"It was one of those March days when the sun
shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is
summer in the light, and winter in the shade."
CHARLES DICKENS, Great Expectations
At this time of year here in northerly Alberta, I often feel over-acquainted with winter. I love each season in turn, including winter, but there comes the time when I truly long for Spring's return. We yearn for the warmth of the sun, for longer and lighter days, for the quickening of new life. Right now it's too cold to sit outside even for a few minutes, unless one is a keen teenager, the wind is still too sharp. So you'll often find me sitting in the comfort of my sunny living room, reading a book or staring out the window, watching as the snow melts and rivulets trickle down the street, keeping my eye on a pair of magpies who chat quietly while collecting twigs from snow free areas in the garden.
In the meantime, I turn to books that herald Spring through their prose, poetry, and scenery descriptions. I take out my nature books and favourite Wordsworthian poetry, not to mention novels with scenes set in the springtime. I envision daffodils lining river banks in an Oxford novel or see Anne and Matthew in the buggy riding through the blossoming apple orchard near Green Gables. I wait for warm sunshine to coax new life out of the mounds of dead leaves. Maybe soften a winter edged heart.
I love to read books in season. And by season I mean the four seasons in nature (winter, spring, summer, autumn); the seasons of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, seniorhood); and the mental and emotional seasons in which our soul resides (those times we need encouragement, comfort, inspiration, knowledge, laughter, or even a gentle kick in the behind). Today I offer six titles from my Spring Read pile with the hope that you'll be inspired to create your own Spring pile.
I found this novel at the thrift store—the pretty purple primula pulled me in. And when I spotted it was by Barbara Pym, a British author well known to many and recommended by others, I thought it time to properly acquaint myself with her work. In this novel A Few Green Leaves
, protagonist Emma Howick is staying at her mom's cottage in a village near Oxford, where her mom lectures. Emma is an anthropologist, thirty-something, and single. She hopes to finish some research writing while living here, and makes plans "to observe the inhabitants in the time-honoured manner from behind the shadow of her curtains". She eventually meets the rector and his well-meaning sister who dreams of living in Greece, the new and old doctors, an assortment of spinsters with varied interests, and a goodly number of village busybodies.
The story ambles along, as the author chronicles these 'ordinary, quiet lives'. And soon I find myself relaxing into the rhythm of life in this village. There is no murder to solve, no terrible horror or sadness to overcome, no budding love match to fret about...well, maybe there's just a little hint of that. The novel brings to my mind that charming British television series, The Detectorists, where viewers follow two metal detecting friends, Andy and Lance, in their search for that big historical find that could change their lives. Both the Pym novel and the television show bubble with gentle humour and more than a few laugh out loud moments. If you like one, you'll probably like the other.
"It is a time of awakening. In our fields, hedgerows and woodlands, our beaches, cities and parks, an almost imperceptible shift soon becomes a riot of sound and colour: winter ends, and life surges forth once more. Whether in town or country, we all share in this natural rhythm, in the joy and anticipation of the changing year." from the inside cover
I first read Spring, An anthology for the changing seasons
last March. It's a lovely collection to dip in and out of. Beautifully curated with a mix of essays and poetry from authors long gone to contemporary writers—including Stephen Moss who's written the book mentioned next—the anthology draws our attention to what's going on in the natural world around us at this time of year. It stirs us to watch and wait, to open our eyes and ears.
When the world regresses into lockdown in March 2020, nature writer Stephen Moss decides to keep a diary. It will be a diary of a spring spent close to home. Skylarks with Rosie
(Rosie is his dog) will be "above all, a record of how the nation fell in love with nature at a time of existential crisis; and how nature, without ever realising it, helped us get through to the other side."
The author comes to see during the spring lockdown how we can get through it. Engaging with nature can help us feel better as we listen to the birds and notice the green shoots and buds springing up. "The cycle of nature reminds us that the world is still turning and that although everything has changed, life has not stopped." Beautiful. I'm utterly charmed and comforted by this diary.
From the moment I saw the ‘advert’ on Instagram for author Linda Hoye's book, Living Liminal
, I knew I had to get a copy. I admit not being often drawn to books and authors unknown to me unless someone recommends them. But my soul reached out for it every time it came up in my feeds.
Linda's writing draws me into her world. She has a gentle way of describing what's going on in her life at the time—letting the reader get a glimpse of what she's thinking and feeling as the pandemic explodes on our world. I feel the heartbeat of love in her thoughtful words, and she often mentions her relationship with the Divine One. I realized I'd met a kindred sister when she talked about her bunch of loud, brash tulips, well past their prime, but noticing "there's an uncommon beauty in their wizened petals. I see truth when I look at them and leave them on the table another day." How often have I left my own vases of shriveling, translucent petals for another day for their 'uncommon beauty'.
The book is written in a diary format chronicling 2020 and 2021; it includes blog posts, journal entries, and the occasional news reports to give the reader a glimpse of the author's inner world as well as her outer one. I'm only a few pages into the book and my pencil has been busy – so much resonates with me. I think we're kindred sisters as well as being fellow Canadians, and, as it turns out, both writers on the InScribe
blog. All kinds of connection. This book might not be about Spring per se, but it's definitely a book in season for me.
"Our sense of enchantment is not triggered only by grand things; the sublime is not hiding in distant landscapes. The awe-inspiring, the numinous, is all around us, all the time. It is transformed by our deliberate attention. . . . What is rare is our will to pursue it. If we wait passively to become enchanted, we could wait a long time. But seeking is a kind of work. . . . I mean committing to a lifetime of engagement: to noticing the world around you, to actively looking for small distillations of beauty, to making time to contemplate and reflect. . . . It's all there, waiting for our attention." Katherine May
I wasn't sure if I would like this book as much as I loved Katherine May's earlier bestselling book Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. In this new book, Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, Katherine invites us to rediscover that awe and wonder we first knew as children. I'm all for that! "She shares stories of her own struggles with work, family, and the aftereffects of pandemic, particularly feelings of overwhelm as the world rushes to reopen." Many places in this book deeply resonated with me, and a few spots, not so much. Katherine is a beautiful, honest, and thoughtful writer. Worth a read.
"The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. . . . Something up above was calling him . . . 'Up we go! Up we go' till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight . . . this is fine! he said to himself. 'This is better than whitewashing.' "
Haha...who of us hasn't felt the same way about spring cleaning at one time or another. Mole discovers spring in the sunshine to be much more enjoyable. Wind in the Willows
is a delight for the soul with its many wonderful descriptions of the English countryside as seen through the eyes of its well-loved characters Mr. Toad, Ratty, Badger, and Mole. Written by Scottish author Kenneth Graham, readers can expect many lush descriptions of nature, cozy home scenes, yummy picnics and hot buttered toast, friendship and loyalty, not to forget the many adventures these fellows get up to. The book was published in 1908, near the end of the Edwardian era, and so one gets a real sense of life in the English countryside in the early 20th century. Being an Anglophile at heart, the Englishness of this story tickles my fancy.
Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2023
Interesting review of books selected. I confess that I did not enjoy Wintering at.all. and have been trying to unload it on anyone who would be willing to take it off my hands. 😏 I don't believe that I could enjoy any book that has a theme of the 2020 pandemic. But! I could cheerfully embrace Wind in the Willows once again. Such a charming book and I very much enjoyed Miranda Mills' recent discussion of it. I still see white everywhere so am hoping for spring both in your world and in mine.ReplyDelete
I am always interested to know what books grab a person's attention and which ones definitely do not resonate. Hopefully you'll find someone who will enjoy that book. And in the meantime, Spring is here and snow is quickly melting and the migrating birds are returning. Wishing you a blessed Eastertide, Vee.Delete
A goodly reading pile while you wait for spring. I see Barbara Pym on top, an excellent choice to begin with I'd say. Happy reading!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Kathy, for stopping by.Delete
I love it when bloggers share book lists and usually find more to add to my TBR pile. Your list doesn't disappoint! Thank you for including Living Liminal. xoReplyDelete
Book lists are like candy at Christmas. Thanks, Linda, for your note.Delete
Thank you Brenda for your “Spring” offerings and suggestions!!! They all look wonderful!☺️. They look particularly inviting because the temperature here in Ohio this morning is 34 degrees ! Much colder than my memories as a child of coming out of morning church without a coat, waving palm leaves!!!!☺️ReplyDelete
Love seeing your “stack” and will be on the lookout for my own “Spring Collection!!” ~ Many thanks! ~ Ann
Hi Ann, Today we have sunny blue skies, but the wind is brisk and chilling. But Spring is definitely on its way as the snow has been melting away. And migrating birds are arriving daily. Such an exciting time of year. Thanks so much for stopping by - always good to hear from you. Wishing you a blessed Eastertide.Delete
What a lovely and varied collection of books to read while Spring tarries in your world. The Barbara Pym book attracts me. I've just gone to our library and reserved another Pym book, alas, A Few Green Leaves is not available. I think I must be one of the few who have not read Wintering. Perhaps in the autumn. I'm now thinking about my own Spring collection which will definitely include Wind in the Willows. I just read the first chapter to a couple of little grand girlies and the quote you included about spring cleaning resonated with me.ReplyDelete
Have a wonderful week, and thank you for your post.
Lorrie, If you decide to read Wintering, it is definitely for the autumn winter season. I'm still enjoying my way through the Wind in the Willows, and I'm delighted to hear you've been introducing the stories to your grand girlies. Wishing you a beautiful day and a blessed Easter ahead.Delete
Ah Brenda each of your selections sound like wonderful reads. Your thoughts about reading certain books at certain seasons resonates with me. In the summer I find myself wanting to read books about being along the coast warming oneself in plenty of sunshine. Hope you have a lovely Easter friend. Hugs!ReplyDelete
How lovely that you can dream of reading books by the ocean in the sunshine. Sounds delightful. Thanks, Debbie. Sending along my own wishes for a blessed Eastertide this coming weekend.Delete
I have to admit it was nice to see another commenter didn't like Wintering! I felt as if something must be dreadfully wrong with me because everyone recommended it. I read a few chapters and laid it aside for another time but perhaps I should just pass it on to someone younger because I admittedly am first drawn to rereading Wind in the Willows and don't even have a personal copy. Made a note to get one! Ah, Barbara Pym! Discovered her decades ago and checked all of her books out of the library, one at a time. The one "emergency" book I keep in a car pocket for those times I might be waiting in the car while my husband is in Home Depot or some such store is an old paperback copy of Pym's Excellent Women. I can dip into any page and find myself chuckling and relaxing while waiting.ReplyDelete
It would be interesting to read a few pages of your other books read and see if they draw me in. I've wondered if I might enjoy books written about the time the world shut down. Maybe it's still too close? Although I certainly enjoyed following some people on their YouTube channels during that time, like if they could get through it then I could. We were, as everyone used to say, in it together. One thing I do know, I absolutely love knowing what my blog friends are reading!