Miss Rumphius is a charming story about a woman who commits as a child to do three things:
1. go to faraway places
2. live beside the sea
3. do something to make the world more beautiful
Not a bad list! In the course of life, Miss Rumphius does indeed travel the world; she does eventually settle by the sea; and, to make the world more beautiful, she scatters the seeds of her favourite flower – the Lupine – everywhere she goes around her seaside community.
Aside from being an incredibly pretty book, this is also a book with a lot of work to do!
There are delightful family connections between Miss Rumphius, her grandfather and her great-niece. There are hints about how having valuable work can revive us and give us strength and the will to go on. There’s a really strong theme of doing good in whichever way you can. And there are reminders that, while the world is beautiful, we can each play a part in keeping it that way and making it more beautiful.
I love the way Miss Rumphius takes charge of her life and does interesting things. And I love the value given to different lives:
the grandfather’s quiet immigrant life of risk and hard work
Miss Rumphius’ surprising life of adventure and travel at a time when it was rare for a woman to travel alone
and the great-niece who lives a carefree life of privilege, still retaining an understanding of her own need to contribute.
The story is very much about the passage of time – the scenery changes from a bustling sea-port with tall ships in the bay through to a quaint seaside town with cars on the street. And then there’s the diversity of culture and geography that Miss Rumphius’ travels take us to.