The oldest book (by publication date) which I finished recently was Charles Lamb’s Last Essays of Elia
. I still can’t make up my mind about Lamb. Some of his writing is delightful; so whimsical and opinionated, that you have to love him. But his style is so convoluted! It seems old-fashioned for its time (he died in 1834) and he’s harder to read than, say, Boswell, who was writing much earlier.
I then jump to 1928 and As Far as Grandmother’s
which, as reported earlier, I was lucky enough to find at the market just when Edith Olivier had swum into my ken. I enjoyed it very much and would like to find more books by her. It deals with three generations of women. ‘Grandmother’s’ is where grandmother lives, within walking distance of her daughter’s house. Grandmother is a person who always gets her own way through sheer force of personality. Her daughter escaped by eloping, then living in a nearby cottage. She gets her own way by lying on a sofa and being so apparently passive and delicate that no one dares cross her. That leaves our heroine Jane, stuck in between the two. Which path will she follow? It’s interesting to find out. This is exactly the kind of book which Persephone might publish.
Let’s move on to O Douglas and Unforgettable, Unforgotten
, another market find. This is a memoir of family life rather than an autobiography and much of it deals with her brother, John Buchan. It’s interesting to note how the family lives in a fairly humble way then, through John’s success, get to move amongst the great and the good. I do recommend this to anyone who likes O Douglas, because it shows how much her writing was based on her own experience. In her introduction, she writes that all her books are about remembering happier times, which must account for the comfort factor so many people find in her books. When I’d finished this, I re-read Pink Sugar
. It was a good choice because the writer Merren Strang who becomes Kirsty’s friend, shares many characteristics with O Douglas and writes the same kinds of books; books which don’t dwell unnecessarily on unpleasant things, or ‘slime’ but cheer the reader.
mentioned H E Bates recently, I remembered that I had an unread book by him on the shelf: The Feast of July
. This is a book club edition with a pretty cover, shown above. I think it was another market buy. This is an historical story, set in the Midlands in the nineteenth century. The way the characters speak and the descriptions of local trades are slightly reminiscent of George Eliot. All the descriptions of the countryside are lovely (Bates was good at that) but the heroine, Bella, somehow fails to satisfy. Deserted by her first love, she goes in search of him, only to find another. It’s an interesting story but we don’t really know Bella any better by the end of the book than we did at the beginning. One Last Summer
, by Aubrey de Selincourt is the only children’s book I’ve read lately and was, wait for it, another lucky find at the market. Published in 1944, it’s the fourth book about the Rutherford family, who are all mad keen on sailing. This is a holiday adventure involving wrecks and local mysteries. The Rutherford parents are quite casual about leaving the children to their own devices and they seem to sail or camp as they please. There is some depth to the characters; the reader is bound to find Robin and Elizabeth (the sensitive, thoughtful ones), more attractive than the other two. I’d previously read one other book in the series. It didn’t make me want to collect the lot but they are essential reading for anyone interested in children’s books published in the 1940s.( reliable reads and new books )