Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The bloomsbury group

No, not the set surrounding Virginia Woolf, but the clutch of lost early twentieth century titles recently brought out by Bloomsbury. There's been a lot of hype around the titles, not least because the choice of titles was partly driven by recommendations of bloggers. It is always exciting when older books are republished because it gives a whole new generation of readers access to

Bloomsbury kindly sent me a set of the bookmarks which I had seen featured on various book blogs, and armed with these I started reading the books. There are plenty of reviews around on the blogosphere so I shall content myself with writing down a few impressions just now. I am particularly interested to hear which ones other bloggers have read and which ones they enjoyed most (aside from the ones which they have championed!)

I started by reading Miss Hargreaves, due to the extensive endorsement by Simon from Stuckinabook. It was certainly an unusual story (a character who is a figment of two other character's imagination comes to life), but I found it both unsettling and annoying.

The pink covered Love's shadow by Ada Leverson came next; I've got her Virago Modern Classic, The little Ottley's, and found after I'd bought Love's shadow that this is the first of three books contained in that volume. It tells the story of a married couple and their friends romantic entanglements in a comedy of manners.

Next up, Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys. Again, I had read many reviews of this. Essentially a story of life in wartime, told through letters (originally written as a weekly piece for Sketch), this was slightly reminiscent of Diary of a provincial lady. There were some amusing incidents, but I felt that the way in which the book had been written meant that it was extremely episodic and not much plot development, which I would have liked more of.

I was particularly keen to read Mrs Tim of the Regiment because I had made the discovery of DE Stevenson earlier in the year through Persephone books' publication of Miss Buncle's book (and had then obtained copies of the sequels from the library). Whilst it didn't quite live up to Miss Buncle, I enjoyed the story of Mrs Tim, an army wife, and her life immensely. Written in diary format, this was also reminiscent of Diary of a provincial lady.

The only book that I do not own a copy of is The brontes went to Woolworths - I read this earlier in the year in a Virago edition, and intend to get a copy in that imprint if possible for my Virago collection.

Overall, I liked A kid for two farthings best; partly this was because it was the book that I had heard least about beforehand, so I found the story completely charming and new to me. It tells the story of 6 year old Jo, and the unicorn that he buys in the market, which he hopes will have the power to make wishes come true.

So - which are your favourites so far?


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Mrs Tim. D E Stevenson is one of my favourite authors. Like you I prefer Barbara Buncle to Mrs Tim, but I did find that on this latest re-read of Mrs Tim, I got a lot more enjoyment out of it.

    The only one of the Bloomsbury Group reprints that I've not brought or read yet is The Kid for Two Farthings.

  2. I only have Love's Shadow, which I am yet to read. I have Miss Hargreaves in an old Penguin and am also yet to read that. I HAVE read the Brontes went to Woolworths - I have a Virago - and I liked it but didn't love it. I think they have certainly chosen some very interesting titles and they do look so pretty all together.

  3. My only Bloomsbury is the Brontes went to Woolworths which I purchased this summer but I still haven't read. I want to get more of them!

  4. I've only read Henrietta's War. Didn't love it but did really enjoy it. I am eager to read Mrs. Tim because I loved reading the Barbra Buncle books earlier this year. I am thinking about getting my mom some of these for Christmas but since I have only read one of them I am not sure which ones to get her.

  5. I just received two of those in the mail! I'm so looking forward to reading them.

  6. Geraldine - I do definitely recommend A Kid so I hope you get it soon :)

    Jeanette - I think enjoy, but not love summed up my feelings about these books. How about getting your Mum a Persephone book?

    Makedo - I saw your post! Hope you get the knitting done so you can start on them.

    Mrs B - they are the sort of book that it is nice to have the whole set of...

    Rachel - They are so pretty, but owing to my shelving system I don't get to keep them together :(

  7. My ex has enthused about Henrietta's War, despite, or because of, its gentle charm; she'll be pleased to hear it's been reprinted.

    Get well soon!

  8. I convinced one of my relatives to buy all of these books for my mother for Christmas, apart from the DE Stevenson (Mum already has all of DE Stevenson's books). It was sort of selfish as I desperately want to read them...hopefully my mother will enjoy them!

  9. Thanks Owen. It is good when things are reprinted.

    Jenny - even if your Mum doesn't enjoy them, then at least you'll get to read them.

  10. I am in the middle of The Brontes Went to Woolworths and I am really enjoying it. Henrietta's War was just okay for me. The other Bloomsbury Group on the TBR is Hargreaves.

    I like these editions very much but the quality of the paper makes my teeth itch a bit. It is probably better for the environment than better quality paper, but it does make for a less than pleasant tactile experience for me.

  11. Thomas - I agree about the book quality - they don't feel as special as a Perspehone edition. But then they are sold only as a mass market paperback price.

  12. What a shame you found Miss H annoying - obviously it's my favourite of them, but I've loved all the ones I've read! That's Henrietta, Love's Shadow, The Brontes, and the half of Mrs. Tim which I've read so far. I think it's such a fantastic series.

  13. Simon - I'm afraid it was my least favourite :(


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