Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Gift of Fiction

My daughter and I were talking books last week and this blog post from a few years ago reminds me of what a good thing book love can be.  Sometimes a repeat can be just what is needed.  I wrote it soon after having emergency treatments for an eye infection.

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.

2021 Note:  I didn't know at the time that my right eye would never recovery completely from the effects of that infection but it did get a little better than when I wrote this.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brenda. A post to savour! Mairin.

Amanda said...

I always love your book suggestions. We have very similar taste in books. I remember reading "Christy" as a sophomore in high school. How I wanted to be that teacher in a mountain school! I am now reading more fiction for my enjoyment as I only have one that I am still homeschooling.

aby914 said...

I might have mentioned this at some point before, but you introduced me to the Miss Read books and for that I will always be grateful. They are truly old friends to me now.

Deanna Rabe said...

I started to read this post yesterday, caught called to a needed task and forgot to come back until now!

For many years I’ve read both fiction and non, being a homeschool mom does that to a person. I’ve enjoyed a few of Goudge’s books there have been some I just couldn’t stick with. I enjoy Stevenson. I love Miss Reed, any book by Jan Karon or Jane Austen. I’m a huge fan of Dee Henderson, enjoy the books by my friend Barbara Cornthwaite, LM Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. I enjoy fiction that take place in the highlands of Scotland written by Kathleen Morgan.

I may have to do my own post about books again soon!

Elizabeth said...

Loved this post on books...indeed I also have experienced some of the same reasons for my reading choices. I too submerged completely into the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries...I think I read all there were at that time anyway.

Kay said...

I know I've told you before but thank you again for recommending Elizabeth Goudge and
D. E. Stevenson. Especially Ms Goudge. I love her books. They are old souls to me and I relish the time I when reading them.