Thursday, 6 June 2013

My favourite comfort books

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is an intelligent- albeit poor and plain young governess who gradually falls in love with her employer Rochester for his passionate nature despite his appearance, still loving him even when he is blind and has lost one of his hands. The control in the relationship is shared rather than showing dependency on each other, with Jane able to cope quite well when she leaves Thornfield. Jane has integrity and refuses to become Rochester’s mistress when she discovers that he is married. I love this novel and read it when I feel sad, ill or lonely. I always fall in love with Mr. Rochester!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships,gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life. I love this novel. Elizabeth is one of the best heroines ever written. She is feisty and witty but eventually falls in love with the proud and as it turns out, very rich and lovely Mr. Darcy. I first read Pride and Prejudice in my mid teens and like every girl in England, fell in love with Mr. Darcy. I am always delighted when Elizabeth and Darcy go to live at Pemberley and live happily ever after.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild.

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans, found by Great Uncle Matthew (or Gum) on his travels. Pauline was rescued from a shipwreck, Petrova from a Russian hospital and Posy from a family who could not afford to keep her. Sent to live with Gum’s niece Sylvia in London, the girls choose their own surname – Fossil –vowing to put it ‘into history books’. But with Gum away and money short, their ambitions must take second place to earning a living. Salvation comes in the shape of a free education from Madame Fidolia at the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. Posy is a natural dancer and Pauline has a gift for acting, but Petrova would rather be left alone to read about cars and aeroplanes. For all the sisters, being a star isn’t as easy as it looks....

Ballet Shoes is a lovely, magical story. I first read it when I was unwell and I fell in love with it instantly. It always makes me feel warm and cosy! I love everything about it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

She held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly - slowly ... She was standing inside the secret garden'
Thin, pale and haughty, 10-year-old Mary Lennox is determined to hate everything about her new life at Misselthwaite Manor, just as she had hated everything about her over-indulged life in India. But it is not long before the Yorkshire air puts colour in her cheeks, plain food adds flesh to her bones, and the forthright chatter of her maid, Martha, stirs new feelings of interest and affection in Mary. For Misselthwaite Manor holds two mysteries, a strange unhappy crying in the night and a walled garden with a door locked and forgotten for ten years. On the day a robin shows Mary where the key lies buried, the Magic begins ...
'It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine.'

Frances Hodgson Burnett remembered such a garden from her own childhood, and turned it, fifty years later, into one of the most popular of children's books. The characters are eternal - gruff Ben Weatherall, motherly Susan and the 'Yorkshire angel', Dickon, who has a special way with wild creatures. Burnett's novel is a paean to the joys of the outdoors, revelling equally in the fresh winds of the moors or a pale green crocus shoot pushing its way from the earth. In this beautiful evocation of a garden's enchantment is a heartfelt belief that the healing power of nature will transform children and adults alike.

I first read this book, aged 12 and I was immediately transported into Mary's magical garden! I loved that the robin becomes Mary's friend and shows her the door to The Secret Garden. The Secret Garden is my favourite childhood book and I love reading it today.

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit.

When their beloved father is suddenly and mysteriously taken away from them, Bobby, Peter and Phyllis are caught up in a desperate situation - the more frightening because they do not fully understand it. Uprooted to the country from their house in the London suburbs, they find their lifeline in the nearby railway, which becomes a source of new friends and adventures, and the eventual means of discovering exactly what happened to their father.

Never out of print since it first appeared in 1906, this timeless story speaks eloquently to young and old alike. This is another book I love and brings back lovely memories!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas story is a perennial favourite, and now it comes alive in Robert Ingpen’s masterfully illustrated version. Re-creating the look and atmosphere of nineteenth-century London, Mr. Ingpen, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, produces some of the finest art of his career, and gives us an edition that is at once classic and timeless. Also included is a bonus Dickens story, “The Christmas Tree.”

This is a lovely edition and I read every Christmas Eve with a nice warm drink

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Angela Barrett creates a nostalgic, snow-covered world in her magical new version of the Christmas Eve. This book is a delight. This magical, snow-covered version captures all the excitement of the countdown to the big day. The stillness and quiet sense of anticipation in her illustrations make this a particularly atmospheric and memorable telling. This a beautiful and magical poem!

Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series has been hailed as “one for the ages” by Stephen King and “a spellbinding saga’ by USA Today. And most recently, The New York Times called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the “fastest selling book in history.” This is the ultimate Harry Potter collection for Harry Potter fans of all ages!

The Harry Potter books are magical and special! These novels are part of my childhood and are wonderful to read at any age!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

One of the best loved classic children's stories, Little Women is a robust evocation of family life whose appeal transcends boundaries of time and age, making it as popular with adults as it is with younger readers.

We all know the story of Little Women. I really enjoyed reading it and felt that Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy were my friends. I became interested in their lives, especially through their joys and sorrows. I laughed at Meg being dressed up in all the fine things she so desperately wants by the Gardiner family and then she realizes that vanity isn't all that nice after all. I felt anxious when Beth falls ill and watched with Jo and felt relived when her fever broke and also when their father came home and told each of his girls how proud he was of them.

I loved Jo and Laurie messing about and playing games. I wanted to live at Orchard House and become a member of the March family, have meals with them, share their domestic duties and be a member of The Pickwick Club! I love Jo and wanted to write a book with her. I felt happy for Meg and John and enjoyed their joys and struggles through marriage and parenthood.

I am glad that Jo and Laurie didn't marry because as Jo says they are both too stubborn and hot headed to be good together. Amy and Laurie are better suited for each other. Jo found her match in Professor Bhar who is older than her loves her and is very patient with her.

Beth found peace at last and was very happy and content as she died. I'm glad all the girls finally all got their happy ending. Little Women makes me feel warm, cosy and secure and I love it! I recommend this lovely classic children's story to everyone. Snuggle up with a blanket, a warm drink and become a member of the March family!

Motherless Sara Crewe was sent home from India to school at Miss Minchin's. Her father was immensely rich and she became a "show pupil"-a little princess. Then her father died and his wealth disappeared, and Sara has to learn to cope with her changed circumstances. Her strong character enables her to fight successfully against her newfound poverty and the scorn of her fellows.

The story begins with little Sara Crewe traveling from the life she’s always known living in India with her beloved Father, Captain Crewe, to be schooled like all proper British girls in London. Her father is loathe to let her go but knows he must for her own good. Almost immediately upon arrival, Sara sees quite clearly with her wise beyond her years insight that Miss Minchin, the proprietor of the school, is not a fair lady, although she hides it well enough. Just as immediately, Sara gets the reputation of being a little princess as her father lavishly buys cloths, dolls and comfortable living quarters. But Sara is not the spoiled child you might think her to be, no- quite the opposite. She could have cared less for all the finery if only to stay with her Papa, but of course society says otherwise and far too quickly she is left behind.

Miss Minchin doesn’t make it easy for Sara, of course, but because she values Sara’s money, she plays along with Captain Crewe’s desires of spoiling the child- even when Sara unintentionally repeatedly reveals with her calm spirit that she is far more clever than the mean-spirited proprietress of the boarding school. Then, on the very day of Sara’s 11th birthday, news arrive that her father has passed away, and not only that- all of his money is lost as well.

Miss Minchin, feeling as if tricked into covering Sara’s expenses- expenses assured to be covered by the wealthy Captain Crewe- Miss Minchin takes out her wrath on the grieving child and makes her the drudge of the school, a step only slighter higher than the scullery maid Becky, whom Sara has befriended.

For years Sara suffers under the control of Minchin, doing all the tasks the servants don’t want to do, going to bed starving and cold each night.

But, try as she might, Miss Minchin couldn’t bring the clever girl down to the lowered station she thought she deserved to be in. For Sara Crewe was an expert at bolstering herself with imaginations.

When Minchin was at her worst, Sara’s proud spirit pretended she was soldier on a long and weary march. When given nothing but crumbs she shared it with her friend Melchisedec, the rat who lived in the wall whom Sara pretended had a large family to take care of. No matter how hungry- she gave. She gave stories to a forlorn student whom the other students looked down upon for being fat and stupid and gave unheard of friendship to Becky, a mere scullery maid, who stayed in the room in the attic right next to her. She even gave away five buns to a begger she fell upon quite by accident one day while running errands- all because she believed a true Princess, like the one she imagined herself to be, is not one to complain or take things for herself when aid is needed for the populace.

One day the school becomes a buzz with the news that a wealthy man is moving next door and Sara in her clever mind quickly assigns a story to him to entertain herself in the hours after her drudgery is over, to keep her mind off her hunger. Her curiosity is even more aroused when she meets the wealthy man’s native Indian man servant and his pet monkey one evening when the monkey escapes into her attic window.

Ram Dass, the man servant, is struck by the bright child, and from that moment on, watches with silent eyes and ears every kind thing Sara does and eventually brings it to the wealthy man’s attention. Sensing they can help her, the wealthy neighbor and Ram Dass determine to bless the girl who gives so much yet is treated so poorly- Ram Dass because he knows exactly what’s going on, the wealthy man because the child reminds him of another young girl he lost and is desperate to find.

One evening Sara, possibly at her coldest and hungriest, welcomes her friend Ermengarde into her room. Ermengarde finally realizing how the kindest person in her world is being treated, promptly decides to share a basket sent to her from home, stuffed with treats and food. Delighted Sara arranges the room as a secret surprise for Ermengarde and Becky, while Ermengarde leaves to retrieve the food. When the girls gather together, Sara transports the little group as if by magic to a grand ballroom prepared for a feast, all the while staying in their drab little room. It’s a wondrous time for all the girls, trying with all the might to imagine the beautiful room right along with Sara.

Of course the evil Miss Minchin ruins it.

But perhaps she wouldn't have been so adamant in putting the little princess in her place if she knew that her actions would become the catalyst for Sara to be blessed beyond her own very vivid imagination.

I love this children's novel.

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