One for them: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Catastrophe
My aunt, having four lovely grandchildren of her own just a smidgen older than Kitty, is turning out to be a veritable fount of awesome children’s books. Some of our all time favourites have been her Christmas presents to my trio and this year was no exception.
For there nestled among the tinsel and the wrapping paper, were two of David and Ronda Armitage’s Mr and Mrs Grinling stories; The Lighthouse Keeper’s Picnic and The Lighthouse Keeper’s Catastrophe, and when we picked them up for bedtime stories it was one of those “how did we not know about these before?” moments, a bit like the first time you discovered Julia Donaldson.
Mr Grinling is a Lighthouse Keeper and he lives with Mrs Grinling and Hamish the cat in a little white cottage on the cliffs, and every day he rows out to tend the light. In the Lighthouse Keeper’s Catastrophe he takes Mrs Grinling along with him, and they, and Hamish, settle down for a nice spot of fishing. All is well until Mr Grinling notices Hamish helping himself to a tasty snack from the catch and shuts him in the lighthouse, locking the key inside in the process.
Oops. Mr and Mrs Grinling try to climb back in but the windows are too small, they try to get the spare key, but alas that ends up with the fishes, and with a storm coming there just isn’t time to get down to the village to telephone the coastguard to tell them that the lighthouse can’t be lit. There’s only one thing for it, and Mrs Grinling eyes up Mr Grinling, and then looks at the rope that runs from the cottage window to the top of the lighthouse, the rope that she usually uses to send him his lunch basket …!
its a very believable and very sweetly told story, and the girls love it. And all of the other Lighthouse Keeper Stories. Having read our two, Kitty spent the next few weeks borrowing all of the available Lighthouse Keeper stories from the school library, and while I do have a bit of a soft spot for the one where they become pirates (The Lighthouse Keeper’s Breakfast), in some good part because I think Sally de la Croissant is a genius name for the village baker, I think Catastrophe is still my overall favourite so far.
One for me: The Shuttle, Frances Hodgson Burnett
I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s stories when I was little, The Little Princess and The Secret Garden were well worn and well read, but it wasn’t until much more recently that I learnt that she had also written novels for adults.
Persephone Books have republished two of them, and they’re both wonderful; The Making of a Marchioness is beautifully written feel good fiction and you should definitely read it too, but today let me share The Shuttle.
It starts with sadness, and the story of what I suspect was an all too familiar culture clash in the late 1800’s. Pretty, sweet, but not very bright Rosy Vanderpoel, heiress and the belle of New York is married to Sir Nigel Anstruthers without sufficient due diligence into either his personality or the state of his affairs beyond his title. He’s charming enough to woo her and her family, but only when they get back to England does he subject her to unrelenting emotional abuse and ostracises her from her family, chiefly on the basis that he thought he was marrying money, but the money is Rosy’s and she hasn’t even realised that in his mind she’s supposed to have handed it over so that he can theoretically fix the roof and more accurately run off to live the high life and squander it all away.
And if it ended there it would be a sad story indeed, but then in comes Betty. As an eight year old Betty hated her new brother in law without being able to articulate why, and as she grows up into a stunning and confident young woman she has but one aim; she’s going to go to England and rescue Rosy. And so she comes to England to see the sister who is now a ghost of her former self and the ruin of the house she’s living in, Sir Nigel having been absent for a long time spending all the money. And bit by bit Betty starts to repair and rebuild, with tactics that would impress Machiavelli. When Sir Nigel comes home and starts to pit his conniving against her cleverness the fun really begins and I’m loath to say any more about what happens because it is genuinely a “can’t put it down til I’ve finished” book and I don’t want to spoil the drama. Go read it instead.
And when you’ve finished The Shuttle, or if you’ve already read it, please do go and check out what my co hosts have been reading; Claire and Katie have such great taste in books I can’t wait to see what they’ve picked this month, and if you’ve been reading, please feel free to join us in the linky below; the more the merrier: