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.

There’s a Time to Retire

This anecdote was posted on my first blog on June 14, 2012:

Lotte Lehmann became a famous opera singer just before WWI and performed a total of 93 roles in her career.  She retired from the opera in 1951 and became a music teacher for over twenty years.

One day she was visiting with an up-and-coming young soprano who remarked sympathetically that “It must be terrible for a great singer like you to realize you’ve lost your voice.”

“Not at all,” the older lady replied. “It would be terrible indeed if I didn’t realize it.”

To everything there is a season… including a time to quit – before you become an affliction rather than a delight to your audience.

The Crowded Street

Today’s contribution to National Poetry Month is a long verse by William Cullen Bryant, an American poet who lived from 1794-1878. I often have the same sort of thoughts as I watch humanity flow past me on the crowded street or in a mall.

The Crowded Street

by William Cullen Bryant

Let me move slowly through the street,
filled with an ever-shifting train,
amid the sound of steps that beat
the murmuring walks like autumn rain.

How fast the flitting figures come!
The mild, the fierce, the stony face —
some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some
where secret tears have left their trace.

They pass — to toil, to strife, to rest;
to halls in which the feast is spread;
to chambers where the funeral guest
in silence sits beside the dead.

And some to happy homes repair,
where children, pressing cheek to cheek,
with mute caresses shall declare
the tenderness they cannot speak.

And some, who walk in calmness here,
shall shudder as they reach the door
where one who made their dwelling dear,
its flower, its light, is seen no more.

Youth with pale cheek and slender frame,
and dreams of greatness in thine eye,
goest thou to build an early name
or early in the task to die?

Keen son of trade, with eager brow!
Who is now fluttering in thy snare?
Thy golden fortunes, tower they now,
or melt the glittering spires in air?

Who of this crowd tonight shall tread
the dance till daylight gleam again?
Who, sorrow o’er the untimely dead?
Who, writhe in throes of mortal pain?

Some famine-struck, shall think how long
the cold dark hours, how slow the light;
and some, who flaunt amid the throng,
shall hid in dens of shame tonight.

Each, where his tasks or pleasures call,
they pass, and heed each other not.
There is who heeds, who holds them all
in His large love and boundless thought.

These struggling tides of life, that seem
in wayward, aimless course to tend
are eddies of the mighty stream
that rolls to its appointed end.

Oh, The Stress!

TIRED TO DEATH

by Mary J MacColl

An imaginary conversation between a young society belle and her friend, Grace, with off-side orders to her maid, Marie. The poet has skillfully portrayed the attitudes of the pampered daughter in a prosperous family, circa 1870.

Oh, Marie, come quickly and take off my shoes;
Now, bring my white peignoir and let down my hair;
I’m tired to death! Grace, you must excuse
me to Alice and Captain Bellair.

Not a moment of rest all this day have I had
since my coffee was brought me at ten
with the papers. Each item of interest I read—
by the way, I’m disgusted with men!
A second Maud Muller young Moneysworth’s wed,
when he might — but no matter — and then

an hour was spent dressing, a letter I wrote
to Bell Breeze — she’s a love of a girl!
Drove to Russell’s, was fitted,
then penned a sweet note
to Fred Fairleigh — that card case of pearl

he sent me — a bet on the races last week.
Yes archery is quite the rage;
a cute polo pony’s my very last freak —
I’ll never fall back of the age.

Had breakfast at one, then a short nap I took;
read Daniel Deronda till three;
I must say it’s tedious — not my style of a book —
George Eliot’s too solid for me.

Now, Southworth and Flemming are just to my taste,
and French novels are quite au fait
Kate Norris called next — oh, how tight she was laced! —
and I’m sure she was painted today.

While we talked, Clara Alden rushed in with a gush,
I thought she would strangle me quite.
Her brother is charming; you know, dear — don’t blush —
I saw that flirtation last night.

Next Mordant dropped in — he’s a donkey, but then
he’s worth a cool million or more!
Ma thinks him the nicest and wisest of men —
to me he’s a horrible bore.

But I don’t mean to snub him; his T-cart and drag
are the most stunning turn-outs I’ve seen;
While driving today we met Marion Flagg,
and with envy she fairly turned green.

One cannot well blame her, he is such a catch,
and the poor girl is growing passé.
How she has maneuvered to make a good match!
What! Grace, six o’clock did you say?

Why, I must be dressing; at seven we dine
at Delmonico’s. What shall I wear?
The German at Granger’s commences at nine —
shall I bang, frizz or scollop my hair?

How frightful to think I have not a new dresss;
I’m sure I’ve appeared at least twice
while at Newport, in each of the robes I possess.
My white mull —do you think that is nice?

Come Marie, make haste, you are always so slow —
I wish I had time to take breath.
Well, darling, good-bye, if you really must go

Thank goodness! I’m tired to death.

From the book, BIDE A WEE by Mary J MacColl,
published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY.

I found this book in a sale somewhere and it’s still in fairly good shape. Gold trimmed edges and letters! And on the first page are endorsements of Miss MacColl’s poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry W Longfellow, Joaquin Miller, and John G Whittier. She definitely hung out with the right crowd, back in her day!

I’m posting this in honour of National Poetry Month.

Books: The Perfect Christmas

I picked up this book at Value Village just before Christmas, and only just now got around to reading it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much.
This two-tale book is well written, as are all of Debbie Macomber’s books, I’ve found. The first and longer tale, The Perfect Christmas — © 2009 — is one of those non-romantic romances where two people meet and don’t like each other. However, the author does this in a realistic way with no phony melodrama, no spitting nails at each other, such as you often see in modern anti-romances. The characters and dialogue are believable, professional, and respectful. The idea of paying that much money to find a spouse is the only thing I found incredible — but I don’t live in big city USA.
Seeing as the dating scene hasn’t delivered her dream spouse, Cassie Beaumont takes a friend’s advice and hands over $30,000 to a professional matchmaker to find her a well-matched mate. Rude and abrupt Simon Dodson may be, but she has to go along with his programme if she wants results. Determined to find the man she can live with, and have a family with, she can’t afford to have Simon, the psychologist running this business, get upset and refuse to work with her.
He proposes three character tests for her — and these are real jewels in themselves! I really enjoyed the realistic experiences Cassie has and what she learns as she works in these situations Simon has set up for her. Hats off to the writer for an excellent job on this part! She passes the tests and Simon promises to deliver the perfect spouse for her. But a wrench lands in the gears…

Can This Be Christmas? is an older, shorter story (© 1998) the writer has added as a bonus, yet it’s worth buying the book just for this one. Focusing on five characters needing to join family for Christmas, this morphs into a heartwarming human interest account of strangers stranded in a train station by a winter storm. None of them want to be here, but the Christmas spirit softens each one individually and melts them together as friends.

I rarely give a book five stars, but this one deserves them all.

Work Clothes

I read a little quote yesterday from some highly acclaimed musician and decided to capture his thought in verse this morning. Let me know in the comments if it gives the picture or seems too vague.

the famous artist
buried his lack of talent
in splattered smocks