I picked up The Penderwicks to give to my eleven-year-old great niece, so I thought I’d read it first. It’s a realistic story about a family on vacation, and I thought it made a nice change from a lot of the less realistic children’s fiction.
The Penderwicks are four sisters, their widowed father, and a dog named Hound. Rosalind is 12, a thoughtful, responsible, child; Skye, 11, is hot tempered and hasty; Jane, 10, is dreamy and wants to be a writer; and Batty, 4, is shy and always wears butterfly wings.
The Penderwicks lose their Cape Cod cottage that they always rent for the summer, but they find a cottage in the Berkshires. It is part of an estate called Arundel.
They find Arundel beautiful, but the owner, Mrs. Tipton, doesn’t want the children in her garden. Rosalind gets a crush on a nice teenage gardener named Cagney. Skye and Jane meet Jeffrey, Mrs. Tipton’s son.
The bulk of the story centers around Jeffrey, whose mother thinks the girls are a bad influence and wants to send Jeffrey to military school. Jeffrey himself wants to study music.
I found this story amusing and sometimes touching. Its characters are likable and believable. This book is the first in a series, and I’m interested to see if my great niece likes it.
The Secret Garden
Bridge to Terabithia
It seems as if I’ve read several novels lately where Herman Melville is a character or Moby Dick a theme. Such is the case with The Whale, a story about the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The novel begins with a literary outing. Melville is invited along with Oliver Wendell Holmes and others by Melville’s editor while Melville is vacationing in the Berkshires. The reclusive writer Hawthorne is also of the party, and Melville falls in love with him at first sight.
Melville is also dealing with Moby Dick. He is supposed to be nearly finished with it, but he is unsatisfied with the ending. His philosophical and literary discussions with Hawthorne inspire him to massive rewrites. In a way, Ahab’s pursuit of the whale represents Melville’s pursuit of a meaningful relationship with Hawthorne.
For, there is a mutual spark, but as a friend, Jeannie Field, tells Melville, Hawthorne is a Puritan. While Melville tries to get Hawthorne not to deny his true feelings, Hawthorne is determined to avoid an entanglement. Yet, he gives Melville a certain amount of encouragement.
Although I enjoyed this novel very much, I felt it was a little too modern in this regard. I couldn’t imagine a man in the mid-19th century trying to convince another man not to deny these feelings and being so obvious as Melville was at times. At this time and place, Melville would have been trying to hide it. I also have no idea what basis in reality this story has, although the author cites affectionate letters between the two. I was not sure whether Beauregard was aware that at this time men expressed themselves more affectionately than they do now. It’s fiction, though, which does not require any basis in reality.
Still, with language sometimes echoing that of Moby Dick, with really exceptional dialogue, with a fully realized Melville in all his self-absorption, this novel was really a treat to read.
Moby Dick or, The Whale
The Night Inspector
The Art of Fielding