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‘The Path Through the Trees’ by Christopher Milne ***

The Path Through the Trees, the second volume of Christopher Milne’s autobiography, was first published in 1979, and has been recently reissued by Bello.  It starts where The Enchanted Places ‘left off’, but, the author says, this book ‘is a complement [to it].  It is about the non-Pooh part of my life.  It is an escape from Christopher Robin’.

In The Path Through The Trees, Milne presents what he thinks of as ‘a disjointed story – but a happy life’.  He describes the second part of his autobiography as follows: ‘So I live at the bottom of a valley.  I have a small bookshop in a small town; and I seldom venture far afield’. In the book, his story begins at ‘the point in time when the choice stopped being theirs [his parents'] and became mine’.  It opens with the declaration of the Second World War, when he has finished at his public school and is about to go and study at Trinity College, Cambridge.

A few of the themes which were so prevalent in The Enchanted Places weave their way into The Path Through the Trees, most notably the importance of nature and Milne’s love for his natural surroundings.  The Path Through the Trees is written just as eloquently as the former, but the entirety feels far more grown up.  Milne talks about smoking for the first (and last) time, forays into politics, his joining up with the Army, discovering himself as a person, his marriage, and becoming a father.  Records from his personal diary have been copied verbatim.

Whilst the charm of the first book has not made its way into the second, The Path Through the Trees is still a most interesting read, particularly when Milne reaches his acquisition of the Harbour Bookshop in the small town of Dartmouth.  It is at this point that the book really comes into its own.

One cannot help but feel, however, that the same kind of leap between volumes of autobiography is present here as exists between Roald Dahl’s Boy and Going Solo.  The spellbinding note has been lost somewhere along the way, and sadly, a lot of it tends to read just like any other memoir.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Book Haul (August 2014)

August was not a very fruitful month, but here’s what I bought:

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  • The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • Selected Short Stories by Virginia Woolf
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

I’m super excited for all of them, and I’ve already read some bits and pieces from each one of these books so far. Have you read any of these books? 

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Saturday Poem: ‘Ellen’ by Effie Afton

Sweet star, of seraph brightness,
That for a transient day
Shed o’er our souls such lightness,
And then withdrew the ray!
O, with immortal lustre
Thou ‘rt sparkling brightly now
Amid the gems that cluster
Around Jehovah’s brow!

Yet many hearts are keeping
Lone vigils o’er thy grave,
Where all the hopes are sleeping
Which thy young promise gave.
The sleep which knows no waking
Hath closed thy sweet blue eyes,
And while our hearts are breaking
We glance toward the skies.

Ah! there a hope is given
That bids us dry the tear;
That bright star in the heaven,
With beams so wondrous clear;–
‘Tis Ellen’s “distant Aidenn,”
Far in the realms above,
And those clear rays are laden
With her pure spirit’s love.

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Idea: du Maurier December

As most of you know, I absolutely adore Daphne du Maurier and think her books are, on the whole, wonderful.  There are a lot of them which I’ve not yet read, however, and I was thinking of creating a new little project around her work.

I have decided to do so in the month of December – mainly because most people have the most time off then, but also because ‘du Maurier December’ has a nice ring to it, I think.  I aim to review the rest of her works (or as many as I can get to, anyway).  If any of you in the blogging world would like to join in, then please do so!

I am aiming to procure and read the rest of her books in the next few months and will be scheduling my reviews during the month of December.  If you are interested in the du Maurier books which will feature on my list, they are as follows:

- The Rebecca Notebook
– Mary Anne
– The du Mauriers
– Rule Britannia
– The Glass-Blowers
– The Flight of the Falcon
– The Rendezvous and Other Stories
– The Winding Stair
– The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte
– Golden Lads
– Hungry Hill
– The Doll: Short Stories

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Our Big Summer Readathon: ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ by Truman Capote *****

I first watched the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s some years ago, and whilst I liked it, I was not immediately captivated by it.  I was still so keen to read the novella, however, and was so pleased to find a beautiful Penguin edition in a secondhand bookshop in Coventry a couple of years ago.  I read it almost immediately, and was thrilled to learn that the novella is so much better than the book that a comparison in the favour of the original is barely necessary.  (A quick synopsis of the reasons why, for me, the book is far better than the film, however, are as follows: the entirety of the novella is lively and compelling, and to me, the characters are far more realistic on the page than on the screen.  I do not feel that the film characters were made of the same stuff, as it were, as the novella’s protagonists).  I was not planning to re-read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as the story was still so vivid in my mind, but once I began to look at it once again, I could not help myself but become immersed in Capote’s words and plot.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, probably Capote’s most famous work, was published in 1958, and has remained popular ever since.  It focuses upon the character Holly Golightly, whom I remembered as being such an intriguing being; feisty and unusual in her characteristics, decisions and mannerisms.  The novella is told from the first person perspective of a male narrator who lives in the same apartment building as her, and is set (as I am sure everyone already knows) in New York City.  A chance likeness of Holly spotted in a photograph is what prompts the narrator to tell her story.

Holly is first introduced when she has forgotten – or lost – the key to her apartment, and consequently wakes the Japanese man, Mr Yunioshi, who lives on the top floor.  I absolutely adore Capote’s initial description of his heroine: ‘… the ragbag colours of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light.  It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool-black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker.  For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks’.  She is ‘shy two months of her nineteenth birthday’.  The narrator goes on to say: ‘One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress, except that it was obvious, judging from her hours, she hadn’t time to be either’.

At first, she seems oblivious to the existence of the narrator, only making him the focus of her frequent entrances into the apartment block without her key.  He, however, learns more and more about her as the story goes on.  They meet each other properly when one evening, Holly climbs up the fire escape to the narrator’s apartment on the floor above hers, in order to escape an odious man who is in her room.

The characterisation in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is incredibly strong; Holly is quirky, vivacious and not afraid to speak her mind, and it is impossible to forget her in a hurry.  One trusts the kindly narrator immediately.  The dialogue between the two, and which encompasses some of the more minor characters in the novella too, is exemplary.  Capote’s prose and the tone which he sets is utterly perfect.  He brilliantly demonstrates the power of friendship in his memorable and stunning novella.

This is the last post of mine and Lizzi’s Big Summer Readathon, and I have had such a fun time working on our little project.  Thanks so much, Lizzi, for co-hosting this, and I hope we can focus on another author soon!

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