The House of The Seven Gables

So far, for my 2019 Back to The Classics Challenge, I’ve read House of The Seven Gables, The Power and The Glory and the first two Volumes of Kristin Lavransdatter. (I hope to finish The third volume this Feb.)

  1. 19th Century Classic:


I found The House of The Seven Gables By Nathaniel Hawthorne a hard book to get into. The language was rather dense and the plot slow moving. But Hawthorne pulled it together nicely in the end. I was pleasantly surprised by the quick clip the ending took-  it was gothic, romantic, and filled with symbolism. In the end it left me wanting to read “The Scarlet Letter.”

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.


Reader’s Notes

The Mistress of Husaby (Kristin Lavransdatter, #2)

I just finished the second volume of Kristin Lavransdatter and I’m having a hard time picking up the third. The first two volumes were absorbing, beautiful, and sad. Their wide sweeping action reminded me of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and I want to read on; to know more about these people, their lives, their souls, and yet I know the third one must be about endings so I leave my book on my nightstand for later. 

A sixth’s Graders Back-to-the-Classics list

1.  19th Century Classic

Phantastes or other George MacDonald
She’s started Phantastes already . . .
2. 20th Century Classic
Saint Francis of Assisi: Illustrated Edition (G. K. Chesterton Book 5)
The Ball and the Cross was a Christmas present from Uncle.
3. Classic by a Woman
Mansfield Park (Penguin Classics)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Our new read-aloud.
4. Classic in Translation
St. Thomas Aquinas by Raissa Maritain
Another present from Uncle.  Started and finished!
5. Classic Comedy
We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome (or The Ball and the Cross)
6. Classic Tragedy
Dandelion Wine or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
She loves science fiction.
7. Very Long Classic
The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
8. Novella
Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy (Paperback))
More classic sci-fi.
9. American Classic
Magic for Marigold—The Serialized Version by [L M, Montgomery]
Magic for Marigold by L. M. Montgomery
For the young L.M. Montgomery completist.
10. African, Asian, or Oceanic Classic
The River: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics)
The River by Rumer Godden
11. Local Classic
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Eight Cousins was a read-aloud years ago.
12. Play
Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw
Also on her Aunt’s list.  We can have a My Fair Lady party when they finish!
Mrs. Aldertree

Back-To-The-Classics 2019 List

Mrs. Aldertree’s 2019 list can be found here.

Here’s mine:

  1. 19th Century Classic: The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne:

    A novel I was required to read in High School; I don’t remember much of it.

  2. 20th Century Classic: The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene:

    2018 left me wanting more Greene.

  3. Classic by a Female Author: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

    I’ve never been able to finish a Cather novel but I’ve always wanted to.

  4. A Classic in Translation: Cancer Ward by by aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    This has been on my reading list for years.

  5. Classic Comedy: Leave it To Psmith by  P.G. Wodehouse 


    You can’t go wrong with Wodehouse.

  6. Classic Tragedy: Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden 

    Another from my reading list

    7. Very Long Classic: Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

    This book has been recommended to me countless times, and I happen to have a beautiful three volume set; I have no excuse.

  7. Novella: The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
    The Man Who Would Be King: Selected Stories of Rudyard Kipling: Selected Stories of Rudyard Kipling (Penguin Classics) by [Kipling, Rudyard]

    And Kipling 

  8. American Classic: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    I hear about this novel ALL the time but I’ve never read it, it’s beginning to annoy me.

  9. African/Asian/Oceanic Classic: Green Dolphin Street Elizabeth Goudge

    Another book I’ve been wanting to read for years

  10. Local Classic: A Diary from Dixie by Mary Chestnut
    A DIARY FROM DIXIE, As Written By MARY BOYKIN CHESNUT: Wife of James Chesnut, Jr., United States Senator from South Carolina, 1859-1861, and afterward ... Army (1905) [SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED EDITION]

    I grew up in the South. I felt like my list needed some Nonfiction. 

  11. Play: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

    An Ideal Husband: By Oscar Wilde - Illustrated

    Reading his Fairy Tales last year, left me wanting to read more of his works. 


-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.


Back-To-The-Classics 2019 List

1. 19th Century Classic: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

The title bothered me.  Madding, not maddening?  I’ve never read a Hardy novel besides Tess.

2. 20th Century Classic: The Long Loneliness  by Dorothy Day

I was hoping for a diary/ memoir category.

3. Classic by a Female Author: Silas Marner by George Eliot

I’ve read several Eliot novels.  Maybe this one I’ll finally love.

4. Classic in Translation: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

My favorite book in the second half of high school.  It’s been since then.  It’s been too long.

5. Classic Comedy: The Reivers by William Faulkner

From the South.

6. Classic Tragedy: Washington Square by Henry James

And from the North.

7. Very Long Classic: Black Lamb, Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

Very long indeed. And a memoir.

8. Novella: The Weakling by Francois Mauriac

The Weakling and the Enemy

For the novella slot, it had to be French.

9. American Classic: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair & Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvaag

Both about US immigrants.  One about industry and people of my heritage.  The other about people of my husband’s heritage, and agriculture.

10. African/Asian/Oceanic Classic: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton  & Kim by Rudyard Kipling

South Africa and my beloved India.

11. Local Classic: The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Country of the Pointed Firs by [Jewett, Sarah Orne]
New England.
Less familiar Shakespeare.
-Mrs. Aldertree

Back-to-The-Classics catch up

Author New To You:

Chiam Potok:  The Chosen

I found The Chosen to be a difficult read, not that it was wordy or inaccessible but that I  found the themes at once intriguing and disturbing.  The story is very masculine and focuses on the relationship between two fathers and their sons. It was a harsh read and the ending seemed somewhat incomplete; I was looking for some reconciliation.


A book that scares you

Henry James: The Turn of The Screw 

The Turn of the Screw: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism)

I originally choose Les Miserables and got to page 868 before calling it quits.  So I decided to try another book to complete the category.  After reading Mrs. Aldertree’s review, I picked  The Turn of The Screw  It was excellent, two weeks later I’m still pondering this exquisite tale by Henry James.


A Classic Crime

A. A. Milne: Red House Mystery 

The Red House Mystery (Illustrated)

I choose Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne mostly because I was delightfully surprised to find that this book existed at all! I knew Milne was a playwright but I didn’t realize he also wrote novels. The Red House Mystery was a fun read, filled with witty dialogue and humor, I also enjoyed all the Sherlock Holmes references having finally read some Sherlock earlier this year. Not a serious read at all, I found it to be a bit of a satire on the whole murder mystery novel phenomenon.

A reread

Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited 

Brideshead Revisted was worth the reread. Reading it again I found myself ready to love the characters, the plot, the dialogue, the imagery all the more. It is a beautiful book about God’s grace and the unusual ways He pours it out to us even when we resist. I realized it was more than a story of a soul, it was a story of many souls. Some resisting grace despite their longings to be With God, others trying to accept it. As I read the last few pages of the book a verse I pray often when anxious came to me again:

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:26-28

The perfect book with which to end the year.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

7. A Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Kon-Tiki

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl was the most surprising book on my back-to-The-Classics list.  Heyerdahl convinces five other courageous scholars to go on a journey to prove his migration theory, a theory that  went against all expert opinion and advice.  The six scholars, with no previous sailing experience (!), staked their lives on Heyerdahl’s ridiculed theory and together, based on an ancient design, they built a  balsa wood raft and set sail on an epic sea journey that would last 104 days.

I thought the book was going to be dry and filled with nautical jargon but  I found its diction accessible and the narrative surprisingly lighthearted; I laughed out loud several times. It is an adventure story through and through, filled with daring and exhilarating  audacity, every young boy should have a copy on his shelf.

It should also be on the shelves of any naturalist, as the explorers catalogued their observations and discoveries (they even observed a fish that was thought to be extinct!) in their nature journals.

I was struck by the men’s jovial companionship, their ability to keep an atmosphere of learning despite adverse conditions; they brought several books and journals along, used them frequently, and cared for them while sailing across the sea in a wet raft!

It was a fortuitous read; I found unexpected friendship and encouragement between the pages and a renewed sense of wonder. Kon-Tiki showed me  that expert opinions can be overrated, lost arts can be resurrected, education is a lifelong endeavor, and building an atmosphere of learning can be done in the harshest of conditions.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.


4 More Classics

I read a book in all twelve categories for the 2018 Back-to-the-Classics challenge. After making up for my late start in March, I paced myself by reading one book for the challenge each month and letting it set the tone for that month’s reading.

In September I read:

As a Driven Leaf (Paperback) - Common

10. Classic by and Author New to Me:  As A Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg

How did I learn about this new-to-me author?  I saw As A Driven Leaf on a shelf at a thrift store and brought it home.  I was drawn to its simple orange cover, the critical acclaim quoted on the back, the Jewish theme of the story, and intrigued that I had never heard of it before.  It’s a book about religious doubt (distantly akin to Silence by Shusako Endo, a searing novel).  Learning that Steinberg himself maintained faith in God made me more interested in his portrayal of a lonely conflicted rabbi of the Sanhedrin who loses his faith and is excommunicated from his people in the time of the Roman empire.  It is simply, clearly, and superbly told.  Steinberg makes metaphors that haunt me like memorized poems.  I highly recommend this historical fiction, with its purity of line and diction.  It’s a deep and noble book.

After reading As A Driven Leaf, I read more books with Jewish themes by authors who were new to me.  I read Chaim Grade’s Rabbis and Wives and My Mother’s Sabbath Days, which brought to life Jewish Lithuania, the villages and especially the Jewish neighborhoods of Vilnius.  I loved these books so much!  I read East River by Sholem Asch, set in the same Brooklyn Betty Smith made immortal, with amazing Jewish-Catholic relationships but a disappointing ending for one of the best characters.  And Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham, a love story between a Jewish man and Gentile woman in Canada; I was bothered by what felt like a dismissive treatment of abortion.


11. Classic that Scares You: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A very short book to scare me so much.  As a child, I wanted to read it, seeing the nanny and two children portrayed on the cover and thinking it would be something like Mary Poppins!  My mother and aunt however warned me strongly against it and there lay the roots of my fear.  I gained a whole new level of respect for Henry James when I read The Bostonians earlier in the year which helped me get my courage up to read this one.  But in the end — I had to read the ending first!  It is a little masterpiece, not an evil book after all, but a book about evil.  Like all Henry James, it needs to be not just read but interpreted.  Watch the eyebeams.  Notice the two moments where the image from the title is alluded to.  Also important — the word “victim” and the naming of the “horror.”  And the whole meaning of the book “turns” on the way you take one key word in the last pages.  (I will say that even reading the ending first didn’t spoil those last pages for me.  They didn’t mean what I thought they meant when I read them out of context.  Only after reflecting on the whole did I make my interpretive decision about what happened.)

I agree with the people who say this book is about sexual abuse.  Even if the horror is never named for the reader, that is how I had to understand it.


12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

I read this once in high school, again in college, and a third time in graduate school.  I considered writing my senior thesis on it.  What was weird reading it this time was being older than so many of the characters!  It has layers of my own life in it.  It’s hard for me to say anything about it.  Only — if you don’t want to read a political novel, still consider reading this one.  One of my friends recently chided me: ” ‘The news’ equals real people.”  “The news” has a very problematic way of treating real people, I find.  Nevertheless, the political story is part of the human story.  Much as politics can give us nausea, “this thing of darkness” is in some way yours and mine.  This a book about what it means to be a political being and about a man becoming more human by acknowledging and taking responsibility for his part in the evil of his world.  And at its heart it is indeed a love story.

4. Classic in Translation: Virgil’s Georgics

I chose to read Dryden’s translation for my very first time through Virgil’s Georgics.  A friend who is a classicist recommended it because “Dryden is a poet.”  I’ve been reading Alexander Pope’s heroic couplets with my sixth grader and sometimes Dryden translating Virgil into heroic couplets sounded oddly similar to Alexander Pope!  Anyway, that’s mostly a compliment.

It was a four-part journey, not through the seasons but through. . . levels of life?  The earth itself, the life of plants, the life of animals, and then the mystic life of bees in their prophetic golden age.  There was more in the poem of the cruelty of nature and agriculture (and the savagery of horses and chariots!)  than I ever expected.  One evening, after reading the Scriptures awhile, I tried to go on and continue with Virgil.  And I couldn’t, after bathing in the Word, plunge immediately into his song of Bacchic rites.

Virgil’s agrarian world has breath-taking affinities with the world the traditional Catholic liturgy speaks into and informs.  But my strongest response to this work was new gratitude and appreciation for the rites of grace and the better wine that Jesus came to give.

-Mrs. Aldertree

A Saffron Bun Recipe for St. Lucy’s Day



St. Lucia Buns 



-1 Packet of Active dry Yeast
-1/4th C warm Water
-1 Stick Of Butter melted
-1 C milk
– 1/2 C of honey or sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 eggs (1 beaten for glaze)
–  8 Saffron threads (I use more- it’s to taste)
-4 C flour (use more as needed when kneading and shaping)


Dissolve yeast in warm water set aside and let bubble.
Melt butter, stir in milk and yeast, stir in sweetner.
Add salt, egg, saffron threads and blend.
Add flour and work until smooth (add flour as needed).
Once smooth let rise for 30 min.
Flour a Surface to Knead the dough on, Knead until smooth, roll and shape into S’s.
Place on greased cooking sheets, cover and let rise 20 min in warm place.
Beat an egg and brush on buns for a glaze.
You can add raisins or berries to the S shapes to make the “eyes.”

Bake 425 for 10 min or until golden

(I’ve also done this recipe using Gluten Free Flour and it worked out just fine.)

Traditionally the eldest (or youngest) daughter rises early in the morning to make the buns and then serves the family wearing a white robe, red sash and crown of candles.