It’s that time of year again – well nearly!

Daphne du Maurier reading week is back – which this year will be the week beginning Monday 9th May.

I have loved #DDMreadingweek the last three years, so many people have joined in, discovered, or remembered a love of all things Daphne and shared that with me and each other. I was wondering if I could manage it again this year, my reading and blogging has been pretty slow – but with the help and enthusiasm of Daphne du Maurier readers, I think it will be fine. After all, it’s all about Daphne, not my blog, so I probably won’t be posting on the blog more than two or three times during that week, however, I will be reading Daphne, sharing, and reading everyone’s posts. I am also planning a cheeky little giveaway 😉 as I didn’t do one last year – watch this space.

I share a birthday with Daphne du Maurier, so during the week of our birthdays I like people to read and review Daphne du Maurier books – fiction or nonfiction, share thoughts and pictures on social media – and generally get enthusiastic. You don’t need to have a blog, just join in any way you can. Cake is optional.

For me reading the fiction of DDM ticks so many boxes – and I assume that is why she remains so enduringly loved by readers. Whether you want novels or short stories, mystery, chills or romance, historical escapism, or something a little more contemporary (to her time of course) Daphne has the book for you. If you need any inspiration for what to read – have a look at the event page on my blog for last year’s event – here. Her writing is excellent, her sense of place, and the relationship she has with landscape in many of her books quite extraordinary. Classic, are classics for a reason.

I promise to get myself prepared – so if you follow me on social media and see my reading DDM books weeks before the event – don’t panic – I’m just getting ready. I have more unread Daphne du Maurier books tbr than I can possibly read in one week anyway, so I will have to start early.

I will let you all know what I am reading nearer the time, for now just let me know if you think you would like to join in.

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To be absolutely honest I wasn’t sure if I was doing this again this year – but late last night I thought, oh why not? The last couple of years I have hosted Daphne du Maurier reading week – on the week of her and my birthday. It has been fun, and lots of people seem to have enjoyed it, so it seemed I might as well do it again. This year it will be the week of the 10th-16th May – Daphne du Maurier’s birthday being the 13th.

Daphne du Maurier seems to have a special place in the hearts of many readers – it always touches me how loved she still seems to be. So, let’s break open the books, settle down with tea and cake and for one week celebrate the life and work of a unique writer.

There won’t be a blog post from me every day – that might be a good thing! I can’t ever manage that level of content in a week – but I will be reading and reviewing two or three books I hope and I always love to see what other people are reading and reviewing.

I feel as if May has nearly crept up on me without my noticing, and so last night I ordered a couple of books, The King’s General and The du Mauriers to go with the Letters from Menabilly that I have been meaning to read for two years. With those books and the temptation to read Rebecca for the third time I will have plenty to choose from when the time comes. My Daphne du Maurier reading last year was so good – I feel like this year can’t possibly match it – I hope I am wrong.

I have a dedicated page for last year’s #DDMreadingweek – where there are links to lots of people’s reviews if you’re in need of inspiration. Nearer the time, I will take the page down to make way for a new page – so it won’t be there forever.

Hope to see lots of you joining in – novels, short stories, biography or letters anything goes.

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A few months ago, I began to see a lot of love on Twitter and book blogs for a debut novel with the intriguing title of Leonard and Hungry Paul. I treated myself to a copy and it has been sitting unread on the shelf ever since. It turned out to be the perfect read for the start of this month, as I struggle with an attack of sciatica.

This was the kind of modern novel that I like, and don’t come across as often as I would like. It’s a novel that isn’t packed with incidence, and the fact it is seriously lacking in drama is exactly what makes it so good. It’s a fairly simple story about friendship, about the ordinary uncelebrated people in the world who are capable of changing everything for someone, in small, quiet ways. Leonard and his best friend Hungry Paul see the world a little differently to many of the people around them, united by their own brand of humour, their love of board games and fascinated by facts. They each have an appreciation for things that are special in the world, that other people perhaps ignore.

Leonard is a quiet thirtysomething who has spent his whole life living with his beloved mother. Leonard writes for children’s encyclopaedias, still as fascinated as he ever was by facts, he wants to pass them on to modern children, to light the little fires in their minds, that were once lit in him. He really wants to write his own book, that would appear under his own name, and present the facts he loves, his way. Leonard works in a big shared office but doesn’t really know any of the people around him. When his mother dies, Leonard is left alone in the home they shared, he is lonely, she has left an enormous hole in his life. Leonard has little idea about how to conduct any other kind of relationship, and he rather likes the idea of having a girlfriend.

Like Leonard, Hungry Paul isn’t always in tune with the twenty-first century, he lives with his parents Helen and Peter in their family home; Parley View. He works as a substitute postman just once a week, doesn’t own a mobile phone, and fully appreciates the beauty of silence. His sister Grace is a highflyer, living with her fiancé Andrew, she’s on the phone nightly to her mother talking about the upcoming wedding, for which Hungry Paul has been instructed to buy a suit – it’ll be the first he has owned. Leonard and Hungry Paul’s friendship is a gentle friendship built on a special affinity, an understanding of one another and a love of board games. They spend long evenings sat over old board games and eating biscuits in the kitchen at Parley View while Helen and Peter watch University Challenge. The two friends discuss everything, they are honest with each other – and each of them always interested in what the other has to say.

‘The figure in Munch’s painting isn’t actually screaming!’ Hungry Paul said. ‘Really, are you sure?’ Replied Leonard. ‘Absolutely. That’s the whole thing. The figure is actually closing his ears to block out a scream. Isn’t that amazing? A painting can be so misunderstood and still become so famous.’

Two friends who don’t always fit into the modern world’s idea of men in their thirties, negotiate the pitfalls of the twenty-first century. Hungry Paul buys the suit for his sister’s wedding, with Leonard’s help. Leonard meets a young woman called Shelley at the office; she has a son who loves the books he ghost-writes, inspiring him to start his own book. Leonard doesn’t always understand the things people say and what they mean – finds it hard to pick up the cues that should tell him how to act. He finds negotiating his way through getting to know Shelley something of a minefield.

Helen persuades Hungry Paul into volunteering as a hospital visitor, he’s not keen initially – he doesn’t really excel in small talk like his mother. He enters a competition run by the chamber of commerce to come up with a phrase to sign off business emails with. With her wedding on the horizon Grace starts to wonder about the future, and what her brother is going to do! She loves her brother very much but worries that her parents would really like to downsize the family home and do some travelling but that they are being prevented by the presence of their adult son, who doesn’t even have a proper job.

“There’s no point planning for what you’re trying to plan for. I know that, more than anything, you would like me to see the world your way, to wake up to your way of looking at things and to become the version of myself that you’re most comfortable with.”

Hungry Paul doesn’t think like his sister, and she has forgotten to take that into account. Never happier than when embraced by quiet – it is this very silence that in time will be key to Hungry Paul’s burgeoning independence, which he sets about very quietly, staying true to himself.

This is a wonderful novel, heart warming with a quiet wisdom. It is a gentle celebration of friendship, that introduces us to characters that it is a pleasure to spend time with.

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The Tortoise and the Hare was Elizabeth Jenkin’s sixth novel, one which was described to me recently as a forgotten masterpiece. I have had a copy for a while so I absolutely had to read it right away. My only other experience of Elizabeth Jenkins was in the novel Harriet – published by Persephone books. Of her writing Hilary Mantel – in her introduction to this edition says:

“…she is like Jane Austen: formal, nuanced, acid. She surveys a room as if she were perched on the mantelpiece: an unruffled owl of Minerva, a recording angel”

The Tortoise and the Hare is a subtle, beautifully written novel of psychological depth and great insight. It is the story of a marriage – and its decline.

Evelyn and Imogen Gresham are a conventional upper middle class married couple, they live comfortably in the country with their eleven year old son, and Evelyn, a successful lawyer spends most of his week up in London. Imogen is quite a bit younger than her fifty two year old husband; she’s beautiful and gentle, quick to tears and her ignorance of country pursuits and her love of pretty things over valuable things have begun to irritate Evelyn. Within her marriage Imogen has become a pacifier, a keeper of the peace, deferring to Evelyn in everything. Evelyn has very definite expectations of his domestic life, comforts he feels are his due, at work everything runs to his exacting standards – he wants nothing less than that at home. Young Gavin, the Gresham’s son, soon off to prep school, is a pretty vile child; he has shown his mother on several occasions that he considers her to be pretty useless. He has the arrogant contempt of a male child, who has learned a lot of bad habits from its father; Imogen almost seems to accept her son’s view of her with very little resistance. Gavin’s friend Tim Leeper is the only person to fully appreciate Imogen; he is a sad little scrap, a sensitive child of a chaotic bohemian household, who spend little time ensuring the well-being of their offspring. Tim spends more and more time at the Gresham home, and even after Gavin goes off to school, Tim spends part of each day with Imogen.

“Imogen went into the house. From the end window of her bedroom she looked out on the drive, a yellow gravelled circus surrounded by evergreens. The gate was pushed back against a box hedge, and standing with one hand on it, Evelyn was talking to Blanche Silcox, a neighbour who lived behind the hanger. She was on the way to the post in the village, it seemed, for she held several envelopes in her leather-gauntleted hand. The tweed suit, expensive but of singular cut, increased the breadth of her middle-aged figure. She appeared kind and unassuming, which made it the more strange that her hats should be so very intimidating.”

The Gresham’s nearest neighbour is Blanche Silcox, a spinster of about fifty, very comfortably off, she understands the countryside and its sports, she does voluntary work, and is a pillar of the local community. Blanche is a tweedy, lumpish woman, viewed as elderly by the beautiful, graceful Imogen; Miss Silcox with her masculine voice, wears odd hats and gloves like gauntlets, she is certainly not an obvious threat. Between Evelyn and Blanche there has over time developed a close friendship, Blanche enjoys giving Evelyn lifts to and from the station, in her Rolls Royce – as Imogen doesn’t drive, they both appreciate the same things and Blanche proves to know exactly how to make Evelyn comfortable.

“Imogen,” he said with forced patience, “you have plenty of occupations of your own, and you don’t care to do the things that give a great deal of pleasure to me – when I have time to do them. You don’t want to fish or shoot and you can’t drive my car, which would be a help to me sometimes. Am I to understand that you object to my having the companionship of another woman who can do these things?”

One of Imogen’s closest friends is Paul Nugent is also a middle aged man married to a much younger woman, only his wife Primrose – quickly decided she had made a bad bargain, and shuns her husband, largely living her own life. Paul tentatively suggests to Imogen who has always had her beauty to rely upon, that she might not understand what it is that men fall in love with. It is some time before Imogen fully realises what it was her friend was trying to tell her. Imogen’s other friend, Cecil ( a woman) is certain that Evelyn has taken Blanche as his mistress, and with Cecil’s help, Imogen discovers that Blanche has a flat in London, not far from Evelyn’s chambers.

As Blanche comes to mean more and more to Evelyn, assisting Gavin with his riding lessons, hosting glamorous lunches for Evelyn in London and even making subtle changes in her own home that will please him, Imogen has to wake up to what is happening. However Imogen’s self-esteem has taken an almighty battering and she is no match for the newly energised sexually assured Blanche Silcox.

The Tortoise and the Hare – is a superbly written novel of 1950’s domestic disharmony, and female sensuality. Jenkins’ characters are brilliantly explored, and the erosion of Imogen’s self-belief is quite heart-breaking. Alongside Imogen’s childlike sensuality, and Blanche’s determined aggressive sexuality is Tim Leeper’s aunt; Zenobia and her siren like sensuality a woman who believes all men will fall in love with her.

Hilary Mantel compares Jenkins to Austen, and also to Sybille Bedford and Rebecca West, possibly, but this novel is certainly very Elizabeth Taylor, acutely observed, quietly devastating and absolutely brilliant.


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Sometimes the perfect opportunity presents itself to read a particular book. When I bought The Three Miss Kings during a bout of VMC book buying I was intrigued by the idea of an Australian novel by an author who I hadn’t previously heard of, but then there it sat. So then along comes Brona’s Ausreading month – and I had the perfect reason to take it off the shelf.

The Three Miss Kings is set in Australia during the 1880’s – mainly taking place in Melbourne – although the novel opens in a rural area on the Southern ocean, where the three Miss Kings of the title have always lived in a certain amount of seclusion. Elizabeth, Patty and Eleanor having lost their mother some years earlier have now recently lost their father a reclusive man of difficult temperament. Contemplating their inheritance the young women consider themselves to be very well provided for – and as they sit on their beloved cliffs gazing out across the sea – they begin to plan their future. Patty and Eleanor are keen to travel, to go to Europe and see something of the world, however, Elizabeth the elder sister who is more measured and practical urges caution, suggesting that they go to Melbourne – for that is still a worldlier place than they have ever experienced – while they get used to living alone. So the sisters leave everything they know – their faithful old family retainer, their menagerie of animals and Mr Brion the fatherly old lawyer who advises them – and set out for Melbourne.ausreading

Once in Melbourne they are met by Paul Brion, the son of their family lawyer, who has been directed by his father to look out for the sisters and arrange lodgings for them. Almost immediately Paul and Patty start sparring – instantly misunderstanding one another – and the reader just knows how this is likely to play out. Patty; impulsive, and strong willed, Paul Brion a poor, proud newspaper writer, drawn to one another but destined it seems to be constantly at odds. Comfortably ensconced in pleasant lodgings, the sisters quickly realise they are living in the rooms previously occupied by Paul Brion – who gave up his rooms so that the sisters could be comfortably suited, Patty is particularly mortified, not wishing to be beholden to Paul Brion. Soon the sisters are living next door, and Paul Brion is back in his own rooms, where through a thin partition the sisters and Paul Brion are often very much aware of one another.

“In the stillness of the night, Paul Brion, leaning over his balustrade of the verandah, and whitening his coat against the partition that divided his portion of it from theirs, heard the opening bars of the funeral march, the gradually swelling sound and thrill of it impassioned harmonies, as of a procession tramping towards him along the street, and the sudden lapse into untimely silence. And then he heard, very faintly, a low cry and a few hurried sobs, and it was as if a lash had struck him.”

It is soon apparent that what the sisters had considered to be a considerable fortune is anything but. Their ambitions of adding to their simple wardrobes are thwarted by the cost of everything they want, which comes as an unwelcome surprise. Under the calm, guiding hand of Elizabeth, the sisters content themselves with using a few luxurious pieces of fabric, lace and some pearls from their mother’s possessions to accentuate the look their simple black gowns. The King sisters find they have much to learn, society is a complex place, where visits must be returned, lone gentlemen can’t be invited to tea and the nouveaux riche can never really be a lady as they simply do not come from the right section of society.
The Three Miss Kings is very much rooted in time and place. The novel opens in 1880, the time of the international Exhibition in Melbourne. There are refrences too, to the recednt capture of Ned Kelly and the Melbourne cup, and Melbourne itself is presented as a thriving modern city. It is during the procession, the day before the Exhibition opens that the true Cinderella nature of this story starts to take off. As Elizabeth stands in the street on the steps of a building, keeping a place for her sisters where they hope to be able to see the parade, she is almost crushed by the surging crowd, when she is saved by a stranger, a tall strong man, who immediately makes the gentle Elizabeth feel safe and protected. Mr Yelverton , a wealthy man from England, whose family history has a tragic mystery at the heart of it, has concerned himself with the plight of the poor of Whitechapel and later challenges Elizabeth’s conventional ideas on religion.

“Stand here, and I can shelter you a little” he said, in a quiet tone that contrasted refreshingly with the hoarse excitement around them. He drew her close to his side by the same grip of her waist that had listed her bodily when she was off her feet, and immediately releasing her, stretched a strong left arm between her exposed shoulder and the crush of the crowd. The arm was irresistibly pressed upon her own arm, and bent across her in a curve that was neither more nor less than a vehement embrace, and so she stood in a condition of delicious astonishment, one tingling blush from head to foot.”

while Elizabeth King and Mr Yelverton’s friendship develops, the sisters find themselves “taken up” by Mrs Duff-Scott and her husband, Mrs Duff-Scott is the pinnacle of Melbourne society, and when she decides to practically adopt the sisters, their success is assured. Mrs Duff-Scott is determined to get good marriages for her protégées and with Eleanor being courted by Mr Westmorland, and Patty pursued by the ridiculous Mr Smith, Elizabeth is allowed to get closer to Mr Yelverton, while Paul Brion, not someone of whom Mrs Duff-Scott really approves, feels more pushed out than ever.
As Elizabeth has to consider whether she will marry Mr Yelverton or not, during a visit back to their old home on the cliffs – an astonishing discovery turns everything on its head.


While Ada Cambridge’s best known novel is a romantic Cinderella story, it is also the story of Victorian Australian society; Ada Cambridge is realistic in her depictions of marriage and societal conventions and snobberies. Judging by the introduction to my VMC edition by Audrey Tate, Ada Cambridge herself was an interesting woman, who wrote an autobiography called Thirty Years in Australia – I rather fancy tracking that down I think.

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