Posts Tagged ‘January reads’

The last day of the first month of 2023 and phew it has seemed a long month, and that despite not being at work. Again, I have struggled to review what I have been reading, and those reviews I have managed from my month of reading might end up being it. Not convinced I will get around to reviewing any more of my January reads, I will instead write a few lines about each of them here, for now.  

Several reading challenges were doing the rounds in January, and although I didn’t join in as much as I had hoped, I did manage two books for the Japanese reading challenge and one book for the year of William Trevor. I read nine books this month, seven real books, two kindle books – my final book of the month is being finished later today, I only have about 60 pages left to read, so felt I could include it here as I should finish it by tonight.  

In January I read:  

For Japanese reading challenge I started the month with Heaven by Mieko Kawakami (2009) (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd) one of just three books I reviewed this month. It’s a tough read in many ways, focussing on the bullying of a fourteen-year-old boy and his only friend Kojima. It is however a brilliant novel.  

The Old Boys by William Trevor (1964) for that year of William Trevor reading, that I plan to dip in and out of. The old boys of the title are a bunch of septuagenarians who were once, public schoolboys together, and now make up the Old Boys Association. High on the agenda as the novel opens is the election of the new president. Some absolutely brilliant characterisation and sharp observation from Trevor here. A writer who doesn’t disappoint.  

Woman Running in the Mountains by Yūko Tsushima (1980) (translated by Geraldine Harcourt) also of course for the Japanese reading challenge. This is a beautifully written novel full of atmosphere, quiet, subtle and thoroughly engaging. It is the story of Takiko and her first year of being a single mother while living in her parents’ house.  

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (2021) the first of my two kindle reads this month. Not a book I had heard of before my book group picked it for February (I decided to read it a few weeks early). A story of the past and present, a story that weaves together five generations of women shaped by betrayal and the decisions taken by mothers. Set partly in modern day Miami and the Cuba of the nineteenth century and the 1950s – this is a novel that fell flat for me. It has a lot of really good reviews on Goodreads (which I can’t quite understand – but anyway…) nothing really clicked for me – and the writing which I have seen described as lyrical, I found average.  

The Charioteer by Mary Renault (1953) I have been meaning to try Mary Renault for years. I had two of her novels on my kindle – the non ancient Greek ones – and I had heard somewhere that this was considered a particularly good one. I thought it was brilliant. First published in 1953 it is a bold unapologetic portrayal of homosexuality. Wounded at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans hospital to recover, where he undergoes several operations on his leg. Here he befriends Andrew, an orderly who is also a conscientious objector. Drawn together they begin a chaste though intense friendship – Andrew seemingly innocent of his true nature, Laurie well practised at hiding his. Then one day, while away from the hospital for a few hours Laurie encounters Ralph Lanyon who had been a couple of years above him at school, a figure Laurie has never forgotten because of the way in which Ralph left the school and the gift he bestowed on him as he did. Through him Laurie is drawn into a circle of world-weary gay men, men who live their lives unafraid. Laurie is left to choose between two worlds – one of chaste romance and one where he can enjoy the pleasures of experience and a full relationship. At over 400 pages The Charioteer is a richly rewarding book, thoroughly immersive and engaging.  

Frangipani House by Beryl Gilroy (1986) I can’t remember where I heard about this book now, but it was on my wish list that I gave my family, and I got it for Christmas. An old second-hand copy as it is out of print. This novel was published as part of the Caribbean Writers Series – the author Beryl Gilroy was born in Guyana. This her first novel won a prize in the GLC Black Literature Competition. The story of Mama King struggling to come to terms with the realities of ageing. Her family all live abroad, and they have arranged for her to move into Frangipani House a down at heal rest home for elderly Black ladies. Mama is driven almost to madness by the claustrophobic atmosphere and her own inertia and chooses to escape and take up with a troupe of honest beggars.  

Death of an Author by E C R Lorac (1935) one of two bookish mysteries to come through my door courtesy of the British Library this month. E C R Lorac is a very popular author among lovers of the Golden Age, and I thought this was a very clever one indeed. Here Lorac plays with the idea of pseudonyms, women writing as men, and good women writers being assumed to be men. Red herrings abound, as we are never quite sure who is who – when a popular mystery writer is reported missing by his secretary. However, it seems no one, other than his secretary and (also missing) housekeeper, has set eyes on the writer. Additionally, who exactly this secretary is – or might be is also raising questions with the investigating policemen on the case.  

Another of this year’s Christmas gifts, Tomorrow by Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1991) I first heard about this novel from Jacqui at Jacquiwine’s journal. A beautiful, quiet novel, very poignant. Jacqui said it reminded her of Anita Brookner and I can certainly see why. It is 1960 and Elisabeth Danziger returns as she has done each year since the end of the war to a hotel on the Danish island of Mon. The hotel was once her family’s second home, where growing up before the war Elisabeth lived happily, part of a cultured, talented family. Now, each year she revisits, relives the past, repeats the same things each year – fulfilling the promise she made to return, that only she could keep. I may still review this fully – I haven’t done it justice here; it is a wonderful novel.  

Night and Silence Who is Here? by Pamela Hansford Johnson (1963) this is the novel I am currently reading – my afternoon will be dedicated to finishing it. The second volume in her Dorothy Merlin series (though in fact the novels standalone) it is subtitled an American comedy. I have found it delightfully amusing – and been flying through it. PHJ is immensely readable, an intelligent, witty writer. I have a pristine first edition of this one that I picked up off eBay, first edition or not, books are to be read, and I have enjoyed reading this one.  

A quick look ahead at February – as this post is already longer than I intended. Karen and Lizzie are again hosting #ReadIndies – where would we be without our indie publishers? I have masses to choose from – and a few more winging their way to me as I spent the rest of my book tokens yesterday. I gathered together a few possibles from my book trolley that I keep by my chair – there are in fact lots more indies in my big tbr cupboard too. Which of these I shall actually read remains to be seen. 

As ever, I love to hear about what you’ve been reading and what your plans for the next month might be.  

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I don’t have a very large pile of books to show for my January reading. I have been reading quite slowly, and I am continuing to really struggle with blogging – though I know I don’t want to give it up. I find it hard to read, no matter how much I want to when I am very tired, and the one thing I can always guarantee to be is tired – no matter what time of day or night it is. I have decided to embrace the slowness of my reading, to enjoy spending more time than I once would have with a set of characters, and to appreciate the reading time I do manage.

I began the month and the New Year, reading a book on my kindle – The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (2019) translated from Italian by Anne Goldstein. It was the book my book group had chosen for January, and having enjoyed some other books by Ferrante I had looked forward to it. The first half of the book I did enjoy, only it then became rather a drag. Too much introspective teenage angst, too many toxic, uncomfortable relationships. I ended up quite disappointed.

Next I read the first of two green vmcs for the Librarything monthly themed read. For January it was nuns, teachers, and governesses. I Will not Serve by Eveline Mahyère (1958) translated from French by Antonia White. It’s the story of Sylvie; a seventeen year old schoolgirl due to take her Baccalaureate at the convent school of Sainte-Thérèse. Three months before her crucial exams she is expelled from the school, for Sylvie has fallen passionately in love with her teacher, Julienne. Refusing to forget Julienne she writes her imploring letters while exploring the bohemian world of jazz clubs and bars in 1950s Paris.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (2021) was one of the books I bought with Christmas book vouchers, and wanted to read straight away. I really enjoyed it. It is a novel about a woman’s search for her identity, at a time when her life is in transition following separation from her husband and the death of her mother. Finding her father’s diaries from when he stayed with her mother and her family in London, she travels to a small country in West Africa to find him. He is a complex man, once a political activist he became the country’s first president – some would say dictator – a position he held for almost thirty years.

Spinster by Sylvia Ashton-Warner (1958) was the second of those vmcs I read for the Librarything themed read. Based loosely on the author’s own experiences, it is the story of a teacher of mainly Māori children in a small New Zealand town, and the psychological approach she developed in the teaching of reading.

The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins (1873) is that satisfying thing, a fairly fat Persephone book that makes you want to turn the pages. It is also that rare thing a Persephone novel written by a man. Testament perhaps to Collins’s treatment of women that Persephone decided to reissue it. I had read it before, many years ago, I read a lot of Wilkie Collins once upon a time. There’s nothing quite like settling down with a Victorian sensation novel, and this one has many of those ingredients. Thoroughly enjoyable. I shall be reviewing it soon.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (2013) was the final book in the seven set of autobiographies that I have been reading with Liz and our friend Meg. In this volume the story of Maya’s life is left where it finished in book six. This volume is about Maya’s mother Vivian Baxter and the relationship Maya had with her, after having grown up in Stamps, Arkansas for several years. It is a fascinating and affectionate portrait of an extraordinary woman.

Anna and her Daughters by D E Stevenson (1958) was absolutely the right book at the right time, this is a fully satisfying DES novel – that spans quite a number of years, and sees characters travelling the globe. It was a real joy to spend time with, the ending was just right I thought. I bought this nice old 1950s edition some years ago and had almost forgotten I had it. Thankfully, for the rest of you Dean Street Press have just reissued it.

I don’t have any big plans for February yet – but Karen and Lizzie are hosting #ReadIndies and I hope to join in with that. The Librarything Virago group’s themed read is North American authors – lots to pick from there, so I hope to join in with that too. My book group will be reading The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, which I am looking forward to. What I actually end up reading will depend largely on my mood though – watch this space.

As ever I would love to know what you’ve been reading, and what you plan to read in February.

Happy reading.

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So often, January feels like a really long month – and this year with lockdown 3 in the UK and some not very nice weather it has certainly not felt very short. From here on in, every day is a day closer to spring – I prefer spring to summer – so I am watching for signs.

I am hoping that January has set the tone for the rest of my 2021 reading – it has not been a bad month at all. Ten books read – which is slightly up on my average of the last couple of years – and quite a nice variety of books read – admittedly all fiction, except for a few essays in the back of one of the books.

I still have four of January’s books to review – but clicking on the title will take you to the review if I have written it at this point.

My January book group read was my first book of the year. The hugely popular and quite hyped Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) by Delia Owens. I really enjoyed it – a couple of tiny things irritated me but not enough to spoil what was a thoroughly engrossing read, and it led to a good book group discussion.

Another kindle read, If Morning Ever Comes (1964) by Anne Tyler for Liz’s read-a-long which I am hoping to dip in and out of. Her first novel – and one I thought was really excellent.

O, the Brave Music (1943) by Dorothy Evelyn Smith was the last of the British Library women writers series I had to read. What an excellent series it has turned out to be and this coming of age novel was a real joy.

It was the centenary of Patricia Highsmith’s birth earlier this month, and I chose The Blunderer (1954) to start my Patricia Highsmith reading of 2021 – I am hoping to squeeze in three of four others over the year. It is certainly a good one, and one in which Highsmith shows her uncanny ability to play with the reader’s sympathies and attitudes to her characters.

Lies of Silence (1990) by Brian Moore for another centenary – Cathy at 746 books is hosting a yearlong read-a-long, it is another challenge I shall dip in and out of. This was a very different novel to the first Moore I read a couple of years ago – but so good, tense, and compelling, exploring the moral choices of people caught up in The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Dissipatio H.G. (1977) by Guido Morselli. The first book from my renewed Asymptote book club subscription – took me a little outside of my comfort zone. A lot to admire in this novel – though the narrator’s complex philosophical thoughts are sometimes hard to follow.

The Living is Easy (1948) by Dorothy West, an old VMC I have had tbr for ages. I read two other Dorothy West books a couple of years ago and loved them. I was saving this one, as there are no more books by Dorothy West to read. This is a portrait of a vibrant woman whose drive for social respectability eclipses almost everything else. She isn’t a very likeable character, although I warmed to her a little as the novel neared the end. A brilliant novel if you don’t mind an unlikeable character.

A Persephone novel I had meant to read in December but didn’t get round to – Expiation (1929) by Elizabeth von Arnin. This is another wonderful novel by von Arnim, forgotten for decades until Persephone brought it back. It’s about the close minded cruelty and prudishness of the middle classes and is full of von Arnim’s wry observances and humour.

 Non Combatants and others (1916) by Rose Macaulay – The novel Non Combatants and others make up the majority of this book – an anti-war novel written during the Great War. The last sixty pages or so are made up of some of Rose Macaulay’s journalism and essays and a short story all dating from between 1916 and 1945.

Having felt really fed up in the last week, Mrs Tim Flies Home (1952) by D E Stevenson was just the kind of gentle read I needed to round off the month. Hester Christie is a pleasure to spend time with. This is the fourth and final Mrs Tim book – but I do have other D E Stevenson books to read.

So, that was January.

Looking ahead to February, I have just started reading my next book group choice on my kindle – Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi. I also would like to read The Feast of Lupercal by Brian Moore for Cathy’s Brian Moore read-a-long.  Karen at Kaggsy’s bookish ramblings and Lizzy at Lizzysiddal are hosting #ReadIndies during February. Three of the books I have from January still to write about can count toward that as they will be reviewed in February – a Persephone book, a Handheld Press book and a Dean Street press – in addition to which I have loads of books by independent publishers on my bookshelves and on my kindle – so I will definitely be joining in with more Indies depending on where my mood takes me. The picture below just a indication of what I might choose to read – these are all calling to me at the moment – but my reading mood is nothing if not fickle.

So, tell me what wonderful things did you read in January? and what are your reading plans for February?

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It’s the 1st February today, and can I really write a January in review post without acknowledging that yesterday was a pretty momentous occasion in the UK? Some of us are feeling rather bruised today – and that is all I am going to say on the matter.  

As many of you will know I have been struggling with chronic sciatica for the last two months, complicated by my Rheumatoid Arthritis – so I am off work, with more potential reading time on my hands. While I have read a couple more books than normal this month, my reading rate has not increased by much. Nevertheless, despite being sucked into mind numbing daytime tv and overlong afternoon naps, I have been enjoying reading just whatever I fancy. I think allowing my mood to direct my reading is working well for me, especially at the moment.

I started the month reading Milton Place by Elisabeth de Waal, a lovely Persephone book; an elegantly written novel about the changing fortunes of English houses and the families in them. It is also an unusual love story.

Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg was a good collection of stories, by a new to me author. While a couple of the stories fell a little short for me, the others were of a high standard.

The Way Things Are by E M Delafield only served to remind me that I really haven’t read enough of her novels. A novel both sombre and humorous, it depicts a woman in an unsatisfying marriage, who has her head turned by someone more interesting than her dull husband.

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson is a really good, locked room style mystery. Though for me the real interest in the novel is in the setting of the House of Commons during the 1930s, and the fact the author herself was a labour member of parliament.

Magda Szabó is an author whose novels many readers have been discovering over the last few years. Abigail is the fourth of them to be published in English, translated by Len Rix. Set during WW2 in Hungary. A spoilt teenage girl is sent to a fanatically puritanical boarding school by her father. This is as far as I have got with reviewing – (I almost always review in the order I read). So, several books I read this month have still to be written about. I’ll get there in the end.

Miss Carter and the Ifrit by Susan Alice Kerby is another lovely offering from Dean Street Press. Another novel set during WW2, it is also a delicious piece of whimsical escapism. A middle aged woman throws a block of wood on her fire and unwittingly unleashes and ifrit (like a genie) who declares himself her slave. Miss Carter decides to name him Joe.

My second collection of short stories was A Romantic Hero by Olivia Manning, and I loved every bit of it. Fourteen beautifully written stories, portraits of lonely childhoods and complicated adult relationships. Olivia Manning is always such a good writer.

Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford is a review copy from Handheld Press which I had been really looking forward to. It’s not out till March I’m afraid, but it will be worth waiting for. An illustrated novel in letters, a well-educated young woman of good family from Edinburgh is determined to support herself for a year, working in a London department store.

No More Meadows by Monica Dickens is a book I found in a second-hand book shop in Devon last year. I had never heard of it, but really enjoyed it. The ending is a little depressing, but I found the story of a woman leaving her family and her job in a department store to marry an American naval officer and follow him to Washington, to be enormously engaging.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald is a fabulous portrait of Broadcasting House during the blitz. A novel that manages to be both touching and funny, Fitzgerald introduces us to a cast of often slightly eccentric but ultimately realistic characters.

Consider the Years by Virginia Graham – a rare collection of poetry. I began reading it for the Mini Persephone readathon last weekend and dipped in and out of it over the whole week. This is a collection of World War Two poetry by the woman who counted Joyce Grenfell as her closest friend. I had to skip a handful of poems as they are written in French or German – and my ability in either is non-existent.

So, in February I will continue to read very much by mood. My book group will be reading a novel in translation, Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth. I have missed some book group meetings recently, and I’m very unsure whether I will get to the next one (getting myself from A to B is a major issue just now) but I want to try and read this as it sounds so interesting.  I’m currently about a third of the way into Dust Tracks on a Road, the autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston. One of three beautiful new editions sent to me by Virago. I read Their Eyes were Watching God a few years ago, so looking forward to Jonah’s Gourd Vine at some point in the future. I can certainly highly recommend this one, such incredible writing. These gorgeous new editions are published in a couple of weeks, and the covers alone are just fabulous, I think.

Let me know what wonderful things you have been reading in January, and happy February reading to you all.

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January is finally over – its always the longest month of the year. I always feel I should have read at least seventeen books in January, what with it going on forever like it does – but of course I never read any more than I usually do. I have read nine books in January, the last one I only finished quite late last night. It’s been a pretty good month for books.

I began the month and the New Year (how long ago does that feel?) reading Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson (1932) on my kindle. A gentle, escapist kind of read, and a book which started life as two. Mrs Tim herself – Hester is our narrator who regales us with the ups and downs of motherhood, domestic life and being married in part to the regiment in which her husband is a captain. The family move to Scotland and Hester has lots to put up with. A new house, new neighbours and later when on a visit to the highlands she is embroiled in romantic interferings at the behest of a new friend.

Milkman by Anna Burns (2018) was my book group read for January. I hadn’t expected to love this book quite as much as I did. Brilliantly written, it is a blistering evocation of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the voice is so strong, and Burns recreates a community under immense pressure perfectly.

Another Woman’s House by M G Eberhart (1947) was a chance find in a charity shop last year. Set in America in a beautiful house overlooking the sound, the action takes place over a period of about twenty-four hours. Myra has fallen in love with her guardian’s nephew, with whom they have been staying for some time. Richard’s wife Alice was convicted of the murder of a neighbour two years earlier. Now Alice is suddenly free – and she wants her life back.

The Casino by Margaret Bonham (1948) was my first of two collections of short stories this month. A beautiful collection of stories, written in the 1940s, many featuring parents and children. Bonham set most of these stories in Devon which I know quite well – and constantly feel pulled back to – they were a real pleasure to read, especially as I had spent a week in Sidmouth just a few weeks earlier.

Another big pleasure was my re-read of Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym (1950) with a Barbara Pym Facebook group. It was my third reading of it – and this time I thought a lot about poor Belinda and how hard she is on herself. If you haven’t ever read Pym, then her first novel is a great place to start, it is absolutely classic Pym from start to finish and a complete joy to read.

Alice by Elizabeth Eliot (1949) – thanks to Dean Street Press for the review copy – was another fabulous surprise. A writer in the tradition of Barbara Comyns and Rachel Ferguson, I am looking forward to reading more by this author soon. Alice is the best friend of narrator Margaret – and the book takes us from the girls’ last year at school in the 1920s through to just before the Second World War.

My first novel in translation of 2019 was Like a Sword Wound by Ahmet Altan (1997) the first book in what promises to be a hugely compelling Ottoman quartet. A host of characters and fascinating historical drama from Europa Editions, I just hope the rest of the series gets translated into English too.

Phoenix Fled by Attia Hosain (1953) my second collection of short stories this month, I found rather sad. Beautifully written though, and very evocative of a time and place; India around the time of partition. There are many kinds of families here and traditions come up against a changing western influenced world.

My final read of the month was Craven House by Patrick Hamilton (1926) an author I have heard such good things about – particularly from Jacqui from Jacquiwine’s Journal, who raved about this book last year. Set in a boarding house from just before the first world war – to the mid-1920s, it is a wonderful collection of character studies. I often love books with great settings, characters and little plot – and this is one of those. A review in the next few days.

I have no particular plans for February – my book group read is one I really am unsure about – and as things stand, I may not be able to go that night, so I might just decide not to read it. My thoughts have been turning more and more toward short stories, works in translation and Barbara Comyns – so some of those may be popping up soon. I also have been thinking of re-reading some of my Elizabeth Taylor novels. Though, there is one collection of Taylor short stories I still haven’t read (I have been saving them for years – no idea for what) perhaps I should just dig those out. The Librarything Virago group continue reading the 1940s – and our theme in February is relationships. I’m sure I have something that will fit.

Did you read anything brilliant in January? – please let me know.

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January has been a good bookish month for me – I struggle a little with the post-Christmas grumps and the dark featureless days. I don’t mind cold days or cosy evenings, but I hate the grey skies and the feeling that all the things I have to look forward to are a long way off. Still it was a good month for books – and the start of a couple of reading challenges.

#ReadingMuriel2018 got underway, and so beginning the year as I mean to go on I started with The Comforters; Muriel Spark’s first novel. While it won’t be my favourite Spark, it was an excellent debut. I have seen it described as a comedy of errors, and it is certainly quirky and engaging. A fabulous start, which I have seen lots of others reading.

A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray was the book chosen for January by my very small book group. A very personal selection by the author it was an interesting read, which I enjoyed overall, I did have a couple of issues with it – but they didn’t ruin the book for me. It gave us some great discussion points too.

I seem to have had several Stella Gibbons novels for ages, and before I swept all my tbr books to the floor and began going through them, I had got myself very confused about which I had read, and which I hadn’t. The Bachelor, first published in 1944 really is a rollicking good read. A large house in the country – not far from London, gradually fills up with a variety of people seeking shelter. A refugee, an old flame and the disreputable old father of the middle-aged siblings that own the house – it is surprising sometimes, where and when some people find love.

Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge turned out to be a bit of an odd novel – though interesting in its way. A middle-aged man travels to Moscow as the official companion to an artist with whom he has been having an affair. Several peculiar incidents lead to paranoia as his lover Nina seems to disappear from the hotel.

Pink Sugar by O Douglas was an absolute joy of a book, a reminder that I had been wanting to read more by O Douglas for ages. Our heroine is Kirsty, thirty and returned home to Scotland, free for the first time in her life. She wants only to do good and decides to take on three children for the summer who have recently lost their mother. Poor clergymen, grumpy landlords, a pretty governess all need to be paired up – but this is a novel far less frothy than the title might suggest.

Robinson by Muriel Spark, my second read for #ReadingMuriel2018 – back in December I went mad and bought four of the new Polygon centenary editions – well I couldn’t resist. Robinson is an extraordinary novel – some themes already familiar from The Comforters, yet again however Spark surprises.

Having decided I wanted to read a little more fiction in translation, I chose Katalin Street by Magda Szabo who I have read twice before. It’s a novel with a more complex structure than those other two – but beautifully written. It tells the story of three families uprooted by the regime following the end of the Second World War.

The other reading challenge I started this month is ACOB – (more of that later) Mary Olivier: a life by May Sinclair ticked off the first year. It is a novel which charts a woman’s life from infancy to middle-age – it is a deeply personal novel, one of the best novels examining a complex mother daughter relationship I have read.

N or M? by Agatha Christie – I have always been a big Poirot fan – but I also have a very soft spot for Tommy and Tuppence – and so wish there had been more of them written. N or M? is set towards the beginning of the second world war and T&T are involved in fighting fifth columnists in a south coast boarding house. Thoroughly enjoyable -full review in a few days.

Three things about Elsie is Joanna Cannon’s second novel – following on from the great success of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. I pre-ordered it about three months before it came out – and despite its four hundred and fifty odd pages flew through it in two days. Despite the fact it presents a rather depressing view of some aspects of old age – it is a quite unputdownable read.

So, with ten books read in January – each of them published in a different year – I have managed to tick off ten years on my ACOB – which I am pretty pleased with. You can see my progress here – though there isn’t too much to see yet.

Yesterday I started what will be my first read of February – a book in translation from the Asymptote book club for which I took out a three-month subscription. It’s my second read with the club, it’s a book called Aranyak by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay translated from Bengali by Rimli Bhattacharya.

February will see me reading Memento Mori for #ReadingMuriel2018 and The Wife by Meg Wolitzer for my very small book club the week after next. I haven’t planned more than that as yet – as I like to suit my mood where possible. The Librarything Virago group are reading Dorothy Canfield Fisher during February and so I may try to get to The Brimming Cup – although it won’t tick off an ACOB year for me as it was published the same year as Mary Olivier *sigh*.

So, how was your January for books?


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January is over, and it has been a bit of a shocker, it seems as if many of us are groping our way out of this first month of 2017 blinking painfully. However, this blog is books, just books, so I won’t comment further about everything that has been happening out there in the wider world, I don’t think I can.

Nine and a bit books read in January, (the bit being my current read) which feels not too bad when I consider the distractions I have had.

So here is what I read during January with links for anyone who missed the original post.

In Confidence by Irène Némirovsky (2015)– is a new collection of short stories published by Raglan books, it exposes the secrets and desires of a variety of characters, mainly women. For me there wasn’t a bad story in the collection.

Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser Sampson (2017) is the second book in the Hampshire Murders series by Guy Fraser Sampson. A well plotted mystery which pays affectionate homage to the Golden Age mysteries which are still so popular.

Scenes of Childhood and other stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1981) was definitely one of my highlights of the month. The more I read by her the more I love her. This collection is very autobiographical – so much so it is hard not to see it as a collection of memoirs. STW and her family are present as themselves, in every story. An absolute joy of a book.

Reading A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin (1947) was another absolute joy – thinking about it – there have been at least four absolute joys this month. Last year during the 1947 club reading event – I heard about this wonderful novel by Philip Larkin, his second and last novel as far as I know. It concerns a wartime winter and the memory of a summer. A young European woman displaced by the war, working at a provincial library, looks back to a time when as a young girl, she visited the family of her pen pal.

The Indian Woman by Diana Gardner  (1954)– I took a chance on this pricey second hand book by the author of a volume of short stories I read last year and loved. The gamble paid off, it was a very god read, about small acts of cruelty within a marriage and the destruction of good woman.

I read The Innocents (kindle edition) by Margery Sharp (1972) for Jane’s Margery Sharp birthday celebration. It centres on the relationship between an ageing spinster and a child with learning difficulties that she cares for.

He Who Plays the King by Mary Hocking (1980) took me right away from this modern world and its complexities, into the stories of Henry Tudor and Richard III. It is a story that has been told before many times, but Hocking brings her unique ability to capture the British countryside and the hidden psychology of human frailty to this still enormously compelling story.

No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville West (1961) is a slight novel of only around 150 pages, more of a novella I suppose, it was Vita’s last novel, one she wrote while gravely ill. It is a though-provoking novel about death and the way to live life.

Every Good Deed and other stories by Dorothy Whipple – my third volume of short stories of the month. Oh, I do like a good Whipple, and this collection is certainly good. The first story in the collection is more of a novella at 120 pages, but I probably preferred some of the other stories, although each story is very good and I flew through them all – anyway full review in a couple of days.

So, I am currently reading In My Own Time; almost an autobiography by Nina Bawden – so far it is absolutely great. Which will be added properly to next month’s tally.

No particular or definite plans for February, because I am enjoying being spontaneous this year. However I think I will possibly read The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West for the librarything Virago author of the month.  Speaking of Virago – the people at Virago Press (well whoever runs their social media) have launched a #VMCBookclub. In January they were reading Good Behaviour by Molly Keane – which I read last year. I believe that today they will announcing a book for February. If it should be a book I haven’t read  I might join in. Earlier this month I wrote about my favourite Persephones (a post which garnered this blog the most hits ever!) so I have definitely put myself in the mood for reading more Persephones.

Tell me, what have you been reading? Any exciting reading plans for February?



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January has felt very long – so long in fact that I feel I must surely have read more than nine and a half books – but there it is, nine and a half books and a month that sometimes felt more like three. Thankfully my reading during dreary January has been of a pretty high standard.

virginiawoolfI started the year on a real high reading wise, beginning my year and my #Woolfalong project reading To the Lighthouse (1927). It was a wonderful reading experience, so different from my first experience of it twenty five years ago. Maurice (1971) by E M Forster – another member of the Bloomsbury set I suppose, was the only novel by E M Forster I had never read (not yet read his short stories either). Beautifully written, it paints an extremely honest picture of what life might be for a young man attracted to his own sex in the early twentieth century – no wonder really that Forster didn’t live to see it published. The Land of Green Ginger (1927) by Winifred Holtby I had been saving for a few years – it turned out to be good – although certainly not her best. I was a tad disappointed – only because I had saved it so long, however a lesser Holtby is still pretty good – and definitely still worth reading. I was particularly cheered to learn that The Land of Green Ginger is an actual street – how I would love little address card with that address on! Next I read a Netgalley review copy on my trusty kindle – Exposure (2016) by Helen Dunmore. I always like Helen Dunmore’s writing, and this one was among the best of those that I have read. Her sense of place is always so good, and the atmosphere and tension in this latest novel is pretty much perfect. Actually reading Exposure made me want to read those Dunmore I’ve yet to get around to. Next I found myself returning to Virginia Woolf, re-reading Mrs Dalloway (1925) – which I had originally not intended to do until February. Mrs Dalloway is a fascinating, complex novel – I enjoyed it far more this time too. I think (I hope) I may have finally found my Virginia Woolf mojo. I will probably wait until March to read more Woolf, although I have (or will have) my first round up post for the end of the first phase to post at the end of this month.

Cassandra at the Wedding (1962) by Dorothy Baker is a book I had only ever heard good reports of, a slim book it packs something of a punch in its brilliantly memorable narrative voice, I think I would have liked it to be a bit longer. Leading up to Margery Sharp day I read Britannia Mews (1946) – such a brilliant read, it’s easy to see why it was adapted for a film in the 1950’s. The Half-Crown House (1956) an old novel by Helen Ashton – I assume it to have been one of her later novels as she died in 1958. Set on one day in 1954 it explores the history and family of the house on that day and in flashback. I enjoyed it a lot – although not quite as much as the previous two novels of hers that I read.

Many of you will know I am involved in bookcrossing – although not as active as I once was, though I am currently involved in organising the UK convention, here in Birmingham for September. One of the authors I have arranged to speak is a local author Fiona Joseph – having not read either of Fiona’s books yet I started reading her most recent Comforts for the Troops (2015) – so I could pass it round a few readers who are likely to attend her talk in September. I will review it in the next few days – but I loved it. Set among the women who worked in the Cadbury factory during WW1 I found it very compelling, I particularly loved the local connection of course. I begin February a little more than half way through Cider with Rosie (1959); a book I have meant to read for years – and so when I spotted it at a bookcrossing meet on Saturday I picked it up and began reading it right away.



wide sargasso sea

I do have some plans for February – two book group reads – The Cleft by Doris Lessing and a re-read of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I also want to read at least one Mary Hocking novel and I have a couple of more recent novels on my kindle I have been trying to get round to for weeks. Though of course I do really just like picking up whatever takes my fancy at that moment.

So tell me what were your stand out reads for January and what are you planning to read in February?

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janbooksThose of you who regularly read my blog will know that January has been my month of re-reading. I can honestly say that it has been a joy – the re-reading has – January itself has been fairly awful. What with a sore knee stopping me from going out with my walking group, the weather, ice and snow which I loathe making life difficult, then I was ill for two weeks – but I had my reading to keep me happy. I actually read two or three books more than I probably would have done, had I not been ill.

One of the really lovely things about re-reading is how one can read things on different levels at different times in one’s life. This was demonstrated to me particularly while I was reading Jane Eyre. It’s my favourite book I think of all time, and this latest reading of it was the fourth time I had read it, and maybe the time I enjoyed it the most. I couldn’t help but look back in amazement at that funny little eleven year old who first read it. Reading it now in my forties I got out so much that I must surely have missed the first time, and maybe even the second time that I read it. Jane herself seemed to have grown with me in some strange way; maybe I just viewed her with different eyes. One of the books I had chosen to read was Howards End, which was the first E M Forster I read at least twenty years ago, but was later eclipsed in my memory by A Passage to India, though I had remembered it as being hard going. Well I didn’t find it at all hard going this time; I loved it and can report that now Howards End has rather eclipsed A Passage to India. I chose to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, mainly because I had forgotten almost all the story, but remember being rather impressed with the controversial (1840’s controversy) element, when I first read it. I was impressed all over again. A couple of the books were chosen for their cosy comforting nature, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and even Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery were great to curl up with while I was unwell. In fact I either retained or increased my love of all the books I read this month.
So here’s the list of what I read in January. I would love to know about any re-reading you have done in January; I know some of you out there have been indulging.

1 Some Tame Gazelle (1950) Barbara Pym (F)
2 Jane Eyre (1847) Charlotte Bronte (F)
3 The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) Thomas Hardy (F)
4 The Pursuit of Love (1945) Nancy Mitford (F)
5 My Family & other animals (1956) Gerald Durrell (NF)
6 Persuasion (1818) Jane Austen (F)
7 Howards End (1910) E M Forster (F)
8 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (1938) Winifred Watson (F)
9 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) Anne Bronte (F)
10 A Caribbean Mystery (1964) Agatha Christie (F)
11 The Warden (1855) Anthony Trollope (F)
12 Excellent Women (1952) Barbara Pym (F)

IMAG0152That brings me nicely to February and thinking about what I might read next. I have got together what I think is a really nice pile. Suddenly having to choose off my TBR was really rather exciting – and I could have easily gone mad.
I have chosen:
(on my Kindle) Untying the Knot – by Linda Gillard
Peking Picnic – Ann Bridge (currently reading)
Guard your daughters – Diana Tutton
Lost and Found – Tom Winter (sent to me by Corsair)
The Death of Lyndon Wilder and the consequences thereof – E. A Dineley ( also sent by corsair)
The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane
A favourite of the gods – Sybille Bedford
The Blue Flower – Penelope Fitzgerald
The Easter Parade – Richard Yates
Now of course February is a shorter month – so I may not get through them all – but they do look good.
What do you think you might be reading in February?

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11 books read this month. 9 fiction, 2 non-fiction. I really think I have read some cracking good books this month, what a great booky start to 2012! If the rest of the year is as good reading wise – then I shall be pleased indeed.

1.The Heretic’s Daughter (2008) Kathleen Kent (F)
2. Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) Thomas Hardy (F)
3. The Brontes went to Woolworths (1931) Rachel Ferguson (F)
4.The House of Mirth (1905) Edith Wharton (F)
5.The Sittaford Mystery (1931) Agatha Christie (F)
6. Agent Zigzag (2007) Ben Macintyre (NF)
7. The Many Conditions of Love (2009) Farahad Zama (F)
8. Treasure Hunt (1952) Molly Keane (F)
9. Yesterday Morning (2002) Diana Athill (NF)
10 The Enchanted April (1922) Elizabeth Von Arnim (F)
11 The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton (2011) Elizabeth Speller (F)

Difficult to say which were my top reads of this month as they were all so good – in different ways. Onb reflection though my special mentions this month are:

1. Far from the Madding crowd – Thomas Hardy

Still a wonderful read after all this time. A romantic pastoral, a gripping story with many familiar Hardy themes.

2 The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

An absolutely fabulous read, an early 20th Century novel of New York society, and the beautiful flawed Lily Bart.

3 The Enchanted April – Elizabeth Von Arnim

A joy of a read, a charming curl up with a hot cup of cocoa of a book from 1922, I read a kindle version available free.

4 The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton

A brilliant page turner, a hard to put down novel and a great read.

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