Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thrush Green by Miss Read



45. Thrush Green - first in the Thrush Green series
by Miss Read
fiction, 1959
second reading
finished, 6/2/11








Once in a great while, I find myself reading a book which is set at the same general time of year as it actually is in my world. But Thrush Green offered a special treat. I began it on the very day the story begins, May 1. The little boy Paul, awakens and says 'White Rabbits' for luck during the month. Tom has said, 'Rabbit, Rabbit' on the first of every month for as long as I've known him. Amazing. I've never heard of anyone else saying this.

I remember a feeling I had when I first read the Miss Read books maybe 20 years ago. I was quite amazed that a woman could write two different series, Fairacre and Thrush Green, both set in rural England, both peopled with schoolteachers and vicars and other villagers, and yet have such a uniqueness about each one. Then, as now, although I adore the Fairacre stories my heart lies more in Thrush Green.

Recently a dear blogging friend gave me the Thrush Green series, all in hardcover,


and I am so very grateful. Although I have read the whole series, the books were borrowed from the library, and I own only two in paperback. In my new set the first three books are compiled into one, while the rest are all single books. The only thing missing from the compilation is the wonderful illustrations by John Goodall. They are in all the other books. I referred to the drawings in my paperback copy of Thrush Green as I read along in my new book.


The very name of this book is magic. I think the song of the thrush is just about the sweetest sound in the world. You may hear it at this site. And green makes us think of the greening of the year, rebirth, as well as a village green. Perfect, just perfect.

May 1 is the day the fair comes to town. It stays just the one day, and Thrush Green divides this day into morning, afternoon, and night. There is talk that this may be the last time it comes to the village because the owner, Mrs. Curdle is planning to sell the business. This causes great dismay among the inhabitants of Thrush Green.

The village doctor, Doctor Bailey has suffered an illness, and comes to realize that he is not as young as he used to be and must hire an assistant. He hopes the young Doctor Lovell who has been helping out since he got sick will want to take on the job. His wife Winnie, one of my favorite Miss Read characters, keeps an eye on all the goings-on in the village and helps out wherever she is needed. There are the two maiden ladies, bombastic Ella and timid Dimity; terrible Mr. Piggott and his unappreciated daughter, Molly; Paul's aunt Ruth who is staying with her sister's family to recover from a broken engagement. We get to know Mrs. Curdle and her large family who work the fair, especially her grandson Ben who has taken a fancy to Molly. We learn that Doctor Bailey and Mrs. Curdle have a forty-year-old friendship. The scene between the two is among the most touching Miss Read ever wrote.


I fear someone unfamiliar with Miss Read's work may say, 'so what.' But this is the way stories used to be written. Regular people going about their regular lives. Nothing exotic. No childhood horrors. 'Just' a good, good book, plain and simple. The writing is engaging. The characters are interesting. Their lives are appealing, but not without the occasional heartache.

I remember reading a few years ago that visitors to Miss Read's part of the world, which is near Newbury in Berkshire, couldn't even buy her books in the local bookstore, and that the bookshop owners didn't know who she was. How very, very sad this is. I know it is the fate of many writers/artists to be unknown in their time, but it seems to me that Miss Read is much beloved all over the world. As far as I can find out online, she is still alive at the great age of 98! May she be in good health.

There's a wonderful photograph of Miss Read, whose real name is Dora Jessie Saint from the National Portrait Gallery. They don't want their images used, but you may see the picture here.

29 comments:

  1. I first heard the greeting "Rabbit, Rabbit" when I was a freshman in college, many, many moons ago. My own Tom and I try to outwit each other to say it first on the first of every month. (we met in college - this was part of our higher education, ha). I have a dear, dear friend, my college roommate, and now we email each other on Rabbit, Rabbit Day. The greeting was one of my first blogs

    (lifeonthecutoff.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/rabbit-rabbit/#comment-55).

    t was fun to see you mention it here about "Thrush Green", and now you know someone else who says it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, another author we both love. How sad that she is unknown and unread in her own neighborhood (so to speak). I am picturing one of her husky lady characters smoking a cigarette, wearing an apron, and never, ever reading a book.

    We used to hear the song of the wood thrush coming from the distant woods behind our very old house in New Hampshire. Lovely bird, but seldom seen.

    Thank you for this post, Nan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Now we're talking. I just read this myself a couple of months ago and have a fledgling collection of the paperbacks with the covers by Jannat Messenger. They are so charming, have you seen them?
    julie

    ReplyDelete
  4. This series sounds like a gem...and your blogging friend was so sweet to you!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I started out reading the Fairacre books and then, for some reason, tried the Thrush Green ones. It wasn't long before I realised I'd switched allegiance and actually preferred Thrush Green. Something about the stronger characters I feel. You're right, nothing much happens but it matters not a jot... the books are captivating. And thanks for the link, Nan, I'd not seen that photo before.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love her books! I'm not sure I read more than one or two of the Fairacres, but I've read (and/or listened to) all the Thrush Greens. Thanks for reminding me about them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. She is one of my very favourite authors, if not # 1! I've read all she's written and listen to her audiobooks when working in the kitchen quite often.

    There is something so engaging, yet soothing in her writing.

    What a wonderful gift to receive! So happy they reside in a home where they will be loved :)

    Have a wonderful weekend
    Niki

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the Miss Read books - I've been reading and re-reading them for years!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lucky you to have been given the hardback books. Your friend knew they would be read and appreciated. I love to visit Fairacre and Thrush Green and reread my Miss Reads all the time. I enjoy, too, the wonderful illustrations.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lovely review. I've read a few of Miss Read's books, but not for a long time and I love this kind of "ordinary life" story. How nice of your friend to give you the series. It's really cool that you started this one on the date the book starts....my luck is usually to be deep into a book set at Christmas when it's August!

    I first heard about the first of the month 'rabbit' for luck on Hildred's blog (called Day by Day)...I think she said 'white rabbit, white rabbit...'. She's from British Columbia and, I think, of Scottish ancestry. Anyway I love rabbits and I've tried to remember to say it myself. But I'm starting the tradition a bit late in life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love the Miss Read books, and also I like the Thrush Green ones best but love them all......Time for a reread?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love the Miss Read books, but I've borrowed them from the library as I only own one!! How amazing that in her part of the country they don't know her books - I'm gobsmacked! and amazed that she's still alive.

    Oh, and I too say 'rabbit' first thing on the first day of the month.

    ReplyDelete
  13. My mother-in-law sent me three paperpacks by Miss Read, "Village School", "Village Diary" and "Storm in the Village". I liked all three, and wouldn't mind to read more - and I had no idea the author is still alive!
    If you ever come across the "Village" series by Rebecca Shaw, I imagine you will like them, too. They are all set in Turnham Malpas, and you keep meeting the same characters in every book, with the introduction of new ones in each one, and the old ones develop, get older, change their jobs, move house, get married or divorced, and some die.
    Although Rebecca Shaw is not as good a writer as Miss Read (in terms of the craft of writing), I thoroughly enjoy the series and am always on the lookout for the next one to be published.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've always said 'White Rabbits' on the first of the month, Nan, but you should really say it before you eat or drink anything, goodness knows why!
    I'm due for a Miss Read re-reading sometime soon, particularly as book blogger, Geranium Cat, says of my new cozy sleuth: 'Altogether, Harriet is admirable, rather the sort Miss Read would have been if she'd found herself caught up in a murder mystery, if perhaps a little sharper - even a little vainer - and more prone to seeing the funny side of things.'

    ReplyDelete
  15. I do recall seeing a few of these at book sales in the past. What a nice collection. The illustrations are terrific.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This sounds like such a wonderful reading experience! Miss Read has been on my wishlist for a few years now (Did I first learn about her from you or Stacy?). I hope to come across the first book one of these days...

    ReplyDelete
  17. First of all, I am very pleased that Miss Read has so many fans. I loved hearing from you all.

    Penny, I love this! I just visited your link. I'm so impressed. I had no idea anyone else in the world did this. And Tom doesn't know where he got it from.

    Clair, Ella, no doubt! Isn't she just the best character. And then she'll get all soft sometimes -like when Dimity marries. I'm quite fond of her. I've never seen a thrush either, but oh, that sound.

    Julie, I haven't seen them. The two pb editions I have offer covers by Diane White, and they aren't so great. Sort of primitive drawings. The designs were by Albert Richardson. Steven Lavis did the cover to the hc omnibus edition. I'll try to find the JM ones so I can see them. My favorites are the old ones with inside and cover illustrations by John Goodall. Those people look just as I imagine them.

    Staci, yes she was! It was a most generous gift.

    Cath, wasn't that a good photograph! 'Captivating' is the perfect word for all the Miss Read books.

    Audrey, I've begun re-reading both series. If you are interested, I wrote some book reports about the early Fairacre books. You could look in the 'authors' tab under the blog header picture, and scroll down to Miss Read. I did love them, as well.

    Niki, that's almost what the giver said when she offered them to me. She knew I would love them. That's exactly it, 'engaging, yet soothing.'

    Kathie, isn't she just the most wonderful writer!

    Stringplay, she is a most generous person! I am happy to have them on my shelf to pick up whenever I want to spend some time in Thrush Green.

    Sallie, thank you for reminding me of Hildred's blog. I haven't visited in too long. Hey, it's never too late for luck, right?! It's interesting - some people like to read about winter in summertime and vice versa, while others like to be in the same season as they are in real life.

    Kristi, I do so love Miss Read. I fall right into the life of Thrush Green or Fairacre when I begin to read her work.

    Margaret, I read every one I could get from the library when the kids were little, and just began buying them again recently. I need to get some more Fairacre books and continue with my re-reading of them. I'm so happy to own all these Thrush Green books. I'm amazed about the 'rabbit.' I'm so pleased to hear you say it too.

    Librarian, your mother-in-law is so very generous! I've been impressed before by all the books she shares with you. Just the other day I was looking at Rebecca Shaw books in the library. Do you believe it?! You might also like Sarah Challis. I've read only one, but really liked it:

    http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/04/blackthorn-winter-by-sarah-challis.html

    Nicola, oh yes, we always say it before speaking any other words or eating anything. Most important! :<) And I am so looking forward to meeting your Harriet!

    Diane, sadly libraries seem to let these books go. I am so grateful my library still has them. When I first read Miss Read, I had never seen illustrations in an adult book, and was so pleased.

    JoAnn, I am quite, quite sure that you will like Miss Read.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I read this just last year & I have several more Thrush Greens on the tbr shelves. I've read all the Fairacre books long ago but had never got around to Thrush Green until recently. I also enjoy the atmosphere of the books, the timelessness of an English village. I also would say White Rabbit when I wake up on the 1st of the month but I hardly ever rememeber to actually do it!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just a little PS to the Miss Read post and, of course, saying "White Rabbit" (singular) three times before saying anything else ... Anyway, my PS is: do you know of the other books by John S Goodall? They are a delight and if you're not familiar with his books without words, then do look for these, such books as An Edwardian Christmas, and The Story of an English Village. They are right for all ages, young or old.
    Margaret P

    ReplyDelete
  20. Nan, Your blog is one of the highlights of my day. I discovered Miss Read about 30 years ago at Goodspeeds, a used bookstore in Boston, MA, that is sadly closed. The first book I bought was "Winter in Thrush Green" and I loved it. At the back of the book was a man-made "flap" and in it were several sheets of paper. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the former owner of the book had corresponded with Miss Read and the letters that Miss Read sent her were enclosed in the flap! Needless, to say I loved the book and now have all of her books, both Thrush Green and Fairacre.
    Have a great week.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lyn, isn't she just the best!

    Margaret, thanks for letting me know about JG's other books. I had no idea. He is such a good illustrator.

    Anonymous, what a wonderful story, and so lucky for you! I'd love to hear what Miss Read wrote back. It's sad because it must be that the owner died because otherwise I can't imagine anyone letting such a treasure go. And sad her family didn't want it, or sad no friend wanted it. But happy, happy for you! Thanks for telling me.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Nan,

    After reading the letters from Miss Read, I realized that the recipient was dead and felt awful. She must have been so proud and thrilled when Miss Read replied to her letters and then to have them discarded, so to speak--well, it was heartbreaking.

    I'd be happy to provide copies of the letters to you.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anonymous, I would LOVE copies. Aren't you wonderful to offer. You may find my email if you click the 'about me' tab under the blog header photo, and then 'view my complete profile.'
    Yes, it is heartbreaking. But then again, you have them which makes one believe in fate or fortune or something like that. :<)

    ReplyDelete
  24. As Anne Shirley would say "we are a kindred spirit"!!! I cannot begin to remember how many times I have read all the Miss Read titles. I feel like I am coming home every time I open one up. I often wondered if anyone else read them. I thought that I would ask the librarian
    if she could tell me if anyone else took them out. I have been enjoying your blog. I am watching Clatterford each evening (trying not to watch it all in one sitting). And I just finished Sad Kiss Goodbye by Debrorah Combrie

    ReplyDelete
  25. Suzanne, thanks for coming by and leaving a note. 'Kindred spirits' indeed! I have just seen the first season of Clatterford, but I've got the rest in my queue.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I am going to look for these books. I have a soft spot for just this type of thing. Thanks for the intro. On the "Rabbit" point, I think it's a charming custom, saying "Rabbit Rabbit" for luck but I remember reading somewhere that it is considered very bad luck on a ship (maybe only French ships?) to say "rabbit" or maybe "lapin" or maybe either one. Did you ever hear that?

    ReplyDelete
  27. I haven't KSV, but Susan left a comment on another post she had heard this. Superstitions are so interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I also adore Miss Read's books and read them constantly, in a loop. I love her world as she describes it and try my best to be part of it. On the one hand, yes it is ordinary; on the other quite extraordinary. Her perception of life is wonderful. The Fairacre Books are my favourites. I especially like those. Miss Read, alias Dora Marie Saint, died recently at the age of 98, I believe I am right in saying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, she did. I actually wrote about it here on the blog.

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2012/04/obituary-of-miss-read.html

      Delete

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.