Sunday, April 23, 2017

Week Ending 23 April 2017

This week was all about the annual teen birders camp. Miss 16 left on her flight up North early on Monday, got back late on Friday and in between had a great time. She knew almost everybody already, either from last year's camp or from the young birders group. It's not surprising that this was the best camp socially and in terms of pure fun. There was a lot of driving between locations so lots of opportunity for singing and other hilarity.

At one stop they discovered over 400 Royal Spoonbills roosting in the trees.

At another stop Miss 16 was happy to spot this New Zealand Dabchick since we don't get them down our way.. 
Among the activities were a day trip to a nearby island where they practiced 5 minute bird counts in the bush, and a beach patrol, searching for dead or dying birds that have washed ashore. It's one of those activities where you are never sure whether you actually want to find a lot or not! Since the weather had been calm for a few days preceding their patrol they didn't find much. There was also a kiwi survey at night. Since kiwi are known to be shy the teens were not really surprised, but still a little disappointed, to only hear but not see them.

A great place to look for bush birds.
The camp's big activity was a 5 hour pelagic - bird watching from sea. Miss 16 was not at all sure about this since her last time on a boat had been pretty miserable. But she knew she couldn't live with herself if she didn't give it a try. So we got her some seasickness medication and hoped for the best. Apparently she didn't feel great, but she was better than last time and so long as she stayed seated in one position the seasickness wasn't unbearable. Luckily she managed to see all the birds from her chosen seat.

A Campell Island Mollymawk and a Flesh-footed Shearwater were two of the birds she saw on the pelagic.

Of all four birding camps and field courses she's gone on in the past three years this the most productive in terms of new birds. She managed 32 new species for the year, twelve of which she had never seen before. Her favorite was the Barn Owl, a species which has only recently established in this country. There is a very small localized population that happens to be close to where the camp was held. Apparently organizers hadn't planned to visit, but Miss 16 and a couple of others begged so much that they relented. Another favorite was the New Zealand Storm Petrel which was thought to be extinct, until being rediscovered early this century. Their breeding site was discovered just three years ago. Another favorite was the Grey Noddy, a bird that wasn't even on her radar. But on the boat they found a small group resting on a rocky island and were able to circumnavigate the island a couple of times, ensuring everyone got good views.
Miss 16's three favourite birds. Photos from NZ Birds Online

On her return Miss 16 was right back into trampoline training with a session on Saturday morning. In the afternoon we went birding, since you can never have too much birding, at least in our house. The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing - reading, chatting online with friends from camp and watching Moana.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights

Friday, April 14, 2017

Week Ending 16 April 2017

This was the week I celebrated a birthday. A reasonably significant one - my half century. And to celebrate I chaired my first meeting as head of the local birding group:-( Sadly it was the only day that worked for everybody else. It was also the day I opened the door of our linen cupboard and discovered water - rather a lot of water. So I spent a fun hour or so mopping up water and throwing out things that were ruined. Our linen cupboard houses our hot water cylinder and it seems to have sprung a leak. Luckily the leak is small (it must have been leaking for a while before we noticed) but a new hot water cylinder definitely needs to be installed sooner rather than later. Sigh.

This was also the week we should have been celebrating Mr 24's graduation, but instead of walking across the stage he had his first day at his new job. All went well and he reports his immediate boss seems like a nice guy which is always a good thing. Actually Mr 24 is keeping up the family tradition of not graduating in person with his PhD. I missed mine (my degree is from a New Zealand university but we were in Canada with a young baby come graduation time) and Dh missed his (his is from a Canadian university and we were back in New Zealand before graduation time). It'll be up to Miss 22 to break the pattern - assuming the university ever gets around to officially enrolling her in the doctorate programme that is. She filed the paperwork weeks ago and keeps getting emails saying her application is still being processed. At least her department has assigned her office space so she's able to start work already. I guess the longer they take to process her paperwork the less her fees will be.


All my library reserves arrived at once. Just as well we've got a two week break so I can start to work through them all.

Homeschooling wise this was the last week of the school term, prior to a two week break. And since Miss 16 has a calendar full of other exciting things we'll take a two week break from academics as well. Statistics was very short and simple this week, and I wasn't able to find much supplementary material for history so she just read from the book and took notes. That freed up time to undertake the write-up for an ethology project she did way back in February as part of her animal behavior course. We also tackled a couple of short stories for literature, including The Dolls House which is one of my personal favorites,  The Lottery which I feel has a very important message and John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemum. I pulled from a few free online resources to beef up our study of these stories including this and this and some from here  to supplement our regular book. We finished the term in a relaxed fashion, by watching E.T. The Extraterrestrial for her movie course. The study guide  highlighted parallels with both Peter Pan and the story of Jesus's resurrection, which was serendipitous since we watched it the day before Good Friday, and I hadn't preread the guide so didn't know what the focus for the movie would be.

There was also a driving lesson for Miss 16 with the instructor we used for my older three. As expected she liked him, and he agrees with me that she is ready to sit and pass the test. Now we just have to wait until she's had her current licence for six months, then we can book her test for the next stage.

We also went on a mid week ramble with our birding group while Miss 16 and I hope to fit in a short trip ourselves this weekend.


7:45am on Good Friday and the first batch of Hot Cross Buns was ready to go.

Apart from too many hot cross buns and too much chocolate the weekend will also feature a photo shoot for Miss 16. I suspect that sounds more glamorous than it will be in reality. A group of young birders is being featured in an upcoming book and the photos are for that. I don't think she's looking forward to it since she doesn't like having her photo taken.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up .

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Classics Club 46: O Pioneers!

The last two classics that I've reviewed - The Dollmaker and The Good Earth - have both featured the relationship between the main character and the earth as a key theme. Willa Cather's O Pioneers! continues this trend. It is the story of one family's survival on the Nebraska prairies.  The Bergsons are Swedish migrants trying to make a go of it in the harsh environment. After years of hard work the family is debt free but barely surviving and many of their neighbours are giving up and leaving for the city. Then John, the father dies, and leaves his daughter not his wife or one of his sons in charge. 

Alexandra is determined to remain on the land.She notices that the big investors are not selling up, but rather buying more land. She convinces her family to do the same and expand their property.  She's not afraid of being unconventional in other ways, investigating and replicating where it seems sensible farming methods used in more prosperous areas.

Sixteen years pass and the family is prospering. Alexandra's brothers farm land of their own but continue to resent her success and remain suspicious of her new ideas. She sends Emil, the youngest brother, to college since she recognizes that farming is hard work and is trying to ensure a better and easier future for him. For all her success Alexandra remains lonely. A doomed attraction between Emil and her neighbour Marie costs Alexandra both of them, and her love Carl cannot find success on the prairie and leaves. While he later returns and she agrees to marry him and go with him to Alaska, it is clear her heart is with the land and she imagines returning in a year. Whether she will be able to retain her links to the land and her love with Carl remains unanswered.

While I was able to appreciate both the plot and the writing style, for some reason this novel didn't touch me, resonate with me or remain with me the way some of the other classics have. I certainly didn't dislike it, but I'm unlikely to reread it or recommend it to others. But don't let me out you off. My reaction probably says more about me that it does about the book. O Pioneers! is a relatively, short and easy read, so if the plot synopsis appeals to you it would be worth reading and forming your own judgment.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Week Ending 9 April 2017

Just a few highlights and points of interest this week.

* Mr 24 departed for his new job overseas. It'll be a big change for him (his new city has a population roughly the same as our entire country) and us (although he hasn't lived at home for a few years he's lived close by so we've still seen him a fair bit.) His move has an unexpected upside for Miss 22. Since he isn't sure how long he'll be away he opted not to sell his car and has temporarily gifted it to her.

Miss 22 and Mr 24 checking out his new neighbourhood thanks to the wonders of Google Maps.


* Miss 16 and I went birding at the same lake we visited last week. It's like a completely different place. We've had a large amount of rainfall early in the week so the lake edge was greening up and full of pools and ponds.  Last week it was all mud and really dry except right at the waters edge. Lots of birds but no Arctic waders. We're guessing they've left on the long flight north.  Or else they've moved to a different part of the lake.


There were lots of new pools at the lake that we needed to wade through. Not a great way to  discover that our boots had developed holes!

* I somehow managed to finish Nicholas Nickleby in a week. I read whenever I got the chance and increased my available book time by listening to an audio version when I was cooking dinner, doing other quiet chores or simply needed to give my eyes a rest from the small print.

* Our birding group was involved in a Bioblitz - a mostly educational event to see how many species could be identified in a smallish reserve in a 24 hour period. Lots of talks and hands-on activities - a good community event.



* Homeschooling continued as normal with just two exceptions.  Miss 16 finished Carry On Mr Bowditch and has begun a focus on short stories. First up was Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party. A few weeks ago Miss 16 finished an essay and although it wasn't bad I wasn't really satisfied with it, yet struggled to convey to her what I thought the issues were and how it could be improved. After mulling it over (and making a few frustrating false starts) I finally found success this week by reversing our roles! I made a copy of her essay and then rewrote it myself, mostly just reorganizing a few things and changing a word here and there . I was trying to make it an improved version of her essay rather than my essay.Then I had her read both my version and hers to identify three to five changes that I'd made and to say why she thought I'd made them. It seemed to work well.

* Miss 16 spend a day judging at a trampoline competition. She's aiming to resume competion herself next month.  Apparently a whole days judging is really tiring (normally she can only judge for half a day because she then has to compete herself) but she's now completed all her required judging hours for this level and can enroll in the next level course when it's held later in the year.


Miss 16 on a judging panel.

* Miss 16 is rethinking her university choices, partly because of the extra costs involved in living away from home, and also because she's not sure she could survive a year eating cafeteria food at the student accommodation! Food was the one negative of her brief university experience in January. We'll investigate some other options. Our last year of homeschooling will have to look very different depending on which university she plans to attend so I hope she can make a decision. Such a shame the local university isn't as good as any other for her purposes, the way it was for her siblings.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Classics Club 45: The Dollmaker

This is a little known gem  by Harriette Arnow which in my opinion should be heralded as a modern American classic. It was included in The Classic Club's The Big Book List yet currently there is no members review of it. Mine will be the first. And that is a pity because this novel really deserves to be widely known.

We first meet Gertie Nevels in an arresting first scene. She sits astride a mule in the middle of a highway, forcing a car to stop. Her baby requires urgent medical attention and she has no way of quickly getting to a doctor. Her strength of personality and dogged persistence convinces the reluctant driver - a military official no less - to take her. But not before she herself performs an emergency tracheotomy on her son to save his life.

Life for Gertie, her husband Clovis and their five children is not easy in rural Kentucky. Everyone is poor. But Gertie is strong, capable and respected , and she has plans for buying their own land which will allow the family to improve their lot. Just when she thinks she has achieved this dream it is snatched away from her as she and the children are forced to join Clovis in Detroit, where he has taken a factory job supporting the war effort.

Life in Detroit is harsh and brutal in many ways. Factory work is hard and often dangerous.The family rents a cheap, poorly constructed house in an overcrowded estate. Wages never go far enough and life in the city requires more expenditure - such as the fridge which doesn't seem to work as it should. The family is forced to buy things on credit and is often is debt. Neighbours and workmates are often in conflict. Religion (Catholic versus anti-Catholic feeling is highlighted) and ethnicity or place of origin (Gertie's family are disparagingly called hillbillies) are just some causes for discord. There is also police corruption and the power of the union to contend with, not to mention the demands of the bosses. People's individuality and humanity must play second fiddle to the needs of the industrial workforce and the consumer based society.

Gertie struggles in this alien environment. She misses the land, doesn't understand how this new urban environment works and isn't sure how she is supposed to behave. She is rendered powerless and not worthy of respect. Slowly she loses everything she values. First Reuben, then Cassie and finally, most poignantly of all, her art. For Gertie is a talented whittler. Yet this is a society that doesn't really have a place for individual, hand crafted items. In an effort to be helpful and ensure his family's survival Clovis forces her to mechanize and standardize, effectively creating a production line in the family home. All joy and satisfaction from the process of whittling is lost to Gertie. She eventually sacrifices a special piece of wood that she has been slowly creating a masterful sculpture from, chopping it up so she can use the wood to mass produced dolls.What happens to Gertie's whittling reflects and mirrors what is happening in the wider society. 

The Dollmaker is not an easy read. The rural Kentucky dialect can be tricky to decipher, many scenes are confronting and the Detroit setting is unrelenringly grim. Yet the effort is worth it. Joyce Carol Oates summed it up well , calling it a "brutal, brillant novel" that "has a permanent effect upon the reader". If you haven't already read it you should. 

Week Ending 2 April 2017

I can't believe it's April already and that the year is already 1/4 over. April looks like being a busy month for us but there were only a few noteworthy events this week.

* We finally received word that our accommodation costs will be covered when we have to move out of our home while the inadequate earthquake repairs are fixed. The application went in in November and the repairs were supposed to have been completed by now but the decision regarding accommodation was a long time coming. Now we just have to find somewhere suitable in the budget that's stipulated, and hopefully this long running saga (the first of the large quakes was September 2010) will be over - for us at least.

* Miss 16 and I made two very productive birding trips to a local lake. We weren't expecting much but were surprised to discover some migratory waders that had not yet left on their journey back to the Northern Hemisphere. We saw one bird, a sandpiper, that we struggled to identify. Some research at home had us pretty certain but Miss 16 wanted to try and find it again just to be sure - hence the return trip. No luck relocating our mystery sandpiper but we did spot several others birds of note, including another sandpiper species. That let us confirm our identification of our first bird since it clearly wasn't the same species as this one. We were especially delighted to find a small group of Pacific Golden Plovers moulting into their breeding plumage. Spotting them was one of our birding goals for the year. They look like a totally different species from the birds we saw early in the summer in their dull non-breeding plumage.

Pacific Golden Plover. Left is as they looked in November. Right is as they look now.

Apart from Pacific Golden Plover the other two best birds were Lesser Knots (we hadn't seen any so far this season) and Curlew Sandpipers (our mystery bird)
Miss 16 hard at work. Without her scope the birds would just look like dots in the distance. The white dots are actually a flock of about 240 Wrybill. They are an endemic with a distinctive bill that bends to the right. They breed only in the South Island but most spend winter in the North Island. These ones are gathering at the lake prior to travelling.
Pied Stilts were the most common wader. This is a juvenile on the left and an adult on the right.


* Speaking of birding, we attended the monthly meeting of our local birding group. It was the AGM and I somehow found myself elected to the main leadership position. Actually I knew the nomination was coming but was hoping I could find a way out since I'm not sure I've got the right skill set for the role. Now that I've been elected I guess I'll find out! After the AGM there was an interesting talk about birds, wildlife and evolution on the Galapagos Islands plus an update on one of our endangered bird species. Not good news unfortunately.

* Miss 16 has been extra busy at the gym this week since she agreed to cover classes for a couple of coaches who were snowed under with exams and assignments for university. She also had a health and safety meeting to attend. The good news is she'll be less busy gymwise for the next few weeks since the recreation programme is on a break until May.

*Another week, another tradesman needed. A light bulb blew in one room. No big deal. But then we discovered the lights were out in more than half the house. A check of the fuse box didn't reveal any quick fix so luckily an electrician was able to visit later in the day. A faulty light fitting and a wiring problem were to blame. So we need to decide what sort of new light fitting to get. We've never liked the faulty one anyway and will probably replace the other two of that type at the same time.

* Nothing significant homeschooling wise. We moved on to Stewart English for grammar but everything else is just continuing smoothly and steadily. Not a bad state of affairs at all.

* I continued to make good progress with my various reading challenges during March. I completed a total of twelve books. One counted for the Back to the Classics Challenge, five for the Modern Mrs Darcy challenges, and five for Pop Sugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge. I'm not expecting to finish as many books in April since I've just started The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby - all 828 pages worth!

Linking to Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up and Kim's Homeschool Highlights.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Classics Club 44:The Good Earth

Pearl Buck's The Good Earth opens with the marriage of peasant farmer Wang- Lung to O-Lan, a slave girl from the big house nearby. Over the years, and through much hard work their family rises in both wealth and stature. They also suffer many hardships and setbacks along the way. A drought and subsequent famine force them to move south, where it is O-Lan's resourcefulness, knowledge and practicality that allow them to survive and eventually return to their land richer than when they left. Floods, pestilence and political upheaval all negatively impact the family over the years, yet through diligently working the land and living prudently they are able to buy more land from the once powerful House of Hwang whose fortunes are declining. As the family fortunes rise Wang-Lung in particular begins to expect more. He wants his sons to be become scholars, while he himself starts visiting brothels, takes a mistress and turns his back on his loyal, hard-working wife. In one of the novel's most heartbreaking moments he forces O-Lan to give up two pearls, the only things she had ever asked for and which she clearly valued dearly, so he could gift them to his mistress.

Despite this Wang-Lung is not all bad. His obvious love for and care of his disabled daughter is evidence of that. Rather he is a flawed human being, undoubtedly hardened by the hardships life has forced him to endure, trying to improve his lot and that of his family. As his wealth increases he struggles between his love of the land and his desire to be taken seriously and respected as a man of standing in his community. It is when he pursues status at the expense of working the land that he is at his worst. The land is good, not only because it allows the family to survive and thrive but because it enables Wang-Lung to be his best self.

Despite valuing the land and recognizing that it is the key to his wealth and survival, he doesn't always act accordingly. His actions, and more frequently his inactions, in this regard will clearly contribute to the family's eventual fall in fortunes which is foreshadowed at the novel's end when the sons indicate they will sell the land as soon as their father dies.

The Good Earth has been criticized since it is written from the point of view of a Chinese man while actually being written by a white woman. Not being a Chinese man myself it is impossible to say whether or not the representation is accurate. What I will say is that the themes of this novel - such as the power of the earth, man's connection to the earth, the status of women, and the way wealth counters traditional values  - are universal and that it is worth being read by anyone, regardless of their gender or ethnicity. The literary world's powers-that-be agree. The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 while, largely on the strength of this novel, Pearl Buck was awarded the  Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week Ending 26 March 2017

It feels like it has been another uninspired week around here. I'm still slightly under the weather with a cold and the weather has been damp and dreary so I'm sure that's contributing. The other issue I'm dealing with is the realization that the university Miss 16 wants to attend will not even look at her homeschool transcript. Instead she'll have to do a short (one semester) pre-university course which will determine whether or not they will admit her. So part of me feels that what we do or don't do this year doesn't matter. Which is silly since she will still benefit from her education even if the university admissions office doesn't recognize it. So carry on homeschooling we will, even as I struggle to reach prime motivational levels!

Miss 16 started reading Carry On Mr Bowditch for literature. For some reason we never got to it when she was younger so I put it on a list of possibilities for this year. We watched and discussed To Kill a Mockingbird for her movies course and now she wants to reread the novel - after she finishes Emma, the rereading of which was also inspired by watching it for her movies course. This week she finished the first of her two grammar books - another thing I meant to tackle a year or two ago but somehow missed. Still it's never too late and we were able to whip through it pretty quickly. We tackled regression lines in statistics, a quick and simple process thanks to a new spreadsheet package Mr 19 found and installed for us. Good technology definitely makes a difference.



The highlight of Miss 16's week came on Monday. The local university was hosting a group of dogs. The opportunity to pet them was designed as therapy for stressed students I think since mid-term exams have just started! So she decided to masquerade as a university student and met up with     Miss 22 on campus to indulge in a little canine therapy! Then they went to a local cafe and shared a couple of delicious looking shakes. While she was otherwise occupied I finished The Dollmaker, a little-known gem that should be an American classic and was definitely the highlight of my reading week.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week Ending 19 March 2017

Monday was a cold and wet day. I spent the first part of the morning at the out of town university while Dh taught his class.  Then it was home to help Miss 16 with statistics.There were no technological hiccups this week so it went quickly. Given the weather it was a good day to snuggle up and watch a movie - Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window for her Movies as Literature course. Mr 24 and his girlfriend came to dinner. It's the first time we've met her, in fact the first time we've had any girlfriends/boyfriends to dinner. It doesn't seem that long ago that Dh and I were introducing each other to our parents.  Funny to be on the other side of the equation. Dinner was also a chance to celebrate Mr 24 receiving a job offer in his chosen field. He's been looking since he finished his PhD last year so it's great he finally has something. The one downside is that it's overseas. Thankfully a short plane ride, rather than a long one though. And I've long since reconciled myself to that fact that my four will likely end up widely scattered.

Tuesday was also cold and wet. We were supposed to go birding but the trip was canceled.  I've got a bit of  cold so I wasn't too disappointed. Instead we stayed at home and did some bookwork. It felt like the day dragged but that was probably just the cold. We started some poetry for literature using Sound and Sense and also watched a video on birding in eastern Europe  since we didn't get out ourselves. Miss 16 of course headed to the gym in the late afternoon.  Just one class to coach today before she started training. The day's highlight was receiving notification that there had been a cancellation for next month's teen birding camp and since Miss 16 was first on the waiting list she now gets to go.

The weather on Wednesday and Thursday was much better but we didn't really do a lot with it. Both days were just routine "homeschool then trampoline" days. Nothing out of the ordinary homeschool-wise except for history. I was pleased to discover back issues of our country's top academic history journal are available online. So I found an article relating to this week' topic and had Miss 16 summarise and analyse it. Our washing machine stopped working on Wednesday. Luckily I was able to get someone out the following day and it was a fairly quick and inexpensive repair.  The machine is more than 20 years old so I'm aware it is probably on borrowed time.


This week I finished The Dollmaker and started The House Without Windows. Highly recommend The Dollmaker to anyone who hasn't read it. It isn't an easy read but it is worth the effort.

On Friday Miss 16 and I were going to go birding while Dh was at the out-of-town university. But he was still feeling miserable due to a heavy cold so decided he give his lecture but postpone office hours meaning there wouldn't be enough time to make birding worthwhile. So she knocked off some schoolwork in the morning and then we drove across town to try and track down a rare bird that has been seen in vicinity. Despite looking in all the likely places we came home empty handed again.

Saturday was the monthly field trip with our local birding group. We were guided through a remote patch of native bush. It was a pretty challenging walk - no tracks, and steep slippery terrain but the bush was lovely and there was probably the greatest number of native birds I've seen in one small place. Not a huge variety of species but large numbers of the species that were present. As the bush is allowed to regenerate further hopefully more species will move into the area. We arrived home to the news that Miss 22's best friend had just got engaged and had already booked Miss 22 in for chief bridesmaid duties. Yet another sign my kids are growing up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Classics Club 43: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

I didn't intend to read anymore Shakespeare for my Classics Club Challenge, but then the local theater company staged The Two Gentlemen of Verona this summer and traditionally we've always read the play before attending annual outdoor  Shakespeare. And so it was that I came to read (and listen since Miss 16 and I read along while listening to an audio version) this early, lesser known comedy.It also works nicely as my "Classic with a number in the title" for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge.

The plot begins simply enough. Proteus and Valentine are friends from Verona. Valentine decides to leave for Milan in order to see the world, while Proteus wants to stay, because that's where his love Julia is. However, as no one familiar with Shakespeare comedies will be surprised to learn, complications soon abound.  Proteus's father decides to send  him to Milan anyway, Valentine falls in love with Silvia whose father wants her to marry Thurio,  Proteus also falls in love with Silvia, Julia follows Proteus, disguises herself as a page and discovers his treachery, Valentine is banished but falls in with a gang of outlaws, and so it goes. But everyone ends up happy and reconciled in the end.

Admittedly this is not Shakespeare's strongest work and it does not contain any meaningful lessons about the dangers of unbridled ambition or revenge. Yet it was enjoyable in a lighthearted way and contained many elements which I think of as quintessentially Shakespeare The fast-paced witty dialogue from minor characters like Lance and Speed was repeated in many later plays. Mistaken identities as when Proteus did not recognise Julia are also a feature of many later plays. This was Shakespeare's first play to include song, and it was obviously popular since he included songs in many of his later plays. The theme of parents attempting to control their children's love lives was returned to in Romeo and Juliet for instance , and that play also featured a friar's cell, a device tried earlier but in a more limited way in The Two Gentlemen. Viola in Twelfth Night disguised herself as a page just like Julia did here, while the scene where Julia discusses her beaus with her servant Lucetta a is very similar to a discussion between Nerissa and Portia in The Merchant of Venice. In other words while the play itself was not his strongest many of the elements in it were so successful that Shakespeare used them again in later plays.

The ending of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is often criticized for being forced, weak, too quick and unconvincing. Certainly, Shakespeare had the lovers seemingly happily partnered up in just a few short lines and I wanted to yell at some of the characters  ("Valentine, if you love Silvia don't give her up to Proteus. Women aren't possession to be given away anyway and since he tried to steal her from you he isn't a worthy friend." "Silvia and Julia, look at the behavior of these guys and ask yourselves if you really want to be with them."). However, in context, the ending doesn't seem unduly rushed or unbelievable. Romeo for instance was deeply in love with Rosalind but a short time later could think of none but Juliet.

If you are looking to find Shakespeare at his finest this isn't the play for you. But if you are familiar with his work,  open to something light and are interested to see how his style developed then The Two Gentlemen of Verona would be a good choice.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Week Ending 12 March 2017

Earlier this year I worried we were too busy with the extra-curricular, fun stuff and maybe not spending enough time on academics. Now it feels like we are not doing a lot except for academics. And that doesn't make for a very interesting blog post. Nonetheless here are a few brief highlights and lowlights  from our week.

* I have a new tablet. Apparently mine was not economic to repair and luckily it was still under warranty.So the store gave me a credit and Mr 19 went and bought me a new one, since he knows more about what I want and need technology-wise than I do. My life  - barring the odd hiccup which seems inevitable when there is new technology - is now running much more smoothly!

*Miss 16 learnt about early Europeans in New Zealand, especially the sealers and whalers. We are now up to a period in history that is taught in high school so I've been able to find plenty of supplementary resources from the education section at the university library, conveniently a mere block away from home.  This week she analyzed primary sources plus tackled some questions from a high school text book.

*There was a big trampoline competition this weekend. Miss 16 wants to compete in the international section this year but her new set routine is not yet ready to compete. So she sat this one out but did judge one day instead. She's nearly completed all her required hours at the elementary level, so will be ready to move up the junior judging level later this year. Hopefully her new routine will be ready so she can compete at the next competition in April.

Judging paraphernalia. A score sheet and her logbook. Competitors start with a perfect 10 and deductions are made for each of their 10 moves which leads to the final score.

*Miss 16 wrote two articles for the next edition of the young birders magazine, plus wrote her new profile for their updated website.  She also started answering a questionnaire for a book that will include a profile on the young birders group. The book was meant to be published before Christmas last year, but the publication schedule has obviously changed.

* I got a lot of reading done last week, courtesy of waiting in the car while Dh teaches his class at the out of town university. I really enjoyed Pachinko, This is How it Always is and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. After watching the movie Emma and writing an essay about it, Miss 16 is now rereading the novel in her spare time.  

* Statistics caused us a few technical headaches this week and we could not get our computer programme to create normal quantile graphs exactly like those in the curriculum. However, the stated goal was more to know how to interpret the graphs than how to create them so I'm happy(ish) to let it go and move on. If Miss 16 has to create these in her future I trust she'll have access to better software and better instructions than we have at the moment.

*Miss 16 had the last of her free driving lessons. She didn't totally love the instructor and she didn't like his car at all. So I think I'll just continue to teach her myself (I'm pretty sure I'm a lot better instructor the fourth time around) and just get her one lesson with the instructor we used with the older three kids before she takes the test.  The other three all loved him and he is happy to use our car. It's much easier to pass the test if you are familiar with the route they use plus are primed inexactly what htey want in terms of hazard identification etc (talk about teachign to the test) and he is (he's also a senior tester as well as an instructor) so it'll be money well spent. The one downside is he is hard to get hold of so I'd better start trying to contact him this week.

* I published a Day in the Life post this week, for anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of our day to day.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Day in our Homeschool Life

6:50 am - The radio clicks on and I lie in bed, struggling to keep my eyes open. Surely it isn't time to get up already.

7:10 am - I  listen to the news then finally drag myself out of bed, empty the dishwasher, eat breakfast, quickly check emails and then go and start the exercises the physio has given me to try and keep my vestibular system from malfunctioning too badly. Only Dh is up yet and he isn't feeling anymore awake that I am!

8:00 am - Mr 19 is out of bed. I ask if he has a 9 o'clock class and he flicks me  a knowing grin. There is no way he would be out of bed this early if he didn't! We hardly saw each other yesterday since he was still in bed when I left the house and was gone by the time I returned . He didn't get in until after midnight by which time I was asleep.  So we chatted about the latest happenings at work, how the board game evening he attended  went, and he vented about his least favourite university course (the lecturer's teaching style does not mesh well with his preferred learning style). Miss 16 is also up and is busy grilling herself some stonefruit for breakfast.

8:30 am - Miss 22 is out of the shower so I say a quick good morning and then claim the shower for myself. Once I emerge I soak some laundry, chat with Miss 16 as she tells me about our cat's behaviour and how it ties in with the concept of single stimulus learning which she read about in her animal behaviour course yesterday. I also chat with Miss 22 about her plans - turns out she has two health psychology labs to teach today. She only started this teaching assistant job last week and I'm still learning her schedule.Then I get very domesticated and even do some ironing.



Miss 16 has just started using her whiteboard to keep track of her week's work. She likes the visual reminder.

9 am - I settle down to read today's entry from The Harvard Classics in a Year which both Miss 16 and I are reading. As I'm finishing up Miss 16 appears from her room to tell me she's finished with her vocabulary and wonders if I'm free to do grammar with her. We do this orally and it only takes 5 minutes or so. (Confession - I planned to do this with her a few years ago but forgot so we are whizzing through it now as a quick review.) Today is a review of phrases using sentences from Tolkien. She then moves on to statistics and I stay close by since she likes me to check her answers as she goes, rather than risk misunderstanding something and getting the entire problem set wrong.Today she understands the concept perfectly but we experience a few technical issues since we don't have the spreadsheet package the course provides instructions for. Still, she tinkers around and makes good progress.


Statistics. Not a favourite but it will be useful for her at university and beyond since she's planning a career in zoology/ornithology.

10 am. I head off to clean the bathroom and laundry while she settles down to read Huckleberry Finn, her current choice for literature. Fitting housework into the day is much easier than it was when I was homeschooling four younger kids.

11 am - Miss 16 takes a break from Huck Finn to bake some banana muffins. She's at the gym four days a week from 3:30 or 4:30 until 9 pm so needs a snack while there. We always struggle with ideas (I joke the reason we homeschool is because I could never come up with packed lunch she'd need for school!) so I'm glad she has a plan - for this week at least. I settle down to type up a letter of support for an acquaintance whose ex-husband is challenging her right to homeschool. They go to court next week and she needs letters testifying to her competency that she can show the court.

12 noon - A changing of the guard as Mr 19 returns home from university, just as Miss 22 is leaving to head there. Miss 16 makes lunch - soup along with cheese on toast since it is unseasonably chilly today - and then the two of us watch a video about birding in China.

Miss 16 is a keen birder. Watching a video isn't as good as being in the field but since we aren't likely to get to China any time soon it was a pretty good substitute.


1:30 pm - Video over, Miss 16 returns to Huck Finn and I start preparing and par cooking  beetroot risotto for tonight's dinner. Mr 19 and Dh head to university. Dh has been working at home this morning. Once she's finished the novel Miss 16 resumes work on an essay about the movie Emma which she started yesterday. Once I'm finished with the risotto I handwash a load of dishes .


History reading

2:30 pm  - Miss 16 has finished her essay and has moved on to reading this week's chapter from her history book. I hop on the exercycle while listening to a podcast. I'd rather walk but the rain puts me off.

3 pm - We watch a quick crash course video on Huck Finn and then she goes off to write a summary of the history chapter.


This Crash Course video was a good, quick once over of some of the themes and issues in Huckleberry Finn.

3:30 pm - Miss 16 starts getting ready for the gym . I read.

4pm - Time to head to the gym. She drives there and reminds me to stop at the supermarket on the way back since we are out of bread and milk. We're always out of bread and milk! In three months time, assuming she passes the test, she'll be able to drive without supervision. My life will feel strange without several trips to the gym each week. It's been a staple of my life for at least six years now.

4:30 pm  - I'm back home and ,while I'm sure there are plenty of things I should be doing, I opt to sit down and finish my book, Laurie Frankel's This is How it Always Is. It's definitely thought provoking.

5:30pm - Miss 22 arrives home and after checking how her two labs went I let her know I'll be able to pass the book on to her in  a mere 28 pages. She's been keen to read it once I finish.

6:00pm -  Miss 22 and I eat dinner, Mr 19 arrives home and finds some leftovers in the fridge. He isn't a fan of risotto. I check emails and catch up with the day's news,

7:45pm - I decide to squeeze some yoga in now. I like the videos from Yoga with Adriene.

8:45 pm - I head back to the gym to collect Miss 16, after first having a quick chat to Dh who arrived home while I was practising yoga. I grab a book - Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk -  so I can read if she is late out.

9:20 pm - We arrive home. Miss 16 drove and we chatted about the class she taught, how her training went and other trampoline related matters. She grabs her dinner, watches something with Dh, checks in with social media and takes a shower before bed. She'll probably read in bed before trying to sleep. I'm glad we homeschool so she doesn't have to get up at 6 or 6:30 am for school tomorrow.  I take my book and head straight to bed where I'll read for half an hour or so before lights out. I also remember to flick a text to Mr 24 checking some details about when he and his girlfriend and coming to lunch and any dietary restrictions she has. I'd hate to cook something she can't eat!

All in all a pretty good day. A  fair amount of academic work got done but  there was lots of home as well as school and we still had plenty of margin in our day - just as I like it.

It's interesting to see how my days have changed over the years. Here's one from 2016 , one from 2015, one from 2014,  another from earlier in  2014, and lastly one from 2013, my first year blogging.

Linking to A Homeschool Day in the Life

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fortnight Ending 5 March 2017

Some random happenings from the past fortnight.

* My tablet refused to charge anymore so it is away being repaired. Hence no blog post last week, since I'm having to use the old desktop (when Miss 16 isn't using it that is) and it and my vestibular system do not agree, so I try to use it as little as possible. It is alarming how much I used my tablet - paying bills, reading newspapers, accessing the answer keys to Miss 16's statistics, checking emails, reading blogs, listening to music, practising yoga, studying via MOOCs, reading books via Kindle or the Overdrive app, looking up all sorts of random questions, ordering library books, keeping up with the birding world etc etc. I hope it is repairable and in a speedy fashion!

* Dh has taken on a new short term job, teaching a semester long course at the out-of-town university Miss 16 took an ecology course at last year. This is good because we can surely use the extra income but of course it comes at a cost. Since Dh has a health condition which prevents him driving I'll be driving him there, waiting while he teaches and then driving him back. It'll be 2 1/2- 3 1/2 hours out of my day 3 time per week. Luckily the university is in a nice area in which to walk, I'm happy reading in the car and Miss 16 can do most of her work without me. Still the new normal will take a little getting used to.

* We arranged a day-long visit from our favourite dog. New readers may not know that we took him in while his owner's house was being rebuilt following the earthquakes and they couldn't find a temporary rental which would allow pets. He was meant to be with us for six months but the rebuild ended up dragging on for nearly two years. Basil the Boxer became a much loved family member and Miss 22 hadn't seen him since her return. He was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after he returned to his family and has now exceeded the vet's estimated life expectancy. Whenever we have him over we make the most of it since we're very aware we may not get a chance to see him again. Consequently most of the day's homeschooling was replaced with "canine studies"!




* Speaking of homeschooling Miss 16 has been making steady progress in all her courses. She's reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for literature. Last week we watched a couple of short videos summarising and analysing the novel - one from Crash Course and one from Thug Notes (this one definitely won't be to everyone's taste but I like shaking things up a bit and exposing her to different ways of doing things). We watched Emma for her movies course and she has begun an essay looking at the ways Emma could be considered clueless - Clueless is a modern retelling of Emma. In statistics we've reached new material so have slowed down to one lesson per week. Last week she was looking at normal curves and the real-world context they used to introduce the topic was bird migration data - definitely a way to grab Miss 16's attention. In history the Europeans have just arrived in New Zealand, while in animal behaviour she has been learning about proximate causes.

A sure sign of late summer - plenty of Monarch butterflies are emerging from their chrysalises.

* At the end of February I took a moment to check in on my reading goals for the year. So far I've read a total of thirty six books and I'm well on my way to completing the three reading challenges I'm participating in - 4/12 for the Back to the Classics Challenge (although I'm shamefully behind blogging about these books ...again), 26/52 for Pop Sugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge and 13/24 for Modern Mrs Darcy's twin challenges. I allow myself to use a single book for more than one challenge, for instance The Two Gentlemen of Verona counted for Modern Mrs Darcy's "a book of poetry, a play or an essay collection",  Pop Sugar's audiobook category, and  as a classic with a number in the title. I suspect the number of completed titles will slow down soon - I've got some lengthy classics to tackle and several of the remaining categories are ones I'm not really looking forward to  - a book with career advice springs to mind, although that could be useful as with Miss 16's homeschooling days racing to their conclusion it will soon be time for me to reenter the paid workforce.

* We were supposed to have moved out of our house for earthquake re-repairs this week except the agency that will have to pay for our alternative accommodation (since they were the agency that authorised the initial, faulty repairs) has not yet approved that funding. No idea when things will happen which is frustrating - should I begin running our pantry down (food can't be stored and we won't have much pantry space in our temporary unit) or should I not bother since the repairs might not even happen this year? We've been waiting for over 5 years already so I figure things could easily drag on for a few more years yet.

* Miss 16 and I went on a relaxed birding trip yesterday. We had no real goals, just thought we would check out a few local sites. We ended up spotting two new birds for the year (a White Heron and a Little Black Shag) which was a pleasant surprise. Earlier in the week we attended an evening meeting for our local birding group. We also watched a video about birding in Texas - so many more birds than we can hope to see here. Oh for an unlimited travel budget!


A Pukeko and  a hybridized duck were two of the many birds we saw .

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Week Ending 19 February 2017

If I were giving out prizes for the highlights of our week, second place would go to the smaller grey bird in the back.



He's a Marsh Sandpiper and was first reported last weekend. On Tuesday I suggested that Miss 16 plow through her work in the morning so we would have time to find him in the afternoon before she had to go to work. She convinced me to go in the morning since the light is better then and the wind can get up in the afternoon, making small birds harder to spot. So we spent the morning searching likely sites along the edge of the lake. After several unsuccessful searches we thought we were going to have to leave empty-handed so-to-speak, but we finally found him on what would have been out second to last stop. Miss 16 has seen this species a couple of time before when she's attended bird camps in the North Island, but it's been 7 or 8 years since one was last recorded in our part of the country so this was my first view.

We'd just arrived home from this expedition, literally 10 minutes in the door, when Miss 16 came rushing excitedly up, announcing that a crested penguin had just been seen - as in less than an hour ago - on a beach 40 minutes north of home. Time was tight since she had to be at work later that afternoon but we figured we could make it, so we skipped lunch, ran back to the car and quickly headed north. We spent an hour scouring the beach but couldn't find a penguin anywhere. Turns out he'd been moved to the rehabilitators less than an hour after arriving at the beach. We'd also just missed seeing another crested penguin during our trip south last month. That bird kept going onto the road so was moved to a remote, undisclosed location for his own safety. Clearly we weren't the luckiest penguin spotters.

So, after all that, it is no surprise that the real highlight of this week - definitely the first prize winner - was this guy.



He's an Erect Crested Penguin and they breed on remote offshore islands, so our chances of seeing one were slim. However, this guy conveniently came ashore on the mainland to moult (and yes, the piles of white around him are his moulted feathers) so Miss 16 convinced me to take a road trip. She managed to find someone to cover her class on Friday giving us time to make the six hour round trip. The roads were rough in places, with several  diversions and places where the road was down to one lane - a large earthquake in November caused a lot of infrastructure damage and the town we visited was isolated for a week or two before road access could be partly restored. The road to the north is still blocked and the one to the south that we used is only open during daylight hours and can be closed as a result of  heavy rain or larger aftershocks. Thankfully neither happened while we were there. The trip was also notable for the flat tire we got, the second in as many weeks. Thank goodness for the AA. Still all the hassles were worth it as Miss 16 was so pleased to finally get her eyes on a crested penguin. Luckily we went when we did since his moult is nearly finished - just a small patch of his older feathers remain - and he'll soon return to sea.



On our trip back from penguin spotting, and after our flat tire had been changed, we took a quick diversion to an area where Indian Peafowl can sometimes be found. We couldn't immediately see any and were about to give up (Miss 16 didn't want to miss training so we didn't have a lot of time to spare) when we saw these heads pop up from among a field of cabbages. We were amused as they reminded us of submarine periscopes, just more colourful and ornamental.



On one other day this week, we joined a group of local birders for our monthly mid-week ramble. This time we visited some local ponds and were surprised to discover one, possibly more, pure Grey Duck. Pure Grey Ducks are rare since they have hybridized so much with the more common Mallard Ducks.



One of the items Miss 22 bought back from her travels was a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and we finally got around to divvying them up and trying them out. Apparently earwax, soap, vomit and earthworm taste disgusting. Who would have guessed? I didn't eat anything worse than sausage and black pepper, strange flavours in a jellybean but perfectly palatable. We do feel the need for a Harry Potter reread following the beans though!


Despite all the birding we did actually spend some time at home, engaging in activities that other people would recognise as homeschooling. Miss 16 started The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for literature, completed two grammar lessons and one vocabulary lesson, investigated standard deviation for statistics, rewatched Shane and answered questions from the guide plus viewed Emma for the first time, finished a chapter in her animal behaviour text, and learnt about the life of early Maori in history.



The big news in our city this week has been the bush fires in the hills on the edge of the city - thankfully not close to us. We've just had lots of helicopters and planes going overhead since we're between the airport and the fires and the smoke only reached us once. However some friends were evacuated, some acquaintances lost their house and everything in it and others had a very close call. Thankfully the blazes seem to be contained now, if not yet extinguished.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap Up and Homeschool Highlights




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week Ending 12 February 2017

This goes down as one of those weeks in which we never really got our homeschool groove on. Lots of interruptions and disruptions, not all of them bad, but still.While the week wasn't as productive as it could have been, especially in terms of book work, it did still include lots of good stuff.

Monday was supposed to be an at-home day, one where we would make a good start on this week's formal work. However, late on Sunday night Miss 16 came into my room and asked, "What are we doing tomorrow?" When I replied that we were just staying in and working, she asked if we could go to the sewage ponds instead. What? Your children never randomly request a trip to your local sewage ponds - not even as a way to get out of planned homeschooling? As regular readers may have guessed Miss 16's reason was bird related. She'd just read an online report that an extremely rare bird had been briefly sighted at our local ponds. So, of course, that's where we went . We spent a couple of hours scanning the ponds from the road and checking out other likely spots nearby. Just as we were about to head home one of the park rangers, the guy who reported seeing the bird, arrived and gave us permission to climb the fence. (For obvious reasons the public doesn't have free access to the sewage ponds!). One of his colleagues was already there so the four of us stationed ourselves at different parts of the most likely pond and we spent another hour peering through our binoculars. Sadly, still no joy. We decided to call it quits then and head home to get some book work done. An update at night revealed that nobody had managed to  find the bird but it has been seen since. I foresee another trip to the sewage ponds in our future!

Tuesday started with a driving lesson for Miss 16. The instructor says her driving is great but she has to check her mirrors more frequently. Statistics caused a couple of headaches today. One wrong answer in the solution manual was easily dealt with, but Miss 16 didn't understand how to do one thing and it wasn't  covered in the video. A little searching revealed where the missing instruction was to be found. At least we'll know where to look if we run in to similar problems in future lessons but it did suck up a bit of time. Then Miss 16 received an email from the editor of the national birding magazine advising that the regional columns, of which she writes one, were due in just 3 days. The previous editor used to give 10-14 days notice. So she needed to get started on that straight away. And then she received a text asking if she would permanently take on coaching two extra classes at the gym. This was a big decision with many variables to weigh up so we spent an hour or so tossing the pros and cons back and forward. In the end she decided to take the extra classes. Hopefully  it won't prove too much, but if it does she can always cut back her hours next term.

Wednesday could have been a productive at-home day but Miss 22 had to go shopping ... and Miss 16 needed some new clothes ... and shopping with a sister is much more enjoyable than shopping with a mother (especially one who hates shopping with a passion) ... and the two of them have missed spending time together while Miss 22 has been in Europe... so Miss 16 spent most of the day at the mall with her sister. And when she wasn't at the mall she was coaching and training. And when she wasn't doing that she was sleeping. So no bookwork at all.

Thursday was - thankfully - a much more productive day,  helped no doubt by the fact that Miss 16 didn't have to leave the house until 5:40pm. She was only training, not coaching. The new coaching hours that she agreed to take on are on a Thursday, but she said she couldn't start until next week. It's amazing how much work can be got through with determination and no interruptions. Only a couple of points of interest. She managed to get through two day's worth of statistics, although I helped by pruning the number of questions she needed to answer since the lesson was on the statistics concept she is probably most familiar with. And, since we've finished reading and listening to The Two Gentlemen of Verona we tackled some of the questions from Shakespeare Online. Since this is one of his lesser known plays I had a hard job finding many suitable resources to use in our study.

Friday was a great day, although no bookwork was involved. Instead we visited a local wildlife park where Miss 16 observed the Keas, a mountain parrot endemic to New Zealand, and completed a variety of different ethograms to record their behaviour. We used this assignment as the basis of our work. We had hoped to complete this last year as part of her Ornithology course but my health problems prevented us making the visit. So it was great to finally get there and the assignment works well with  this year's Animal Behaviour course. The Keas are housed in a walk- through aviary and we spent over four hours there. Some of them were as interested in observing us as we were in observing them - much to Miss 16's delight. Perhaps the most curious of all was a Kea known as Katie who has a deformed beak, but was still well able to explore all sorts of novelties with it!






Saturday morning was an all-bird count at a local lake. This is a big undertaking.  The lake is divided into sections, groups of volunteers are assigned to each section and every.single. bird is counted. In some sections there are several species which number more than a thousand! Miss 16 and I ended up taking the high road. Half our group walked close to the lake edge counting hundreds of waterfowl, while Miss 16 and I zig-zagged back and forth on the vast area of dry, exposed lake bed searching for flocks of waders. We did find a few, but none of the rarer, exciting species we were hoping for. Hopefully the results will be out early next week and we'll get an idea of which sections of the lake are holding the birds we're after.

On Sunday evening Miss 16, Miss 22 and I attended an outdoor performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. There's an outdoor Shakespeare here every summer and Miss 22 and I have been going for about 10 years. Miss 16 joined us four or five years ago. I think the boys both came once or twice each, but they aren't such fans of Shakespeare. These outdoor plays are always enjoyable, without pretensions of being the highest calibre - they are put on by an amateur company. Miss 16 was especially fond of this one since it includes a dog. Forget Sir Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh. As far as Miss 16 is concerned the "actor" who played Crabbe the dog is the finest Shakespearean actor ever!

The ex-homeschoolers who live at home both had busy weeks. Mr 19 sat the final exam for the maths course he's been taking over the summer. He's now on holiday until university proper resumes in a just over a week. He spent one day of his break volunteering at the Coast to Coast race. The race goes across the South Island from the west to east coast and is a mix of running, cycling and kayaking. The elite athletes do it in a day but Mr 19 was helping out at the two day event - marshalling, assembling kayaks and various other jobs. He had a great time and hopes to volunteer there again next year. Miss 22 has also been busy, mainly catching up with all her friends but also starting back at her old job as a checkout supervisor at a local supermarket. I'm glad she's having fun this week since she is about to enrol for a PhD, which should keep her busy for a few years!

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Classics Club 42: Rebecca


Right from the opening line - "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." - I was hooked on this beautifully written novel. Admittedly the plot does have  a certain soap operaish quality to it. The protagonist and narrator is a naive young girl who gets married to a more experienced, wealthier, older man. She's not really fitted for nor comfortable in his world  and he makes no effort to help her make the transition. She's always in the shadow of, and feels haunted by and inferior to  her husband's first wife, the perfect, titular but late Rebecca. Then Rebecca's body is discovered and the truth of her marriage with Mr de Winter is revealed - to our unnamed protagonist, if not to society at large. Despite, or perhaps because of,  this there was plenty in the plot to keep me interested. The delightfully awful snobbish of Mrs van Hopper was a highlight of the early part of the novel. This was followed by gothic spookiness and  the outright evilness of Mrs Danvers, and then suspense, as the real reason for Rebecca's death was revealed and the court process unfolded.

Even though the plot may seem light, not to mention sensational in places, it is meaty enough to give pause for thought and highlights several important life lessons. Our protagonist and her husband, Mr and Mrs de Winter, certainly demonstrate the importance of honesty and communication in a happy marriage. On the return to Manderley they both seem unhappy, and their marriage seems to exist more in name than in substance. However, once he tells her the truth and they start communicating and working together, they are both happier despite the threat that looms over them.  The theme of justice is also explored as the reader is forced to confront the issue of how much and in what way Maxim should be punished for his crime. Rebecca is unusual in that an admitted murderer is not punished by the justice system. One wonders if the Colonel would have been so helpful, so willing to pursue one avenue of inquiry but not others, had the de Winters not been society darlings. Plenty of other class related issues to mull over too.The novel is  also unusual in portraying the cost of an unhappy marriage on the husband, rather than just the wife.

To me though the strength of the novel, and the aspect that contributed most to my enjoyment was the writing style. The lush, detailed descriptions of Manderley really brought that place alive. Sometimes I find detailed description irksome, they seem to interrupt the narrative flow. Not here though. Instead they made me feel as if I was seeing Manderley through my own eyes. And du Maurier is no one-trick pony. Her ability to create spooky suspense and threatening gothic overtones is as strong as her ability to bring beautiful scenery to life. She also has the ability to make me root for our protagonist, despite being supremely irritated by her passiveness - such as her inability or unwillingness to tell her husband how miserable she was feeling and why.

I am counting this as my romance classic for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge.