Miss Read Has Died, Long Live Miss Read

Happiness is a result of an attitude of mind.” ~ Miss Read, aka Dora Saint.

I pass along the sad news that the British author known simply ‘Miss Read’ passed away earlier this month. You can read the London Times article here.

I had not thought of the Miss Read books for years, until last Friday, when I happened upon her Thrush Green among the stacks at a used book store. It was this same Friday that the Times article on Miss Read was published, and then on Monday I received the message from a kind reader telling me of the great writer’s passing. There are no coincidences, which gives rise to the idle thought that maybe Miss Read’s spirit was stirred by all the millions of readers remembering and mourning their loss of a writer who gave them so many happy hours.

The reader who wrote me said in her message that when she has had enough of the harsh realities of this world–the killing and maiming and meanness–she retreats to Miss Read’s gentle and hopeful and amusing stories. She and thousands of us. For me, I find a haven also in the books of Fannie Flagg, Alexander McCall-Smith’s #1 Ladies Detective Agency books, Jan Karon’s Mitford stories, and many others.

These books are considered gentle, but it isn’t that any of these books leave out harsh realities. They deal with all manner of human struggle– sickness, greed, infidelity, poverty and stark brutality. But they do so with much acceptance for the human condition and much love of family, friends, and the good earth. They focus on the humor and triumph of life and living.

Yes, these books give a general happy ending, and happy endings have, for the past sixty years or so, gotten such bad press. Once a journalist interviewed me and wanted to know how I could find the so-called happy endings of my romance novels at all real. I explained that endings just depended on where one stops. You can stop on a hill, or in a valley. I like to stop on the high points.

Miss Read wrote 28 books in her series of stories about life in small English villages. The books never reached the New York Times, or any best seller list that I know of. Yet, a musical was made of three of the books, and titles that were first printed in the 1950s have been reprinted time and again, the latest in 2005. The books are timeless.

I believe as the actress Greer Garson once said:

I think the mirror should be tilted slightly upward when it is reflecting life — toward the cheerful, the tender, the compassionate, the brave, the funny, the encouraging, all those things– and not tilted down to the gutter part of the time, into the troubled vistas of conflict.

Thank you, Miss Read, for having tilted your mirror slightly upward, to the light shining to give us all a place of comfort and hope, and courage for a brighter day.