Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The True Gift

Finished The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan, a quiet, strange and charming book. It is set more contemporarily than her other works I have read (see Caleb's Story). I always enjoy her books and there are quite a few more that I need to put on my TBR list. This was one of my children's lit Christmas reads for this year. While there is no shortage of holiday themed picture books out there, children's holiday novels are harder to come by. I'll have to dig around and find one more for this year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Darling Buds of May

Finished The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates. It's the first book in his Larkin Chronicles. Straight-laced, timid, underfed Mr. Charlton comes to talk to Pop Larkin about income taxes owed. He never gets much of a chance. Pop, Ma, Mariette and the assorted other Larkins hijack him with the happy-go-lucky lifestyle. They convince him to take sick leave from his dull desk job to join them in hearty meals, working in the strawberry fields, plenty of cocktails and more fun than he's ever known possible.

This book is hilarious. It's like a combination of You Can't Take It With You and Cold Comfort Farm. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Redbird Christmas

Finished A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. Oswald T. Campbell is a 52 year old man with advanced emphysema. His doctor tells him has about a year to live and that he should spend it some place warm. He hands him a yellowed and water stained brochure for a health resort in Lost River, Alabama. Trying to get in touch with the resort, Oswald calls around and makes contact with a citizen of the area who is setting up a potluck at the community hall. She informs him that the resort closed long ago, but he could come down anyway, she will find him a room he can rent. Oswald leaves his cold, dull, gray life in Chicago behind and heads south.

The tiny community of Lost River is filled with interesting characters. One of the most interesting is Jack, a cardinal, that injured as a hatchling, was raised by Roy who runs the general store. Jack lives at the store, greeting and teasing customers, running on his wheel and ringing his little bird bells. When a six year old orphan named Patsy becomes enamored of the bird, the whole town gets involved with making a happier life for Patsy, an effort which in turn changes many other lives for the better.

The book reminded me of The Song of the Cardinal, for obvious reasons. Oswald T. Campbell reminded me of Father Tim in the Mitford books, when he was still a lonely bachelor. A charming and at times hilarious holiday read.

Christmas After All

Finished Christmas After All, from the Dear America series. Written by Kathryn Lasky, it's the diary of Minnie Swift, an eleven year old girl living in Indianapolis during The Great Depression. Minnie's family has been economizing, shutting off parts of the house so as not to heat them and serving mingy fare, disgusting aspics and something Minnie has nicknamed "Rumor of Pork."

Minnie's family has an unexpected addition, when Willie Faye, an orphaned distant cousin, arrives from Texas to live with them. Willie Faye is very small for her age (clearly undernourished). Little clouds of dust escape from her clothes and shoes as she walks. She has come from The Dustbowl. She has never seen a ceramic bathtub and has no idea what an adjective is, but she can tell wonderful stories of her life in Texas.

One evening after seeing a film at the cinema, Minnie and company return to the house to find that their father has left. The truth that his company has shut down comes out and what was promising to be a lean Christmas now looks like something far more bleak. Everyone worries except Willie Faye. She thinks that Mr. Swift has a plan and indeed he does.

This was a charming book with excellent period details. I especially enjoyed the diary format and look forward to reading more of the Dear America series.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business

Finished My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke. There has always been something so familiar about Dick Van Dyke to me. I grew up watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show and films like Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty, Bang-Bang were often televised around the holidays. When I saw that this memoir had been published I was immediately drawn to it. The cover photo is fabulous. This tall, funny man who pretends klutziness, but who has an easy grace is so appealing to me. He seems like such a nice guy on TV, and the book supports my concept of this. It's a comfortable read with a good bit of humor. His personal standards and his politics made it even more enjoyable. Something that stood out to me was how his wife Margie would come to the set and watch him be Rob Petrie, and tell people he was the same person at home. This really comes through in the book. I have an old friend who has always reminded me of Van Dyke. We've been close for 35 years and he is a huge fan of classic television shows. Somehow the two are inextricably linked in my mind. This past summer I spent a rare afternoon in the garden of my favorite library, chatting with this very friend. Then, this fall, every time I sat down to read the book with my breakfast, the image of the garden was always hovering nearby.