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In March I read Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – having had it languishing in my kindle for a shamefully long time. It ticked off 2014 in my A Century of Books and introduced me to three unforgettable characters, in Mattie, Noel and Vee. So, when I heard that Lissa Evans new novel; Old Baggage was to be a prequel – telling Mattie’s story, I was wildly enthusiastic. I was very grateful therefore to be offered a review copy – and it is only the happy tyranny of ACOB that has prevented me reading it earlier. Old Baggage was a delight everything I had hoped and more, fully involving and brilliantly told.

“What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world.”

1928; Mattie Simpkin is a remarkable woman, with an exciting, heroic past. As part of the Suffrage movement she was imprisoned several times, heckled Churchill, marched and sang alongside her fellow suffragettes, making memorable and lasting friendships. Now, her present is mundane and ordinary – with the Equal Franchise Act making its way through parliament – the old fight is done – so what next? Mattie is a woman who has never walked away from a fight, she is strong willed, determined with a fierce intelligence that she is ready to share.
As the novel opens an altercation at the local fairground beings Ida into Mattie’s life – a working class girl with a raw intelligence– though no one to help direct her potential. Ida comes to work at Mattie’s house, and both Ida and Mattie are changed because of it.

old baggageMattie shares her home with a friend from the old days – Florrie Lee – nicknamed the Flea, who had had an important role using her organisational skills behind the scenes – while women like Mattie were being knocked down by policemen.

Nearing fifty, and working as a qualified sanitary inspector, the Flea has never been able to vote – as she is not a property owner. Florrie had grown up in a poor working-class family, very different to the wealthy family that Mattie grew up in. Mattie’s house is known as the mousehole – reflecting its use as a refuge for women released from prison under the cat and mouse act, when hunger striking prisoners were temporarily released, to regain their strength before being returned to jail. Many women unsurprisingly, once released, went on the run with the help of their friends.

Now Mattie gives talks, with the Flea competently managing the photograph slide machine, she lectures her audience about the days of the suffragette marches, the rigours of imprisonment and how important it all was. Ironically, it is now Mattie who is sometimes heckled. At the end of one of these events Mattie runs into a woman from the old days, Jacko, who now married has recently returned from a few years in Australia. Mattie is depressed and disgusted to find Jacko is heavily involved with a fascist group, which appears to be turning the heads of many impressionistic young people.

“one should try to spark a few fresh lights along the way. To be a tinderbox rather than a candle.”

Mattie is inspired to create her own club – for girls – no matter what their background, she wants to help the new generation of young women to find their voice, develop their political opinion as well as exercising their bodies. Ida is the first rather reluctant recruit. She is already beginning to speak a little differently after spending time with Mattie and the Flea. The club grows rapidly, and this group of very different girls begin to gel.

“Miss Simpkin by contrast, had a face as readable as a penny newspaper, enthusiasm and exasperation, encouragement and the odd gust of rage chasing across her features. ‘Thar she blows!’ some of the bolder girls would whisper, as Mattie sounded off about Mussolini, or dogs with docked tails, or vegetarians.”

Mattie’s motives are good and idealistic, but a connection from the past, threatens to derail Mattie’s club, bringing disharmony and upset to the group.

Florrie is the calmer more measured personality, Mattie can be headstrong and often reacts without thinking, making decisions she comes to regret. So much of Mattie’s heart and head are in the past, she has been shaped by those experiences. Mattie’s sharp tongue even causes a rift with her old friend too, for a time.

Mattie. Ida and the Flea are superbly well drawn characters it was a pleasure spending time with, by the end of the novel readers of Crooked Heart are seeing some lovely little connections – which I won’t spoil – making this a must for fans of that earlier novel.

With thanks to Lissa Evans and Alison Barrow for the ARC.

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Shiny New Books is celebrating fifty years of the Book prize this week, and back in May, I read The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens for them. The Elected Member won the prize in 1970 and you can read my review for shiny here. Later in the week you’ll be able to read my revised review of Wolf Hall.

the elected member

In 1970 Rubens was up against some pretty stiff competition, Elizabeth Bowen’s Eva Trout, William Trevor’s Mrs Ecdorf at O’Neill’s Hotel, Iris Murdoch’s Bruno’s Dream, all of which I have read, A L Barker’s John Brown’s Body which I have tbr and Terence Wheeler’s The Conjunction – which I had never heard of until I looked up the shortlist for 1970. I can see why The Elected Member won, it is utterly perfect, a novel I had, had tbr for years, and it completely delighted me, enthralled me, made me laugh and put a very little lump in my throat too. The kind of book I was sorry to finish.

The Elected member wasn’t the first Bernie Rubens novel I had read, I read A Five Year Sentence several years ago, it was shortlisted for the 1978 Booker prize.

a five year sentence

That novel opens on the day of Miss Hawkins’ retirement after 46 years. She has decided to kill herself. However, her plans are thwarted when her colleagues present her with a five-year diary. Having been slavishly obedient all her life, Miss Hawkins sees this as an instruction to live. Her diary starts to direct her entire life. Instead of writing in it what she has done, she writes what she will do – and then joyously ticks her achievements off in red crayon. Miss Hawkins starts to embrace life and all its passions.

I heartily recommend both those Bernice Rubens novels, and I really must seek out more of her work.

For many years I loved the Booker prize. although I’m known more for reading vintage fiction and classics, I always followed the prize, and over the years I read many, many of the winners, and shortlisted books. Then something changed in 2014. They changed the prize and it now feels different, and I’m not entirely sure why. The last winner I read was the 2013 winner The Luminaries which I loved (I know not everyone did) I also read two of the shortlist. I have no interest at all in any of the last four winners (all of whom are male, and I read far fewer male authors I admit) although I did read two of last year’s shortlist. So, I still feel a bit sad that my long love affair with the Booker seems to have ended. There are six books which won the Booker between 1969 and 2013 that I hadn’t read – one of them I tried and couldn’t get on with – and I suspect I never will now.

This year, readers have been voting for a Golden Booker award – and the winner will be announced on July 8th. The shortlisted books: In a Free State, Moon Tiger, The English Patient, Wolf Hall and Lincoln in the Bardo – I have read four of those. I voted for Wolf Hall but could just have easily have plumped for The English Patient as I so loved it. It got me thinking, what would be on my own Golden Booker list. One book from each decade of the prize.

My Golden Booker:

(1970s) The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens
(1980s) Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
(1990s) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
(2000s) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
(2010s) The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Don’t ask which my overall winner would be – I can’t decide.

Inevitably I can’t help but wonder, what would be your five Golden Booker books?

June in review

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The second half of June has seen us in the UK bathed in glorious sunshine, our gardens are wilting, and temperatures are reaching over 30˚C somewhere in the UK every day. Hose pipe bans are being talked about already and there are wildfires raging on some of our moorland. Not much fun working in a building built before air con was ever dreamed of and not many windows that open – but once I’m home; I am managing to enjoy at least half an hour reading in my garden which is bliss. (oh and the dodgy looking fence in the picture was finally replaced yesterday – hooray!)

Eleven books read during June, two of them on the kindle.

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June started with two Persephone books back to back – though I reviewed them out of order I think. The Carlyles at Home (1965) by Thea Holme portrays the home life of writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and his wife, during the thirty odd years they lived at Cheyne Row in Chelsea. Thea Holme; the author, wrote it while she and her husband were living in the house as custodians.

Young Anne (1927) by Dorothy Whipple – was just a joy, the final book of hers left to be reissued by Persephone books, it was actually her debut. I loved every word.

I was already part way through The Collected Stories of Grace Paley (1994) I had read about seventy pages of it during May but carried on dipping in and out of it while I read those Persephone books. I am a big fan of short stories, and I enjoyed this collection though I’m not sure if I Paley’s style was completely to my taste. I was impressed though, with her ability to bring the New York neighbourhoods she knew so well to such vibrant life.

The Takeover (1976) by Muriel Spark for the 70s phase of #ReadingMuriel2018 – set in Italy it is a story of corruption and money as a rich American woman tries to get her villa back from the Englishman who has laid claim to it.

Joanna Godden (1921) by Sheila Kaye-Smith was such a lovely read, it was a pleasure spending time on the Sussex marshes with Joanna in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Joanna is a gloriously unforgettable country heroine.

My first ever grown up A A Milne book Four Days’ Wonder (1933) was a big success, light, bright breezy fun, I really can’t wait to read more by him.

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan (2013) was my sixth book with the Asymptote book club. I am quietly impressed with myself for reading them within a few weeks of their arrival and not allowing a pile of them to just collect on the bookcase. The story of a family in a fiction town in Western China it isn’t my favourite of the Asymptote books – but I am glad to have read it.

Old Baggage (2018) by Lisa Evans is a prequel to her 2014 novel Crooked Heart which I enjoyed so much, I was offered a review copy of Old Baggage. I had meant to read it in time for its UK publication, but didn’t quite manage that. My review should be up in a couple of days all being well.

I read Who Calls the Tune (1953) by Nina Bawden on my Kindle – her first novel – I can’t say I expected much from it, I tend to find her later novels are better. But I really enjoyed this mystery style novel – the ending of which I did sort of guess. An entertaining quick read all in all.

Eliza for Common (1928) by O Douglas. I was fortunate recently to be able to buy a few books from someone in a booky FB group – two of the books I bought were these smaller style hardbacks of O Douglas. I was afraid the print would be very small – but in fact it wasn’t too bad. This is the story of a Scottish minister’s family in Glasgow, the eldest son, Eliza’s adored brother goes off to Oxford, later writing a play, that is something of a success. Eliza stays at home, nurses her mother though an illness, visits her brother in Oxford. It is the kind of novel where not a huge amount happens, I very much enjoyed it.

I finished the month by squeezing in Not to Disturb (1971) by Muriel Spark, again on my kindle – for #ReadingMuriel2018 – I was so sleepy last night I did have to finish the last bit this morning, despite it being a very slight 96 pages. Still most of it was read in June – just.

A good reading month all in all with Young Anne and Joanna Godden my reading highlights.

the war on women

On to July – I am dipping in and out of The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts for my very small book group – we meet a week on Wednesday and I have already read three chapters, so I should make it. I am also just about to start reading The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam one of those gap fillers I bought for ACOB. I will probably be dipping into the Collected Stories of Muriel Spark too – although I really don’t think I will be able to get through the entire collection, too busy reading for ACOB! Aside from those, I will wait to see where my mood and my A Century of Books takes me.

What did you read in June that I need to know about? What are you reading now?

The end of June had rather crept up on me, and I will have two round-up posts back to back again – which might be a bit dull – for some – apologies. Today is my #ReadingMuriel2018 phase 3 round up in which I try to capture a flavour of the what’s gone on over the last two months. Tomorrow or Monday will be my round up of June reading. Then back to reviews.

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I try not to miss anyone, but not everyone uses the hashtag quite as liberally as I do, so some things do slip past me.

Phase 3 has been all about the 1970s novels of Muriel Spark, there were six novels to choose from. The Driver’s Seat I read last year, and from the five that were left I chose The Hothouse by the East River and The Takeover. I enjoyed both for different reasons, in both novels Spark shows her versatility, bringing her unique storytelling up to date (for the 70s) writing about death, religion, corruption and money.

Of The Driver’s Seat (1970) Mary said “odd, fun, wonderful language. Love her occasional unusual ordering of adjectives.” It certainly struck a powerful note with me when I read it last year, it has an unforgettable quality. Michael from Librarything – who is reading all the novels of Muriel Spark this year I believe gave The Driver’s Seat 5 stars, saying its absurdism reminded him of Shirley Jackson.

Jennifer read Not To Disturb (1971) calling it “a glorious fever dream of a novel which I suspect like ‘The Driver’s Seat’ will only get better on rereading.” This is certainly one I really want to read, and I may sneak it in to this weekend, I have it on my kindle but have run out of time this phase. Monica from Monica’s Bookish Thoughts reviewed this slight novel saying it packed a mighty punch. Michael also enjoyed this “spoofing of servants, the upper classes and mystery novels” giving it a very good 4-star rating. Edited to add: Isabel also read Not to Disturb calling it quite odd, and with six hours of phase 3 left I have just begun reading it myself.

I haven’t seen many people reading The Hothouse by the East River (1973) Like me, Michael from LT thought this a weird novel – I must say I did really like it and it has stayed with me, although I don’t know if I am any clearer on Spark’s intentions in writing it. Edited to add, Grier read and enjoyed this one too.

Annabel from Annabookbel; read and reviewed The Abbess of Crewe (1974) calling it possibly the most fascinating Spark novel that she has read. Caroline from Book Word also reviewed this novel, saying that “Watergate was not so colourful. But Muriel Spark brings out the farcical, as well as the shocking corruption that comes with reckless pursuit of power.” Another reader, Christine gave The Abbess of Crewe 5 stars on Good reads. Blogger The Dowager Bride has also been reading The Abbess of Crewe – which does seem to have been a popular choice as my bookcrossing friend Sam also chose to read it calling the novel a pithy read packed with political intrigue.

So far mine is the only review of The Takeover (1976) that I have seen – if anyone else has read it let me know. I know LT Michael has read it previously.

Again, I haven’t spotted anyone reading Territorial Rights (1979), so if anyone can give me any thoughts on that late 70s novel I would be grateful.

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So on to Phase 4 – which is simply any of the poetry, short stories and essays written by Muriel Spark. I already know I won’t read as much for this phase I am afraid. My summer reading is likely to be a mix of ACOB #WITmonth and All Virago All August – juggling, juggling! I do have the collected short stories which look marvellous, I am a big fan of short stories, but I shall probably only read and write about some. I also have The Golden Fleece book of essays, bought on ebay, when it arrived I was slightly dismayed by the small print – I know I won’t get all these read either. The book is divided up into sections; art and literature, religion, philosophy, autobiography and travel etc some of these appeal to me rather less than others. I certainly hope to read a few essays from the autobiographical section.

Thank you as always to those who have joined in and shared their thoughts with me – a year long reading challenge is gruelling! Let me know if I have missed you – keeping track gets harder I find.

I hope some of you join me for Phase 4 – please let me know what you’ll be reading – I certainly don’t expect anyone to get through entire collections unless of course you want to – as they are all quite large. Happy reading.

chillibeanpasteclan

Translated by Nicky Harman

Last month’s book from the Asymptote book club was The Chilli Bean Paste Clan by Yan Ge, the story of a family in a fictional town in West China. This novel is possibly my first experience with Chinese literature.

In her foreword to this novel, Yan Ge explains how the town she grew up in, no longer exists as it was, so much change has come to the region. She describes being swamped by nostalgia as she wrote about Pingle Town a town based very much on the one she grew up in. So, there is certainly an autobiographical element to this novel, though where exactly that starts and ends I wasn’t sure.

The Duan-Xue family are the owners of the lucrative chilli bean paste factory, the younger of two adult sons; Xue Shengqiang is the current owner. He is married to Anqin and has a daughter Xingxing. Oddly, it is Xingxing who is our narrator, although she is never present in the story, but more of that later.

Shengqiang’s position is an enviable one, he has worked his way up through the family business and now he is the boss.

“It was just an ordinary April morning in Pingle Town. Dad had been around for at least forty springtimes and could describe it with his eye shut. The trees suddenly so green they made your eyes sore, the birds and the bees going at it hammer and tongs, the lurid yellow rapeseed blossom, the blazing scarlet azaleas, even the air smelled fertile, he thought sourly. It certainly brought out the crowds, and the streets heaved with day-trippers, songsters, card-players, people out to make a quick buck, and more besides. And of course there were the couples, making out, and breaking up.”

He remembers the time when he was first inducted into the family business, stirring the drums of chili bean paste buying cigarettes to give to his – shifu (foreman) – the man teaching him his craft. He now has a wife and daughter, a driver to take him around the town, and a mistress living in an apartment above his mother’s. He still gets together with his best friend Zhong and his “bros.” He seems to be living a perfect life. He is living in a town he knows well, inside out, yet it has changed beyond all recognition.

“There were no dirt roads left in Pingle Town, and you didn’t see many telegraph poles either. In 2000 or 2001, the powers-that-be got some mad idea into their heads that the town needed a facelift. Up went the stepladders, and the bucket of paint, and all the buildings on and off, the four main roads were covered in white paint. The looked like they had been plastered with stage make-up. After that, the stalls and pushcarts were driven out: the purveyors of cold dressed rabbit, flour shortbread and griddled buns filled with brown sugar even the scissor-menders and knife grinders, were all swept ruthlessly from the face of the town. All those old faces so familiar from his childhood just vanished.”

Now Shengqiang’s mother, straight talking matriarch is about to celebrate her eightieth birthday. Gran – as she is referred to throughout the novel – is to be given a wonderful party to celebrate her milestone birthday. Her middle-aged children begin to gather to make the necessary preparations. Shengqiang’s elder brother, a university teacher arrives, and Shengqiang’s hackles almost immediately rise. There are tensions between the brothers and old resentments are brought to the surface as Uncle starts to take charge. The brothers’ sister Coral also arrives to share in the preparations, and it soon emerges that her marriage to Liu Qukang is in trouble.

In the midst of all his family obligations, Shengqiang struggles – not really very well – to keep his mistress happy, and his wife in the dark. However, in the end the biggest secrets that are revealed come from Gran herself.

asymptoteI had really looked forward to reading The Chili Bean Paste Clan, but it rather underwhelmed me. This is a slightly larger type paperback and at 276 pages it feels a bit overlong. My one main problem with the novel – and it might not be a big thing for other readers – is the narration. The narrator is as I said the main character’s daughter – however she is never present within the narrative itself – there is a suggestion that she has had some sort of mental health issue – and has gone away, but she is never present in the action, or interacts with any of the other characters. This feels a bit odd, especially as she seems to know far more about her father’s sex life than any young daughter should.

While I didn’t love this novel, I certainly didn’t dislike it, I gave it a solid three stars over on Goodreads, and I found many aspects of Chinese small-town life to be fascinating.

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My first adult A A Milne book has been a long time coming. Having seen other bloggers reviewing his books now and again over the years, I had meant for a long time to acquire some for myself. The recent offer from the Book People gave me the chance, and I started reading my first one, almost as soon as the package of books arrived.

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Four Days’ Wonder ticked off 1933 in my A Century of Books list, and made for delightful, weekend reading, last weekend. I was hooked by Milne’s tongue in cheek humour from the first page.

“It had been known for years, of course, that Aunt Jane would come to a bad end. Not only was her black hair cropped short like a boy’s, but she smoked cigarettes out of a long holder, and knew the Sitwells.”

Despite the appearance of a body very early on – you couldn’t really call this a detective story – though there are elements of a comic crime story that fans of vintage mysteries might enjoy.

Jenny Windell is eighteen, fascinated by murder mysteries and blessed with a riotous imagination. Brought up by her aunt Catherine at Auburn lodge, she is now living with her guardian, the family lawyer, following her aunt’s death. Jenny never knew her father, the handsome Hussar, though she keeps his picture by her bed, and talks to him in moments of quiet or indecision – her darling Hussar is her comfort and constant companion.

One day, using the latch key she found trapped in the lining of her bag, she absentmindedly lets herself into Auburn Lodge, where other people are living now. There, rather surprisingly, lying dead on the floor of the drawing room, is her other aunt, Jane Latour, who Jenny hasn’t seen for eight years. Jane Latour was an actress with a scandalous reputation as a flapper.

“Jenny was a well-read girl, and knew that people were continually drifting upstairs and finding bodies in the drawing-room. Only last night Michael Alloway, a barrister by profession, had found the body of a well-dressed woman on his hearth-rug, with a note by its side which said ‘A K 17 L P K 29 Friday.’”

As a reader of detective fiction, Jenny knows exactly what to do, she hears people coming back, and hides, she climbs out the window, leaving behind a monogrammed handkerchief and footprints beneath the window. Realising just how this all could look, Jenny immediately goes on the run, drawing her friend Nancy into her crazy schemes. Jenny decides to go hiking, all set for adventure, she cuts her own hair, buys a rucksack, and something called the Watson Combination Watch Dog and Water Pistol (which she uses to ward off a harmless tramp) and prepares to sleep on haystacks. Jenny’s adventures are marvellously comic, verging on the ridiculous, they are nonetheless well paced and highly entertaining.

Nancy is a secretary to a pompous, self-satisfied writer, and she is delighted to help Jenny in her adventure, allowing Jenny to swap her clothes at her flat, and arranging to send her money. Unwittingly, Nancy’s boss Archibald Fenton is drawn into the confusion too – when Nancy asks a small favour of him.

Meanwhile the investigation into how Jane Latour met her death is supervised by Inspector Marigold, a man who has never investigated a potential murder before – and he isn’t really up to the job. Marigold is rather dim, but even he can’t help but notice Jenny’s handkerchief and footprints. Having questioned the bemused new tenants of Auburn Lodge, it doesn’t take Marigold long to fasten on the previous occupants of the lodge. Finding a connection to Jane Latour in her niece Jenny, Marigold sets up the hue and cry, and soon Jenny’s name and photograph are plastered all over the papers.

fordayswonderAs she tramps across the countryside, Jenny meets Derek Fenton, the handsome younger brother of Archibald Fenton who her friend works for. Jenny tells Derek all about what happened at Auburn Lodge and soon he too is drawn into Jenny’s adventure – the pair even find time for a little gentle romance. Naturally, Jenny, Derek, Nancy and Archibald Fenton all get themselves into a thorough pickle – and the police are hard (ish) on their heels.

Four Days’ Wonder is joyful, breezy fun, A A Milne was no doubt poking gentle fun at the Golden Age of crime type novels.

My first A A Milne for adults was adorable fun, and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of my Milne novels – ACOB permitting.

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Joanna Godden is such a wonderful novel, a VMC title which demonstrates perfectly why the VMC imprint has been so important. In this novel, Sheila Kaye-Smith gives voice to an extraordinary woman, who pulls valiantly against the conventions of her community. Joanna Godden is a very real woman, in her the author has created a character who is strong, flawed, loving and firmly wedded to the Sussex marshes where she lives.

As the novel opens it is 1897, it is the day of Joanna Godden’s father’s funeral. Joanna is twenty-three, her younger sister Ellen; just ten. Everybody in the nearby village or on the neighbouring farms think they know exactly what Joanna will be do now. Her father’s farm of Little Ansdore has been left to Joanna entirely – and someone will need to run it. It seems obvious to everyone that Joanna will marry, she’s a handsome young woman, and her father’s farm makes her a good catch. As, Joanna’s good friend Arthur Alce has been trying (and failing) to court her for years it seems the perfect solution. However, Joanna has other ideas, she has no immediate plans to marry – and sadly for Arthur, Joanna makes it clear she won’t marry him, and more importantly she intends to run her father’s farm herself, she is full of ideas, passionate about the land. Joanna defies convention and raises more than a few eyebrows – and not all her ideas are successful.

“She forgot her distrust of the night air in all her misery of throbbing head and heart, and flung back the casement, so that the soft marsh wind came in, with rain upon it, and her tears were mingled with the tears of night. ‘Oh God!’ she moaned to herself – ‘why didn’t you make me a man?””

 

She works hard to make the farm a success – increasing its worth – and putting money in the bank. She invites plenty of comment with her smart, eye-catching costumes and newly painted cart. The men gather in the nearby hostelry and discuss all the latest news from Little Ansdore – they tell their wives when they get home – but Joanna rather thrives on the attention and quite enjoys thinking about everyone discussing her.

As well as running her farm, Joanna must also raise her sister Ellen. She’s not above clipping her round the ear, indulging in a sisterly screaming match or hauling the shrieking ten-year old under her arm and carting her off in front of a startled tea guests. Though as Ellen begins to grow, Joanna wants more for her, to make a lady of her, and now that she has the money – she decides to send Ellen away to school. The Ellen who returns to Joanna during the holidays is a changed girl – and in time the differences between Joanna and her little sister begin to tell.

In matters of the heart Joanna judges poorly sometimes, her heart very much ruling her head. When she first takes over the farm, she employs a ‘looker’ the man she employs is physically the kind of man she finds attractive. It is unthinkable that a farm owner would pursue a relationship with her ‘looker’ and Joanna doesn’t really intend to – but as Socknersh is bad at his job, Joanna’s preference is noted and talked about. Joanna nearly makes a fool of herself.

“Over the eastern rim of the Marsh the moon had risen, a red, lightless disk, while the sun, red and lightless too, hung in the west above Rye Hill. The sun and the moon looked at each other across the marsh, and midway between them, in the spell of their flushed, haunted glow, stood Socknersh, big and stooping, like some lonely beast of the earth and night…. A strange fear touched Joanna – she tottered, and his arm came out to save her…”

Joanna will fall in love for real, her enormous appetite for life making her throw herself whole heartedly into every life experience. But with everything she does, Joanna’s traditionalism, religion and love of the land drives her forward.

joannagoddenThe years pass, Ellen makes some terrible choices that really test Joanna. Joanna knows sadness, loss and great achievement – she never stops being a favourite topic of local conversation. There comes a day when Joanna, older, but possibly no wiser – acts against her own character, she remains unconventional making decisions for herself that are right for her – no matter what anyone else thinks.

Joanna Godden was one of those books I was sad to finish – a strong sense of place and one of the most heroic country heroines I have ever read about. This was the first novel I have read by Sheila Kaye-Smith so I am looking to reading Susan Spray – by the same author that I have tbr.