June Books

Jul. 3rd, 2016 10:30 am

Jane’s Parlour, O Douglas
Dark Bahama, Peter Cheyney
The Two Mrs Abbotts, D E Stevenson
The Countenance Divine, Michael Hughes
Love Notes for Freddie, Eva Rice
Death on the Riviera, John Bude
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, H E Bates
Death on the Cherwell, Mavis Doriel Hay
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
The Sea Garden, Marcia Willett
A Week in Paris, Rachel Hore
Weekend with Death, Patricia Wentworth
The Butterfly Summer, Harriet Evans
Eliza for Common, O Douglas
opinions (long) )

The Seventh Wife, T Kingfisher
Apricot Kisses, Claudia Winter, trans. Maria Poglitsch Bauer
My Shanghai 1942-46, Keiko Itoh
What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge
The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurin
Comes a Stranger, E R Punshon
Priorsford, O Douglas
The Crystal Beads Murder, Annie Haynes
Presumption of Death, Jill Paton Walsh/Dorothy L Sayers
Christmas at the Vicarage, Rebecca Boxall
thoughts )

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.

When cornflower 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 )
Charles Lamb, photo from The Guardian

I’m very bad at the sort of discursive, rambling writing such a post demands; it’s just not my style. But here goes. My reading lately has been rather sporadic and ‘June Books’ didn’t appear at all. Cricket hasn’t helped. When you don’t want to miss a ball on Test Match Special you need to be doing something compatible with listening and with shouting, ‘Slide, Ben Stokes, slide!’ or ‘Cor blimey, what a shambles!’. I wonder if the neighbours can hear me. These are the books I read in June, four of which did get reviewed.

The Rhyme of the Magpie, Marty Wingate
My Life in Houses, Margaret Forster
Capital Murders, ed. Martin Edwards
A Man of Some Repute, Elizabeth Edmondson
The American Lady (Glassblower Trilogy Book Two), Petra Durst-Benning and Samuel Willcocks.
The Dungeon House, Martin Edwards
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer.

I borrowed Margaret Forster’s book from the library but found I’m more interested in reading about houses than I am in reading about Margaret Forster living in them. Over the years I’ve read many of her novels but, I don’t know why it is, whenever I’ve read anything autobiographical, I’ve found it impossible to warm to her. The American Lady was disappointing after the first Glassblower book; far too much of it was unbelievable. Nevertheless, it ends on such a cliffhanger that I’ll almost certainly read the third book just to find out what happens.

I re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when I was looking for a ‘nice’ comforting sort of book. It fitted the bill and led me on to
something else )

There weren’t many sellers at the market this morning yet I did better than I have done for ages. I’d hardly started looking round when I found a box of old books and amongst them these by O Douglas. I tried for £2.00 but got them for £3.00. I already have a set of the Nelson Pocket series so they can go. Unforgettable Unforgotten I’ll be keeping as I don’t have it. A new cover needed for that one. I’m sorry to say, in view of my constant complaints about how I have no room for my books, that I’ll also be keeping the Yellow Jacket, simply because I already have two of the novels in the same edition and I like them.
more bargains )
The last morning of November

The Town in Bloom , Dodie Smith
Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
Thursdays in the Park, Hilary Boyd
Madensky Square, Eva Ibbotson
Clouds of Witness , Dorothy L Sayers
Royal Harry, William Mayne
Shrinking Violet , Karina Lickorish Quinn
The Secret Keeper , Kate Morton
The Ghosts that Come Between Us , Dr. Bulbul Bahuguna
Re-reads: several books by Posy Simmonds plus The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Pink Sugar by O Douglas
thoughts )

July Books

Aug. 2nd, 2012 11:34 am

Celia’s House, D E Stevenson
Priorsford, O Douglas
Don’t Ever Get Old , Douglas Friedman
Housekeeping , Marilynne Robinson
A Pony for Jean, Joanna Cannan
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
My Dear Charlotte, Hazel Holt
Penny Plain, O Douglas
Susan, Bill and the Vanishing Boy, Malcolm Saville
Suddenly at his Residence, Christianna Brand
Lucia on Holiday, Guy Fraser-Sampson
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (These Foolish Things), Deborah Moggach
thoughts & unfinished books )

Yet again ramblingfancy has introduced me to a detective series which I’m going to enjoy. Telling Tales is part of the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves. I see from the cover there’s been a TV series but it passed me by completely. This story is set in Yorkshire, the flat, coastal part getting towards Lincolnshire (coincidentally the setting for South Riding) and the landscape dominates the book, making it very atmospheric; the sea and the wind seem everywhere. A teenage girl has been murdered ten years before and the case is to be reopened. Secrets and lies abound in the small community and Vera relies perhaps too much on her instincts to find out the truth. It reminded me a little of Anita Shreve’s Eden Close, which I read last year. As is so often the case, the dénouement is less interesting than the steps towards it but I liked the book and will be happy to read more by this author.

ramblingfancy also lent me the latest Catriona McPherson novel, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder. This one is a Montagu & Capulet story set in Dunfermline. Two department stores, two families whose members all hate each other, two deaths. I loved the descriptions of the shops and the people working in them but much as I like Dandy and Alec, the plot of this one was too convoluted for me. If anyone can beat Dandy to working out the complex relationships between the Aitken and Hepburn families: congratulations!

I have two more crime books lined up. At the market yesterday the nice man who finds books for me had the first Maisie Dobbs novel, hurrah! I’ve been reading them out of order and now I shall be able to see how it all started. He also offered me two Daisy Dalrymple books, one of which, Rattle His Bones, was next on my list to read. I was just as pleased to spot two books by O Douglas, after rummaging through several unpromising boxes.
if you like looking at book covers )

July Books

Aug. 1st, 2010 02:40 pm


Death at the Bar, Ngaio Marsh
Name to a Face, Robert Goddard
The Go-Between , L P Hartley
The House that is Our Own, O Douglas
Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary, Ruby Ferguson
The Tapestry of Love , Rosy Thornton
The House on the Hill, Eileen Dunlop
Children of the Archbishop, Norman Collins
The Education of Hyman Kaplan , Leo Rosten
Not Just Love-Letters, Rosy Thornton
Vanishing Point, Patricia Wentworth.
Poppyland, Raffaella Barker
The Stolen Voice, Pat McIntosh. A Gil Cunningham Murder Mystery
Mr Rosenblum’s List , Natasha Solomons
thoughts )

May Books

Jun. 1st, 2010 11:07 am

The List
Towards the End of the Morning , Michael Frayn
Olive Kitteridge *L, Elizabeth Strout.
The Scholarship Girl , Josephine Elder
Gone Away , Hazel Holt
Jane’s Parlour, O Douglas
The Gentle Art of Domesticity*L, Jane Brocket.
Drama at Silver Spires*L, Ann Bryant.
The Adventures of Margery Allingham *L, Julia Jones
The Beckoning Lady, Margery Allingham.
The Fashion in Shrouds, Margery Allingham
The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers *L, Paul Torday.
You’re a Brick, Angela! The Girls' Story 1839 - 1985, Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig.
Taken by the Hand, O Douglas.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg.
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye, M C Beaton.
thoughts )

Damsel in Distress, a Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Carola Dunn
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
, Mary Ann Shaffer
Pink Sugar, O Douglas
A Swarm in May, William Mayne
Choristers’ Cake
Cathedral Wednesday
One Day, David Nicholls
Dead in the Water, Carola Dunn
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand , Helen Simonson
The Sweetness and the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag , Alan Bradley
Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came, M C Beaton
Overture to Death , Ngaio Marsh
Charlotte Fairlie, D E Stevenson
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, Kate Fox
thoughts )

Right now, I don’t want anything that’s edgy, scary, weird or deals with social and world issues I can’t do anything about. For the time being I want a duvet of emotional comfort around me and luckily I’m finding it with books and DVDs.

I’ve doted on The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series from the first book and the very latest, The Double Comfort Safari Club, doesn’t disappoint. True, some bad things happen, and to nice people, but the basic goodness of Mma Ramotswe and Mr J L B Matekoni still encourages belief in the possibility of niceness and the value of life. I’m also re-reading O Douglas yet again; she had the same gift of writing about good people without making them boring.
After Henry/Mapp & Lucia/When the Boat Comes In )
A nice write-up for Greyladies in the Scottish edition of The Times. See here.

Greyladies Books is a relatively new imprint started by the owner of The Old Children’s Bookshelf in Edinburgh. The idea is to publish adult novels by authors better known for their children’s titles, all in a distinctive striped livery. Some of these books are very scarce and much sought after by collectors. I’ve just had an orgy of Greyladies, reading three in two days after they were kindly lent to me.

The first was Poppies for England by Susan Scarlett, better known as Noel Streatfeild. I’m sure that given a chunk of this book as an unseen I’d have spotted the author straight away; it all seemed so familiar. Two cosy families, a lot of stage talk, beautiful but selfish daughter, another girl talented but overlooked. The story is set just after the Second World War. Family members must get to know each other again, everyone is tired of queues and shortages; coupons feature. The theatrical families make the most of a summer season by the sea as do the literally happy campers, who have a wonderful time. I was bored by the endless descriptions of stage business and costumes, perhaps because I’d read so much like it in Streatfeild’s other books. To be fair, she thought nothing of her Susan Scarlett books but this one is very slight indeed. I’d rather read Wintle’s Wonders and that’s far from being a favourite.
more ladies )

Books marked * count towards the Library Challenge.

Wideacre, Philippa Gregory. Abandoned.
*The Northern Clemency, Philip Hensher.
*The Camel Bookmobile, Masha Hamilton.
*A House in the Country, Jocelyn Playfair
*Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener, M C Beaton
*A Little Learning, J M Gregson. Abandoned.
The Terracotta Dog, Andrea Camilleri. An Inspector Montalbano mystery.
More books and O Douglas )
A strong Scottish bias to this month’s reading. Looking at the list I’m surprised it’s so short but two of these books are very long and one is really three books.

Nella Last’s War edited by Richard Broad & Suzie Fleming
The Heir of Redclyffe, Charlotte M Yonge
Put Out More Flags, Evelyn Waugh
Anna and her Daughters, D E Stevenson
A Suitable Vengeance, Elizabeth George
Jam Tomorrow, Monica Redlich
The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom, Alexander McCall Smith
The House That is Our Own, O Douglas
Consuming Passions, Judith Flanders
The Musgraves, D E Stevenson
Steer by the Stars, Olivia Fitz Roy

New this month for my readers’ delight is the Book Gallery, showing the books and giving them star ratings. As I’m rubbish at pictures and rely on LJ hosting, please remember you need to click on all my pics to see them properly. For reviews and comments Read more... )

A mystery indisposition has meant that I’ve spent much of the last two days lying on the sofa, reading. So it was lucky for me that at the market last Saturday I bought very cheaply three books by Alexander McCall Smith which I hadn’t read before. First I read Espresso Tales, more news from 44 Scotland Street. This is taken from a serial which the prolific author writes for The Scotsman and I love it. It is a continuous narrative which need never have an end. It makes me repeat what I said before in a previous post: that there are many similarities between McCall Smith and that other, late, Scottish writer of light fiction, O Douglas. In Espresso Tales people meet, eat, drink coffee, talk. Occasionally something interesting will happen to them. That’s it. Now re-title one of O Douglas’s books Tea Tales and where’s the difference? People meet, eat, drink tea, talk. Occasionally something interesting will happen to them. That’s it. In Blue Shoes and Happiness, which I’m reading now, Mma Makutsi says, “these small things are important for people. Mma Ramotswe has often told me that our lives are made up of small things. And I think she is right.” Now read The Day of Small Things by O Douglas. I rest my case.

As well as writing all these books, McCall Smith has a web site where, for example, he tells Americans where to buy bush tea. I plan to try it myself.
I'm still reading back to back O Douglas but only in bed, which makes it slow going. The current effort, Jane's Parlour, I'm getting on with less well than the others. It deals with a more upper class set and the main character is a woman who has five children yet whose sole domestic chore is to speak to Cook in the morning. She is praised for not finding her quiet life boring but when you read a description of a typical well-filled day (author's view), it sounds like a holiday.

I would guess that every one of O Douglas's books contains at least six references to 'a good fire'. Also, many of her characters express a preference for autumn and winter over summer. Surprising, you may think, when they live in Scotland. I do understand this though, as autumn is my favourite season. When other people are sunk in gloom at the end of summer, I get a perked up, everything-starting-again feeling. There's many good things about summer: Test cricket, Wimbledon and going out first thing in the morning to pick a pound of strawberries, some lettuce and a bunch of sweet peas to name just a few. The garden is starting to get a heavy, July-ish look about it which means it will soon be time to read Emma again. I don't know why, I just always do reread it at this time of year.

Here's a rather dark little picture of me picking strawberries.

Unrecognisable, heh, heh. Of course, if I'd known I was going to have my photo taken, I would have put on a big shady hat, carried a trug and done some flower snipping; 'a nice, ladylike occupation'.



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