Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran--5 stars: Imagine, if you will, that Daisy from Downton Abbey wrote a memoir about her life as a kitchen maid. But instead of being cranky Daisy, imagine that she had the personality and moxie of Sybil. That would give you Mollie Moran. She is a real life person, and I knew as soon as I read on the back cover that she loves to host Scrabble tournaments, she and I would be kindred spirits. During the 1930s, Mollie worked as a scullery maid in an aristocratic house in London and a country estate in Norfolk. She talks a lot about what it was like to live in London during that time period, what it was like to work on staff of a grand house (there was a footman eerily similar to Thomas Barrow), and even how being a maid in real life compared with Downton Abbey. She secretly dated other members of the staff, explored London on her breaks, and eventually worked her way up to cook--she even shares some of her favorite recipes from that time period. I ADORED every single part of this book. I was so sad when it ended, and I wish I could go back in time and see the things she saw. She was cheeky and silly, but she worked grueling hours. I can't even wrap my head around the amount of cleaning she had to do every single day, and yet she took so much pride her in job. I found it all so fascinating that it goes down as one of my favorite books ever.
For fans of: Downton Abbey, WWII, true stories about maids sneaking out of windows to go meet soldiers at a town dance
For fans of: winter, Denmark, wool socks, candles, pretentious ramblings about drinking mulled wine in cozy cabins on a ski weekend with 16 of your closest friends
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson (and obviously LIW, duh)--5 stars: I think we all know now that my love of LIW runs deep. After I finished the Little House series, I scooped this book up. At first, I had to slog through this book a bit. Some of the letters did not need to be included. She was on the board of a Farmers Credit Bureau or something of the sort, and letters pertaining to that made my eyes glaze over. There were also a collection of letters of a road trip she took with her daughter from Missouri to San Francisco around 1915 that were fairly interesting from a historical point of view. What redeemed the book for me were the letters to her daughter Rose. Rose helped her write the Little House books, and I LOVED hearing Laura's reasoning on why she wrote things the way she did. I knew they were based on her life, but I had no idea how true they really were. She refused to make changes Rose suggested that would portray an event differently than how it really happened, with only a few exceptions. A lot of fan mail was included, and she responded to every piece of mail she received, which is so sweet. She took the time to write detailed responses and elaborated on stories in the books, what she was planning to write in the next book, and what her life with Almanzo was like at that point. The letters even chronicle the death of her husband and how she coped with her sudden fame. Some of the letters are a bit dry and unneccessary, but there are more than enough gems to make up for the boring ones. She was such a sweet, special woman, and it seriously pains me that I can never meet her. I have big plans to visit all her homesteads and more or less do my best to turn into her. If I ever stop blogging, search the prairies. You'll be sure to find me living in a claim shanty with my chickens and cows.
For fans of: Little House on the Prairie, pioneer life, being nosy and reading other people's conversations
On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane--5 stars: Have you ever wondered how the corn crops were doing in Nebraska in the summer of 1894? How about the temperature or the price of acreage in Kansas? WELL HAVE I GOT THE BOOK FOR YOU! All jokes aside, this was really interesting. It's a collection of dairy entries Laura wrote when she, Almanzo, and Rose decided to move to Missouri and start their own homestead. She talked about the state of the agriculture, the fellow covered-wagon travelers they met, the food they ate, and even the temperature every day. I promise it's more interesting than it sounds, and it was a quick read. I love anything that helps me better understand what it was like to live in a bygone era. If you've read all the other LIW books, you might as well read this one too.
For fans of: see above--I have nothing new to say
For fans of: NASA, Hidden Figures, The Astronaut Wive's Club, feeling motion sick from reading, looking up to the sky and realizing PEOPLE ARE UP THERE OMG
For fans of: WWII in England, the Blitz, murder mysteries, Secrets of a Charmed Life, emotional turmoil
All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein--5 stars: I have read a truly astonishing amount of
memoirs and literature about WWII and the Holocaust, and aside from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, this is by far my favorite. I will never forget this story. Gerda was 15 when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Life very quickly changed for her Jewish family. After they're sequestered in the ghetto, the entire family is split up and sent to concentration camps. Gerda is sent to a mill where she learns to weave linens for the Nazis. By the end of the war, she's sent on a horrendous 300 mile death march. Out of thousands, she's one of the very few survivors of the march found by American troops at the end of the war. Every single on of Gerda's friends and family members is gone; she's the only one alive and has to figure out how to put her life back together with the help of the American solider who found her on the brink of death. This book was so beautifully written and important. I can't say enough good things about it, and her attitude despite her situation is incredible. She still happens to be alive and wrote several other books following up on life after the war that I'm currently reading. I want nothing more than to meet her and talk to her. Reading her words was an honor.
For fans of: WWII, Holocaust memoirs, Cinderella stories
Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard--4 stars: I read her first book, Picnic in Paris, a few months ago with mixed feelings. This one was so much better. Maybe because much of this book was about her life as a married woman and becoming a mom, I felt like I related to her so much more, though she's still a bit eye-roll worthy at times. She seemed a little more down to earth, plus I really like the way she has with words. She and her husband decide to buy an old house that hid a French Resistance worker during WWII (swoon). They leave their busy life in Paris and make a life in a tiny village in Provence and adjust to life as parents and business owners. She talks a lot about her neighbors and the local ingredients she learns to cook with, as well as how much she struggled the first few years of motherhood. It made me want to go live in a small village in France where I can have my own cheese monger too, as well as borrow some cherries from my neighbor's tree.
For fans of: food memoirs, France, snobby talk about how beneath you it is to buy meat at the supermarket instead of your neighborhood butcher
For fans of: disaster stories, mysteries, historical fiction, Kate Morton
I feel like I've hit the jackpot lately in terms of books. I'm so stingy with my 5 star reviews, but these books have been THAT good. Now tell me what to read next!