Afternoon Tea with "The Story Girl"
I'm delighted you could join me today. There is nothing quite like the company of dear kindred spirits, and this afternoon I'm cordially extending an invitation for tea. If you'd care to come in and make yourself quite at home, I'll set the kettle boiling...and there's every promise of a scrumptious treat or two to suit your fancy while we talk of many things... "of shoes, of ships and sealing wax—of cabbages and kings." Now, won't you take a seat? I have a fancy to tell you about two of the most enchanting books I've read this year—L.M. Montgomery's The Story Girl and its sequel, The Golden Road. I think, as a Member of the Race that knows Joseph, you're bound to enjoy it. :)
"Once upon a time we all walked on the golden road. It was a fair highway, through the Land of Lost Delight; shadow and sunshine were blessedly mingled, and every turn and dip revealed a fresh charm and a new loveliness to eager hearts and unspoiled eyes."
Thus opens The Golden Road in a foreword of unrivaled beauty, capturing the incessant childhood joys of the wistful path we once tread in the small years of youthful candor. It was these words that touched my heart and filled me with dear old gladness to know...to remember...what sweet, untouchable glories our child-hearts were open to.
On that road we heard the song of morning stars; we drank in fragrances aerial and sweet as a May mist; we were rich in gossamer fancies and iris hopes; our hearts sought and found the boon of dreams; the years waited beyond and they were very fair; life was a rose-lipped comrade with purple flowers dripping from her fingers.
We may long have left the golden road behind, but its memories are the dearest of our eternal possessions; and those who cherish them as such may haply find a pleasure in the pages of this book, whose people are pilgrims on the golden road of youth.”
That divine sentiment captures the essence of the nostalgic joys to be discovered in the pages of L.M. Montgomery's The Story Girl and The Golden Road. I had the delight of reading both for the first time this year, which was a special treat for me, as I have very few Montgomerys left unread. I didn't know what Sara Stanley and her King cousins would bring me...or the laughter and sweet-souled childhood memories they would invoke.
Sara Stanley, better referred to as "The Story Girl," is a vivid storyteller with an especial gift for captivating all who hear her magnificent tales. The eponymous book and its sequel, which Montgomery believed to be the very best of her books, follows a year in the lives of the King children, their cousins, and the many hilarious scrapes and escapades they face through the seasons on "the golden road" of childhood before they must leave it.
I can well imagine and appreciate why Lucy Maud adored these books so dearly, but more than the many stories and adventures she penned for the King children, there is a beauty to her writing in these ageless pages that is even richer and wonder-filled than anything I've found in her other much-beloved books—which is no light statement! I have always turned to her beauty-enriched descriptions of nature and the imagery she applies to her writing—but there really is something about The Story Girl and the soulful way it's written. Here is just one of the many passages I underlined that spoke such incomparable beauty to me...
The dusk crept into the orchard like a dim, bewitching personality. You could see her—feel her—hear her. She tip-toed softly from tree to tree, ever drawing nearer. Presently her filmy wings hovered over us and through them gleamed the early stars of the autumn night.
Dare I say, her writing in The Golden Road is even superior. While these books never failed to bring me a smile or laughter with the delightful, humorous stories of childhood joys and triumphs, they also filled my heart with a precious beauty that caused me to stop every now and again and sit in wonder over those divinely-crafted passages. I'm reminded of a quote from one of my recent reads, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society— "Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” That's just how I felt after finishing The Golden Road. How could I ever deign to turn to lesser books after knowing such unrivaled joy and beauty within these heartfelt stories? It is no wonder to me why my heart belongs to these timeless books so full of loveliness and light. They have no contemporary rivals.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Story Girl and The Golden Road that sets it apart from other Montgomery books is that it is narrated in first-person—and from the perspective of a young boy. This took me by surprise, being so used to reading about Montgomery's heroines. Bev King tells us the story of he and his brother Felix's adventures in Carlisle with their King cousins—but from a point in the future, when he is looking back upon his childhood through the rosy light of wistful memory. Despite never learning very much about Bev himself, we see rather what he remembered of the other children...and so we come to know The Story Girl, Cecily, Felicity, and Dan rather well—as well as Peter and Sara Ray, who are non-relatives and rather amusing friends of the family themselves. The children all have wonderfully vivid personalities and little joys—and grievances—against each other (being related after all) that are so delightfully real that they remind the grown-up reader with a chuckle what it was to be young, carefree, and mindful of many little inconsequential things that never really mattered a mite.
Felicity's Raspberry Turnovers
Felicity King, who is rather vain and proud, has a passion for cooking, and I had so much fun keeping track of her many meal-plans mentioned throughout the book while I read. I just knew that, as we are presently having our afternoon tea, we might just try having one of Felicity's concoctions for a special treat. :) As such, I have made raspberry turnovers for us to enjoy. Shall I just have a peep in the oven to see if they're ready?
Of all the many baked delights that Felicity reveled in making for her family and friends—from rhubarb tarts to plummy cake and raisin pies—it was her turnovers that were the especial favorites of the King cousins. Jam turnovers, raspberry turnovers, apple turnovers...all year-round, there were mentions of the little hand-pies being engulfed and enjoyed.
"We were eating little jam 'turnovers,' which Felicity had made for us. Felicity's turnovers were perfection. I looked at her and wondered why it was not enough that she should be pretty and capable of making such turnovers. If she were only more interesting!"
I decided to make the most of the glories of fresh-raspberry season, and I do hope you'll enjoy these delightful, sweet pastries. I followed King Arthur's Raspberry Turnovers, and I wouldn't change a thing about this irresistible recipe (albeit I used a gluten-free flour alternative). They look just about ready now—I'll set them on a platter, and do help yourself as I pour out our tea!
My, but they are scrumptious. The perfect addition to a mid-summertime afternoon tea!
I am so happy that you could join me today, and that we could talk so blithely of L.M. Montgomery's delightful and enchanting duology, The Story Girl and The Golden Road. Thank you for taking tea with me, and I sincerely hope to see you stop by again very soon!
Until next time,
Want to follow along on Instagram? You can find me there (@austensandalcotts) to see what I'm reading next, interact with other readers, and hear what's new on the blog. You can also subscribe to the Austens & Alcotts mailing list at the bottom of this post to get a twice-monthly newsletter from me to your inbox, where I share reading updates, shop releases, and more subscriber-only details!