Friday, June 15, 2007

Book Report/Apricots at Midnight



I first heard of Apricots at Midnight by Adele Geras on Elaine's blog, and I knew I wanted to read it. What a lovely, delightful, thoughtful book. The story is told to us by a young girl who often spends the holidays with her Aunt Pinny, the daughter of a dressmaker.

The book begins with some of the most beautiful combinations of words I've read.

Almost the only toys in their house were strands and skeins of silk, like shining butterflies' wings, strange twists of buttons, rustling leaves of tissue paper, and drifts of snippets and clippings from a thousand materials whose names were like a song. There were bits of bombazine and brocade and broadcloth; slivers of slippery silk, slub satin and sarsenet; crumplings of cashmere and cotton; trimmings of taffeta; leftovers of linen and lace, and lawn: a name like a green field full of daisies when you said it.

The young girl tells us,

Going to bed was the best time of the day, because of the magic patchwork quilt.

There were no flowers on it which came to life, it did not make you invisible, and certainly it never performed any useful kind of magic, like whisking you off to the furthest star in the sky, or granting your dearest wish. Nevertheless, it was enchanted, and I loved to lie in the high, narrow bed, listening to Aunt Pinny's voice unroll the magic of the patchwork, as it covered me from my chin, down a long way past my toes and right off the bed.


So the book goes on with each chapter telling the tale of one of the patches in the quilt. And what stories they are. Some are common childhood stories. The mother teaching Pinny how to sew when she is bored and impatient, and Pinny being frightened and worried when her mother is late in picking her up from school one day. Others are a bit magical, and some are downright eerie. There is a piece in the quilt which came from what may have been a haunted dress.

I was so happy being in the pages of this charming book. I felt like I, too, was a little girl lying under that wonderful quilt hearing the stories.

I have a beautiful quilt hanging on the wall next to the computer table. It was made by my late aunt Susie, when she was 17 years old, in 1927. I can't sleep under it because it is so fragile. It didn't even have a backing when she gave it to me. I love it so much and how I wish I knew the stories of the many squares in her quilt. Where did that black piece with the pink flowers come from? Were those polka dots once part of a dress? Were any of those patches once aprons worn by my grandmother? Was there any rhyme or reason to how the pieces were arranged? Sadly, I'll never know, but I am so very grateful that I have it.


5 comments:

  1. This books sounds lovely and I was also tempted by Elaine's post. It must be wonderful to have that quilt and wonder over all the fabrics in it. I love the shape of the pieces.

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  2. I am so glad you enjoyed this book. I read it because of Ann on Patternings, then you read it because of me and now Tara is tempted by it!! wonderful way to find a lovely book and shows the happy and friendly nature of blogging. Elaine

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  3. Nan ~ Once again I've had to place a book on hold at the library after reading your "book report". I've loved every one I've read, so I know when I see something you recommend, that I just have to get it :)
    ~ Joanne

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  4. The readers (and would-be readers) of this book are all coming together piece by piece just like the quilt. It sounds wonderful!

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  5. This blog entry has really touched my heart Nan! First, I just just checked the online bookshop I order from and they say this book is on its way to me now. YEAH! You have only made me even more anxious to read it. I simply cannot wait now so thanks for a great book tip for a quilter.

    Secondly, I get so excited to see a family heirloom like your quilt made by Aunt Susie!!! I know you treasure it and let me tell you how lucky you are to have this Tumblers charm quilt. I could imagine along with you about the stories of each and every patch as you shared it! Then my mind wonders to Aunt Susie and did she sew it herself or have help from your grandmother? Did she sit and gossip as she sewed or thoughtfully work away on her own? Did she collect the patches over time knowing she wanted to make this special charm quilt? It connects you to the other women in your family and sews a legacy of love into your own life right now. Enjoy!

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.