Joy in the Morning



by P.G. Wodehouse

Published 1947

Okay, so I realize that I said that The Code of the Woosters was probably my favorite Wodehouse book, but Joy in the Morning!  Well, it’s right up there, too.  Instead of talking about this book, I would simply like to quote for you its opening pages (the first sentence is one of Wodehouse’s most beautiful, I think):

After the thing was all over, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls and we were driving home with our hats on the sides of our heads, having shaken the dust of Steeple Bumpleigh from our tyres, I confessed to Jeeves that there had been moments during the recent proceedings when Bertram Wooster, though no weakling, had come very near to despair.

“Within a toucher, Jeeves.”

“Unquestionably affairs had developed a certain menacing trend, sir.”

“I saw no ray of hope.  It looked to me as if the blue bird had thrown in the towel and formally ceased to function.  And yet here we are, all boomps-a-daisy.  Makes one think a bit, that.”

“Yes, sir.”

“There’s an expression on the tip of my tongue which seems to me to sum the whole thing up.  Or, rather, when I saw an expression, I mean a saying.  A wheeze.  A gag.  What, I believe, is called a saw.  Something about Joy doing something.”

“Joy cometh in the morning, sir?”

“That’s the baby.  Not one of your things, is it?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, it’s dashed good,” I said.

And I still think there can be no neater way of putting in a nutshell the outcome of the super-sticky affair of Nobby Hopwood, Stilton Cheesewright, Florence Craye, my Uncle Percy, J. Chichester Clam, Edwin the Boy Scout and old Boko Fittleworth–or, as my biographers will probably call it, the Steeple Bumpleigh Horror.

If that doesn’t make you want to read Wodehouse, you simply weren’t meant to do so.

The Rose Rent, The Hermit of Eyton Forest, & The Confession of Brother Haluin



by Ellis Peters

Published 1986, 1988, 1988

Truth be told, while I love every single page of these books, I feel like a broken record reviewing them, especially since I don’t like to tell too much about the plot–they are mysteries, after all!  So I thought that I would combine these three into a single post.

One of the things that I greatly enjoy about Peters’s writing is her ability to teach a lesson quietly and unobtrusively.  Through the mouths of Brother Cadfael and the Father Abbot especially, gentle truths are put forth, truths worth wrestling with and examining.  In these books, we learn the beauty of generosity, that there is indeed a time to mourn, and that all is not always as it appears.

Perhaps one of my favorite lessons is found in The Confessino of Brother Haluin, which begins when a young monk falls from a roof (in dire need of repair due to a heavy snowfall) and nearly dies. So nearly, in fact, that he calls the Father Abbot so that he can make his final confession. However, the brother does not die, and, though very crippled, receives leave to make a pilgrimage as penance for a long-past but very serious sin. Brother Cadfael, the only other man alive to know this story, is chosen as the brother’s companion.

But what I loved about this book was the acknowledgement that life does not always go the way we wish. Love is not always fulfilled in the way we want it to be, but sometimes the life that we would have thought of originally as second-best, turns out to be the first-best after all. It is one of those lessons that we never seem to teach (or learn), but great contentment can be found when one realizes the import of this teaching.

These books are by no means perfect, and the mysteries are not always as mysterious as one might desire, but the overall writing quality, historical research, and simple beauty of these stories make them well worth the read.

A Traveler’s History of China

by Stephen G. Haw

Published 2008

I’m actually a bit sad that I somehow didn’t take a picture of this little book, because I quite liked it.  Actually, part of the reason I checked it out to begin with was because of the way it felt–small, with a slick paperback and a comfortable binding.  Reading is usually an experience that uses several senses for me; I am a very tactile person, and if a book doesn’t “feel” right in my hands, my enjoyment of the tale is greatly diminished.

ANYWAY, this was a nice book.  I actually wrote down the other titles in the series for future reference (I’m trying to read about the histories of different countries).  The problem with China is that it has a LOT of history, and that history is so completely different from American/European history, because the cultures are worlds apart.  Still, Haw did an admirable job of succinctly summarizing large batches of history in a way that was interesting and useful.  It isn’t his fault that there were so many different names for me to try to remember!

I really could have used some better maps, and some more maps (I LOVE MAPS), but overall this book was an intriguing account of a fascinating country.  Haw also did a fairly good job of keeping his own opinions out of the book, although his obvious support for China’s abortion-enforced single-child family policy was a little disturbing.  Still, I would recommend this book for someone looking for a nice overview of the country’s history (especially if, like myself, you are as far from being an expert on Chinese culture as can be), and I look forward to perusing other titles in the series.