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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Hills Is Lonely

by Lillian Beckwith

Reviewed November 21, 2001.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2001
E. P. Dutton & Co., 1963.  207 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (914.17 BEC).

In an earlier review, I mentioned that I enjoyed the “English-speaker-moves-to-Southern-Europe genre.”  I’m now going to have to revise the name I’ve given this type of books to the more general “Experiencing Another Culture genre.”  I realized that I’ve always enjoyed this sort of book, which includes even the Isobel Kuhn missionary books I read in elementary school.  There’s an inevitable humor that comes up in the chance to look at yourself through the eyes of another culture, not to mention the misunderstandings and amazing new experiences.  There’s something eye-opening about learning that “normal” is completely relative.

I believe that reading is an ideal way to learn to see the world through different people’s perspectives.  True stories of a person plunged into a new culture do that beautifully, and The Hills Is Lonely, is no exception.

Lillian Beckwith, a teacher from the north of England, was told by her doctor to take a complete rest somewhere in the country.  She advertised for a place, and got a response from Morag McDugan in the Hebrides.  “I live by myself and you could have the room that is not a kitchen and a bedroom reasonable.”  A later letter told her, “Surely its that quiet here even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely and as to the sea its that near I use it myself every day for the refusals.”  Miss Beckwith cannot resist, and ends up arriving in the Hebrides along with a torrential storm.  A rough sea crossing and a disreputable taxi brought her to her new home, where she and her luggage were flung over a wall to receive a warm and wonderful welcome.

It’s a tribute to Lillian Beckwith’s sense of humor that she stayed for years, had her rest (?!), experienced the culture and made warm friends.  She also produced a delightful book.  This one is worth tracking down, and some day I want to try her other two books, which are available on the website.  The copy I read was loaned to me by my knitting buddy.  Thanks, Leah! 

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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