Just a little over a month ago at Beth Fish Reads, Candace spotlighted a book called "Le Road Trip" by Vivian Swift. I was instantly taken by this whimsical, illustrated travel diary of the author's vacation in France with her husband. I knew I had to read it. I saw in the comments that Kathy loved Vivian's last book (which Kathy reviewed before I knew her), and I was off to the races...or in this case the library website.
So here are my thoughts on my first journey into Vivianland.
Synopsis: Since Vivian was 19 years old, she has traveled the world. She has worked as a receptionist, gift shop sales clerk, luxury hotel concierge, clothing store manager, book shop clerk, office temp, retail jeweler, auction house executive, and Fabergé expert. She lived in 23 places over a period of 20 years, and finally decided to settle in a tiny piece of heaven on Long Island Sound.
The book represents her year of rest and staying put, a journal of sorts that reflects on each month of the year, the special significance that month holds in her heart, as well as Vivian's related memories from her days on the road.
Vivian is the true essence of a free spirit. She takes walks at 4am, she collects tea cups, she loves cats, she is an observer of nature, finding a spiritual renewal in everything around her. She relishes in her "acre of Earth" further described in the month of September:
* Everybody gets an acre of Earth when they're born.
* Parents are the fences.
* Teenagers think that ugly clothes, uglier hairstyles, and horrible music tears down those fences. This is pretty funny.
* Whatever you do in your 20's is just mapping destinations.
* By the time you're 35 you're probably a battle weary veteran of numbers clashes over territory, a few border wars. Your acre of Earth's been trampled pretty bad. It could use some re-landscaping.
* It takes most of your 40's to clear out the dead wood, plant a nice garden, dredge the swampy bits, observe the seasons. This is how you discover that there's an Eden on the far side of your acre that you never knew was there.
If you ever feel crowded into a corner by your life, you need to take a better look at your acre of Earth. It's bigger than you think.
Vivian delights in collecting lost mittens, in the perfect vintage shirt or skirt from her youth, in old postcards, and in illustrating the 8 kinds of rain that falls in the month of April. On July 10th, she journals "Another 100 degree day. I pride myself on my ability to tolerate heat. What's my secret? All I need is a ball gown and a little champagne."
My thoughts: Just like Lynda Barry ("Picture This", "What It Is") who has created her own graphic novel sub-genre, I believe Vivian Swift has done the same. But how would it be described? This absolutely charming publication was less a reading experience and more like an entrancing collection of journal entries, reflections, musings, observations, advice on life...all enhanced by beautiful illustration.
I was immersing myself in this book during a stressful time, and opening the pages was like taking a warm bath. It made me feel warm, introspective and blessed. It made me want to collect tea cups! It is the perfect book for a lazy Sunday.
There were characteristics of Vivian that I saw in myself. At the same time, she is also everything I am not. I am way too manic and chaotic, and I have a hard time slowing down and appreciating the simpler things in life. Also, there is no way I would ever join the Peace Corp and hang out in Tunisia. For this reason, I'm thinking about actually buying this book to have on hand. So I can remind myself to appreciate my acre of Earth.
I have "Le Road Trip" sitting on my nightstand. I am too restless to read it back-to-back with this one, as this style of entertainment requires stillness and a peaceful mind. I'm going to devour a little murder and mayhem, then come back for more tranquility afterwards.
5 out of 5 stars