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Since I like to read books that have been made into movies, my dad is on the lookout when garage-saleing and picks up ones I haven’t heard of, usually. Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge, was made into a movie starring Donna Reed and Van Heflin, and while I haven’t seen it the casting is perfect and I would love to watch it except it might not be as good as the book. And then I would be disappointed.

Green Dolphin Street is the home street of two sisters on an island outside of France, and their adventures begin with a sailing ship pulling into port, the vessel named the Green Dolphin.

The book covers sixty years or so, with both their home on Green Dolphin Street and the sailing ship haunting them throughout their lives. The what-wases, and could-have-beens, and the final resolution to accept the present.

Both sisters fall in love with the same young man, who joins the Navy and sails off to China (this is the 1830s) but through inadvertent clumsiness misses the boat when it departs and thereby loses his ability to return to France as he would be deemed a deserter. Instead he stows away on (coincidentally) the Green Dolphin and sails to New Zealand to begin a new life as a lumberman. Once he has his business established, he writes to the father of the two girls asking for the hand of one in marriage—except he writes down the name of the wrong girl. When she sails to be with him and he sees her coming down the plank he of course realizes his mistake and has a split second to make his choice—and he chooses to marry her anyway, rather than have her risk humiliation upon her return home.

This is one of the best love stories I have ever read, period. It’s set mostly in 1800’s New Zealand at the time when the Maoris were still warlike and fighting the settlers for control of the land. Here is an excerpt from page 330, after the family has been taken hostage by the Maoris and held captive in a fenced village (the Maoris built tall fences to protect their villages from other Maoris), and the only way to escape is they have been given red paint made from rancid shark oil, which they must cover their naked bodies with, and wrap a few rags around the important bits, and then pretend to be the Maori’s version of “the untouchables” who are shunned but take care of the dead. So thusly covered in rags and rancid paint, they run from the village:

    “Run!” commanded William, leaping to his feet and leading the way, with Veronique in his arms.
    They were not far from the opening in the first fence and it was a short run, but even so, Marianne was to repeat it in her nightmares for the rest of her life. The shrieks and curses seemed like a suffocating evil smoke through which one had to fight one’s way out of this terrible chimney. Stones whizzed in the air, and once a spearpoint pricked her body. Bent low to the ground to avoid the stones, she fixed her eyes upon William’s back and ran. She could hear Nat stumbling and panting behind her. She saw William leap the first ditch with Veronique. There were three ditches. Could she possibly jump them? Could Nat, old as he was, with his wounded leg not yet healed? Yet before she realized it, her desperation had carried her across the first ditch with ease, and then the second. At the third leap she missed hr footing and would have fallen, but William swung round and grabbed her wrist and pulled her to safety. Then they were through the opening in the last fence, the peke-rangi, and running down the hill toward the deserted village. Nat had managed the ditches. He was running beside her, grinning at her, looking like a great, red, hairy ape, and the most hideous spectacle she had ever seen. Stones were still whizzing through the air around them, and one grazed her shoulder and cut it, but the dreadful sound of the curses was dying away….Only one Maori was still following them. She could hear his padding bare feet and his insults shouted in the Maori language, that changed quite suddenly to injunctions in English. “Straight on. Through the village and into the forest. Don’t stop till I say.”

Exciting?

I love this book so much that I don’t want to just put it away, and so I am giving it away. Except whoever wins has to actually READ it, and not just enter the give-away because of the thrill of winning something. Please leave a comment and tell me how much you like to read love stories and tell me your favorite book and why. I’ll pick a name June 14.

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Reading: Twilight

Yes, I bought Twilight. Once the buzz on a book reaches a certain level, I figure I might as well see what it’s all about. I’ve read the first 5 Harry Potter books, too. Plus, Costco had a copy (well, many many copies) for $6.89 so what the heck.

First 250 pages: Solid. Compelling. Hard to put down.

Last 250 pages: Began to falter…to stumble…I still wanted to know what was going to happen…but didn’t care quite so much. It was almost like her editor said, “There needs to be an antagonist. Every story has an antagonist,” without realizing the main character already provided that aspect with her inner dialogue. Unspoken inner dialogue, I guess, but which still motivated the character’s actions. There didn’t need to be the whole And Now the Bad Guy aspect.

My criteria for a good book is whether it’s a world I care about, and wish wouldn’t end. That wouldn’t be this book. If I see the other books at a really cheap price I would probably take a look. But I’m not immediately on Amazon ordering them all up right now. If they come to the library, fine.

Overall, a good rainy-day-sick-in-bed read. The whole will-they-won’t-they romance is always a good basis for a story, but once they do, then some interest is lost. And I cross my fingers the author never sees the need to add babies to the mix.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of commentary about this book that amounts to eyerolling and negative comments, but my guess is that those people have a lot of sour grapes. Sure, anyone could have written this story, you might have written this story, but you didn’t. Meyers deserves the credit and the dough for putting in the time to actually write it.

****

While I’m talking about books, the last book I finished was DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. Hmm, now that I look at the Amazon page, it sums up what I suspected about the book. Here’s from the first part of the book review: “Sons and Lovers was the first modern portrayal of a phenomenon that later, thanks to Freud, became easily recognizable as the Oedipus complex. Never was a son more indentured to his mother’s love and full of hatred for his father than Paul Morel, D.H. Lawrence’s young protagonist. Never, that is, except perhaps Lawrence himself. In his 1913 novel he grappled with the discordant loves that haunted him all his life–for his spiritual childhood sweetheart, here called Miriam, and for his mother, whom he transformed into Mrs. Morel. It is, by Lawrence’s own account, a book aimed at depicting this woman’s grasp: ‘as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers–first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother–urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can’t love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives.'”

It seemed pretty obvious that the author must have been struggling with the same issues–no woman was as good as his mother. Halfway through the book it became tiresome, I just wanted to shake the character and say, “Okay, now move on to the next phase of your life!” but he never did. The end of the book was slightly horrifying, as his mother died from cancer and the he stayed by her side every day for months. Finally he gave her a large dose of morphine and she died in her sleep. But he didn’t overdose her to release her from her pain, he did it because he was tired of watching her be in pain. There’s a slight difference, no?

I enjoyed other DH Lawrence books, but not this one.

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The Three Mustangers, by Will James. Here’s the opening paragraph. If this was made into a movie, you could just hear Wilford Brimley doing the voice-over narration:

“Andy Thomas would of most likely been a plain average and just a hard-riding cowboy if he’d been brought up where such kind of men rode. There was such men in the country but there was more of the other kind, the bad kind. The country itself was bad and rough, mighty rough and the ridges of it was mighty tricky. Few stock roamed in it, only during the winters when the ground was froze, and the name which had been fitted on that hundred-mile strip by the first white man who’d come to it fitted it mighty well. It had been called the Mad Lands.”

The author wrote a number of what look like similar stories, and I bring it to your attention only because he also illustrated the book. Between the illustrations and the detail in the story, he knew what he was talking about. Altogether a nothing special book, except as a slice of a disappeared time. It was set in what seems now like a 10-year span (but was really much longer) when the west and city horses disappeared, and were replaced with cars.
illustration
illustration2
Somewhere along the way adult books stopped having little illustrations. I think it makes them charming, but maybe they’re deemed too expensive now.

Which also reminds me, I was driving past farmland the other day and noticed the telephone poles with their wires stretching over the empty land. I thought to myself, “This could be a painting called ‘The disappearing west.'” If the painting would have been painted 100 years ago the title would have been intended to note the change into industrialization — the land has been modernized with the telephone poles. But as painted today, the title points out that the telephone poles are about to disappear, as even more modernization takes over and they become outdated and unnecessary when cellular becomes all that is offered and te land is once more uninterrupted. It would be a pretty painting either way….

Also, one thing that jumped out at me while reading was when the main character took his piece of bread and slathered it with bacon drippings kept in a cup on the top part of the stove. It’s hard to not think of eating that much bacon grease today without a tad bit of revulsion. It probably wasn’t common at the time (class-wise, anyway), but maybe since the Depression was ending it was? Waste not want not.

Also also (I guess there was a reason I wanted to comment on this book!), the main character for a period works for a corporation that owns wild horses. He’s still a range rider, gathering up wild horses and managing them until they can be loaded on a train and taken away. The book doesn’t say what happens to the horses after that. Food? Are they broken for rich little girls in the East? I wish it said. I thought it was interesting a corporation bothered with what you’d think would be a family business. Aside, I was watching a movie (The Winning of Barbara Worth [1926]. Silent. Gary Cooper.) and it was also set in the West and the characters were fighting the evil corporation that had come to take over the town. It’s interesting that the things they said about the corporation are the exact things people say now about evil corporations.

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There was a baby grouse or ringneck pheasant out in the yard. I’m thinking pheasant since I haven’t seen grouse around here, but it really did look like a young chicken so might have been a grouse. It made a scrape for itself under a rotting bench that holds plants, and then ran and hid behind the coreopsys when Elle got too near. I went to get my camera, but it was gone by the time we were back outside. My neighbor’s dog killed one a couple weeks ago, and the neighbor on the other side of me had one in her yard a couple weeks ago, too. Maybe they’re being displaced by the new construction going on in the farmlands around us.
snapdragon
Since I had my camera in hand, I took a photo of my snapdragon instead. This one was started from seed. My seeds largely did terribly, and I’m not sure they’re worth the time despite the money savings. That plant behind the snapdragon is a cornflower, found in the herb section. I recommend it for blue flowers through the later summer, it just keeps going. I have the seed packet here, and it says: “Medicinal Uses: Cornflower is used externally as an anti-inflammatory and astringent herb for eye ailments and skin cleansing. An eye wash made with cornflower blossoms is used for conjunctivitis as well as to relieve strained, tired or puffy eyes. Parts used: flowers, leaves.” And then the package actually describes how to use the flowers, so that’s nice. I haven’t tried.

Oh yeah, I also received my copy of The Creative Family. How to encourage imagination and nurture family connections. I bought it on Amazon from one of the second-tier sellers, for $12 including postage. I’ve seen it recommended on various blogs, so thought I’d better give it a try just in case I was missing something. Overall, I think our family is on the right track, but I’m sure there’s still some projects mentioned we should start including. I’ll have to get back to you when I find them!

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Boy, not much blogging this week! Elle had a fever for 3 days, so that slowed me down. I took her to the doctor when it reach 103, and the doctor said wait it out. Like for 6 days before bringing her back again. Really–nothing but Tylenol for 6 days? Uh, okay. The Tylenol brought the fever down, luckily, but I didn’t like having her on continuous medication for the whole time. She’d wake up when it wore off, so we were up at night, too. The doctor thought Elle might have a virus because she was sounding stuffy, but here it is 3 days later and she’s still stuffy but no other virus symptoms. So I don’t get it–a fever with no other illness? But she’s better, so that’s what matters.

While at the doctor’s I went to Joann’s to check on their embroidery pillowcases, and found they don’t carry them in person, only online. A lot of the web patterns say “online only!” but not all of them, so I thought they’d have a few in the brick and mortar. Oh well. Instead, I cheated and bought an iron on transfer pattern from an ebay shop, to use on the blanks I made. While I could design my own, I know that illustration isn’t my strong suit. I’m afraid the design would end up looking a little bare. I noticed that some of the comments left on the pattern reviews for Joann’s pillowcases said, “I thought there would be more to it,” and that’s what I’m sure my own design would look like. So I’ll do someone else’s design next, and keep thinking about how to draw a good design. It’s not like you can have too many pillowcases.

Here’s a layette pattern I thrifted. These are both McCalls, and have 3 years between the designs. But close inspection reveals they are the exact same pattern. I wish I would have looked closer, or noticed they raised the price to fifty cents! Because you only need one of these, not two. I bet this pattern hasn’t changed in 80 years!
layette

I started reading this book. I love the little line drawings.
pines

The book was originally published in 1901, this reprint is 1924. There is an introduction of the author at the beginning, and an explanation of why the book was chosen to be reprinted:

“I think one reason why Mitchell’s books have to be reprinted is that he wrote them for fun. During all or nearly all the period when he wrote stories his main occupation was with LIFE–to start it, to guide it, to make it pay. Writing stories was his recreation. He did it because it made him happy….Another thing that makes Mitchell’s books continue to be interesting is his imagination. He was never tied down to earth, to things as they are, to things that are likely to happen. He wrote about things that he derived from the back of his mind. A very practical man, duly thrifty, duly appreciative of actualities, still he was always dreaming dreams of a sort and seeing visions.”

What jumped out at me there is that he’s described as “duly thrifty.” Thrifty as a virtue. This is 1924, the booming ’20s, buying stocks on margins and credit for everybody. And yet thrifty was a virtue to be remembered in an author. Imagine that being part of the description of anyone today, except perhaps a dour old lady, or a bilious pastor. Thrifty is a deprecation, a snigger.

I’ll let you know how the book goes. It has few words per page, so looks like a quick read.

Oh, and about the souvenir cups in the post below, there are two more available which I declined: a chuck wagon, and a tiki house. I know tiki houses are enormously collectible right now, but it’s not really my thing. The house does have a sign out front, which say, “Property of….” and that blank space where you’re supposed to write something. So my hunch was right.

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