A Stroll in the Garden

A few days ago, I grabbed my mask and left the house for a walk. Specifically, a walk through a garden because I wanted (needed) to be surrounded by greenery and flowers.

A peek of the house through the tree branches.

I paid a visit to the garden of the Lee-Fendall House. Luckily, I was the only visitor, so it was an extra special treat. The Lee-Fendall House was, for several generations, the home of the Lee Family. If you haven’t heard of them, they were (are) an old Virginia family.

I stumbled upon this memorial to Mrs. Eleanor Fendall, a daughter of the Lee family.
Mrs. Eleanor Fendall’s tombstone.

Some family members were signers of the American Declaration of Independence. Later some members (Confederate General Robert E. Lee) fought on the losing side of the American Civil War.

The Union Army turned their property into a hospital for wounded soldiers. By 1904, the home left the possession of the Lee Family. Today, the house is a testament to 19th century and early 20th century history.

A brick path surrounds the garden.

It was calming and peaceful to be there. I kept thinking of Miss Bingley telling Lizzie Bennet, “Let us take a turn about the room.” I also thought of Lizzie and how enamored she was of the gardens at Pemberley.

The back view of the house.

It was nice to “take a turn” about the garden and to enjoy everything without feeling rushed.

There were benches throughout the garden. Next time, I’m returning with a book.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #62

Hello! I hope you’re doing well under the circumstances. Here are a few reading links that caught my fancy.

Inside the Culture of Racism at Bon Appétit.

Muriel Bowser and Black women are going after Trump. And they’re winning. And may they keep on winning!

If this doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what will: A teen who spent ten hours cleaning up after a protest in Buffalo is rewarded with a car and a college scholarship.

A Brief Feminist History of Bike-Riding.

Parents must teach their children to oppose racism.

And last, but never ever least: Black Lives Matter.

Be well and stay safe! xoxo, Jane

Hello.

The social injustice in our country (and actually in the whole world) is making my heart heavy with sorrow. I feel helpless. I vote in every election and I hope you do too. I have also donated to Black Lives Matter and to the Equal Justice Initiative. I will continue to make donations to them and to other causes that work on ending white supremacy in the United States.

As you can image, I am not in the mood to blog about books and such. It seems trivial compared to what is happening right now. I’m going to continue working on my own book while the blog stays quiet for just a little while longer. Thank you for bearing with me.

I leave you with this poem by German pastor, Martin Niemöller, who survived the Nazis. Unfortunately, this poem is as timely as ever.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #61

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BLACK LIVES MATTER

As you can image, things are awful. I’m upset, horrified and angered that people in the United States of America continue to be murdered every day (yes, every day) because of systematic racism and police brutality.

If you want to join me in putting a stop to systematic racism and police brutality, please visit the links below and make a donation. If you are not able to make a donation, keep reading. There are other ways you can fight this fight.

Black Lives Matter

Reclaim the Block

Equal Justice Initiative

NAACP Empowerment Program

Also, Rolling Stone has a longer list of where you can donate.

Other ways you can help:

  • Download the ACLU app. If you record police brutality, it will go directly to the ACLU. Even if your phone is confiscated.
  • Support Black-owned independent businesses. Research businesses in your area to find them.
  • Speak up.
  • Vote.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

 

 

 

Small Moments of Happiness: May 2020

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With a pandemic firmly settled in our lives and not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, I tried to make the most of May, one of my favorite months of the year. However, I must admit that I feel silly writing about happiness when the world is on fire so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

May was about fresh air and springtime walks, enjoying flowers at home and spying them in gardens on my walks. I even bought my first bouquet of peonies to bring home and they’ve bloomed beautifully. I enjoyed the quieter pace of life while working from home. I hope it’s been a peaceful, healthy month for you too.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #60

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Hello, there. How are you?

Today’s readings links are brought to you by yours truly.

This was an interesting read about how boredom can spark creativity. I do love being bored and having a lot of downtime. Though it hasn’t resulted in a masterpiece yet. Here’s hoping.

Just when I was telling you that I’m not going to buy any more of the Penguin Clothbound Classics, look what I found: this Sanditon edition. Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering it and it’s on the way. Yippee!

Photo Essay: Bookstores Are Opening, Cautiously, Across the Country.

20 Must-Read Free Classics You Can Find on Project Gutenberg.

In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote about my thoughts on Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.

This is so cool. Roman mosaic floor found underneath vines in northern Italy. I can’t believe how beautiful (and new) the recently discovered Roman mosaics look.

Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

 

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade

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Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between The Wars tells the story of five important women during a time when they lived on the same street in Bloomsbury, London. They didn’t necessarily know each other, nor did they all live on Mecklenburgh Square during the same time. However, their lives, struggles and the street they lived on bind them together. This is the foundation that Francesca Wade builds on in her debut book about Hilda Doolitle (H.D.), Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf.

It took me almost two months to finish Square Haunting. Partly because it’s dense, academic reading and partly because I wanted to savor it. I loved reading this book and I learned so much, such as that H.D. was an American. How could I have not known that?

Francesca Wade took years to research and write this book. Her scholarly work shows through in the five sections devoted to the lives and scholarly pursuits of each woman.

“I like this London life in early summer – the street sauntering & square haunting.” Virginia Woolf, diary entry April 20, 1925

All five women were born during the Victorian era. An era when women had few options and weren’t allowed to think for themselves. The way the men in their lives treated them left me drained. All five of these ladies had to unlearn the social norms of Victorian society so they could flourish in their professions.

Even within the home, women were deterred from living a life of their choosing. To borrow Virginia Woolf’s famous words, a woman did not have a room of her own. For example, Francesca Wade highlights the difference between the study and the drawing room. A study was for a man. A woman was not allowed in the study, at least not without the man’s permission. The drawing room is a room reserved for the woman, but it is not her private room. Anyone can enter at any time, especially visitors. This resonated deeply with me; long after I finished reading the last page I am still thinking about the difference between these two rooms.

“The drawing room, Harrison wrote, was designated the wife’s territory, yet remained a public space, as ‘the room into which “visitors are shown” – a room in which you can’t possibly settle down to think, because anyone may come in at any moment.’ The husband’s study, by contrast, was ‘a place inviolate, guarded by immemorial taboos’, where the man of the house ‘thinks, and learns, and knows’; there were, Harrison noted, ‘rarely two chairs’ in the room.”

If you know even a little about Virginia Woolf, then you know how her life ends and Square Haunting does not gloss over it. World War II brought a great depression over her spirit. With airplane bombers flying over her house, and the bombings of London and the English countryside, it appeared to Woolf that there was no end in sight. After writing farewell notes for her husband and her sister, she walked into a river and drowned herself. Do you know what I wish? I wish I could invent a Time Machine and travel back in time to tell Woolf to hang on for just a few more years. That Churchill, and the Allies, would bring the war to a victorious end. I wish I could have told Woolf that not only would we win the war, but that future generations would come to admire, study and seek inspiration from the stand that Britain would make against Nazi Germany.

The current global pandemic is probably the worst event my generation has experienced. I must remind myself that for pre-Baby Boomers, life was generally awful: famine, the flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, the two World Wars… I could go on. Yet, these five ladies perservered through hardships and fought to make a living from their desired professions.

The women that dominate the pages of Square Haunting left me feeling inspired to continue working on my book and writing projects.

I’m glad I spent two months with these ladies. I thought about them as I went about my day. I thought about Sayers writing her detective fiction as I plotted my own fiction. I thought about Woolf worrying about the war as I pondered about our own economic and political troubles. And when I finished the book, even though I had tears streaming down my face, I felt a relief wash over me. Relieved that I honored them by reading about their lives and keeping their memories alive, but I also felt sad turning the last page because I was saying goodbye to my five ladies (as I privately began to call them).

Have you read Square Haunting or any of the published works of these five women?

xoxo, Jane

 

 

April, May & June 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

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Hello, there. How are you? I hope you had a great weekend! If today is a holiday for you, then I hope it’s a day filled with relaxation, books and some barbecue.

Here is what I’ve been reading since April, but I’m still reading and part two is coming in late June.

Cowboy’s Reckoning by B.J. Daniels is a romance novella set in Montana. The heroine, Billie Dee Rhodes, flees her mysterious past in Texas to a small town in Montana, where she finds a job as a cook. When her past catches up with her, retired rancher Henry Larson helps her to safety. Of course they fall in love. I find the idea of cooking for a bunch of people stressful and not fun, but otherwise this was a lovely romantic story, short and sweet.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman is a children’s poetry book about nocturnal creatures. It’s a fun way for children to learn about nature. But it’s also a fun diversion for us grown-ups too.

I listened to Emily Dickinson: Poems and Letters. The audiobook is a collection of letters, 75 poems and biographical sketches. The last time I read poetry by Emily Dickinson was in high school.

I learned two things from listening to her poetry:

1. I enjoy listening to poems much more than reading them.

2. I wish I’d known more about Emily’s biography in high school. It would have made me understand and appreciate her work so much better. The biography tidbits sprinkled throughout the audiobook helped me see her in a clearer light.

To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham is the sequel in her Forbidden Vikings series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I liked being immersed in the world the story is set in. I barely know anything about the Viking era and this was a great way to jump in because I love a good romance. Like the first novel in the series, my favorite part of listening to this book was the narrator.

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Emma by Jane Austen is an interesting read for me. I love the storyline, but I sure didn’t love the heroine, Emma. However, the reader not liking Emma was Jane Austen’s intention. So, Jane Austen wins here. I briefly wrote about Emma in an earlier post.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is a must-read if you are a Harry Potter fan. I’m only sorry it took me years to get to it. I wrote about the book in a previous post.

Inside Jobs by Ben H. Winters is a collection of short stories set during the current pandemic. “Planning a heist while working from home has its challenges.” I wrote about these stories in an earlier post. I don’t know how the author was able to write a collection of timely stories with fully fleshed out characters during a relatively short amount of time. #Talent. They were brilliantly done. Zoom calls are included (which was hilarious). If you are an Audible member, this story collection is free during the month of May. I highly recommend it if you like crime tales.

This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart is a romantic suspense novel, but it just didn’t jive with me. Normally I enjoy reading Mary Stewart. I was looking forward to this book because it’s set in beautiful Greece. But the story has more suspense than romance. I found myself not caring much about the murder or finding out who did it. I would have preferred if the romance aspect of the story was at least 30% of the book, but it was more like two percent. It might have just been the wrong time for me to read this novel since I am more of a moody reader. I have another one of her novels, Rose Cottage, sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ll save it for summertime reading.

What have you been reading lately?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #59 (Cold War Edition)

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I don’t have any appropriate pictures for this post, so let’s just pretend this trail from my walk is a dead drop.

I’m working on a series of novels (Book 1 is in the editing phase, Book 2 needs to be rewritten and Books 3, 4 and 5 are in the draft outline phase) set during the Cold War. So, I thought I would make today’s reading links all about the Cold War.

What I Learned From Women Who Were Prisoners of the Gulag.

The Long History of the Red Scare as an American Political Tactic, an interview with Kathryn Olmstead, professor of history at the University of California, Davis.

Capitalism’s Baby Mania.

Nazi who arrested Anne Frank became a spy for West Germany.

Activist or spy? The curious case of a Cold War nuclear scientist.

Four Books about the Cold War.

My life under surveillance after I married a KGB agent.

Not about the Cold War, but set during the Reagan administration: Dee Snider on PMRC Hearing: I Was a Public Enemy. Dee Snider of the band Twisted Sister talks about his senate hearing. It’s a fascinating read because he is being brutally honest and doesn’t mind calling people on their hypocrisy. I had no idea that this was even an issue in the 1980s. Sometimes I wonder if politicians create drama and waste taxpayer money because they have too much time on their hands. (Sounds like Dee would agree with me.)

Let me know what you think of the articles.

xoxo, Jane

Book Haul Update

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I bought more books to add to my Penguin Clothbound Classics collection. This should be the last ones I buy because I now own the full-length Jane Austen novels in this collection. My goal wasn’t to own the entire Jane Austen set, but the pandemic forced me to do a little bit of retail therapy to support my small, independent bookshop.

I bought Northanger Abbey from the collection which I’ve read before and enjoyed the movie adaptation. I also bought Mansfield Park, which I haven’t read and is up next. I am a little bit weary of this novel because it’s about cousin love (the hero and heroine are first cousins !!). I’m hoping I can enjoy the book regardless. We’ll see.

Oh, and can you spot my new book-inspired vase?

In other news, I’m currently listening to the Catch and Kill podcast by Ronan Farrow. If you don’t know what it’s about, it’s the podcast where Ronan Farrow and his guests (journalists, victims, private investigators, etc.) talk about the Harvey Weinstein investigation process and everything they endured because of it. If I didn’t already hate predators as much as I do, I would hate them even more now. I’ll probably read Ronan Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, afterwards. If I don’t explode from anger first. Have you read it?

xoxo, Jane

My reading life during the pandemic

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Enjoying a cup of tea while reading Square Haunting.

I no longer have a reading routine. It’s become quite erratic. I used to be able to sit down and devour a book in days. Now, almost nothing can hold my attention. I flitter from book to book, leaving unread novels collecting dust on the coffee table. With few exceptions, I don’t actually like not finishing books so I promised myself I’ll get back to these unfinished books someday soon.

Currently, I’m dividing my sporadic attention between two books: Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic and Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.

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On the upside, the pandemic is forcing me to enjoy slow living.

Mary Stewart writes an excellent romantic suspense novel. She has the ability to transport the reader to the actual crime scene, almost as if we are embodying the heroine. This Rough Magic is set in Greece, where the heroine, Lucy, discovers a dead body on the beach. Normally, I’d feel invested in solving the crime, but I just want to finish the book to see who did it. What has happened to me? Also, I can’t tell who the male hero is supposed to be. There are several male characters in this book and all of them seem hero-ish to me. My only complaint with Mary Stewart books is that it takes her a long time to get to the romance portion of the plot. I suppose my complaint is not legitimate because she is the queen of romantic suspense so the romance aspect of the book will be secondary.

Square Haunting is set between the two world wars and focuses on five women (Hilda Doolittle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf) living and working in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. While it’s fascinating, and I look forward to reading a page or two every day, it’s taking me a long time to get through it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s very academic and at times dense or because of the uncertain times we live in. Maybe a little of both. It’s a fascinating read about these five inspiring women because it gives me an intimate glimpse into their lives and now I feel invested in them. I plan to write my thoughts in a future blog post when I finish the book.

I hope we will all see a light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, I hope you can get lost in, and concentrate on, good books.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #58

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Today’s reading links are brought to you by Mother Nature. Enjoy! Have a great day!!

The debate: how many books should you have on the go at once?

This was really fun. Highly recommended to take the quiz. This Soothing Quiz Will Tell You What Feel-Good Book To Read.

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Our new lockdown game: judging famous people by their bookshelves.

Ok, I loved this! I own the same books as a duchess. Footnotes: The Duchess of Cambridge’s viral bookshelf.

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This article is old but it still applies, especially now. The Guardian view on the joy of books: time for guiltless pleasures.

And in case you missed it, pairing books with tea (Emma).

xoxo, Jane