It’s bird hatching season in my part of the world. (My friend A.M. Stuart lives in Australia and I always do a double take when she writes of cold, wintry days while I’m picking roses.) Anyway, here in the northern hemisphere the baby birds are hatched and learning to fly. On Sunday we found a tiny sparrow sitting on the grass beside the porch steps. He had no injuries and was breathing fine. We couldn’t find a nest, so we put him into a berry box and set him up on top of the hedge away from feline predators and waited. I was astounded –and indignant–that no parent birds were flying about raising a fuss.
However, when I looked up fledgling sparrows I learned that this is normal behaviour and that the parents could be absent for several hours. We tried not to harass the little fellow but we did check on him three hours later and he had gone. I trust he just flew away and wasn’t snatched by a raptor.
This morning I watched the world’s stupidest bird, a killdeer, bring her two chicks out of a safe, fenced field to sit in the middle of the street with cars whizzing by. There is nothing to eat on the pavement but there they sat for what seemed like ages while I watched anxiously from the window. Eventually they completed the trek from the yellow line to the ditch and then onto our lawn. At last check they were happily pecking about under the apple trees — lots of chickweed there.
All of this is a round about way of saying I’m spending a lot more time watching life in my garden than creating stories at my computer. My excuse is that someone has to keep an eye on the little feathered ones.
But we are officially into summer, the season for lemonade, lazy afternoons and beach reads. I just visited my local library and all their suggestions for beach reads were tragedies. The characters in these novels grew and learned from their heartbreak, but that is not my idea of a gentle few hours.
To counter the darkness, I offer my suggestions for a summer holiday reading.
When it comes to easy reads I find myself drawn to “village” type stories. I’ve mentioned The Chillury Ladies’ Choir on this blog, but there are others. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories are usually set in the village of St. Mary Mead. One of the major appeals of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mysteries is the village of Three Pines with its assortment of eccentrics. Maeve Binchy’s Whitethorn Woods is peopled with interesting characters, but it is the village that is at the heart of the story. Romance author Robyn Carr makes use of the village trope in her Virgin River series. I used the idea of place in my three Prospect books.
As an author, I find returning to a familiar setting deepens the writing. Once I know the layout of the town, the folk who live there and the themes of the times, I am free to concentrate on developing my characters, deepening the love story, and adding in sub-plots for the minor characters of Prospect, B.C.
As a reader I like to return to a setting I’ve enjoyed for the comfort of the place. Even though there are a remarkable number of murders in Three Pines, I love the sense of tranquillity and sanctuary Penny evokes when she describes the spot. I also enjoy learning more about the minor characters and how their lives evolve over the course of eighteen novels.
Of course, these suggestions barely scrape the surface of books I love for summer reading. Susan Wiggs, Nancy Warren, Kathleen Lawless, Jane Austen, Alice Munro, Helen Simonson, Helen Humphreys — all of these writers are engaging, accessible and take the reader on a wonderful adventure — and, in my opinion, qualify as a beach read.
In honour of summer, this blog will publish only sporadically over the next two months.
Happy holiday reading.