We are delighted to bring you our first in a series of new monthly columns from a few guest chickadees!
Today, Samantha is kicking off her new series "Bookishness," which will be all about her favorite books! We both love seeing photos of Sam's new fave books in her Instagram feed and knew her fantastic sense of humor along with her love of the written word would be such a fun fit here at Chickadee Road. And did she ever prove us right with this first column. Enjoy!
Hi there! I’m Samantha and there is little I love like discussing books. In fact, I joke about being a “book missionary” – sometimes I just KNOW the perfect book for someone to read. Nothing makes me happier than recommending, discussing, and swooning over a good book.
Like most of you, I have been swept along into the world of Downton Abbey. The costumes! Lady Mary! Oh, that dastardly Thomas! But seasons come and seasons go and there is a long, sad wait in between. So, if you’re feeling blue and missing the Crawleys and their staff a little too much, I’ve got some books that will tide you over until Season Three. I admit that any book set in England during the World Wars fascinates me, it’s an endlessly interesting time period that I never get tired of exploring.
First up, The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. This takes place at the turn of the 20th century, and the main character is Cora, a wealthy American heiress – sound familiar? Just a coincidence, but it really explores the story of those British lords and earls who had a title and big estates in desperate need of cash. It’s so cute how men used to marry rich women and then be completely entitled to all their money, isn’t it? Not so much, I know. Let’s just all take a breath and be thankful that things have changed for the ladies since then. This is not a deep read by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly fun and the historical details ring true. It seems the author was inspired when she saw a portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the Duke of Marlbourough.
Now for some true family saga goodness, pick up No Angel by Penny Vincenzi. (Don’t you wish YOUR last name was Vincenzi? I mean, really. Samantha Vincenzi. I like the sound of that!) This is the soapy, sprawling saga of Celia Lytton, the daughter to wealthy aristocrats and wife to a London publisher. It’s all in the Edwardian era, which means all the drama of World War I and the fun of the 20s, too. You will get sucked into this world, so be prepared to carry it around the house with you, stirring up your kid’s mac and cheese while you read a few more sentences. What’s even better is that when you finish it, you can immediately begin the sequel, Something Dangerous. Just remember: driving while reading is frowned upon, so safety first!
Another lovely read is The House at Tyneford, by Natasha Solomons. This novel is set at the start of World War Two, and involves a young Jewish girl who leaves her close-knit family behind in Vienna to find refuge in an aristocratic household in England. This is not as frothy and fun as the others, but it’s an emotional love story that will linger with you. It’s certainly the most well written of the bunch, with unexpected poetry creeping over the pages like ivy growing over a shaded garden wall. This is definitely not a story you will soon forget.
Of course, I could not recommend any of these books without suggesting the crown jewel of family sagas set during a World War – The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. I appropriated my mother’s thick paperback as a high schooler and was hooked immediately by the story of an artist’s daughter, Penelope Stern. If you haven’t read this, then I am actually quivering with anticipation for you. This is the book I compare all dramatic family sagas to and I believe it’s one of the best. Even lovelier (and longer) is Coming Home, another saga set during the same time period, with a wealthy upper-class family and the near-orphan they welcome into their lives, Judith Dunbar. Both are mostly set in Cornwall, that magical land by the sea. I really can’t choose between the two; you must have both. Rosamunde Pilcher’s books are perfection, and these two gloriously thick novels are my ultimate comfort reads.
Also highly recommended, two thumbs up and at least five stars: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, (the last book in the “Anne” series).
Happy reading, y’all!
Samantha is the "creative director" of her household, which consists of a guitar-playing husband, a 5-year-old train-and-Lego-loving son, and a sweet, terrible brown dog named Moose. There's always laundry waiting to be done and dishes in the sink. She's a ragamuffin Christian, unapologetic book lover, fierce Southern feminist, and considers Madeleine L'Engle, Anne Lamott, and Barbara Kingsolver to be her patron saints. She believes in the healing powers of a good song, a good story, and a community to hold us all together.
Connect with her at her blog and through Instagram (username = samanthalang). And check out her books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/229340-samantha-l