At Last, a Proper Snow Storm & Lolly Willowes

Weather Report

This January has been warmer than average. However, cold weather from the Arctic is forecasted to blast us this weekend, with a projected temperature as low as -20°F (-28°C). With the windchill factor, it might even drop to -40°F. That, my friends, is cold even by Maine standards.

Good thing, then, that we got a proper snow storm last week. Otherwise, my perennials would be in serious trouble when the cold snap hits. There’s no telling how many plants I would lose. As it is, they are covered by a nice insulating blanket of snow, at least ten inches.

Here are some pictures of our yard during the storm. My beds and the perennials are tucked under the snow.

I like the way the snow-covered fence ripples with snow.

As I shoveled the pathways to the compost bins and the bird feeders, I stopped to take a picture from backyard to front yard. No hanging laundry until spring.

Little Gideon, the guardian of our yard, is nearly buried beneath the snow.

The lantern out front has a cap.

And the snow on the porch rail curves like a wave of water.

Another picture of our home nestled in the snow.

With so much snow, Clif had to clean the roof. Otherwise ice dams form on the eaves, and this in turn leads to leaks inside.  I took this shot through an open window, which is why everything is at a slant.



Today I received this lovely card from blogging friend Jodie Richeal. If you have time, do check out her snappy website, Poppiwinkle, that features her work. Jodie wrote to tell me how much she was enjoying my recent book Of Time and Magic. Do I spy William Shakespeare on the lower right-hand side of the card? I believe I do. Many thanks, Jodie!


Reading: Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Spoiler Alert: I can’t discuss this book without revealing crucial elements in the plot.  If you haven’t read the book and would rather not have spoilers, now is the time to stop reading.

Lolly Willowes, published in 1926, is a novel full of oddities and curiosities. The first half of the book is realistic to the point of almost being dry. The second half crackles with the supernatural.

The novel is about Laura Willowes, who was brought up on a country estate in Wales. When Lolly Willowes opens, Laura’s father has just died—her mother died years earlier—and it’s decided that twenty-eight-year-old “Aunt Lolly” should move to London with one of her brothers, his wife, and their children, Fancy and Marion. In the London Home, Laura is given the smallest spare bedroom as the larger one can’t be spared. This decision sets the tone for how Laura is treated, not cruelly, but as an afterthought, to be put up with rather than cherished.

And so it goes for twenty years with Laura trotting unobtrusively through domestic life with her brother’s family. Fancy, as an adult, wonders why her Aunt Lolly didn’t set up housekeeping by herself. After all, when her father died, she was left with a comfortable income. Fancy concludes, “How unenterprising women were in the old days.”

What holds Laura back? The traditions and conservatism of her family, which she accepts without question. It will take something very big to knock Laura off track.

In short, it takes demonic intervention. First, the devil, an invisible force, leads Laura into a small shop with homely items that remind her of life in the country and how much she longs for that life. This longing tips something in Laura, and against her family’s wishes, she up sticks to the countryside, to a small village filled with witches who don’t seem to do much. Mostly they roam at night and tend to village business by day.

All goes well until Laura’s nephew, Titus, visits her and decides to settle in with his aunt. Once again, Laura must put the needs of her family first. The freedom she longs for is gone.

It is then the devil really comes into it. Laura makes a pact with him—she will serve him if he keeps family away. This the devil does in a way that is more humorous than menacing. Soon Titus is gone, and Laura is free to be herself. The devil, having made his conquest, leaves her alone.

After finishing the book, I puzzled over the ending. Did Warner believe that in 1926 women could only be free if they shucked family ties and made a deal—symbolically, of course—with the devil?

Laura had the financial means to be independent. But it seems she did not have the emotional means to break away and could only do so with supernatural help.

This slim book certainly made me think about the role of women.


82 thoughts on “At Last, a Proper Snow Storm & Lolly Willowes”

  1. I had to look up what -40F is in Celsius and was amazed to see it is also -40C! Amazed at the fact and just how cold it is where you are. And so much snow! I am sure you are wrapped up well and keeping indoors, watching the white landscape.

    The book sounds..well, interesting!

    1. It really is surprising that Celsius and Fahrenheit meet like that. The book is very interesting and worth reading. It’s considered an early feminist classic and rightly so.

  2. I loved Lolly Willowes. I saw her escaping servitude and being taken for granted (with a petrified Victorian family like that, who wouldn’t want escape?). So much here has to do with WWI, the loss of a generation of men and the continued oppression of women (though by the twenties that was loosening) and changing times. The devil of uncertainty and freedom had a vast appeal compared to the devil of a suffocating family enforcing social rules that were already being upended of necessity. There’s a wildness to her escape that reflects her finding freedom, her independence and a vocation. As for your snow, it is beautiful. I don’t envy you that cold, though, and hope your plants all stay snug.

    1. Great points! A lot to think about in that slim book, isn’t there? I must admit I am not looking forward to the cold, but I am hopeful that the blanket of snow will keep them snug and safe.

    2. Laurie and your takes on this book intrigue me! I need to check this one out! I tend to be too literal, so I like it when you call it “the devil of uncertainty and freedom” instead of just “the Devil”.
      I do like women who break out of their boxes. Have you read “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce? It has that hero(ines) journey that I love reading. And, it’s mid-century and American, but “Lessons in Chemistry” has those elements as well: finding independence, vocation and I hope, freedom.
      I too, love your pictures of your snow; so pretty!

      1. Yes, I did read Miss Benson’s Beetle–and what a set of differences between the characters and their strengths and follies! I have not read Lessons in chemistry, but I think it’s been recommended to me before, so thanks for reminding me. I love pictures of Laurie’s snow as well and how efficient she and Clif are at dealing with it.

      2. Okay, I will look for the contrast of these two women when I read Lolly Willowes.
        Those are helpful qualities when you live with that volume of snow; efficiency and swiftness! I hadn’t thought about that.

      3. A-w-w-w, thanks! As I mentioned to Lorna, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rachel Joyce are writing at very different times and therefore from different points of view. Will be putting Miss Benson’s Beetle on my list.

      4. Thanks so much! I will put Miss Benson’s Beetle on my list. I see that the book was published in 2012, which makes it different from Lolly Willowes. Sylvia Townsend Warner was writing of her time. Rachel Joyce’s book was published in 2020, which makes it a historical novel of sorts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there is a difference. Anyway, I will check it out. Looks as though it’s right up my alley.

      5. Yes, that does make it different, I agree. I appreciate women writing in their time, to hear their take on their inner and outer lives.

  3. It’s interesting that the character who tempts Lolly into her new life is portrayed as a devil. From whose perspective, I wonder?

    What’s really devilish is all that snow. It certainly has its virtues; as you say, it truly ‘blankets’ the plants, and provides moisture. And last night I heard some Toronto residents rejoicing at the extended cold coming their way — their backyard hockey rink could be re-surfaced and used without fear of it melting away in a few days!

  4. The snow pictures are very good. I am glad that we don’t get that much snow but I am sorry that we have only a had a single sprinkling this year. Thick snow makes for good photography. I hope that you are spared the worst of the very low temperatures.

  5. Your home nestled in the snow looks delightfully wintery. We had a dusting last week. It snowed for 4-5 hours, then rained in the afternoon and was all gone by dinner time! With all the freeze/thaw, I have perennials heaving everywhere. You’re lucky for the 10″ insulating your beds. I
    Lolly Willowes sounds like an interesting read. I’ll have to see if I can find it.I just got the library loan of In The Woods and am looking forward to it. I’m glad you shared about it with us.
    Stay warm and cozy!

    1. Oh, gosh! Hope your perennials make it. Lolly Willowes is a very interesting book. If you do read it and have the time, let me know what you think. In the Woods is a very different book, full of suspense.

      1. Well, I waded through InTheWoods, but this writer’s style left me cold. Good story, but personally I thought it could have been about 200 pages shorter and still maintained the story line and suspense! I found the ending quite depressing and unsatisfying. But we find the authors we love by reading their work, so now I know!
        I have Lolly Willowes on reserve at the library, just waiting my turn.
        The first two snow crocuses are blooming in the lawn after a wicked cold Saturday! How did you fare in the storm?

      2. I agree with you that “In the Woods” was too long. But, I liked her style, and I loved the ending. Different writers for different readers. 😉 I wonder how you will like “Lolly Willowes.” It’s an odd book, and it’s not for everyone, but I found it to be thought-provoking. I’ll be waiting to hear. It’s a fairly slim book, and I expect you won’t find it too long. Cut out 200 pages, and most of the book is gone.

  6. I am reading the book now, so I skipped that part of your post and will just say I hope you’ve been snug and warm inside during the proper snow.

    1. What a fun coincidence that you are reading Lolly Willowes. If you have a chance, let me know what you think of it. A thought-provoking book, slim though it is.

      1. Oops. I was reading your post fast, afraid you were going to reveal something about your own book, which is the one I am reading (so happily)! But I now know about Lolly W and have ordered it from my library. Looks like my kind of thing.

  7. Nice to see a proper amount of snow and so pretty! While you got snow, we got ‘wintery mix’ so ended up with about 4″ of ‘brain’ snow, lol!
    I’m glad your garden will be safe from the cold snap, as will mine, but those wind chills will keep me inside!

  8. You’ve had a warmer than usual January, and we have had a cooler than usual month in Singapore! But it is all relative, right? 😆

  9. I agree with the comments that your warm cosy looking house, framed in snow, looks just like a picture postcard!
    I am always interested to know that the blanket of snow insulate the plants, (seems counter intuitive to me, far away from snow in Australia).. but good to know they will survive till spring.

  10. I hope your plants survive. Clearing the roof must be quite a job! I have done the greenhouse roofs in the past and ended up very wet!

  11. We have the same temps rolling in so the heavy warm window coverings came out, and we’ll shut off our porch for a couple of days. The electric and heating meters will be rocking. 🙂 Tell Clif, I’ve used that roof rake a couple of times myself. 🙂 Stay warm and may we both maintain power. 🤞

  12. I remember those deep deep freezes from my years in Vermont, Laurie. That’s super cold. It makes temps in the teens feel balmy. Your snow is beautiful and I’m glad it will keep the perennials safe. It looks like you’re ready. Stay warm. And thanks for the review of Lolly Willowes. It probably isn’t for me, but I was intrigued by your take on the ending. Times change, thank goodness. 🙂

  13. Oh my goodness, look at all that snow! I know you’re loving it, Laurie, but I shiver just thinking about the cold. I guess I’m just a Southern gal at heart, ha! But I’ll try to look on the bright side while I’m counting the days until Spring.

  14. Love your snowy photos and thanks for another great book recommendation!🙂 My reading list continues to grow and it appears we’re sharing similar winters. Snow storm last week, -1 in the car this morning and after a few more freezing days it’s back to 40s and rain next week. What a weather roller coaster! Sounds like a perfect week for good shows, books and snacks!!🙂

  15. Winter, snow and Clif is ejected from the fireside to do stuff in the yard. Meanwhile, in our version of winter, we’ve had a frost-free week and it’s been 10 degrees C this week. I’ve been able to take my jacket off.

    I’m sure Maine is a lovely place but if I lived in a country like yours I would have chosen to live at the hot end. 🙂

  16. The hot end of our country, while nice at certain times of the year, has plenty of issues including but not limited to devastating hurricanes,unbearable heat, water shortages, fires, and floods. Oh, and poisonous snakes. Seems contradictory, I know, but the U.S. is a big country. What’s a little cold compared with all that? 😉

  17. I really enjoy reading your book reviews – and do not envy your snow! Of course it is summer here, which I am enjoying.

      1. I was in another city for last couple of weeks and has experienced lots and lots of rain and wind. Believe me, I got what I wished for and you probably have seen it in my last post. My walk on fresh snow. 😊

  18. Laurie, thank you so much for posting a picture of the card I sent you. I am so glad you noticed The Bard, my little nod to your writing talents.

    Your Maya has me in her grips again. I will finish the book tonight and I know I will be sorry to have her story end. You have a way of making me care so much about your characters and I will be sad to leave them all.

    I hope you are managing OK through all that snow and cold. That’s dangerous weather.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. Lolly Willowes is on my list for sure!

    xo, Jodie

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