Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Curling Up with a Good Book
For the past few days, I've been engrossed in engaging new book, A Curious Friendship: The Story of a Bluestocking and a Bright Young Thing. Written by Anna Thomasson, the book recounts the unconventional friendship between writer Edith Olivier, the Victorian bluestocking of the book's subtitle, and the much younger artist, Rex Whistler. Although I am only a quarter of the way into the book (at 463 pages, it is lengthy), the text thus far is delightful. If you have an interest in either Olivier or Whistler, I highly recommend reading this book. By the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the book's dust jacket, which has to be one of the most charming I've seen in some time. The cover art is fitting considering that Rex Whistler was renowned for his whimsical, sometimes fantastical, and always charming paintings and illustrations.
Along with a number of photographs of Olivier and Whistler, the book also features one of Whistler's more well-known paintings, Conversation Piece at the Daye House, which depicts Olivier in the Long Room at her Wiltshire house, Daye House, along with her guests Lady Ottoline Morrell, Lord David Cecil, and Whistler himself. I've long admired this painting because Whistler's evocative painting style, coupled with the room's genteel and relaxed furnishings, captures a setting that is both mannerly (a virtue valued by both Victorian bluestockings and a few of us modern types) and favorable for relaxation. In other words, I find Olivier's Long Room- at least, Whistler's version of it- to be the ideal room in which to curl up with a good book, preferably one as pleasant as A Curious Friendship. (A cozy mystery would work equally as well.)
I spent some time finding examples of other rooms in which I would be quite happy to while away an afternoon or evening with my nose stuck in a good book. Some of the examples are sprightly, while others are a bit more serious, but what they all share is their ability to lure visitors into their clutches, either through deep, rich color or comfortable, nostalgic fabrics. And if you plan to lose yourself in a book, what better way to do so than in rooms designed beautifully for comfort and relaxation?