Thursday, March 18, 2010

With Reverent Hands: Illyrian Spring

I bring you with reverent hands / the books of my numberless dreams.
-WB Yeats, "A Poet To His Beloved"

WB Yeats, I'm sure, gave books to his beloved that he valued highly himself, and that he handled with reverence.  If you had to recommend a book you revered to someone, what would it be?
I'm asking you to highlight one book.  One book that you adore, that you prize, that changed your life, that you would save from a burning building, that you found serendipitously on a library shelf or at a used bookstore, looking lonely and ignored.  A book that thrills you but that, you have come to realize, no one else has really ever heard of, much less read.  With Reverent Hands is all about those books- the ones that deserve a wider audience than they are given and that you want everyone to go out and read, even if they are out of print.

This week's post is by Rachel, who blogs at Book Snob.   I have liked Rachel's blog for a long time as she reads many books that are slightly obscure and that I wouldn't come across if she  didn't read and review them.  But I also have a great deal of respect and lots of love for her because we once got in a fairly heated argument on Eva's blog about racism in the US and racism in the UK and I am sure I wasn't very nice in all my comments, but our friendship was not affected (at least, I hope not!), and I love that.  I know that I can be very honest with her and that she will consider my thoughts.

What book are you highlighting?
Illyrian Spring, by Ann Bridge, first published in 1935.

When did you first read it?
Last summer

What is it about?  Please give a brief summary.
With Reverent Hands
It’s a beautiful story of two people, years apart in age and experience, meeting under similar circumstances and coming to discover themselves and the meaning of their lives.  The beautiful, middle aged Lady Grace Kilmichael is the main character; she’s married to a moderately famous economist who thinks she’s stupid, and is having an affair with another woman (though it doesn’t appear to be sexual).  Her daughter, a beautiful, leggy teenager, pities her and finds her clingy.  

Grace has recently found some success as a painter, and, fed up with feeling pushed to the side of her own life by the people she loves, she decides to take off on holiday to the Dalmation Coast (modern day Italy and Croatia) to paint and rediscover herself.  On her journey she falls in with Nicholas, a young painter, who is escaping a similarly stifling home life and parents who don’t understand or appreciate him.  Their unlikely friendship blossoms amongst the beautiful scenery of the Dalmation Coast, and together they find the freedom to become the people they were meant to be.  

What makes the book stand out to you?  Why do you love it?
I think the essential message that you don’t have to live your life in a box constructed of other people’s expectations is what struck me the most.  Both Grace and Nicholas have been restricted and stifled by their lives and the people around them, and have ended up living lives that are unsatisfying and don’t reflect their true natures or dreams.  By leaving their everyday lives behind and escaping, without anyone else’s knowledge, to pastures new, for just a short while, they are free to discover what is really important to them, and they find the confidence they need to be the people they want to be in each other’s unconditional (and platonic, I might add) love for one another.  The relationship between Grace and Nicholas is unusual and wonderful – Nicholas could be Grace’s son, but she doesn’t treat him like one – and both characters are such lovely and wonderful people that you can’t help but fall in love with them.  Also, Ann Bridge was a Diplomat’s wife and spent her life travelling – so the scenery of this story is absolutely beautifully described and will make you want to drop everything and rush to the Croatian coast as soon as you’ve finished the book!

Please finish this analogy:  If you liked _____________, you'll probably enjoy this book.
If you liked Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, you’d probably love this book. Also, anyone who likes Persephone Books would adore it, and those who like travelogues.

What sort of person would you recommend to read this book?
This book is perfect for people who have hearts filled with dreams and passions, as well as those who love to travel, or those who are looking for inspiration during a time of self discovery.

Do you have any quotes you would like to share?
No – don’t have my copy on me I’m afraid!


  1. Rachel's blog is one of my favourites and I very much value her opinion on books because I find we have such similar tastes. I've been looking for this book for ages but sadly it's not easy to find or if it is then it's usually very, very expensive. After this post, I want it even more! I hope I get to read it one day. It sounds wonderful.

  2. I have never heard of this one, but that is what this is for :)
    Must look it up

  3. I've never heard of Rachel's blogs, but I'm always looking for obscure yet wonderful books, so I will definitely check it out!
    Especially as Illyrian Spring sounds wonderful!

  4. Anonymous3/18/2010

    As soon as I saw Illyrian Spring I knew that it must be Rachel. I have only scanned my copy but it looks lovely and a prime candidate for reissue. Capuchin Classics are reissuing another Ann Bridge - Peking Picnic - soon, so maybe there is hope.

  5. Anonymous3/18/2010

    Thanks for your lovely compliments about me and my blog, Aarti! You have never been anything but nice to me and it takes more than a little heated exchange to incur my wrath, don't worry! ;) Thanks so much for letting me take part.

    And Mrs B, thank you for your compliment too. :)

    Jane, I have asked Capuchin Classics to reprint Illyrian Spring...I have my fingers crossed!

  6. Anonymous3/18/2010

    i surely enjoy your own posting taste, very remarkable,
    don't quit and keep posting seeing that it just very well worth to read it,
    looking forward to look over more and more of your own content, regards ;)

  7. What a gorgeous-sounding book, and I'd never heard of it. Will be putting it on my TBR list. Thanks Aarti and Rachel for introducing me to it!

  8. Anonymous3/19/2010

    I never heard of the book.. thanks Rachel for introducing the book and thanks to Aarti for highlighting th e book..

  9. I haven't heard of either this book title or the author -- sounds wonderful (and I did love "Eat, Pray, and Love). Hope it gets re-printed soon! I'll be visiting Book Snob's blog now...

  10. I'd not heard of this book, but it does sound like a pleasant and thoughtful read. I do hope that it becomes more readily available soon, because it's something I am sure I would like to read. Thanks, Rachel, for sharing this book with us. I might not have ever heard of it any other way, which would have been a shame!

  11. I am still amazed when I come across all these books that are so good and I don't even have them in my TBR!

    "I think the essential message that you don’t have to live your life in a box constructed of other people’s expectations is what struck me the most." Such a beautiful thought!

  12. That's such a great series you have going on here Aarti. And I will be definitely looking for Rachel's recommendation even though I never read Eat, Pray and Love because I am afraid I would hate it.

  13. It's so great to have a friend like that- someone you can be honest with, who won't take things personally and who you can respect no matter what. :-)

  14. This sounds like a wonderful book, and I love this book feature idea.


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