Quick Lit // July 2015

This has been a month of change for our family; we moved temporarily to a small town in southern Ontario so my husband can complete a practicum as part of his Masters degree. And the last two weeks have been even more tumultuous, as we wait (rather impatiently) for the arrival of our third child who is currently eleven days overdue. With all the ups and downs, I haven’t read too much; nevertheless, here’s another Quick Lit post with some brief reviews. Enjoy!

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garden spells Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allan ★★☆☆☆ – I chose this book from the library because it was included in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. It was a disappointment. Maybe my expectations for this book were unrealistic after having read marvellous works like The Mill on the Floss, but I found the characters lacked depth beyond some pop psychology (my mom left me, therefore I fear everyone will leave me) and the magical element only served to heighten the emotion of relationships (which felt like a cheap trick). Not recommended.


wisdomThe Wisdom of Father Brown by GK Chesterton ★★★★☆ – for some reason this little batch of Father Brown detective stories went over my head and at the end of each I was confused about how the mystery had been solved. Is my ready-to-have-a-baby brain particularly un-penetrating at the moment? Or are these stories just subtler than the ones found in The Innocence of Father Brown, which I both enjoyed and understood? The jury’s still out. Despite that, I still found the writing rather marvellous, and for that I give it four stars.


Madam Bovary*Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert ★★★★☆ – now this was quite the story! The basic plot: a young woman gets caught up in a little romance and marries a doctor, only to find herself disappointed in love. The culprit for her lofty expectations? Books. Says Emma Bovary: “I adore stories that rush breathlessly along, that frighten one. I detest commonplace heroes and moderate sentiments, such as there are in Nature.” That right there is what I found so fascinating about the book: there’s this chasm between what Emma desires and what is found in real life. Her husband is happy because the simple things of life charm him: “a meal together, a walk in the evening on the high road, a gesture of her hands over her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from the window-fastener, and many another thing in which Charles had never dreamed of pleasure, now made up the endless round of his happiness.” But Emma can’t stand the mundane things of life, and it makes her miserable. The story’s a tragedy, but a true and moving one. (The four stars is for the particular translation I read, which was at times clunky and confusing.)


christyChristy by Catherine Marshall ★★★½☆ – the story of a young schoolteacher from the city who moves to a remote mountain village in Tennessee to teach sixty-seven (!!) uneducated students. I found the depiction of rural mountain life and society in the early 1900s captivating, especially some of the hand-me-down foibles of Scottish immigrants, like illiterate parents who believe Latin is integral to their children’s education. Totally fascinating! But Christy’s condescending attitude towards the women in Cutter Gap and about motherhood in particular was grating after a while; it would do her good to meet with GK Chesterton for some perspective:

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”


birds pardonable-lies-225Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) and Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) by Jacqueline Winspear ★★☆☆☆– the second and third Maisie Dobbs books are improvements on the first; the stories are not as tidily linear, and the mysteries Maisie untangles are more complex and interesting. But the Buddhist/new age climate is also stronger, as are the modern liberal sentiments on practices like homosexuality. I can’t say I’m interested in reading any further in the series.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

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12 thoughts on “Quick Lit // July 2015

  1. Anne says:

    You make me want to read Madame Bovary, thanks! I don’t know what I thought it was about before your review. 😉 I want to check out Christy now, too. I’m about ready to abandon Garden Spells. I might give it a little bit longer. I also abandoned the first Maisie Dobbs. It was finally getting somewhere when I had to finally give it back to the library. I haven’t chased it back down. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. dawnomite says:

    Oh my goodness, for dealing with a move and a super pregnant belly, your post is really impressive (and well-written!)! You make Madame Bovary sound fantastic, and I really appreciate the honest reviews of the books you enjoyed less. I love those Maisie Dobbs covers, but the content doesn’t call out to me. Blessings to you and yours as the little one is soon to be here! 🙂

  3. Krysta says:

    I enjoyed the Christy series a lot more than I did the book. Christy connected more with the people of Cutter’s Gap and made real friendships in the series, as she eventually learned that their ways were not wrong just because they were different. And the Doctor and David both had more character development. But the movies…they are terrible!

      • Krysta says:

        My understanding is that it was pretty popular when it aired, but was cancelled because the time slot kept changing so people didn’t know when to watch. So it ends on a cliffhanger that the movies try to resolve, with mostly different actors.

  4. Sarah @ Seriously, Sarah? says:

    I just put Garden Spells on hold at the library – the audio version. I must have missed the summer reading list rec. There were so many! I stumbled on it because it’s the first in a series, right? Sad to hear that it didn’t live up to expectations. I don’t think I’ve read anything by that author before.
    I read Madam Bovary (finally!) a few months ago for a classic book reading challenge. I would normally never pick it up, but I’m glad that I did! It was out of my normal realm.
    I read the first and second Maisie Dobbs novels (and am waiting on the third). It seems so new-agey, kind of like you said, which doesn’t sit well with me. After poking around on Goodreads (I think… so many places that I get book recommendations!) I found a series called Bess Crawford by Charles Todd, which is really the pen name for a mother and son team. I think they wrote 17 novels in another series or something impressive like that. Anyway, I just finished A Duty to the Dead, which reminded me a lot of Maisie Dobbs, minus the new age stuff. The first novel, at least, takes place during the first world war. She’s a British nurse, who just happens to be bright and stumble across a mystery and can’t let it go. I’m looking forward to having the time for the second novel in that series, honestly.
    Great reviews! Thanks 🙂

    • arenda says:

      Till I read your comment here, I hadn’t realized that Garden Spells was the first in a series. But you’re right, the author just published a second in the Waverly Family series (First Frost).

      Thanks for telling me about the Bess Crawford series! A British nurse who happens to stumble upon mysteries . . . that is so up my alley right now! I’ve put it on hold at the library . . . love that it doesn’t have the new-agey vibe, too.

      • Sarah @ Seriously, Sarah? says:

        Bess Crawford is a little dark, but I still liked it! I listened to the audiobook, which I got it from the library. Since they don’t have the second novel on audio anywhere (my favorite way to read), I did get the next books from Thriftbooks. I’m looking forward to it, especially since I’m listening to the 3rd Maisie Dobbs right now, while I’m waiting to the 2nd Bess Crawford to come in, but I’m getting totally creeped out, but not by the parts that the author probably means to creep me out with!

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