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review 2018-08-20 04:39
The Solitary Summer
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

 

This was a buddy read with Themis Athena.

 

The Solitary Summer is a follow up to Elizabeth and Her German Gardenthey don't have to be read in any order, but Solitary Summer takes place in the same garden, about three years later.

 

I went into this book naively assuming that the "Solitary" in the title mean Elizabeth at home, alone, in her garden, for the entire summer.  While I made allowances for servants, I figured she'd sent Man of Wrath and her three children off somewhere for the summer, either together or separately. 

 

Shows what I know; the Solitary in the title means nothing of the sort.  It simply means Elizabeth and her husband agree that for one summer, May through August, there will be no guests descending on the house, expecting Elizabeth to perform hostess duties.  100 years ago, I suppose that would feel like a kind of solitude, but personally, if I were being subjected to the daily demands of husband and three daughters, I'd have long before whipped out my Sharpie pen and blacked out the entry for 'solitude' in all my dictionaries and been done with the concept.

 

Moving on from my luxurious pre-conceived notions, the book is ostensibly about Elizabeth spending the summer in her garden, free from hostessing duties, and therefore free to loll about in her garden all day, book in hand, alternately reading and soaking in the paradise surrounding anyone in a garden, wood, and field.  When she's not feeding her family, or handing out food to the servants, or entertaining her daughters.  The solitary moments do happen, in May and most of June, but after a spate of gales whip through, the tone of the book alters perceptibly; less garden, more musings on philosophy, reading, morality, class and village life.  

 

In my opinion, even though I picked this up in eager anticipation of the garden-geek-fest, it's the second half that should not be missed.  Elizabeth is a rare breed; she's able to stand apart from herself, to see herself and events around her with objectivity, brutal honesty, and wry wit.  She does not rationalise, she does not excuse or defend, she simply observes:  this is they way things/I should be, this is the way things/I are(am).  It's refreshing to hear this kind of voice, and if it doesn't make you think one way or the other, ... well, never mind.  But the issues she addresses in her musings are at least as relevant today as they were 100 years ago, with the exception of enforced quartering of troops and servant housing. 

 

From what little I know so far about Elizabeth von Arnim's background, her husband isn't what anyone today would call a gem; she calls him Man of Wrath for heaven's sake, and I doubt she's using the term ironically.  But there are moments of accord between the two, as well as many scenes of shared humour and witty banter that lead me to suspect their relationship was far more complex than history will likely remember it being, and I'm eager to find out more about them both to see if my suspicions stand up to available facts.

 

Either way, I like her.  I suspect, were we contemporaries and life brought us into each other's orbit, we'd be friends - or at least appreciate each other's love of nature, sarcasm, and our disdain for too many guests.

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text 2018-08-19 19:28
Manga Classics: Romeo & Juliet!!!
Romeo and Juliet - Crystel S Chan,William Shakespeare

The artwork is so beautiful, I just hate the story with a burning passion. I thought I could make it, since it's in Manga form but I get terrible flashbacks from highschool and nervous twitching in my eye. So dnf!!!

 
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text 2018-08-18 15:47
Reading progress update: I've read 147 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"A man once made it a reproach that I should be so happy, and told me everybody has crosses, and that we live in a vale of woe. I mentioned moles as my principal cross, and pointed to the huge black mounds with which they had decorated the tennis-court, but I could not agree to the vale of woe, and could not be shaken in my belief that the world is a dear and lovely place, with everything in it to make us happy so long as we walk humbly and diet ourselves. He pointed out that sorrow and sickness were sure to come, and seemed quite angry with me when I suggested that they too could be borne perhaps with cheerfulness. 'And have not even such things their sunny side?' I exclaimed. 'When I am steeped to the lips in diseases and doctors, I shall at least have something to talk about that interests my women friends, and need not sit as I do now wondering what I shall say next and wishing they would go.' He replied that all around me lay misery, sin, and suffering, and that every person not absolutely blinded by selfishness must be aware of it and must realise the seriousness and tragedy of existence. I asked him whether my being miserable and discontented would help any one or make him less wretched; and he said that we all had to take up our burdens. I assured him I would not shrink from mine, though I felt secretly ashamed of it when I remembered that it was only moles, and he went away with a grave face and a shaking head, back to his wife and his eleven children. I heard soon afterwards that a twelfth baby had been born and his wife had died, and in dying had turned her face with a quite unaccountable impatience away from him and to the wall; and the rumour of his piety reached even into my garden, and how he had said, as he closed her eyes, 'It is the Will of God.' He was a missionary."

Quintessential Elizabeth.  And yet, her own cross amounted to vastly more than mole hills, too, in fact.

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text 2018-08-18 15:37
Reading progress update: I've read 140 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"All those maxims about judging others by yourself, and putting yourself in another person's place, are not, I am afraid, reliable. I had them dinned into me constantly as a child, and I was constantly trying to obey them, and constantly was astonished at the unexpected results I arrived at; and now I know that it is a proof of artlessness to suppose that other people will think and feel and hope and enjoy what you do and in the same way that you do."

True. But then, you also had the courage to defy convention, Elizabeth ...

 

And I still think at least when it comes to cruelty vs. common decency, there is something to be said in favor of "don't do to others what you don't want to have done to yourself."

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text 2018-08-18 15:27
Reading progress update: I've read 133 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"I am frightened once more at the solitariness in which we each of us live. I have, it is true, a great many friends -- people with whom it is pleasant to spend an afternoon if such afternoons are not repeated often, and if you are careful not to stir more than the surface of things, but among them all there is only one who has, roughly, the same tastes that I have ..."

Once again -- I hear you, Elizabeth.

 

Though I also think you'd have been very much at home in an internet book community.

 

Even though ... a Wordsworthian goose girl?  Hmm.

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