Authors whose prose is compelling or outstandingly beautiful

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Dave Astor from Dave Astor on Literature blog wrote a wonderful post spotlighting novelists with especially impressive writing skills. You can read Dave’s post here:

This topic is just to big for me to respond to Dave via a comment on his blog, so I decided to write a post instead, and share some of my top authors and some compelling or outstandingly beautiful prose from their books.

Children’s books

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

What a glorious book this is. I just love Mole, Ratty, Badger, and even Mr Toad.

“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.”

“Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, Those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way.”

“The smell of that buttered toast simply spoke to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cozy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden is both mine and my son, Gregory’s, favourite children’s book. It is full of mystery, magic, and delight.

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes.”

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”

I am David by Anne Holm

I am David is the book that influenced me the most as a young reader. What a marvelous tale of spiritual triumph over the evil of oppression.

“And his eyes frighten me, too. They’re the eyes of an old man, an old man who’s seen so much in life that he no longer cares to go on living. They’re not even desperate… just quiet and expectant, and very, very lonely, as if he were quite alone of his own free choice.”

“And it was most important to do what one knew was right, for otherwise the day might come when one could no longer tell the difference between right and wrong.”

“Before he had come to the town he had known about nothing but death: here he had learnt to live, to decide things for himself; he had learnt what it felt like to wash in clean water in the sunshine until he was clean himself, and what it felt like to satisfy his hunger with food that tasted good; he had learnt the sound of laughter that was free from cruelty; he had learnt the meaning of beauty”

Adult’s books – Can you guess the book and author?

Book 1

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

“We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians . . . were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space if fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”

“Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

Book 2

“The moon went slowly down in loveliness; she departed into the depth of the horizon, and long veil-like shadows crept up the sky through which the stars appeared. Soon, however, they too began to pale before a splendour in the east, and the advent of the dawn declared itself in the newborn blue of heaven. Quieter and yet more quiet grew the sea, quiet as the soft mist that brooded on her bosom, and covered up her troubling, as in our tempestuous life the transitory wreaths of sleep brook upon a pain-racked soul, causing it to forget its sorrow. From the east to the west sped those angels of the Dawn, from sea to sea, from mountain-top to mountain-top, scattering light from breast and wing. On they sped out of the darkness, perfect, glorious; on, over the quiet sea, over the low coast-line, and the swamps beyond, and the mountains above them; over those who slept in peace and those who woke in sorrow; over the evil and the good; over the living and the dead; over the wide world and all that breathes or as breathed thereon.”

“Though the face before me was that of a young woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health and the first flush of ripened beauty, yet it bore stamped upon it a seal of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion. Not even the slow smile that crept about the dimples of her mouth could hide the shadow of sin and sorrow. It shone even in the light of those glorious eyes, it was present in the air of majesty, and it seemed to say: ‘Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is, undying and half-divine; memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.”

“It was a wonderful thing to think for how many thousands of years the dead orb above and the dead city below had gazed thus upon each other, and in the utter solitude of space poured forth each to each the tale of their lost life and long-departed glory. The white light fell, and minute by minute the quiet shadows crept across the grass-grown courts like the spirits of old priests haunting the habitations of their worship–the white light fell, and the long shadows grew till the beauty and grandeur of each scene and the untamed majesty of its present Death seemed to sink into our very souls, and speak more loudly than the shouts of armies concerning the pomp and splendour that the grave had swallowed, and even memory had forgotten.”

Book 3

“I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very ‘ bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern – it strangles so:…”

“At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be”

“I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.”

76 thoughts on “Authors whose prose is compelling or outstandingly beautiful

  1. A History of Adventure (2)….Tim found his childhood copy of Winnie the Pooh last night and we have started reading it again.

    I remember my Grandad lending me his library card when I was eight and taking me there, so I could choose books. The library was a favourite place for my daughter and me when she was little. Tim and I love reading.

    I am not surprised you have so many books, Robbie. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Terrific post, Robbie! The words you excerpted are impressive indeed — even awe-inspiring in some cases. And thank you for the mention of the piece I wrote! I’ll put a link to yours in a comment under my post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I do the same, Diana, I make a [long] Christmas list. It makes gift choices easy for my family and I get something I want [not jewelry – my poor husband’s mother loves jewelry and he bought me pieces for the first ten years of our marriage. They reside in the bank as I don’t wear any jewelry, not even a wedding ring.]

        Liked by 2 people

  3. You hit on something here that I know but hadn’t considered for a while–beautiful prose. I love reading those lines that bring out emotion, that roll off the tongue. I’m definitely into plot-driven stories, but beautiful prose is critical.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I recognised ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘She’, but didn’t know the third book. I love beautiful prose too. I think my favourite books are L.P Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between’ and Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. What a wonderful post, Robbie. I couldn’t guess the authors, but I read through the comments and jotted them down. The excerpts you chose are lovely. And beautiful children’s books too. I have a very old copy of The Wind in the Willows that I cherish. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It’s strange and wonderful how so many of us love The Wind in the Willows. I also have a copy I read almost to tatters.
    I guessed your first and third excerpts, but not the second. While reading the beautiful prose, I wondered, “Is this showing or telling?” and decided it didn’t matter.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. A fantastic post, Robbie. I loved The Wind in the Willows (did you know there is a song by that title as well)?

    I didn’t recognize the writing samples from books at the end, but glimpsed the titles of a few in the comments.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. What a great post, and tribute to Dave.
    I adore his blog. Although for the most part his followers are avid readers, and I do read, but at a turtle’s pace. So, sometimes I am at a loss for a comment. Still, it makes me feel smart when I go there, and I comment when I can.
    Yay! I’ve read 1 book you mentioned, “The Wind in the Willows”. I read it Loooooong ago, but something about it has always stuck with me: the animal characters, the mood and the lilting writing.

    The books you sent me came! How wonderful. THANK YOU!
    So I’m starting a promised to read book in a couple of days. Then I will be free to read your Sir Chocolate books, and do a proper review of the collection.

    However, I did see the Hallowe’en book. I’m doing a special Hallowe’en post & will say a little something about your Hallowe’en story, as a teaser for my upcoming review.

    Be well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Resa, I hope you like our little books, I am so pleased they arrived okay. I’m always worried they’ll go MIA when they are sent by post. Thank you in advance for reading and reviewing them. I am so pleased you also like Wind in the Willows, the writing is superb. I agree about Dave’s blog. I have only followed him for a short while but I love his posts, they make me think and I find lots of lovely new reads through recommendations.

      Liked by 3 people

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