I’ve been in a total reading slump. I couldn’t get into a book. I didn’t even want to pick one up. Until yesterday.
A few weeks ago I posted the following on my Facebook page:
“It might surprise you to know that books I enjoy every single second of are hard to come by. I want action! I want romance! I want great writing! I want it to be easy! I want it to be profound! I want to learn something! I don't want to feel guilty! I don't want bad endings! But I don't want it all perfect and cheesy! [You catch my drift.] There is one series that fits all of these requirements: The Squire's Tales. Yes, it's labeled as middle grade/YA, but don't be fooled.”
Now I can share another book that fits those requirements (not much action, but it has a plot!):
Classical education, literature (good books and Great Books from L.M. Alcott and Jane Austen to Virgil, John Donne, and Aeschylus), Latin and Greek, a charming French village, faith, and romance.
Delightful from the first chapter. Read in a day. Enjoyed every single second. No guilt. Good ending, but not tied up with a bow.
It is at the top of the enjoyment list so far this year, and I doubt it will be beat.
Let me put it another way. From my reading list so far this year, if you mixed together the cream of the following books into a delightful, easy-to-read 250 page book, you’d get Miss Prim.
Beauty Will Save the World (beauty, faith, art; and, coincidentally, a quote used in Miss Prim)
Norms and Nobility (Classical education and faith)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (a modern romance framed around literature (though a book store rather than a library))
Highland Fling (a fun modern romance between a gruff employer and his employee, small village (in Scotland))
The Little Village School (a woman moves to a charming European (English) village to be a school teacher (instead of a librarian), romance)
Pride and Prejudice (Let’s just say that there’s more than one reference to Mr. Darcy in Miss Prim.)
P.S. If you don’t love classical education, literature, idealistic French villages, and romance, don’t read this book and then tell me you hated it. [grin]
“I can’t believe he got you to recognize Virgil from a single line. How can you do that without studying or analyzing? Don’t you know parts of the Aeneid by heart? I seem to remember that’s what I heard the afternoon I arrived.”
“We know lots of parts of poems and stories by heart—it’s the first thing we do with all books,” said Teseris in her gentle voice. “He says it’s how you learn to love books; it’s got a lot to do with memory. He says that when men fall in love with women they learn their faces by heart so they can remember them later. They notice the color of their eyes, the color of their hair; whether they like music, prefer chocolate or biscuits…”
Miss Prim’s expression softened a little. There it was again, the strange, dark, concentrated delicacy, the infuriating male ego combined with unexpected streaks of grace.
“It’s the same thing with books,” continued Teseris. “In lessons we learn bits by heart and recite them. Then we read the books and discuss them and then we read them again.”
…“What about fairy tales? Don’t you like fairy tales?” she asked…
“We like them,” said Eksi shyly. “We like them a lot.”
“What’s your favorite?”
“The story of the Redemption,” replied her older sister simply.
Astounded, Miss Prim couldn’t think how to respond. The child’s strange statement showed that despite his efforts, despite his insistence and his arrogance, the Man in the Wing Chair hadn’t succeeded in instilling even the most basic rudiments of the faith that was so important to him. He hadn’t managed to explain the historical background of his religion. How could this be? All those morning walks to the abbey, all that reading of theology, all that ancient liturgy, all that playing at medieval jousting and what had he achieved? Four children convinced that the texts he so loved were just fairy tales.
“But Tes, it’s not exactly a fairy tale. Fairy tales are stories full of fantasy and adventure; they’re meant to entertain. They’re not set at any specific time and aren’t about real people or places.”
“Oh, we know that,” said the little girl. “We know it’s not a normal fairy tale; it’s a real fairy tale.”
Miss Prim, pensive, adjusted her position on the old iron bench.
“What you mean is it’s like a fairy tale, is that it?” she asked, intrigued.
“No, of course not. The Redemption is nothing like a fairy tale, Miss Prim. Fairy tales and ancient legends are like the Redemption. Haven’t you ever noticed? It’s like when you copy a tree from the garden on a piece of paper. The tree from the garden doesn’t look like the drawing, does it? It’s the drawing that’s a bit, just a little bit, like the real tree.”