Book Review

Gaudy Night: Book Review

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Now this was a delightful read.  In fact, I couldn’t put it down.  Dorothy Sayers just turned my whole literary world upside down.  I thought I hated detective fiction.  I thought it was a waste of time.  I thought the whole genre could be brushed right into the dust bin.

Oh, was I wrong.

Let me back up a minute and define what actually is a narrow field of fiction: the detective novel.  The detective novel is different from the broader field of mystery novels.  The detective novel has a few rules:

  1. There’s a detective.  (I know, this should be obvious, right?  But nothing is obvious to me in this mysterious new world of words.)
  2. The author must provide all the clues and evidence in the text, so that the reader can actually solve the crime, along with the detective.
  3. In other words, to restate #2, one cannot withhold information which is available to the detective, but not to the reader.

I’m told there are other differences too, but I’m a slow learner, and these are the ones that stood out.  If you’re interested in learning a bit about this, a dear friend of mine in North Dakota sent me a lively and informative podcast about this very thing.  Click HERE for it and scroll down to Episode 3. ( You won’t regret listening to Cindy Rollins and Angelina Stanford.  I love these ladies.)

Back to Sayers

Like most homeschool moms, I had read Sayers’s famous essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and it had never occurred to me that she had written anything else.  Why should it?  At that time in my life, I was too busy in grad school reading all sorts of new and lovely books–Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh…  I wouldn’t have had room in my little brain for her anyway.

Plus, Sayers is really smart.  I mean, really, really intelligent.  She was one of the first women in history to be given a degree from Oxford.  Her knowledge of those things Medieval and Renaissance is impressive.  Gaudy Night is chock-full of references and quotations from that time period, which I struggle with.  Thankfully Cindy Rollins and Angelina Stanford put together a couple of podcasts specifically about Gaudy Night, which I found tremendously helpful.  You can find these episodes on their Literary Life Podcast.  I can’t recommend them enough, especially if you fell in love with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, like I did.

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Back to Gaudy Night

It was within the first few pages that I knew I’d like Sayers’s heroine, Harriet Vane.  Sayers writes:

But Harriet had broken all her old ties and half the commandments, dragged her reputation in the dust and made money, had the rich and amusing Lord Peter Wimsey at her feet, to marry him if she chose, and was full of energy and bitterness and the uncertain rewards of fame.

That pretty much sums Harriet Vane up, and the novel is so engaging because we get to see her finally take a good look at herself, and realize that she had it all wrong.  She didn’t really know herself–or Peter for that matter.

And then there’s Lord Peter Wimsey.  Angelina Sanford compares his personality to that of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  I found this intriguing and so true, especially when it came to manners and wedding proposals.

I promise that this book isn’t just a love story, though.  There is a mystery to solve…  In fact, there’s a lot going on in this book.  Sayers has multiple themes running at once.  For you see, she was writing this book at a time when women in universities was a new thing, and so she explores all the complications of introducing another “sex” into the life of Oxford.  She ponders single life and married life and women in the workforce and women at home.  It’s all there, and it’s messy.

In the end, I can’t wait to reread this book.  But first I want to get ahold of her previous novel Strong Poison where we get the backstory of Harriet and Peter.  Then I want to read the book after Gaudy Night wherein Peter and Harriet are solving crime mysteries on their honeymoon–goodness!

 

Book Review, Homeschooling, Motherhood & Parenting

Mere Motherhood: A Book Review

Are you exhausted?  Overwhelmed?  Feeling inadequate?  Did you yell* at your children today?

Have you ever heard of Cindy Rollins?  She recently wrote a book, and I think it’s the best thing that’s been written on homeschooling and motherhood in a good, long while.  I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t put a book down.  It took me about 24 hours to read.

And yes, I know I’m interrupting my series “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Don’t worry, I’ll continue with Part 3 later this week.

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Cindy Rollins.  Queen of Morning Time.

Her book is called Mere Motherhood.

Top Ten Reasons Why This Book is Worth Reading:

  1. Even though Cindy did not enjoy being pregnant, and feared labor and delivery, she had nine children – 8 boys and 1 girl, plus a few miscarriages.  (Birth stories are never boring to read about.  Click HERE for my mother’s account of me.)
  2. No, Cindy is not a Catholic, but she greatly esteems Stratford Caldecott.  (This man was a genius.  You should read him too.)  And she quotes Mary Eberstadt and Josef Pieper and G.K. Chesterton.
  3. She loves the Bible.
  4. She thinks everyone ought to thank God for Catholic hospitals and their pro-life stance.
  5. Her boys blew stuff up.  And started fires.  And wrecked 7 cars.
  6. She thinks Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the best poems ever written, which it is.
  7. She admits that she’s made mistakes, like trying to live on a old decrepit farm, infested with rodents.
  8. All kinds of animals make an appearance in her memoir – rats, snakes, bats, mice, hawks…these things are also never boring to read about.
  9. She once wore jumpers, until her daughter pointed out that they’re not very fashionable.
  10. She takes on tough issues like puberty and spending too much time on electronic devices.  (Mea culpa.)
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If you need a good book, I highly recommend this one.

If you’d like more on Cindy Rollins, I’d recommend listening to her podcasts done with Pam Barnhill.  There are three of them: Episodes 1, 27, and 43.  They’re all great and can be found by clicking HERE or on Pam Barnhill’s website, which I’ve linked on my sidebar.  Once you’re there, click on Podcasts, then on Morning Basket.  Rollins also does podcasts for the Circe Institute, if you’re interested.

*If you yelled at your children, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Click HERE for a post on that.
Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2

Hello Dear Readers!  Welcome to “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2.”

But before we begin, remember that the following routine is just what works for our family.  Of course your routines and daily schedules will be different, as your families are different!

8:15 am Breakfast

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The Toast Master.  He makes the toast every morning.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again.  One of the best decisions we’ve made was to Eat Breakfast Like a Prison Camp.  It works well for us.  Everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning, except Saturdays and Sundays.  (Saturday is generally oatmeal, and Sunday is cold cereal, which the children think is the best thing ever.)  I like this arrangement because it’s not stressful.  There’s no complaining because the children know what to expect.

While the Toast Master is doing his thing, Child #4 sets the cups, Child #5 sets the napkins, and I am putting the first load of laundry in.  Then we’re ready for action.

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Mmm, peanut butter toast, again.

Morning Time

After Meal Prayer, I read the Mass readings of the day while the children eat.  This is the beginning of what some call “Morning Time.”  If you haven’t heard of it, check out Pam Barnhill on my sidebar and look for podcasts with Cindy Rollins.  Rollins is the Queen of Morning Time, and later this week I’ll post my review of her great book, Mere Motherhood.

I have chosen to use breakfast as our Morning Time for two reasons.  1.)  We are all naturally gathered together anyway.  And 2.)  The children have food in their mouths, so it’s generally quieter.

After I read the Mass readings, we do talk about them, but only briefly.  Then I eat my food, and we finish with our Poetry.  The children are always memorizing something, and most of the time, I have them all do the same thing.  We just finished John 1 for the Christmas season, and now we’ve moved onto “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.

After all the children have had a chance to recite, they put their dishes away, and we break up for the next part of the morning.

9:15am

At this point the children brush their teeth and take turns at the piano.  (Child #2 and Child #3 have usually finished their piano before breakfast.)  And I sweep the upstairs floors and switch out the laundry for a second load.

One-by-one, as they finish piano, they come back upstairs and begin Round Two of school.  The Eldest works on a Science workbook from Seton, a little history reading from RC History, and Latin from Classical Academic Press.  (Classical Academic Press, by the way, is now my favorite place for curriculum.  More on that later.)

Child #2 and Child #3 commence Spelling and Phonics from Seton.  Child #4 works on Math, also from Seton.  Child #5 “plays” with Child #6, which means, that Child #5 is supposed to keep the Toddler busy and distracted enough so that she’ll not destroy everything when my back is turned.

And during this time, I pull aside Child #3, my slow reader, and have him read to me.  Then Child #4 reads to me.

Then I pour myself a stiff drink* and get ready for Mid-Morning Prayer Time, which I’ll detail in Part 3 of “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Stay tuned.

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*Just kidding about the stiff drink!