Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #27

Sixpence in Her Shoe by Phyllis McGinley is a book after my own heart. I loved it! In it, McGinley sings the praises of domesticity, and though I didn't agree with her in every little point, I did agree heartily with the major thrust of the book ~ that caring for home and family is an endeavor worthy of our best efforts and expenditures in time, intelligence, and creativity.

McGinley divides the book into three main spheres of a woman's domestic life: the wife, the house, and the family. In chapters with such titles as "How Not to Kill Your Husband," "What Cookbooks Don't Tell You," and "Keeping Up with the Joneses, Jr.," she covers everything from how to be a good car passenger, how to buy good furniture on the cheap, and what to look for in children's literature, plus much, much more. What most intrigued me about Sixpence in Her Shoe was the time it was written: 1960, just a few years before The Feminine Mystique was published but far enough into the modern feminist movement that the author frequently writes to defend the domestic woman who still wants to cook dinner for her family and take care of her babies herself. She also writes about contemporary trends she sees as dangerous, including children being smothered with too many material possessions, schools divvying students up according to rigid standardized test results, juvenile literature that has been dumbed down and stripped of anything interesting, and kitchens that serve more as showcases than as places to do the often messy work of preparing food. (Okay, that last one is probably not dangerous, but it is foolish, in her view . . . and mine too.) What struck me is how these trends have grown in spades since 1960. What would the author think if she were alive today?

McGinley was a well known writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1961. Sixpence in Her Shoe is skillfully written and is also a pleasure to read from a literary standpoint. She makes many allusions to the Bible and classical literature that I'm afraid would be lost on most of today's audience, but sadly, I don't think this book would have been published in today's climate anyway. However, I rank it as one of the best books I've read all year, right up there with Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson (#13 on my Reading Challenge list). I value books that value me and my role as wife and mother. Happily, Sixpence in Her Shoe does just that.

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