The Year of Pleasures.

By Alison March 27, 2006 3 Comments 4 Min Read


While we all find ourselves waiting to take delivery of "Moving On", you may as well take the opportunity to immerse yourself in Betta Nolan’s sorrow in  The Year of  Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg, like I did.

The story of a widow who moves to a new town  in order to come to terms with the death of her beloved husband,  this is a book that brought tears welling into my eyes on more than one occasion, but also  one tinged withthe tiny glimmers of hope everyone of us lives for..

"Perhaps I didn’t need another yoga class. Perhaps all around me were masters, both visible and unseen. Perhas my "job" now  was to learn what I needed to learn. John and I had often talked about how focused our culture was on distraction, about how ill suited we were to staying with things, following them through in a respectful and thorough way. There was agreat discomfort with quiet, with stillness, at the same time there was an acknowledgement of how valuable these things could be. I once read an essay about a women who spent an entire day simply looking at what she had, really seeing all the things she had in her house. I was as guilty as anyone else of buying books I never read, of rushing through days without ever looking up, of taking for granted things for which I should give thanks every day. Who appreciated their good health until they lost it? Who read to their children before bed without one eye on the clock, despairing of all they had to do before they themselves could sleep? Who engaged cashiers in grocery stores in conversations? Everyone seemed in a blind hurry, and there was no relief in sight. Technology rushed us ever forward and simple civility- a certain kindness and care- got sacrificed. I was lucky not to have to take the first job that came along, lucky to be able to enter into a kind of purposeful inaction in order to refocus.I looked forward to it, in a sad kind of way. The price didn’t seem worth the purchase."

Now I don’t know about you, but as a reader I am occasionally more than willing to suspend my disbelief and allow myself to  become immersed in someone  elses view of the world.  With Elizabeth Berg it isn’t  her stories I am  particuarly interested in, it is the writer herself:  the way she see’s things, the themes she considers important enough to have them  re-surface over and over again in her simple graceful writing.

Read the reviews of The Year of Pleasures" and you will find yourself reading that Betta Nolan is a sorry, immature character. That her husband is too good to be true, and that the things she does as she comes to term with his death are ridiculous.

But read the book and you find that you don’t care. Betta is simply Elizabeth Berg’s vehicle for showing us that life is full of teeny tiny pleasures. Pleasures that can sustain us in the very worst of times. Read the book and on some level you are happy to transcend what isn’t true in favour all that is: the deep sorrow of death and in some ways the small relief it brings…

Read the book and you find yourself in a world that encapsulates everything that BrocanteHome stands for: small pleasures, simplicity and gratitude. Most of all gratitude.

Beg, borrow or steal it.


  1. Mimi says:

    I have just ordered it from the library now! I had Clare Coulsons scrumptious 'House Rules' arrive, and also a biography of Nigella Lawson…and now this to come! Bookish bliss!

  2. June says:

    Alison, I recently read this book and loved it. Generally, we avoid examining the "shadow" things about ourselves, the little bits and pieces about us with which we feel uncomfortable bringing into conscious light. But we can face the hard times with grace and dignity if we can face and love ourselves–the good with the bad. The book reminds me to appreciate life's little details but also to remember that we also are part of it and that we complicate our own lives, oftentimes needlessly. As you said, "small pleasures, simpicity and gratitude." I'm endeavoring to remember that in my life.

  3. alison says:

    Oh June in one eloquent paragraph you managed to sum up exactly what I tried to convey in seven. Thank you.

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