In These Times, Jenny Uglow
An Eye for a Tooth, Dornford Yates
Red in the Morning, Dornford Yates
The Cornish Coast Murder , John Bude
Cover Your Eyes , Adele Geras
The Glassblower, by Petra Durst-Benning and Samuel Willcocks (translator)
Cost Price, Dornford Yates
The Glassblower & Yates )

A Place for Us Part Three, Harriet Evans
Andrée’s War , Francelle Bradford White
Perishable Goods, Dornford Yates
The Littlest Guide, C R Mansell
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
Blood Royal, Dornford Yates
Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night , James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil , James Runcie
Fire Below, Dornford Yates
Rebellion , Peter Ackroyd
Plotting for Grown-ups , Sue Hepworth & Jane Linfoot
The Red Book of Primrose House , Marty Wingate
She Fell among Thieves, Dornford Yates
A Place for Us Part Four, Harriet Evans
Listellany , John Rentoul

Currently reading
In These Times, Jenny Uglow
lots of Yates )

Bride leads the Chalet School, Elinor M Brent Dyer
There’s a Place for Us Part Two, Harriet Evans
Cherry Ames, Mountaineer Nurse, Julie Tatham
My Turn to Make the Tea, Monica Dickens
Blind Corner, Dornford Yates
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Jonathan Coe
The Soul of Discretion , Susan Hill
not a lot to say )

The Poppy Factory , Liz Trenow
Diamond, Jacqueline Wilson
Dangerous Lover, Sonia Deane
Summer of Love, Katie Fforde
As Berry and I Were Saying, Dornford Yates
Saving Grace , Jane Green
It Started With Paris, Cathy Kelly
opinions )

July Books

Jul. 31st, 2014 11:36 am

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Salley Vickers
Every Woman for Herself , Trisha Ashley
Mr Mac and Me , Esther Freud
Jonah & Co., Dornford Yates
Adèle & Co., Dornford Yates
The Truth about Melody Browne, Lisa Jewell
And Some Fell on Stony Ground A Day in the Life of an RAF Bomber Pilot, Leslie Mann, with a Foreword by Richard Overy
Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues, Trisha Ashley
A Winter’s Tale, Trisha Ashley
The Berry Scene, Dornford Yates.
comments )

Lord Roworth’s Reward, Carola Dunn
The World of Arthur Ransome , Christina Hardyment
A Room Full of Bones, Elly Griffiths
Dying Fall, Elly Griffiths
The Brother of Daphne, Dornford Yates
The Third Wife , Lisa Jewell
Captain Ingram’s Inheritance, Carola Dunn
Striding Folly, Dorothy L Sayers
The Vet’s Daughter, Barbara Comyns
Blood Count, Robert Goddard
A Place for Us Part 1, Harriet Evans
The Courts of Idleness, Dornford Yates
a few comments )

This month, my bedtime reading has been mostly Dornford Yates and it’s the Berry books which I’ve been re-reading. In spite of all the criticisms of the books which I’m about to make, there always will be re-reads. This must be the clue as to what makes a best-selling author, as Yates was between the wars. There are ten (?) Berry books plus a later compilation volume. They concern the adventures of the Pleydell family.

Berry (Bertram) Pleydell is head of the family and the funny one (how funny he really is depends upon your mood). He’s highly loquacious and likely to launch into long, fantastical speeches at any moment. He is married to the beautiful Daphne, whom he occasionally refers to as ‘my hag’. Daphne is for me the most normal of the female characters in any of the books; she occasionally occupies herself with mundane matters such as housekeeping. She puts up with a lot from Berry but it’s clear they are a devoted couple. The Brother of Daphne is Boy Pleydell, who narrates the stories. They have two cousins: Jonathan and Jill Mansel. Jonathan, ‘Jonah’, is a tough character who also features in the Chandos yarns, a real man of action. I have a letter written by Dornford Yates to a fan in which he says, ‘No, I don’t think Jonathan Mansel will ever marry.’ (Boy does, twice.) Hmm, if you ask me, there’s a touch of Ralph and Ted in Jonah’s relationship with his servant, Carson. Jill is a worrying enigma. She is ageless; she’s like a fairy tale princess with her golden hair and ‘great, gray eyes’. She is completely artless. Artless? To me she seems positively simple and it’s a mystery what she does with herself all day. The efforts of the entire family to protect Jill not only from harm but from the slightest distress or anxiety lead one to think that she must be somewhat lacking. There are dogs but no children.
much more )

A few years ago I was browsing in a bric-a-brac shop which has since closed and bought a copy of Storm Music by Dornford Yates. Inside the book I found part of the original dustwrapper, neatly cut out, and this signed letter from the author to an admirer. Which was nice.

My main read at the moment is Few Eggs and no Oranges the Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940 -45. I was delighted to pick this up for a pound at the market and looked forward to reading it. But I’m finding it really hard going! While still ploughing through it I’ve managed to read five other books. The best of these was Starter for Ten by David Nicholls. I loved the film and liked the book a lot, finding it funny and sad. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did One Day but that’s a good thing. It’s always rather sad when an author writes a brilliant debut novel and then disappoints. Improvement, that’s what we want.

I’ve read three of the books in this Agatha Christie omnibus, all for the first time. I liked A Murder is Announced best, because of all the clues in it and the way Miss Marple is in on the action from quite early on. As with Miss Silver, I don’t like her to appear suddenly at the end of the story and solve the mystery where the Met’s finest have failed.

Then there’s Debbie Macomber. In my opinion, best selling Ms Macomber can’t write for toffee. What she can do is tell a story, in a rather plodding way, and I find it hard to resist chicklit which is focused on knitting. The first in the series I’m reading on and off is The Shop on Blossom Street. The main character, Lydia, now free of cancer, opens a yarn store on Blossom Street and soon gets involved in the lives of a group of women who all have Problems. It’s wonderful how knitting sorts them out. A Good Yarn goes even further, with pretentious philosophical quotes from famous knitters heading up each chapter. There’s even a complete Nancy Bush sock pattern! The formula is the same as in the first book: each character has a story and each is helped by knitting. I am never, ever going to knit socks on two circular needles; give me four dpns every time. I do rather like reading about people knitting, though, so in spite of my criticisms I’m about to start Wednesdays at Four. Confusingly, some of Macomber’s books have different titles here and in the States. For instance, I liked the sound of Susannah’s Garden, only to find that it was Old Boyfriends, which I’d already read.

On the Kindle I’m reading Berry & Co. by Dornford Yates. Yes I’ve read it before and yes, I have a hard copy but it was a free download and the stories are exactly the right length for bedtime reading. Kindle update soon.
This is a meme from Stuck in a Book and here are the rules:

1.) Go to your bookshelves...
2.) Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...

Most of my books are in a shed in the garden and I have no desire to go out in the cold and snow for a rummage there. There’s quite a few book cases in the house, though, so I decided to have a go at this meme. Blindfold yourself? It’s like living inside a cloud here today; just leave the light off and it’s way too dark to see your books. Cheat a bit? Tempted, because I seemed to pick books without pretty covers, but I decided to stick with the challenge. What the book says about you? I don’t do that sort of meme. You just have to guess. ten books )

I think ABE Books should start giving me a discount for the number of times I'm directing people to their site. Today, it's to a list of 20 Timeless Tales of Adventure, described by Richard Davies. Lovely covers to look at, as usual.

I was quite surprised to find that I've read nearly all of these books. I would never read Lorna Doone again; one of those drear books that makes a better film. On the other hand, I can't imagine not re-reading The Thirty-Nine Steps at some time. Why does Mr Davies call John Buchan, that son of the manse, 'a stuffy old aristocrat', I wonder?

I'd add one of Dornford Yates's Chandos novels to the list. How about you?
I've started taking photos of my books so I know what I've got and where they're to go. I can hardly stand the thought of them all in boxes. I took about twenty pics this morning and there's still a long way to go. Book Pr0n )
Here’s a meme from [ profile] girlyswot
Comment on this post.
I will give you a letter.
Think of 5 fictional characters and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ.

She’s given me the letter ‘M’. You're very welcome to comment, whether or not you want a letter!

Meryon Fairbrass. Descended from Sussex pirates, he is tough, handsome, clever, amusing. You’d think he was too good to be true except that his creator, Monica Edwards, based him on a real life boy whom she said was all that and more. Forms one of the Westling foursome with Tamzin, Rissa and Roger.

Mary of the John & Mary books by Grace James. She’s sensible, realistic, more of a Martha, really. One of the reasons I like her so much is that I feel all the characters in the books and the author herself preferred John.

Miss Mole. Not really a favourite character but a good excuse to push again the novels of E H Young, which I enjoy so much. A single woman with no money, dependent on dreary work but finding happiness by defying convention. A much better book IMO than Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

Mrs Morland, ‘happily widowed’ writer of detective stories. She features in many of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels, starting with High Rising. Apparently vague and disorganized (her hair is always coming down); actually hard working single mother of four boys. Her son Tony is much fancied by aficionados.

Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Mansel, cousin of Berry in the novels of Dornford Yates. War hero, ace driver of only the best cars, murderer (only murders villains, so that’s OK), a man of wealth and taste.
When I was a child, my aunt took Woman’s Weekly, (mostly for the knitting), then passed it on to my mother. I would while away a wet afternoon in the holidays curled up with a heap of them, reading the advice given out by ‘Mrs Marryatt’ (later she called herself ‘Mary’) and my favourite, Looking at Life with The-man-who-sees. So I was pleased to pick up some ancient issues yesterday and renew my acquaintance with them. By the way, the model on the left in this photo is now better known as Mrs Michael Howard. Read more... )
I bought this book because I liked the cover. It is written in the first person by Sir Roger Marrion of Wynyates, Surrey, and purports to be his war journals. He and his wife Richenda, one of those Dresden porcelain invalids with an unspecified complaint and always described as ‘a great lady', make Wynyates self sufficient for the war, never forgetting the cottagers. The book is an unconvincing defence of an old, feudal rural order and full of astonishing assertions such as that The Battle of Britain was won by men wearing ‘the old school tie’ and that ‘Eton never surrenders’. It is quite dreadful. I had never before read a book by Warwick Deeping and looking at the long list of titles on the back, the only one I recognized was Sorrell and Son. I now burn to read Mad Barbara.

Warwick Deeping died in 1950 and The Old World Dies was published posthumously in 1954. This set me thinking about other popular authors who were nearing the ends of their writing lives by 1945 and my first thought was of Dornford Yates, who died in 1960. Lower Than Vermin, published in 1949, made me shriek when I first read it as a teenager. The title, of course, comes from Aneurin Bevan’s notorious description of the Tories, made at a meeting of the Labour party in 1948. Yates’s book is another defence of the old ways, showing how a noble family had sacrificed generations of young men for its country, only to be rewarded with the loss of everything they possessed and stood for. Unfortunately the book is full of wildly intemperate and ludicrous statements and the Socialist (Boo!) character turns out to be a murderer. Poor old Yates. He couldn’t stand the new order, which he observed from afar in Southern Rhodesia.

Angela Thirkell is another author who ruined her post war books by constant references to THEM, by which she meant the Labour government. In one she even refers to ‘the happy days of the war’ when England stood alone. Sadly, these writers blamed the new government for what was really the result of five years of total war. Just as unhappy but braver about it was that remarkable woman, Flora Klickmann. Best known today as the editor of the Girl’s Own Paper, she was very popular in her lifetime for her Flower Patch books, about her cottage and garden in Worcestershire. The last of these, Weeding the Flower Patch, was published in 1948. Klickmann was already in her seventies when war broke out and she spent the war years in the country looking after two guests described as ‘evacuees’, two women who seem to have needed a great deal of care. In this book, typically, rather than moaning she cracks on with life, her main complaints being about food and the difficulty of supplying the household.

Two of the most popular writers of the early twentieth century happily ignored the war in their writings and went on with the fantasies which had so delighted their public before the war. Georgette Heyer scarcely modified her style and Arabella, published in 1949, is one of my favourites. Jeffery Farnol (died 1952) brought out The 'Piping Times' in 1945 and made it an idyll of a rural England which never existed even before 1914, full of rolling English roads and foaming pints. I must admit I found it very enjoyable.

The queen of all ‘everything has changed for the worse and nothing will ever be the same again’ books is of course Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. That is so much in a class of its own that I can’t include it here.

Next up, I will be thinking about the writers who saw a brave new world beginning in 1945.



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