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The Book that Stays: Jane Eyre
I know a Good Story / November 3, 2014

Many people read the Bible throughout their lives.  It teaches and comforts them and never becomes tiring.  I like that kind of relationship with a story, where the characters are so developed and the narrative so strong that the book reveals different strengths as you re-read it at different points in your life.   I suppose the book I’ve had the longest relationship with is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I first tried reading Jane when I was in junior high, too young to understand most of it.  The part I did understand was the child Jane of the first nine chapters.  Here was a fearsome little girl, capable of attacking a bully or standing up to adults when necessary.  Since I didn’t have the nerve to do either, I loved the little hellion and cheered her on.  I didn’t really understand her friendship with the gentle Helen Burns (like Jane, I have too much original sin to identify with the saint-like Helen) but I was sad to see her go, with an exit that still gives me a chill.  Imagine waking up next to a corpse! Teens and twenties are high times for romance and that’s when I dwelt in the…

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
I know a Good Story / November 2, 2014

I may not believe in fate but I do believe in Serendipity, that sunny-natured cousin between Destiny and Coincidence.  I’ve benefited from too many “happy accidents” in my life to believe otherwise.  My “best friends”, my husband, my home and my career all appeared when I was ready to find them, usually long after I had quit looking.  Some of the books I love presented themselves the same way but the first time I recognized this was when I found, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  I was around twelve, a bit old for the book’s target audience, but I was looking for a story to enchant me, preferably set in England and very cheap because I didn’t have much spending money.   Even at that age I’d learned that the cheapest volumes in any bookstore are usually on the classical shelves and that is where I found Joan Aiken’s tale of an alternate England where James II sits on the throne and people shoot attacking wolves from moving trains.  “Wolves” is a thrilling and well-paced kid’s book and very Dickensian in its execution.   The heroes were sympathetic and believable, the villains are terrifying and the characters had the most evocative names:…

The Books That Follow You Home…
Uncategorized / November 1, 2014

To me, books are like Jack’s magic beans.  Think about poor old Jack, wandering to town with the family cow, hoping to trade Bossy in for a few days worth of chow.   Instead he winds up with a handful of beans his mom flings out the window after she hears of Jack’s impulse trade.   The beans don’t look like much in hand but they end up changing Jack’s life because they really have magical properties.   They can grow huge stalks overnight that take Jack to impossible places of terror and delight.   Because of the beans, Jack becomes a thief, a provider, a rich man and (almost) the giant’s lunch.   Because of the beans, Jack’s life changes forever. Now some books are a lot like those beans.   In hard form, they are just words on a page, nothing to get excited or scared about and another person might not see much value in them.  But I think they have magical properties.  Like beans, they can take you to places and people you would never know otherwise.  They can transport you through time, like a TARDIS, then return you home for tea.  These stories don’t just give knowledge, they almost seem sentient. …

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