Posts Tagged ‘february reads’

It’s the last day of the month and I won’t finish another book before midnight. It’s been a good month of reading for me, and despite not being very well, I wanted to share it with you all. February has been #ReadIndies month, hosted again by Lizzie and Karen, it’s a month that seems to perfectly suit my kind of reading, and I have really enjoyed this month’s books. #ReadIndies has become one of my favourite reading events. Honestly, where would we be without these brilliant, independent publishers?  

Unfortunately, I just won’t get around to writing about everything, hopefully I will write in more detail about a couple more of these in the coming days or weeks. One of the review copies I received is actually not out until April, so that gives me plenty of time to write a proper review of it. Three of these have been reviewed previously.  

My first read of the month was a collection of stories Other Worlds (edited 2021) by Teffi (NYRB Classics) translated from Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler & others. Focussing on other worldly themes, the collection comes from across a forty-year period in Teffi’s life.  

Maud Martha (1953) by Gwendolyn Brooks (Faber) is a book I only heard about from other bloggers. The only novel by the celebrated poet and first Black author to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. Told in a series of poetic vignettes, this is the story of Maud Martha Brown who grew up on the South Side of 1940s Chicago.  

Cold Enough for Snow (2021) by Jessica Au (Fitzcarraldo Editions) a tender, delicate little novella about a mother and daughter visiting Japan together. This was my first of two visits to Japan in my February reading. The two meet in Tokyo, share meals in restaurants, walk around the city, visit galleries and talk. It’s an exploration of their pasts, memory and their understanding of each other.  

Bird of Paradise (1914) by Ada Leverson (Michael Walmer) a wonderfully bright, witty novel, that gently satirises a society in which love, and money go hand in hand.  

Appius and Virginia (1932) by Gertrude Trevelyan (Abandoned Bookshop) I was so looking forward to reading this, Gertrude Trevelyan’s first novel. I wasn’t disappointed – though it often made me sad and a little angry. It tells the story of Virginia Hutton who embarks on an experiment – to raise a new-born Orang-utan as a human child. She names him Appius and buries herself in a cottage with no servants and over the course of about a decade goes about the business of teaching Appius how to talk, read, play and daily become more and more like a real boy. There are one or two uncomfortable comparisons between Appius and people Virginia considers inferior – which for me went hand in hand with the character’s attitudes. Throughout the novel there is a conflict between nature and nurture, and what happens when Appius becomes aware of his true origins. A fascinating, thought-provoking novel, in which the reader is firmly on the side of Appius. 

Latchkey Ladies (1921) by Marjorie Grant (Handheld Press) set around the end of WW1 this is the kind of novel I love, a novel about women, living and working independently at a time when that was less usual.  

A Summer with Kim Novak (1998) by Håkan Nesser (World Editions) translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Nesser is a very successful, well-known Swedish crime writer, who I hadn’t heard of. I read about this novel on another blog and wanted to read it. Although there is a crime in this novel – generally referred to by the narrator as the incident – it is in fact much more of a coming-of-age novel – and that’s what initially appealed to me most. Fourteen-year-old Erik and his friend Edmund spend the summer of 1962 by a Swedish lake, swimming, riding their bikes and daydreaming about a young schoolteacher called Ewa who looks just like Kim Novak. When Ewa’s boyfriend is found dead, Erik’s older brother is initially the prime suspect. Many years later, Erik looks back on what happened that summer. 

How Kyoto Breaks Your Heart (2023) by Florentyna Leow (Emma Press) is a collection of essays about the author’s time living in Kyoto. Florentyna takes up the offer of a house share in the hills of Kyoto. She starts a new job as a tour guide, falls in love with Kyoto, becomes a regular at a tiny, jazz bar. Meanwhile her relationship with her house mate becomes intense, and eventually begins to break down. This collection is a meditation on place, and the loss of friendship.  

In the Belly of the Queen (2023) Karosh Taha (V&Q books) translated from the German by Grashina Gabelmann. A novel about class, race and gender this novel is told in two parts. One runs from front to back – the other part (turn the book over) runs back to front – like Ali Smith’s How to be Both apparently. You can read which ever part you like first – I started with the slightly longer section first. As this novel – which I really enjoyed – isn’t out until April I will save my thoughts for nearer the time.  

Foster (2010) by Claire Keegan (Faber) another small novella which was lovely to read in one sitting. Set during a hot summer, a child is taken by her father to stay with relatives on a farm in rural Ireland. In the house of the Kinsellas the young girl finds an affection she has never known. Gradually in their care she begins to blossom. Only, there is something not talked about in this household, and summers have to end. A slight novel perhaps but one of absolute perfection.  

So, that was February, I don’t have any concrete plans for March – but I do hope to join in with Read Ireland month. I might read a William Trevor collection of stories and I have a couple of books I had meant to read this month that I ran out of time for. I have started reading The Fawn (1959) by Magda Szabo translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix – only fifty pages or so into it, but it seems promising so far. 

I would love to know what your highlights of February were – and what if any your plans are for March.  

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Well I do seem to be in danger of forever repeating myself – but I haven’t had the best reading month in some ways. The number of books read is again very low – I look back on the days when I would regularly read 9-10 books a month and more and wonder how on earth I did it – and where did that extra time come from. I can’t really blame February for being short as it’s only two or three days shorter.

Anyway I have a plan of sorts to try and utilise my time better – I think that’s what I probably used to do – as I have always watched quite a lot of TV. I’m fortunate to get home from work fairly early, so I have a lovely slot of time there – before I need to be getting dinner etc – when I can have a good read. The trouble is that lately I have been so exhausted I rarely use that time for reading, I often just slump in the chair with the TV on – not really watching it – scrolling through my phone, and generally falling asleep. I do struggle with fatigue in the afternoons, but I am hoping that with the slightly lighter afternoons, that may improve slightly. I have so many great books I’m looking forward to getting to, that it’s a shame if I continue reading so little. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, only six books completed – although one was over 500 pages – and I have started a seventh but that can go onto March’s pile as much of it will be read in March. I am taking comfort in the fact that I enjoyed all these very much – and at least one could easily be on my books of the year list.

My first book of February was The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy (2022). It’s a moving and powerful novel, a thoroughly gripping story of institutional racism. It examines the deep psychological effects of a crime committed in childhood, alongside society’s ideas of evil and its reluctance to forgive and forget.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (2020) was chosen by my book group as our February read – and was a great success. It gave us such a lot to discuss and was an enormously compelling read into the bargain. The author based her novel around the Vardø witch trials which took place in Finnmark, Norway in 1621.

In 1617 around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø a terrible storm arrives with appalling suddenness taking with it most of the men of Vardø who were out fishing. One young woman, Maren stands watching helplessly as the sea takes her father, brother, and fiancé. Now they are an island of women, fending for themselves, until a stranger arrives with his new wife, with orders to bring the women to heel.

My Caravaggio Style by Doris Langley Moore (1959) published by Dean Street Press was a good fit for #ReadIndies – I didn’t do as well with this challenge as I had hoped.

This is a novel about Byron obsessions and an audacious literary fraud. The novel is narrated by bookseller and author Quentin Williams, who decides to try and create a copy of Byron’s lost memoirs – burned by his friends after his death. The author herself knows a good deal about Byron, having had a lifelong obsession with him, and even makes a brief appearance herself in this novel.

The Narrows by Ann Petry (1953) a book I bought with those Christmas book vouchers and was so looking forward t reading. I knew it would take a while, as I was reading slowly, but part of it I read during half term, when I could speed up a bit. Unforgettable characters in a novel about love, lust, class, racism, tabloid journalism, the truth and betrayal – Petry writes her story flawlessly, giving us characters we won’t easily forget. Most of the characters inhabit the area of Monmouth, Connecticut called The Narrows – a black community within what is a largely white town.

The Dear Departed by Brian Moore (2020) – a collection of stories all of which seem to date from the 1950s and 60s although this edition was produced more recently. Published by Turnpike books it was another for #ReadIndies. Eight tightly written little stories, which I had intended to read last year during the Brian Moore centenary. It may be hard to review a couple of the stories – so I may just write about a few of them. Brian Moore is such a good writer though.

Random Commentary by Dorothy Whipple (1966) is there any better combination? A Persephone book and an unread Dorothy Whipple – it was just what I needed as half term came to a close. Compiled from notebooks and journals kept from 1925 onwards, I found this to be utterly charming and revealing. I shall keep most of my thoughts for my review – but oh my how I loved this book, it makes me want to reread all my Whipples – but then I remember that tbr! Another one that counted for #ReadIndies too – so I did manage to join in a bit.

Moving on to March – and with March comes the promise of spring – though we still face a lot of rainy, cold days – it feels like it’s getting closer. I have no reading plans at all – for even my book group read, Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is one I read fairly recently. Which means I am going with mood all month. I may join in with the Librarything themed read which is authors of just one VMC – you’d be amazed at what a long list of possibles there are.

As ever I would love to know what your reading plans for March are if you have them – and what brilliant things did you read in February?

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It always seems to be the last few days or so in February when we begin to really see the promise of spring. There were a couple of mornings last week when I took my morning WFH coffee break outside – albeit in a coat and scarf – but the birds were in fine voice in this industrial part of the city and it took just ten minutes to make me feel so much better.

In reading terms February has been ok, I have definitely slowed down a bit since January, finishing just eight books this month. The first of those was rather underwhelming but all the rest have been great. Four of this month’s reads count towards Karen and Lizzy’s #ReadIndies it has been brilliant seeing so many independent publishers being celebrated – I even discovered a couple I didn’t know about. Of course, as ever I am a few books behind in my reviewing so some will end up being reviewed in March.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi was that underwhelming read that started the month. A book group read, a Booker shortlisted mother daughter story which no one in the group particularly liked.

One of my read indie choices was Saturday Lunch with the Brownings by Penelope Mortimer a stunning collection of short stories. A theme of domestic disharmony and suffocation runs through this collection. There is nothing warm and cosy about Mortimer’s domestic portraits here, instead we have stories of strained relationships, unhappy children, and infidelity. 

The Feast of Lupercal by Brian Moore was next – a quite brilliant little novel which forms a sort of companion piece to The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. This novel concerns a Catholic schoolmaster living a fairly narrow kind of life in 1950s Belfast. Moore perfectly captures the sadness of a wasted life – beautifully written and compelling.

Another novel I was prompted to read for Read Indie month was All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison. A rural 1930s setting it is a coming of age novel which I found something of a slow burn but enjoyed a lot in the end. Rooted in the English countryside and beautifully written it was rather a lovely piece of calm once I got going with it.

I don’t know why I chose to read After the Death of Don Juan by Sylvia Townsend Warner now, except that I have had it tbr a long time and it was about time. One of the reasons I like Sylvia Townsend Warner is that she isn’t easily pigeonholed as being like anything/one in particular. I knew this one would be unusual – and it is – but I did like it, it’s not my favourite of her books but I certainly enjoyed the vibrancy and colour which she brings to this allegorical story of eighteenth century Spain.

My Grandmother’s Braid by Alina Bronsky was a book sent to me as part of my Asymptote subscription. Published by Europa Editions it also ticked the Read Indies box. I absolutely loved this book – so much so I bought another book by this author for my kindle. Translated from German by Tim Mohr it is the story of the boy Max living with his grandparents in a residence for refugees in Germany. The grandmother is a dreadful woman, but so comically written that it never gets too much.

Murder’s A Swine by Nap Lombard is one of the British Library’s most recent publications, this review copy only dropped on to my door mat just over a week ago. I was particularly interested in the authorship of the novel, because Nap Lombard was the pseudonym for the writing partnership of Pamela Hansford Johnson and her first husband Gordon Neil Stewart. As a fan of PHJ’s writing already I was intrigued. It turned out to be a really good mystery novel – a bit spine tingling in places and very enjoyable.

I chose to read my next book group read next The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy. This title is one of the six Black Britain writing back titles re-issued by Penguin with introductions by Bernardine Evaristo who has been championing the re-issue of these titles. I really enjoyed this novel and the voices of the two women at the centre of the novel – who meet in a psychiatric ward in the 1990s.

So that was February – and there were a couple of books I had wanted to read in February that I didn’t manage to get to – so they may or may not end up in March’s pile.

March sees the start of #ReadIrelandmonth21 an annual reading event hosted by Cathy of 746 books and also of Dewithon. I don’t appear to have anything from a Welsh author for the Dewithon this year, but I do have several by Irish writers. It wouldn’t be Read Ireland month for me without Molly Keane – and I do have one of the few I have left to read on the tbr. It’s one of the more recent editions with the covers I hate, but I will try and look past it. I also have a novella by Maeve Brennan who I have heard such good things of from other bloggers and Mary Costello’s Academy Street on my kindle. However, I have decided to start with The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor and I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. How many read Ireland titles I actually manage remains to be seen but I am glad I have such a nice little pile to choose from.

So how was your February for books? Tell me what you read that I should know about – and what are your plans for March reading?

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Where January seems to crawl by for most people – February flies – and we had one whole extra day of it this year.

In terms of reading February has been a pretty good month – only one book disappointed, though I failed to read quite as much as I expected. I’m also still a little behind in my reviewing – which is in all sorts of disarray because I started reviewing out of order. So, there will be the usual hangover of February books being reviewed in March – that’s become the norm though.

So, in the order I read them, though not reviewed them here is what February brought me in books. Click on links where there are any to go to the review.

I started the month reading Dust Tracks on a Road the autobiography of Zora Neale Hurston. Recounting her rise from a Southern childhood lived in poverty, to when she was taking her place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston is never less than entertaining and honest. Hurston’s prose is beautiful and endlessly quotable, it was a fabulous start to the month

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth was the book that disappointed. Chosen by my book group, it is a novel about a seriously fractured family, which explores painfully the nature of trauma and memory. Translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund it is one of three works in translation I read this month.

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton was every bit as brilliant as I had been led to believe by Hamilton enthusiasts. I read Craven House last year – and like that novel Slaves is set in a boarding house. It is a brilliant portrayal of bullying when a new resident joins the strange and lonely group living at the Rosamund Tea rooms boarding house.

 With Death in White Pyjamas and Death knows no Calendar by John Bude from the fabulous British Library, you get two books in one volume. I was sent this for review, but if you are in the market for a mystery – then this volume provides good value. Both novels are set at least partly in a kind of country house setting, although the investigations in the second novel take our intrepid detective a good way away from the scene of the crime. I decided to read both novels back to back, both providing great escapism, and two excellent mysteries. I definitely guessed the who in both of them (just call me Miss Marple) – but not the how.

I read Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, for Karen and Lizzie’s Fitzcarraldo fortnight. A novel as brilliant as its title. Reading events are usually responsible for me reviewing things out of order – and I tell myself it really doesn’t matter. In this extraordinary, and endlessly readable novel Olga Tokarczuk is exploring lots of things at once. Examining traditional ideas of ‘madness,’ animal rights and the hypocrisy of religion Drive your Plow… is also a wonderful portrayal of the lives of those living in isolation who don’t conform to everyone else’s way of thinking.

My second read for Fitzcarraldo fortnight was Dark Satellites a collection of short stories by Clemens Meyer translated from German by Katy Derbyshire. This is modern Germany, busy, multi-cultural – Meyer’s settings are the satellite towns away from the shiny heart of the modern city landscape. We have tower blocks, fast food restaurants, stations and industrial units. The people in these stories are wonderfully real, they too are rather out on the edge of things, marginalised people, the unseen and forgotten.

I read Loving without Tears by Molly Keane – one of my favourite virago authors (admittedly there’s a long list) with the upcoming read Ireland month in mind. I knew I wouldn’t get it reviewed until March after all. It is the story of a woman’s attempt to control the lives of her children as they begin to pull away from her and make their own lives. Angel is the monstrous mother, brilliantly portrayed by Keane. I loved everything about this novel.

Still thinking about read Ireland month I began reading Actress by Anne Enright just a few days after it arrived. I had pre-ordered it and forgotten (as usual) when it was due to arrive – it proved a lovely surprise and I couldn’t wait to get started. It is the story of a mother and daughter, the mother the actress, her daughter, telling the story of her mother some years after her death. Enright examines her characters so deftly; it is quite brilliant. I would love to see it on the women’s prize longlist.

I am three quarters of the way through another collection of stories, Mrs Reinhardt and other stories by Edna O’Brien (yes, Read Ireland again) and they are fabulous. However, as I haven’t finished them, it can go onto next month’s pile.

I don’t have any particular reading plans for March – I will definitely be guided by my mood. There could be more books for Read Ireland month as I have several still to choose from, but I need to wait and see what I feel like. My book group will be reading Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford. It will probably be my next read. I feel as if I have read a little outside of my comfort zone in February, so in March I may choose a few more Viragos and Dean Street press type books to redress the balance.

As March begins, I am easing myself back into work – I did half a day last week – and I’m doing a part time phased return over the next two or three weeks, building back up to my full time hours. It will be hard, so not sure yet how it will impact on the blog – I get really very exhausted these days. I’m planning to keep to my minimum two posts a week, but if I do drop off a bit – you’ll know why.

Hope you enjoy whatever you’re reading in March, and maybe we can all start looking out for those little signs of spring, that make us feel a bit better.

What fantastic things did you read in February? – Anything I need to know about?

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If January seems to go on forever, then February is over all too quickly. It does have a half term week towards the end which is great for reading of course.

Mr Fox by Barbara Comyns got the month off to a brilliant start, which I read for the Librarything Virago group’s ‘Reading the1940’s’ event – which sees us reading books published in the 1940s or about the 1940s. Most of us are reading VMC and Persephone books (or their authors) for this event. February’s theme was relationships, and Mr Fox – set during World War Two, first published in 1987 concerns the ambiguous relationship between Mr Fox and Caroline. Towards the end of the month Liz helped me acquire a longed for copy of A Touch of Mistletoe by Comyns.

My second book of February was two novellas in one by Colette; My Mother’s House and Sido (1922/1929). I later realised that I had read My Mother’s House before – a different translation with a different title. Still, it was a simply exquisite read, and reading it in my stunning new American first edition was a real treat.

The Strange Case of Harriet Hall by Moray Dalton (1936) I read on my kindle – an ebook sent by the publishers Dean Street Press. A hugely compelling mystery, well written with some fantastic characterisation, I will be going in search of more by this writer soon.

What Not by Rose Macaulay (1918) another review copy (trying hard to catch up with those I have) is to be re-issued by Handheld Press at the end of March. I thoroughly enjoyed this rather satirical, dark comedy – published with the repressed material from 1918 reinstated.

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson (2006) a collection of stories chosen from other books of Jansson’s and with a lovely introduction by Ali Smith. These stories are absolutely delightful, centring around childhood and old age – they feel very autobiographical.

Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier (1972) was another very compelling read. Her final novel – which doesn’t seem to have been well thought of at the time but has now been seen by some as oddly prescient for our times. Du Maurier imagines a time a little in the future from when she was writing when the UK having had a divisive referendum have left the Common Market and almost bankrupt have entered into a rather sinister alliance with the US. It is naturally rather anti-American, but I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying it.

Consequences by E M Delafield (1919) is a beautifully written, though ultimately sad and rather angry novel by the creator of The Provincial Lady. Alex Clare is an awkward young woman from a traditionally upper class Victorian family – when she fails to marry as is expected of her – she starts to believe a convent is the only place for her.

The Smallest Things by Nick Duerden (2019), review copy from the publisher, is a very touching family memoir which celebrates family, showing how it is the small things in life that tie people together.

Two Days in Aragon by Molly Keane (1941) for ‘Reading the 1940s’ also allowed me to join in with Cathy’s reading Ireland month. Although written in the 1940s it is set in the 1920s. Aragon is the home of the Anglo Irish family the Foxes. Dangerous relationships, and the complex political upheaval of the 1920s made this a really fantastic read, review soon.

As the month draws to a close, I am about half way through a British Library Crime Classic, Sergeant Cluff stands Firm by Gil North (1960), it will go into next month’s pile now. A little different to some of the other BLCC I have read, but definitely enjoyable.

March is potentially going to be a little odd here in the UK – although actually no one has a single solitary clue about what is going on, and I am certainly not going to say any more about it than that. I shall, no doubt need plenty of lovely, diverting reading material.

So, while I have put aside a few things I might be reading – I am just as likely to just read what I want to.

The ‘Reading the 1940s’ event is turning out to be right up my street – the rules are so loose that is actually allows us to read quite widely and diversely – I have at least a couple of potential reads lined for our March theme which is women. The Persimmon Tree and other stories by Marjorie Barnard (1943) and Liana by Martha Gellhorn (1944) are definitely on my radar – they look fascinating, Liana will certainly take me right away from the UK and its current chaos. Another collection of stories, The Rental Heart (2014) by Kirsty Logan has been chosen by my book group. I just found out from Juliana at The Blank Garden  that there is a Welsh read-a-long, Dewithon – at the same time as Reading Ireland month hosted by Paula of Book Jotter. I may find time to read Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards (1928)– I read Rhapsody by her last year, her writing is beautiful, and I am looking forward to Winter Sonata which I think I read many years ago in another edition.  That’s quite a lot of reading plans for someone trying not to plan ahead too much. I also want to read one or two of the works in translation that I have tbr – not sure which ones I will fancy getting stuck into yet. I would like to read at least one more book for Cathy’s reading Ireland month – I have William Trevor, more Molly Keane, Kate O’Brien and Mary Lavin on my tbr – so we’ll see what I can manage.

What were your February reading highlights? Any plans for March I should know about?

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I’m a little behind myself this week for one reason and another – so a few hours later with my monthly roundup than usual. Back to reviews soon I promise, I’m a bit behind there too – with four of my February reads still to write about. I read ten books during February three of them on my kindle, which therefore makes its appearance in the books read photograph above.

Aranyak by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was the last book to arrive from the Asymptote book club, a classic of Bengali literature. Beautifully descriptive, the story was written out of the diary entries the author himself kept during the years he spent in the Bihar region, between 1937 and 1939.

The Journey Home and other stories by Malachi Whitaker I read for the Persephone readathon – a delightful collection, by a wonderful Yorkshire writer. Her canvas is the ordinary, the domestic, but she perfectly captures the ordinary – making them appear less than ordinary – even the absurd in a way that not every writer manages. Here we have a boy starting work with his father, a couple getting drunk for the first time, honeymooners, children left to their own devices, young women ‘in trouble’.

Uncle Paul by Celia Fremlin an excellent suspense novel of fear and paranoia set in an English seaside resort. Fremlin’s story is suspenseful but subtly done, her characterisation superb. This engaging novel was my first by Celia Fremlin, and I’m hugely impressed.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer was my February book group read – it proved a superb choice for us and introduced me to another author I will want to read more of. At the age of sixty-four Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband Joe who she has been married to since the 1950s. Thought provoking and well written, Meg Wolitzer’s is a strong feminist voice, who I may never have read if not for my book group.

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark was my third read for #ReadingMuriel2018 and I loved it. It all begins with something of a mystery. A group of elderly, upper class people receive anonymous phone calls. The caller says – ‘remember you must die’ – unsettling – especially when one has reached a certain age. Not all these characters are that likeable, but they are so compellingly written about that, that doesn’t matter.

Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards is a little short story collection, by the Welsh writer who published only this collection and one novel, during her short, sad life.

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon the first of those books I still have to review. A really good dose of Golden Age crime from the British Library Crime Classics. Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist, and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate.

The Doves of Venus by Olivia Manning – definitely my stand out book of the month – the kind of book I loved so much I was sorry to finish. Eighteen-year-old Ellie has come to London in search of adventure. She gets a room, a poorly paid job in a studio and has an affair with an older, married man. All to escape the dull, suffocation of home with her mother.

The Bright Day by Mary Hocking a story of 1970s small seaside town politics and corruption. As ever her sense of place is excellent, as is her depiction of petty, small mindedness.

Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols, I now own four books by Beverley Nichols, Simon and Karen have waxed very lyrical about his writing (and I can see why) and their recent pod cast for Simon’s Tea or books was the push I needed to get one of the shelf. Down the Garden Path is an absolute delight – I love Nichol’s ironic voice and his unwavering enthusiasm for his garden. It is joyful.

My A Century of Books list is doing ok too – I have nineteen years ticked off now. I realise, how much harder it will get in the coming months. I’m fairly obsessed though, and the other day found myself ‘buying 1926’ – aka Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay.

readirelan2018March is under way – the first day of Spring – ha! No one told the weather – it’s simply unspeakable, good time to hunker down with a good book or two. I’m about to start my next Muriel Spark read – The Girls of Slender Means, I’ll be reading my three 1960s novels slightly out of chronological order – because The Girls of Slender Means is my book group read. I am then planning to join in with Read Ireland month. I haven’t settled finally on what to read, but I have three or four Molly Keane novels a Colm Tóibín and an Anne Enright in the running.

So, keep warm, stay safe and let me know what you’re reading – you know I like to know these things.

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The end of February always seems to take me by surprise – and so I find myself rushing to put this roundup together – and it is already March.

Eight books read in February – (and one more started) but it is a shorter month although I can’t help but know (I try not to care about this) that I am already two or three books behind where I usually am and my Goodreads target.

In My Own Time; almost an autobiography by Nina Bawden got February off to a good start. I like Bawden’s writing a lot – and in this collection of memoirs, Bawden tells us about her childhood, years at Oxford, her writing and the difficulties she and her family faced living with a son with schizophrenia.

Virago Press chose Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith for their February book club, and I was keen to join in, Deep Water was my first ever Highsmith, it certainly won’t be my last. I have now bought The Talented Mr Ripley.

Marghanita Laski’s first published novel Love on the Supertax – is a satirical novel of class during world war two. I really enjoyed it – though its humour is dated – I could see why this one has not yet been re-issued.

Names for the Sea; strangers in Iceland was the first of the two books I read on my kindle during February. With my holiday in Iceland on the horizon, I decided to read Sarah Moss’s account of her year living in Reykjavik in 2009. I felt I learned a lot about Iceland from the book, although her account can be a bit negative, and it’s worth remembering the experiences of a tourist and someone living and working for a year in a place will be wholly different.

Following the Nina Bawden memoir at the beginning of the month, I was keen to read The Birds on the Trees; Bawden’s fictional account of some aspects of her eldest son’s life. The novel was published in 1970 eleven years before her real life son’s suicide.

Toward the end of last year, I read The Magic Toyshop, it made me determined to read more by Angela Carter. Wise Children was recommended to me by several people, and I absolutely loved it. An extravagant, bawdy exploration of almost a hundred years of theatre.

The end of February of course saw me and three friends enjoying a short holiday in Reykjavik and I read Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows while there, finishing it about an hour after I got home. Rebecca West was the Libraything Virago group’s author of the month for February. (In March, it is Edith Wharton). I absolutely loved The Fountain Overflows, although I though it a little slow to get going. I have already ordered book two of the trilogy.

Another kindle read, Alys, Always by Harriet Lane which I read for my very small book group – we meet next week. I have still to review it – but although I found it a fairly engaging, easy diverting read, I thought, overall it was a little thin – lacking depth. I’m so often disappointed in modern novels.

I am currently reading The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning, the first novel in her Balkan trilogy – which I read once before in a large, unwieldy omnibus edition. I know I loved it but could remember virtually nothing about it. Determined to re-read it and no longer having the edition I read, I set about re-acquiring the trilogy – this time in separate volumes. I found a nice 1960 hardback of The great Fortune in a second-hand bookshop I always pop into whenever I am on holiday in Devon, The Spoilt City – book two I found in a small 1970s paperback edition, I am trying not to mind that they don’t match.

No definite plans for March, however I have just bought one of the Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middlebrow titles – Arrest the Bishop – and have agreed to have more sent for review. I may also read Edith Wharton, I have had Roman Fever (a collection of stories) tbr for ages – so I might just dig it out. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French is the #VMCBookClub book for March and I may have just ordered it.

So what have you been reading, and what are your plans for March?


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Just like last month I read nine and a half books – during February, which I think isn’t too bad for a slightly shorter month (that one or two days can make all the difference). As well as a roundup of my reading month – I am using this as a place to confess/celebrate my dreadful/delightful book buying of the last month.


February began with me half way through Cider with Rosie – a classic memoir of great nostalgia – which was very different to what came next. My first full read of February – The Cleft by Doris Lessing was a book group read. A book I will probably not forget in a hurry – mainly because it is rather odd – though it certainly led to an interesting discussion. The Woman Novelist & other stories – a slim Persephone volume was the perfect antidote as was The Winter City – Mary Hocking’s first published novel, set in an unnamed country behind the Iron curtain – which I loved. Following a lovely evening at Waterstone’s in Birmingham, a book launch and author event for Birmingham writer Clare Morrall – I enjoyed reading When the Floods Came – a dystopian novel set in a future Birmingham. Crossriggs, a lovely old Virago green came highly recommended by Liz – and I’m so glad I read it because it was one of my booksish highlights of the month. My second book group (which I haven’t even attended since about September) were reading Wide Sargasso Sea – oh joy! It’s a book I had read twice already – though about fifteen years ago – and I was delighted to read it again. Re-reading is always such a joy – I got more from it this time around – things I had forgotten leapt off the page at me – such a beautiful novel. Don’t Look Now – is one of the books (see below) that I have bought this month – When the Floods Came fits into that category too; a beautiful edition of a superb collection of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier that I couldn’t help but gobble down. Winegarden; a novella my second Birmingham set read of the month, was a small unexpected delight, I have a couple of friends who I think might like it too – so my copy will end up well read. We Have always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson was a Christmas gift by a good friend and a book I have been meaning to read for ages. I will get around to reviewing it in due course – but as everyone said I would – I loved it. I am now a little more than 200 pages into Night and Day – for phase two of Woolfalong – very different from To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway – but I am very much enjoying it.

March is the start of #Woolfalong phase two – and read Ireland month – which I am definitely planning on joining in. I haven’t decided which books to read yet – but I have several to choose from. One of my books groups will be reading Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge – very much looking forward to that, but as I can’t attend book group number 2 – again – I think I will swerve that book (I can’t remember the title anyway).

As I hinted above I have been buying books – rather a lot of books. Some of the books I have bought are not even to read right away – they form part of a growing collection. I had a little bit of extra money come my way at the beginning of February – and so my thoughts turned to Persephone. IMG_20160204_200433

I ordered; A Writer’s Diary and Flush – for #Woolfalong later in the year – Greengates by R C Sherriff and The Victorian Chaise Lounge by Marganhita Laski.

2016-02-29_20.13.46When the Floods Came as mentioned above was bought at the author event I attended, I bought copies of the same book for my sister and her friend too. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson is for a book group read in a couple of months’ time, it looks really good, I haven’t read nearly enough of Winterson’s work. Good Behaviour, a book by Molly Keane – which I will probably read this month for read Ireland month – is a book I have wanted to read for ages – I couldn’t resist this VMC designer edition so pretty.

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Then I decided to treat myself to a few more of what I call pretty books (I know I’m shallow). I love the VMC designer editions and the Penguin clothbound editions – and have a few shelved together. I don’t really intend to buy them all – but there’s nothing wrong with a well-chosen shelf-full is there? I bought Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with the last of my Christmas vouchers – thank you Liz. The Tennent of Wildfell Hall I re-read a couple of years ago –and it is one of my all-time favourite classics. Then last week I succumbed to more of the pretty books – all old favourites I have read before; The Enchanted April, Rebecca and The tortoise and the Hare – all in beautiful VMC designer editions. I will probably want to re-read them all now.

IMG_20160220_094003Venturing into a rather good Oxfam bookshop during half term – I was very pleased with myself when I only came out with three books. There were a good number of green viragos, although I did already have most of them – I felt restrained indeed only coming out with three. Brown girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall, Love by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Union Street by Pat Barker which I later found I already had a copy of – a rather better copy as it turned out.

Oh and I bought some mugs too – which I am a bit nervous of using. So I’m staying out of certain kinds of shops this month – oh wait – another author event at Waterstone’s on Wednesday – I’m doomed!



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My February reading started with a remarkable novel – Suite Francaise by Irene Nѐmirovsky – a film of which, I have since been made aware is coming soon. I actually saw a trailer for the film, a couple of weeks ago, when I went to see the wonderful Selma – everyone should watch that – sorry, back to books. Helen Dunmore is a novelist it would seem that I have rather neglected. My second read was The Greatcoat, which I did enjoy very much and reminded me how good Dunmore is at characterisation and exploring the complex relationships between people – I am never very convinced by ghost stories – which is what The Greatcoat is, but it is very atmospheric. Next up was the first of my two book group reads – yes two book groups now – how will I cope? Orlando has been called Virginia Woolf’s most accessible novel by some, but I know Woolf fans disagree about that. I have always had a rather difficult relationship with Virginia Woolf, on the surface she would appear to be the kind of writer that I should love, indeed I have always wanted to, but I think I put myself off her when I was a lot younger and not quite ready for her writing. I absolutely loved Orlando – much more than I had expected to and it was a book I was looking forward to. Our book group met last Thursday to discuss it, and it seems several members found it tough going – a couple didn’t manage to finish it.

As a book lover and inveterate book buyer – I can’t help but to be endlessly charmed and a little heartbroken by the story Helen Hanff told us in the famous 84 Charing Cross Road, my fourth book of February was Letter from New York by Helene Hanff – a collection of the five minute broadcasts that Hanff made for the BBC in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – her Letter from New York to the people of Britain. This was a wonderful book, and has made me determined to re-read 84 Charing Cross Road again soon. Next was book two of the wonderfully readable Forsyte Saga, I loved In Chancery just as much as A Man of Property, in this novel Galsworthy concerned himself mainly with the realities of couples wanting to divorce at the end of the nineteenth century. The Awakening which I read for my second (a brand new) book group which will be meeting on Wednesday – was another outstanding book, evocative, with a surprisingly modern feel to the late nineteenth century writing. Ariel was my first poetry collection this year – the first poetry collection I have ever reviewed too. Tea with Mr Rochester – Persephone book 44 was the first of two collections of short stories I read toward the end of the month. Tea with Mr Rochester may be a book many people haven’t come across, the author died before her collected short stories were published in one collection, and then naturally there were no more books. Having read Orlando earlier in the month, sometimes described as a love letter to Vita Sackville West, I read The Edwardians by Vita Sackville West, published two years after Orlando. I knew my friend Liz was reading it so as it was on my #TBR20 pile anyway I thought I would read along. My second collection of short stories and the final book for February which I only finished on Saturday morning was A Jury of her Peers and other stories by Susan Glaspell, a writer I have come to love, but whose work can be hard to find.

So a total of ten books for February, and I know I am already a tiny bit behind last year, which was behind the year before – not sure I like that trend. I will, of course, be reviewing those last two books over the next week hopefully.



I am glad to welcome March in quite frankly, I rather dislike January and February if that isn’t too monthist – I love daffodils, and the emergence of spring flowers, lighter mornings making the walk to work that much better. No particular plans for March really, except for a re-read of Frankenstein for one of my book groups – which is kind of freeing, and I do like that feeling. I am supposed to be working my way to the end of #TBR20 but I keep losing my way and reading away from that original pile. If you remember I began #TBR20 back at the start of January however just four books in and I bought two books – oops. Beginning again – I intended to read what was left on that pile of twenty books and four others – however although I have read fifteen or sixteen books since I fell off the wagon buying two books – many of them weren’t on that original pile – so here I am reading book number 21 of the year and it’s all got a bit confusing because that #TBR20 pile still has 8 books on it. Still I am pleased with my book buying restraint, amazed actually. Currently reading Loving by Henry Green from a collection of three of his novels – which I intend to read seperately – I have had them ages.

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February has been a great reading month for me. It’s very hard to pick my favourites, as favgodseverything has been so wonderfully memorable. Despite not often reading much non-fiction I read two amazing non-fiction books that are linked by poet Edward Thomas ‘The Old ways’ and ‘Under storm’s Wing’ which I can’t praise highly enough.
My two top fiction reads from this month then were:
A favourite of the Gods – Sybille Bedford – a beautifully written novel about three generations of mothers and daughters – I’ll be reading the sequel soon.
Guard your daughters – by Diana Tutton – which I finally got around to reading and loved every bit as many other bloggers before me had.


I have gathered together a nice pile for March which includes one book I had originally planned to read during February but didn’t get around to.
My current read – which I am enjoying very much despite the sometimes brutal nature of the story is The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam, I don’t expect I’ll finish it until the weekend – the writing is glorious. I stumped up for the hardback when I realised it had been released as I have loved Aslam’s previous books.
Up next will be The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy for my Hardy reading challenge – I remember loving it the first time around which was a long time ago.
Jane and Prudence – Barbara Pym, another re-read I’ll be reading for our Pym read-a-long.
The Death of Lyndon Wilder and the consequences thereof – E A Dineley – sent by the publishers.
Mr Brigg’ Hat – Kate Colquhon, a true life Victorian mystery which I am looking forward to.
Ruby’s spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni – who’ll be talking to a local meet up group I sometimes attend toward the end of the month.
A Compass Error – Sybille Bedford, the sequel to A favourite of the gods.
Taking Chances – Molly Keane – which is the book I had selected for the classic spin
Nightingale Wood – Stella Gibbons, which was part of my Librarything Virago group secret Santa gift.
These all look so good – I do hope I manage to find time for them all.

What will you be reading in March?

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