We’ve got new members to our book club! Welcome, welcome! If you’d like, feel free to introduce yourself in the comments (or just comment or just read and think about things, no pressure.). All that to say, we’re glad you’re here!
As I’ve said before, if you don’t like a book that’s OK. For your sake, I wish you liked everything you read, but for the sake of the book club, there is the potential for better discussions if we have a range of opinions and thoughts. The conversation doesn’t go very far when we all say, “I loved it.” “Me too.” So, if there was some part you didn’t like or had a problem with, feel free to share it.
This month we’re diving into The Pastor’s Wife by Elizabeth Von Arnim and if you haven’t gotten the book yet here are various forms for free here, on kindle, or audio. Today we’re looking at Part 1: chapters 1-11.
When we meet Ingeborg she had just had a tooth out. “After weeks of miserable indifference she was quivering with responsiveness again, feeling the relish of life, the tang of it, the jollity of all this bustle and hurrying past of busy people.” As I relooked at this chapter for our discussion I was struck by how often the words beauty and alive were used. This is what I had loved about An Enchanted April, another of Von Arnim’s books. The longing to be alive and fully present in our lives.
I relate to this and I bet you do too. No matter where you are or your living conditions or state of your ministry, this desire to be present stirs deep. Just last week I was talking with a friend in Africa who expressed the desire not to tread water until a less lonely season comes along. I think it’s OK not to enjoy something that is unpleasant in our lives and OK to admit it and name it. I want to flesh this idea out in some later post, but a phrase I’ve coined is “feel the feeling, but you might not want to feed it.”
When I read that Ingeborg’s family had born her toothache with “perfect manners and hardly a look of reproach,” I understood why she might not feel alive or surrounded by beauty in her life.
I have a few questions for you/us:
- Do you feel alive in your life right now? What leads you to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
- If not, have you felt alive where you are? In your country or stage of life? Where could you use more beauty?
The toothache was easily solved, leaving her with time and money to explore what being alive might look like. Ingeborg’s maternal grandma was Swedish and met her future English husband when he was a tourist. “She [the grandma] had lived, up to the day when for some quite undiscoverable reason she allow herself to be married to the narrow stranger, in the middle of big beautiful things — big stretches of water, big mountains, big winds, big lonelinesses.”
A bit of foreshadowing? And family patterns?
How long did you know your husband before you got married? What are some patterns in your family. At least the last three generations of women on both sides of my family haven’t had their first child until in their 30’s. I think family patterns are interesting (except when they are bonds of sin!).
So this post won’t be a blow by blow of the book, since you’ve read it, what do you think of Robert in part one? And his comparisons of manure and church work?
“She looked at him and laughed. There was no one in Redchester, and Redchester was all she knew of life, in the least like Herr Dremmel. She stretched herself in the roomy difference, happy, free, at ease.” But then the proposal and the conflict she felt between the pull her Bishop father had and her desire to be alive. “Her whole future being decided by a cake and the eyes of seven women.” I laughed!
Have you experienced big life changes while traveling? Or in a relatively short period? How did your family respond? Any of you have a dad give a sermon that was, shall we say, rather pointedly pointed at you?
I will say the portrayal of the Bishop and his relationship with his wife and, in particular, Ingeborg, was depressing. I keep asking myself as I’m reading how much my response to things is influenced by the time I live in. How “normal” was their family in the clergy? Those of you in or raised in clergy families, how did this compare to your family? How did your mom or yourself respond to the pressures of being a pastor’s wife?
I’ve covered a lot of ground here! Feel free to jump in wherever and no pressure to answer any or all of these questions. What passages / lines stood out to you? Grab a cup and feel free to come back throughout the week and keep the conversation going.
See you in the comments! Amy
Next week Part 2: Chapters 12-12
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