Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Gift of Fiction

Somewhere in my years of reading, I remember an author writing something like "Books are God's way of apologizing for our finiteness".  I find that to be very true, especially in the world of fiction.  My love for reading has been even more apparent recently as I took a book with me to my retinal specialist's appointment... even though one eye is still unable to see clearly.

We do suffer for our addictions and I cannot do without the worlds opened to me by the written word.  One learns to... adapt.

I must admit that I spent a couple decades rarely reading any sort of fiction.  Even though I read a lot of fiction as a child and a teen, as a young mom who worked outside the home off and on, my interest was mostly in nonfiction books by favorite Christian authors.

Then when we homeschooled, I mostly read books about homeschooling and those books we were using as part of homeschooling.  Although many books at that time were fiction, they were read in order to relate with my student son.  It did enable me to enjoy genres I would never have thought of reading on my own.

I just found it easier to curl up at the corner of the sofa and read a chapter or two of Edith Schaeffer or Elisabeth Elliot after the dishes were washed and the house decluttered each day.  It took an excellent novel to devote precious time to reading fiction.  Although the James Harriot books made their way into my evenings, as did one of my very favorite books, Catherine Marshall's Christy, and later the Mitford novels.

Besides being quite busy, there were a couple of other reasons I was not interested in fiction.  First of all... I was at an age where I was actively writing the story of my own life with hours full of activity which began early and ended late each day.  The second... and very important reason... I found a lot of "modern" fiction to contain people and situations I would not bring into my real life on purpose.  So why bring them into my home through my reading?

I have friends who have always preferred novels, it is just the way God designed them.  We are fearfully and wonderfully... and uniquely... made.  While I do continue to like a good nonfiction book, I have come to appreciate the value of a story well told.

Did you know people came to Christ from reading Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, even though "religious" books were banned in the former Soviet Union?  They were able to see God's Truth in the stories as they were written.  Such is God's way of using fiction to enter the story of another person, family, or place.

I have gained wisdom from Father Tim's ponderings, learned about bravery from Lucy Pevensie, felt the joys and sorrows in teaching mountain people with Christy, watched the value of friendship with Samwise Gamgee as I walk through the world created by Tolkien, had my eyes open to spiritual warfare in This Present Darkness, and cried over the treatment of my Chinese Christian brothers and sisters in Safely Home.

I read of the world leading up to WWII in The Winds of War and lived through it in the sequel, War and Remembrance.  I learned of a part of the war I had previously not known about in The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society and traveled with Jews seeking their homeland after the Nazi death camps... returning to their land in Exodus.

I love books and I love bookish friends, especially those who introduced me to the works of Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson.  These are the stories I run to again and again, whose places have become like a second home and characters as old friends.  They are the literary equivalent of my favorite old sweater that I put on at the first chill of Autumn.

I would never have read Hannah Coulter (and its' literary siblings) if it had not been recommended by numerous friends with good taste.  My Mother's people are from an area not far from where Wendell writes about in Kentucky.  I would never have read A Wrinkle in Time as an adult if my daughter hadn't told me that "I must" read it.  Neither would the lovely Miss Read stories have been enjoyed if they had not been recommended by the author of the Mitford books.

It is risky to name favorite titles because for every one I name, there are a dozen which go unnamed.  The paragraphs above do not even begin to include favorite children's books that I like to reread or the books waiting on the Kindle (I cannot resist using credit on a book I've wanted to read when it is on sale for $1.99).

I have now once again come to a place in life where most of my reading is in the form of stories, returning to my childhood and teen years when I needed books as a form of escape.  (I was Nancy Drew, at least in my imagination.)

Now when there is time to read for enjoyment (not that I do not enjoy review books but you know what I mean), I look first to the shelves of favorite fiction waiting to be read for the first time or to revisit an old friend.  Now I just need that right eye to heal completely (it is getting better but I still cannot see clearly).

Some Books Mentioned in this Blog Post
Christy... here.
At Home in Mitford... here.
Christmas at Fairacre (Miss Read)... here.
A Wrinkle in Time... here.
Hannah Coulter... here.
Elizabeth Goudge (Pilgrim's Inn, my first Goudge book)... here.
D. E. Stevenson (Miss Buncle's Book, my first Stevenson book)... here.
The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society... here.
The Winds of War... here.
This Present Darkness... here.
Safely Home... here.
... and at that my eyes are too tired to continue.  ;)

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.

Please excuse any typos not caught with the one clear eye and one fuzzy looking eye.


Sharon D. said...

So glad to see a post today. I love books..returning home today with three more to add to my collection..two from the thrift store and one from discount bookstore. Enjoyed your comments today. Praying for you. Blessings, Sharon D.

Anonymous said...

Christy and the James Herriot novels were based on true stories. Maybe that's partly why they were so good.

Anonymous said...

So thankful your eye is improving! As a fellow book lover, some of your favorite titles are my favorites, too, but some are new to me. I just ordered “Miss Buncle’s Book” as a birthday gift to myself! (It’ll actually arrive on my birthday this week!) It sounds like a fun and enjoyable read! I enjoy reading light fiction as a way to rest and enjoy a mini vacation from day-to-day life and as an alternative to watching T.V. Thanks for sharing! Praying your eye continues to improve!
Hugs and Blessings,
Laura C.(WA)

Vee said...

You use books as comfort the way I might use chocolate. I am ashamed with my lack of reading books. Apparently, I am some sort of voyeur...*cringe*...because I like blogs. I think of them as collections of essays, which would be nonfiction. I have not yet finished any of the books purchased in the last few months. I need to stop buying books that take me so long to get through. And this says something else to me...I am either not able to settle enough to read a piece of fiction or writers are not as good or compelling as they once were. There's a fine line between too much and not enough. Figures. Everything in my life comes back to balance. You make me think too much. Ha! I am sorry that the eye is taking longer than we'd like it to. Praying that it will not be too much longer before it is doing much better.

Kay said...

I am an avid reader but do remember when my children were small I found it hard to find the time at all and rarely read in those days. I am certainly making up for it now though. Like you, I sometimes go back to old favourites too. My reading style has changed and these days I read a lot of mysteries (but not gritty crime), previously I spent years reading victorian novels. We have different seasons in our life, even for reading. x

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I, like you, have gone through phases with my reading. These days I’m reading mostly fiction, and I’ve been introduced to many wonderful authors through you, Sarah Clarkson, and Lanier. (I learned about her through you!). There is a lot of truth in good stories, we can be encouraged, see something in a new light, weep with friends, or rejoice with others all through books.

Many are my dear friends and companions. As are my bookish friends!

The Journey said...

New must read book- "When Crickets Cry" Charles Martin

From Christy Award finalist Martin comes a work of "God-haunted" southern fiction sure to tug at your heartstrings! Travel to a sleepy town square in Georgia, where a 7-year-old child sells lemonade to raise funds for a heart transplant, an onlooker watches, and a speeding truck comes around the bend, changing bothe lives forever.

I listened to it on audio from the library, couldn't stop.
Yes, love those books- looking for some new authors too.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in a very difficult household, to it mildly, books became my refuge!! I so wrapped myself up in Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, etc that I would not even hear what was going on in the house around me (sometimes got into trouble over that when dinner was announced) but it was one thing that helped me keep my sanity. I will be forever grateful for books!!

Keri Brown said...

I know exactly what you mean about your "phase" of not wanting to spend precious reading time on fiction. I felt the exact same way for many years while my kids were young(er). But it bothered me that I never reached for fiction like I used to, so I analyzed it to see if I could figure out why that was the case. I realized that for me, it was because I rarely had the blocks of focused, undistracted time that I needed to sink into a story and truly enjoy it as fiction should be enjoyed. It seemed so dissatisfying to be able to read only half a chapter of some delightful novel, only to have to be pulled back into the real world before I had even processed what I had read. Not only that, but my focused reading times were so sporadic that I could easily forget between readings who the characters were and what was happening in the plot! I did read every single day, and always at bedtime, but it was always nonfiction, as it simply worked better for me when my reading times consisted of 10 minutes here and there, often while kids played nearby or while I was drifting off to sleep.

About two years ago, however, I realized that my kids were old enough for me to set boundaries and build some devoted reading times into my days. Now I'm enjoying the beauty and joy of good fiction again -- hooray!