Monday, January 30, 2023

The Pine Planters: Marty South's Reverie - A Poem by Thomas Hardy

Woman in the Forest by Ion Andreescu (1880)

I'm not usually drawn to poems, but Mallika @ Literary Potpourri has pointed out to me the other day that Hardy had wrote a poem about Marty South, an important figure on The Woodlanders, which is also subtitled: Marty South's Reverie. I've found the poem, and it's too beautiful not to be featured in a special post. So here it is, Thomas Hardy's poem in two parts. The first part is about Marty South's unrequited love, while the second is, I guess, more about how she sees her life in the woodland in the end. Hope you'll love it as much as I do!


We work here together
In blast and breeze;
He fills the earth in,
I hold the trees.

He does not notice
That what I do
Keeps me from moving
And chills me through.

He has seen one fairer
I feel by his eye,
Which skims me as though
I were not by.

And since she passed here
He scarce has known
But that the woodland
Holds him alone.

I have worked here with him
Since morning shine,
He busy with his thoughts
And I with mine.

I have helped him so many,
So many days,
But never win any
Small word of praise!

Shall I not sigh to him
That I work on
Glad to be nigh to him
Though hope is gone?

Nay, though he never
Knew love like mine,
I'll bear it ever
And make no sign!


From the bundle at hand here
I take each tree,
And set it to stand, here
Always to be;
When, in a second,
As if from fear
Of Life unreckoned
Beginning here,
It starts a sighing
Through day and night,
Though while there lying
'Twas voiceless quite.

It will sigh in the morning,
Will sigh at noon,
At the winter's warning,
In wafts of June;
Grieving that never
Kind Fate decreed
It should for ever
Remain a seed,
And shun the welter
Of things without,
Unneeding shelter
From storm and drought.

Thus, all unknowing
For whom or what
We set it growing
In this bleak spot,
It still will grieve here
Throughout its time,
Unable to leave here,
Or change its clime;
Or tell the story
Of us to-day
When, halt and hoary,
We pass away.


Friday, January 27, 2023

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy: A Review (CC Spin #32)

🌳 Because I love nature, it's only natural that I tend to be attracted to books where nature poses as dominant aspect. The Woodlanders falls into this category, and that's why I loved it!

🌳 I was drawn, particularly, to the simple life of the woodlanders; their occupation, their view of life, and their intimate relation with mother nature. I was also interested in the spars making craft (I didn't know what a spar is until I googled it). And that was, actually, how we were first introduced to this book: a simple nineteen year old girl, Marty South, making spars in the dead of the night to get paid in the morning. That's how woodlanders had lived, and, but for some influences from "outsiders", they would all live contentedly. And that's what this book is about - greediness and ambition which wrecked the beautiful balance of natural life in a woodland village: Little Hintock.

🌳 As I have analyzed before, I see Marty South as the centre of this story. She is reserved, calm, hardworking, and possesses enough skill for improving her life. Then the outsiders' unnatural greediness or ambition starts to shake her world. First, Marty must sacrifice her luscious long hair to be sold for money, just because Mrs. Charmond, a rich widow with many lovers, wants to have it as a wig!

🌳 The hair symbolizes Marty's femininity. Without it, she loses hope of ever attracting Giles Winterborne, a woodsman whom she loves, though unrequitedly. Giles is in love with another: Grace Melbury, who has been "promised" to him by her father.

🌳 The ambitious Mr. Melbury had sent his only daughter Grace to be educated abroad to improve her future. He takes back his promise to Winterborne, as he thinks her daughter should marry higher than a mere woodsman. A young doctor called Fitzpiers, who is charmed by Grace, is the one Mr. Melbury believes as a more suitable husband for Grace.

🌳 What about Grace herself? It is interesting to see how she'd view the woodland after returning from abroad. Would she be contented with her old life (and lover), or would she view them as flat and boring, seeking more refined, more amusing life and husband? It was amusing to see her blundering through her choices, in Hardy's universe, which was always ruled by chances, bad timing, and errors. Could Grace escape it all unscathed? But more importantly, how would she re-shape the life of those who are truer woodlanders?

🌳 Hardy himself had classified this novel in the group of "Novels of Character and Environment" [source: wikipedia]. And I agree. The Woodlanders is about clashes between classes and different environments, poor marriage, adultery, wrong choices. It's not a cheerful story, but it's Hardy, you can't expect nothing more, right? But no worry, Hardy compensated the gloomy plot with his rustic settings of the woodland and his usual beautiful narration. And also, with one of the strongest 'heroines' I've ever read.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Further reads on The Woodlanders:
- Character analysis of Marty South
- Book cover art analysis
- Hardy's poem on Marty South 


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Affair at Grover Station by Willa Cather: A Short Story #WCSSP2023

I've made a spur decision to join Chris Wolak's Willa Cather Short Story Project 2023. Well, I've actually been meaning to join since last year, but somehow haven't. This time I was more prepared. I've just found - and instantly bought - the e-book of Delphi Classics edition of The Complete Works of Willa Cather at Google Playbook, for under $2!

I was so delighted that all the 2023 stories are included in this copy, that I instantly joined in! For January we read:

**The Affair at Grover Station**

🔵 It is a story within story, or a frame story. A geologist met his college friend, a railroad clerk. Boarding on the train from Grover Station to Cheyenne, the geologist asked his reticent friend, "Terrapin" Rodgers (Terrapin = freshwater turtle = reticent), to tell a story about the mysterious murder of the Grover station agent.

About Grover:
"You know what Grover is, a red box of a station, section house barricaded by coal sheds and a little group of dwellings at the end of everything, with the desert running out on every side to the sky line."

🔵 Larry, the victim, is Rodgers' intimate friend. He promised to come to the inaugural ball at Cheyenne, and dance with a girl he loved: Helen Masterson. He will take an extra (train) from Grover station right after his work's done. The ball started and finished, but Larry never appeared.

🔵 Feeling uneasy, Rodgers came to Grover Station, and there's no sign of Larry, either at the office or every train started from Grover last night. He's no where to be found.

🔵 Rodgers got info from a girl, who'd seen a stranger meeting Larry on that fatal night at Larry's office, and seemed to quarrel with him. From the girl's description, Rodgers felt sure that the man is Freymark.

🔵 Freymark is portrayed as a shady character. He has involved in a shady business when he's the railroad chasier clerk in Cheyenne, and it was Larry who's given him up, resulted in his discharge, and Larry took over the position. Moreover, Freymark was in love with Helen, but Helen chose Larry instead. On that fatal night, he also overheard Larry's plan which he's dictated over the radio to Rodgers. Therefore, there's no question that Freymark has had something to do with Larry's disappearance. But, where was Larry, and what had really happened?

🔵 Rodgers stayed the night at the station office that night, when lo and behold... Larry appeared in an apparition, giving his friend clues of the real event!

🔵 An inaugural ball, a dance, a murder, and a ghost, all happens in a lonely small town, surely promise an interesting story. And it is interesting! But what interest me most is not that. It is the racism shade in this story.

Freymark is a mix-raced, his father is French, his mother Chinese. He's "socially ambitious and extremely sensitive of his Asiatic blood after having been blackballed at a club." He then went to Europe and let people assume him as Jewish. At the inaugural ball, Larry's wounded dog entered the hall, threw himself at Freymark's feet and uttered a piteous howl. At this, Freymark was madly enraged and cruelly kicked the wounded brute across the hall. The way Rodgers describe the incident isn't something that I can easily forget:

"There was something fiendishly brutal and horrible in the episode, it was the breaking out of the barbarian blood through his mask of European civilization, a jet of black mud that spurted up from some nameless pest hole of filthy heathen cities."

🔵 Now, when faced with racism remarks or allusions in a book, I'm never sure whether it's the writer's personal view, or whether he/she is criticizing society racism views through the characters. Therefore, I won't jump quickly to the conclusion that Cather is a racist, but I found the passage really unsettling. It's not a mere generalization of a race (which ignorance could lead a writer to write innocently about). But to me "some nameless pest hole of filthy heathen cities" sounds full of hatred.

🔵 Again, I'm not sure it's Cather's personal view of Chinese race, but to include such hatred in her hitherto comforting books is quite shocking to me. In short, the racism has marred my enjoyment of the story, and I truly hope to be back to Cather's usual quality in next month's short story!

Rating: 3 / 5

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week prompt is to appreciate new authors we've discovered last year. Here's mine with the books I've read and reviewed from each author:

New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022

1. Katrina Nannestad
Loved the series, and will read the last one soon!

2. Helene Hanff
Loved her sharp wit in this memoir, and look forward to read its sequel!)

3. Murasaki Shikibu
Not very pleasant to read, but admired her as the first ever published novel from a female writer in the world!)

4. Budi Darma
An Indonesian writer. Won't read more from him, just too absurd for my taste.

5. Richard Osman
Loved this first book of the crime series, and can't wait to read more)

6. Elisabeth von Arnim
Loved her witty sarcastic satire, will definitely read more.

7. Frances Burney
Loved her comic scenes, but maybe nothing more from her for the time being.

8. Stephanie Barron
Loved the balance of cozy mystery, light romance, and historical accuracy of Jane Austen's world. Looking forward to read the series from the beginning.

9. Janine Marsh
Yes, I read three books in row! They are a good memoirs, though.

10. Michael Bond
I'd certainly love to read more of Paddington, one's never enough!

Have you read any books from those authors? Who's your favorite, and which book do you think I should read next?


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Signing Up for Another Challenge: 2023 Audiobook Challenge!

As an Indonesian, I’ve always daunted by audiobooks because English isn’t my first language. Reading is easy, speaking isn’t a problem once I’m used to it, but listening... now that is something else, and I was not too patient to learn the skill. However, after my mom was diagnosed with cornea guttata several years ago, which means her sights are declining with age, I’ve been more and more considering audiobooks. I would be crushed if I can’t read as much as I want due to declining eyesight, and if I want to be familiar already with audiobooks when ‘the day comes’, then I have to start soon!

A few weeks ago, I’ve had my eyes checked by the optician, and I got a prescription for new lenses. It means that I was without glasses for 24 hours while they were replacing the lenses. This was not the first time, so I knew the procedure. Still, I can’t think of not reading anything, that in the end I decided to just try on an audiobook that I’ve been putting off long enough.

I installed Scribd app on my phone, and browsing the titles, I found a lot of Agatha Christie’s books on it, narrated (partly) by none other than David Suchet and/or Hugh Fraser! So, I instantly picked the next Agatha Christie in my Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge list, that is Sad Cypress, sat comfortably on my chair, and tapped ‘Listen Now’. It was wonderful!!

A week before, I happened to discuss about audiobook with JoAnn, and she suggested that I pick a familiar book, or one that I loved. She also mentioned that I could adjust the speed, lower or faster. Now that’s a thing I wouldn’t have known! So, thanks partly to JoAnn @ Gulfside Musing, I’m now quite an adept beginner to audiobook! I promised myself that I will read more and more audiobook along the years.

And then, I found this perfect reading challenge:

The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2023 than you did in 2022 (I’m the first, of course!). I might be rather ambitious by aiming for Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10 level on my first year, but a challenge is supposed to challenge one, right?

I’ve decided to read Agatha Christie’s novels I’ve intended to read this year, all 5 of them, in audiobook version. I’m so in love with David Suchet right now, he’s not just the perfect Hercule Poirot, but also a wonderful narrator (performer is more appropriate)! The other audiobook I’m excited to read is Ken Follet’s historical fiction, narrated by John Lee (UPDATE: I ditched it, it's not as appealing as I've thought).

Audiobooks I’m going to read during the year:

1. Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
2. Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand
3. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
4. N or M? by Agatha Christie 
5. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
6. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim 
7. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
8. The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola 
9. The Incredible Theft by Agatha Christie
10. An Autobiography by Agatha Christie 

Do you often read books in audiobook version?
Do you have any suggestion for an audiobook-newbie, for whom English is a second language? Maybe your favorite apps or narrator?

Friday, January 20, 2023

Judging Book by Its Cover: The Woodlanders (Thomas Hardy)

It's yet another new feature in Fanda Classiclit, where I'd analyze book cover, compare it with the content, as well as with covers from few other editions.

The Woodlanders

My copy is a Penguin Classics 1998's edition, which used a portrait for its cover. It is a photo of Alice Liddell, taken by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1872. It's Mrs. Sarah Coller @ Belle's Library who first pointed out that the cover art is "grown up Alice Liddell - Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland".

As I scrutinized the portrait, I saw a rebellious, headstrong, dissatisfied face of a young woman looked back at me. And I thought: that's Marty South, the center and most relatable character of The Woodlanders! - more so with her long hair and leaves around her head, which implies someone who spends a lot of time in the forest and is intimate with the nature.

When I first bought this book, I actually disliked the cover art as it looked rather mystical to me (at first sight). But after knowing the real young woman in the portrait, and especially after reading the book, I think it's the perfect cover!

But let's pick two other covers from different editions before we conclude; who knows, we might find a better version, and a new champion!

Penguin Classics - revised 1998's edition

It's a painting of a lady sitting alone in the forest. While the forest fits woodland description, the lady does not. She seems like just a lady taking a stroll to the forest, maybe while contemplating her worldly problems, and feeling tired, sits there for a while. She might be assumed as Grace Melbury from The Woodlanders, who's born on the woodland - true - but at heart not a true woodlander. So, this cover might represent one of the characters, but it's not a perfect representation of the whole book/story.

Oxford Classics 2009's edition

It's a painting of two women taking a walk in the forest - a lady with her hatless friend? They are far from woodlanders; walking on a woodland doesn't make one a woodlander! So, the cover doesn't represent the book at all.

In the end, I'm satisfied with the cover of my copy, it is the winner!

What about you? Which cover do you like better?

Monday, January 16, 2023

1st Impression on Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

My third read this year is Dandelion Wine, a novel which was developed from a short story of the same title. It appeared in the June 1953 issue of Gourmet magazine, and based upon Bradbury's childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois.

I seldom read the Introduction at the beginning, but I made an exception this time, because Bradbury wrote it so beautifully poetic, and with an interesting title too! Here's a glimpse:

Just This Side of Byzantium: An Introduction (what a title, eh?)

"No one said anything.
We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said.
Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they? And that one is me.
The wine still waits in the cellars below.
My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.
The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.
Why and how?
Because I say it is so."

And with that, I knew I'd love this story, which is a reminiscent of his childhood happy memories. Of summer, of being alive - "I'm really alive!" - and, of course, of Dandelion wines he's helped his grandfather in the making. What a lively imagination the twelve years old Douglas Spaulding (or Ray Bradbury) had! - Douglas is Ray Bradbury's middle name, while Spaulding is his father's.

Some excerpts from the book:

On Dandelion:

"A common flower, a weed that is one sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing, the Dandelion."

On Dandelion wine:

[source of the picture]

"The words were summer on the tongue. Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in."

What is Dandelion Wine, anyway?

Dandelion wine is a medicinal drink that also helps you feel buzzed. Dandelions are excellent for digestive health since they help detoxify the lungs and heart because the dandelion petals are rich in potassium, vitamins A, B, C, and D. Perhaps this was the very first wine that was genuinely beneficial to your liver. The taste of dandelion wine is slightly bitter with a dash of honey-like sweetness. [source]

It'd surely be a refreshing change after a gloomy Hardy, and so far I've been slowly savouring Bradbury's poetic narration in a bliss!


Friday, January 13, 2023

Classic Character: Marty South from The Woodlanders (Thomas Hardy)

Marty South might not generally be considered the main character in this book, but for me, she is the center of The Woodlanders. She is the epitome of a true woodlander. She works with tree and woods, and has an amazing skill in making wooden spars, though she must work very hard only to be paid very poorly.

Marty is pictured as no more than nineteen or twenty years old, but poverty and hard working "had forced the provisional curves of her childhood's face to a premature finality." In every aspect of feminine appearance, "she had but little pretension to beauty, save in one prominent particular - her hair. Its abundance made it almost unmanageable."

In short, Marty South is an unattractive woman in the eyes of men. Men tend to treat her as just a worker (one of themselves, perhaps), though no doubt, she is much more talented than most of them. One man she loves, Giles Winterborne (another woodlander), never sets eyes on her, much less saying anything other than business. Her last resort of ever attracting and winning Winterborne's heart is her beautiful hair, but, alas, that too she must sacrifice for money, as her father is ill and can't work. Thus, her final hope is crushed.

To be honest, I admire Marty South. She, who lives in solitude and obscurity, is one of the most courageous female characters I've ever read. Her unrequited love doesn't crush her. She keeps working hard, and she never hates Grace, the woman whom Winterborne loves. When instructed by Grammer Oliver to help in Winterborne's "scheme" to win Grace's heart, Marty silently relents and do what she's expected to.

True, she's a little mean when she reveals about the "hair chronicle" to Fitzpiers, in the last attempt to ever win Winterborne. But that's the only moment of her spur competitiveness, and it's quite understandable. Other than that, Marty proves to be loyal and persistent in her life. And in the end, those qualities give her peaceful mind and life improvement - in short, happiness.

Oh Marty, you rightly deserve to be happy, and I'm so glad of Hardy's ending to this story. It's always about a woodlander who is true to her heart and land, from the beginning to the end.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

1st Impression on Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper

Painting: Woman Walking on a Forest Trail by Vasily Polenov

Susan Fenimore Cooper was the daughter of the great American novelist: James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote The Last of the Mohicans, and "whom she served as devoted companion and amanuensis until his death in 1851." [source: Britannica]

Encouraged by her father, Susan wrote her first novel: Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk of Longbridge, under the pseudonym Amabel Penfeather. It was published in 1845.

Besides a writer, Susan was also, what one might call, an amateur naturalist. She loved to observe nature and rural country life of her village: Cooperstown, New York, during her walks and excursions. It was from her journals on these subject, that Rural Hours was published in 1850, with quite a big success.

Despite of not putting her name as the writer (it's written only as "by a Lady"), her book was by no means unnoticed by her contemporaries. Even Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist at that time, had mention Susan's book in his letter to a friend:

Talking of books, I am in middle of one which pleases me…’Miss Cooper’s Journal of a Naturalist.’ Who is she? She seems a very clever woman & gives a capital account of the battle between our & your weeds”. - [source: Wikipedia]

(Rural Hours was also published as "Journal of a Naturalist").

Rural Hours was even believed to be the inspiration of Thoreau's Walden:
"Rural Hours in particular has been called the first major work of environmental literary nonfiction by an American woman writer, both a source and a rival of Thoreau's Walden" - [source: Wikipedia]

From her very first journal entry (Saturday, March 4th), I was instantly hooked; but it was her entry about birds which completely won my heart. I love birds, though living in a big city don't give me much opportunity to get to know them intimately. I'm contented enough to watch them flying and feeding on the trees outside my apartment window. Fortunately, I have a neighbor who's also a bird lover. Every morning she puts a plate of grains to feed birds around here outside her balcony. The visitors are mostly Old World Sparrows and two or three Black Pigeons. While the smaller one: Estrildid Finches are usually flying around and feeding on the trees. It's hard to see them, but I know where they are from their twittering. Also regular visitors to this area are Zebra Doves with their cute head movements when walking on the ground, and Sooty-headed bulbul with their beautiful singing voices.

Two of my favorite passages so far, are all about birds. I found them interesting mostly because I've never seen nor heard them. I've even checked YouTube videos because I was so curious. It actually added charm to my reading!

"Three large waterfowl also passed along in the same direction; we believed them to be loons; they were in sight only for a moment, owing to the trees above us, but we heard a loud howling cry as they flew past like that of those birds."


"The Dipper must indeed be a very singular bird; instead of swimming on the surface of the water like ducks and geese, or beneath like the loons, or wading along the shores like many of the long-legged coast tribes, it actually runs or flies about at will over gravelly beds of mountain streams."

This would be a very slow read for me. So exciting to explore the birds and flowers together with Cooper, all through the four seasons! Will report back my final thoughts in the next few weeks - or more!

Monday, January 9, 2023

1st Impression on.... A New Blog Feature

Lately I have a bursting energy to blog, so you’ll see several new excited things to come on Fanda Classiclit within this month!

I have a certain reading habit, especially when reading from an author new to me or an intriguing book. I usually form my impression based on the first 50-ish pages of the book. If they fail to impress me, then I will, either dump it altogether, or seek further reasons why continuing would be worth it. That's how this new blog feature: 1st Impression on... came to mind.

How it works

When encountering an intriguing or interesting book (or any book when I feel like it), I will write my first impression of the book, as well as (if any) some related background or facts - or even excerpts - which will further influence my reading.

This feature will serve two purposes:
1. To enhance my own reading experience, and a good reminder of its significance, in case I would find some parts of the book tedious.
2. To simplify my final review, so that I need only to jot down my own thoughts/feelings of the book. Any other important background or related facts, I need only to provide a link to the (earlier) feature post.

I might not use this feature for every book, only when I need or like (read: have time😋) to.

My first post will be of a book I'm reading right now. It's very interesting. Wait for it in a few days!

In the meantime, you might have noticed (or remember?) another blog feature I have started a long while ago: Classic Character (you can see the banner on the sidebar). It's analysis of interesting character(s) from books I've been reading. Tell me if you find some characters you've liked (or disliked)! 😉

Other new features in this Fanda Classiclit:
* Blogger-Inspired Wishlist
* Judging Book by Its Cover (coming soon)

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist, Ep. 1: Christmas Edition


Blogger-Inspired Wishlist is a new feature in Fanda Classiclit, where I post recent additions to my wish list, which have been inspired by reviews from my fellow bloggers. It includes some synopsis, as well as some excerpts of the review which have intrigued me, complete with a link to the blogger's original post.

The first episode is Christmas edition; I've added three Christmas books to my wish list, ready for next Christmas reading!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson


It follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.”

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked.

It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

From Joel's review:

"... I read this book in less than an hour. While it’s quite funny, I found the book to also be a touching reminder of the true meaning of Christmas."

This would be a delightful and inspiring read!


A Country Christmas & Other Christmas Stories  by Louisa May Alcott
Inspired by: Joseph @ The Once Lost Wanderer 

 A short story collection with eleven Christmas stories.

 Table of content:

 • Merry Christmas • A Christmas Dream and How It Came True • Becky's Christmas Dream • Kitty's Class Day • Rosa's Tale • Tilly's Christmas • The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice Treherne's Temptation • What the Bell Saw and Said • A Christmas Turkey, and How It Came • The Little Red Purse • A Country Christmas

Actually Joseph only read one short story: A Country Christmas, but I found this collection in Google Play Book, and thought, why not? It seems a perfect Christmas read!

From Joseph's review:

"She creates interest and empathy for her characters and paints picturesque visions of the quaint countryside with mere words:

It was very lovely on the hill, for far as the eye could reach lay the wintry landscape sparkling with the brief beauty of sunshine on virgin snow. Pines sighed overhead, hardy birds flitted to and fro, and in all the trodden spots rose the little spires of evergreen ready for its Christmas duty. Deeper in the wood sounded the measured ring of axes, the crash of falling trees, while the red shirts of the men added color to the scene, and a fresh wind brought the aromatic breath of newly cloven hemlock and pine.

It was very sweet, very poignant, very enjoyable."

Well, how can one not love it already?


A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Inspired by: Robin @ A Fondness of Reading


Originally emerging from a piece written for radio, the poem was recorded by Thomas in 1952. The story is an anecdotal retelling of a Christmas from the view of a young child and is a romanticised version of Christmases past, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas' most popular works.

From Robin's review:

"I felt like I was sitting by the fire, being read to, and it made his childhood Christmas memories even more poignant."

Sounds delightful! The e-book copy I've added to my wish list comes with beautiful colorful illustrations too!

So, what do you think of this new feature?

Other blog features that might also interest you:
* Classic Character
* 1st Impression on... (coming soon)

Monday, January 2, 2023

Some Light Holiday Reads

Happy New Year, my friends! All best wishes for a fruitful reading and blogging year of 2023!

I've had some fun during holidays, on the last week of 2022: re-reading my childhood favorite: The Adventures of Tintin (a comic book series) by the talented Belgian writer/cartoonist: Hergé. It's not just a favorite, the series had shaped me to be the reader I am today. That's why I included it to my Personal Canon.

Anyway, in these re-reads I realized little details I didn't notice back then. I'll give you snapshots from each of the four books I've read:

The Seven Crystal Balls

Seven scientists stole the mummy of an Inca King from Peru. Each of them are 'attacked' by cursed crystal ball to a comatose condition. Professor Calculus (Tournesol in French) is kidnapped by the Peruvians, and it leaves Tintin and Captain Haddock to find and rescue him (to be continued in the sequel: The Prisoners of the Sun).

Interesting points:

1. Snowy's (Milou in French) expression
Hergé is well known for his excellent little details, such as Snowy's varied expressions, of which you can write stories just by looking at him. On this one, for instance, it looks like he's saying:

1st pic (after hours on the train): "Yay... we're taking a walk!
2nd pic (10 mins later..): "Aren't we there already? My legs are killing me!"

2. Captain Haddock's fashionable outfits (isn't he a dandy?) Look at this riding outfit; Isn't it rather fantastic for a comic caricature?

3. How can Snowy be suddenly caught between Nestor's legs?
I just realized that he's actually sliding towards Nestor, no doubt due to the very slippery floor. The marks on the floor implies that, how could I just notice that now?!

The Secret of the Unicorn

Tintin bought Captain Haddock a ship miniature, which turns out to be the exact replica to Captain's ancestor's ship: Unicorn. Tintin found a small manuscript rolled into the mast, which turned out to be one third of a clue to finding secret treasure.

Interesting points:

1. Dupont's (or Dupond?) cane angle is changed between scenes. On 1st scene (right side 1st row) we see that his cane is stuck to a bag's handle and about to carry it over. But on the next scene, the angle changed, which is the normal way to carry a bag by the handle, but impossible for the carrier to absent-mindedly turn his cane that way, while he isn't realized what he's doing. You know what I mean? So, is it a tiny relapse from Hergé?....

2. Poor Snowy (Milou) is so unlucky to get into these comical 'accidents'... so hilarious and made me laugh every time.

3. It's so amazing that in the case of robbery, Tintin's main concern is for his books. That's right Tintin, good books are rare treasure!

Tintin and the Picaros

Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Calculus were incidentally involved in their friend's General Alcazar's revolotion in South America.

Interesting points:

1. Tintin is riding motorcycle!

2. And this is probably the only time he donned a pair of jeans!

3. Another of Captain Haddock fashionable outfit.

The Calculus Affair

Professor Calculus invented an ultrasonic glass-destroyer machine. Borduria and Syldavia both want to get it by kidnapping Calculus, while his two friends: Tintin and Captain Haddock race with time to rescue him.

Interesting points:

1. Again, Captain Haddock's styles. This time, a countryside gentleman taking a stroll on a peaceful afternoon. The other is his casual style, with buttoned-down shirt, a shawl, and a leather belt. Great style, Monsieur Hergé!

2. Perfect small details of a (hilarious) chaos!
The 1st one is outside Marlinspike Hall (Haddock's property), when news about mysterious broken glasses has become public. Do you see the boy scout? The lollipop seller, ice cream stall, the tent whose occupant is just waking up in pajama!? And the family picnic.. the father and mother are quarreling about the food - what do you think happened? Is his burger undercooked? 😄

The next one is when Tintin and Haddock in speeding car is chasing Calculus' kidnapper through the town square on market day. The result is... chaos...and pretty hilarious too! Do you notice the string of sausages stuck in front of the car? The cows and pigs are obvious, but can you see a black cat calmly observing all the chaos? The poor egg seller and the postman are very unlucky! Not mentioning the fruit shop. And to think about the spilt gallons of milk or the bread... This can be a fun game in leisure time! 🤣

Of those four, the last one is my favorite. Clever plot, hilarious comical scene with fabulously drawn pictures, and don't forget that scene of the infamous sticky bandage incident - that's probably the most hilarious of all the comic series!! I've seen it many-many times, and it always makes me laughing out loud!

Believe me, The Adventures of Tintin are always a perfect choice for fun holiday reads! 😉
How's your holiday reads? What books did you choose? Were you having fun?