Tag Archive: notes from rumbly cottage


Lately, I have been on a book reading binge. A purposeful one.

I have been reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I want to know, I need to know, if it was her writing in those legendary books. Or was it a collaboration between herself and her daughter, Rose.Or was it all Rose.

Call me crazy, call me obsessed, call me a fan of the TV show and books that started back in the 1970s. But there is a part of me that loves these books and hates seeing an author besmirched, especially when it is Laura who inspired so many childhood adventures and dreams. I might not have taken it to the extremes that Wendy McClure did but her book, The Wilder Life:My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. But McClure gave me the idea to someday camp at the South Dakota homestead in a Conestoga wagon.

1911

Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1911

I want to believe that Laura was the sole writer. After all, she did write a farming column for years. You try writing 500 words every week and see how easy it is not. Remember, too, she was an excellent student and a lover of poetry. I still remember when she accidentally found the book of Tennyson poetry, meant to be her Christmas gift in one of the later books. She loved that book.

I am willing to concede that Rose helped Laura with structure and plotting. I know from various sources that they discusses the books intensely. I know that Rose typed the books for her mother. I would not be surprised if she constantly edited whether it was needed or not. In Pamela Smith Hill’s biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Hill discusses what both women talked about through the remains of letters and papers. But as time went on Laura relied on Rose less and less.

Which is why the last option really rankles me. After reading Susan Wittig Albert’s fictionalized account, A Wilder Rose, about the writing of the Little House books from Rose’s perspective, I wondered how far Albert had crawled up RWL’s ass. Her dismissive attitude towards Laura stood out from the first page. Norma Lee Browning was depicted as a simpering follower wanting nothing more than to fawn over Rose’s words of wisdom. Laura turns out to be a passive aggressive manipulator who is either constantly harping on her daughter and her choice of friends or interrupting Rose once she finally gets down to work. In the notes at the end of the book, Albert made sure to besmirch Manly as well as Laura. Did Albert only read Rose’s diaries and papers to get her story?

Wilder RoseAfter reading this and other biographies, I truly believe that Rose should have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder. Her world truly stopped six inches from her nose. Rose builds a dream house for her parents without consulting them and demands they live there while she lives in the farmhouse they built for themselves – perfectly suited for their size and needs. Did it ever occur to her that all the little sniping was because Mom wanted to live in the house she built for herself? A gift is no gift when gratitude is demanded.

Adding insult to injury, Rose writes a book (Let the Hurricane Roar,1932) based on her mother’s stories that had been collected in Pioneer Girl, using the same names as her grandparents, hides the notices from her mother (documented in her own diary) and then wonders why her mother is angry. Really? I think I would have taken a switch to that girl despite the fact she was over 40 years old at the time. I kept thinking “Get over yourself, Rose. Yes, you grew up poor and didn’t have a silver spoon. But people reached out to you and gave you opportunities. And stop blaming your mother for everything.”

Now, as to who wrote what. After reading Let the Hurricane Roar/Young Pioneers, I doubt Rose’s ability to write in a lyrical manner. Her prose is very straight forward, utilitarian. Why, like that of a journalist. Which is exactly what Rose did for a living for many decades. She might have edited, it is easy to edit some one else’s work to make it sing, much harder to write the flowery descriptions from scratch. And their letters back and forth show more collaboration than out-and-out work by Rose alone.

Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane

Am I angry over this book? Damm straight. You want to show that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not write those books then you had better come up with better proof than only the daughter’s diary and a fake conversation with a woman who died in 2001 and cannot be contacted for verification. This book might be fiction but its overly smug attitude towards LIW reminds me of what was said about Shakespeare. How can a person with so little education write so good of a book?

Nor could I deal calmly with her attitude about the royalties, how the library had to sue in order to get what was willed to them. That if it wasn’t for Roger MacBride allowing the rights to be sold to the TV show, there would not have been over $800,000. Well, there would have been no tv shows if Laura had not written the books. But why should a tiny, leaky library in a podunk town get the money that was willed to them?

To me, that is simply another example of Rose being a jerk. Her mother knew the importance of helping a community. Laura was one of the community members who helped create that library. Apparently, Rose could not understand that sometimes you have to help the community be better by giving them access to a broader range of information. Her method seemed to involve a permanent sneer and running away with the middle finger raised high.

Pioneer GirlI am awaiting the new Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography edited by Pamela Smith Hill. Will it give a balanced story? Will it satisfy my LIW Hunger without destroying her image? I don’t know. But I would rather know she was a woman who tried than one who had to have her way by hook or by crook, even if it destroyed her daughter.

Has a book ever angered you so much you are willing to slap not only the author but the subject of the book as well?

How to Have a Big Year

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

This past week, I noticed a lot of stuff as I drove or walked around our community.

The town accountant readied his boat for a cruise or perhaps some fishing on April 16th. Yep, he probably deserves a break right about now.

Look, even the tulips are getting in the act.

Look, even the tulips are getting in the act.

As I walked Lady around, I noticed all of the beautiful spring flowers and flowering bushes- daffodils, narcissus, crocus, blue star, and forsythia – in bloom right now. In my own garden I have a new narcissus I am pretty sure I did not plant. I love those surprise volunteers.

Last week, I came home after a night of work only to hear the frogs from the nearby pond. It is about a quarter mile from my house as the crow flies. But the frogs were making a racket that made me think about opening the window so I could fall asleep to that sound.

But that might not have been the best sound. Hearing the birds make a racket might have been the best sound. I could pick out the red wing black birds and the bird that makes a sound like a Star Wars fighter plane. I am seeing blue jays and cardinals. Occasionally, I hear a wood pecker working on a tree but I haven’t seen one yet.

Birding is a different type of sport. It becomes more about making the impossible sighting, the wondrous vagrant, the birds sent off course by storms and high winds. I know parents of college friends who go to Texas for the winter not to winter but to work at a bird sanctuary. Walking into the woods with Neil Case is never a straight forward hike, you are going to see things.

While I enjoy watching the birds that come to our feeders, I never knew or imagined that there was such a thing in the birding world as a Big Year. This is when bird watching enthusiasts take a calendar year from January 1 till December 31 to see as many birds as you possibly can. The record is over 700 species seen in a one year period.

The Big Year PosterI became interested in finding all of this stuff out when the kids turned on this movie, The Big Year (2011) one night during spring break. Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson are three men who decide to do a Big Year in the same calendar year. Martin and Wilson are wealthy businessmen while Black is a working stiff getting over his divorce.

The Black character does everything he can, including racking up several credit cards to the limit, to do this Big Year thing which means a lot of traveling across the United States and Canada in order to see over 700 varieties of birds from North America and others that get blown off course. This includes Alaska, Florida, Texas, boat tours on the Pacific, and Colorado. They will miss work, spouses, and the little things to make this dream of seeing every possible species come true.

I found this movie worthwhile although slowly paced at times. It is a movie meant for adults, context-wise, but my ten-year-old could watch it for the most part. As we watched this movie while at my parents’ house, I wondered if my dad had ever seen it or if he would watch it. There were some exciting moments of almost making the plane and almost catching sight of a bird but no explosions or gun fights.

Perhaps Dad would have just changed the channel if he saw this movie coming on.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

As Easter creeps closer, there are things to be done.

It is the traditional time of Spring Cleaning. So much dust and dirt collects in my house that I feel like I can never keep up with it. One week I clear cobwebs and the next week they are back again. Dirt and sand gather for some party I was never invited to join.

During this time of the year, now that taxes are done, I find myself going through a ton of paper that needs to be shredded. I always think I am going to get at those big closets or piles of clutter but the regular stuff gets me distracted every time. In the end my goal becomes to get through one nasty place a day.

All of this is in preparation for Easter, making sure the house is ready. Or maybe it hearkens back to the Jewish holiday of Passover in which cleaning happens in earnest. There can be no leavening agent left in the house before the start of Passover which is the night of April 3rd this year.

I always remember this because the Last Supper was the Seder dinner, the first night of Passover that Jesus and his disciples would have observed.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

For this week we think about those Christian movies more than usual. And in the past few years, Hollywood has responded to people wanting more movies about Christian faith. I recently watched Heaven is For Real starring Greg Kinnear. I am not sure a movie like this would have starred a big name of a name or talented actor of an actor as Kinner as recent as a few years ago if the script was poorly written.

If you are looking for a movie that is family friendly, this one is beyond a few outbursts of anger and one scene in which dad tells his daughter she needs to punch someone without hurting herself. But content wise, this movie is better for pre-teens and up. Their minds are better able to understand the nuances.

The story is about a four-year-old boy who nearly dies from mis-diagnosed appendicitis. It is during this time that he goes to heaven, meeting family members, Jesus, and God. As the boy recovers he slowly begins talking about his experiences with his family. For the dad, who is a minister, it causes a crisis of faith. He is torn by people who support him and others who doubt that such a thing could happen.

Kelly Riley, Connor Corum, and Greg Kinnear in Heaven is For Real

Kelly Riley, Connor Corum, and Greg Kinnear in Heaven is For Real

Many of my friends who have seen this movie state that the book is better and I do not disagree. In the book, much of the action took over two years to happen. As the movie goes, much of the action takes place within a year’s time. But Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly give heartfelt sincere performances as parents trying to understand what has happened to their son and how that affects their life in the present.

I enjoyed the movie because of that sincerity. I likes the little boy who focuses on what he saw for minutes at a time while his father seems to want to dig deeper. That’s how we adults operate, we want every detail and the little kids want to play in the sand box. I believed the story that this child saw something but defining it for adults was not always easy. Isn’t that faith in a nutshell?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The last few weeks, my reading pile has included a variety of books whose focus is North Korea.

These were not easy books to read, in fact it was dammed dis-heartening. I read about a country suffering through near poverty while its leader lives the good life.

Well, when he is not having his mistress shot because his wife found out about the affair. Granted I have only hearsay for that one. But it is pretty certain that his uncle is dead after some of his bolder acts came to be known. The man disappeared and no one has seen him. It is assumed that he is dead – somewhere. If one story is true, it was a very public and nasty death.

esape from camp 14This does not surprise me. Especially after I finished reading Escape from Camp 14. This non-fiction book, which is currently up for the Lincoln Award, tells the story of a young man , named Shin, who was born in Camp 14, a brutal gulag meant for those who went against the government in some way. If that isn’t enough, the government gathers your family, have people ‘mate’ or marry so that they can punish your children.

It is the whole idea of punishing three generations of wrongdoers. People within the camp are taught to snitch on each other, to always work alone, and to never trust one another. God forbid if you try to escape and fail. Chances are you will shot or hung in front of a crowd so your mistakes are an example to everyone else.

Recently it has come out that Shin changed facts around such as his mother, brother, and himself were transferred to a different camp, and that one escape attempt led him to being repatriated to North Korea.

Reluctant CommunistIt could lead you to discount the whole story until you read The Reluctant Communist by Charles Robert Jenkins and Jim Frederick. Jenkins was stationed in South Korea during the 1960s. While this was his second stint in South Korea, it was one filled with depression and loneliness. After eight years in the service, the Sargent wanted to go home and not be sent to Vietnam. That is when he deserted the Army and walked over the border to North Korea. Jenkins thought he would be sent home to face a court martial.

Instead he lived 40 years in a country that was brutal in its rations of food and money. He knows he had it better than most of the citizens but he dealt with irregular heating, electric service, and food sources. He was lucky to meet a Japanese woman and to have a true love match. Other American captives were ‘given’ women or eventually given a woman for a wife.

Because the Japanese government came looking for their abducted citizen, Jenkins’ wife Hitomi, was allowed to go back home. It would take nearly two years of effort on the part of the Japanese government  to get Jenkins and his two daughters into Indonesia to re-unite the family.

I raced through this book but would read various passages again so that I could truly understand what happened to Charles and Hitomi.

Without You There is no UsThe book that started me on this journey is the memoir by Suki Kim, Without You, There is No Us. It details the time Kim spent as a teacher at a university in Pyongyang, teaching English to children of the Korean elite. But even here, life is not privileged. Food seldom tastes good, even if there is meat. The electric service is spotty. Everyone’s computer is bugged so officials know what you are looking up at all times which was a huge fear when one of the other teachers stated they googled each of their co-workers.

Private conversations can only be had if you walk outside in the compound. And there is no such thing as a private conversation with students. You never know who is an informant and who is a rebel.

Kim tried to subtly introduce Western ideas but came to realize that she was only putting her students, whom she grew to love, in danger. Field trips for the teachers pointed out the abject poverty of the people. With her students not even allowed visits from their parents until school break times, Kim wondered about the life that her students lead outside of the university, if they had any freedom or were able to see other students like themselves.

You might say “That Shin guy lied, couldn’t these others be lying, too?” The problem is that there are too many stories from too many defectors. Why would thousands of people lie so grandly if this country was better than what it appears to be?

Then this week I heard about the Wired magazine article that talks with a man who smuggles thumb drives filled with American TV shows into North Korea. These are easier to hide than DVDs, easier to move around.  In doing this, the smugglers hope to show North Koreans that Americans do not focus on how to destroy their tiny country at all hours of the day.

Once upon a time, about 70 years ago, we said never again to things like the Holocaust and genocide. But with examples from North Korea and ISIS and Darfur and the break up of Yugoslavia, I wonder if that is ever possible. The only thing I do know is that we must keep working against the evil that deems we must obey or die.

Pulling out the Big Words

When I am not focused on anything else or when I do not want to be focused on anything else, I play Words With Friends.

words with friendsIt is my relaxing task, the one that helps me keep it together when I am about to spin out from grief. It also distracts me from tasks at hand and the things I need to get done.

It is my sin and my salvation.

Through Words with Friends, I have become a master with four-, five-, and six-letter words. If the opportunity strikes, I can place a seven-, eight-, or nine-lettered word. But those moments are rare. Satisfying, as when I was able to place ‘seances’ on two triple letter tiles and the triple word tile.

But recently my daughter competed in a conference spelling bee. She forced asked me to help her study for this contest. Before I would have said I am a woman of letters, i know tough words. I am willing to use those words in a sentence.

I was wrong.

oxford dictionaryOh, sure there were some simple words such as ‘wok’ and ‘aria.’ Then came some of the simple hard words such as ‘zygote’ and ‘quiche.’

None of these compared to ‘chiaroscuro’ or ‘fuliginous’ or ‘mulligatawny.’

I pulled out the dictionary for a pronunciation guide. I tried pulling it up on google to hear the words spoken out loud. After we got through her list, I felt as if I should be crumpled on the kitchen floor waiting for a bit of wine to revive me. Shakespeare had never made me feel this incomplete.

In the end, the girl was third overall in the spelling bee. One of her girlfriends made it to first place and their team won the competition overall over seven other schools.

Now that the bragging is done, you must excuse me. I am still trying to figure out ‘persiflage.’

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

By the time you read this, St. Patrick’s Day will be over. The corn beef and cabbage with exist in dribs and drabs. The potatos are crumbs.

But don’t let that stop you from watching some Irish movies. What I like are the ones that mix myth/fairy tales into real life. In the middle of land lacked farm land, we do not get seals that might be able to transform into humans.

But that is the subject of the movie Ondine starring Colin Ferrell and Alicja Bachleda. Ferrell is a down-on-his-luck fisherman in Ireland who shares his daughter with his ex. One day his nets pick up a beautiful young woman. She doesn’t want to be seen by anyone else, so Ferrell hides her in his mother’s old house.

OndineHis daughter eventually finds her and decides that the woman is a selkie. That is a seal which can take human form. A selkie cannot go back to the sea if her human husband finds and hides her seal coat. While Ferrell and Bachleda fall in love, you begin to think that maybe, just maybe, she really is a selkie.

The setting is beautiful and the dialogue feels both real and poetic. I listened to an interview with Ferrell and his conversation was never as lyrical although he is an intelligent man. Director Neil Jordan has made some movies focused on Irish ghosts (High Spirits) that were a waste of time. But this one carried me through even when the fear aspect took over the fairytale.

This movie has an adult context that would not be suitable for younger children. Older tweens and teens might enjoy it a bit more.

One movie that I like for younger children is Into The West. Gabriel Byrne stars as the father of two boys who are given a horse by their grandfather. This is not just any horse, this is Tír na nÓg who comes from the land under the sea that holds eternal youth. The problem is the motherless family lives in an apartment building in the slums of Dublin. Hiding a horse is quite difficult.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Worse yet, a greedy business man wants the fine horse no matter what. So he works with the police to steal the horse from the boys. But not every thing goes according to the plan. The boys steal the horse and begin riding him into the West Country of Ireland. The cops are chasing the boys down but the boys are getting help along the way. Meanwhile, other Travellers, Irish gypsies, help Dad track his boys before something dire can happen.

Again, I am lost in the mix of magic and real life. I sympathize with the depressed father who has lost his wife and wakes up only when he realizes he could lose his boys as well. I find myself cheering on the boys every time the slip out of reach of the authorities. It is movies like this that make me appreciate how magic and real life can intermingle.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Last night as I drove home, I found myself listening to Laurence Holmes on The Score.

Laurence HolmesI really like Laurence and his sports show because it is never just about sports. Sports is a big piece of his life but, as you listen, you realize there is a lot going on in Laurence’s life in a positive way.

It doesn’t hurt that he gave me a shout out once but I liked him way before that.

Last night, he discussed a documentary short produced by Joakim Noah, of the Chicago Bulls, on the effect of gun violence on those who survive, what it means to lose someone to violence.

Then he played the audio from the 8:49-minute clip. I found it heart-rendering. I found myself thinking the editor did a great job of telling these various stories from kids and Chicago Bulls players who lost loved ones to gun violence.

Could it lead to awards as Laurence thought it may? I don’t know but I do know that people who have been through this situation, of which there are too many, and watch this documentary will know that they are not alone. That there are people out there who know exactly how they feel.

And that it is okay to cry out those feelings and feel that loss.

Here is a link to that documentary.“You’re Not Alone”

Lemon Blueberry Cake

For what ever reasons, I decided to make a lemon blueberry cake.

Maybe it was Oscar week and I always like to experiment with food choices for that meal. Maybe because winter has dragged on, and I needed something light and refreshing to eat. Maybe it was because I saw a great and luscious picture over at Sally’s Baking Addiction.

She made her cake from scratch. I used lemon cake mix. And my cream cheese frosting came from a tub.

Normally, I am not a person to make layer cakes. They require effort to make them straight and pretty. Bundt cakes require less effort and still tasty. But I really loved the look of this cake so I decided to go with it.

So to make a great picture, I put all of the ingredients, including one cup of blueberries, in the bowl. Now doesn’t that look pretty?

cake mix

Now, here is the problem. Once you start mixing those blueberries, the color immediately begins seep out of the berries. My lovely yellow cake is getting muddled with every stir of the spoon. I was not going to get the lovely color contrast.

Has that ever stopped me?

Cake baked

So I moved on, got those lovely pans filled and into the oven. At the right time, I got them out and, boy did it smell good in my house. As you can see the blueberries went down, which was okay in my book. I wanted to have the majority in one spot for the glorious effect later on.

I did what any improviser does best, I carried on and frosted the cake. The first layer went top down and I put a coating of frosting on. That cream cheese frosting was tasty. The next layer went top down. My goal became to use as much of the frosting that was left. It was going down. and around. I recently saw one suggestion of giving a thin layer all around the sides and top before going full blown with the rest of the frosting. I tried this and found I did not have as many crumbs trying to make a mess of my cake.

Cake

Which turned out quite lovely once I added the extra blueberries as an edible garnish. It was very tasty. And the sliced version had some of that contrast I was going for.

Cake slice

But if I ever do this again, I am making sure to put the blueberries in the cake pans first and then cover with the batter. Secondly, I am using more frosting in the middle. You can never have enough frosting in the middle.

What are you baking to get rid of the winter blues?

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

The past month and a half has been a blur to me.

Since my father’s death, I have had days in which I felt pretty normal. Then there were days when I was pretty sure I was going to start crying while doing the shopping or run to the post office. What could set me off? Pretty much anything, such as “how are you?” or “want fries with that?” or seeing a guy with big arms wearing a cut-off flannel shirt.

My first day back to work saw me shaking and I thought about running out of the library. But I was there and I would have to do this sooner or later. I would have to get back to normal – whatever that it.

Having young kids still at home helps in a strange way. They have activities and routines that need attention. I had to make sure Sam was signed up for baseball, Sara still has a gazzillion activities, and David’s band just performed in a Battle of the Bands in Watseka. So while life is not the same as it was before December 30th, it is not all that different except for one essential.

The thing is, I know I am not alone. My aunt who died four years ago is still mourned by my cousins. Another cousin’s husband just lost his mother. Friends on facebook are posting about lost parents or uncles or aunts. I have simply joined a group that I thought I was not joining for another ten years. But that group understands what I am going through, they know the shaky smile and sudden memories that hit out of the blue.

I dont know how she does itLately, I have been wanting to watch all of my old favorites that are sappy and make me cry. Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember, You’ve Got Mail. Somewhere along the line I saw a trailer for I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, and Pierce Bronson. I had to get it!

The story is about a working woman who also has a family. She is a high powered financial executive working with Pierce Bronsan to create a new type of investment tool. Meanwhile her husband is starting a new project for his architectural company. Then there are the kids with birthday parties and bake sales.

Yes, she has a nanny but that person is unreliable. What the character is trying for, more than anything, is to have it all. The great (well-paying) job, the wonderful husband, a loving family. She wants to be a great mom who makes terrific strides at work.

I understand, I really do. I understand why a woman returning from a business trip takes a rolling pin to a perfect store-bought pie to make it look home-made. I understand the need for a shower, trying to make things great for the birthday party, and keeping the husband happy. I understand backbiting co-workers, the in-group at the pricey private school looking down at their noses at the working moms, and family members who do not always get it.

I love this scene in which Kate throws everything in the air and catches most of it.

I love this scene in which Kate throws everything in the air and catches most of it.

There was a lot to like about this movie, Hello Pierce Bronson. But I also liked how various characters broke the fourth wall as if this was some sort of documentary. They expressed their opinions on what Kate was doing from their vantage point and it worked for me. Keep in mind, this is a movie to share with girlfriends and not the kids. They do not care about our struggles but our girlfriends do!

Sadly, I fell asleep while watching the movie and did not get to see the end. I had spent the day being a busy mom and when the time came for me for some ‘me’ time, well, I passed out. How any of us do it all and stay sane most of the time is beyond me.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

My Austen Obsession

Just when I think I am off my Jane Austen kick, it comes roaring back.

I know that I should read other pieces of fiction that have nothing to do with Austen. And I do. Recently I read China Dolls by Lisa See, Without You there is No Us, and Escape from Camp 14 in a fit of need for knowledge about Asia. I have one more book to read about an American soldier who defected to North Korea during a period of homesickness and depression.

JA Death Comes to PemberleyBut ever since my book group read Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, I have found my self lost in a round of Austen that is not even written by Jane. I have even delved in to the Austen Project by Harper Collins.

In this book, we are back at Pemberley but it is six years later. Darcy and Elizabeth are deliriously happy with two little boys. Georgina still lives with them but has shown interest in a busy but successful lawyer. Jane and Bingley live nearby with their children.

Life couldn’t be happier as they prepare for the annual Autumn ball that is held in the memory of the last Mrs. Darcy.

But on the night before the ball Lydia comes to the front door, screaming that Wickham has been killed and They must do something about it. Well, he is not dead but his friend, Denny, has a nasty blow to the head.

Here is my problem with this book. It is stiff. The language, the action, the formalities between people who should like each other and feel at ease. The story is told from Darcy’s viewpoint most of the time and perhaps that is one reason for the constant formal atmosphere. Except that Elizabeth has taken on some of that as well.

This was not a favorite and nor shall I be reading it again anytime soon. I liked the story but some of the relationships seemed a bit preposterous. It was a mystery and not a comedy of manners in the way of Pride and Prejudice. in this book the problems of the past could not be laughed away. Instead there was too much analysis.

JA Sense and Sensibility_trollope_Well, having failed that my other faux Austen adventure was sinking into the new versions of Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. Harper Collins has put together a group of modern-day writers who take on of the six and write it in the modern era. That means there are constant references to iPhones and texting.

Joanna Trollope took on Sense and Sensibility. For me, this should have been a slam dunk for Joanna. If you have read her novels, you know that she has a knack for describing the human heart and it’s layers of feelings. I have enjoyed her writing over the years.

In this book, mom and dad never got married so Norland goes to John. Fanny comes in with plans to make the old manor home into a B&B. Elinor is yanked out of her architectural program, Marianne is an asmathic, and Margaret is a sulky pre-teen.

Thank God for cousin Sir John Middleton who offers them a home on his estate near Exeter. He owns a clothing company and uses members of the family as models for his catalog. He also finds Elinor a job in her field and introduces the Dashwoods to Col. Brandon.

I enjoyed the pace of this book, I enjoyed how Trollope worked around various parts of the story that made sense in 1802 but not 2014. I did not enjoy how rude the girls became to one another. I never felt that until Elinor gives up her secret, Marianne was nothing more than a selfish little twit. Margaret wasn’t much better but she is 12. Worse was Mrs. Dashwood who never understood Elinor’s worries and was the example that Marianne seemed to live by.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Alexander McCall Smith is working on Emma, I might have to give up on this series.

JA Murder Most PersuasiveIn truth, I find the best adaptation stay away from the source books with only a tiny bit of a story working its way in to whatever the main plot turns out to be. At Christmas, my mother sent me a newer mystery series by Tracy Kiely. Here our detective is a Jane Austen devotee. She quotes Jane Austen whenever possible. It is a sickness shared by her favorite aunt who has a B&B in Martha’s Vineyard named after Longbourn.

While some portion of the story has characters lifted from the canon but given different names, the murder mystery often has nothing to do with that bit. I have read all but one book in the series. Sadly it ends at number four, which is too bad because I think Kiely was hitting her stride at no. 3, Murder Most Persuasive.

In this book, Elizabeth is helping out her cousin after the death of a beloved uncle. That is when the body of a former friend of the family is discovered. Worse yet, he is the former fiancee of the cousin’s older sister. Soon one of the plot lines resembles Persuasion and Elizabeth’s sister is almost word-for-word like Mary.

What I love about this series is that it is light and breezy, a great read for summer time or anytime you want something quick. They have been great when I need my mind to focus on something other than my father’s death. And my daughter has picked them up. I was able to get the rest of the four book series through my library. We are in Austen heaven for the time being.

JA Jane Austen and the Maddening Lord ByronNext on my list to read is Jane Austen and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron. When I read Barron’s work in the past I found the language too formal and the relationships too casual.

However, I have a huge crush on Lord Byron. I would never want to  be married to the man as he has way too much baggage. But to be in his circle for even a short time would be something.

I will get to this book as soon as I am done with the latest book club book. Then I can get back to my Austen Obsession.

What books have you been obsessing over?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,015 other followers