October Wrap-Up

October turned out to be a very good writing month. I also took a trip to Arizona during the last week. It was the first trip in ages, a driving trip, which I always enjoy. The landscape of the desert is so different from that of the beach, but the dryer air and clearer skies were a very nice change. I heard coyotes and saw a javalina, I toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, found “my” bagel place and had a wonderful visit with my sister. Now, I am waiting for the colder temperatures to come to make the rest of the year complete.

Having my mom here has been a lot of fun. She is also a big reader and has already plucked from my shelves Venetia, The Egg and I, a biography of the California poet Robinson Jeffers and several contemporary novels. She belongs to a book club so there is lots of quiet reading time in this house.

Although I posted more this month, I did not finish a lot of books and I am way behind on my Goodreads challenge. But goals are only directional signals, not actions written in stone. Right? Oh well…

What I Read and Posted

A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Stitch in Time, Penelope Lively
Classic Club Spin #28 The Spin gods chose number 12, which means I will be reading The Matriarch (1924), by G.B. Stern. This book has been on my shelf for a very long time, but I know nothing about it or the author!

Two on a Tower, Thomas Hardy
Martha by the Day, Julie Mathilde Lippmann

As November begins I’ve decided to join in on Nonfiction November and in keeping with trying to read as much from my shelves as possible this year, instead of buying more books, I created this short list to choose from:

1. A Summer of Hummingbirds. The intersecting lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Martin Johnson Heade. I love reading about authors who knew each other.

2. Something From the Oven. About food and dinner culture in the 1950s and how gadgets changed the way we eat. And the 50s were so interesting for kitchen gadgets.

3. To College Girls. A guide from a dad as his daughter went off to college, published in 1911. Historical etiquette and morality books are fun to read. What were the expectations of behavior for young women at that time?

4. The Natural History of Selborne. Published in the late 1700s, I can’t wait to see what people thought of the natural world and do we have anything in common in our time?

5. The Grape Cure, first published in 1928, this is the food fad book of the time that would “cure” any disease with grapes. Lots of grapes. Hmmm.

I am hoping to read Hermnan Hesse’s, Siddhartha for Novellas in November and that’s the only title I have, so far.

My Thomas Hardy year has gone very well with two more to go. This month we’re reading The Well-Beloved. And I hope for some spontaneous reads, including one from my Classics Club list.

Yes, I did buy a book on my trip 🙂

More from Taliesin West

This year has passed very quickly for me and I can hardly believe 2022 is fast approaching. I hope this has been a good year for you and that travels, day trips and better times are ahead for us all.

A Stitch in Time, Penelope Lively (1976) The #1976Club

Eleven year-old Maria Foster talks to inanimate objects. She has conversations with cats and trees, too. It is clear she is curious and smart and the conversations she begins with her parents, based on what she has observed in the world or something she read leave them bewildered, as if they just don’t know what to do with a girl so serious and deep. So only-child Maria has created a world where objects listen and engage, give her advice and solace in ways her family cannot.

We meet the Foster family on their summer holiday to Lyme Regis. They are staying in an old Victorian house for a month. It has a resident cat, furniture that has seen decades of wear and an old tree in the backyard perfect for Maria to sit in and ponder. Next door is a small hotel where families of holiday makers are spending the summer and from her perch she notices one particular family with one particular boy. Once they meet Maria and Martin, after some initial hesitation, find in each other kindred spirits interested in the larger questions of life. They roam the hills and beaches picking up fossils, observing the varied geology of the land, which leads to a discussion of evolution when they visit a nearby museum.

Lyme Regis fossils.

In a complementary story line, Maria has become obsessed with a girl her age named Harriet who lived in the house Maria’s family is renting a hundred years ago. A photograph of a piece of Harriet’s embroidery with an ominous signature has captured Maria’s imagination. She is convinced Harriet died young and is determined to find out her story. She keeps most of her thoughts to herself until she makes a small attempt to share them with Martin. Mostly, though, she is content to have found an exploring buddy who shares her new found interests in the fossils and geology of the hills and cliffs they wander.

There are wonderful supernatural elements in the story that affect only Maria besides the cat, the petrol pump and the tree that she has conversations with: there is an insistent sound of a barking dog and the creaking noise of a swing in motion. Maria scours the neighborhood for physical evidence of these to no avail and as this part of the story unfolds they play an important part in the mystery of Harriet.

As Maria explores both her inner and outer worlds she grows in confidence and acceptance of herself and can acknowledge that what she thinks about and what interests her are genuine and noble. She has become communicative and expressive with her mother who is finally able to see and understand this daughter who had always seemed so shut up within herself.

A really wonderful book about a smart, serious, curious kind of girl that should be celebrated!

And thanks to Simon and Karen for creating these various clubs that have helped me find books and authors I may not have discovered otherwise.

The cat sat down beside her, disposed, it seemed, for a chat.
“No,” said Maria, “I don’t think I’m going to let you talk any more. Sometimes you say uncomfortable things. Though actually I think I am getting a bit better at not being made uncomfortable.”

“P’raps” said Maria, “they turn into the kind of people they are because the things that happen to them make them like that.” Like I’m shy and I talk to myself because of the sort of family I live with and Martin’s like he is because he’s got a different kind of family.
“You are a bit peculiar sometimes,” [Martin] added, “You were talking to that tree yesterday. I heard. You were sitting in it and you suddenly said, ‘Oh, Quercus ilex…'”

Title: A Stitch in Time
Author: Penelope Lively
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Date: 1976
Device: Trade Paperback
Pages: 221