Shelf Control #101: The Three Weissmanns of Westport

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Three Weissmanns of Westport
Author: Cathleen Schine
Published: 2010
Length: 304 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband’s mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine’s playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her capricious mother and sister. Schine’s witty, wonderful novel “is simply full of pleasure: the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of Austen, and the pleasure that the characters so rightly and humorously pursue….An absolute triumph” (“The Cleveland Plain Dealer”).

How and when I got it:

I found this book on the book swap shelf at work, and based on the title alone, I thought I’d adopt it.

Why I want to read it:

As soon as I saw the Westport, Connecticut setting, I had to grab this book. I grew up in a town near Westport (although nothing like it), and I was curious to see how the area is portrayed and whether it seems recognizable to me. I had no idea until just now that the plot is an homage to Sense and Sensibility — that makes me want to read it even more!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Audiobook Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Witch of Blackbird Pond

The newest edition

Growing up in Connecticut, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond was an absolute must. For years, I’ve remembered reading it back in my school days, and I know that I loved it at the time, but I couldn’t have told you much about it except for the barest of bare bones…. until now!

I was looking for a new audiobook this past week, and doing a Halloween-themed post about witches brought this children’s classic to mind. What a treat! I’m so thrilled to have revisited this terrific story.

In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, it’s 1687, and Katherine (Kit) Tyler sails into Wethersfield, Connecticut to join the household of her last remaining relatives, her Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew, and their two daughters, Judith and Mercy. 16-year-old Kit has lived all her life in Barbados, raised by her loving grandfather, but after his death she’s left with nothing, and leaves her beautiful island behind to start a new life among the Puritans of New England

Kit is taken in by her family, but has a hard time fitting into the rigid, restrictive life she finds in Connecticut. Her only sense of joy and freedom comes through her secret visits to the old Quaker woman, Hannah Tupper, who lives alone in a small cottage in the meadow by Blackbird Pond. Hannah is both feared and scorned by the townspeople, and despite being warned away, Kit’s visits to Hannah soon lead to danger for both of them.

I'm pretty sure this is what the book looked like when I read it eons ago!

I’m pretty sure this is what the book looked like when I read it eons ago!

I simply love this book! The language is incredibly descriptive, especially the depictions of autumn in Connecticut, and Kit’s first encounter with snow. But really, the entire thing is so well written. The words paint such a picture of Kit’s life, contrasting the Puritan bleakness with the lushness of the tropical islands.

The characters are distinct and memorable, from Kit’s kind-hearted cousin to the wealthy boy who courts Kit to the poor, hungry child who views Kit as a refuge and friend. Likewise, the plot is sharp and well-developed. The story moves along at a steady pace, but never rushes. The author manages to build drama and tension into the story, even while portraying simple moments like fixing a roof or teaching children to read their ABCs.

As for the audiobook, narrator Mary Beth Hurt does a lovely job bringing the story to life. Her voice is well suited to Kit, and yet she also pulls off the crackly old voice of Hannah and the childish voice of the young girl, Prudence. The pacing is quite good, and I felt so engaged by listening that I found myself taking the long way home just so I could listen a bit more while I drove.

Enough gushing. If you’ve never read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, you’re missing out! It’s never too late, though — the story feels fresh and exciting, even all these years after its publication. And if you’re like me, having read the book ages ago, give yourself a treat and re-read it or listen to the audiobook. I’m so happy that I did!

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The details:

Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Narrator: Mary Beth Hurt
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Publication date: 1958
Audiobook length: 6 hours, 24 minutes
Printed book length: 256 pages
Genre: Historical fiction (young adult)
Source: Library (Overdrive)