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Review: "The Solitary Summer" by Elizabeth von Arnim

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Solitary SummerFirst published in 1899, The Solitary Summer picks up where Elizabeth and Her German Garden left off. Instead of a year's diary of the previous book, this sequel relates a summer in the life of Elizabeth in her patterings about the garden, care of her "babies" and various escapades with servants and towns-folk.

The book starts with a premise--Elizabeth is to have a summer free of guests, all to herself and her family and her beloved garden. Her husband, "The Man of Wrath", doesn't believe she will last; she will undoubtedly get bored and call for the assistance and entertainment of a friend. But Elizabeth's love of nature and solitude wins in the end, and anyone with a love of the same will love this book in turn. The Man of Wrath makes many more appearances in this book than the previous. While it might not have been initially the intention, The Solitary Summer ends up being a love letter to her husband, and the dedication to him at the beginning proves this to be so.

On a personal note, Elizabeth von Arnim has become one of my favorite writers. There's something to be said about an author who can write about nothing in particular and make it interesting. If one were to ask me what is the plot of this book, I would have trouble relating it. But I wholeheartedly recommend it. Whenever reading one of von Arnim's books, I find myself wanting to read passages aloud to my own Man of Wrath--an entry on Thoreau by a pond is particularly memorable. May I share?

"Thoreau has been my companion for some days past, it having struck me as more appropriate to bring him out to a pond than to read him, as was hitherto my habit, on Sunday mornings in the garden. He is a person who loves the open air, and will refuse to give you much pleasure if you try to read him amid the pomp and circumstance of upholstery; but out in the sun, and especially by this pond, he is delightful, and we spend the happiest hours together, he making statements, and I either agreeing heartily, or just laughing and reserving my opinion till I shall have more ripely considered the thing. He, of course, does not like me as much as I like him, but I live in a cloud of dust and germs produced by wilful superfluity of furniture, and have not the courage to get a match and set light to it."

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