Friday, January 23, 2009


A few weeks ago I started thinking about a book I read when I was a teenager (barely) and had been first let lose in the adult stacks in the public library. I can remember best the feeling the book left me with--I checked it out several times. It was by a New Zealand writer named Sylvia Ashton-Warner. (Someone asked me if I meant Sylvia Townsend Warner, but the book I am thinking of was Greenstone, by Ashton Warner.) I can't describe the plot of the book, which is based on Ashton-Warner's own childhood, romanticized. But I remember specifics from it quite well, including it's use of a nursery rhyme:

By the side of a murmuring stream
An elegant gentleman sat.
On top of his head was his wig.
On top of his wig was his hat.
On top of his wig was his hat hat hat.
On top of his wig was his hat.

The father was an Englishman who had married badly for love, and was now crippled by arthritis. The mother was a teacher. The family was poor and huge.

The book was not very long. I remember it as evocative and exotic, but full of domesticity and troubled marriage happening just slightly off the page. I remember feeling it offered a glimpse into something adult that I might not quite be getting.

So I ordered a copy, used. Now it has come and I wonder how it will compare to my memories. If it will, in fact, be any good at all.


Blogger Jason Campbell said...

I once re-read a book that I was very fond of in my childhood. A sci-fi novel based on a popular video game in the mid 90's. It wasn't as good as I remembered, but I have since forgotten the re-reading and still enjoy good memories from earlier readings.

January 28, 2009 12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah! love this blog. you have a good writing style =)

January 28, 2009 9:12 AM  
Blogger Beth Adele Long said...

ooh! I can't wait to hear. Rereading books you remember vaguely is a risky but potentially rewarding experience. Will it be "WOW!" or "meh"?

I love the nursery rhyme, though.

February 01, 2009 11:27 AM  

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