Thrush Green: The Seinfeld of its Time

You are now collecting your People delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life; 3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on.
— Jane Austen

The very thing to work on, and for me, the very thing to read.  I tripped over Thrush Green about 5 years ago at the Katonah Library.  I have rather Anglophile tastes in books and this looked appealing.  Besides, the author's name was "Miss Read."  Obviously a pseudonym, but how could you go wrong?  I took it home and was immediately smitten.  I needed to read all of it.  Engaging the beautiful inter-library loan system of Westchester County, I was soon getting automated phone messages twice a week telling me my books were ready for pickup.  I stacked them all up in order on my dresser, ready to read from start to finish.

"What's it about?" Jeeps asked.

I thought about it a minute, then answered "Nothing."

Really.  It's about nothing.  Just this place called Thrush Green and the people who live there in the 1950s.  No major plot, no Peyton Place drama, no cliffhangers between books.  You get to know the characters and follow them about their very ordinary lives.  Each book spans roughly a year.  The characters come and go:  newcomers arrive; babies are born; lifetime residents pass away.  Through it all is this charming village green around which life revolves.

I am a sucker for this kind of thing.  I ripped through Thrush Green and then went on to read the entire Fairacre series.  That was five years ago and I recently got a hankering to go back to the world of Miss Read.  At Christmas I thought about buying myself the entire set as a present, but then decided to go the library route again.  I'm on the third book of Thrush Green and it's just as delightful as I remember.  There is tea galore but no food worth mentioning so this is a pure "Reads" post.

By the way, a bit of trivia if you are familiar with Enya's music:  she has a track on her Watermark album called "Miss Clare Remembers," and one on her Shepherd Moons album titled "No Holly for Miss Quinn."  Both are books in the Fairacre series.

Wondering if there were other fans out there, I found this post from the blog Eclectic Books which beautifully expresses exactly how I feel about the series:

I’ve tried to explain why these books work so well as mood enhancers for me and what I like about them with varying degrees of success.  Usually someone who has read some of them understands, but from those who haven’t I frequently get puzzled looks and polite nods...I’ve given this a lot of thought and decided that I have to give it one more try.

For me, reading these novels is akin to visiting old friends from back home and it’s the back home part that’s important.  It’s back home the way you remember it, the way you always want it to stay.  I turn to Miss Read for the same reason that I might call my sister or nephew or an old friend–just to immerse myself, for a little while, in the details of ordinary life so I can escape whatever ugliness has imposed itself.  I don’t need to dwell on what’s wrong;  I need to be reminded that life goes on in all of its ordinary, sometimes wacky details and that it will continue to go on in spite of what seems to be overwhelming me at the moment.

"The Comfort of Miss Read" by Becky, the "Cerebral Rat", Eclectic Books, 2009

Do Try to Speak as We Do...

Scotch Egg by Sam Breach 2
Scotch Egg by Sam Breach 2

This, my friends, is a Scotch Egg.  Look at it.  It's exactly what you think it is:  a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded, and then fried. (Are you clutching your heart?)

No, I did not make this one.  I have never made one.  It's possible I shall someday but Scotch eggs strike me as overkill - the sort of thing that sound wildly delicious and then you eat a quarter of one and think, "OK.  Done."  It also seems to me like they must be eaten piping hot...once these babies go cold they probably get pretty lurid.  Just my opinion.  If anyone knows how to make them or swears by them, please do set me straight.

And why am I bringing them up in the first place if not to eat them? must be a READS post!

I first heard of Scotch eggs when I read a book called Do Try to Speak as We Do: the Diary of an American Au Pair, by Marjorie Leet Ford.  It's a little formulaic:  a cross between Bridget Jones and The Nanny Diaries, but a good, light and entertaining read.

Synapsis from Library Journal:  "Reeling from a recent layoff and the possibly permanent postponement of marriage to her longtime love, Melissa takes a position as an au pair to an upper-middle-class English family. It seems like the perfect job. The children are well behaved, the wife sounds charming over the phone, and the husband is a member of Parliament. Melissa's visions of tea, lawn tennis, and elegant parties quickly dissolve upon her arrival in England, when she is handed the tasks of a scullery servant, impossible working hours, children forever on the brink of disaster, and a constant whirlwind of packing and unpacking as the family bounces between their home in London and their crumbling estate in rural Scotland. A faux pas lurks at every turn as Melissa strives to hone her British speech ("Do try to speak as we do!") and manners and to overcome the polite but frigid anti-Americanism of the family's friends and relations. In addition to her other tasks, she must teach three-year-old Claire, who is deaf, to speak the Queen's English. Melissa describes all these trials and tribulations with wit and charm in her letters home."

The food in Do Try is tantalizing:  luscious descriptions of banquets and teas and the aforementioned Scotch eggs abound.  Plus there is a little gem of a book referenced within the book:  Fattypuffs and Thinifers, by André Maurois, which the English children's mother reads to them on picnics.  Written in 1930, it concerns the imaginary underground land of the fat and congenial Fattypuffs and the thin and irritable Thinifers, which is visited by two brothers, the plump Edmund and the thin Terry. The Fattypuffs and Thinifers do not mix, and their respective countries are on the verge of war when Edmund and Terry make their visit.

This sounded like a great book to read to Pandagirl so I took it out from the library.  Turned out to be just a little over her head (this was some years ago) but I went on and read it myself.  It was charming! I think I recommend it just a little more highly than Do Try, and a lot more highly than Scotch eggs.