Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Two more Deidre Madden

I've written a lot about Deidre Madden since I started this blog, most recently only a fortnight ago, but also before that here, and I'm afraid I've got two more titles to highly recommend to you (or at least, I hope to entice you into reading at least one of the earlier Deidre Madden's so that you can join me in wondering why it was not until she was Orange-shortlisted that she really seems to have gained some popularity).

I mentioned before that some of her earlier titles are currently being reprinted, and I had another one of these from the library this week: Nothing is black. This is the story of Claire, an artist, who receives a summer-long visit from her cousin Nuala. Along with Anna, a neighbour, we see the three women spending the summer thinking about their lives and roles as women as they help each other through various crises. It is a lot more gripping than I make it sound!
One of the things I like about Madden is the way that the choice of title reveals itself during the book - I noticed that with One by one in the darkness. The title Nothing is black comes from Claire remembering her childhood curiosity about colour, and repeated questioning as to why things were the colours they are. This is linked with Frieda Kahlo's writings on colour, which includes the phrase "Nothing is black". I must find out more about Kahlo as the extract included by Madden was very profound.

The other Madden that I've read this week is her first novel: Hidden symptoms which won the Rooney prize for Irish Literature in 1987. This was very different to her other novels and I will be interested to see if it gets republished. It is a lot more about the effects of living in Ireland under the IRA regime, and the events seem less important than the discussions about politics and religion that they inspire. I have really gained a great insight into the life of Northern Ireland from reading Madden's books.

I have found a really great review of all of Madden's books - far better than anything I could write - here.

If you decide that you do like Madden, another author who touches on similar themes is John McGahern. I recently read Amongst women and enjoyed that very much too.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Swine flu preparations

There's been an awful lot of talk about preparing for swine flu - making sure that you have someone on hand to collect your groceries etc, but what about preparing to make sure you have suitable reading? After all, in a worst case scenario, the libraries and bookshops might be shut (ok, I admit this is a little unlikely), but would you trust anyone to choose your reading?! My boyfriend was very poorly yesterday with a high temperature that seemed to be the culmination of the cold that he's had for the last week or so, and as my throat started to feel sore I wondered about planning some swine-flu reading (SFR). There is always the chance that one wouldn't feel well enough to read (my boyfriend couldn't even sit up on the sofa to watch daytime tv) but I think I shall make sure I have some suitable reading.

I think the main criteria for SFR would be that the books should be easy and comforting. I wouldn't want to read anything that I would want to blog about, in order to avoid feeling pressurised, which rules out all of the VMCs that I have awaiting me, and quite a lot of my TBRBC. I think I might take the opportunity to re-read some books - Saplings by Noel Streatfeild for instance. I think I'd also like to re-visit some children's books - the Chalet School series would be good as they are easy reads, and the characters always seem to be suffering from some life-threatening illness. I've also picked up a couple of the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson recently and would like to re-read those. Another old favourite of mine are the Miss Read books; coincidentally I picked up The year at Thrush Green from the library yesterday, so should I get a temperature and have to confine myself to my flat then I think that will be first on the list.

Have any of you had SF yet? If so, what did you read? And are any of you planning SFR - just in case.

PS: Boyfriend seems to have recovered overnight from whatever it was, SF or something else. Must have been to get away from me insisting on him drinking liquids every half an hour when I got back from work and hassling him about his symptoms...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bake of the week

Raymond Blanc's raspberry almond crumble-topped cake...(originally from BBC good food magazine)

100g butter, creamed with 100g caster sugar, one egg beaten in. 100g SR flour and 100g ground almonds. Spread 2/3 mixture in a 20cm tin, and freeze the rest for half an hour. Top the mixture in the tin with raspberries and then grate the remaining mixture over the top. Bake at 150C for 40mins-1 hour or until starts to turn golden.

Poppies for England

The one book I did manage to read amid enjoying 5* hotel luxury this weekend was Poppies for England by Susan Scarlett (aka Noel Streatfeild). I had been longing to read this for sometime and it certainly lived up to expectations. I read Noel Streatfeild as a child, and I've read some of her adult books (in fact, Saplings has been republished by Persephone), and the lovely thing about this book was that it felt like it was halfway between the children's books and adult novels. Streatfeild 12 "romances" under the name Susan Scarlett, and was apparently very dismissive of them, but I hugely enjoyed this light read in the style of her children's stories.

Set in 1946, in the immediate post-war period, it deals with the problems of rebuilding lives and families on the return to "normal" life, whilst many of the wartime restrictions are still in place. It tells the story of two families who are struggling with this, and who are eventually helped to overcome their tribulations as they are invited to form a concert party at a holiday camp, providing a sort of variety show of music and dance each evening. As with all of Streatfeild's books the characters are beautifully drawn and you really come to care about them and their lives and what will happen to them - it makes fien use of Streatfield's knowledge of the theatrical world.

I have just discovered this wonderful website about Streatfield - if you are a fan like me, then there is a lot of interesting information. It has reminded me that I would love to own, or at least re-read, Angela Bull's biography of her.

Poppies for England certainly falls within the category of forgotten literature. It has recently been republished by Greyladies, an Edinburgh based bookshop who are republishing "Girls’ School Stories - written for adults, Adult books by children’s authors and A spot of vintage crime". I own all of their republications, and am determined not to let them languish on the TBRBC for too long. Hopefully more reviews of their other books soon.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Back from the seaside...

Just got back - Oxford is a grey contrast to the beautiful sunshine of Eastbourne. The washing machine is whirring but there is cake in the oven, and I had a wonderful surprise fro m JoAnn giving me a Heartfelt blog award. Thanks JoAnn. And a mention from Simon at Stuck in a book of my VVV VMC Virago challenge. I'll be reviewing Stevie Smith's The holiday on that blog this week - I couldn't even wait for my holiday to start it.

We stayed in a wonderful 5* hotel - I've never stayed anywhere so nice. It was ALL amazing - the fluffy towels, the huge room (even though it was their cheapest!), the comfy bed, the outdoor pool, the indoor pool and spa area... We treated ourselves to afternoon tea (above), silver service afternoon tea no less. My only complaint was that they were a little stingy with the jam (in the centre - contrast with the huge pile of cream which we managed to get through!)... But it was very nice.

Today we went up and down the prom and caught the sun, went into the Camera Obscura . I'd not been into one before and it was fascinating - conditions weren't great but we saw all around Eastbourne. I beat my boyfriend at crazy golf - as usual - and he got grumpy about that - as usual. We also saw a lot of the Sussex Downs which I've never seen before and only know from paintings. Anyway, it was a lovely break, we had a lovely time together (apart from the walk through the thistle field...) and I was happy to be celebrating nearly 2 lovely years together.

Relaxing and having fun wasn't so conducive for reading...I did start a Greyladies title which I'm off to finish once I've hung out the washing and will write about this week. Back to the books this week I hope - the TBRBC is almost overflowing :s

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Off to the seaside...

We're off to the seaside today - it's all a bit last minute but I'm being whisked away to celebrate our 2 year anniversary, slightly in advance of that date. Well, I needed the occasion to read my latest VVV acquisition, Stevie Smith's The holiday. I might even have the chance to read something else as I specified "relaxing", though knowing me, if it's somewhere I've not been I'll be wanting to explore.

I leave you with a picture of some blackberry icecream which I made earlier in the week. I didn't like having to buy blackberries when, having grown up in the countryside, I'm used to picking them for free, but they were reduced as they were about to go out of date. I love the colour.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Second hand bookshopping

I don't often post links to things, but I did enjoy reading this article last night about the purchase of second hand books and second hand bookshops and what one can get for £10.

The Oxfam bookshop in Oxford is one of my haunts (although I prefer the one in Thame as it tends to have more interesting things - perhaps because it has less traffic?), and I picked up an Angela Carter in there earlier in the week for my VVV. I'm interested that they say that people won't find a bargain; I do find their books to be at the expensive end of the charity shop market, but I am happy to pay £2.99 for a paperback even if I can get it marginally cheaper on Amazon because I know that the money is going to charity.

(I'm also intrigued that the Glasgow branch takes more money - do the Scottish buy more expensive books?!)

(Afraid I'll be posting my book review over on VVV again today as I read Novel on yellow paper last night...)

**edit** I've just heard that I've got money to go to a conference in Cambridge this September. Including a reception at Heffers bookshop! Which sounds good, even though I don't yet know what sort of books they sell. But I wondered if anyone can recommend good second hand bookshops in Cambridge. Particularly ones which might help me with the VVV).

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Teaser Tuesday (on Wednesday)

I'm posting tonight over on my VVV blog so just a teaser for today, especially as I forgot to do one yesterday.

"So now you shall have some more nice little quotations for your scrap book. Or if you have no scrap book you can shoot them at your friends at your high class parties and you may think you are lukcy that you can just have them straight off like this and don't have to fit them into a speech the way I do for Sir Phoebus" -- Novel on yellow paper by Stevie Smith.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

And another bit of baking...

...with lots of my blogging friends all planning and carrying out baking, I felt it was my duty to join in and make again the shortbread that I made before, but didn't post the recipe.

The recipe is from the Sainsbury's magazine last year, and my version is a half quantity of the original.

Cream together 5oz butter with 1.5 oz dark brown sugar and 1.5 oz caster sugar. Stir in 6.5 oz plain flour, and bring together to form a dough. Stir in some dark chocolate drops. Press into a tin (I used my shiny new flan tin again, which is 18cm in diameter, but you could use a bigger tin and have slightly thinner shortbread which would need less time in the oven) and cook at 150C for about an hour, or until it starts to turn slightly golden. Cut into triangles...

Forgotten children's authors: Gillian Avery

The more that I blog, the more I want to try to make my blog coherent - I know my reading is a bit of a mishmash, and the baking adds a bit of a diverse element - so I am planning to blog more about forgotten authors, as they seem to comprise a large part of my reading at the moment; both those who have been republished and those who are still languishing in obscurity. (I am also wondering whether maybe I should set up a separate blog for my baking - what do you think?).

Many of the books that I loved as a child do not seem to be in print anymore, particularly those which my Mum loved as a child. One of these authors who doesn't seem to be in vogue is Gillian Avery, which is a pity as I very much enjoyed her books. She came back into my consciousness when I stumbled upon an adult book by her last week (The onlookers) in my local second hand bookshop, which I bought as I was unaware that she had written for adults too. I've yet to read that, but the purchase prompted me to look her up on the library catalogue.

The books that I remember reading as a child were The warden's niece, The greater Gresham, and A likely lad, and I had beautiful Bodley head editions from the public library (unfortunately I can't find pictures on either Amazon or One of the best things about her novels was the way in which characters from one book would reappear in other books. And this rings true right across her work; I found that Oxfordshire libraries owned several of her books which I had not read, and so I borrowed Trespassers at Charlcote which is the story of some children who take-over an abandoned house near where they live/are staying, and featured three of the boys who I remembered from The warden's niece.

If you're going to seek her out, I'd recommend The warden's niece as perhaps her best piece of writing for children. This is the story of Maria who runs away from school to live with her great-uncle in Oxford. She has lessons with three boys who live next door, of whom she is absolutely terrified at first. The most interesting thread in the book is when she decides to undertake some sort of project to prove to her academic uncle that she is a serious scholar (which she hopes will save her from being sent back to school); so she undertakes research into the provenance of a drawing, which leads her into all sorts of adventures.

Monday, 20 July 2009

A bit of baking

Made a quick jam sponge yesterday, with my homemade jam :)

PS: Have posted about most recent Virago reading here...

Two books by Deidre Madden

I came across Deidre Madden back at the start of May when I read Molly Fox's birthday which was shortlisted for the Orange prize. I really loved her style of writing, so I sought out other of her books. On the back of her success with Molly Fox, it seems that her earlier works are being reprinted, and were ordered in by my local library, and I was the first to borrow two books which I've now read.

The first was One by one in the darkness. This is the tale of three sisters, Sally, Helen and Kate, and tells us about their very different lives when they come together at their mother's house for a week, the week before the 1994 IRA ceasefire. However, it is also the story of their childhood, growing up in Northern Ireland under the IRA, which was fractured by the devastating death of their father as a result of this regime. I gained a really good impression of what it was to live through these times and thought that the characterisation was beautiful and the book extremely well constructed.

The second was The birds of the innocent wood. I didn't find this as enjoyable as the other novel but it was still good. This book is about Jane, an orphan, who hopes that marriage will offer her escape from a lonely life. However, life is not so straightforward and circumstances are complicated by the presence of another woman with whom her husband becomes involved.

I would certainly commend Deidre Madden's books to you if you have not read any of her before. I found this quote on the Faber and Faber website from the Observer which really sums up her writing:
"Madden's achievement is to make partial revelations about obscure lives as gripping as a thriller. Her style is passionate, emotional, but never obvious and does not admit a single cliché or badly written sentence.' Observer"

I've just found out that she won the Rooney prize for Irish literature for her novel Hidden Symptoms, but unfortunately my library doesn't yet have this. *edit* so I have just bought it from Amazon - apparently it is her first novel, and the blurbs on Amazon look intriguing!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Back from the weekend

Just a quick post while I upload photos from the weekend to facebook and wait for the cake I'm baking to finish off (my boyfriend, despite being quite tired is currently building me a bike as my old one died just before we left, and I need to get to work tomorrow (though I wouldn't mind f I didn't as it's stock check this week - swiping thousands of books' barcodes).

I've had a lot of fun this weekend visiting 3 different countries - lunch in France (we visited Dunkirk as I've always wanted to see where the evacuation took place), afternoon tea (Belgian waffles of course!) and dinner in Bruges (convenient place to break the journey), and then lunc, dinner, breakfast in the Netherlands yesterday and today.

The wedding was great fun, in an outside chapel, held in a mixture of German and Dutch. This was followed by large amount of cake eating and champagne drinking (see above for the spread of cake) at the groom's mother's house. Then there was a break to check into hotels - we stayed at a campsite in a little chalet, where they brought us breakfast in bed by leaving a basket in a rabbit hutch outside the door. The we went to a wonderful meal in a restaurant by the sea, which was preceded by dancing to Strauss outside and more champagne. The highlight of the evening was waving sparklers as the cake was brought in (I won't pretend that the rest of the evening conducted in German which I don't speak wasn't deeply tedious).

I also got the dress code wrong..."smoking" means black tie, but this only applied to the evening. Everyone was dressed formally for the church service and I could have got away with trousers, but changed for the evening. I did the English thing of having one outfit for both... Still, I coordinated with my boyfriend who looked wonderful even if he was teased about his pink cufflinks...

I didn't do too much reading - I read another book (wedding themed as couldn't find anything location-themed) for my Virago Venture and will post about that later this week. We didn't even listen to an audio book as it was so interesting looking out at the different places. I drove for 2.5 hours today, and needed all of my concentration anyway as I've not driven on the "wrong" side of the road before. And I started a Jane Gardam in bed last night.

All in all a very adventurous weekend. I'll get back to blogging this week, especially as Vintage have sent me a "new" A.A. Milne book which is endorsed by PG Wodehouse (so I'm hoping my boyfriend will read it and give us his opinion too...)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Booking through Thursday

It's a TBR-pile follow up question, which is quite handy, as enables me to complete the trilogy of posts I needed to make to respond to last week's question...

"Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?"

Well, as I said last week most of my TBR books inhabit the TBR bookcase, or the library-books shelf. However, there are a number of books which for other reasons are mixed in with my general bookshelves. Partly this is TBR books from before I created a TBRBC, which includes Tracy Chevalier's Burning Bright, and various other bits and pieces of fiction. But in other cases it's because I love to have books by the same author (and particularly when they're in the same imprint) together - so although I've still not yet read Daphne Du Maurier's Hungry Hill or finished reading her short story volumes they are all together.


How many of you "read" audio books? They're not something I have much experience of (I find them frustrating as I read so very much faster than someone reading out loud), but recently I've started getting them for long journeys in the car, as we can't always bear to have a continuous stream of music, and radio 4 isn't hugely reliable. The trouble with audiobooks is that they are HUGELY expensive, although I think one can now download them (although my boyfriends car, even though it is considerably more expensive than mine doesn't have an MP3 socket). So, I have to borrow them from the library, which is a better option at £1.50 for 3 weeks, but even though I go to the central library of the district there isn't a huge selection. And over half of them are on tape, which renders them unplayable for us as we no longer have a tape machine.

The other problem is that I have to find something that will appeal to both my boyfriend and I... I struck gold last weekend when we went to Cornwall, finding an audio book of Stephen Fry's The spectacled bear, read by the man himself. My boyfriend is a huge fan of Stephen Fry. And when I read the back, I thought it looked really interesting. It was the tale of Fry's involvement in a documentary about the roots of Paddington Bear, and then a subsequent programme when Fry and the team went back to Peru to rescue a mate for this bear. What made it good as an audio book was that in some ways the book worked like a radio programme, as the main part of the book which was Fry's journal of the trip was preceded by a discussion of how the documentary came about and included lots of fascinating information about Peru, all delivered with Fry's customary wit.

The only other audio book we've had was a CD of Just William by Richmal Crompton when we went to Skegness in January. They were doing electrical work in the library around the audio book section on the day that I went in to choose, so the only way I could get an audio book was to get something from the children's library! This was also a big hit as my boyfriend remembered listening to this exact edition on the radio when he was little, and whoever the reader was (I now forget) did a brilliant job of encapsulating the characters.

So now I've got to choose something for the weekend. I'm wondering about a PG Wodehouse - I've not read any of his books and I know my boyfriend enjoys them. I also spotted a sequel to the Mapp and Lucia books by Tom Holt which looked interesting - I've not read the M&L books but I know my boyfriend has. I guess I need to first look for audio books which will appeal to him and then make my choice! (Obviously if I could get an audio book about Bruges/The Netherlands that would be best of all!).

Of course, being on the continent, I guess there will be radio coverage of Le Tour...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Belated booking through Thursday (part 2)

This is the current library TBR pile, which resides at the bottom of an empty bookcase. Shocking, cardigan girl doesn't do empty bookcases. It was offered to my boyfriend but he hasn't yet taken up the offer, and if he doesn't soon, then...
Anyway, the library pile is quite under control at the moment, as you can see, which is unusual, as I use both my boyfriend's library ticket and my own one (which enables us to have a whopping 40 books plus audio books out at once), and I have some books on loan from work (the upright titles). There's also a rogue book on loan from a former colleague on the far left - I can't remember why she lent it to me, it's not something I'm remotely interested in and can't even remember what it's called.

On the left:
The erosion of Oxford
Oxford 1914
These three are all books from work; we have quite a good collection of books on Oxford. These have been sitting here for quite a while as somehow I never get around to reading them, and there is no pressure as I have them out for a year! I do like reading books about Oxford so I must get around to it eventually.

The finest type of English womanhood. (picked this up the other day because it looked interesting)
Her three wise men (Middleton). Looking forward to this one, after I enjoyed his booker-winning Holiday. Not read any other Middleton's yet but really want to.
The immortals (Chaudhari) (have read his other books, so looking forward to his latest).
The flying troutmans (Toews) (have read other things by her, looking forward to this).
The wilderness (Harvey). (Lots of bloggers have enjoyed this, and it was shortlisted for the Orange prize, so I've wanted to read this)
Eva Trout (Bowen). (I loved The death of the heart, and hope this lives up to it!)
A separate peace (Knowles) (Nymeth noted that Meg Rosoff's What I was was based on this, so I thought it would be interesting to read)
The birds of the wood (Madden) (Am really enjoying her books having had her brought to my attention by her orange-shortlisted Molly Fox's birthday)
Drama comes to Pryor's Ford (Fox) (This has got into the wrong pile! I enjoyed the first book in the series; it comes into the category of lighter in bed reading)
Tales from our Cornish Island (Atkins) (Read the first part of her autobiography last week and am looking forward to reading about life on the island!)

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor (really looking forward to this young adult title as I've loved the rest of Moriarty's books, will blog about it in due course)
The Village Green Affair (Rebecca Shaw) (discovered this very light author who probably appeals to elderly ladies earlier in the year, but love her books as they are soooooo relaxing. This is the last one of hers I've got left to read which is very sad :()
Familiar Rooms in darkness (Caro Fraser) (am enjoying reading my way through her books set in a legal practice, not too challenging).

On the right:
London transport posters - a century of art and design. Another book from work, one which I covet very very much and will have great difficulty returning. We saw this exhibition in February, in fact a trip to the London Transport Museum was my very unromantic Valentine's Day treat! I have only ever visited London as a tourist but I am always fascinated by the posters in the tube and it was fantastic to see a collection of these over the ages and see them develop.

As you can see, my two main library piles are divided into the more literary, and the lighter. The latter is what I read in bed before I go to sleep. This literary pile contains a surprising number of modern books, often I have older titles. Most of these have been sitting here for a while which reflects the fact that I haven't really felt like reading modern books much at the moment (although having enjoyed Glue maybe I'm more in that frame of mind now). What I love so much about the library is the ability to try things out - if you don't like a book, you can take it back, and you can sample a far more diverse range of books than if you were spending the money. I've read books about running B and B's, making ice cream, and lots of obscure and otherwise novels that I wouldn't have tried if I'd had to buy them.

Verity's Virago Venture

As if a Persephone week challenge wasn't enough, I've started a new blog to track the progress of the latest reading challenge that I've set myself. I hope that many of my regular readers who also enjoy Virago books will visit me over at and join in sharing my huge expedition. I'm planning to read at least 1 Virago book a week (so I won't be updating the blog perhaps as often as this one), and will also in the process write about the ones that I have already read. There's no method in my madness yet, just madness, but I hope you will enjoy it as much as I hope to.

Persephone week challenge 24/08/09-->

The other week when I was off work, I had a lovely time reading a different Persephone book each day of the week. I read 5 books, chosen completely at random, from my TBR bookcase. It was such a good experience, because unlike reading a string of books by the same author, the books were all so completely different. I decided to do this again when I next have time off work - 24th August - and Paperback Reader Claire has decided to join me. I thought this might be a nice challenge, and wondered if other people might like to join in too.

There are several ways you can participate... can read a Persephone book a day... can just read as many Persephone books as you are able in the week (2 or 3 or 4)
...or you can just read one book during the week. can plan in advance which books you want to read...
...or if you have a number of Persephone books on your TBR pile, then you can just select at random.

If you've never read a Persephone book before, then now is your chance to start. has the full list of titles, and you can order from them direct.

I'm planning to read a book a day, chosen fairly at random from my remaining Persephones, but the week will conclude with A fortnight in September, as we'll be off on our holidays, which for me will last until the end of the first fortnight in September! The hardest bit will be trying not to read any Persephone titles in the meantime as I want to have plenty of choice. I might have to order a few more titles perhaps or make a trip to Lambs Conduit Street...

Nearer the time, I'll try to think of some way in which we can share what we are reading to accommodate the different ways of joining in. Claire and I are also planning to hold a couple of competitions to win a Persephone book, and Nicola at Persephone has very kindly offered to donate a couple of slightly damaged copies for us to use. Look out for a mention of us in their fortnightly newsletter.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Travelling around England

As it's summer, my thoughts turn to travel, and having enjoyed a couple of travel magazines recently, I seem to have ended up reading a number of travel books. I love travel books about England, both reading interpretations of places that I have been to and know well, and also reading descriptions of places that I know only from books and the newspapers. It makes me think of holidays too. I love both new travel books and old travel books, and today I'm going to mention four that have crossed my reading path in the last week or so.

First up, English Journey by J.B. Priestley. I've just got my hands on a new, 75th anniversary edition of a book that I first discovered as part of my history degree. This is a lovely re-issue, much nicer than the tatty library copy I read first, and includes a number of "extras" - forewords and introductions and scene setting by a number of notable people including Roy Hattersley, Margaret Drabble, Nina Bawden, Beryl Bainbridge, among others, so it is well worth having this edition. The book is the story of Priestley's journey around England in 1934, which really captures the essence of inter-war England. The trip covers Southampton to Norwich via Swindon and the Cotswolds, Birmingham and Leicester, Yorkshire and the Potteries, Lancashire and Teesside, and ending up in Lincoln and East Anglia.

This final famous passage really sums up the book and his travels:
"Southampton to Newcastle, Newcastle to Norwich: memories rose like milk coming to the boil. I had seen England. I had seen a lot of Englands. How many? At once, three disengaged themselves from the shifting mass. There was first, Old England, the country of the cathedrals and minsters and manor houses and inns, of parson and Squire; guide-book and quaint highways and byways England…
"Then, I decided, there is the nineteenth-century England, the industrial England of coal, iron, steel, cotton, wool, railways; of thousands of rows of little houses all alike, sham Gothic churches, square-faced chapels, Town Halls, Mechanics’ Institutes, mills, foundries, warehouses, refined watering-places, Pier Pavilions, Family and Commercial Hotels, Literary and Philosophical Societies, back-to-back houses, detached villas with monkey-trees, Grill Rooms, railway stations, slag-heaps and ‘tips’, dock roads, Refreshment Rooms, doss-houses, Unionist or Liberal Clubs, cindery waste ground, mill chimneys, slums, fried-fish shops, public-houses with red blinds, bethels in corrugated iron, good-class draper’s and confectioners’ shops, a cynically devastated countryside, sooty dismal little towns, and still sootier grim fortress-like cities. This England makes up the larger part of the Midlands and the North and exists everywhere; but it is not been added to and has no new life poured into it…
"The third England, I concluded, was the new post-war England, belonging far more to the age itself than to this particular island. America, I supposed, was its real birthplace. This is the England of arterial and by-pass roads, of filling stations and factories that look like exhibition buildings, of giant cinemas and dance-halls and cafes, bungalows with tiny garages, cocktail bars, Woolworths, motor-coaches, wireless, hiking, factory girls looking like actresses, greyhound racing and dirt tracks, swimming pools, and everything given away for cigarette coupons.’

My second book is another historical travel book, H.V. Morton's In search of England. This has been sitting with my other books for a while, despite being a TBR, and after last week's exercise in beginning to examine my TBRs I decided to read it rather than move it! This was published in 1927, after Morton made a journey around England by car in 1926, and is an absolutely fascinating insight into the England of the time. Morton had been away from England for some years, and highlights the differences between 1926, and the England he knew as a boy, which makes for another interesting contrast alongside the England described in the book and the England we know today. This lovely recent edition has a new introduction by Jan Morris.
I then read Mustn't grumble, a recent book which traces H.V. Morton's steps - actually, finding this in the library was another prompt to get out the Morton book. Joe Bennett had been living in New Zealand for 15 years when he came back to make this trip. However, I found this book somewhat disappointing, as he didn't stick very much to Morton's route or agenda, and I was left wondering really whether the book was more about his attempt to come to terms with the changes in England whilst he had been absent.

A much better modern book about England was the final port of call on my travelogue-a-thon: Stuart Maconie's Adventures on the High teas. I read his first book about a year ago, Pies and Prejudice, which was a study of the North of England trying to find out what is cliche and what is fact. This book was a study of England with regard to the middle classes and what constitutes middle England, so it is as much a book about class and English society as it is about travel (although, I think it would be fair to say that about any of these four books). I liked the way Maconie looked at various hallmarks of middle-class-ness, such as music, and films and poetry. We visit Jane Austen's Bath, David Brent's Slough, and a whole host of other places in England to illustrate his themes. An engaging comforting read.

Do any of the rest of you read travel books? Do you prefer to read books about places that you've been to or places that you would like to go? One of my very favourite travel books is the latest edition of the Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall because it reminds me of many of the places that I know and love. More on another couple of Cornish books in the next week or so.

Monday, 13 July 2009

We are all made of glue (Lewycka)

I treated myself to this volume for the weekend, as I'd felt a bit stuck in a reading doldrums (yes, I have discovered, you can have too many Virago-style books in one go!), and needed cheering up. Plus, I needed something to occupy myself while my boyfriend took his nephew and sister's boyfriend around Go Ape in Bracknell. Watching them was even more tedious than imagined, so I took myself off to the car for 2 hours and felt glad that I had something good on the go.
This is the quite complicated story of Georgie, who lives with her 16 year old son, having just been left by her husband, who edits a periodical called "Adhesives in the modern world", and forms a friendship with a lady living down the street called Mrs Shapiro. Amazon have a far better synopsis than anything I could write here.
The book has all of the characteristics of Lewycka's earlier writing - quirky subjects, twists in the plot, and writing about topics that one doesn't necessarily know much - I learnt a lot about adhesion and the making of glues, armageddonism and the Israel/Palestine conflict. There are so many different elements to the plot, such as the magazine Adhesives in the modern world, the novel that Georgie is writing, and the sub-plots about members of her family that it is a really very gripping read. Samantha has described this as comfort reading with an edge; I agree that it has a bite, and is certainly good for reading when you are stuck in the doldrums, so if that is comfort reading, then this will fit the bill.

Anyway, I'm back in full flood of normal reading I think. I also finished off Diamonds are a girls best friend by Colgan (pre-sleep chick lit, very good) and Parlour Games (Mavis Cheek). I also finally read The Millstone (Drabble) which was a fantastic story about an unmarried pregnancy, which was reminiscent of The L-Shaped Room. It had been a while since I'd read a Drabble, so that was nice. I've got a couple of travel books on the go which I'll write about in due course, and although I had Sisters by the river (Comyns) in my bag for today, I picked up High table by Joanna Cannan from the library at lunchtime, which as I suspected from the title, *is* set in Oxford. So that's the plan for tonight. And perhaps I'll start a Caro Fraser, as I am enjoying her books which are fairly easy reads about a law firm in London - I am learning a lot about legal processes from them!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Netherlands/Bruges inspired reading...

We're off to a wedding in the Netherlands next weekend, and we're breaking the journey in Bruges, as I've never been. (I'm also hoping that we can stop at Dunkirk as I'd love to see the beaches from the WW2 evacuations, as WW2 was a particular interest of mine when I did my first degree). I've written before about how I love to read books about places where I am and have been, and I was wondering if there was anything that anyone could recommend that I could read while I am away? To be honest, I'm probably not going to get much time for reading, but I might do when I get back.

The wedding itself should be quite interesting. It's some German friends of my boyfriend, and in Germany, apparently you have TWO weddings, a civil one and a religious one. My boyfriend went to the civil one last year in Heidelburg in Germany, and this is the religious one. Apparently it's more usual to have the two ceremonies a bit closer together. I'm not sure what language the service will be in, and I'm still wondering whether my outfit will fit the intriguing German dress code of "smoking", which apparently is lounge suits for men and goodness knows what for women. The wedding is in Zoutelande, which is a big holiday area. We left booking somewhere a bit late, and so we're staying at a "camping platz", in a little chalet which might be interesting. At least it's not the youth hostel which was the only other option...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Belated booking through Thursday (part 1)

I was hugely excited to see last week's Booking through Thursday post about books awaiting attention:

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

as I had been meaning to undertake a blogged assessment of what is on there. See the picture (actually this was taken before I rearranged my Persephone books, but it is necessary to use this picture as I have a number of TBRP's).

I'm going to respond in two parts. I'm first going to tackle the TBRBC, and then I shall deal with whatever is the current state of the library pile... I shall list the books and make comments about them... How many of you have similar books in your TBR?

On the top
I've actually read A nice cup of tea and The wedding group, so they don't count!
1. The Edwardians (Sackville-West) - been wanting to read this for a while, so was happy when I spotted it in Thame Oxfam. I know Darlene has got this too, so hopefully we will read it at the same time :)
2. Next to nature, art (Lively). Another Thame Oxfam.
3. Hotel du Lac (Brookner). Another Thame Oxfam. Am enjoying Brookner, so decided I should read her Booker winner. Particularly as I'm also trying to read more Booker winners.
4. A cast of smiles (Brookfield). Enjoy her books and so does my Mum. Something lighter.

Shelf 1
1. Maiden's trip (Emma Smith). Loved Great Western Beach and A Far Cry so had to have this.
2. The tent, the bucket and me (Kennedy).
3. Size 12 is not fat (Cabot). Magazine freebie.
4. Voluptuous delights of peanut butter and jam. I think a charity shop find, a Virago anyway :), and a lovely hardback.
5. Some tame gazelle (Pym)
6. Excellent women (Pym). The only two Pyms I have left to read. Discovered Pym again this year and really loved reading her stuff.
7. The Dud Avocado (Dundy). Who could resist a title like that? Virago :)
8. One Fine Day (Panter-Downes). Really looking forward to this one. Virago :)
9. Honourable estate (Brittain). Didn't realise Brittain had written novels too. Virago :)
10. Well tempered Clavier (Coles). Amazon recommended this to me - looks good.
11. Zennor in darkness (Dunmore). Set in Cornwall - coming with me this summer.
12. The sea lady (Drabble). Discovered Drabble earlier in the year, and really enjoying. Book set by sea sounded good.
13. The kiss (Lingard).
14. The queen of the tambourine (Gardam)
15. Faith fox (Gardam)
16. Old Filth (Gardam)
17. Flight of the maidens (Gardam)
[17a. Long way from Verona (Gardam) - on the day this picture was taken, this book was in my handbag to go to London but I didn't get around to reading it. Gardam is another author I missed out on when I was younger, and have rediscovered this year, and the Verona book is the one I'm most looking forward to].
18. My silver shoes (Dunn). Discovered Dunn this year.
19. The post-office girl (Zweig). Has had some good reviews.
20. Nightingale woods (Gibbons). Didn't enjoy Cold Comfort Farm but this sounded appealing. Don't think the cover is very Virago though.
21. Fugitive Pieces (Michaels). Another Booker. Was curious to read after reading about the film, and found this lovely copy in Red Cross Shop.
22. The great lover (Dawson). Can't wait to read this.
23. The Vinegar Jar. (Doherty). Loved her teenage titles, and her other adult book, so looking forward to this.
24. The Guernsey Literary Society...everyone raves about this and I was v. pleased when it was one of The times £2.99 books.
25. Something beginning with (Salway). Can't remember why I bought this!
26. The white tiger (Arind). Another Booker...should definitely read as he went to the college where I work. Another The Times £2.99 book.
27. Fixing Kate (Murphy). Chick lit but one of my best friends is called Kate and thought she would love this when I've read it. Must read and give it to her... Charity shop.
28. Singled out (Nicholson). Some rare non fiction. Charity shop buy.
29. Rebecca's Tale (Beaumann). Du Maurier related but couldn't get into it when I started it last year.
30. Plan B (Barr). Magazine freebie.
31. If you were here (Ahern). Magazine freebie.
32. Hunting and gathering (Gavalda). Picked up in the Blackwells sale last year - according to the back is a bit like Amelie. Really looking forward to this one.

Middle shelf
1. Camel book mobile. Spotted this in a remainder bookshop for a friend for a £1 but turned out she'd already read it. Proves I'm good at recommending books?!
2-4 Three Angela Thirkells, I can't remember which, on loan from my Mum.
5. Kingdom by the sea (Theroux). I love books about travel in England.
6. Eating people is wrong (Bradbury). His first book, with an intriguing title.
7. Providence (Brookner). HER first book I think.
8-10 Three more Margaret Drabbles More charity shop finds...
11. Smile please (Rhys). Her autobiographical volume, which I'm intrigued to read after reading her 4 autobiographical novels earlier this year.
12. A pagan place (O'Brien). Discovered O'brien earlier this year with her Country girls trilogy.
13. Olivia (Olivia). Picked this up after reading Stuck in a book's recommendation.
14. Temples of delight (Trapido). V happy to find this in a charity shop as I loved trapido when I read her books a few years ago and thought I'd read all of them.
15. Relative love (Brookfield). See above.
16. Brief lives (Brookner).
17. Fair exchange (Banks). The only Bank's I've not read. I loved her books, especially the L-shaped room.
18. Summer after the funeral (Gardam).
19. Guppies for tea (Cobbold). A light charity shop purchase.
20. Niagara Falls (McCracken). Loved her giant book.
21. Anderby Wold (Holtby). Loved South riding. Green Virago :)
22. Four frightened people.
23. Rumours of heaven (Lehmann). Wonder if related to Rosamund?
24. Cosmo Cosmolinus (Garner). It's a shame the green Viragos aren't more uniform.
25. Sea house (Freud). Enjoyed previous books so snapped this up in Oxfam.
26. Waiting (Jin). Only £1 and looked interesting.
27. Gut symmetries (Winterson). Liked Oranges...and thought this appropriate for a person with chronic stomach pain!
28. Second husband (Candish). Light charity shop read...
29. Trust (Flanagan)
30. Spell of winter (Dunmore).
31. East of wimbledon (Williams)
32. Sensible life (Wesley)
33. Spring sonata (Rubens)
34. I sent a letter (Rubens). Not read any Rubens, but 50p each I seem to recall.

Bottom shelf
I have read a few of these Persephones, so for this purpose I'll only list the ones I haven't! And not in order...
1. Operation heartbreak (Arthur)
2. Bricks and mortar (Ashton)
3. A very great profession (Beaumann)
4. The shuttle (Burnett)
5. Every eye (English)
6. Fidelity (Glaspell)
7. Manja
8. Carlyles at home (Holme)
9. Little boy lost (Laski)
10. Making conversation (Long)
11. Good evening Mrs Craven (Panter-Downes)
12. Fortnight in September (Sherrif)
13. Hetty Dorval (Wilson)
14-20 All seven Greyladies titles. (Fingers getting tired).

Since this photo, I've got two more books, the new Bloomsbury group Henrietta, and He's not that into you (another magazine freebie).

Phew. I suppose I should analyse this collection but I think it is more interesting as an oversight of what I am currently enjoying reading. Think I have so many books awaiting me for several reasons:
- getting into blogging has really inspired my reading
- offers at Borders, Waterstones and Persephone earlier this year
- a bit too much charity bookshopping!

Friday, 10 July 2009

A bit of a baking hiatus

There's been a bit of a baking hiatus recently, and I'm afraid that that's likely to continue for the rest of the month, and into August too, as we're away most weekends. The boyfriend will still need to be fed cake I am sure, but I am likely to just make quick and easy recipes and not try anything new. Like these gingerbread stars. It's a recipe that came with my gingerbread family cutters (I once complained about the inequality issue in gingerbread cutters to a friend, and he found me a set containing a gingerbread man, woman, boy and girl) which is quite easy. I find that gingerbread biscuits go so well with strawberries, and especially with my strawberries and cream homemade ice cream.

I made these rather cute little heart shaped shortbreads with chocolatey bits out of a bit of a disaster. I'm planning to make the cherry cake again this weekend, as we're hoping to get out to the PYO tomorrow, and they have cherries in season now! (Plus it is my boss's 60th in a few weeks time, and we're having a tea-party, and she chose that cake from the list I gave her, so I need to have a dry run). Anyway, I made the batter and the crumble topping last night to put in the fridge, only I had to ditch the first lot of crumble topping. My efforts to soften the butter were perhaps a little too strong, and I ended up with liquid, which meant that the topping turned into a dough...never mind I thought, I'll add some more flour and some chocolate drops and sprinkles and make them into cookies.

I am compiling a wish-list of baking, I'll post it here to remind myself, but feel free to encourage me to make something you like the look of!
- Nicola's cinnamon buns (recipe not online I'm afraid!)
- strawberry buns
- rhubarb spelt cake
- peach melba squares
- walnut date and honey cake

I also want a remake of bakewell tarts, and of quiche (without the pastry shrinking!), and I want to make a Victoria sponge with my own jam, and maybe jam tarts with my own pastry... Yum yum.

And I just had a thought that it would be nice to do some Cornish inspired baking. I had a go at a rather unsuccessful saffron loaf last September, and I'd like to have another go. Or some Cornish hevva cake maybe.

We bought an island (Atkins)

I mentioned picking this up from the library on Monday, and thought it would be just the thing to read last night as I've been in a bit of a literary doldrums this week (although I'm sure that'll change as soon as I get my hands on something a bit different, which I'm waiting for Amazon to deliver). It wasn't exactly a great literary read, but it was HUGELY interesting, and I'm frustrated that the sequel is at the library headquarters store and won't be here before next week.

How many of you read Enid Blyton's Famous Five, in particular Five on a treasure Island, and envied George having her own island with a castle? Or loved Swallows and Amazons and the fun that could be had with boats and camps? Evelyn Atkins and her sister Babs had always hoped to own an island. Entranced by Cornwall after a holiday there, they bought a pair of cottages and set about retiring to Looe, when the island opposite their new homes came up for sale. They bought it for £20k in 1964.

The book chronicles the process of buying the island and relocating down to Cornwall, and taking their furniture and equipment across to the island. We also hear about Evelyn's pre-island life and work, which I found fascinating as I always enjoy a good autobiography. It's very informally written, as I said earlier, but if you love Cornwall or the idea of buying an island yourself, then this is a must read.

You can read more about Looe island and its history here.

Two postscripts:
1. If any of you watch the archaeological programme Time Team, you might remember that they did a dig there on the series shown earlier this year. My Dad was one of the historical experts on it! I wish I'd read the book sooner when he was telling me about the trip.
2. If anyone can recommend any other good Cornish reads I would be most grateful. DDM is a given obviously, and I've got Zennor in darkness on my pile for this summer.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Over the hills and far away - Candida Lycett Green

This book turned out to be exactly what I wanted to read yesterday. Paperback Reader had suggested that I should get out some old boarding school books to cheer myself up with, but I had been diverted onto thinking about "horsey" books that I used to enjoy (The Jill books by Ruby Ferguson, and those by the Pullein-Thompson sisters in particular) (even though I never went horse-riding and am hugely allergic to horses). This was partly the result of discovering that Joanna Cannan, author of the Persephone book Princes in the Land, also wrote some horsey children's books, but more importantly was the mother of the Pullein-Thompson sisters! Bizarrely, this book turned out to fit into this sort of theme.

I saw this book in the bookshop in Cornwall at the weekend, and made a mental note of it. Lycett Green is the daughter of John Betjeman, of whom I am a great fan due to his love of Cornwall and very readable poetry. So I was pleased to be able to get it from the library yesterday. I have to say when I started reading it that it did not cheer me up - the book is partly about Lycett Green's struggle (albeit successful) with breast cancer, which was not a hugely jolly aspect of the book. The book is partly the story of her 200-mile journey on horse back through Yorkshire and Northumberland to raise funds for breast cancer - hence fitting into my horse-book thinking mood. Whilst this provides the frame for the book, there are many more threads running through the book which made it a really interesting read - she writes lyrically about her unconventional childhood, her life and her marriage, and previous horse riding experiences (I particularly loved the tale of a birthday party her mother organised where people expecting a dinner-dance were taken on horses hired from the local stables for a 10 mile trip to a picnic - this was met with a mixture of hilarity and horror - Lycett Green never saw the boy she fancied again after this!). And the other thing I liked about the book was the description of places that I vaguely know; I had hoped there would be more about Cornwall or Oxford, but there was a lot about places like Faringdon, and Uffington, which I don't know very well, but drive past on the way between Cornwall and Oxford, so I was able to do a certain amount of visualisation. A relaxing read.

Out of the doldrums

Thanks to everyone who helped try to cheer me up yesterday. I am feeling a lot more jolly today - which is weird as I AM actually poorly today with pretty awful stomach pain.

And I think I have got out of the reading doldrums... I picked up Candida Lycett Green's Over the hills and far away, which turned out to be a really enjoyable read, which I shall blog about later. While browsing the Waterstones website, I read that a new Marina Lewycka has literally just been published, We are all made of glue. I loved her last books, and as I was feeling so jaded by all of the books available for me I decided I couldn't wait for it to hit the library, and bought myself a copy. I hope it might be here by the weekend.

I also bought a pair of shoes. Which I didn't need at all. I really needed some work summer shoes. But cheered me up. Hurrah for shoes and new books.

I had a lovely read of Waterstones Books Quarterly while my boyfriend was watching last night's edition of Le Tour. I'd not encountered this magazine before, but I'd highly recommend it. It's free in Waterstones stores if you have a Waterstones card (and you can get one of those for free). The articles are also available online. There was a fascinating article about Sarah Waters and The little stranger, lots of reviews (my want-to-read list expanded rapidly), and an interview which convinced me to want to read The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - I've read her other books, but this didn't initially appeal, but it definitely does now.

I also got excited thinking about the Persephone challenge which Paperback Reader and I are planning - we'll post about that in due course. And I also enjoyed looking at Jackie's parenting book-group suggestions and coming up with ideas for that and her next themed post.

Normal cardigan wearing service resumed I think...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Some book rearranging

As you can see, I moved my books around last night and decided to put all of my Persephone books together.

The ones on the left are the ones that I have read, and the ones on the right are TBRP (that's a "to-be-read-Persephone"). Frustratingly I had more than I thought (how can it be frustrating to own too many Persephones); I thought I'd fitted them all onto one shelf, but you might spot the Persephone life of Elizabeth Taylor on the next shelf down, and you might spot Miss Pettigrew in the picture below. On the other hand, maybe I should just buy some more Persephones to fill up another whole shelf?!
(apologies for the fact that the picture is out of focus, I took it last night and only realised when I uploaded it - I'll replace it later)

Anyway, it leaves the TBRBC in much better shape :) I know that gives me the potential to expand (!) but as you can see I'm going to need to move the books down as I am rapidly filling up the space in my sequence of fiction books...

Reading-wise, as opposed to merely books and rearrangement of such, I read Home by Penelope Mortimer last night. As you may have guessed from yesterday's Teaser, it turned out to be a book about a woman who had recently been left by her husband. At that point in the book, she and her son had visited her husband's flat and removed all of the furniture. As usual with Mortimer, the book was more about relationships than plot. Although I don't think it was as good as My friend says its bullet proof or The pumpkin eater, I think I mainly didn't enjoy it as I've been reading a lot of this sort of fiction recently, and maybe I'm a bit jaded. In fact, I'm feeling a bit jaded with reading - maybe its post-holiday blues, maybe it's the fact I'm REALLY fed up with the fact that I feel like I am never (well, almost never) able to go out anywhere as I have so little energy and so much pain/discomfort, and maybe it's the fact that I have to read in the evenings at the moment as my boyfriend is watching the Tour De France.

Anyway, I intend to go to the library at lunchtime (books to return if nothing else), and try to find something DIFFERENT. Moan over. If not, I'll maybe watch a DVD on my laptop tonight - I still haven't seen The reader (missed several outings due to aforementioned poorliness), and I've been wanting to watch the film of Up the junction too for a while. We've also got the Class on loan from work (again, missed at the cinema) or there is always my lovely Lost and Found DVD.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

First Persephone week revisited - Marjory Fleming

Last night I read The two Mrs Abbots by D.E. Stevenson, which is the sequel to the sequel of Miss Buncle's book. Whilst I really enjoyed the first sequel, I felt quite disappointed by this one. Miss Buncle was as Miss Buncle-ish as ever, and there were a few entertaining moments, but it lacked the intriguing plot of the previous two. So, get hold of Miss Buncle married, but don't bother with The two Mrs Abbots unless your TBR pile is completely empty!

So today I thought I'd write about Marjory Fleming, which probably the most intriguing of the books that I read last week, even if I didn't hugely like it. I'm keen to blog about it, as it's not a title that I've seen other people write about yet - there seems to be a core of Persephone books which are being read by everyone, and others which are not yet out there. Please let me know if you are wrong!
This is the fictionalised biography of a small girl who wrote journals and poems, and is the youngest person to have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - she died, aged 8 from measles. The Persephone edition includes the original entry, written by Leslie Stephens, about her, which was interesting, but it's also worth taking a look at the entry in The New ODNB by Kathryn Sutherland. Apparently her reputation stemmed from three journals that she wrote aged 7-8 in 1810-11. These were preserved by her sister, and then portions were published 50 years later with extensions and embellishments. In the Victorian period she was then constructed as a child genius with various stories arising about her life, such as a friendship with Walter Scott (there isn't actually evidence for this), which led to her being included in the original ODNB. As the New DNB entry states, Oriel Malet's book "is largely devoted to extending the legend".
What I did like about the book was the extracts from the journal, but mostly I found the book a bit twee (and I understand why a bit more now that I've read Sutherland's article) and I didn't actually find Marjory to be a hugely likeable character. She was precocious, prone to moods and selfishness, and I wasn't really sure how much more special or advanced her writing was than other girls. Admittedly, this was in 1810 when it was rare for girls to be educated, but one wonders whether she would actually have gone on to become a writer who we would still be aware of today (which is what Stephens and Malet seem to imply) if she had not died so soon.

By the way, I'm planning a second week of Persephone at the end of August. I've made the radical decision that I *do* want to keep my Persephone books separate, and have identified a space where they can be moved to. However, in order to do that, I will need to move some other books around, and it will all be easiest if some of them have been read first - this book move needs to happen in tandem with the lessening of the number of books on the TBRBC. I'm intending to keep them in numerical order, with the ones which are unread at the end. I won't be doing the same with my Viragos, not yet, anyway, but I might do with my Greyladies. Aesthetics winning out over librarianly instinct - who'd have thought it? Still, there is plenty of time to change my mind...
I haven't yet drawn up the list, but it will certainly conclude with A fortnight in September, as we will be on holiday by the seaside at the end of the week, and that seems appropriate. It will probably include Fidelity, as I enjoyed the other Susan Glaspell book so much. It may include Mariana, although I am putting off the moment of reading the only Monica Dickens book I haven't read for the first time. If I have some busy days then it will almost certainly include Hetty Dorval or Every Eye since they are slim volumes. But one of the joys of the last Persephone week was choosing books completely at random, so I perhaps I shan't plan too much.

Teaser Tuesday - another Penelope Mortimer

Chose this quite at random from the library headquarters - just wanted to read another Penelope Mortimer.

"Eleanor had a curious moment of hesitation about whether or not she should leave her key. of course she must leave it"

--from Home, by Penelope Mortimer.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Cornish capers

We had a lovely weekend in Cornwall, were extremely lucky with the weather, and even more lucky with the view from our hotel room (as one of my friends put it earlier, definitely a room with a view).

So that is why I probably didn't do as much reading as I would like - I was too busy staring out of the window watching the surfers. I did read my final Persephone of the week, The young pretenders by Edith Fowler. I quite enjoyed it. The preface was particularly interesting as it talked about the need for children's books to appeal to the adults who are reading them to the children; this book was certainly not an obviously child-centred book. It made me think about the sorts of books that my parents used to read with me, and certainly the ones that we enjoyed most were the ones with more adult content. The best bit about The young pretenders was the author's ability to convey the children's dialogue.
I also read The whole day through, by Patrick Gale, which was faintly enjoyable, but by no means as good as Pictures at an exhibition or The facts or life. I find Patrick Gale's books very variable - some of them are very gripping, but others just fail to inspire me. The concept of the book was clever, telling the story through the framework of a day - each of the chapter headings was a meal or drink - but I didn't find it one of his better titles.

I did have two book indiscretions over the weekend: essential Cornish reading.
The first is absolutely vital in order to answer the daily question of whether the tide is going in or out, and when it is low tide and when it is high tide. £1.30 bargain!

The second I saw in the window of the bookshop and thought looked rather fun. In actual fact it was slightly disappointing as it didn't cover any of the phrases that I'd most like to know how to say in Cornwall, such as "I'd like a flake in my ice cream" or "I think the pink surfboard is nicer than the red one" or "That seagull has eaten my pasty". Most disappointingly I didn't even find out how to say "I love you" to my boyfriend in Cornish, so if anyone can enlighten me, I would be very grateful. But I shall work on my Cornish and maybe when we go back in 8 weeks time I will be able to speak cryptically to my boyfriend!

In fact I would have bought more books - I saw a lovely book called Kilvert's Cornish Diary about an excursion around Cornwall in the 1870s, and I saw a lovely book about Daphne Du Maurier's books (of which I can't now remember the title) which was beautifully illustrated. Unfortunately my boyfriend forgot to get cash out before leaving, so I gave him ALL mine, and never got it back. The bookshop only took cash, and the cashpoint charged £1.60 for withdrawals... :( I did pick up a lovely book about Cornwall, which was recommended by The Rough Guide to Cornwall, from the library at lunchtime - it's intriguingly entitled "We bought an island".

I might have a look at that tonight for happy holiday memories, but I'm more likely to start on the sequel to the sequel of Miss Buncle's book which is called The two Mrs Abbotts. A post on that will follow no doubt!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A pile of Persephones!

Firstly, my little misdemeanor from yesterday. Well, I couldn't go to the shop and NOT buy a book. I thought the shop was amazing - it was incredible seeing all of those grey books at once, and stacks of them. It renewed my desire to own the complete set - not a good thing. Anyway, I picked up a copy of Family Roundabout which I read a while ago (it was my first Persephone), but want to read again. I was a bit too shy to talk to the people in the shop but I did ask them about bookmarks, and they let me have 2 free for some of my books missing bookmarks. I'm going to make a list of my books missing bookmarks and order them from them! So I got bookmarks for Every eye and Fortnight in September :)
As I mentioned earlier in the week I planned to read a Persephone each day in celebration of my holidays. It's been good - I've literally just picked the books from the TBRBC at random, and this has produced a good mixture. I'm far too hot to review in depth (and need to start packing for weekend away), so I shall just briefly outline which ones I've read. All of them, with the possible exception of Wednesday's, highly recommended (well, I can't speak for Friday's yet!).

Monday - The blank wall (Elisabeth Saskay Holding) - an extremely gripping mystery/crime story.

Tuesday - Brook Evans (Susan Glaspell) - very good coming of age stories of mother and daughter, set in America. Unpredicatable.

Wednesday - Marjory Fleming (Oriel Malet) -biography of the youngest person ever to appear in the Dictionary of National Biography. Interesting, but didn't hugely warm to the precocious character of Marjory. Bit twee.

Thursday - Princes in the land (Joanna Cannan) - only just started this, set in Oxford, so appropriate for me to be reading while I'm at home.

Friday - The young pretenders (Edith Fowler) - one of the children's stories, so perfect for some lighter whilst on holiday reading!

Unfortunately I've been so busy with catching up that I haven't done much other reading apart from a chick-lit-book, Millie's Fling (by Jill Mansell - fairly innocuous, but just right for before bedtime, and set in Cornwall which seemed appropriate), and finishing off The lost garden by Helen Humphreys, which was really good and I'll be seeking out more by her in due course.

We're off to the beach for two nights tomorrow, so there will be a bit of a blogging but hopefully not reading hiatus. The weather is set to break unfortunately, but it will be so nice to see the sea. I grew up only half an hours drive from the sea, and miss it desperately in land-locked Oxford. Normal service will be resumed after the weekend....

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

One of the highlights of my day in London...

Will blog more about my Persephone styled week in due course (poss not til next week, it's far too nice to be sat behind the pc), but in the meantime, here is a postcard I bought earlier!)