Lost Books

Book--The Bound Girl

I read a lot of books as a child and many of them have gotten lost in the mists of my memory.  Some of them, however, have gotten lost in actuality.  This is one of them.  I don't remember where we first found a copy of this book.  I just pulled it off our bookshelves one day and got lost in the story.  I read it over and over which is what I tended to do with any book that caught my fancy.  I didn't love it the way I loved Little Women and the Little House books but it was a book I was a bit obsessed with for a while.  Then, at some point, my mom thinks she loaned it to a friend and it vanished never to be seen again.  The story stuck in my head though and from time to time I wished I could read it again purely for nostalgia's sake.  Now I have a daughter and I have slowly been accumulating all the books I think it is vital for her to read.  This book kept popping into my mind but I didn't remember the title, I had no idea who the author was, and, by this point, my memory of the story was a bit fuzzy.  All I remembered clearly was that the girl's name was Felicity, she lived as a servant in Puritan America, and the title had the word 'bound' in it.  Oh, and that there was a bit of romance at the end which thrilled my little ten-year-old heart all those years ago.

From time to time I would do a little puttering online trying to find out exactly what the title was and who wrote it.  I wasn't too successful at first.  There are a lot of books out there and searches for books with the word 'bound' in the title can turn up some interesting things.  One day, though, I stumbled across a copy of The Bound Girl by Nan Denker.  The cover had a puritan scene on the cover which was reassuring after some of the other things I had come across but I still wasn't sure it was the right book.  There was no description of the story line at all. I filed it away in the back of my head and periodically looked to see if I could find copies and if there was any more information.  Recently, I came across this copy.  It had a description that made it clear it was the book I wanted but it was more than I really wanted to pay.  I added it to my cart and kept checking back when I remembered and, lo and behold, the price eventually dropped down to next to nothing and I joyfully clicked the 'purchase' button.

I know this isn't really an enthralling story but it has made me happy.  It is a bit of my childhood, of my book history, that I can now pass on to my daughter.  I hope she enjoys the book as much as I did all those years ago and I hope her little ten-year-old heart is just as thrilled by the bit of romance.

I am going to read it again myself though part of me almost doesn't want to.  What if it isn't nearly as good as I remember?  I don't think, though, that it really matters.  I will be reading it through the eyes of the little girl I used to be and that little girl will still love it.

In case you want a more complete description of the story here is a picture of the synopsis that is pasted inside the front cover.

Are there any books that you have lost track of or wish you could remember more clearly?

Fun With The Family In Chicago

Chicago skyline

I think I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.  Maybe a vacation by a pool or a beach with someone to bring me food, drinks, and books at regular intervals.  Instead, I am home with five million loads of laundry to do and an empty fridge.  Such is life.

Basically, this vacation was for the kids.  After my husband's family left we started on a mad dash of doing everything the kids wanted in the city.  We had made a lot of promises about things we would do when next we went to Chicago and the kids remembered every one of those promises.  It was a lot of fun to see them having so much fun.

Our daughter's top pick was the zoo.  She loves animals and the zoo makes her happy.  I know many people are not crazy about zoos and the idea of animals in captivity but, like so many things, there are two sides to every story.  Zoos also do a lot for endangered animals and they can be very educational.  Brookfield zoo is a particularly nice zoo with large enclosures for the animals and a huge emphasis on providing mental stimulation for the animals.

bear at the zoo


One of the highlights of our zoo trip was when we were given the opportunity to feed one of the animals.  Our daughter was being very amused by a gerenuk, a type of long-necked antelope.  It kept trying to eat the fence and she was laughing and making a big fuss over the animal.  One of the zoo employees saw her, we were the only ones by that enclosure, and he stopped and asked if we would like to give the gerenuk a treat.  He took us into the employee-only section of the enclosure and told us a bit about the animals and let us hand feed the gerenuk.  Both kids were thrilled.  Actually, my husband and I were thrilled too.

feeding a gerenuk

feeding a gerenuk

Our son requested a trip to the aquarium.  He loves the ocean and ocean animals.  The Shedd aquarium is very nice but the lines to get in were insane.  Once we were in many of the exhibits were very crowded as well.  Still, it was a hit with the kids.



girl looking into aquarium

On the third day the kids asked to go to the Museum of Science and Industry.  This was hugely successful.  It has always been one of my husband's favorite museums in the city and he greatly enjoyed showing it to the kids.  I think we spent over five hours there and did not manage to see everything.  There are displays on weather, on the human body, and on airplanes.  There is a replica of a coal mine and a huge model train display.  There is a mirror maze which freaked me out.  I followed my son through the whole thing.  He thought I was crazy and he insisted on doing it a second time.  I kept imagining how perfect it would be for a murderer.  Maybe I read too many books.  There is an exhibit on space and you can tour a submarine.  The list just goes on and on.

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Chicago has some fantastic activities and the kids had a wonderful time. However, I do think it is a little ridiculous how much these things cost.  Most of them have a base price and then you add on other activities once you get in.  Then you also have to add parking and food. And don't forget the gift shops around every corner. I can easily see how the price could be prohibitive for many families.  I think that is unfortunate.

I didn't get much reading done while we were gone.  We were just too busy doing other things.  I had hoped to come across a few bookstores but that did not happen either.  It is getting harder and harder to find bookstores these days.  There seem to be a few big chains but that is it.  I find that unfortunate as well.  I will leave you with a picture of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.  I know it isn't a great picture but it is the best I could do while stopped at a red light.  Chicago traffic is crazy.  Don't you wish this was your library?

Harold Washington Library

Family Vacations And Other Nonsense

book by the pool

We are in Chicago spending a few days with my husband's family.  Family vacations can be... interesting but there have been some bright spots in the last few days.

First of all, this book.  It is yet another one on my list of books I wonder why I have never read before.  Funny and charming with such a wonderfully eccentric family.  It kept me chuckling during the whole flight and the following hours-long fight with the rental car company about a car with faulty brakes.  Did he write more books about his family?  I hope so, this wasn't enough.

book and biscuits

I ran into the grocery store to pick up a  few snacks for the hotel room.  Every morning is better if you start it with a few chocolate-covered digestive biscuits.  Plus, the British food aisle had a bottle of elderflower lemonade.  I love all the elderflower drinks you can find in Britain but I have never been able to find them in the US.  I paid an exorbitant amount for that bottle of lemonade but I don't really care. My kids want to try it but I am not sure I want to share.

My husband is originally from Illinois so it is nice to see him sharing his past with the kids.  He is taking them to favorite restaurants, planning day trips for later in the week, and making sure they have the essentials which means buying a Cubs hat for our daughter and a Bulls hat for our son. Because they have been carefully taught to follow Illinois teams instead of east coast teams.  Priorities here.

My daughter is still at the age to be made ecstatically happy by a hotel pool.  It is nice to feel like winning parents simply because we have taken her down for a swim in the afternoon.  It was 95 degrees today.  I don't blame her for wanting to swim.  It felt like a steam bath out there.  I had managed to bury the memory of just how hot and humid Chicago gets.

The restaurant we went to today had gluten-free burger buns.  That improved my day tremendously.  I just realized that the gluten-free buns and the cookies seem to contradict each other.  For some odd reason, wheat from the UK does not make me sick and does not give me migraines.  A doctor said that US wheat is modified so much and over-processed to such a degree that it does not agree with a lot of people.  I have a friend who's daughter also can't eat wheat in the US but when she travels to Italy she eats all the pasta she wants and is fine.  It sounds crazy but it is true.

Tomorrow we are taking the kids to the zoo.  My daughter is beyond excited.  She has been waiting and waiting to go.  For now though, the kids have found a TV show they agree on, my husband is relaxing after chatting to family all day, and I am going to sink into the world of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire.  If only I had a cup of tea to go with my biscuits.

Over the Gate by Miss Read

book-miss read

Sometimes life gets to be a bit too much.  You know the type of days I am talking about; the ones where your to-do list never seems to get any shorter. The ones where the kids are constantly grumpy and worn out because they just need summer vacation to start now. The days when you come home and face a laundry pile that is possibly taller than you and realize you can't pack for Chicago until you wash, dry, and fold it all.  Then you look in the fridge and realize there is nothing for dinner since you are trying to clear it out before you go away.  Those are the days when you need to pick up a book by Miss Read and sink into the world of Fairacre.

Miss Read is the pen name of Dora Jessie Saint.  She wrote two series of books, one set in Fairacre and one set in Thrush Green.  Her books are gentle but with a realistic bite to them.  She was a wonderful observer of nature and her books contain some beautiful descriptions of the English countryside.  The Fairacre books revolve around Miss Read herself and her job as a schoolmistress.  Over the Gate is loosely connected by the stories of village life told to Miss Read by her neighbors.  It might not be my favorite in the series but it is very enjoyable and relaxing.

Here is Miss Read's description of the village.

A sharp shower had left the village street glistening and the bushes and trees quivering with bright drips.  Now, bathed in evening sunlight, the village sparkled.  Scent rose from the wallflowers and polyanthuses in the cottage gardens, and blackbirds scolded from the plumed lilac bushes.  Our village of Fairacre is no lovelier than many others.  We have rats as well as roses in our back gardens, scoundrels as well as stalwarts ploughing our fields, and plenty of damp and dirt hidden behind the winsome exteriors of our older cottages.  But at times it is not only home to us but heaven too; and this was just such an occasion.

I enjoyed the descriptions of village school life.  It is so different from the life my children experience.  I know times have changed but I ended up yearning after a time where the children's happiness was important and not just whether or not they can pass a test.  I know teachers work hard today too but they no longer have the freedom to take a class of restless children out into the countryside for a walk. I think we have lost something because of that.

All this, of course, was what had held my class in thrall-the compelling imperious spell of spring.  Of what use were the frieze, the crayoned sun, the poster, the laden nature table and the captive frogs' spawn?  They were no substitutes for the real thing that exploded all around them....We made our way slowly up the sunny slopes of the downs before throwing ourselves down on to the dry springy turf in order to revel to the full in the glory of a warm spring day.  Below us spread the village like some pictorial map. The trees were misted with young leaves, and here and there a flurry of white blossom lit up a garden.  I thought of our poem left neglected, but felt no regret. Let us savour this now, and then come to Robert Bridges' poem, 'recollecting it in tranquillity,' was my feeling. 

Miss Read's books are the perfect antidote to an overwhelming day.  They blend pathos and charm, wit, and heart-tugging emotion into a world and story that pulls you out of your work-a-day world into a slower, calmer, one.  I agree with Mr. Willet;

'Funny how we all likes a story,' ruminated Mr Willet, watching a red admiral butterfly settle on some Michaelmas daisies, 'Don't matter if you really believes it or not-as far as I can see.  I mean, half of you believes, let's say, but the other half doubts, and in the end it's the half that wants to believe in the story that wins.'

Book Plans


My daughter is at a friend's house, my son is doing homework, and my husband is listening to the news.  I am sitting on the couch planning my reading for the next week or so.  I don't usually plan what I am going to read and in what order I will read it but we are going away at the end of the week so that means packing books.  This is very serious business.

We are going to Chicago for a week.  My husband's family lives in Illinois and we used to live out there.  We are flying into Chicago, spending a few days with his family and then the second half of the week is fun things with the kids and catching up with some old friends.  I don't think I will have much time to read for the second half of the week but the time with my in-laws is usually pretty quiet.  They don't have the best health or that much energy which leads to a lot of downtime.  Books are essential for distraction and for my mental health.

I am definitely bringing the third book in the Lymond Chronicles.  I do like to take my time with those though so I want something light and easy to read when I am tired or don't have much time or have too much chaos in the hotel room around me to concentrate on what I am reading.  This is where I am not sure what I want.  I think a reread.  Maybe Angela Thirkell?  They are soothing and fun and I have read them multiple times.  I am thinking Pomfret Towers might be a good choice.  I also want something on my Kindle.  I prefer reading real books but Kindles are great for when you are stuck in a hotel room with your family, they are all asleep, and you have insomnia.  Then I bless my Kindle and its lighted cover (I have a very old Kindle) and I wonder how I ever survived without it.  I don't usually buy books for it, most of the ones I have are the free books that are out of copyright.  I just can't convince myself to spend money on ebooks.  If I am going to buy a book I want the physical copy.  I will probably start either The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather or Armadale by Wilkie Collins.  Both are on my Classics Club list.

I am hoping to find a few used bookstores while I am in Illinois.  I haven't lived there in years so I am sure many of the ones I remember are gone but I will see what I can find.


I bought a few books at a thrift store the other day.  I went in looking for a summer dress but came out with a stack of books.  That is typical of my life.  In my defense, the dresses were all ugly and the books were unusually good, very cheap too.  I got Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck.  I read a review of a Steinbeck novel over at areaderofliterature.  I have never read anything by him so thought maybe it was time to start.  I also got The Angry Wife by Pearl Buck.  She is another author I have never read though I do have one of her novels on my shelf already.  This caught my eye because I thought her novels were all set in China and this is set in the US right after the Civil War. Besides, that cover!  It does not fit the mental image I have of her novels at all which just makes it more intriguing.  Continuing the theme of authors I have never read we have The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty.  I don't know anything about it, I just liked the dust jacket and was familiar with the name.  Next is Forever Old, Forever New by Emily Kimbrough.  I love, love, love Our Hearts Were Young and Gay which she wrote with Cornelia Otis Skinner.  I know her other books are a bit of a mixed bag but I am hoping it is half as good.  Lastly, I bought The Portuguese Escape by Ann Bridge.  I have read a few other novels in this series.  Julia Probyn is a beautiful journalist who always seems to find the story and unmask the spy--a 1950s spy series, a bit dated but fun.  I might take that last purchase with me.

The kids have about five million things they want to do in Chicago.  We haven't been there in four or five years.  We usually meet the in-laws somewhere halfway in between Illinois and Connecticut but they aren't up to the drive this year.  Even halfway is ten hours or so.  The kids have zoos and aquariums and science museums and restaurants and stores and tons more things on their list.  The second half of the trip is mainly for them since we had London in the spring.  I think they are going to wear us out.

Going back to Illinois is bittersweet.  We used to live there, my husband grew up there, so it is home in a way.  But at the same time, it is so different after so many years have gone by.  It feels familiar and strange all at the same time.  I wonder sometimes what our lives would be like if we had never moved east.

For one week we will pretend we still live there.  My husband's speech will slow down and his mid-west drawl will reappear.  We will eat Chicago hot dogs, but without the ketchup, because ketchup on a hot dog is a sin in Chicago.  We will cheer for the Cubs because that is what you do even though they never win.  We will call every slight incline a hill.  I will feel exposed in the flat landscape and my husband will breathe a sigh of relief because he isn't hemmed in by trees anymore.  We will merge our past with our present.

It will be interesting.

Ten Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

woodland path by a river

1. This is not as good as it gets.  Your teenage years are not the best years of your life. Neither are your twenties.  Or your thirties.  See, the thing is, the best years of your life?  They are scattered throughout your life.  Some years are good, some are bad.  This moment, this year, this good or bad, is not all you get.  I hear tell that some of your best years can even be in your forties or above.  I know, the shock and horror!

2.  Be yourself.  It sounds like a trite self-help book but for once the self-help books are correct.  You can spend a lot of time trying to fit in but that is just a guarantee of feeling like an outsider.  Be who you are, do what you like, talk about what you like.  Authentic is good.  You will find the people you need in your life and they will like you for who you are.

3.  Enjoy that long hair and young body.  I am not saying it gets bad, just it will never be that good again.  Actually, just appreciate your body at any age.  You will always look at pictures from the past and wish you could have that body again.  Why not just appreciate it now?

4.  You will always be shy.  You will always be anxious.  You will learn to manage it.  Take a deep breath and try that new thing.  You won't die.

5.  Buy the books, all the books.  You know all those books you see at books sales and you don't buy because they are readily available at the library?  One of these days the libraries are going to do a huge cull and you won't be able to check them out anymore.  Buy them now.  It will save you time and money because you won't have to spend exorbitant amounts on books you have spent ages stalking online.  Just buy the books.  You're welcome.

6.  Marriage is work.  Babies are work.  Teenagers are even more work.  You will work on all three.  Again, you won't die.  Marriage, babies, and teenagers are also a lot of fun.  It just depends on the day.

7.  Life is not an episode of "Friends."  I am sure there is a more up-to-date TV reference but I don't have it so we will go with "Friends."  Not everyone lives their lives in a circle of best friends all the time.  Not everyone wants to.  You are one of the people who doesn't want to.  That is fine, reference number 2 above.

8.  You will never be able to dance, or sing, or do crafty things.  But one day you will start a blog and find a place for all those words swirling around in your head.  And your blog will make you pick up a camera and that will be kind of fun too.  You will decide dancing and singing and crafty things are over-rated.

9.  People are flawed.  Their flaws will hurt you.  Try not to be too judgmental.  It will be hard but it will make you a better person and then maybe your flaws won't hurt them.

10.  Stop worrying.  Worry is like one of those roundabout things at the playground.  You know what I mean, you start it spinning and then hop on and the centrifugal force keeps you on.  Once you start worrying it is hard to stop.  The force of it just keeps you on the same spinning cycle.  It isn't good.  Don't do it.  I know, easier said than done.  Do your best.

And now, go buy the books.  Your future self thanks you.

The Books That Make Us


My son was talking to me the other day about the narrow outlook so many people have.  It tends to bother him that people are frequently unable to understand other viewpoints and that their world does not reach beyond the small circle they live in.  He thinks many of his friends would be better off if they were forced out of their comfort zone and were exposed to a wider world view.  We were in the midst of this conversation when he turned to me and told me that he was glad he was raised to be a reader and thought the world would be better if people read more.  After I forcibly hugged him and informed him he was my favorite child because of that statement I asked him why he felt that way.

My son said that we become like the people we are exposed to and if we read widely the pool of people and experiences we are familiar with is much greater.  This makes us a more well-rounded, open-minded person.  If we don't read, the people we are exposed to, the people that influence who we become, are simply those immediately surrounding us and those people are usually very similar to us.  They are our immediate family or people with a similar background to ours.  Therefore, we start to believe our way is the only way. Our focus stays narrow.  He went on to say that he feels readers pick up traits and values from their favorite characters or books.  He used the Redwall series, beloved books of his childhood, as an example.  He says he read them because he loved the stories of adventure and loved the imaginary world that was created.  However, looking back he feels he learned about courage, the importance of friendship and the value of a community from reading those books.  He didn't consciously think about this while reading them but those values became ingrained in him because he was, in essence, associating with the characters so much.  He quoted the old saying about how we become like the three people we spend the most time with and he said he thinks that also applies to the books we read.  By our reading regularly, those people we are closest to are not just the physical people in our lives but also the characters we read about.

It was a fascinating conversation to have with my son and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I have always said that reading broadens our horizons but this conversation drove home to me just how vital that can be.  Of course, it is possible to broaden your horizons by living life but what if you live in a small town? What if you belong to a family that never travels? What if everyone around you is just like you?  Then it is through books that you get to know what else there is in the world.  And if you don't read?  Well, maybe then your world stays narrow.

I am not putting down small-town life.  After all, I currently live in a small town.  I am not putting down non-readers.  Though yes, I think life would be better if everyone read.  I am just very interested in how my son feels reading has benefited him and it makes me think about what books and characters I feel have made an impact on the person I have become.  As a child, I frequently pretended to be the characters I loved.  Did this make me try to adopt some of their qualities?

 My world has become wider, richer, more varied because I read.

I am glad my son feels the same.

Beach, Blooms, And Books

girl at the beach

If that isn't the picture of happiness right there, I don't know what is.  We were in Maine over the weekend and it just confirms my belief that there is nothing like the ocean for soothing the soul.  It was grey and gloomy while we were there and downright chilly two of the three days but that doesn't really matter.  The sound of the ocean, the smell of the salt breeze, and the feel of the sand between your toes is wonderful no matter what the weather.  If you can add in a dinner of fish, clams, scallops, shrimp, and clam chowder well, life doesn't get much better than that.


Maine beach

We came home to a lawn that looked like a jungle and irises that appear to have bloomed overnight.  My gardens are kind of a mess but when the irises bloom it doesn't seem to matter.  All the beauty distracts you from the weeds, at least that is what I tell myself.

yellow iris

purple iris

The kids only have two weeks left of school.  I can't wait.  I am so tired of alarms going off at 5:15, of homework, of crabby children.  I want more beach days and a little more rest and time with family.  In reality, I will probably spend a lot of the summer yelling at my son to get off his computer and at my daughter to clean up the trail of debris she has left throughout the house but I am going to live in my world of illusion and fantasy for now.

I am occasionally pleasantly surprised by the papers the kids bring home from school.  My daughter had to write a haiku and this is what she did.  Maybe I will let her create that trail of debris through the house after all.

haiku by a child

I haven't had much to write about books lately.  That isn't because I haven't been reading but because I went a little crazy and started five million books all at once.  I finally reined myself in and forced myself to finish all of them before I started anything new. I even made myself set aside the Lymond Chronicles until I had finished everything else.  I had read the first chapter or so of the second book but I knew once I was sucked into that world nothing else would be read.   Several of the books I had started were rereads just for the fun of it and a couple were ones I had no particular intention of blogging about.  I am on the last of the five million started books right now and then I can hopefully pull back from the slight chaos of my current book selection process and read in a more rational manner.  That is the plan anyway. I am a bit greedy where books are concerned.   I just want to read them all at once.

Last night I finished Mr. Scarborough's Family by Anthony Trollope.  I find reading Trollope fascinating.  It is such a window into a world that doesn't exist anymore.  The attitudes, standards, and outlooks portrayed in his novels are not ones that are common to the world anymore.  In many cases, though not all,  this is sad.  It seems that often the events and actions that are viewed as shocking by the characters in the novels would not be thought twice about by people in our day and age.  But at the same time, there is causal racism and classism that bothers modern-day readers.  One reason I love books so much is that they put you so completely into a different world.  That, in and of itself, is an education.

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of books you are trying to read at once?