Any student of history will tell you that life is hard. Throughout the centuries human kind has experienced plagues, wars, civil unrest, economic turndown, earthquakes, hurricanes, drought, and…oh wait, that was us… all this past year. Now with spring of 2021 just around the corner, it is time to celebrate our resilience in making it through 2020. These novels are favorites of mine, not just because they are beautifully written, but because they show how people working together can overcome hard times and build something incredible for future generations. Pick up one of these top three hard time tales. Hopefully it will give you the boost you need as we wind up the seasons of crazy.
Pillars of the Earth
By Ken Follett
With the death of Henry I, Empress Maude and King Stephen battle over the throne of England, throwing the country into a civil war. Tom Builder, an out-of-work mason, takes his starving family to Kingsbridge in hopes of securing employment by repairing the Earl of Shirring’s castle walls. Eventually, he is hired to build a cathedral.
This novel is the first in the Kingsbridge series and follows the political intrigues of church and country during the middle ages. I loved the history, but more so the story of the cathedral rising out of the ashes of its burned predecessor. The commitment to this project, which took multiple lifetimes to complete, is inspiring to me.
Angle of Repose
By Wallace Stegner
Based on the journals of Mary Halleck Foote, this Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel tells the story of a New York socialite, Susan Burling, who falls in love with a gifted civil engineer, Oliver Ward. The couple heads to the west, but Susan believes they will be returning to New York.
Moving from one wilderness home to another, Susan’s character is representative of the novel’s title: how much difficulty can a person endure without breaking? This novel is so beautifully written and is considered by Modern Library to be one of the best English novels of the 20th century.
By Annie Dillard
Being a Washington native, I have a huge respect for the early settlers who cleared timber, built homes, roads, and communities without power tools, and survived in rain and mud up to their ankles in Western Washington. It is indeed a beautiful place, but not without its challenges. Annie Dillard’s first novel, The Living, chronicles the building of Whatcom, Washington through the eyes of the early settlers. It is full of heartbreaking hardship, treachery, and racism, but also hope, charity, and an optimistic look to the future.
Here are a few more stories of resilience to peruse:
Written by Lori, Librarian