs. Hetty Thatcham (widowed mother of the bride), Joseph (Dolly’s ex-beau), Kitty Thatcham (younger Thatcham daughter)…

This is the first Persephone Classics edition that I have read and I must admit this is the most peculiar yet most wonderful book! I cannot seem to get the characters or the events surrounding the wedding out of my mind. It is one of those books that you feel compelled to re-read almost immediately after you have set it down.

The book starts with our being introduced to the bride, Dolly Thatcham (23 years old) on the morning of her marriage to the Hon. Owen Bigham, eight years her senior and employed in the Diplomatic Service in South America. It is a quiet, small wedding taking place in the local church, conveniently located on the other side of the garden wall of the Thatcham country house.

After the reader briefly meets Dolly she repairs to her bedroom to dress and prepare for the two o’clock wedding. It is only nine o’clock in the morning but Mrs. Thatcham is fussing around with the domestic arrangements that are required to host, entertain and suitably feed a wedding party.

By midday the house is inundated with innumerable guests, friends and close members of the family. All the guests are asked to refresh and relax in the ‘lilac room’ by Mrs. Thatcham with little regard for the size and the accommodative capacity of the room. This poorly managed arrangement has quite a hilarious consequence as we discover later on in the story.

We find that ineffective management of events and household affairs is quite a hallmark of Mrs. Thatcham’s approach to the world. Her inconsequential fussing around the house is frequently interspersed with comments of:

“I simply fail to understand it!”.

Another comment that frequently graces her lips is the observation that the weather is uncommonly cheerful, even when, in fact, it is not.

“Oh, such a beautiful day for Dolly’s wedding! Everything looks so cheerful and pretty, the garden looking so gay. You can see right over across to the Malton Downs!”

As the guests gather together in the long hall at midday, we are introduced to them one by one.

There is the young cousin Robert, reader of ‘Captain’ magazine with

…eyes that were lustrous as two oily-black stewed prunes, or blackest treacle, and the complexion of a dark-red peach.

Robert is perpetually bullied by his older brother Tom and is asked to change his socks at frequent intervals.

“THESE ARE NOT PROPER SOCKS FOR A GENTLEMAN TO WEAR AT A WEDDING” said Tom, bending over the sofa.

To which we are treated to the short and memorable response from treacle-eyed Robert of-

“Go and put your head in a bag”

We meet Evelyn, the small, dark-haired friend of Dolly,  who makes jest of Mrs Thatcham’s habit of calling the most appalling weather conditions cheerful.

We also meet Kitty, the younger sister of Dolly, an innocent girl with romantic, if  somewhat unrealistic visions of life.

Then, there is the silent, brooding character of Joseph, an anthropology student studying in London and a previous beau of Dolly’s. Mrs Thatcham has her doubts about Joseph and the effect he has upon young, impressionable Kitty.

It seemed to her that he said deliberately disgusting and evil things in front of her young daughter Kitty

We are treated to just such an example of Joseph’s conversation with Kitty.

“How are your lectures going” asked Kitty…

“Very well, thank you” said Joseph and added:

“We heard about the practices of the Minoan Islanders upon reaching the age of puberty at the last one”…

“Oh really? How terribly interesting!” said Kitty.

“Yes, very. Like to hear about them?” offered Joseph.

“Kitty, dear child! Kitty! Kitty! Open the window  a trifle at the top will you! The air gets so terribly stuffy in here always! cried out Mrs. Thatcham very loudly.

We meet several other characters sequentially, all more wonderful than the other. Quirky, wonderful people with interesting things to say. The bridegroom, turns up unconventionally at the front door to announce that he is there to retrieve the bride’s ring (that she has taken for sizing and has not returned).

Meanwhile, the bride, Dolly,  is upstairs in her attic bedroom making adjustments to her toilette and surreptitiously swigging alcohol from a tall bottle of Jamaica rum.

She is interrupted by Joseph, who calls her from the stairs and asks her if she is ready yet. She avoids him by untruthfully saying she is not ready.

As the time for leaving the house for the wedding ceremony approaches, we wonder what else might occur on this unusual wedding day.  Will Dolly make it to her wedding in one piece? Will Joseph be able to unburden his heart to Dolly? He has never told her directly that he loves her.

Once, the previous summer at a large dinner party at a hotel in Malton, there had been a discussion about a crackly biscuit made with treacle, called a ‘jumbly’. Joseph, remarks to Dolly that she would adore them if she tried them.

But the point was, that through his face, and most especially his eyes, Joseph’s whole being had announced, plainly, and with a violent fervour, not “You would adore them,” but “I adore you.”

In ‘Cheerful Weather for The Wedding’ we meet a menage of unlikely characters. Many of them take an indirect approach to negotiating life. They often do not say exactly what they mean, what they say often detracts from the absolute truth, they have a roundabout, superficial approach to dealing with life’s little problems. Julia Strachey imparts great drama to the entire proceedings by interjecting these interactions with some very direct, candid conversations.

Like all good writers, she leaves you unsure of the actual circumstances and consequences of the story and compels you to re-read the story to fill in the details about the wonderful circus of characters she presents to you.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

  • Title: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Author and Illustrator: Eric Carle
  • Published: 1969
  • Main Characters: A very hungry caterpillar

Short Synopsis of the Story: This is the story of the transformation of a little egg, to a caterpillar, a fat caterpillar, a cocoon and finally a beautiful butterfly.

The story starts with our observing a tiny speck of an egg glistening on a leaf in the moonlight. The next morning, which happens to be a Sunday, the sun comes up and the little egg hatches into a tiny caterpillar. The caterpillar is very hungry and each day of the week it eats something different. On Monday it eats one apple, on Tuesday it eats two pears and so on until by the end of the week it has grown into a very fat green caterpillar.

In the next stage of the caterpillar’s life we notice its transformation into a cocoon where it lies for two weeks until its final emergence as a beautiful butterfly.

Notes: This was one of the first board books I bought for my baby daughter. The illustrations are brightly colored and very attractive. Apart from learning about the amazing transformation of an organism, the book teaches us about different fruits and food, the numbers and the days of the week amongst other things. The best thing about the book are the little holes built into the fruits and foods that the hungry caterpillar nibbles through. The book is a wonderful tactile as well as visual aid for children. This is a classic book to be read again and again.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

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  • Title: Green Eggs and Ham
  • Author and Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
  • Published: 1960
  • Main Characters: ‘Sam I am’, unnamed character (also the first person narrator).

Short Synopsis of the Story: This is a story told completely in repetitive rhyming verse in the nonsensical style typical of Dr Seuss’s storytelling. In the story, the narrator is encouraged by ‘Sam I Am’ in multitudinous ways to partake of a meal of green eggs and ham.

The narrator declines the offer quite resolutely stating:

“I do not like them,

Sam-I-am.

I do not like

green eggs and ham.”

To further tempt the narrator, Sam-I-am offers the narrator a choice of locations for eating the green eggs and ham. The locations range from in a house with a mouse, to in a box with a fox, to in a car or a tree or even a train. In all the instances the narrator declines the offer of green eggs and ham to be eaten in those locations.

But Sam-I-am persists. Perhaps the narrator would eat green eggs and ham in the dark, or in the rain, or perhaps in the company of a goat or on a boat?

Alas, in all the offered situations, the meal of green eggs and ham is again declined.

To this Sam-I-am replies:

“You do not like them.

So you say.

Try them! Try them!

And you may.

Try them and you may, I say”

To this entreaty what can the narrator do, but comply?

And to his great satisfaction finds … that he does indeed like green eggs and ham!

Notes: The tale is told in repetitive rhyming verse and is remarkably composed of a mere fifty word vocabulary. That Dr. Seuss can construct an enjoyable story with such an economy of words is worthy of high praise. The limited vocabulary and the repetition of words makes this an ideal book to encourage children to read by themselves. It is quite enjoyable to read and follow the pictures and verse and the rhyme is quite addictive.

What is the moral of the story you ask?

Perhaps, it is written to encourage people to try something out before they completely say no to it.

But green eggs and ham? Now what is that?

I really haven’t got a clue 🙂

Martha in Paris by Margery Sharp

Martha in Paris is the second book in Margery Sharp’s trilogy based on the character of Martha. Find the review for the first book in the series, The Eye of Love here.

  • Title: Martha in Paris
  • Author: Margery Sharp
  • Published: 1962 by Little, Brown and Company Toronto
  • Location of the story: Paris
  • Main Characters: Martha (an art student), Eric Taylor (an English bank employee in Paris), Eric’s Mother, Madame Dubois(Martha’s guardian in Paris).

Martha in Paris picks up the story of Martha nearly a decade after where the The Eye of Love left us. At that juncture, Martha (an orphaned child living with her aunt Dolores) and her artistic talent had been discovered by a rich patron, Mr Joyce, a friend of the family. In the subsequent years Martha’s talent has been nurtured with special art training.

Martha in Paris recounts Martha’s student years in Paris. Here, for two years she studies art under the guidance of one of France’s most eminent art instructors. Her tuition and expenses are met by the kind aegis of Mr Joyce, Martha’s wealthy benefactor.

Mr Joyce aptly observes:

“These next two years will show,” thought Mr. Joyce. “Sink or swim!”

Whilst in Paris, Martha meets an Englishman by the name of Eric Taylor. They meet each other regularly under the tromp l’ oeil’ statue of Tragedy and Comedy in Tuileries Garden where Martha sits on the exact same bench everyday to enjoy her half-French loaf stuffed with delicious charcuterie. Eric, hungry for companionship with a fellow English person tries to engage Martha in lively discourse. He mistakes her lack of conversation for reticence, little knowing that Martha would rather shun any kind of interaction whatsoever.

After a week of one-sided discourse on Eric’s part, he invites her to dinner to meet his mother on Friday night. Nothing can persuade her to accept his invitation until she hears of the bathroom renovations the Taylor’s have installed in their apartment. Martha in desperate need of a comforting, hot bath quickly changes her mind and accepts Eric’s invitation with great alacrity.

“Is the bath vitreous?” asked Martha.

“If you mean is it a sort of china, yes,” said Eric.”Pale green.”

Her defences pierced at last-

“What time on Friday?” asked Martha.

Martha arrives at the Taylor’s apartment at the appointed time on Friday, with a mysterious paper packet. Eric mistakes the packet as a thoughtful hostess gift but notices that Martha fails to bestow the gift to Mrs Taylor. Promptly upon arrival Mrs Taylor shows Martha around, based upon the understanding that Martha has a keen interest in viewing the apartment.

As soon as they enter the bathroom and Martha has admired the facilities she laments that she has not had a proper hot bath in months! One thing leads to another and before very long, in fact the ten minutes remaining before dinner, Martha  decides to take a hot bath much to Mrs Taylor’s astonishment.

“I’ll have it now,” said Martha, swiftly opening her packet, which in fact contained one clean vest and a pair of clean knickers.”

Despite Martha’s unconventional behaviour, Mrs Taylor tolerates and indeed welcomes Martha’s weekly visits. This is because Mrs Taylor does not find Martha’s appearance or personality intimidating.

The weekly Friday visits and baths become a ritual and Martha and Eric find themselves in a situation which is too close for Martha’s comfort. How Martha deals with the resultant circumstances of her relationship with Eric forms the theme of the remainder of this novel.

Sharp’s writing is at her wittiest best in this novel. The stolid, determined and somewhat selfish artistic temperament of Martha is fully manipulated to render moments of extreme comedic humour in the novel.

Quite disconcertingly, however, Martha’s  ‘artistic temperament’ fills us with dismay as we notice a complete absence of love and compassion.

I enjoyed the quirky book and the unusual ending made me immediately put in a library requisition for the third book in the trilogy- Martha, Eric and George.