Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What I Read in September Part II

What I Read in September Part II . . .

Thrush Green (Thrush Green, #1)Thrush Green (Thrush Green 1) by Miss Read -- Historical Fiction

May 1 is dawning in the sleepy Cotswolds village of Thrush Green and that means the fair is coming. Young Paul, who has been sick in bed, is eagerly awaiting the doctor who will tell him if he's fit to go to the fair. Paul's aunt Ruth has been staying with him while recovering from a broken engagement must discover where her future lies while old Doctor Bailey and Mrs. Curdle, the proud gypsy woman who runs the fair, must do the same. Mrs. Curdle hates to close the fair but she hasn't been feeling well lately and her choice heir, her grandson Ben, has been moody and mopey all winter. She fears he won't want to run the fair anymore and there's no one else in their clan who can do it as well. Ben has a secret though, he's madly in love with a local girl he met last year. Will she remember him? Will she forgive him for not coming to visit or writing? Will his proud grandmother accept his choice if Molly does forgive him? Molly, the Sexton's daughter, is sometimes Paul's babysitter and sometimes barmaid in the next village and on weekends, full time caretaker of her drunkard father. She dreams of romance and adventure but she isn't sure her heart's choice is the wise choice. Young Dr. Lovell is visiting Thrush Green to work under Dr. Bailey. He's fallen in love with the village and the people and regrets that he'll have to leave some day, but for one night he will enjoy the fair and forget his troubles. Various other inhabitants see the fair as a nuisance and have their own problems to worry about.

This charming story takes place all in one day. It's divided into three parts and then each chapter is about a different set of characters. I found the story really worked that way because I developed a friendship with a set of characters and just had to know what would happen next. Though all the action takes place in one day, it works well for the story. The romances have already started to develop before the action of the story. Even though they're still a little unrealistic, it makes more sense this way than if the romance unfolded in one day. The writing is incredibly beautiful and descriptive. I've been to a couple Cotswolds villages so I can easily picture Thrush Green.

The story reminds me a lot of Cranford or Lark Rise to Candleford is that the story is about an English village populated by quirky characters. I especially liked the strong, proud gypsy woman, Mrs. Curdle. I felt sorry for her troubles and wanted everything to work out for her. I liked Paul and seeing the excitement of the fair through a child's eyes. The primary young adult women, Ruth and Molly, are a bit underdeveloped. I felt bad for Molly and hoped she would be happy but I found her story just a little bit unbelievable. Ruth's story takes awhile to unfold and when I finally learned the whole story, I didn't really feel bad for her. Her story doesn't come to a definite conclusion, which is kind of nice. The eccentric villagers provide the comic relief and I liked them, despite their faults. There are references that firmly date this book in the mid-20th century. I could have pictured it set between the wars though, the way the characters act. There are also some sexist and racist attitudes, common at the time, that I didn't like. Even so, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more about Thrush Green.

Winter in Thrush Green (Thrush Green, #2)Winter in Thrush Green (Thrush Green 2) by Miss Read -- Historical Fiction

Two years after the events of Thrush Green have seen a few changes in the village. The main characters of the first book fade into the background while the secondary characters come to the forefront. Mr. Piggott grumbles about all the work he has to do while waiting for the pub to open; Ella and Dimity are busy being nosy about their new neighbor, a man who has recently arrived from Africa; Miss Watson, the headmistress is assaulted and robbed in her own home and her junior teacher Miss Fogarty must rise to the occasion; Nelly Tilling is on the hunt for a new husband and has her sights set on one unsuspecting man. Harold Shoosmith has come to England seeking an idyllic 19th century life, only to discover that in the mid-20th century servants are hard to come by, but the neighbors are kind, especially the vicar who appears very lonely. Mr. Shoosmith has come to Thrush Green to his hero, Nathaniel Patten's birthplace. Nathaniel Patten was a 19th century missionary and the 100th anniversary of his birth is coming up in March so Mr. Shoosmith and the vicar decide to plan a memorial. The locals can't decide what it should be but seem to want Ella to make it. Harold is appalled at the idea and must find someone rational to work with. A few romances are in the air and Paul Young has a new friend. By spring Thrush Green will have changed just a little bit more.

This is such a sweet, charming series. I like the third person narration better than the first person of the Village School series. Some of the elements of village life are the same in both series but the third person allows for emphasis on a variety of quirky characters. Each chapter alternates between a set of characters so it kept me reading to find out what happened. I knew exactly "who dunnit" so I wasn't surprised, I just wanted to know if that person got caught and how. One of the romances was predictable and one surprised me. One is a bit off-putting and one is very sweet. Some of the attitudes in the book are a little old-fashioned and some of the references are more modern than what I'm used to. This series is a hybrid between the classic English village novels of the 19th century and a modern local color novel. The writing is beautiful at times and also very simple. I think this series must appeal to elderly people who lived in a small town or village like Thrush Green. The characters are all feel so very real that they must be composites of real people. I plan to continue this series.

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