(Review) The Anglophile’s Notebook by Sunday Taylor

Publisher and Publication Date: Spuyten Duyvil. 2020.
Genre: Fiction. Travel. Romance. Family saga. Contemporary fiction.
Pages: 356.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Sunday Taylor. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Contemporary fiction/romance readers.
Rating: Good.

For more information about the book @ Spuyten Duyvil.

Amazon
The Kindle Unlimited e-book is free.

Author Info:

Sunday Taylor grew up in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and attended Bates College in Maine. A graduate of the Master of Arts program in English Literature at UCLA, she spent the last four decades in California and currently lives in Los Angeles. Taylor is married with two grown daughters and two granddaughters. She journeys to England every year, reads Jane Eyre every autumn and identifies as an Anglophile. This is her first book.

Website

Summary:

The Anglophile’s Notebook is a literary mystery set in England. Claire Easton travels from Los Angeles to London to research a book on her favorite author, Charlotte Brontë. While seeking Brontë’s secrets, she discovers her own. The Anglophile’s Notebook will whisk the reader away to literary London and the beautifully wild countryside of Yorkshire, home to the Brontë sisters. Brimming with writerly ghosts, enchanting bookstores, cozy pubs, English country gardens, and memorable characters, this novel is for anyone who has found their imagination in the gardens of rural England or a two-hundred-year-old bookstore in London and felt utterly alive.

My Thoughts:

There are things I like about the book and a few things I do not like about the book.

What I like:
1. Claire Easton is a character who is down to earth and easy for me to identify with. She is a regular gal. She is someone I could be friends with. She is a believable character who has positive and negative human traits. Claire is a reader, bibliophile, writer, blogger, book reviewer, and gardener. These interests are the same as mine. Her background and environment might have created a celebrity status type person. Instead, she is a person who is kindhearted, unselfish, long-suffering; and, she’s also a little innocent and vulnerable. I am glad Claire is a mature woman of 42. She has lived long enough to understand a bit about life and how to make wise decisions. Lastly, Claire is a character who has a transformation. This is always a positive experience for me to read a character who has a remarkable change.
2. Charlotte Brontë is the pleasant fixation for Claire. Claire plans to write a book about Charlotte Brontë . The story centers around Claire’s research of the Brontë books, manuscripts, letters, and the town they lived in. Charlotte is the main emphasis, but the other Brontë family members are apart of The Anglophile’s Notebook.
3. The Anglophile’s Notebook is a travel book. For most of the book Claire is in England. She travels back to California a couple of times. While in England she visits museums, bookshops, art and book collections, estates, and the scenery of the Yorkshire Moors. I enjoyed her descriptions and experiences.
4. Claire is close to her only sibling, a sister named, Jane. Their mother died. There is unanswered questions about their mother. There is not a reconciling of the relationship. One of the reasons I continued to read this book is I wanted to know what happened? Claire dreams of her mother. The memories and feelings about her mother are always present for Claire. Claire is still experiencing grief. Grieving takes as long as it takes. There is no time limit. And, because there are unanswered questions, there remains a mystery about their mother. These issues helped to keep me reading.
5. Jane is a praying person. She acknowledges when a prayer is positively answered. However, it is never specifically stated who Jane prays to.
6. I love the secondary characters in the book. It is a lengthy list. It is a diverse list.
7. The conflicts in the story are internal.
8. The main plot is simple.
9. The story is told in chronological or linear form.

What I do not like about the story:
1. The story has a long list of high functioning words and local dialect sayings. I don’t mind a couple of words that I need to look up in a dictionary, but the list grew and grew. The average reader is not going to like this. When a reader has to pause too much to look up a word in the dictionary it breaks the flow of reading. For example, farcical and raconteur.
2. Ben is Claire’s husband. If he were cut completely from the story would it matter? No. He is actually a weight in the story that is not needed because the story is busy with other things going on. When a story is too busy, well it is just too busy, and the reader (me) is worn-out by the heavy traffic.
3. At this time in my life (or in my reading life), I have become bored with much of the romance that is weaved in a story. I don’t have the data that will back up how other readers feel about this topic. I know how I feel. If Claire had focused all her attention on the Brontë research, the traveling, and the mystery surrounding her mother, this book would be remarkable enough. But, Claire’s personal life became a weight and additional plots for the story. Bottom line for me is there are too many things going on in this one book. Just a few would be wonderful.

Themes:
Death and dying, loyalty, self-worth, honesty, redemption, acceptance, kindness, romance, innocence, guilt, wisdom, hope, grief, temptation, empowerment, dreams, and trust.

(Review) The Remnants of Summer by Dawn Newton

Publisher and Publication Date: Apprentice House Press. May 1, 2021.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 294.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley and Mind Buck Media. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of coming of age and family stories.
Rating: Okay.

For more information about the book: Apprentice House Press-Remnants of Summer.

Amazon link

Author Goodreads Page without a bio, but it does list her books.

Summary:

Southeast Michigan.
Iris Merchant is a young teenage girl (14) in the summer of 1973. She has an older sister named Liz. She has a younger brother named Scott. Scott is 11. Iris and Scott are at Michigan beach enjoying a sunny day. When Iris wakes up from a brief nap while sunbathing she realizes Scott is not nearby. She assumes he went swimming and everything will be okay. She leaves the lake and walks home alone. Everything is not okay. Later, the family will find out Scott drowned in the lake. Iris blames herself; and, Liz blames Iris. The rest of the summer passes in a blur. The school year moves along at a slow pace. Another summer approaches with the realization a year has gone by without Scott.

The Remnants of Summer is part coming of age story and part family grief.

My Thoughts:

In 1973 I was 9. I actually have grown to love stories that have a time period of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Remnants of Summer is not a story that I am transported back in time because of the clothes or music references. There is mention of Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation.

The story is told from the narrator who is Iris. Iris is a young person who is not rebellious. She doesn’t act out after the death of her brother which is rare. Often there is an acting out after a traumatic crisis. On the other hand, she appears to me to be numb. This transcribes to paper. A numb feeling throughout the story.

Grief is the number one theme in The Remnants of Summer but grief is not processed. There is no mention of counseling. There is not a church family or neighbors who reach out to the family. There is no outside help for any of them. I don’t think counseling would have been considered for this era-not like today. Books and literature about grieving was about non-existent. However, there were counselors at school. And, there were pastors who counseled with families. Pastors and priests can at least pray and listen to the grieving family. None of these options are presented in the story. For me, this is sadly lacking. There is no resolve in the story. This theme hangs there and only grows larger.

The Remnants of Summer is slow. A slow and sad year in the life of the family-with the focus on Iris. While the grief is fresh, she is going through adolescence, peer pressure, abuse, school, a changing body, drama with friends, an older sister who is at enmity, parents who are going through their own problems, and an additional element in the story that impacts the community. This last example is not used as a big part of the story but more as a backdrop.

Over-all the story feels lacking.

Lastly, I feel this story is better suited for young adults.

Themes in the story: death, grieving, courage, innocence, fear, and guilt.

(Review) The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Perennial. First published in 2019. My edition January 5, 2021.
Genre: Fiction. Family saga.
Pages: 352.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of family saga stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon
Link @ Barnes and Noble

Summary:

The Dutch House is the story of the Conroy family who bought the Dutch House in 1946. Cyril Conroy bought the home without his wife knowing. It was meant to be a surprise, but she didn’t like the surprise. Their children are Maeve and Danny.
The Dutch House is a three story home in Elkins Park near Philadelphia.
The story centers on the children.
The story reflects back on memories, but also their present lives.
The time period is mid 1940s to the 1980s (?). I’m guessing about the final years time period.
The narrator is Danny.

My Thoughts:

The Dutch House is a memorable story of the lives of two siblings who grew up in the home. A house that is its own character. Sometimes a house, building, material object can be used in a story like a person who is a character. The house is referred to so often in this story. It holds strong memories. Even after the children left, they are drawn back to the house again and again to try and peace together what happened.

I wonder, if the house could speak, what would it say?

Several reasons why I love this story:
1. Each of the four members of the original Conroy family are unique individuals. It’s as if they don’t belong in the same family. Their differences make the story larger. What I mean is if all of the family members were similar the story would seem small and uncomplicated. The vast difference in their personalities brings complications in understanding one another. It brings conflict.
2. Maeve is more like a mother to Danny. It is a relationship I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others. An older sibling becomes more of a parent.
3. The parent’s generation represents a people group who don’t communicate clearly. They don’t pass information on to their spouse or children about real heart issues. The children in the story is a generation who is trying to change this.
4. The Dutch House has a character who at first is difficult to like. This person has made a choice that’s shocking. Later in the story I understand the person’s feelings and decision. Even though I wouldn’t have made the same decision, I have empathy and no longer feel the prick of criticism.
5. The Dutch House is the story of love to the point of sacrifice. One sacrifices what they want to do in life in order to help another or please another. One sacrifices what they want to do even if that meant giving up a committed role.
6. The characters to some degree all have transformations in their attitudes, words, and behavior.

Themes are death and dying, betrayal, courage, honesty, loyalty, love, and sacrifice.

The Dutch House is a memorable story. After reading it, I feel these are real people I’ve met.

An audio reading of the first part. Tom Hanks is the narrator.