Friday Book Whimsy: And the Winner Is…..

Back in June, I wrote a blog post in which I admitted that I had just learned that PBS was sponsoring a contest of sorts in which people would vote for their favorite book. Through some process that I never bothered to research, 100 books were nominated by readers like you and me as their favorite book — as my 8-year–old granddaughter Mylee would say — in the whole entire world. Let me remind you that it was expressly defined as the favorite book and not the best book. As such, books such as Fifty Shades of Gray and The Notebook were among the 100 that were nominated. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, not that there’s anything wrong with them.

Each day, readers were invited to vote for our favorite or favorites. I will admit that most days I forgot to vote. I will also admit that every day that I remembered to vote, I voted for the same book — Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. Haters, don’t hate. I am a sucker for that book. It’s got everything: a dashing hero (never mind that he actually ends up being a murderer), a lovely, yet wimpering heroine (who remains nameless throughout — as Mylee would say — the whole entire book), an evil housekeeper (who may or may not have been one of Rebecca’s lovers), and a beautiful mansion on the shores of the raging sea in Cornwall, England (because Manderley, you see is most assuredly a character in the book. Rebecca has one of the best opening lines in any book: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”)

Alas, Rebecca did not win. And it probably didn’t deserve that honor, despite this reader’s love for the cleverly-written and decidedly creepy story. Instead, the winner was To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel by Harper Lee has been newsworthy for nearly 60 years. Most recently, a school district in Canada has banned the book from its curriculum, saying it is racist and hurtful to African American students. I choose not to weigh in on that controversy at this point but (cough) bulldoodoo.

Here are how some of my favorite books that were included among the 100 nominees fared: Little Women came in 8th; Jane Eyre was in the 10th spot; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was number 13, and Then There Were None took 19th place. As for Rebecca, it did quite well, landing in spot number 25. As for Fifty Shades of Gray, it was 86th out of the 100 on the list.   

Click here for a complete list of the results.

Thursday Thoughts

Lawn Service
For years now, Bill has taken care of our yard, and beautifully, I might add. This is no easy task, as we sit on a third of an acre, and most of it is in our back yard. This summer, you might recall, he has removed his Lawn Service cap and replaced it with a House Remodeling cap. His work in our family room has taken on a life of its own and is requiring a great deal of his time. Oh, who am I kidding? It is taking all of his time, from morning until I make him stop at 4:30 or 5. But I got an email from Addie the other day saying Hey Nana. I was wondering if you and Papa needed help with lawn mowing. Also, I would love to help you guys with your in-house projects. We had talked about the possibility of her taking over our lawn mowing this summer. Jll and Dave have a policy, however, that prohibits the kids from being paid for work done for their grandparents. So before I agreed, I looked Jll straight in the eye and said, “I will not let the kids mow our lawn unless you agree that we can pay them.” Jll, being like the obedient and loving Naomi in the biblical Book of Ruth, said yes, pointing out that mowing a lawn is hard work worthy of compensation. So, this happened…..

Addie has officially become our new lawn service. Don’t let Alastair steal my job, was the only thing she requested. Aye aye, Cap’n.

Happy Days
The other day, I agreed to give Bill a ride to pick up his Ferarri at the place that had done enough work on it to get it to pass emissions inspection. The auto place is in a northern Denver suburb, and we live quite a ways south. However, Bill and his friend John have a place not far from the auto shop at which they get hamburgers. It’s called Jim’s Burger Haven. He greased the wheels of his request for a ride by offering to buy me a burger and fries at Jim’s. I have heard Bill and John talk about it for years, but I had never gone myself. In my mind, the place was kind of a dump. I anticipated that we would walk in and be blasted with the smell of burned grease and the sight of ripped booths and filthy floors. So I was surprised and delighted when what I saw instead was a very clean restaurant that was a time machine back to 1958. And not one of those artificial diners with fake decoration. This was the real McCoy, and taken care of like a favorite child…..

I’m afraid I can’t quite share their love for the burgers, which tasted ordinary to me, but it was fun nevertheless.

My Cousin Rachel
I don’t actually have a cousin named Rachel. But there’s this book, and now this movie. I reviewed the book back in December, and loved it. The book was written by Daphne du Maurier, the same author who wrote one of my very favorite books of all time, Rebecca. Anyway, I was searching for a good movie to see, and found that My Cousin Rachel had been released as a movie, starring Rachel Weisz (I don’t know if the producers only considered actresses named Rachel.) A friend and I planned on seeing it yesterday, but life happened, and the movie didn’t. I’m determined to see the movie, however. My Cousin Rachel was made into a film in 1952 that starred Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. That might be worth seeing as well, but the library didn’t have it, and to purchase it from Amazon would cost more than I’m willing to spend.

The Great Wok
I wasn’t sure what to make for dinner last night. When I asked Bill what sounded good to him, he said chili. I know I shouldn’t ask if I’m not willing to listen, but really? Chili? In the middle of June? I put my foot down and said no, and did a stir fry instead in honor of my sister Bec who is visiting China as you read this blog. Now this is cool….

Ciao. Or perhaps I should say zai jian, which is see you again in Mandarin.

Friday Book Whimsy: My Cousin Rachel

18869970Back in 2014, I reviewed what is one of my favorite novels ever – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. At the end of that review, I said that I hadn’t read anything else by the author, and likely wouldn’t because the book would never compare to Rebecca and I would thus be disappointed.

Recently, I succumbed to temptation, and read My Cousin Rachel, by du Maurier. I was definitely not disappointed. What an exceptional novel. I simply couldn’t put it down.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Nothing could compare the romance and intrigue of Rebecca, a book clever because the title character – who really is the main character of the story – is long ago dead and buried. The book also has one of the best opening lines of any novel: Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again. Mysterious, yet sublime, once you have read the novel.

My Cousin Rachel also has an intriguing first line: They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days. Not anymore, though.

Young Philip Ashley comes to live with his cousin Ambrose as an infant upon the death of his parents. Ambrose – the master of an estate in the Cornwall section of England – is a good and loving guardian despite the fact that he is a confirmed bachelor. Ambrose and Philip are very happy together.

Ambrose is a confirmed bachelor, that is, until he takes a trip to Italy when Philip is 24 years old, leaving him to manage the affairs. He writes letters to Philip, telling him of his activities. Soon, he begins talking about meeting a distant cousin named Rachel. Via the letters, Philip learns that Ambrose eventually falls in love with Rachel, and they marry. But then the letters become further and further apart, until finally Philip gets a mysterious letter from Ambrose that implies that Ambrose believes he is being poisoned by Rachel. Philip travels to Italy, but it is too late. Ambrose has died, supposedly of a brain disease believed to have been inherited from his father. Rachel is nowhere to be found.

Philip returns home, deeply saddened and angry beyond words at Rachel. Eventually, Rachel comes to visit, and much to Philip’s surprise, he likes her very much. In fact, as the months go by, he becomes more and more attached to “my cousin Rachel” as he calls her throughout the book. And then mysterious things begin to happen to Philip as well…..

Du Maurier’s story telling is beyond belief. Her stories are creepy without being gory. The characters are multifaceted, the opposite of one-dimensional. Her plotting is creative without being silly. I forbade myself from looking at the end of the book (as I often do, I’m ashamed to admit), and didn’t. Yet, wanting to know how the book ends kept me reading late into the night. Like Rebecca, the house and grounds were almost a character. The author’s descriptions are vivid and allow the reader to feel like they are part of the story.

The ending was highly satisfying.

My Cousin Rachel is a wonderful book that I highly recommend, especially if you like gothic literature.

Here is link to the book.  

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