Brenda Gilchrist spent her childhood in London and settled in New York City as a young adult, making excursions to such delete “enticing” locales as Paris, Karachi and Kashmir to visit with her mother and diplomat father. But it wasn’t until middle age, when she inherited her ancestral summer house on Deer Isle, that she truly found her place in the world.
Waltzing with Bracey: A Long Reach Home tells the story of how a particularly charming corgi, Bracey, helps Gilchrist take on the rambling seaside cottage and face up to its“inhabitants” – the ghosts of her overachieving and rather intimidating forbears.
Now in her 80s, Gilchrist writes from her winterized cottage of steamship Atlantic crossings, sailing on Penobscot Bay, hobnobbing with New York’s cultural elite as Praeger’s senior art books editor and finding a willing and adventurous furry companion. She also touches on the history of her family (her great-grandfather, Charles Loring Brace, was a noted social reformer and a friend of Charles Darwin), the house (which was designed by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet’s nephew) and the assortment of interesting and noted folks who visited (John Steinbeck camped in the driveway on the first leg of the cross-country trip chronicled in Travels with Charley).
She has lived full time on Deer Isle since 1990.
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Reviews & Praise
LETTER FROM MUSICIAN MARSHALL COID (ON READING WALTZING WITH BRACEY)
“The book at first may seem ‘only’ a beautiful and rich entertainment but soon enough one realizes that it is a genuine work of literary art, transcending your natural self-effacing tendency and your innate modesty. (Part of your personal charm, I dare say). It is almost as if you achieve greatness in spite of yourself. Self doubt is so useful in creativity–all the suffering makes you strive all the more and leads to breakthrough moments that may not be achievable any other way. There is bravery in embracing this process–not for the faint of heart!
The complexity and sensitivity of your thinking, knowledge and insight is most impressive and there is an element of personal heroism in creating a new existence and grappling with issues that too many would leave buried and never recognize or address. There are lessons and inspirations throughout the text that can be a help to the world. In a sense it is about facing life and making it your own. And making it one that really counts and has great substance and worth. Life can and should be much more than merely ‘existing.’
Once the book is concluded, you emerge as a wonderful, profound personality that anyone who meets is lucky to know. All the effort was truly worth it. You (and Bracey) have shared something very special with the world!
ISLAND AD-VANTAGES, AUGUST 9, 2012
Authors Among Us
Brenda Gilchrist: Finding home in Deer Isle
Author Brenda Gilchrist at home in Deer Isle, with a woodcut of her Welsh corgi, done by Gilchrist, at right. Photo by Elke Dorr
by Elke Dorr
DEER ISLE—As a girl, Deer Isle resident Brenda Gilchrist traveled by luxurious ocean liner from England, then by train and finally steamboat—arriving at the wharf in Stonington—to spend summers at her grandmother’s Dunham Point home. Now, about to celebrate her 83rd birthday, Gilchrist has published her first book, Waltzing with Bracey: A Long Reach Home,www.staging4.bauhanpublishing.com a memoir in which she has invited us to enter the door to that venerable island house, and into the lives of her illustrious, if daunting, family, which she candidly described in a recent interview as “waspy, successful, decent and reserved.” Child of a distinguished diplomat father and well-educated, accomplished mother, Gilchrist tells the story of her evolution from shy child to successful New York editor, Deer Isle homeowner and, not least, devoted companion to Bracey, her indomitable Welsh corgi. Read the PDF of the rest of the Elke Dorr Interview interview from the Island Ad-Vantages.
Review from the Concord Monitor, August 12, 2012
peace, passion and privacy
Three authors explore facets of the human experience
By Deb Baker / Monitor columnist
August 12, 2012
This month I read a memoir about “finding home,” a treatise on privacy, and a personal and historical perspective on Cuba. What they have in common is passion, warmth and intelligence.
If you’re ready to leave “summer reading” behind, these books will enrich and enlighten you. If you’re not, they’ll entertain you as well.
First, from New Hampshire’s Bauhan Publishing, Waltzing With Bracey: A Long Reach Home by Brenda Gilchrist. When the book opens, Gilchrist reacts to inheriting a home on Deer Isle, Maine: “It’s always been an anchor of sorts, throughout my rootless life. But it’s big, old, and reeks of history, custom, forebears.”
Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (Henry’s nephew) designed the house. Gilchrist’s great-grandfather counted Charles Darwin, John Stewart Mill and Frederick Law Olmstead among his friends. Harriet Beecher Stowe based characters on Gilchrist’s family of reformers, abolitionists, writers, people “long on summers and pedigree, short on money.” Gilchrist “can’t help being impressed by these people, yet they suffocate me.”
As a child, this diplomat’s daughter spent summers in Maine. When her aunt dies, she’s 48 and editing a book series for the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. She knows nothing about home ownership.
But she learns, renovating both the house and her life, coming to terms with family ghosts and her place among them. Bracey, her corgi, provides the unconditional love only a dog can give. He’s instrumental in helping Gilchrist come home in every sense of the word.
Bauhan’s hallmark is excellent design, and this beautiful book is filled with photos, paintings, woodcuts and drawings that illustrate Gilchrist’s emotional journey. If you’ve lived in an old house or by the sea, loved a dog or reconciled yourself to your family’s legacy, you’ll find much to identify with here. Gilchrist’s writing is open-hearted, reflective and spirited.
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