Constable About

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was MICROCOSM

This is a word I’ve never really understood and never used—I find it hard enough to spell — but I dutifully checked it and came up with “a miniature representation” of a greater thing, “a little world” unto itself that typifies a greater society, or  “a community or other unity that is an epitome of a larger one.” (The last being from Merriam-Webster.)

I suppose you could say that “Amazon authors are a microcosm of writers the world over.” And I hope I’m using it rightly in the following example.

I’ve started reading another of Nicholas Rhea’s “Constable” books. I read this delightful series twenty years ago, when Bob’s mom lived with us. I borrowed them for her, along with the Miss Read books, from the local library. Simple fiction stories divided into cases or incidents, replete with amusing, mild and friendly characters, though some are a trial to the poor constable and his colleagues.

The Yorkshire village where Constable Nick Rhea lived and worked was a microcosm of village life in counties all across England in the 40s and 50s. There are a number of books in this series, which, I understand, was made into a British TV series in the 60s:
Constable Goes to Market
Constable on the Prowl
Constable Over the Style
Constable Versus Greengrass (An amiable “opportunist”, poacher & general layabout)
Constable at the Dam
Constable Under the Gooseberry Bush
And more

Prize-winning gooseberry bushes that must be protected feature first in the Constable in the Dale book I’m reading now. This is followed by the vicar’s successful, if sometimes embarrassing, porker-producing enterprise starring the lovely “White Lily.”

If you like a touch of rural England that’s both nostalgic and a great picture of human nature, do check out these books. I’m delighted to discover that the e-book versions are all free on Kindle Unlimited.

Appreciating the Good Things

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American neighbours!

Family
Gordon Johnson – Pixabay

I hope you’re all having a great day with family and friends, giving thanks for all the wonderful people and blessings in your lives today. Granted, there’s always something that could be better, but a whole lot of people in the world would gladly trade places with us here in North America. Which reminds me…

A Great Thanksgiving Day Read

Awhile back I read a really inspiring book and this is the perfect day to tell you about it. Stories to Remember is written by Dr Pedro Garcia, an educator who immigrated to the USA from Castro’s Cuba while still in his teens. He and his brother came first and their parents were able to join them later. They’ve made successful lives in the States and Dr Gracia really appreciates all the freedoms he’s enjoyed in his adopted homeland.

You could say he doesn’t see the trees for the forest. Rather than elaborating on all the malfeasance of current politicians, he focuses on the vast forest of freedom and opportunity that exists in the USA.

Some of his stories are from a Christian perspective; the majority are his personal experiences. He writes of coming to the American Midwest and making the country his home, also about his work as an educator in various cities. All the way through he points to the blessings and successes he’s enjoyed through the years. Delightfully upbeat, well worth reading.


Those of you who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited can read it for free.

 

The Irascible Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Agatha Raisin Mystery series #3

By M C Beaton

I read the first book in the Agatha Raisin Mystery series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, and one other short story tacked onto that one. Now I’ve finished the third book in the series and have had my fill. Actually, though I hate to quit before the end of any book, I was ready to toss this one several times before I discovered whodunit.

The setting in interesting; the plotting, pacing and writing are excellent, but the main character is so disagreeable. Back in London she was a hard-nosed — and pretty much friendless — business owner and she carries this personality into her retirement years. She may want to make friends in her new home town and does mean well — at times. Overall, though, she’s self-centered and defensive. I was hoping to see Agatha mellow in this peaceful Cotswold village as the series progresses. She doesn’t.

Pugnacious and mulish are the adjectives the author often uses to describe Mrs Raisin. Belligerent and snarky would also fit. She lies constantly, swears, staggers home tipsy from the village pub, insults almost everyone, and has a real temper. In one story she invites the neighbours for a Christmas dinner, but bashes one lustful old guest over the head with a Christmas pudding.

Always competitive, she cheats in village contests. In The Quiche of Death she’s newly arrived and wants the acceptance of the villagers. She sees her chance when she discovers there’s to be a village baking contest. Culinarily-challenged herself, she buys a quiche from a great little bakery in London and submits it as her own creation. Unfortunately someone adds a bit of poison and serves it to the judge. So the truth must be confessed.

In this third book she wants to impress certain gardeners and win the local flower show, but she’s hopeless at growing things. Supposedly she’s learned her lesson with the quiche, but weakens and buys a nursery-grown rose to enter as her own. Forgetting to take off the tag. Again her deception is exposed, but village folks are amazingly tolerant.

One big plus for Agatha is that she’s made friends with Mrs Bloxby, the curate’s wife, who is a saint for sure. Sanguine, welcoming, accepting, charitable, always thinking the best, she saves and soothes Agatha’s pride several times in this story. Agatha is also friends with her bachelor neighbour James, a retired army colonel — on whom she has a serious crush as this story starts. (I gather they work together in several stories to figure out whodunit.) However, Agatha insults him, too, petulantly calling him a male chauvinist pig when he scolds her for throwing a lit cigarette into the tinder-dry grass.

Like all amateur sleuths in all cozy mystery stories, she’s nosy. When the local CID inspector Bill Wong, who has taken a liking to Agatha, tells her to stay out of the investigation, she slips on her halo and nods a meek “Yes.” As soon as he’s out of sight, she and James are off hunting for evidence and interviewing suspects. In this book she’s trying to find out why a lovely divorcee, Mary Fortune, a newcomer and enthusiastic gardener, has met a sad end in her conservatory.

Because this is fiction, the writer is able to say that in spite of Agatha’s abrasive character she’s well liked by the villagers. Some characters testify that “Mrs Raisin has many good qualities.” In real life this would be highly unlikely. I know a woman much like this: not as insolent or combative as Agatha but just as self-centered and flexible with the truth. Her friendships and relationships are all short-lived.

I have some sympathy for Agatha Raisin because she is so lacking in interpersonal skills, but find her lack of conscience hard to take. Since the villagers of Carsely are stuck with her it’s a good thing they like her. And since it’s such a popular series — as I gather from the reviews — a lot of readers are willing to tolerate her faults, too.

Ragtag Daily Prompt word: Evidence
Word of the Day Challenge: Sanguine

Great Things To Come

I few days ago I wrote an article about mental health issues. More humane care has been provided and sufferers have been treated in various ways through the 1900s, with questionable success. Writer/poet/blogger Frank Prem, in his younger days, worked at an Australian asylum and has written a number of poems to capture the lives and feelings of the afflicted.

Now he’s excited to be launching his compilation of these poems. He says The New Asylum should be live on Amazon November 1st and you can pre-order it now. In mid-November he’s doing a local book launch — here are the details — and here’s the book cover:

The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry (Poetry Memoir Book 3) by [Prem, Frank]

His other poetry books, SMALL TOWN KID and DEVIL IN THE WIND, have gotten great reviews. You can read my review of this second book HERE.

Devil In The Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires (Poetry Anthology Book 2) by [Prem, Frank]

Book: Love of Finished Years

When I read a good book, I like to tell people about it. This story reminds me of something British writer D E Stevenson, another excellent author, would write.

Love of Finished Years
by Gregory Erich Phillips

This moving debut novel by Gregory Erich Phillips won the Grand Prize for best book of the year in the Chanticleer Reviews International writing Competition.

From the first paragraph to the last, this compelling story illustrates the desperate poverty of one immigrant family from Germany who landed at Ellis Island in 1905. After struggling to earn a living for several years, their dejected father abandons the family, so the mother and two daughters work in sweatshops, determined to survive.

The heroine of our story, Elsa, finds a friend at work who teaches her English. Later she manages to find work as a secretary, ostensibly a German-English translator for an American businessman, but Esla basically becomes the companion of his daughter Dafne and is introduced to the world of the privileged.

This story is so realistic it could have been a biography. I felt along with Elsa and her family as they faced a new life in an alien world. I believe this reflects the lot of many immigrants. Slowly the three immigrant women manage to pull their way out of desperate poverty, maintaining close ties. Then comes World War I and they must cope with anti-German hostilities and the tragedy that results.

While she is companion to Dafne, the debutante is engaged to Glenn and when war comes he’s eager to go and serve his country, do his part to deliver the world from the evil aggressor. Glenn’s war experience and his enlightenment was very realistic. I have to agree with the writer’s take on the idea of a “just” war: all the “save the world” idealism is a thin veneer covering various hidden agenda.

I thought the writer portrayed Dafne with fairness, too. An immature, spoiled debutante carried away by adult dreams too big for her to really comprehend, she really needed more parental guidance than she got. Thankfully, through their years together Elsa filled the place of a big sister and guided her in many ways.

It really is an engaging, well written tale.