Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A last visit to Lafferton (for now)

The Shadows in the Street, Susan Hill

Over the past few months I have been slowly reading my way through Susan Hill's mysteries set in the English cathedral town of Lafferton, and I have finally come to the fifth and last (so far).  Hill has announced on her website the publication of the next book in November, and I have already pre-ordered my signed copy.

The mystery in this book again revolves around a serial killer.  For a small cathedral town, Lafferton has more than its share of serial killers, and I was thinking that they are rare in older mysteries, which usually have one main murder, and then sometimes the killer strikes again to silence a witness or avert suspicion.  In Strong Poison, when Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey are theorizing about murders, Harriet says, "She's a person with a monomania - no, no - not a homicidal one. That's dull, and not really fair to the reader." Serial killers seem to be a more modern phenomenon.

The killer in this book is targeting prostitutes.  Lafferton has a growing problem with prostitution, including the trafficking of young girls from Eastern Europe.  This is of course a very real problem in America as well as England, which Hill explores through several characters.  The most compelling is Abi Righton, a single mother of two who wants to escape the streets. She appears early in the story and becomes the focus of much of it.

As in previous books, much of the story also focuses on Simon's sister Cat, actually my favorite character.  Cat is now a single mother herself, struggling with her medical practice and her three children.  In addition, Cat is caught up in conflict over the Cathedral parish, where a new Dean and his wife are making sweeping and unpopular changes.  Ruth Webber, the Mrs Dean, is so abrasive that she has won the nickname "Mrs Proudie," and the tensions definitely invoke Anthony Trollope and Barchester.  But the conflict, between evangelical and more traditional Anglicans, reflects a very real situation in the Church of England today.  Cat is firmly on the side of tradition, ritual, liturgical music - and I would guess from this book alone that Susan Hill is as well.

Hill ended the last book (The Vows of Silence) on a bit of a cliff-hanger.  Simon, taking the initiative, followed an impulse to seek out someone from his past, a woman he had pursued who had rejected him, to see if she was now open to a relationship.  I expected to find out fairly quickly in this book what happened next, but Simon is absent from Lafferton for much of the first part of the book.  We learn the resolution of the cliff-hanger from a postcard Cat receives, which I found a definite anti-climax.  Yet as with the first book, the rich cast of characters made up for that, and for the absence of Simon himself.  I think I'd actually miss Cat much more than Simon at this point.

Monday, June 27, 2011

April in the garden

The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim

How have I never read Elizabeth von Arnim before now?  I knew The Enchanted April from the 1992 film starring Michael Kitchen - well, he wasn't the star, but he was the reason I watched it.  And yet, despite the well-known Purist Principle that The Book Is Always Better, I never got around to reading it until now.

I feel that I'm probably the last person in the reading world who hasn't read this, so discussing the plot would be superfluous.  For me, the heart of the story is the transformation of the four women who come together to stay at the "small mediaeval castle on the shores of the Mediterranean" for the month of April.  I think it is Mrs. Wilkins, the first character that we meet, who undergoes the greatest change.  We meet her as a Cinderella, slaving away not for evil stepsisters but for a domineering, demanding husband who has worn her down to a grey shadow.  We don't even learn her name, Lotty, until she arrives in Italy.  Yet it is she who approaches Rose Arbuthnot, a stranger to her, and suggests they rent the small castle.  From that moment on, she seems to reclaim herself, to rediscover love, and to spark the transformation not only of Rose but also of the two other residents.  Mrs Fisher, with her tales of "Eminent Victorians I Have Known," is a comic terror, and the battles she wages over precedence and the best rooms in the castle reminded me of Mapp and Lucia.  The fourth resident, Lady Caroline Dester, just wants time alone, away from the greedy attentions of those she terms "grabbers," those who in their affection or attraction want to leech on to her; time to think, to discern.

Lady Caroline's epiphany comes very late in the book, and it isn't the most convincing, but then this is a fairy tale, and closing the book I can well believe that everyone lived happily ever after.

Note: I should have mentioned that it was Kristin's reivew over at Bookmarks and Teacups that inspired me to get this from the library.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Murder in the garden

Black Ship, Carola Dunn

I have enjoyed Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple series, set in 1920s England, but I haven't read any since 2009's The Bloody Tower, which I didn't enjoy as much as the earlier books.  I realized that there are now three new books in the series that I haven't read, and I thought it was time to check in again with Daisy.

Black Ship is a fun, fast read.  It centers on a house that Daisy's husband Alec Fletcher inherits in Hampstead (I had to get out my London map to check where Hampstead is).  Actually, Alec inherits a ring of houses around a communal garden.  Among the neighbors are the Jessup family, whose father and sons are in the wine and spirits trade, and possibly doing business with American customers looking to evade Prohibition's restrictions.  There are sections of "sea interludes" scattered through the early chapters, featuring a young man named Patrick, traveling with rum runners along the U.S. coast.  It isn't difficult to figure out his connection with the Jessups.  After his return to London, a body is found the circle's communal garden, and finding his connection, and the motive for his murder, proves more difficult.

Though the body is discovered literally outside Alec's front door, he is still put in charge of the investigation.  He naturally brings in his team, including DS Tring and DC Piper.  Also naturally, Daisy becomes involved in the investigation, in part because of her friendship with the Jessup women.  As usual, Daisy discovers evidence that she then debates sharing with Alec, based on her own idiosyncratic ideas of justice and fairness, as well as her sympathy for some of the suspects.  Alec's superiors at Scotland Yard are understandably jaundiced about Daisy's constant involvement in his cases ("it must have been a shock for her, finding yet another body").  If they knew that she not only sits in on interviews and team meetings, but also withholds evidence from Alec, they would like have apoplexy.  I just willingly suspend my disbelief and happily read on.

In addition to brewing endless cups of tea, Daisy's cook Mrs Dobson also bakes them flapjacks.  I was only familiar with American flapjacks, but with a quick google search I discovered these are a kind of biscuit.  I also found a recipe similar to Mrs Dobson's, so I can make some for afternoon tea.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The road to Lichfield

The Road to Lichfield, Penelope Lively

I have loved Penelope Lively's books ever since I first read City of the Mind, more than 20 years ago now.  It is still my favorite book about London.  Over the years I've managed to collect most of her other novels, as well as her two autobiographical works, but The Road to Lichfield lingered on the TBR pile.

I would never have guessed that this was her first published novel.  It is written with the confidence and balance of her later books, though it is lighter than some like The Photograph.  I generally find Lively a grave writer, not sombre, with touches of humor and lightness but not comedy.  I also find in her sometimes a distance, a detachment from her characters, which reminds me of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, both friends of hers I believe.  Like them she is also very interested in the psychology of her characters, and she is an astute observer.

The Road to Lichfield opens with Anne Linton driving from her home in Cuxing, Berkshire, to Lichfield in Staffordshire, where her father has placed himself in a nursing home.  On her arrival, she is startled by his decline, and the realization that he will not recover.  She meets a neighbor, a fishing companion of her father's named David Fielding, to whom she is immediately drawn.  In the process of sorting out her father's things, she learns a secret about her father, one her brother Graham has known but never shared.  Anne returns home to her husband and two children, and to a neighbor who involves her in a campaign to save a 15th-century cottage, threatened with demolition.  For much of the book, Anne divides her time between Cuxing and Lichfield, though in Lichfield she is taken up more with David Fielding than with her father.

One of Lively's great strengths, to my mind, is her characters.  She has the gift of creating people, complex, flawed, fully human, about whom we come to care (and in some cases, like Anne's husband Don, to dislike).  She manages shifting points of view that reveal facts, emotions, personalities, to the reader, which may be hidden from other characters. For much of the book Anne's father James is silent, lost in delusions or dreams, but Lively gives us his thoughts, his perceptions, in beautifully-written sections, keeping him very much part of the story.

In almost all of Lively's books one of the characters is working in history, as a teacher, a researcher, a writer, reflecting her own background. In this book, Anne teaches history at a local high school, though she loses her job when a new headmaster decides that history, especially narrative history, is irrelevant to teenagers.  This allows Lively to explore, through the different characters, idea that frequently come up in her books: the role of history, why is it important, how we learn and teach history, how humanity has shaped and been shaped by the land.  The preservation campaign brings another angle to this exploration, with debates over what is worth preserving.

There are elements of detective fiction in some of Lively's books, like The Photograph, which revolves around a man's investigation of a photo showing his now-deceased wife with another man. Generally, though, her books are not action- or plot-driven.  In The Road to Lichfield, however, there is a loose end left hanging nearly til the end, when it suddenly becomes a trip wire, one that caught me completely by surprise.  Just as Anne's discovery of the family secret means that she sees her parents and their family life through different eyes, so this little bombshell changes much of what has gone on before.  It completely changes the ending of the story, and leaves me unsure what will happen next to these people.  As so often with characters to whom I have become attached, I wish there were a sequel.

Penelope Lively has a new book coming out in the fall, and I can't wait to see what she gives us next.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Three American sisters in Regency England (and one who stayed home)

Sisters of Fortune, Jehanne Wake

I came across this in the "new books" bins at my local public library, though it was published last year.  The cover, with a beautiful Regency portrait and three miniatures, caught my eye, as did the subtitle, "America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad."  From the dust jacket copy I learned that the sisters of the title were the granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first Roman Catholic elected to Congress.  This one book combines three of my interests: women's history, the English Regency, and American Catholic history.

Jehanne Wake was researching women of means in the 19th century, and their interest and involvement in finance and the stock market, when she came across the Caton sisters of Maryland.  From their grandfather, one of the richest men in early America, they received personal fortunes, both in cash and in land and slaves, in addition to what they would inherit from his estate.  They were all actively involved in managing their own finances, and all invested in banks and stocks.  One sister, Bess, played the market as if she had been born in 1970 rather than 1790.

Though, as Wake discovered, many more women than anyone knew were involved in the market, the scope of the sisters' activities, and the financial resources they commanded, would have set them apart.  But they were also among the first American women to travel to England in the early years of the 19th century, long before the "Dollar Princesses" like Consuelo Vanderbilt, and they took Regency London by storm.  Three of the sisters arrived in London in 1816, with all-important letters of introduction to the Wellesley family, and the interest that its most famous member, the Duke of Wellington, took in them guaranteed their social success. One sister became a marchioness, another a baroness, and the third a duchess, and this in spite of prejudices against them both as Americans and as Catholics, including hostility from the families they married into.  The youngest sister, the only one to have children, stayed in America, raising a family and managing the Carroll family's interests.  In another important point of difference, all four sisters retained control of their own fortunes as married women.  This gave them a freedom that most women lost at marriage.

This book makes fascinating reading, as it moves from colonial Maryland to the early days of the new American government, and then to Regency England and France.  In later chapters, the story moves back and forth between the U.S. and England, tracking the different lives of the sisters.  I was reminded of so much history, both American and English, that I have managed to forget since college.  I also learned much that I never knew, especially about the Wellesley family and about Catholicism in the United Kingdom.

One of the jacket blurbs says that the book "sounds like plot of an Edwardian novel..."  It reminded me again of The Shuttle, especially with one husband who seemed like a real-life Sir Nigel.  But the Caton sisters were all Bettinas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A May family (but not mine)

The Daisy Chain, Charlotte M. Yonge

I first learned about Charlotte M. Yonge from the diaries of George Templeton Strong in the 1860s.  In one entry, he wrote of 
"that admirable Miss Charlotte Yonge . . . She can hardly touch any type of character not absolutely reprobate from the decorous Anglican proprieties which her books shew to be her atmosphere, without making it beautiful. I am ashamed of being so much gratified by this little kind voice from sordid old England."  (October 6, 1864)
I've been interested in Victorian women writers since discovering Margaret Oliphant and realizing how little I know about about 19th century women writing after Jane Austen.  When I looked on-line to see which of Yonge's books were available, I was surprised to see how many she had written, most of which are long out of print.  I found a used copy of The Daisy Chain, a title I at least recognized, but by the time it arrived it went straight to the TBR pile.

I picked it up again over the weekend and read it straight through.  When I finished it late last night, I had very mixed feelings about it.  Published in 1856, it is the story of the May family, living in the town of Market Stoneborough in Gloucestershire.  In the first chapter we are introduced to Dr. Richard May and his wife Margaret, and ten of their eleven children.  Mrs. May has recently given birth to the eleventh child and sixth daughter.  Only the oldest son, Richard, is absent, having failed an exam at Oxford that he is preparing to re-take.  On the same day that the story opens, tragedy strikes in the form of a carriage accident, which kills Mrs. May and leaves the oldest daughter, Margaret, with spinal injuries.

The first part of the book relates how the family deals with the devastating loss of their mother and copes with Margaret's care.  The story focuses on Richard and Margaret, as well as Flora, the second daughter, who takes over her sister's care; Norman, the second son, a brilliant student overset by the tragedy; and Ethel, the third daughter, who is plain, bookish, clumsy, impulsive but deeply loving and loyal.  Ethel is a very attractive character, despite her faults, which she struggles valiantly to overcome.  She reminded me of Jo March in Little Women, as the writing style in general reminded me of Louisa May Alcott.  Like Alcott and Anthony Trollope, Yonge makes her characters real people.  In fact, Alcott must have read Yonge, since Jo is crying over The Heir of Redclyffe when Meg brings the invitation to Mrs. Gardiner's dance. (Thanks to an improper review, I already know why Jo was crying, but I plan to read The Heir anyway.)  The bereaved father, Dr. May, also plays a major role, and he is a fascinating character.  Impulsive like his daughter Ethel, and equally warm-hearted, he had left the daily care and guidance of his growing family to his wife, while still of course maintaining his patriarchal authority.  Suddenly he has the charge of eleven children, ranging in age from six weeks to twenty-one years.  He makes many mistakes along the way, often acting hastily and out of temper, but he is always ready to admit his faults, and his children are confident in his love for them.

Again like Little Women, the second half of the book opens after several years have passed.  Margaret, who recovered enough to be able to walk almost unaided, has faded into an invalid.  Ethel, caring for her father and the children, devotes her extra time to her pet project, a school and church for a nearby village, Cocksmoor, which is a poverty-stricken waste. Others in the family have moved away from home, and their stories become much more eventful, and it's these stories that I found problematical (if anyone reading this is  worried about spoilers, you might want to skip the rest of the paragraph).  Against her father's wishes, Flora marries a dull but wealthy neighbor, pushes him into politics, and becomes a notable hostess.  She seems to be punished with the death of her first child and a complete breakdown, both mental and physical.  Norman, after a brilliant career at Oxford, suddenly decides he is called to be a missionary in New Zealand (which introduces an unfortunate note of racism in the discussion of the natives).  Silently in love for years with a neighboring heiress, he suddenly suggests that she join him in this work, in one of the most unconvincing proposals I have ever read.  And I was unreasonably aggravated by Margaret's fading away.  I know that medicine was not well advanced in the 1850s, but it seemed to me that something could have been done, or at least tried.  I kept thinking of Clara Sesemann in Heidi, and wondering what a course of mountain air and fresh goat's milk would do for her, but instead the family seems resigned to watching her die.

I will re-read the first part of this book with pleasure, especially in Ethel.  It will be interesting, if I do re-read the second part, to see if I feel as strongly about it.  I suppose I should remember it's just a story.

Just a final note that the book I have is a 1902 reprint.  Like my copy of The Shuttle, it has an inscription: "Norah Winifred Ryan with love from Mother  Oct 4 1905."  I hope Norah treasured it as a gift from her mother.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The small bachelor and the tall policeman

The Small Bachelor, P.G. Wodehouse

After such an intense read as The Fiery Trial, I needed something completely different, and I pulled The Small Bachelor off the TBR pile almost at random.  It was an inspired choice, since this is one of the funniest Wodehouse books that I've read in a long time.

As I've mentioned before, for many years I thought of P.G. Wodehouse only in terms of Jeeves and stories set in England.  The Small Bachelor is a stand-alone, set in New York City.  PGW wrote in the Introduction that he took the plot from a show he did with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, called Oh Lady!  The book was originally published in 1926, and I am finding that the books of the 1920s and the early 1930s have a comic energy and a fizz that are missing in some of the later books.  This book had me laughing out loud in almost every chapter.

The story revolves around George Finch, originally from East Gilead, Idaho, who thanks to an early inheritance has come to New York, to Greenwich Village, to be an artist. A rotten painter, he is the small bachelor of the title, who has fallen in love - from afar - with Molly Waddington. Abetting and obstructing the course of true love is a typical Wodehousian cast, including George's friend J. Hamilton Beamish, author of the famous Beamish Booklets ("Read Them and Make the World Your Oyster"); George's servant, a reformed burglar named Mullett;  a tall policeman named Garroway, whom Beamish is teaching to write poetry; Molly's father, Sisgbee H. Waddington, whose dreams of life on the open prairie are nourished by a secret stash of Zane Grey novels; his wife and Molly's stepmother, a shrewish and ambitious woman; and a medium named Madame Eulalie.

The edition I have was printed in the 1970s, and it has a most unfortunate cover.  The women that presumably represents Molly looks like an Edward Gorey figure, with a tiny face enveloped in a huge black hooded coat.  But worse than that is her long orange skirt, printed with figures of half-peeled bananas.  Really, what art director, even in the 1970s, approved that?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

The Fiery Trial, Eric Foner

I had almost finished reading The Fiery Trial when I learned it has won the Pulitzer Prize, and I thought, how right. I was not in the least surprised that it won as history, not as biography, despite the subtitle, "Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery." 

Eric Foner clearly states his thesis at the start of the book:
"My intent is to return Lincoln to his historical setting, tracing the evolution of his ideas in the context of the broad antislavery impulse and the unprecedented crisis the United States confronted during his adult life . . .  My aim then is to take Lincoln whole, incorporating his strengths and shortcomings, his insights and misjudgments. I want to show Lincoln in motion, tracking the development of his ideas and beliefs, his political abilities and strategies, as they engaged the issues of slavery and emancipation, the most critical in our nation's history"  (pp xxvii, xxi). 
This, then, would be no hagiography of Lincoln, not just the story of the Great Emancipator.

Reading this book made me realize that I have fallen a bit into hagiography myself (I do have a statue of Lincoln in my home, as well as a picture of him on display, above the shelves of Lincoln books).  It was a salutary shock to be reminded that while Lincoln spoke against slavery from the earliest days of his polical career, he promoted the removal of freed slaves to Africa or Central America (colonization) from those same early days, continuing to do so until well into the Civil War; he did not advocate social or full political equality for African Americans until almost the end of his life; he used racist language and humor; and he once represented a slaveowner trying to force a mother and her four children back into slavery.  Lincoln personally knew very few African Americans before he became president, so his knowledge of African Americans and of slavery was abstract.  It was only as president that he came in contact with people like Frederick Douglass, Martin Delaney, and Elizabeth Keckley, and then his views began to change.

One of the keys to Lincoln's greatness is that he could change, change his mind, his position, his policies.  Foner charts these changes, from the 1830s on, as the slavery issue came to dominate American politics, and as many Americans, including Lincoln, moved from a dislike of abolitionists as social and political nuisances to share their convinction of the wrongs of slavery.  Though Lincoln believed that the Constitution protected slavery where it existed, like most Republicans he came to believe it could and must be kept from spreading into the territories. "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men" became their rallying cry (and the title of Foner's influential first book).  When the war broke out, Lincoln believed that he had to placate loyalists in the upper south and the border states, so he resisted the calls of more Radical Republicans for action against slavery, until the necessities of war led him to the Emancipation Proclamation. He believed that African Americans could never find a home in America, until the bravery and patriotism of black soldiers convinced him otherwise.

I learned so much from this book, not just about Lincoln, but about the abolition and anti-slavery movements, about the rise of the Republican Party and the Radical wing of it.  For much of the past week I was absorbed in 19th century America, and it was disorienting at times to return to 2011.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A well-woven tale

The Shuttle, Frances Hodgson Burnett

I was so intrigued by a review of this book over on Shelf Love that I went straight to ABE to look for a copy.  I was lucky enough to find a 1907 hardback, for less than $10.  And as a bonus, it has an inscription: "Mother from Owens  Xmas '07,"  which made me wonder not just about Mother and Owens, but also the other hands through which this book has passed since 1907, before ending up in Houston.  I love finding an inscription, especially for a gift (though I loathe underlining and margin notes).

Jenny at Shelf Love described this book as "plotty," which is an understatement.  The plot involves two sisters, Rosalie and Bettina Vanderpoel, daughters of an Upper Ten Thousand family in New York that seems to be modeled on the Astors.  Rosie, the elder, marries an English baronet, Sir Nigel Anstruthers, who put up a good front before the wedding but turns out to be impoverished, a libertine, and an abusive husband.  Betty, only eight at the time of the marriage, dislikes Sir Nigel intensely and makes her feelings plain.  (In one loose plot element, Sir Nigel also has a sister, Emily, who is mentioned once but is never referred to again.)  Sir Nigel takes Rosie home to England and his equally unpleasant mother, and her family loses almost all contact with her.  Twelve years pass, and Betty decides to go to England to see Rosie.  What she discovers there, and what she does about it, make up the bulk of the story. 

I was sorry that the hateful Dowager Lady Anstruthers had died some years before Betty's arrival, because I was looking forward to seeing her get her comeuppance.  But Betty has her hands full with Rosie and Sir Nigel, their son Ughtred, various villagers, county neighbors including the mysterious Lord Mount Dunstan, and a delightful American on a bicycle tour.

I have to say that "Ughtred" may be the most unfortunate character name I have yet come across.  I can't figure out if it's meant to be Celtic or Olde Englishe, but it's awful.

In addition to being plotty, this book is wordy.  I don't remember this from others of Burnett's books, but her phrasing is convoluted and her sentences are long. I frequently found myself lost in the verbiage, which made for slow reading.

Betty Vanderpoel is a consciously literary tourist in England, as I tend to be myself: "It was the England of Constable and Morland, of Miss Mitford and Miss Austen, the Brontes and George Eliot...The village street might be Miss Mitford's, the well-to-do house Jane Austen's own fancy, in its warm brick and comfortable decorum."  The frequent discussions of American and English characteristics and habits reminded me of both Isabella Bird's and Anthony Trollope's 19th century American travelogues.  I was also reminded of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan's account of her marriage to The Duke of Marlborough, The Glitter and the Gold, as well as one of my favorite O.Henry stories, "The Marquis and Miss Sally."

I was left with one question: what about Mr. Ffolliott?  I can imagine a whole scenario leading to a satisfactory ending, but someone will have to take the first step.  It will probably have to be Betty, now that I think about it. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A European sojurn, 1936-1939

The Flower and The Nettle, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I didn't want to read this book.  I wanted to read the books I had waiting at the library, as I mentioned yesterday. But after finishing North to the Orient, I was drawn to this fourth volume of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's letters and diaries.  One reason for reading it now is that it covers the pre-war years in England, overlapping with Vera Brittain's Testament of Experience.

This book opens with the Lindberghs' arrival in England in January of 1936.  They had fled America, in part because of the relentless publicity that dogged them, and in part in reaction to the kidnapping and murder of their first child.  With their second son, Jon, they found a home first in the Weald of Kent, in an ancient house rented from Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West.  In 1938 the family, now including son Land, moved to a tiny island off the coast of Brittany, where they lived in a house with no running water.  In the spring of 1939, realizing that war was immanent, first Charles and then Anne and the children returned to the United States.

This book was not what I expected, yet I found myself lost in it.  The first section, in England, is very much focused on domestic details.  Though the Lindberghs became friends with Lady Astor and were drawn into the "Cliveden set," they spent much of their time at home in Kent.  The book does chronicle three trips to Germany, and one to Russia, taken at the request of American officials anxious for contacts and information, especially about the German air forces.  These trips became very controversial later, leading to accusations that the Lindberghs were Nazi sympathizers.  AML took great care in editing her letters and journals to emphasize the official nature of the trips, and their concerns (expressed at the time even to Nazi officials) about the treatment of the Jews under the Nazis.  Her writings also trace the growing tension over German aggression, from the reoccupation of the Rhineland to the occupation of the Sudetenland to the Munich Crisis.

The second part of the book, covering the move to France, reminded me a bit of a Breton version of A Year in Provence.  I kept marveling at AML's patience and persistence in just the daily struggle to keep house under such primitive conditions.  The island, part of chain exposed at low tides, is so small that I have been unable to find it on a map!  I wondered how much of the move was her choice, and how much a deferral to Charles.  She joined him on the trips to Germany and Russia, even when she felt great guilt over leaving her children for such long periods, in part because she felt her presence was necessary as a support and a sounding board.  In her diaries and letters, AML analyzed marriage, her own and others', as well as theoretical ones, and the roles and work of women.

Among the highlights for me: AML and her mother attending a showing of Snow White, which they both detested; the description of a ball at Buckingham Palace; AML seated next to Gaston Palewski at an Embassy dinner in Paris - Nancy Mitford's Colonel!  and a second Mitford contact, in meeting the Devonshires at another dinner (Deborah Devonshire's in-laws).

How often I seem to say this - but I like the Anne Morrow Lindbergh of her letters and journals.  And I've moved the final volume, covering 1939-1944, up the TBR pile.