Thursday, June 23, 2011
Thrush Green by Miss Read
45. Thrush Green - first in the Thrush Green series
by Miss Read
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.