Monday, 22 December 2014

Yesterday I read a book.  Not a novel, but a musical score that was written in 1741 by George Frederic Handel.
I had been taking advantage of every musical concert that I could attend this Christmas season.  My daughter discovered this opportunity:

Messiah Sing-A-Long offers a shorter version of Handel’s popular oratorio and provides opportunities for singers of all ages and talents to sing along with the 
choir which will be seated amongst the audience.

We arrived just in time to be handed a book of music and given the last seats in the front section of a large, packed church, where the visitors were seated with the choir.  I was in shock as the music started. I opened the book and tried to find my line of music.  As the orchestra began playing, I felt like I had been dropped into a rabbit hole and was in another universe. "Betty in Wonderland".  I had not yet adjusted to the cathedral-like atmosphere, decorated beautifully for Christmas.  I had never seen this music.  What was I doing here????
Thankfully, there were two arias before we needed to start singing.  I thought I was familiar with some of the music, but WOW!  The first chorus number was "And the glory of the Lord".  I was swept away by all the beautiful voices around me.  I kept my eye on the members of the chamber choir that were sitting in front of me.  I may have squeaked out a note or two because that is a very familiar piece, but further chorus pieces were unfamiliar and hard to follow.  Since the church was full and the voices were loud and the orchestra was amazing, I could just stand in awe whenever I was swept away.
I waffled between complete amazement and disbelief.  I almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation!  One of the soloists added a dramatic flair as he sang his aria and I could hardly keep from giggling.  This was bizarre! 
Two and a half hours later, I was excited as we approached "The Hallelujah Chorus".  And then, I really knew I was in another universe!  The trumpets started as well as the drums!   I was swept away by all the spectacular sounds, but determined to be a part of that amazing piece of music!  I know I sang "King of Kings and Lord of Lords", but the rest of the time I was out of my body.  Amazing!

                                     Merry Christmas!

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Signature of All Things P.S.

Two additional thoughts about "The Signature of All Things":
The title:  Brilliant!  I have complained about thoughtless titles.  But, who came up with this title?  I'm not sure that it is original, but it is brilliant!
The covers are both very fitting.
The afterglow: I am finding it difficult to get involved with another book. I find myself still ruminating.  And I am reminded of this quote from "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield: "Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you?"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Signature of All things

What can I say about this novel?
It's long.  I listened to it on cd's.  It took 21.5 hours.
And it will take me longer to digest it.  
Elizabeth Gilbert has taken on such a complex subject.  The best description I have read is that it is a "botanical odyssey". That really describes it well- a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.  
Here is the plot in a sentence: Alma Whittaker, born in 1800, grows up with a fascination for botany and it leads her into the mysteries of evolution.
Simple plot but so complex!
A fellow reader that I respect has read it three times and says this: "I totally marvel that a 48-year-old woman explores such deep questions in her novel."
Now I feel guilty about complaining about the length!
Really, it is about the origins of the earth and everything in it.  Now how profound is that?

And I really appreciate history put into a fictional form.  Much of this novel is based on fact.  The settings are actual places- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London and the Hortus Botanical Garden in Amsterdam.  
Some of the characters are real- certainly Darwin, but also Alfred Russel Wallace, who was a friend and follower of Darwin.  Alma never met Darwin, but she did have a wonderful encounter with Alfred when he read Alma's research and realized the "extraordinary simultaneity"- three people coming to the same conclusions about the 'origin of the species'- Alma, Wallace, and Darwin.  But Darwin was first!
And so, it is about the theory of natural selection. But it doesn't stop there.  Alma knew that there was something missing from her research- something to account for our unique human consciousness.  And so the book ends with Alma (at 82), discussing with Alfred Wallace, the mystery that goes beyond science.  Wow!  

Monday, 8 December 2014


We did not have money to buy books when I was a child, but we received gifts of books, mostly from the Sunday School for good attendance.  I loved these books and clearly remember reading them.
In my pile of 'oldies', there are books presented to various members of my family.  The oldest book is from 1909- a gift to my aunt at age 7.
There is no copyright date on that book. 

"Baby Kangaroo and Lilly Lamb" was given to me at age 5.  There is no copyright date.  It is adorable with coloured photos and black and white photos.  It is part of a series of baby animal stories.  What is better for young children?  Now or then?

Books with inscriptions:

Friday, 5 December 2014

More Old Books

This collection of books is also worrisome.  There probably is no point in donating them.  Who would want to read them now?  We are bombarded by new, exciting novels every day.  Also, they are yellowed and tattered.  I know my children and grandchildren would not appreciated having them moved to their homes.
So I have decided to re-read them, record and journal about them and then dispose of them.  There is a season for everything.  And their season is passed.

I decided to start with books by Grace Livingston Hill.  I remember reading her books in my teens.  And when I began to volunteer with the library at the Mennonite nursing home, these books were popular with the ladies there.Grace Livingston Hill was born in 1864.  She wrote over 100 novels and numerous short stories of  Christian fiction. Her characters were usually young strong Christian women.  Perhaps that is why they were popular gifts from Sunday School. Rereading them for the first time in many years, I can understand the appeal of a black-and-
white world where faith was strong.

"Coming Through the Rye"  c 1926
Romayne was one of those young, strong, Christian women. Her mother had died and she lived with her father and brother.  When she arrived home one day, she found Evan Sherwood and his fellow police officers waiting to arrest her father and brother who were involved in bootlegging.   She adamantly denied this and was rude to Evan.  When they showed her the proof, her father arrived home, collapsed and eventually died.  Evan was very protective and supportive of Romayne as she was in danger from her brother's friends.
In fact, Evan offered to marry Romayne and they lived happily ever after!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Old Books

What can you do with old books?  While re-organizing my living room, I cleaned out the book shelves.  And I found some old books.
Just look at this wonderful set of World Book Encyclopedia from 1967.
They are commemorating the centennial of Canadian Confederation.
Very special and very important to our family.
Our children were too young to use them in 1967, but we thought they were a wonderful investment.  And they were!

Now we are finding it hard to get rid of them.  They certainly are not needed any more.  But they have been important to our children and grandchildren.  They have become almost a part of the family.
At my age, anything that you part with makes a sad occasion.  The memories swarm back.
And parting with the encyclopedia was the beginning of weeding the book shelves.