Sunday, 28 October 2012

50 Shades Of Grey? Give Me Rainbows Any Day!

I’m not discussing 50SofG here. [or “Bambi visits Sodom” as one reviewer described it] The fact that WHSmith attributes it higher profits in recent months to sales of the book appals me. I feel they are just ‘normalising’ pornography. I prefer to read books which celebrate the joy of loving relationships, not ones where people are abused both physically and emotionally.

MitfordsistersPeople kept asking me if I had read the Mitford books. I thought they were talking about those sisters [Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity and Pamela] But I was completely wrong!

What friends were talking about was the series of Mitford Novels by the American author Jan Karon.[website here] Set in the small town of Mitford, and featuring the Parson, Father Timothy, these books are as far from 50SofG as you can possibly imagine.

I picked up a boxed set of books 1-6 on the antepenultimate day of our holiday in August in a charity shop. I paid £4.50 for SIX books [the current price is £56.57 for FOUR books on Amazon] and what is more, this set is brand new- it was clear that none of the books had been opened! Deciding that I would keep them here at Cornerstones, I have only just started working my way through them

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But I am well through book 3 already. What are they like? Honestly?Well, they are comfortable stories for middle aged ladies – not particularly intellectually challenging [although Father Tim does quote George Herbert and Dietrich Bonhoeffer occasionally] but I am enjoying them as a lightweight holiday read enormously . How to describe the storyline of these books? Well…

Imagine a path drawn from Fannie Flagg to Garrison Keillor, diverting towards James Heriot now and then, and you’ll find Ms Karon somewhere along the journey.

Some of the plotlines are a bit weak and far-fetched [just like 50SofG there, then!] but they are quite charming. Father T is just about believable as an Episcopal Clergyman –although I am not over-keen on his sermons. I was tickled by the chapter where Tim went away for a while, and left a Baptist pastor to fill the pulpit in his absence – and the congregations grew greatly under the locum’s more powerful preaching!!

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There’s no explicit sex or swearing, and a fair bit of Scripture quotation [mainly because Tim’s dog,Barnabas, only lies down when you shout a Bible verse at him!] The books are very popular in the USA – and Ms Karon has had to move away from the little town where she’s lived for years, because the vast numbers of visits from Mitford Fans were making life difficult for the other residents as well as encroaching on her privacy.

I’m having fun with these books

There is plenty of colourful description and interesting dialogue. They are full of reference to American products though [Swanson Pies, Miracle Whip…and other foodstuffs we don’t get over here] but the emotions and actions of the characters are the same the world over [particularly the bizarre behaviour of folk in the church] Maybe we should rename our next “Bring and Buy” sale after the fashion of the Mitford Ladies – and call it a “Bane and Blessing” instead!

16 comments:

  1. It is always good to have recommendations for decent books to read these days. The shops are full of 50SoG and new lookalikes piggybacking on the popularity of the genre with fans. Whole shelves in the supermarket have been given over to this rubbish. I went to the library yesterday and have come out with five books for the holiday week, and will be taking at least three with me away today - the rain in Norfolk will ensure I have time to read them! I have a Lee Child mystery, a Jeffrey Archer thriller and some 1930s set family sagas by an author I hadn't come across before. And the waterproofs, hats, scarves and gloves are packed too!

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    1. You will need the waterproofs this week in Norfolk!! Do review the 1930s saga won't you? Holiday blessings x

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  2. I read the first 2 50 shades, but lost the will to read the 3rd, they were far too much like Mills & Boon. I have just given away some of my Miss Read books, have you read these?

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    1. Haven't read any Miss Read for years - she is all 'small village stories' isn't she?

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    2. I LOVE Miss Read. Small village suits me - I love the thrift, the made-do-and-mend and the evocative writing. Gentle, no swearing, no sex and very little violence (the odd house burglary has been mentioned!) - they are suitable for all ages, and I even used a passage from one of them in a service one Advent.

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  3. So glad you have found the F.Tim series. They have been on my shelves for a couple of years now, first introduced to me by my daughter.

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  4. What a book bargain you got there! I have two friends rivetted by 50 Shades... but I can't say it appeals to me (other than a bit of lurid curiosity!) I've recently been given a Kindle and I need to get to grips with that!

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  5. I have read the trilogy of 50 shades and have to say I really enjoyed it - once you get into it there is love and respect in abundance - that's what the relationship of the characters is dependent on throughout and it has a lovely ending. Having said that I have had my fill and am currently enjoying some old classics like Heidi and Anne of Green Gables - good old fashioned comfort books.

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  6. I discovered the Mitford books a few years ago and was hooked right from the start! I have read them all and I'm hoping and waiting for the next book.
    Yes, the books do portray a 'too good to be true' community, but I love the escapism. The stories give me the same feeling as a 'feel-good' film. And they're non-fattening to boot.
    Kay

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  7. I'm never going to read 50SoG, it REALLY annoys me the way one book, especially a horrid sounding one like that, is hyped!
    Have you read any of the Daisy Dalyrimple books by Carola Dunn? They're brilliant and I adore them! You can buy them as a boxset from the Book People website for a fraction of the cost!

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  8. I enjoyed the earlier Karon books, but after the first several they began to seem a bit cloying. Some have compared her to Miss Read, who I think is a much better writer. I read and re-read Miss Read (couldn't see how to avoid that phrasing), but once was enough for me on the Mitford series. Extra points, though, to anyone who quotes George Herbert! :)

    For clean, innocuous humour with a tinge of romance, I also like D.E. Stevenson and the incomparable Angela Thirkell.

    P.S. Congratulations on working "antepenultimate" into your post. :)

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  9. I enjoyed the Mitford books, but I only read them once. My mother feels the same way. They are sweet and delightful the first time through. I did not know that Jan Karon had to move from her small town!
    I won't comment on the other books mentioned.

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  10. Delightful, fun reading. :-) Great bargin from the charity shop too!

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  11. I read all the Mitford books years ago. I loved them! Sometimes it's relaxing just to read something unchallenging and life-affirming. I have also read all the Miss Read books. They are a kind of cross between James Herriot and Gervase Phinn. Quaintly old-fashioned, and very much "small village stories"!

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    1. I like those two authors as well!

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  12. I enjoy the Mitford books, they are the literary equivalent of a cup of tea and a nice squashy armchair! (And I'm not quite middle aged yet!)

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