4 out of 4 stars
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Robin Clifford Wood’s qualifications are impressive, but what’s even more impressive is the delicateness with which she writes. I knew from the prologue that I would fall in love with this book, Rachel, the Playhouse, and even the author, herself. By fate, Robin, along with her family, acquired Rachel’s Sutton Island home and got enchanted to uncover Rachel’s life and her sudden death.
Rachel Field was a popular writer in the 1930s. Her popular children’s book, Hitty, won the Newbery Award. More than being a talented writer, Rachel was a sister, a daughter, and a friend to so many. She had worries, longings, and fears like many others. But Rachel was special because, regardless of her fame and other difficulties, she retained her humility and zest for life. In The Field House, Robin Clifford Wood explores Rachel’s life, childhood, insecurities, responsibilities, and loves. Readers will find from her some of her poems and letters that Rachel was deeply introspective. I loved the poem “My Inside-Self” the most.
I loved this book so much. The author presented Rachel in a way that made her seem like my dear friend. I could relate to Rachel’s uncertainty regarding her writing talent and career. And when I read of how she found happiness, it gave me hope. I loved how the author went through different stages of Rachel’s life, first as a child, then as a young adult, and finally as a middle-aged woman. Rachel was not perfect, and it was refreshing that the author acknowledged this. I marveled at how, though, through it all, the author’s voice retained its sense of wonder, not just for Rachel but for living life to the fullest.
I particularly loved the letters addressed to Rachel from the author. Those letters were intimate, and they let me in on Robin’s inspirations and her life as a writer, a mother, and a friend. There are also various letter excerpts from Rachel and some of her friends, including Ruth and Arthur, which gave me an even fresher look at the sweetness and light Rachel gave the world. The author also included old photos of Rachel, which made my reading experience even more real. The detailed referencing shows that Robin did splendid research, showing tenacity and an uncanny ability to connect dots!
Usually, I put a great premium on how much a book makes me feel happiness, sadness, and everything in between. But this book did more than make me feel; it made me act. I have always been a writer, but just like Rachel and Robin, I have been in self-doubt. Somehow, The Field House incited the creativity in me to write the beginning of a short story.
With nothing to dislike about it and exceptional editing, this book deserves the highest rating of 4 out of 4. Every letter, poem, and page felt like a revelation to me. It is more than a biography or a memoir. It is a labor of love and an alignment of fate. I recommend this book primarily to readers who like memoirs and biographies. If you are a Rachel Field fan, it is all the better. But if you are a creative feeling doubtful and discouraged about your work, Robin shines a light that is ever so gentle and bright that will nudge you to believe in yourself. By writing about discovering herself and her fate, Robin Clifford Wood has created something that, I think, will help many creatives come out of their shells!
The Field House
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