I have known about this book for a long time, but had never gotten around to it. Friends of ours are huge fans of May Sarton and have recommended her books for years. And I’ve read (and always liked) a few of them. But this one is the best. Sarton follows the life of Jane Reid, a deeply thoughtful and generous spirit, as she grows from an inquisitive, emotional child into a delightful old woman. As Jane grows, she nourishes those around her (from female friends to poor black neighborhoods to Germans after WWII) with her nurturing heart, all the while seeking to connect with friends, family and society on a useful, meaningful level.
The idea of “being of use” hasn’t been so well presented since Irving’s Cider House Rules. With a stunningly romantic backdrop of simplicity, conjuring fantasies of private islands with no electricity where one spends lazy mornings lingering over large cups of steaming coffee, late afternoons at the dock (once the fog has burned off), and shared reading after dinner by a roaring fireplace, The Magnificent Spinster pulls you in. In a world where fresh garden flowers grace every table and guests are given pine sprigs for their lapels as they leave the island for the summer, it calms, restores and invigorates at the same time. Jane Reid is a fabulous character, a true model of virtue and triumph. I love this book and have absolutely GOT to get an island. Okay, so maybe I just have to read this book every few years. Give it a try. It will remind you how to be good again.
THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR:
I read this two years ago, around Christmas. We were traveling a lot and I had great stretches of time; hours just sitting in Dulles or on planes, where I read this fantastically detailed and enthralling account of Richard III. The book, by Sharon Kay Penman, is historical fiction, but saying that makes it sound dull and textbook like. Nothing could be further from the truth. And although it does paint a picture of Richard that you’ve probably never heard before, so far from a villainous hunchback that you’ll leave feeling sorry for him, the true star of this book is his brother, the charismatic Edward IV. He navigates the twisted War of the Roses with humor, style and lots of bloodshed.
If you liked The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory (and I did), or you just love some great court intrigue, try this. And don’t let the size scare you away. You’ll treasure every word on every thin page as you fly through this extraordinarily entertaining and painstakingly detailed novel.
A few weeks ago an old friend recommended Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout to my husband. I managed to get to it first, and boy did I win the prize. I have been glued to it, reveling in the poignant beauty of the characters, the wonderful writing, even the unique structure of this amazing novel.
If you love simple truth in quirky, relatable characters, this Pulitzer Prize winner is a must. I (unfortunately) just finished it the other day, so I am now searching for something new.
COLD SASSY TREE:
This wonderful story, by the late Olive Ann Burns, about a young boy growing up in the South in 1906 is such a fun read. It is rich with insight, hysterical family drama (in true Southern style, honey…bless her heart) and a coming of age tale that anyone can relate to. This book is great to shove in your bag and take wherever you are going. It’s not heavy; it doesn’t require much from you other than a few minutes here and there and a good sense of humor.
But trust me, you’ll finish it in no time, because when Will Tweedy’s grandpa elopes with the prettiest lady in town (and a Yankee besides) three weeks after his wife (and very respected lady in the community) passes away, you know the fur starts to fly. Girl! Think small town scandal with a timeless message.