On March 11, 2021, Sunday Taylor, a longtime Friends of Robinson Gardens member, gave a fascinating virtual presentation on Zoom about her new novel, The Anglophile’s Notebook. She was interviewed by our lovely past President Patti Reinstein who said, “Her wonderful book is part history, part mystery, part love story and character study. It is also about the love of the Brontës that comes through in her writing.”
Sunday’s shimmering heroine, called Claire Easton, is a writer and magazine editor living in Los Angeles who travels to London to write a book on Charlotte Brontë. “This trip will change her life,” Sunday said. Claire is married to a very successful music producer. After the recent death of her mother and discovering that her husband has been unfaithful, she decides to stay in England indefinitely. On her second night in London, she visits an enchanting bookstore called Victorian Books and bonds with the owner on their love of books and the Brontës. The plot evolves into a literary mystery and romance that holds you spellbound.
A lover of all things English, Sunday majored in English literature in college and graduate school. She said that in the 90s, there was a seminal biography, written by Juliet Barker, that focused on the whole Brontë family. Sunday said, “I was blown away by what I had learned.” The Brontës were an impoverished family living in Haworth. The father was a vicar at the church, and they lived at the parsonage. The sisters grew up in a literary household with lots of books. With nothing to do all day, they started to write, which was much encouraged by their father.
Living in a remote part of England, they were surrounded by the moors, a bleak and inhospitable kind of wild scrubland. They lost their mother and so many members of the family, that death was a constant in their lives. Sunday said that it was fascinating for the world to learn that the creators of such fierce, Byronic type of men in their novels (such as in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights) was the work of these three retiring spinsters living in such an isolated land. Sunday’s fascination with the Brontës grew from that time on, and “it never ended, to the point that I had to go visit the Brontë’s parsonage in Haworth.”
Sunday travels to England every year, and she said, “I love England and London because you are really in touch with the past anywhere you go.” Intrigued by the history and the rituals, like the afternoon teas, Sunday visited sites that fed her literary imagination – places where her favorite heroes and heroines and authors dined, walked, and lived. Teeming with history, many buildings have plaques indicating where famous authors such as Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens lived. Sunday wanted her heroine to share the same love, so that once she comes to England, she thrives and flourishes.
Another aspect of writing that Sunday loves is creating the settings in her novel and the research involved in describing the myriad details of the interiors and exteriors of homes and buildings, gardens and also how her characters dressed, talked, and the meals they ate to make the novel authentic. “I am obsessed with the gardens in England; they are really beautiful,” Sunday added. In her novel, she weaves many references to famous gardens such as Sissinghurst and Hidcote. Besides being a sanctuary, gardens are important in the novel as one grand garden helps heal a relationship. With this theme in mind, Patti added, “Once Robinson Gardens opens up again, people can take advantage of the healing powers of the garden.”
After the interview, the attendees on Zoom asked Sunday many questions. Ann Petersen, who was married to an Englishman commented, “You really have a very deep understanding of England. The entire book was very atmospheric, and you captured the expressions of the English and how they speak to one another. It was such a pleasure to read, and it was very nostalgic for me.”
Another participant, Kerstin Royce, asked the meaning of the word “chuffed” when one of the characters said, “I am so very chuffed for you.” Sunday explained that it means, I am so excited for you. One of the British attendees from North Staffordshire explained, “We use the word chuffed all the time. If something really good happens to you, then you are chuffed!”
Sunday concluded the lecture by reading an evocative passage from her beautiful book. The Anglophile’s Notebook is a sophisticated and cultured read which you don’t want to end.
A big thank you to our wonderful Education co-chairs Leslie Kavanaugh who facilitated the lecture with her virtual technical expertise, Patti Reinstein, and Clare Wagner for organizing such a delightful and pleasurable event for all to enjoy. We were whisked away to the English countryside, replete with cozy bookstores, pubs, museums, and resplendent gardens. In the words of Elaine Stein, “It was a breath of fresh air.”
Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
Editor of the VRG eNewsletter, the Happenings