Are you familiar with the work of Susan Branch? She's got a nice variety of happy home sort of books (ideas about entertaining and food without the hoity-toitiness of Martha Stewart). Every year she puts out a variety of calendars and such, and an assortment of other print items. She's a watercolor artist (and makes me wish I could draw more than stick figures) and an author. Her blog is one of my favorites--you just know deep down to your toes you're going to find something good there. Plus, she's my spirit animal (in human form, of course).
A couple years ago, I read her book 'A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside' and became even more smitten. She's just so stinkin' delightful!! So real, so lovely, so whimsical. I might have a crush.... Anyhoodle, she decided to pull out the diaries she kept from her twenties onward and turn them into an autobiographical-scrapbook sort of book. Except that, like yours truly here, she couldn't shut up (and I say that lovingly) and stop at one book, so there will be two books to tell the tale. Eeeeeeee!!!!!
I don't know how, but I was asked if I'd like to review her newest book 'The Fairy Tale Girl' (not by her, just to be clear), and after I picked myself up off of the floor and breathed into a paper bag I shouted through my email "Yes!!!!!! Give it to me now!!!!!" but nicer.
Ahem. So. The book. First of all, the actual physical book--it's so nice! Even the quality of the paper is yummy (I know, a weird thing to notice). Second--I love details. That is where most of my delight comes from in certain things--it's the little things that make the difference to me. And this book is a visual delight literally from beginning to end. Look at the inside cover (the back is similar):
Another tiny detail that thrilled me was this:
Not enough books have ribbons. Now that we've covered the part of the book that isn't the traditional part of the review, let's move to the inside.
This isn't written as a 'normal' adult book. Oh, no. It's classic Susan Branch, with her words, sprinkled with photos, quotes, and her signature watercolor paintings, all in one page making the story cohesive, fun, and never boring.
I don't want to say that I could have written this book because no. But I sat there and nodded along and felt all the feels and was hit with pangs of nostalgia all the way through, thinking "Has this woman somehow been inside my brain?". She writes of universal experiences--childhood, family, heartache, happiness, discovering yourself, and so on. But the thing is that it's never boring. I've read many an autobiography (or tried to) and often found them boring. This is not that way. It's like having tea with a new friend and just knowing you're kindred spirits (because when people ask how old I am I always tell them that I'm twelve, but have been around thirty-something years so I know things. Please note I don't tell this to everyone. Just people who already know me and my brand of quirky). Click the photo below and you'll see the part that almost made me shout "Oh my goodness, me toooo!!!" at too late of an hour to still be up reading.
To put this book in a nutshell (don't you say that before all the words, haha?) the story covers her youth in California, where she was born, raised, and seemed to have jealousy-inducing amounts of fun. There she met her first husband Cliff, and received a crash course of sorts on love and life. She discovered she was an artist. And learned the hard way that life isn't a fairy tale unless you make it one. Reading this book I kept waiting for her to make it across the country to the place where I know her to be from, but alas, we must wait until the spring when we learn the distinction between a fairy tale and a dream--
I once told my mother that I was born in a year that still belonged to the past, and not the future as my sisters were (I sometimes feel like we belong to different generations, even though there are only five years between me and Rachel, and eight for me and Alicia). For example, if you look at pictures of my brother and me as tots you could compare them to photos of our parents as kids and not see much difference beyond the black-and-white vs. color film used. The clothing was similar, houses looked similar, that sort of thing. Same goes for toys, or things "we used to do when we were young." But somewhere in the eighties something changed, and everything all at once took a giant step to a futuristic place where children have existed ever since. Nowadays the difference is even more stark, the change being most notable in young girls. When I see what ten year old girls are wearing, and overhear their conversations, and learn of what they watch on TV, I think I might be appalled. Where are their sticker-books and their pink plastic water pistols and their peel-off nail polish that they can only wear at home? Where are the Care Bears pajamas and hair ribbons? To this point, this, of all of the lovely pages in this book, is my favorite sentence in the whole thing--
Yes, we did, Susan, though decades separate us.
So, wow, that got away from me. I meant to stick with a more objective format, but I guess this way you know I reeeeaaallllly loved this book. If you haven't got your hands on this already, I super recommend this one as a holiday gift (or a hooray-it's-Tuesday-I-deserve-a-treat kind of gift). And if I haven't convinced you, head over to Susan's blog and take a gander. But pour some tea and tell someone else to make dinner, because I'd be willing to bet you'll be there a while. Happy reading!
I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.