Tag Archives: set in England

They Were Sisters

Thoughts by Dorothy Whipple, Persephone Editions 2012 (orig 1943), 455 pages

Challenge: Classics Club 50

Genre/Theme: British Women’s Fiction, pre-WW2, the Middle Class, Family Dynamics

Type/Source: Tradeback, Library (ILL Omaha NE, 3 week loan)

What It’s About: “Three sisters marry very different men and the choices they make determine whether they will flourish, be tamed or be repressed. Lucy’s husband is her beloved companion; Vera’s husband bores her and she turns elsewhere; and Charlotte’s husband is a bully who turns a high-spirited naïve young girl into a deeply unhappy woman.” (From the online catalog.)

She understood as never before that God helps those who help themselves. It was not, as she used to interpret it, that God will only, he can only help those who help themselves. It was true of human help too.

Thoughts: Yowza.

I’ve had this book on my tbr for awhile now. Since I first discovered Persephone and thus discovered Whipple. Compelling. Comforting. Real. I have a friend I tried to arm wrestle to send this to me and I promised I would send it back to her unharmed, unmarked, as pristine as I found it but she wouldn’t part with it. Couldn’t take the risk. (I don’t blame her!)

Then/When I decided to check the Interlibrary Loan option at my library and wa la! They could get a copy! Unfortunately, it came in with 3 other books on 14 day loan that I had requested for TOB. SO I had to read those first, giving me only 1 week to finish this before it’s due date. But committed I was, emboldened to finish on time! AND, I was daring myself to read it with enjoyment in mind and not just to be done with it.

I gave myself a 65 page daily read consumption requirement — having a weekend helped a lot. And I finished it a day early; two days actually, if by due date, I have til end of day to return? I’m so proud of myself.

I did enjoy it, I wanted to sit and read. I managed to read through exciting television blasting in the room, I read in the car as a passenger, I read in 10 minute breaks here and there and I read while eating lunch. I know, I know, most readers do these things but I was on a mission and I enjoyed it so much.

Her vanity extended beyond the grave. Oddly enough, she was younger by several years than people had thought.

Lucy was the glue, the worry wart, the person who selflessly cared for everyone else. They married off the youngest sister — no, they “didn’t stop” Charlotte from being besotted to a jerk; she wouldn’t be told he was not a good catch. The pretty sister married someone who she thought she could walk all over and burn his money. Lucy married someone she could be friends with, that she was comfortable with and was a decent guy overall, if not the most impressive. (He could be … insensitive and unsupportive in voice but allowed Lucy to be Lucy and supported her decisions in action.)

Let the train-wrecks reach their doomed conclusions. Lucy could only pick up the pieces.

Immense forces of evil were at work in the world, but the well-disposed, those who wished for good were passive.

At the start of the 4th quarter… I mean, at about 75%, I realized that this is TOO OVER THE TOP! I mean come on. How could these 3 be sisters? of the same mother and father and environment, yadayadayada. They were SOOOOOO different from each other and they didn’t TALK to each other?

I don’t have sisters. I would assume that sisters would share more hardships and advice. Maybe not. “The Times!” Heck, I don’t know. Private business was private business. But I think DW went a bit to the extreme to capture everything that can go wrong in a marriage, all fault to everyone. Mainly, she just wanted to shine a light on the hardships and trapped feelings and realities of women, methinks, to not realize their strengths, to subsume to the society expectations and patriarchy. But, again, YOWZA. And sadly, SADLY, we still see these situations.

It was a fascinating look into the internal monologue of bad decisions. And love, there is still love and hope in this story.

Rating: Four slices of pie and extra real whipped cream. The only pie mentioned was pork pie. Because British.

“I can’t write fiction. Fiction seems trivial. Fact is too terrible.”

From DW’s diary while attempting to write this novel.



Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Thoughts by Jeanette Winterson, Grove Press 1985, 176 pages

Fruit salad, fruit pie, fruit for fools, fruited punch.”

Challenge: n/a

Genre/Theme: LGBTQIA+ coming of age

Type/Source: Tradeback / Used Book Store Purchase

It is not the one thing nor the other that leads to madness, but the space in between them.

What It’s About: Jeanette is a young girl being groomed to be a missionary. She’s the adopted daughter of a very headstrong woman and an inconsequential father. Jeanette loves the Lord and loves the church and is OK with being considered odd because she has a purpose.

If the demons lie within they travel with you.

Eventually, however, she begins to have doubts. Especially when her friendship with Melanie blossoms into a special love. The church disapproves.

People do go back, but they don’t survive, because two realities are claiming them at the same time. Such things are too much. You can salt your heart, or kill your heart, or you can choose between the two realities. There is much pain here. Some people think you can have your cake and eat it. The cake goes mouldy and they choke on what’s left. Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of being indifferent, when you are only different.

Winterson weaves parables and fantasy stories of wizards and King Arthur into this semi-autobiographical tale and I enjoyed the heck out of her voice, her turn of phrase, her interesting thoughts on how the world works.

“She asked if it was the woman who served pie and peas in the pub; Doreen didn’t know, but now that she thought of it that would explain why he always smelled of gravy when he came home late.”

Thoughts: It all worked for me. Enjoyed this very much.

“Best thing to come out of France,” the woman declared, biting her Bourbon.

“What about quiche?“ I reminded her.

“Right, that’s right,” she nodded.

Rating: Five slices of pie. Mince pie! and quiche.

“I have a theory that every time you make an important choice, the part of you left behind continues the other life you could have had.”


Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

I Capture the Castle

Thoughts ictcbyds by Dodie Smith, Audible Studios 2006 (orig 1948), 12 hours 20 minutes

Narrated by Jenny Agutter – fabulous narration. A new favorite.

Challenge: Classics Club SPIN!
Genre: Classics, Romance, YA, Coming of Age
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
 Why I read this now: classicsclub1Spin Time …

MOTIVATION for READING:  Lucky for me, this was my spin number.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A writer’s family takes up residence in an English castle but finances have dwindled while the writer no longer writes and his now ‘of age’ daughters desperately need options – and food and clothes and basic necessities of life. Whatever do you know! but a couple of eligible (and rich) young men happen to drop by.

Mayhem ensues. Sort of:  this phrase implies madcap hilarity and that doesn’t quite happen, but certainly the plot moves and spins and hops along nicely.

WHAT’s GOOD: Cassandra Mortmain is a dear.

What’s NOT so good: Not a damn thing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Truly unequivocally charming.

I must warn you that if you are to read most synopsisesses (how do you plural synopsis?!) you might roll your eyes and respond with a weary “really?”. I know, I did. I have had this on my tbr forever and only put it there because other wonderful astute wise and worthy readers said I should read it. They said I would love it. Yea, yea, whatever. It took a LOOOONG time for me to really wonder if I truly would enjoy this sappy little kid romance. That’s what I thought it might be. But she’s NOT a little kid anymore! Cassandra is wonderful!! READ it.

And how did I not realize that Dodie Smith wrote other wonderful things? I had never heard of her and thought this was her one-trick. Stupid silly me. It’s a shame this book is obscured by a silly sounding premise. I don’t even know why I think the premise sounds so silly but it does and it’s a crying shame. Great read. Most enjoyable. I want to read it again. And I never re-read books. So I’ll content myself to watch the movie and watch it again, and again. And again.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

Ms. Jakes had sent up stew and apple pie. “Oh good. Stew is so comforting on a rainy day.” (and so is pie!)



Link to Wiki which has links to other nifty stuff…



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Brideshead Revisited

Thoughts IMG_2529 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, GK Hall Large Print Books 1982 (orig 1944) 505 pages

This book was swiped from the library of a nursing home where I was charged to make room for new donations. I will return it!


Wordlily asked me on Twitter if this book was good. I tweeted a reply,

“BR is interesting and layered and complex and frustrating.”

I was on page 300 when I gave those four words and now that I have finished it, these words still apply. This is one of those books where I wonder if I’m just not smart enough to get it. OR British. Both?  So many British places and references to things I have no clue, like the English school system and descriptions of ‘Hogarthian’.

I was very confused in the beginning as to where our narrator was physically. It took some time to realize that he was with the army but still in England. They get transferred and ordered to setup camp somewhere when he realizes that the place is not just somewhere but BRIDESHEAD – a magnificent castle. We then go into all his memories about the place and the family that lived there.

“I had felt the brush take life in my hand that afternoon; I had had my finger in the great, succulent pie of creation.”

Mr. Waugh does have a way with words. His sentences were beautiful and evocative. He is excellent at setting a scene and creating a mood. But  he is also vague, at times wry and caustic. I didn’t trust him.

And plot? I have no idea what this really was about, what was going on and what really motivated our narrator.

It’s usually not a good sign when in the middle of a book, I start reading reviews in blogland and in goodreads because I risk finding people who hate it or give away spoilers or read things into it that I’m not seeing. Which is what happened but it also made me want to keep reading which is often not the result of such exploration.

Charles Ryder is our narrator and we first meet him his first year at Oxford. He meets and is entranced by the lively Sebastian Flyte and they become best of friends. Sebastian’s family has a home called Brideshead. He also has a brother named Brideshead. His father is Lord Marchmain. (I never did figure out all the names but I think it likely it’s because of all the titles????) Sebastian has a sister. Actually he has two sisters. This family is Catholic. Our narrator is not Catholic and thinks it all rather like witchcraft or nonsense.

Oh, yes; lots of different things going on. Was our narrator jealous of the lifestyle and wealth of the Brideshead family? Was he ‘in love’ with Sebastian or just wanted to be him? Why was Sebastian such a wreck? I don’t know, it all felt like a big drama mama tragedy and it has left me cold. I almost gave it three stars but I do think the writing was captivating. I just am not sure what to do with the characters, how I felt about any of them and what it all meant. Maybe nothing. Was Charles an unreliable narrator? I think yes. (But I really only just came to that conclusion.)

It does have comic moments. Comic might not be the best word but funny/odd, sarcasm, wit. But mostly just sadness.

To finalize, if you love classics and big grand sweeping messy themes, do read this. If you don’t read classics because of big grand sweeping convoluted themes and the HUH? of it all, skip this.  We’ll see how I feel after I watch the movie from 2008 starring Emma Thomson. I also hope to get my hands on the miniseries from 1981 starring Jeremy Irons.



p.56 – subfusc – dull, gloomy – “Jasper’s subfusc suit and white tie proclaimed him still in the thick of it; he had, too, the exhausted but resentful air of one who fears he has failed to do himself full justice on the subject of Pindar’s Orphism.”

p.59 noisome – extremely unpleasant, obnoxious – “Or that peculiarly noisome object?” (A human skull lately purchased from the School of Medicine, which, resting in a bowl of roses, formed, at the moment, the chief decoration of my table.)

p323 afllatus – a divine imparting of  knowledge or power – “These hours of afflatus in the human spirit, the springs of art, are, in their mystery, akin to the epochs of history, when a race which for centuries has lived content, unknown, behind its own frontiers, digging, eating, sleeping, begetting, doing what was requisite for survival and nothing else, will, for a generation or two, stupefy the world, commit all manner of crimes, perhaps; follow the wildest chimeras, go down in the end in agony, but leave behind a record of new heights scale and new rewards won for all mankind, the vision fades, the soul sickens, and the routine of survival starts again.

“I have left behind illusion,” I said to myself. “Henceforth I live in a world of three dimensions – with the aid of my five senses.”  

I have since learned that there is no such world…


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