There is something about books that are about houses and gardens that captures my soul. This is my favorite May Sarton, because the story of the creation of this home space is so..bright, so luscious. A book in which the floor boards seem to have a particular character. And the gardens, the interior and the exterior. And the heart. The passion of the ordinary. Love it.
A classic. But don't read it to your 5 year old in the same week his dad reads him Robin Hood (complete with Robin's death). Well...too late now, and the kid is in his mid 30's, but omigod, the heartbreak.
Just finished Remarkable Creatures, by the author of a number of quite literate historical fiction works. To my mind this one is her best, deftly counterpoising the reaction and narration of women from different classes caught in the prevailing strictures of the Victorian era yet struggling to use intellect and observation and live lives outside the expected. Thus the title works both as a description of the "monsters" they turn up along the shore, but of themselves, as women beyond what is expected of them. The cross-class friendship of the two is unsentimentalized and very true. This time in European history--when the expectations of religion and science appeared to be colliding--is a fascinating one to me. And this is a thoroughly diverting and satisfying glimpse of that time.
I must have received a copy of this soon after it was printed; fortunately for me I had an aunt who took seriously my constant plea for books. One aunt. Everyone else figured surely I meant to say "dolls" or "tea sets" or "pink dresses".
I so loved this book then. However, when I read it to my children some decades later there was an edge of datedness. But a mere edge. And they knew they'd better like it.
Okay, I think this book is overdone, and in many ways silly, and probably racist. But when I read it (and I was 16) I was totally, utterly, completely engulfed in this story. And I wanted to be Scarlett, bold and determined and selfish and passionate and forever surviving, somehow. I loved this book so much that when my best friend was killed that summer, one of my first thoughts, after the shock and tears, was "at least I lent her my copy of Gone with the Wind, and she read it before she died". And her name was Margaret, now I think on it, lovely fairhaired Margaret with her skin flecked with golden freckles in the desert sun. Well, shows you what is of utmost importance to the readers of books.
Oh, sure, there are a zillion things wrong and politically incorrect about this book. An ecological tale in which people strew the desert with beer cans and the only female character is best known for her fine ass? But...it is funny, and sad, and was a pivotal book for a generation of eco-activists. So I still tell my young forest defender friends to go ahead and read it.
I had an earlier version by far than the edition pictured, given to me by my great aunt when I was 10. It was the great book of my childhood, the book we acted out in the dusty streets of a suburban, tract home town all one long summer, fighting over which sister was the best. And of course everyone wanted to be bold Jo, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for vain, ambitious Amy. I could never get my daughter to read it; she balked at the cozy world, the homilies, the pious little girls giving away their Christmas breakfast, the silly...to her mind...love stories.
But I love this book still. It seduced me to finding out more about the world of the Alcotts, and of New England in the Civil War period. And thus I found Thoreau (whom Louisa apparently was in love with) and Emerson, and a whole world of thought.
Which was heady stuff for a 10 year old, let me tell you. I reread Little Women every few years. I've read everything else Alcott wrote as well, from the potboiler thrillers to all the tidy romances. Maybe a grandchild of mine will like her, someday.