Monday, 31 May 2010

May Reading

It's been another fairly busy month in terms of reading - 104 books in total. I was a little surprised by this figure, as the second half of the month was quite stressful for me one way and another and I couldn't really concentrate on many heavy reads, instead preferring to get on with some domestic arts (in fact, I'm finding knitting and cross stitch as relaxing as reading and quite a good alternative - sometimes when you read as much as I do, it is nice to have a chance and do something completely different). However, the total is higher than it might otherwise be due to having purchased a number of Babysitters Club titles - since these really don't take much reading at all, having read one of those a day has effectively "kept my numbers up", not that I read for numbers, but rather for relaxation and their completely unchallenging unliterary nature has been exactly what I have needed over the last couple of weeks.

Obviously the big highlight of May was the Persephone Reading Week which I think you'll all agree was a huge success. And one of my best reads of the month, The hopkins manuscript, was read as part of this week. Other good reads included Christina Hardyment's The canary coloured cart (which I must write about), Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (Elizabeth Von Arnim - review coming up on my Virago blog), and Miss Matty by Richmal Crompton which Simon from Stuck in a book lent to me and snuck in at the very end of the month.

I should confess too that May was quite a bad month for book purchasing and acquisitions. According to my librarything account, I added over 100 books to my collection (which now totals more than 1400 volumes). I guess it was bound to happen when the month started with a cheerless bankholiday weekend that necessitated a trip around the charity shops and a trip to London for a book bloggers meet up that involved much second hand book shopping!

What are my plans for June? I have about 20 books on my TBR pile, but I need to work out which of those I want to save for summer holidays and things. I have a few library books on loan, and I have a few VMCs awaiting me. And I'll be continuing my Orange Wednesdays feature as that is proving interesting to me and popular with readers. But I also want to spend more time knitting and doing cross stitch, and I'm thinking quite hard about the pattern of my blogging. Accepting review copies over the last few months has skewed my blog somewhat; as life is far too short for me to write about everything that I read, I end up just writing about review books rather than books which I am more enthusiastic about. And also some of my favourite blogs are not ones which are heavily dominated by reviews - I love to read about the other things that people do - holidays, days out, crafts, baking and general bookishness, and to some extent this is more what I like to write about than reviewing books per se. So having passed my first bloggiversary, and changed my name to Cardigan Girl Verity, there may be some changes around here, but then there may not be. We'll see what happens!

Persimmon tree and other stories Barnard, Marjorie
Many conditions of love Zama, Farahad
Sue Barton: Superintendent nurse Boylston, Helen Dore
The expendable man Hughes, Dorothy P
Skinny bitch Freedman NF
Sand in my shoes Rice, Joan AB
An interrupted life Hillesum, Etty AB P
The baking bible Collister, Linda NF
Elizabeth's adventures in Rugen Arnim, Elizabeth von
The barracks McGahern, John
Looking for Enid Maclean, Duncan NF RR
Julian Grenfell Mosley, Nicholas B P
Still glides the stream Thompson, Flora AB
Private life Smiley, Jane
Dimanche and other stories Neriemovsky, Irene P
Sarah Strick Hurley, Randle
Private places Craig, Amanda
Open the door! Carswell, Catherine VMC
Getting mad, getting even Saunders, Annie
Plats du jour Grey, Primrose P
Good things in England White, Florence P
Easy baking Marks and Spencer NF
Unicorn girls Holden, Ursula
Surfacing Atwood, Margaret VMC
Felicia's journey Trevor, William
Instructions not included Moreman, Charlotte NF
Mandoa Mandoa Holtby, Winifred VMC
Housewife married Penton Harper, Alison
Writing on my forehead Haji, Nafisa
Hopkins manuscript Sherriff, RC P
Fifteen Clearly, Beverley C RR
Two vandals and a wedding Secombe, Fred AB
High heels and a head torch Duke, Chelsea NF
Wigs on the green Mitford, Nancy
After you'd gone Lingard, Joan
Shop girl diaries Benet, Emily AB
Sweet desserts Ellman, Lucy
Summer will show Warner, Sylvia Townsend VMC
Where I belong Latham, Joyce AB
Mr Rosenblum's list Solomons, Natasha
The robber bridegroom Welty, Eudora VMC
Sue barton: neighbourhood nurse Boylston, Helen Dore RR
Enormous changes Paley, Grace VMC
Tin toys Holden, Ursula
Minack tales Tangye, Derek AB
Wishing for tomorrow Mackay, Hilary C
Celia Young, E.H. VMC
War-workers Delafield, EM
Rhapsody Edwards, Dorothy VMC
Sleeping with Mozart Church, Anthea
Children of the house Fairfax-Lucy, Brian C
Liza of Lambeth Maugham, Somerset
Five go to Finnegan's farm Blyton, Enid C RR
Last year when I was young Dickens, Monica
A future CS girl EBD C RR
Nobody has to be a kid forever Colman, Hilla C
Fall on your knees Macdonald, ann
Love bites Hirst, Christopher NF
Northbridge rectory Thirkell, Angela
Delta wedding Welty, Eudora VMC
Underfoot in showbusiness Hanff, Helene AB
Q's legacy Hanff, Helene AB
Loving without tears Keane, Molly VMC
World of girls Auchmuanty, Rosemary NF
World of women Auchmuanty, Rosemary NF
Love me tender Feaver, Jane
Things I wish I'd known Green, Linda
Stacey's big secret Martin, Ann C
Sights unseen Gibson, Kaye VMC
Toys were us Whittaker, Nicholas NF
Claudia and the phantom phone calls Martin, Ann C
Kids cakes and party food Good Housekeeping NF
Family meal planner BBC Good Food NF
I will not serve Mahere, Evelyn VMC
Miss Jemima's Swiss Journey
What Katy did next Coolidge, Susan C RR
Borderlines Hospital, Janette Turner VMC
It so happens Ferguson, Patricia
New York, New York Martin, Ann C
The quickening maze Foulds, Adam
A single swallow Clare, Horation NF
Mary Anne saves the day Martin, Ann C
Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther Arnim, Elizabeth von VMC
In my father's places Thomas, Aronwy AB
Dawn and the impossible three Martin, Ann C
A time in Rome Bowen, Elizabeth NF
A canary coloured cart Hardyment, Christina AB
Here come the bridesmaids Martin, Ann C
The captain's wife Lewis, Eilunedd
Hector and the search for happiness Lelord, Francois
Claudia and mean Janine Martin, Ann C RR
The matriarch Stein, GB VMC
California Girls Martin, Ann C
Belinda Broughton, Rhoda VMC
Logan likes Mary Anne Martin, Ann C RR
Letters from Lamhedra Williams, Marjorie NF
Mother of the bride Lawson, Kate
Babysitters summer holiday Martin, Ann C
Jasmine Farm Arnim, Elizabeth von
Babysitters on board Martin, Ann C
Divorced and deadly Cox, Josephine
Miss Matty Crompton, Richmal
Babysitters winter holiday Martin, Ann C

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Two Vintage Classics

Vintage classics is a wonderful imprint from Random House devoted to the republication of writers from both the twentieth century and previous centuries. The list covers a wide range of authors from Graham Greene to George Grossmith and they are all handsomely issued in paperback with wonderful covers and sleek red spines. Perusing the site, a couple of titles caught my attention, and Fiona from Vintage was kind enough to send them to me to read and write about on my blog.

Liza of Lambeth was Maugham's first novel, and although reviews on both and librarything suggest (I only found this out afterwards!) that it is not the best place to start, I think it was actually a very good introduction. Before Maugham became a writer, he studied medicine in London, and often had to attend maternity cases down backstreets near to St Thomas Hospital where he was based. He writes in a preface to the book that it was these experiences which gave him the inspiration for writing the novel, and then it was the success of writing this book which led him to give up his medical career and concentrate on writing. It's often said that writers need to write about something which they know about, and the realistic portrayal of working class life in London through the colloquial dialogue and vivid descriptions of the streets in the novel show that this was something which Maugham really knew about.

The plot itself is fairly simple. The book is the tale of 18 year old Liza and her life in the Lambeth slums. She works in a factory and hangs out in the streets. She has a steady admirer, Tom, although is not particularly enthusiastic about their relationship. She then meets Jim, a married man, and they embark on an affair. Initially they manage to keep it a secret, but eventually the neighbourhood works out what is happening and Liza is eschewed. Ultimately it is a somewhat tragic tale; I won't reveal the ending, but suffice to say it is not a happy one.

Has anyone read any other W Somerset Maugham? He is certainly an author that I think I should probably have read more of. What should I read next? The title Cakes and ale sounds quite appealing, although I have no idea what the story is about!

At this time of year, it's time to think about summer holidays, and even if one isn't able to get away then it's good to be able to make a virtual escape. Thus Elizabeth Bowen's A time in Rome caught my eye - a description of the city and its history based on three decades of visits and a three month stay in the 1950s. In some ways it could be seen as a guide book, but Bowen suggests that it is more like her personal notes on a guide book which gives it a wonderfully individual tone. What I liked most was the way that Bowen managed to evoke the feel of the city - from the golden sunlight of the daytime, to the shutdown of the city during the siesta and the spectacle of the night life.

I've never been to Rome and would love to go ; this book really brought the city to life for me and is definitely something that I would take along to reread if I get to go there. A perfect book for an armchair vacation.

Thank you very much to Vintage for sending me these two very different but equally enjoyable and interesting books.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Latest acquisitions

I've had a huge number of acquisitions in the last couple of weeks, so I thought it was high time that I wrote about some of them. I've actually read my way through quite a few of them and I will be reviewing some of them in due course.

Puffin by design is one of the most exciting of my recent acquisitons. I'm sure most readers will know the fantastic Penguin by Design, and this book has been issued to celebrate Puffin's 70th anniversary. I was brought up on a diet of Puffin books - they published some absolutely wonderful reads - and this book charts the development of the imprint. It's a lovely book for browsing through. I should also mention that there is a new biography of Kaye Webb, the first editior of the Puffin books imprint, called So much to tell, by Valerie Grove which I am top of the waiting list for at the library, and also that Puffin are also going to bring out mugs! I am sure I will need a couple of those to complement my rather more grown up Penguin mugs.

Sandy, the true story of a boy and his friends growing up in Cornwall in the late 1800s is something that I read about on Fleur Fisher's blog, and thus decided to order from Amazon. Whilst Jane is lucky enough to have plenty of Cornish books available in her library (unsurprisingly since she lives in Cornwall) I have to resort to online shopping to fuel my interest in the county. Letters from Lameldra is another Cornish read that I got from the Cornish publisher Truran in their half price sale.

First term at Cottisford
is a lovely republished school story by an author that I don't know at all, published by Bettany Press, whom I say more about a little further down.

Little gods was advertised on the back of the Guardian Review section last week and sounded intriguing; I picked up a second hand copy on Amazon.

Vintage Classics very kindly sent me two of their recent Vintage Classics editions - Liza of Lambeth and A time in Rome, which I will write about tomorrow. I do admire these handsome red editions.

Jackie from Farmlanebooks sent me Hector and the search for happiness - the title intrigued me and it has been mentioned a lot recently in the blogosphere. Jackie didn't enjoy it very much which was why she kindly let me give her copy a new home, so I am interested to see what I make of it - Jackie and I like some, but not all, of the same books so I will be fascinated to see if it is one that we agree on or not!

[Not pictured because I've lent it to my Dad] A colleague (possibly the worst influence on me outside of the blogs that I read, in fact, I think she is even worse than the blogs that I read) suggested that I read Christina Hardyment's A canary coloured cart : one family's search for storybook Europe. Having loved Hardyment's Captain Flint's Trunk, I need little persuasion when I heard that it was the book about her family's literary excursion around Europe in a camper-van in the 1980s. This is definitely one that I will be reviewing very soon.

I've also ordered, but am still waiting for, two more Greyladies titles to add to my collections. I was lucky enough to get a very generous booktoken as a belated leaving gift from my Saturday job. Book tokens however are quite difficult to spend; I don't like to buy full price books in bookshops when I can get them on Amazon for less or second hand. Most of the books that I buy new, at full price, are from independent publishers. Blackwells were singularly unhelpful in helping me spend it, but Rachel at The Woodstock Bookshop has been wonderfully helpful. Although she was unable to get two of the titles I wanted, she managed to order the Greyladies for me, and has also ordered me two Girls Gone By titles which are coming out later in the year. I'm glad to give my custom to a reliable

On the theme of ordered-but-not-quite-acquired, I did treat myself to the two books that I couldn't get with my book token, both published by The Bettany Press. This imprint is a bit like Girls Gone By, in that they specialise in books for fans of British girls fiction. I was pleased to discover that they have republished two books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer which I had not come across - Jean of Storms (a discovered adult novel), and The school by the river, which is apparently loosely connected to the Chalet School series. I can't wait for these two to arrive!

I've also acquired a large number of Babysitters Club books over the last couple of weeks. I read these as a child and spotted a big collection in Oxfam a few weeks ago. I've been backwards and forwards buying a couple at a time, and I've also been on ebay picking up some cheap sets. They're not in any sense literary, but I have found reading them (it turns out I don't think that I read very many at all as a child) extremely comforting over a couple of quite stressful weeks - it is nice to have a book which you can read in twenty minutes at the end of the day without any effort at all and to know that everything will turn out ok at the end! I was very excited to discover that there is a new prequel to the series, which is just out, by Ann Martin called The summer before - I've not yet read that, but you can spot it in the acquistions picture above.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A foray into the domestic arts (part 1)

Back in January I decided to take up knitting. This was something I did as a child - knitting long, holey scarves for my cuddly toys - but had not done in at least a decade an a half. My decision was prompted by spotting the pattern for a very pretty little flower corsage in a magazine - I wanted one myself, and thought that they would make excellent birthday gifts for my friends. Unfortunately, I had almost completely forgotten how to knit. A knitting book from the library later, a trip to a knitting shop for needles and wool, and I realised that perhaps a flower corsage was a tad ambitious. So, I decided to start by knitting a dishcloth; I have a very eco-friendly friend who I thought would love a dishcloth for her birthday, so I chose an attractive shade of pink and congratulated myself on the fact that I had five months to finish it. It was slow progress - I found knitting very very tiring at first, and combined with my tiredness at starting a new job and ongoing health problems, it was soon abandoned. A fortnight ago, I realised that my friend's birthday was in just a week's time, and guiltily took up my needles. Unfortunately, despite knitting hard, I didn't manage to finish it in time (she got some rather yummy books instead, lucky girl), but a week late, I did eventually cast it off. And here it is - some dropped stitches, a bit wonky, but actually something I'm quite proud of. And at least it's not too nice to use :)

My next project is to learn how to do purl; a colleague tells me that dishcloths or scarves are definitely the best way to practice, so maybe my friend will get another cloth in time for Christmas. My colleague has promised to show me how to do that, and also to translate the original corsage pattern for me. I am confident that I will get there eventually!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Orange Wednesday: The Bonesetter's daughter (Tan)

When I spotted Amy Tan's The joy luck club in the library booksale for 20p, I couldn't resist it. This amazing multistranded debut novel tells the story of four Chinese mothers and four first generation Chinese-American daughters. The novel is cleverly constructed so that it is almost like a collection of stories - the mothers reveal their experiences of growing up in China, and these are contrasted with their daughters experiences in America. I found it to be a wonderful evocation of mother-daughter relationships as well as a fantastic insight into both Chinese and immigrant cultures.

Whilst this was not longlisted for the Orange prize, two of her later novels had been: The bonesetter's daughter and The hundred secret senses. And having read The joy luck club, it was not long before I sought one of them out.

If anything, I enjoyed The bonesetter's daughter even more than The joy luck club. It was somewhat similar, in that it combined the experiences of a first generation Chinese-American daughter with that of her mother in , but I felt that by focussing on just one pair, the characters and the story were much more developed. Ruth and her mother LuLing have many of the same issues as the women in The joy luck club - Ruth frequently struggles to understand her mother who, despite having lived in the United States for 50 years, is very keen to hold onto her Chinese customs and heritage and only speaks very poor English, and her mother has obviously had to try to come to terms with bringing up her daughter in a culture very different from the one that she was brought up in. This becomes more apparent after the mid-section of the book which describes LuLing's story of life in a small village in China in the 1930s.

Amy Tan's writing is both beautiful and easy to read, so coupled with an interesting story and details about a culture with which I am not particularly familiar, I hugely enjoyed this novel.

I'm extremely keen to get hold of The hundred secret senses now, but I'm also intrigued to seek out her memoir, The opposite of fate. Has anyone read either of those?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Some new baking toys

I'm increasingly recognising the importance of good presentation to my baking; partly this is a result of reading wonderful cake decorating books, partly having watched Raymond Blanc's cookery series, and partly just trying a bit harder. It's not something I'm very good at, so I often rely on other things to help me! I couldn't resist a set of gorgeous mini silicon loaf tins the other day; I have never tried cooking with silicon before and these were such pretty colours.

I made two different recipes to try them out - firstly, a basic sponge recipe, which I flavoured with orange zest and sultanas and then covered with a thick orange icing...

Secondly, some dairy free flapjacks into which I mashed banana and stirred in some jam. Yum! I've now got oats back in my diet and am making up for lost time with flapjack consumption.
I didn't notice any difference to cooking with regular baking tins, aside from the fact that I didn't need to line them. My only quibble was the size - they were a bit on the big side for an individual portion. But they are rather pretty.

And, going back to presentation - I made some more apple flapjack the other week, and decided to press them into mini tart tins to make them look a little different...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Bloggiversary (and name change!)

Yesterday marks exactly a year since I started my blog. And what fun I've had along the way! I've made scores of new friends across the globe, fuelled my book addiction more than I would ever have thought possible both in terms of numbers of books borrowed from the library, and books bought (although I have undertaken two successful periods of abstention from the latter). I've embarked on reading projects, such as my Cornish Cornucopia, and my Orange Wednesdays. I've had the privilege of hosting two wonderful Persephone Reading Weeks, and tea as a result at the Persephone Book Shop, and been given my very own Persephone endpaper pinny (see above!). I've won several people's giveaways, been sent books by people reading my blog (and other things too like handknitted scarves!), and been the fortunate recipient of a number of review copies, particularly from the kindness of Sophie and Victoria at Virago, Fiona at Vintage and Helena at Honno Press. I've baked copiously. And it turned out that one blog wasn't enough - I started a second blog too for my challenge of trying to read my way through the Virago Modern Classics series!

It's been wonderful - thank you to all of those that read and comment on my blog - you're all fantastic!

When I set up the blog, I chose "cardigangirlverity" for the web address, but then decided to call it The B Files to reflect the fact that I loved Books, Baking and my Boyfriend. I still love Books and Baking but the Boyfriend is now a fiance, and I feel that my cardigans are becoming neglected*, so from now on my blog will just go under the header - cardigangirlverity.

* Early on I wrote a post about my cardigans - I've got rid of two on the list (the bobbly grey Jane Norman one and the then unworn H and M charcoal cardigan which shrunk terribly in the wash), but have acquired another black Jane Norman cardigan with a lovely big cowl neck and a sparkly silver zipped number from Pineapple which is very eighties funky.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday cake (and some hearts)

My OH has been away for most of the week - he's back this afternoon and here's what I've made to welcome him home - it's a cranberry, ginger and pecan loaf (from here) which I decorated with marzipan. Ostensibly a Christmas cake, it did lend itself rather well to being decorated like this.

BTW, I've been meaning to post a picture of my heart themed kitchen equipment for quite a while - here it is...we have ice cubes, many many cookie cutters, measuring spoons, a little silicon tin, two Le Creuset ramekins, silicon muffin cases, ice cubes, sprinkles, a set of four spoons and the mug which my OH gave me for my birthday!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Trespass (Tremain)

I first encountered Rose Tremain the summer before last when she won the Orange Prize with The road home - regular readers of this blog will know that I use the prize to extend my reading into authors that I haven't previously come across, and for me, I found The road home to be a worthy winner. I discovered that Tremain had quite a substantial backlist; her historical titles were strongly recommended to me (particularly The colour and Music and Silence, neither of which I have yet got around to reading), and I read a couple of her more modern novels (The swimming pool season and The way I found her). Tremain is one of those writers who seems to write extremely widely, something I always find particularly impressive (as it is often rather tedious when a favourite author becomes boring by churning out extremely samey reading material)

Trespass, Tremain's latest novel, kindly sent to me by Fiona from Vintage to review, is one of Tremain's "modern" novels, and is located in France, in a setting not dissimilar to that of The swimming pool season. This is a book about siblings; brother and sister Veronica and Anthony, both English, and brother and sister Aromon and Audrun, who are French, and the theme of the book is sibling rivalry, dispute and ultimately revenge.

Aramon and Audrun have had a feud for years, but it is not until Anthony, who, escaping his life in England to live near his sister, comes to buy Aramon's house that things come to a head. It is obvious from the beginning that something bad is going to happen to the characters in this book; the question is how and it is difficult to synopsis the plot any more without giving too much away.

All of the four main characters are profoundly damaged human beings, and the book gets its name from the fact that all of the characters have been responsible for a "trespass" in some way, albeit not necessarily in the conventional sense involving land; I found this concept to be more interesting than the plot itself, and the idea that trespassing can be metaphorical as well as literal.

Unfortunately I felt that in comparison to The road home, the book was quite slow. The langorous descriptions of the French countryside may have been appropriate, but they didn't help to keep my interest in the book. So I'm afraid that this wasn't my favourite Rose Tremain to date. Has anyone else read this yet and what did you think? And do you have a favourite Tremain novel - as I have read very few I'd be interested to hear what people recommend.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shiny pennies and grubby pinafores (Foley)

I have always had a fascination with autobiographical writing; it fills in the background to the past and adds colour and interest that I didn't initially get when I studied history. Of course, the further into my history degree I got, the more I realised that autobiographies and memoirs were a hugely important part of studying the past, providing a basis for studying social history, revealing details about everyday life and experiences. Even though I no longer study history in any formal sense, I still frequently seek out stories of the past, particularly when they focus on the domestic sphere.

A long time ago, I read Winifred Foley's classic autobiography, A child in the forest, and its follow up, Back to the forest, and was hugely pleased to discover earlier this year, that thanks to Abacus Books (part of the Little, Brown group) they are now back in print. The first volume has been retitled Full hearts and empty bellies, and the second, Shiny Pennies and grubby pinafores. Initially written down in notebooks, which were then serialised on the BBC as part of woman's hour, the books were originally published in the 1970s. The first book is an absolutely engrossing account of Foley's upbringing in the now forgotten world of the Forest of Dean in the 1920s, growing up in a cottage lacking running water, electricity and rarely with enough to eat. At the age of 14, Foley left the forest to go into service, embarking on a fascinating career working in London, Cheltenham, as a kitchen maid at a ladies college and then as a "nippy" at a Lyon's corner house.

In the second volume of autobiography, Foley is now married to Syd, and living in a London tenement. She scrapes a living as a charwoman and dreams of returning to the Forest of Dean to be near her relatives and to give her children a better chance of life. Syd lands a job in the area, complete with a tied cottage and the family are able to return.

Life in the forest is easier than it was in her childhood but it is by no means an idyllic existence. Foley still struggled to make ends meet, but there was a far better quality of life.

One of the things that amused me was Winifred describing how shortly before they left London they had become a "two wardrobe family" which gave her a "real sense of affluence". This was reminiscent of the importance of having a piano to members of the working class in other memoirs that I have read of the period.

Victoria from Abacus kindly sent me the latter volume to have a look at; I was particularly interested in it as it also contained an extra portion of autobiography from a book of writings originally entitled called No pipe dreams for father. I hope that they may also republish her other volume of memoirs, In and out of the forest.

If you are at all interested in life in the early twentieth century, have enjoyed Cider with Rosie or Lark Rise to Candleford, then I do recommend these books, either in the lovely new editions, or you might be lucky enough to spot the older titles somewhere (I think mine came from a village fete!)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Orange Wednesdays: Keeping up with Magda (Dewar)

I've seen Islar Dewar's books in the library before, but not read them (just didn't appeal, but i am not particularly sure why - maybe the covers looked as if the books lacked substance); I'm not sure what drew me to Keeping up with Magda, but it sounded appealing from its synopsis on

Straightforwardly told, this is the story of Magda and Jessie and their lives in a small fishing village called Mareth in Scotland. Magda has lived in Mareth for years with her husband and children, and runs a small restaurant/cafe called the Ocean Cafe. Jessie comes to Mareth suddenly, seeking escape when the depression after she has miscarried her first child gets too much to bear in London, and finding accommodation in the flat above the Ocean Cafe. Of course it is impossible to seek anonymity in such a small place and despite keeping herself to herself initially, the villagers soon know all about her, and she becomes involved in village life, particularly after her husband clears out her bank account and she is forced to start waitressing in the cafe to make ends meet.

Obviously from this short description, the plot is mainly concerned with Jessie working her life out again, but there are subplots too - for example we learn about Magda's iliteracy; she proves to be an extremely zany character whom the village revolves around. Dewar draws wonderful pictures of the village inhabitants too.

Dewar has written quite a lot of books; though none of the others have made it onto the Orange longlist, I think that I will be borrowing some from the library in due course and will be interested to see whether her subsequent writing meets up to this longlisted standard.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A beautiful surprise (and some baking)

I had the most wonderful surprise when I came home from work on Friday; a beautifully wrapped package from Persephone books. It turned out to be a thank you card from Nicola, Lydia and Fiona for hosting the Persephone Reading Week and contained a beautiful flowery apron made from the same fabric of the endpapers of A Far Cry. I was hugely, hugely touched, and extremely happy as I have been wanting a flowery pinny for some time. I hadn't spotted these in the shop so I think they may be a new product; the design for A far cry is certainly one of my favourites and makes for gorgeous domestic goddess apparrel.

Obviously, I had to bake something immediately, although I have to confess that I put the apron on after I had finished to take the picture below- it is FAR too nice to spoil with flour and chocolate. This week I have been baking from the M and S "Easy Baking" book - an absolute steal at £3.50 in which I have already marked 8 recipes to have a go at. Here (with the apron!) are the chocolate sprinkle cookies - melt in the mouth chocolate biscuit with white chocolate icing and chocolate vermicelli.

..and here are the chocolate coconut crunch squares - a spongey coconut mixture on top of chocolate digestive base.
I also have my eye on baking the ginger topped shortbread, the banana and cranberry loaf, the marble cake, the white chocolate chip brownies and the sticky ginger cookies. Watch this space!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Hopkins Manuscript (Sherriff)

It was with great sadness that I finished reading the last of the 88 Persephone books on my way home from London at the weekend. The Hopkins Manuscript by RC Sherriff was the last one that I came to. I am not quite sure why it ended up at the bottom of the pile, particularly as I had so much enjoyed Sherriff's Fortnight in September when I read it last year. I think perhaps it was because its sci-fi/dystopian themes are ones which I would normally shy away from in literature. But because it was a Persephone book I read it, and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to do so.

The manuscript referred to in the title was written by Edgar Hopkins, a 53 year old ex-school master, and was composed in order to record a series of terrifying events that faced the earth. Hopkins is content with his life in the small village of Beadle, rearing poultry for competitions and occasionally going up to town to meetings of the Royal Lunar Society. As a result of his membership of the group, he is among the first to discover that the moon is gradually moving closer to the earth and is estimated to collide with it in 7 months time. Initially this discovery is kept a secret, in order to protect the population, but it is then announced and the country has to come to terms with its imminent decimation and the likely end of the world. There is an admirable sense of "blitz spirit" with which preparations are made, and one of the things that made the book so readable for me was that Sherrif describes ordinary life and details and how the average person is affected by the impending disaster.

Like The expendable man, I don't want to reveal any more about the plot (although the majority of the reviews that I've seen on librarything and Amazon do); I'll leave it up to you to read the text. But if you want a tense, dramatic and extremely compelling read, then even if science fiction isn't your poison of choice, then I would strongly recommend this novel. It's not one that I have ever seen reviewed on a blog or ever heard anyone talk about, which is a shame

Persephone republished the novel in part as a comment on global warming, which they believe to be one of the greatest catastrophes facing the world today, and it is interesting to read the book in this context and to consider how society today might react to the catastrophe that Hopkins and his contemporaries faced.

And what will I do now that I've read all of the Persephones? Well, I've still got 9 more to collect, and there are some that I would like very much to re-read, especially following reading people's reviews during the Persephone Reading Week, particularly, Greenery Street, The new house, Family roundabout and all of Dorothy Whipple. The Persephone bookshop also have a wonderful table of "50 books we wish we had published"; as the Persephone imprint is a great endorsement of a good read, I may have to have a read of some of those (although I noticed that I had read quite a number already)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Two entertaining reads for the weekend

Foolish lessons in life and love is the hugely entertaining debut from author Penny Rudge. Its hero, Taras, is a Bukovinian young man, living with his mother in a flat in South London, working through a perpetual hangover in his job at the ill-named firm IBS for which he works, and trying desperately to regain the attentions and affections of his ex-girlfriend, the Russian Katya. Wonderfully observed, the characters leap off the page, especially his overprotective mother who dishes up Balkan breakfasts, scrutinises his bowel habits and resurrects all the previous years birthday cards on his birthday. Taras himself is certainly not a traditional hero - he makes too many mistakes, gets drunk too many times and isn't enough of a success, but he is extremely loveable. The story follows Taras as a dark family secret comes to light and he tries to work his way through.

I looked on Amazon and all of the 13 reviews give it 5* - I definitely agree and look forward to seeing more from Penny Rudge in due course. Absolutely hilarious!

Having hugely enjoyed Farahad Zama's book The marriage bureau for rich people last year, I was very excited when he wrote a follow up - The many conditions of love. The marriage bureau for rich people tells the story of the agency set up by Mr Ali, in modern day India, to match couples for arranged marriages. The many conditions of love continues this story - the bureau is now flourishing and we meet many of the same characters. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first book, partly because it was very much more of the same, but it was a warm and entertaining picture of Indian life and customs with likeable characters and not too much effort required to read.

Thanks to Victoria from Abacus for kindly sending me both of these books to review!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Orange Wednesdays: Feasting and fasting (Desai)

Anita Desai is an author I came to as a child, when I read her Village by the sea, so when I spotted her book Fasting, Feasting, on the Orange Longlist for 2000, I decided to borrow it from the library. Set in both India and America, I enjoyed the insight that this book gave me into Indian culture, and the comparisons that Desai drew with Western culture.

The book falls into two halves. The first tells the story of Uma and her family who live in India. She is the eldest, put upon daughter, with a more beautiful younger sister who easily achieves a good arranged marriage, and a much younger brother, who is a long awaited son for the family. After failing to find a husband, she is effectively tied to the house, looking after her parents who are best described as oppressive. I thought that Uma was beautifully characterised and felt a great deal of sympathy for her. The second half, which didn't quite fit with the first half, tells the story of Arun, Uma's brother, and his life in America after he goes to study there. Again, it was interesting gaining an insight into the clash between the different cultures, for example, the family that he stays with over the summer while his university dorm is closed struggle with his vegetarianism. They also expect him to be able to cook wonderful Indian food which leads to an entertaining episode where Arun attempts to make a meal; of course, being the cherished only son, Arun has always been waited on hand and foot and ends up having to make up a recipe, which is completely inedible! Although it seems like Uma and Arun have completely different lives, there are actually parallels in their experiences - both are hugely controlled by the wishes of their parents and neither are hugely happy with their lives and where they have ended up.

It was certainly a thought provoking read and I did like Desai's style of writing. Another of Anita Desai's books, The zig-zag way, also appears on the Orange longlist for 2005, so I shall be reading that in due course.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Cake and cookie decorating

I am an absolute sucker for baking books, and I have branched out in the last year to acquire a range of beautiful baking books, where the presentation is (I blame Hayley from Desperate Reader partly for this, for her post last year about Susannah Blake's Afternoon Tea Parties, an absolutely exquisite book, and posts about other books such as this lovely book by Fiona Cairns which I just had to own after reading about) as important as the content. I love the pictures, the ideas and the potential inspiration for having fun in the kitchen.

Baking as you all know is one of my passions - I love to make yummy edibles for my fiance, but baking has proved somewhat frustrating in 2010 as due to being on a diet that excludes both dairy and gluten. So, I have decided to embark on a cake/cookie decorating project so I can get pleasure from what the things look like as much as the taste (plus I can make dairy free icing and marzipan!). Ultimately I hope to go to a day school or evening class, as I'd love to learn how to ice a celebration cake (wouldn't it be amazing to do my own wedding cake?) but time and money has put this on hold for now.
Instead, I've been having some fun at home. I've acquired a few books to inspire me of late. Bake me I'm yours is full of beautifully decorated cookies, but far too hard for me to imitate. The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook came from the library, as still very expensive, and annoyed me slightly, but provided the recipe for making some wonderful cupcakes (see below). Cupcakes (Susannah Blake), Cakes and bakes from my mother's kitchen (Linda Collister) , Bake and decorate (Fiona Cairns) are all lovely lovely books to browse through and drool over. I've also got a couple of sugarcraft/cake decorating magazines and a goodhousekeeping book. In the end I didn't really follow any of them, but they got me in the mood for having a play around.

Here are some recent creations:
Hummingbird bakery cupcakes - very disappointed by these actually, as neither the icing nor the cake were a patch on my traditional recipes.
Sugar biscuits decorated with water icing and sprinkles.

Sugar biscuits decorated with sugar paste - I enjoyed using mini plunger cutters to cut out the mini hearts, flowers and stars.

I've got a lot of bookmarks in the Fiona Cairns book, and I am sure that I will be posting some results of my experiments with it in due course!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Persephone Reading Week : Wrap up

It's the end of the second Persephone Reading Week - I hope you've all enjoyed the opportunity to read Persephone books together and to be inspired to read more from other people's posts and reviews. I'm sorry for my absence over the weekend but Claire has done a sterling job keeping you all up to date. Thanks for your lovely comments on my What a lot of books post!

I'd like to say three big thank yous. Firstly, to Nicola Beaumann at Persephone who kindly gave us the books for our giveaways and without whom there would not have been a Persephone imprint and thus a Persephone Reading Week! Secondly to my wonderful co-host Claire from Paperback Reader who has organised and posted and generally been inspirational. And thirdly to all of you for joining in - it's been fantastic to see quite so many people get involved, especially people whose blogs are new to me.

Finally, the results of the competitions! Claire is announcing hers separately, but the winner of my WW2 themed quiz is HJ Elliot - I had 8 entries and she was the first one drawn! Email your details to me or Claire and we'll get Doreen sent to you.

I had some interesting answers to my film giveaway where I asked you to tell me which Persephone book you'd most like to see filmed and why. Most people agreed that the books are generally quite "internal" and involve focus on individual characters rather than the plot driven books which make good films (obviously not enough people have read Expendable Man or The Hopkins manuscript which I think would be fantastic on the big screen!). Anyway, my favourite answer was Merenia's:

"I think The Village would translate well to screen. It is not terribly 'internal' and the clash of social classes in a small English village would make good viewing. This novel is all about characterisation and would lift easily into a film script. The horrid Mother Wendy, would give some bite to the story. Also the immediate post WW2 time period would be interesting. Ohhhh, I want to shoot the film myself now! "

Email me your address Merenia (verityDOTormeATgmailDOTcom) and I'll get the DVD to you!

Claire and I offered a prize for our favourite post of the week, to win a copy of The closed door and other stories by Dorothy Whipple. We were unanimous in deciding to award it to Thomas from My Porch for his post at the beginning of the week issuing a stern warning to Persephone Books about the unacceptable situation whereby they have only republished 6 of Dorothy Whipple's books. Fittingly Thomas wins the volume of Dorothy Whipple's short stories which I hope you will enjoy! Email one of us with your details.

So that's it for the week! Do stick around on my blog - I'll be reviewing my last Persephone book (The hopkins manuscript), I have a post about baking tomorrow and my Orange Wednesday series will resume on Wednesday.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

What a lot of books!

I had a wonderful time out yesterday in London with Claire from Paperback Reader. Although TFL scuppered our plans to visit the Carlyles' House, we had a fantastic time bookshopping, in an amazing secondhand book shop in Notting Hill, a very posh remainders bookshop and then of course the Persephone bookshop! Claire presented me with a lovely Persephone jute bag (which was perfect for carrying around my new purchases) (and in return I gave her the pink Penguin one!), and I treated myself to 5 of the bookmarks that my Persephone books lack (sadly on 38 of my books have bookmarks, so I still need another 50 which was a bit too much of an expense to get all in one go!).

You can see the amazing stack of books that I came home with. Sorry about the blurry photo - my hands are ridiculously shaky today.
Working from bottom up:
Their eyes were watching God (Hurston) - this was my most expensive 2nd hand purchase of the day, it is one of the 30th Anniversary Virago hardbacks, and means I am only lacking 1 more of the whole set! Definitely the highlight of my finds.
Cats Eye (Atwood) - this is my favourite Atwood novel, and a duplicate that Claire no longer wanted.
Enormous changes at the last minute (Paley) - I think Claire would have bought this if I hadn't spotted it first, a lovely green edition of a book for my Virago challenge.
Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner - another one for Viragoing
The skin chairs (Comyns). The book shop had a copy of The vet's daughter by Comyns which I initially picked up, and then I felt confused as to whether it was Vet's Daughter or Skin chairs that I already owned. A £2 mistake was saved by asking one of my friends who was at home to check my library thing account!
After you've gone (Joan Lingard) - a modern novel by an author I enjoy
Sweet dreams (lucy Ellman) - a modern Virago novel
Wigs on the green (Mitford) - this came from the table of 50 books that Persephone wish they had published - now that I've read all of the Persephone books (review of my last read to come next week I think) I thought that I could read some of those! May sit down with this one later.
Ponies plot and Children of the house were two puffin books that looked enjoyable - I used to love puffin books as a child.
Fell farm holiday is a book that I already own, and love - it is a wonderful children's story, and at only 50p I couldn't leave it on the shelf - I hope to pass it on to someone who will enjoy it in due course.
Two vandals at a wedding
(Fred Secombe) - I described this to Simon from Stuck in A Book as James Herriot, but a vicar instead of a vet. I read Secombe's series as a teenager, and enjoyed rereading this last night.
Fifteen (Clearly) - this was a book about a teenager called Janie that I remembered enjoying at school, and I enjoyed rereading it on the bus on the way home yesterday.

I also bought a copy of Finn Family Moomintroll (not pictured) for my cousin's birthday and Peppa Pig goes to the library for the niece of my friend who helped me out by checking my librarything account. Being a librarian I just couldn't resist it, and Lily is the only person of my acquaintance that is the right age for it!

I'm really sorry for such a blurry picture!

It was lovely to meet some ofthe UK bloggers in the Persephone shop - sadly my health didn't permit me to stay for the main meet-up - it was a struggle to get home as it was with all of those books after a tiring day (which I am now paying for...:( ). I hope you all had a good get together.

I can see that there have been lots of wonderful Persephone related posts - I apologise for not commenting on them all, but I'm in need of a day away from the computer. I'll be back tomorrow to round up the week, and Claire and I will announce our competition winners and the result of our favourite post of the week. Thanks for all joining in so overwhelmingly!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Persephone Reading Week: Gone shopping

No roundup this morning - by the time this is posted I shall be sitting on the bus to London reading my final unread Persephone (The hopkins manuscript) and looking forward to an outing which has coincided wonderfully with this week. Simon from Stuck-in-a-book has organised a meet-up of UK book-bloggers, and although I'm not sure that I will be well enough to manage the long day required to go to the meal planned, I am intending to meet up with some of the other book bloggers at the Persephone bookshop beforehand. Before that however, I have much excitement to look forward to as I'm meeting up with my wonderful co-host Claire for bookshopping and bookchat. We intend to visit a fantastic secondhand shop that Claire introduced me to in January (where I found many lovely Virago modern classics, and am hopeful of doing the same again!), and then to go to the Carlyle's house , which obviously has a Persephone connection since they have published The Carlyle's at home, and which Book Snob Rachel drew my attention to a little while ago.

Claire will be doing a final round-up tomorrow, and wrapping up the week from her perspective. I'll be doing the same on Monday, and we'll be announcing our giveaway winners and our favourite

Have a wonderful weekend, hopefully involving as much Persephone fun as mine!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Persephone Reading Week : Two recipe books

Most of the posts we've had this week have unsurprisingly featured the novels from the Persephone list. So I thought I'd redress that by writing about two of the recipe books which were among the last Persephone titles that I had left to read. Whilst you can't "read" recipe books in the same way as fiction or biography or even poetry, I hugely enjoy browsing through recipe books for inspiration of things to make and often just to look at the pictures.

Good things in England (Florence White)
This recipe book is a marvellous collection of 853 English recipes, spanning 5 centures (the earliest is from the 14th century) and almost all of the regions to provide what White describes as "a practical cookery book for everyday use". As someone predominantly interested in baking,
I was particularly taken with the section entitled "homemade bread, huffkins, wiggs, oatcakes etc" - I hadn't heard of a huffkin or a wigg before. The former comes from Kent and is a sort of flat yeast cake, a wigg is a slightly sweetened yeast bun. The regional specialities were also fascinating - there were two completely different recipes for Banbury cakes. I also came across a recipe for Deddington Pudden Pie - Deddington is a small village between where I live and Banbury where a friend is shortly to become curate; I have told him that this recipe which was "originally made for the Deddington Fair on November 22nd known as "Pudden Pie Fair", and is essentially a custard containing currants filling a puff pastry case should feature on his first dinner party there.

Plats du jour (Patience Grey and Primrose Boyd)
This book, first published in 1957, led the way in introducing the English to French cookery. Written at a time when the English were still suffering from the memories of wartime rationing, recipes that I make all the time such as pasta, pizza and risotto were extremely novel. It was difficult too to source the necessary ingredients - there's a chapter on storecupboard ingredients which suggests making trips to Soho to buy them - irrelevant now that our supermarkets are so well stocked but a definite mark of the 1950s.

Persephone Reading Week : Julian Grenfell

"A book depends on what a writer feels. This need not distort objectivity. Feelings can be observed,like that which they are about. It must be clear to anyone who reads this book that I have some love for Julian Grenfell. He seems to have achieved in a short life a rare authority. I wanted to understand what made someone so full of life and irony in the end adore war: what was his experience of people, that made him feel closest to horses and dogs"

Nicholas Mosley's life of Julian Grenfell initially seemed like a strange book for Persephone to have republished, but once I started reading it I understood. Although Mosley has an obvious interest in the life of Grenfell (as illustrated by the extract above), the first half of the book almost completely concentrates on the life of his mother, Ettie Desboroug, because he believed that she was responsible for Grenfell's mindset and gives a wonderful insight into life in Edwardian times.

Grenfell was killed in 1915 during the First World War, but had actively welcomed the opportunity to go to war, along with many other men of his era. In a letter in October 1914 he wrote: "I adore war. It is like a big picnic but without the objectivelessness of a picnic. I have never been more well or more happy." It is this desire which Mosley sought to investigate. Mosley believes that it was in part a rejection of the world of "society" in which his mother was involved which led him to these beliefs - she was beautiful and notorious for her charm, and part of a group which wasn't interested in much more than hunting or the latest parties and making conquests of one another.

I loved the endpapers for this book - called "Poppies" and printed on a velveteen fabric, it was produced in 1888, the year that Grenfell was born. This has a double edge as poppies are of course symbolic of the sacrifice made during the First World War.

Persephone Reading Week : Roundup #7

How exciting that we're on roundup #7 of the week, and the posts are coming thick and fast. Do check out Claire's roundup from yesterday too.

First up is a very exciting post from Fleur Fisher - she's very kindly giving away copies of Miss Pettrigrew Lives For the Day and Making Conversation - all you have to do is comment on her post and tell her which Persephone book is calling you the most, so do head over and join in.

Hannah Stoneman recieved her copy of The Persephone BiAnnually, and is planning a Persephone fest for today.

Buried in print continues her Persephone wartime reading.

Claire at Captive Reader was shockingly reading a non-Persephone book...when two of the characters visited the bookshop!

Mrs B at the Literary Stew shares her story of discovering the imprint whilst living in Hong Kong.

Chasing Bawa has reviewed Good evening Mrs Craven, her first Persephone, which she has enjoyed enough to want to seek out its companion, Minnie's Room.

HJ Elliot has reviewed Hetty Dorval on librarything (but beware, it does contain a spoiler!)

Anna from the Green Room was seduced into reading Greenery Street despite the fact that she has no time to read anything other than for her studies! I love it when a book calls so strongly!

Lyn at I prefer reading reviews one of her favourite Persephone books, Little Boy Lost, and lists her top 5 too - do you agree?

Katherine at A girl walks into a bookstore reviews The young pretenders, and also updates us on her current reading here.

Don't forget to check out my competition to win a copy of the DVD of Miss Pettigrew lives for the day - some interesting answers already! And don't forget about the other giveaways on our blogs - closing at the weekend.

Persephone Reading Week: Film giveaway

I have one copy of the 2009 film of Miss Pettigrew lives for a day to giveaway today. It's a wonderful, light and uplifting film based on the book which partly lies behind Persephone books huge success in the last few years.

All you have to do is tell me which other Persephone book you'd most like to see filmed and why - your why could include suggestions for a couple of lead actors, or a location where it could be filmed, or a quirky way of directing it. I'll choose my favourite answer from all of those submitted.

Competition closes at Midnight on Sunday, UK time.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Persephone Reading Week : The expendable man

In a grump with my fiance the weekend before PRW started, I decided to read The expendable man. It seemed an appropriate title, although I'm not quite sure that he noticed what I was reading. But this wonderful read fully engrossed me, and helped forget my grumpiness.

Thriller isn't quite the best description of the book actually, as although an extremely tense read it is not overdramatic in the way that many modern thrillers are. It starts off with a young American doctor, Hugh Densmore, setting off for his parents house to attend the wedding of his sister. As he drives, he spots a young girl trying to pick up a lift on a deserted stretch of highway. He hesitates about giving her a ride, but eventually decides to help her out, imagining how he'd feel about his own sister stuck in such a situation. She turns out to be somewhat feckless, a bit of a liar and with quite a dodgy past. However, once he eventually gets rid of her (and this takes two attempts after she gains another life from him the next day) he thinks that that is that. But his paranoia and hesitation turns out to be justified...

I won't say anymore because I do not want the power of this book to be spoilt, suffice to say that Dorothy Hughes has created a absorbing story centred around well-drawn characters in the almost stifling setting of Arizona. While it wasn't perhaps one of my favourite Persephone reads, I was gripped by the plot and revelled in reading a book, that being a thriller, had a different emphasis to many of the other titles on the Persephone list.

(My expendable man did the washing up and made a fuss of me later on, so I no longer consider him expendable - not until I can afford a dishwasher and someone to do the hoovering anyway!)

Persephone Reading Week: Roundup #5

We're nearly halfway through the week now and it's been great to see so many Persephone related posts. Claire brought us up to date yesterday with the fourth roundup, and here I am with number 5 and everything that's been posted since then!

Bibliophiliac announces that she plans to read The world that was ours this week - I especially look forward to hearing what she makes of it as it was certainly one of the most powerful books I read last year.

Joan from Flowers and stripes posts a reflective quote from Mariana here.

Donna has written a wonderful post inspired by To bed with Grand Music, thinking about the "grand music" with which Deborah took to the dance floor with a fabulous video clip of the Soft Shoe Shuffle. HJ Elliot reviews To bed with Grand Music here.

Buried in Print continues her Persephone wartime reading with a third post on the subject.

Katherine at A girl walks into a bookstore has written a post about one of the favourite Persephone authors, Dorothy Whipple. Do take a look!

Thomas at My Porch was excited to recieve his copy of the Persephone BiAnnually...which featured an extract from his review of The priory written last year.

Nymeth reviews Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, which she describes as a book with "extraordinary emotional impact".

Sarah at What we have here is a failure to communicate has reviewed Cheerful weather at the wedding; she mentions that Strachey has another book, Man on the pier, which I have not come across, but would love to, although it seems sadly out of print and very expensive. Cheerful weather was also the choice of Claire at Captive Reader, who describes it as reading more like a play than a novel.

Mrs B at The Literary Stew has reviewed Fidelity - I'm sure that will add to Claire's desire to read it after she enjoyed Brook Evans at the start of the week!

And I've written about "My Persephone Reading Life", with a picture of my collection and trying to whittle out some of my favourites. Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts!

Persephone Reading Week: My Persephone Reading Life

Last year during Persephone Reading Week I wrote a post called My Persephone Life in which I described how I became a Persephone enthusiast. I have to say that since then my enthusiasm has only been increased, as has my collection (as Darlene commented on that post - "Once you've read your first Persephone I think it's safe to say you'd better clear a shelf on your bookcase for more"), as you can see if you compare the above photo with the one in the post last year (a couple are on loan to people so it is not my complete collection) ! By the end of this Persephone Reading Week I intend to have read all of the Persephone books - I just have three non fiction titles to go, plus The hopkins manuscript which I plan to take on the bus trip to London for the bloggers meet-up at the end of the week.

It's then going to be time to reread some of my favourites. Top of my list is the first Persephone book that I ever read, Family roundabout, as it must be at least eight years since I read it. I'd like to revisit Mariana too and some of the Dorothy Whipples which I read comparatively early on.

But what has been my favourite overall? I have been pondering this over the last couple of days as I have been reading various reviews. Many of the same titles seem to be popular among bloggers, particularly the Whipples and Laskis. Other titles such as Cheerful weather, Mariana and Miss Pettigrew are also often mentioned - all of which are Persephone Classics. I wonder whether it is because they are popular that they were chosen to be classics or whether it is because the classics are more widely available (particularly in the US and UK bookshops).

I think my favourite Persephone reads have been some of the books which are less frequently mentioned. I was absolutely bowled over by The world that was ours last December, and I thought that Nicola Beaumann's A very great profession is a fabulous read that sets the books of the Persephone phenomenon into historical context. Round About A Pound a Week is a key historicla text because it was so critical in contributing to the debate about the need for social reform at the start of the twentieth century, and gives an absolutely fantastic insight into the world of the poor. A London Child of the 1870s is a book that I have loved for years, long before its Persephone incarnation, but worth mentioning for that! Of the novels, I have especially enjoyed A fortnight in September, Miss Buncle's book (which I recommended in the Bookseller back in December), and Princes in the land. Dorothy Whipple's short stories forced me to reconsider my dislike of the genre, although I have yet to read any short stories that I have enjoyed as much as those. Ultimately one of my very favourites has to be Bricks and Mortar by Helen Ashton.