The Maid’s Tale

Rose Plummer and Tom Quinn


When we think of life with servants, we usually think about those they served. In this book, the memories of a maid, show us what life was like below stairs. It was a life of unending toil and grinding work from rising in the wee  hours, until they turned in at night. The life of the servants was strictly regimented, with very little time to themselves. It was pretty grim until after WWI, when factory jobs opened up as an alternative. Then servants became scarce and life lightened up a bit.

It wasn’t nearly as fun as we think.



A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them

Sue Hubbell



My grandfather kept bees on his property in Nevada. When we went to visit, I would spend hours lying in the grass by the hives just watching the bees. I was too young to be afraid, and no one knew what I was doing, so there were no warnings. It was a remarkable time of freedom for a young child. When my mother expressed worry if I had been gone so long, my grandfather told her not to worry. His dog Queenie, my constant companion, would keep me safe. And so she did.

I have always been fascinated by bees. I have never lived in a place that would accommodate keeping them, so it was always an unrequited love. I have read so many books about bees, fiction and non-fiction over the years that I feel I know them. I will pick up any book with bees in the title, and I have learned much about them. Ms Hubbell’s book is the latest in a long series.

Keeping and maintaining more than 300 hives is far beyond anything I had imagined. It is a full-time, year-round occupation with periods of intent activity. She describes her year from the high of a honey flow to the relative down-time of winter. Each season brings its own work to fill the hours. There is no vacation for a large bee-keeping/honey producer.

If you are at all interested in keeping bees, this book is full of valuable, if dated, information.

All Things Wise and Wonderful

James Herriot

All Things Wise and Wonderful  (All Creatures Great and Small, #3)

This entertaining story carries on where the other books left off. It is mostly his account of his experiences in the RAF during WWII. Many things that happen to him during basic training and learning to be a pilot remind him of his experiences as a county vet, so we get a double set of memories.

Each chapter tells a bit of his experience during training and a look back at some memorable animal or character, all entertaining. If you liked Herriot’s other books, this will appeal to you as well.

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse

Jennifer Worth

Unlike the other two Call the Midwife books that I have read, this book tells the life stories of two characters that the author encountered working at Nonnatus House. The first, Jane, is a quiet, fearful young women. She fears her own shadow, and cannot be trusted with any responsibility due to her fear of making a mistake. The other character, Mr Collett, a soldier who fought in the Boer war, begins as a client needing a nurse, and becomes a true friend to the author.

Jane’s story is the story of the workhouse, a horrible institution that punishes people for being poor. Starting out life as bubbly, charming, intelligent little girl, Jane’s spirit is completely broken by the inhumanity of the workhouse system.

The soldier, Mr. Collett starts out as a patient, but moves into the category of friend as his wounds heal. His life story is gradually revealed as her visits become more social than professional.

Both stories reveal the humanity of the people who came into contact with the sisters and nurses of Nonnatus House, until changing economic times forced the end of the East End and the need for the services of Nonnatus House.

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End

Jennifer Worth


Similar to the first Call the Midwife book, this book is filled with adventures of the Nonnatus midwives. It puts the focus on Sister Monica Jean, who is accused of shoplifting, the ungainly and clumsy Chummy, and Megan’mave, two foulmouthed identical twins who share a husband between them. Along with the usual cast of characters, the real heroes of her book are the people of the East End. Somehow they manage to forge a community along the docks, in spite of economic stresses. Moving among them, the sisters and midwives do what they can to ease their troubles for a bit.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

David Sedaris


The usual collection of humorous essays, except toward the end where he turns to his attempt to stop smoking. Anyone who has gone though this can sympathize with his struggles. Only somehow Sedaris makes it seem funny.

When he is writing about his family or his life in foreign countries, Sedaris brings his own skewed take on life.

IMHO he’s a lot funnier than Bill Bryson.

My Name is Mahtob

Mahtob Mahmoody


Mahmoody chose not to use a ghostwriter when she wrote this plodding memoir, and I think that was a mistake. There is an interesting story about her life waiting to be told, but this isn’t it. The best parts overlapped with her mother’s account, Not Without My Daughter, but my interest dropped off sharply after that. Basically nothing much happens to Mahtob after she and her mother return to America. She lives in fear of her father, but none of those fears materialize. He does attempt to reach out to her, but she rejects every attempt to reconnect with him. I would have too, but this doesn’t make for high drama. She converts to Christianity, which would have driven her father wild, but this also is told in the most trite way.

She obviously is an intelligent and educated woman, but she is still a prisoner of her past.

I’m Just a Person

Tig Notaro

I'm Just a Person by [Notaro, Tig]

So many memoirs of famous people are ghost written. If this was one of them, props to the writer. Every page glows with honesty about Tig’s life, her mother’s death, her relationship with her stepfather, her struggles with health, and her personal relationships. It’s a refreshing look at person’s life struggles.

Best of luck to her in her career and continued good health.

Funny in Farsi

Firoozeh Dumas


This woman is funny in any language, and it’s a good thing she is. Instead of whining about the terrible things that have happened to her and her family, she chooses to see the humorous side of things. I suspect she does her grieving in private, covering it with light-hearted recollections of her time in America and trips back to Iran. The result is a completely amusing account of her attempts to adjust to a new culture, a new language, and a new society, while coping with her family (especially her father), and extensive relatives.

At Seventy: A Journal

May Sarton


May Sarton is famous for her poetry, plays and novels, but it is her journals that speak to me the most. She writes about the tension she feels with the tug and pull between her love of solitude and the joy she experiences with groups of people, the pleasures of living alone and the worry about her independence as she ages.

I recommend this book to anyone living alone at this age and curious about how another person experiences the milestone.