Jack and Jill, by Louisa May Alcott
I found this to be a light, enjoyable read. There is really no plot to speak of - the book just ambles along at a very leisurely pace. Not a page-turner, by any means! On the contrary, I had to make myself finish it.
If you've read other L.M. Alcott books, then you'll know what you're in for. Nearly every chapter has a moral to it; teenage boys and girls seem to behave like 8-year-olds rather than adolescents (at least that's how it can seem to the modern reader!), and there's just a hint of romance towards the end of the book - not a lot, though.
I enjoyed it for the picture it gave of life in 19th century rural New England, and for the characters. However, I would still have to rank it alongside Eight Cousins and Little Men as one of Alcott's worst books. It's still pretty darn good though, LOL!
*** 3 out of 5 stars
When Calls the Heart, by Janette Oke
I've been wanting to read this one for a looonnng time, and was delighted when my dear parents gave it to me for Christmas! (It was ordered online from the UK, and unfortunately didn't arrive in time for Christmas, but that didn't matter!)
I though this was a lovely book - I enjoyed it not so much for the romance, but rather for the fascinating glimpse it gave of a specific era in Canadian history. Set in the Canadian west, this is nonetheless a little bit different than Oke's usual prairie romance fare!
The basic storyline will sound very familiar to you - young, pretty girl from the East travels west and works as a teacher in a tiny school in the middle of nowhere. But there's more to it than that! Much more! Read it for yourself and see. ;-)
**** 4 1/2 out 5 stars
Memories of a Country Childhood, by Judith Wallace
This was an absolutely enchanting book. It was lent to me by a friend, who thought I might like it. I am so glad she did! Otherwise I might never have discovered it.
The basic premise of the book is summed up in the title. Judith Wallace grew up on a sheep and cattle station near Glen Innes, in New England, New South Wales. (That's New England in Australia, very different to the American one!)
I'm really struggling for words right now - it's hard to find the right words to get across the haunting, sad, but magical atmosphere contained within the pages of this book.
It describes in detail farm life in the early 20th century, from the perspective of a well-off station master's child. The station - called Ilparran - functions like a small village, with the numerous station-hands and servants working together as a community. Judith and her sisters pretty much run wild on the land, doing whatever they like. Then World War II strikes, and one by one, all the servants leave Ilparran. The family have to do everything for themselves, including running the farm and looking after the huge house, modeled after an English manor.
Let me just say that I highly, highly, recommend this book. I think it's out of print now - and readers outside of Australia may find it very difficult to get a copy, but if any of you here in Aus. can track down a copy, you will be well rewarded.
***** 5 out of 5 stars