Friday, May 31, 2013

The Books of Summer


Carolyn J. Rose

Recently I read Pecos Valley Diamond, a mystery set 90 years ago in southern New Mexico and told from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old young woman. The character’s voice and the gentle tone of the book took me back to the summers of my early teens when I had hours to myself, when I could stretch out in the shade of a maple and sink into a story. Within moments I would be in another place, another age, with real people or fictional characters. All of them were braver, smarter, and had more interesting lives than I did, but they all seemed willing to share their experiences, to confide their thoughts.

I had the ability back then to set reality aside, to let the words wash over me, to submerge as if into a warm lake. I would go so deep that all sound was muffled, even my mother’s call to dinner or my father’s shout that my chores hadn’t been completed. Sometimes I wouldn’t note the chill of evening, a rising wind, or the first drops of rain.

I read accounts of exploration and travel to far lands—Kon Tiki and Aku-Aku. I read the “traditional” books for girls—Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie and the adventures of Nancy Drew. I read tales of the detecting Hardy boys and the westerns my father enjoyed—stories by Zane Grey and Max Brand and Louis L’Amour. I read the books I found on my grandmother’s shelves, classics by Hawthorne, Melville, and Cooper. I read The Egg and I, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I didn’t always understand the themes and deeper meanings, but I connected with the characters, the settings, and the feel of those books. I lived inside the covers until I read the final words. Often, I read the books again the next summer.

Now I tend to read with one eye on the clock—Is it time to check that pie, meet that friend, turn out the light and go to sleep?—and one ear on the sounds of my surroundings—the dogs, the washer, the mail truck. Most of the books I read are as “busy” as I am, but Pecos Valley Diamond lulled my multi-tasking mind.

Was that due to Alice Duncan’s skill at creating her world, her characters, and the tone of her story? Or was that due to my unconscious desire to revisit and reclaim the reading experience of my youth while walking the sun-blistered roads of fictional Rosedale, New Mexico?

Even the most skillful writer can’t capture a reader who doesn’t want to be caught, so my conclusion is that it was a bit of both and Alice Duncan and I met each other halfway.

Comments? I love comments, especially about your reading experiences and the books of your summers.


  1. I'm so glad my book sparked your happy memories, Carolyn! Thanks for mentioning it on your blog.

  2. Hi Carolyn,

    Alice Duncan is a new to me author and I had great fun checking out both her and some of the many books she has penned under her own and several various pseudonyms.

    I see that she is a great series writer, which is one area with which I have issues, as I am notoriously bad at reading books in any kind of logical sequence, unless I have all the books in front of me, in order, so that I can schedule them to read in sequence.

    It isn't so bad if the individual episodes of a series can be easily read a stand alone stories, but I couldn't really tell that about the series from which your book is taken.

    I too, find that these days, my reading time is very limited and often results in snatched moments, usually in the early morning, whilst I grab coffee and cereal to start my day.

    Much of this rushed approach to something which I used to do with leisurely abandon, is as a direct result of setting up Fiction Books, as I now spend so much time writing and preparing posts in the evenings, that this once precious reading time has all but been abandoned.

    Similarly, my reading schedule is now more or less prescribed, by the sheer volume of author and publisher review requests which hit my 'in box' on a regular basis.

    On the up side, I wouldn't have found so many great new friends out there in the blogging world, nor come across the many excellent books and authors I have discovered, so it is all a bit of a balancing act!

    I sometimes long for the days when I had no worries or responsibilities and I could take myself off to my bedroom with a good book, whenever I wanted. I was always waiting to go to bed, long before my parents curfew, just so that I could carry on with my latest library acquisitions, in preparartion for the weekly, Saturday afternoon family trips to the town library.

    Books which I owned, were much cherished and only came along as birthday or christmas gifts and my prized possession was a bookcase, made for me by my father and whose shelves I loved to see filling up, over the years.

    I devoured authors such as Enid Blyton, Anna Sewell, Charles Kingsley and Louisa May Alcott, although I would read just about anything which our modest library had to offer.

    Wow! your post and choie of topic took me right back down memory lane, so I apologise for my rather random ramblings.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend,


  3. Yvonne, random is great. And you hit on the reason I blog in my own space only every other week or so - that gives me more time to read - and write!