As Lively shapes the greater social picture, she keeps it invested with a personal stake, making her world a deeply lived...

A HOUSE UNLOCKED

A memoir from novelist Lively (Spiderweb, 1999, etc.) in which the personal opens onto the greater social vista with the help of grace and a gimlet eye, as nearly an entire century reverberates inside an English country house.

Lively’s family purchased the Somerset home in 1923, and she uses its rooms and furnishings like one of “the mnemonic devices of the classical and medieval art of memory,” bearing “witness to the public traumas of a century.” The elements of the house can be emotive trappings as simple as a picnic rug recalling a moorland lunch or weightier signifiers of social change and historical clamor. Lively allows the past to be touched but never obscured by a sepia haze in prose that is remarkably comfortable, setting the stage as cozily as a panful of embers warming a winter bed, and rendering contrasting episodes like the Blitz all the more melancholy or horrible. She ranges freely, from the opening of the country’s west by the Great Western Railway to the importance the Romantic poets and, gradually, an entire nation placed on walking, to church-touring with her grandmother (“and thus learned about iconoclasm and had a sudden startling insight into the power of prejudice and conviction and coercion”), turning from the garden as a veritable botanical marvel—ancient and compelling—to pastoral idealism, fox-hunting, and relations (or the lack thereof) between the sexes and between children and adults in Edwardian England. The best moments come when strangers arrive at the house and leave their mark as children evacuated from the Blitz, evoking the social reforms the evacuation sparked, or as political refugees from Russia, with all the baggage of simply being Russian during the first half of the 20th century.

As Lively shapes the greater social picture, she keeps it invested with a personal stake, making her world a deeply lived experience.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1712-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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