For 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.
Day 8, The House by the Sea by May Sarton
This journal was my introduction to the work of poet, novelist, and essayist May Sarton. It has been described as her “second act” and is a personal account of her move from her longtime home in inland New Hampshire to a house on the coast of Maine. In this house by the sea, May lives alone—but for her beloved cat Bramble and the first dog May’s ever owned, a puppy named Tamas—in a place described as nothing but endless ocean, woods, and vast skies. The small village is isolated most of the year, and isolation is a theme May addresses here and in much of her work. The journal entries are casual, sometimes rambling, and run the topical spectrum from deep themes of aging, friendship, failure, envy, sexuality, and success, to the everyday annoyances of a racoon that makes regular and noisy visits to her garbage cans at night. May loved to garden and her observances of nature are sometimes meaningful and sometimes matter-of-fact. She reflects upon her life and enjoys visits from friends, but the self-doubt that is never far from her as an artist appears as well. She finds tranquility in her garden and her pets, so much so that she wonders if she will ever write again. Luckily, her passion to create returns and she shares the joy when it does.
Why is The House by the Sea a good read for women? May Sarton was a complex person whose journals are an honest, intimate account of her simple but layered life. It is not pleasant to grow older. It is sad to part from a lover after 15 years. It stings to read a bad review. It is hard to balance giving and taking. It is a struggle to be creative when your work comes from a fragile internal place, but it is also a celebration when a poem or a paragraph works. May Sarton’s journals are brilliant work, and like her poems and novels, show her gratitude for simple pleasures and appreciation of the natural world, while acknowledging that the interior one is fraught with complications.