Monthly Archives: July 2011

High Wages by Dorothy Whipple

A Whipple so we know it has to be good…

Jane lands a job as an assistant in a draper’s shop. A very poor girl, she has an extravagant imagination and even better taste. She is always innovative and on top of, really ahead of the latest fashion trends. She is willing to take chances in suggesting fabrics and items to clients, dressing windows, and soon works up a reputation with customers in the shop. Soon she is negotiating her way to more accounts and more wages, but when she finds there is a ceiling she makes a way around. Of course there is a love component and a bit of a twist.


Esperanza Rising

Esperanza is a 13 year old girl living in Mexico when her father is suddenly killed during a civil uprising. When his brother takes over the estate and steals their fortune, the remaining family is forced to flee to the United States. The members of the once well off family are now working as laborers on a farm in California. Confronting racisim and poverty Esperanza must find humility and hope. Excellent for young readers and adults as well.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Another that I read in between classes last August to escape for just a moment. It is the 30s and Cassandra writes about her adventures and her family and all that happens in their giant but run down estate on the English countryside. Her notebook only has a few pages but her story is expansive and lushly detailed. Her father, now a widower, once wrote a successful novel but has produced nothing more and the family must survive on hardly anything. He has remarried a remarkably beautiful model of sorts from London named Topaz who sort of floats through the house. She can not manage to get him to write either. Most of the furniture has been sold but the home still has great character and somehow they manage. Cassandra’s sister Rose dreams of new dresses and suitors. Cassandra thinks this is all a waste of time, of course until a pair of strangers arrive at the door. The story is sweet and entertaining, filled with the eccentric characters of course but also first loves and the pain of love not returned.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

I remember this one clearly, August of last year sitting on the steps of the School of Public Health (that is, before classes took over and reading for fun vanished). I would take this book out of my bag and read in gulps beneath the sunshine. Elizabeth is renovating the gardens on her husband’s estate. It is a wonderful little tale of her thoughts and day-to-day comings and goings in the garden. Her children make an appearance and so do visitors but it is clear that she prefers the garden. Her frustration about defending her ideas is very witty and a sign of the times in which the book was written. She does not garden herself but orders seeedlings and such to be placed about. It is as if she is the decorator.

Father of The Rain – Lily King

Last week I jumped in the car for my hour and a half ride to bookclub. I enjoy this ride and going back to the town where I lived while completing my graduate degree. This month was different because I had not finished the book and really had no intention of doing so. Even if there was no book, the company, chatter, and catching up make it worth it. I’d struggled for 3 days to make headway and the tassel on my bookmark swung at about the middle. That’s not like me and t even told me so when I walked into her kitchen.

When we meet Daley she is 11 years old and witnessing the dissolution of her parent’s marriage. Watergate is unfolding in the media and Daley is learning how to navigate the tension brought on by her father’s alcoholism. After her parents divorce Daley must change herself to fit in as she moves between the two homes. What we see is a very good portrait of the effects of alcoholism on children and relationships. But long after Daley has moved out and completed graduate school, she continues to struggle with her relationship with her father and finds herself going back to help him when he is at his lowest point.

The group seemed to have 2 major issues with Daley and the portrayal of her relationships. While we agreed that the alcoholism and its effects were very real, we found Daley’s relationship with her African-American boyfriend to be a bit strange, as if the relationship was an afterthought to add more fuel to the story or that King just had no basis for writing about interracial dating. The group was also perplexed that Daley, an intelligent observant woman, could never really see or realize the manipulation her father brought upon her and her family, even at the urging of her closest friends.

The great thing about bookclub is that every month we are reading something that I wouldn’t have normally picked for myself. We talked for a while about what the book made us feel, for some the portrayal of an alcoholic parent hit close to home. When I left home that day I fully intended not to go back and finish the book, but later I wanted to see for myself the resolution that Daley might come to with herself, her boyfriend, and her father’s illness.

It took me another 2 days but I got there.

To help us along we had these yummy cupcakes and gorgeous roses.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

I remember this book well. Valancy daydreams about romance and escaping to a blue castle where she can be rid of her overbearing mother and meddlesome family. 29 years old, awkward in the eyes of her family, and without any suitors Valancy prefers to steal time reading books about nature. After visiting the family doctor about peculiar pains in her chest, she receives a heartbreaking letter from him. For her, this is the deciding factor in making decisions about her own life regardless of the opinions of her family.

When it was over, something had happened to Valancy-perhaps the culmination of the process that had been going on in her mind ever since she had read Dr. Trent’s letter. It was three o’clock in the morning-the wisest and most accursed hour of the clock. But sometimes it sets us free.

Lots of green

A trip to Edward McKay’s this weekend.

The Skin Chairs-Barbara Comyns
Love-Elizabeth von Arnim
The Caravaners-Elizabeth von Arnim
Christopher and Columbus-Elizabeth von Arnim
Aurora Floyd-Mary E. Braddon

Finished Objects

Finishing a project is always great, but finishing three projects is even better…

A cotton baby sweater for a wonderful co-worker who is expecting. The buttons are little blue snails with big smiles

A baby blanket for another co-worker whose wife is expecting this summer. I just have to add some ribbon as a trim along the scalloped edge.

And a beret for yet another co-worker. This is the top view as it’s being blocked into correct form…on a plate.

Now it’s on to something for me, A cute pullover and a shawl. And of course summer reading soon to come.