Book Reviews

China Court by Rumer Godden (1961)

At first glimpse, China Court by Rumer Godden, the prolific British author, seems fairly straightforward. But this 1961 novel is a book of subtlety and many layers. The grand house that is called China Court is almost a character in itself, developing alongside its human inhabitants. 

Though not as widely read as she was during her lifetime, Rumer Godden’s books still resonate with contemporary readers. Though there are some mixed reviews, overall, China Court ranks highly in this reader discussion on Goodreads.

Originally subtitled The Hours of a Country House, here it’s described by the publisher of the 2021 edition (Open Road Media): Read More→

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The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (1955)

The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (1955), was the last book of what became known as her “Sea Trilogy,” preceded by Under the Sea Wind (1942) and The Sea Around Us (1951). Her meticulously researched nonfiction writing was known for its graceful and poetic style.

Carson (1907 – 1964) was a noted American marine biologist, conservationist, and writer whose research and graceful writing about the natural world shaped today’s environmental movement. 

Her best-known book, Silent Spring (1962), raised awareness about the use of pesticides and contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Read More→

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Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall (1959)

Brown Girl, Brownstones was the first novel by Paule Marshall, a semi-autobiographical story about the Barbadian immigrant community in 1930s and 1940s Brooklyn. Published in 1959, it remained the best-known work in Marshall’s distinguished career.

Paule Marshall (1929 – 2019) was born Valenza Pauline Burke. As a young teen, she became enamored of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry and changed her name to reflect his. Like her almost-contemporary author Audre Lorde, her work was influenced by her experiences as the daughter of parents from the West Indies.

Her long career was marked by major awards, including the Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships; she taught at several universities as well. In the end, her renown circled back and landed at the place where she began — in her first, and very fine novel. Read More→

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The Door of Life by Enid Bagnold (originally titled The Squire)

It’s surprising to discover that Enid Bagnold, the author best known for the classic horse story National Velvet, wrote what is considered one of the first novels centered on pregnancy and childbirth. Oddly titled The Squire when first published in England in 1938, it was retitled The Door of Life for the American audience.

This semi-autobiographical novel is an almost meditative reading experience from the perspective of an expectant mother who is soon to give birth to her fifth child. A review from the time of its publication observed: Read More→

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Under the Sea Wind by Rachel Carson (1942)

Under the Sea Wind by Rachel Carson was the noted naturalist’s first book, published in 1942. Even in her debut publication, reviewers noted the lyrical quality she applied to scientific prose to make it compelling and readable.

Though not nearly as renowned as Carson’s classic Silent Spring (1962), Under the Sea Wind has in its quiet way stood the test of time. it has been reissued in several editions by various publishers since its debut. It was the first in what became known as Rachel Carson’s “Sea Trilogy.”

The 2007 Penguin Classics encapsulated it:

“Rachel Carson—pioneering environmentalist and author of Silent Spring—opens our eyes to the wonders of the natural world in her groundbreaking paean to the sea. Read More→

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