Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of 2011


Apologies for my silence over the last few weeks! Once again I have taken some time off blogging to work through a medieval epic; this time Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. I'll let you know how that goes!
This year I read 75 books—more than the previous two years (and I have no records for years before that). Of those 75, I extract here a list of the best books I read—all the following are very highly recommended. Italics mark re-reads.

 
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Way Home by Mary Pride
The Central Significance of Culture by Francis Nigel Lee
All the Way Home by Mary Pride
The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston
The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle
Eternity in Our Hearts by RC Sproul, Jr
Total Truth by Nancy R Pearcey
Margaret's Story by Marjorie Douglas
Frozen Assets by PG Wodehouse
If I had to pick an overall best from this list, I would say the best fiction book I read was probably Emma, with The Rosemary Tree, Descent Into Hell, and Salute to Adventurers providing the stiffest competition. Of the non-fiction, the one I enjoyed most is The White Horse King, which is about King Alfred the Great. Merkle tells the story with verve and enthusiasm, painting Alfred as a bonafide hero—warrior, scholar, visionary, and devout Christian who recognised his country's need for repentance as the only hope for lasting victory. Apart from that one, I particularly recommend FN Lee's Central Significance of Culture, Wilson's A Serrated Edge, Pearcey's Total Truth, and Lewis's Four Loves.
This year I discovered a couple of new authors and got better acquainted with those I'd just met, such as Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Goudge, and even Charles Williams. Two poets, however, were my two greatest discoveries of 2011.
James McAuley is the great Australian anti-modernist poet, a man whose works dug back into Christendom, order, form, and meaning. The postmodernist elite have banished him from national memory, but I look forward to the day that he is recognised as one of Australia's greatest poets and one of the few that ever gave God glory.
Christina Rossetti was in her youth a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, part of the Victorian medievalist movement. Sister of the painter, poet, and playboy Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the atheist modernist William Michael Rossetti, Christina remained a devout Christian all her life, even turning down two offers of marriage because of religious differences. For years feminists have alternately tried to show that she was a bad poet because of her beliefs, or that she was a good poet in spite of the crushing weight of patriarchal Christendom. The truth is, of course, that she was magnificent, and that she was magnificent because of her knowledge of the truth. Although her life and many of her poems are tinged with sadness, there was a deeper joy beneath them which burst out occasionally in works like A Birthday, of which the insufferable William Rossetti commented that he could not imagine how she could have wrote it, seeing how unhappy her life was. (Hint: A Birthday is not necessarily about any mortal love).
I will leave you with one of my favourite Rossetti poems.
In Progress

Ten years ago it seemed impossible
That she should ever grow so calm as this,
With self-remembrance in her warmest kiss
And dim dried eyes like an exhausted well.
Slow-speaking when she has some fact to tell,
Silent with long-unbroken silences,
Centred in self yet not unpleased to please,
Gravely monotonous like a passing bell.
Mindful of drudging daily common things,
Patient at pastime, patient at her work,
Wearied perhaps but strenuous certainly.
Sometimes I fancy we may one day see
Her head shoot forth seven stars from where they lurk
And her eyes lightnings and her shoulders wings.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzannah,

I read 'The Little White Horse' for the first time last year. The ending's a bit weak, but I found it so satisfying otherwise. I apologised to my kids for depriviing them of it in their youth.

And to save another post, I am also a Blue Castle fan - in spite of the usual Montgomery problems. But I still think I love 'Jane of Lantern Hill' best of all her work.

I've just finished 'The Scent of Water' by Goudge. A reward after 2 non-fictions. The thing I love about both Goudge and Chesterton (esp. the Father Brown books) is how their stories are so drenched in grace. As am I.

(Ellen, Tasmania)

Suzannah said...

I wouldn't be too worried about depriving your children of "The Little White Horse"...it strikes me as being distinctively feminine in tone! Hopefully there will be a new generation to enjoy it soon ;).

Lovely to know you like The Blue Castle--at the Clunes Booktown last year I looked everywhere for a copy to buy as an engagement present for our mutual friend! Alas, the only copy present was a first edition far beyond my budget. But I told her all about it, and no doubt you can lend it to her at the right time. Christina Baehr is also a fan--she even wrote a screenplay for it, but alas--the rights had already been sold to some movie house or another. I haven't read Jane of Lantern Hill, but I'll have to now you've recommended it!

Elizabeth Goudge is just lovely. I have "The Scent of Water" but haven't got around to reading it yet--soon! She reminds me of Charles Williams (see my comments at the end of this review: http://inwhichireadvintagenovels.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/normal-0-false-false-false-en-au-zh-cn.html).

It's lovely to hear from you again!

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