January has felt very long – so long in fact that I feel I must surely have read more than nine and a half books – but there it is, nine and a half books and a month that sometimes felt more like three. Thankfully my reading during dreary January has been of a pretty high standard.
I started the year on a real high reading wise, beginning my year and my #Woolfalong project reading To the Lighthouse (1927). It was a wonderful reading experience, so different from my first experience of it twenty five years ago. Maurice (1971) by E M Forster – another member of the Bloomsbury set I suppose, was the only novel by E M Forster I had never read (not yet read his short stories either). Beautifully written, it paints an extremely honest picture of what life might be for a young man attracted to his own sex in the early twentieth century – no wonder really that Forster didn’t live to see it published. The Land of Green Ginger (1927) by Winifred Holtby I had been saving for a few years – it turned out to be good – although certainly not her best. I was a tad disappointed – only because I had saved it so long, however a lesser Holtby is still pretty good – and definitely still worth reading. I was particularly cheered to learn that The Land of Green Ginger is an actual street – how I would love little address card with that address on! Next I read a Netgalley review copy on my trusty kindle – Exposure (2016) by Helen Dunmore. I always like Helen Dunmore’s writing, and this one was among the best of those that I have read. Her sense of place is always so good, and the atmosphere and tension in this latest novel is pretty much perfect. Actually reading Exposure made me want to read those Dunmore I’ve yet to get around to. Next I found myself returning to Virginia Woolf, re-reading Mrs Dalloway (1925) – which I had originally not intended to do until February. Mrs Dalloway is a fascinating, complex novel – I enjoyed it far more this time too. I think (I hope) I may have finally found my Virginia Woolf mojo. I will probably wait until March to read more Woolf, although I have (or will have) my first round up post for the end of the first phase to post at the end of this month.
Cassandra at the Wedding (1962) by Dorothy Baker is a book I had only ever heard good reports of, a slim book it packs something of a punch in its brilliantly memorable narrative voice, I think I would have liked it to be a bit longer. Leading up to Margery Sharp day I read Britannia Mews (1946) – such a brilliant read, it’s easy to see why it was adapted for a film in the 1950’s. The Half-Crown House (1956) an old novel by Helen Ashton – I assume it to have been one of her later novels as she died in 1958. Set on one day in 1954 it explores the history and family of the house on that day and in flashback. I enjoyed it a lot – although not quite as much as the previous two novels of hers that I read.
Many of you will know I am involved in bookcrossing – although not as active as I once was, though I am currently involved in organising the UK convention, here in Birmingham for September. One of the authors I have arranged to speak is a local author Fiona Joseph – having not read either of Fiona’s books yet I started reading her most recent Comforts for the Troops (2015) – so I could pass it round a few readers who are likely to attend her talk in September. I will review it in the next few days – but I loved it. Set among the women who worked in the Cadbury factory during WW1 I found it very compelling, I particularly loved the local connection of course. I begin February a little more than half way through Cider with Rosie (1959); a book I have meant to read for years – and so when I spotted it at a bookcrossing meet on Saturday I picked it up and began reading it right away.
I do have some plans for February – two book group reads – The Cleft by Doris Lessing and a re-read of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I also want to read at least one Mary Hocking novel and I have a couple of more recent novels on my kindle I have been trying to get round to for weeks. Though of course I do really just like picking up whatever takes my fancy at that moment.
So tell me what were your stand out reads for January and what are you planning to read in February?