Posts Tagged ‘march reads’

March ended quite damply here, but I am still looking out for signs of spring. I had a few days away in a hotel earlier this month, which was a lovely change of scene, and I also became officially medically retired. It was also a good month for books, the number I read, not particularly dramatic. Seven books read in March, though a couple were fairly fat books – the quality was excellent. 

I started the month with The Fawn (1959) by Magda Szabó translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix. It is a complex piece, narrated by Eszter Encsy, an acclaimed actress. Throughout the novel Eszter is speaking to her lover, explaining her past, seeking forgiveness, reliving key moments. 

Despite being a large heavy hardback, I was excited to read Agatha Christie an Elusive Woman (2022) by Lucy Worsley, it was a Christmas present from Liz. It didn’t disappoint. I found this such a compelling biography, especially those  sections detailing that infamous year of 1926, when Agatha went missing for eleven days, before being found in a hotel in Harrogate. We are given a tantalising glimpse of a woman who was very private and who as the title of the book suggests, remains a little elusive.  

I read Cheating at Canasta (2007) by William Trevor on my Kindle, for #ReadingIreland month – but I haven’t managed to review it. I have loved several of his brilliant novels in the past, but this was my first collection of his stories. One of his later collections, it is predictably excellent with themes of opportunities not taken and memory, stories set in both Ireland and England. 

Another Christmas gift was The Book of Form and Emptiness (2021) by Ruth Ozeki. I haven’t written about it because I felt I couldn’t – it is so brilliant. I perhaps over-thought it, but convinced myself I couldn’t do it justice, so didn’t try. There’s a wonderful cast of characters, a story that is poignant, often heartbreaking, some of it narrated by a book. It’s philosophical, wise and hugely compelling. I loved every word, and I will be reading more Ruth Ozeki on the strength of it. At around 550 pages it’s another bigger book than I often read, and this time, my hands objected strongly. I bought another copy for my Kindle, so I could carry on reading uninterrupted. 

It was Simon’s review of Babbacombe’s (1941) by Susan Scarlett that prompted me to read it. My first Susan Scarlett, the alternative name under which Noel Streatfeild wrote. I absolutely loved it, such a cheery, delightful novel about a department store and some of the people who work there.

The British Library kindly provided me with one of their latest offerings, The Home (1972) by Penelope Mortimer. A brilliant novel, with a very 1970s feel. It explores a woman’s life as she leaves a broken marriage and sets up a new home for her grown up children, who come and go throughout the novel. I will write a full review soon, so don’t want to say too much here. 

Holland Park Press sent me The Way to Hornsey Rise (2023) by Jeremy Worman and I am delighted they did, it’s an excellent novelised autobiography. Worman’s memoir explores his childhood, adolescence and private education in Windsor. However, in the 1970’s he came to reject that upbringing, taking up residence in the hippy squats of Hornsey Rise. Tracing how and why Jeremy made that transition, it’s a wonderfully readable memoir. 

All in all a good month I think, and I am looking forward to April, too. Karen and Simon will be hosting the 1940 club – and I will be happily joining in with that. I did have one Dean Street Press book waiting in the wings but then I went off and bought a second yesterday, so I have two to look forward to. My book group will be reading Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel but beyond that I don’t have any definite plans.

The other day I had a little bit of a wobble about my ability to host #DDMreadingweek again. However, I had a chat with myself and I have decided I will do it after all, and having made that decision, I am now really looking forward to it again, and I have started to plan my reading. The dates this year will be 8th – 15th  May – though things may be a little pared back at my end, I can’t manage blog posts every day, and there won’t be a giveaway this year either. So, something for DDM fans to look forward to, I hope.

What brilliant things did you read in March and what are your April reading plans? 

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A fairly brief round up for March. I continue to be (not) enjoying the worst reading year of my adult life. Never have I read so few books by this point in the year – and yes it is only just April, so I keep hoping things will improve. I have said before how I am trying to embrace my reading and not get bogged down in how little I am reading – compared to my past self that is – but it’s hard not to feel frustrated. One week this month was especially bad, due to extra busyness – so even though I am doing better finding little reading slots after I finish work, that week has meant my overall total for the month has not improved on last month.

Here is what I managed to get through – thankfully some thoroughly excellent reads this month again. Quality, after all being the most important thing.

I began March with The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (2021) which was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. Based on a true story, it is an extraordinarily poignant novel about injustice and racism set in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay in the 1950s. The story of Mahmood Mattan, a well-known figure in the bustling, diverse community of Tiger Bay. The area busy with people from all over the world, Mahmood is a sailor from Somalia, living alongside men from the West Indies and Africa.  

March of course is Reading Ireland Month – a reading event I always enjoy. Fools of Fortune by William Trevor (1983) had been on my tbr for quite some time. It turned out to be the first of two outstanding reads for Reading Ireland month. Spanning a period from just after the First World War it tells an unforgettable story of a cycle of revenge and a painful legacy within an Irish family.

Another for Reading Ireland month The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan (1998) a superb collection of short stories. There are three groups of linked stories in this volume, which could almost be read as three novellas. Brennan’s writing is fantastic, the kind of writer where nothing need to happen much, and yet she holds her readers rapt. It’s a slightly longer collection than many, but none the worse for that, I loved every bit of it.

One of the books my Christmas book vouchers bought was The Island by Ana Maria Matute (1959). A book I first heard about from Jacqui at Jacquiwine’s Journal. Translated from Spanish, it is a dark, coming of age novel set on the Island of Mallorca during a blistering hot summer as the Spanish Civil War is being fought on the mainland. It is a beautifully written novel, with images that linger long in the mind. The story is narrated by Matia, a fourteen year old girl, who having recently been expelled from her convent school for kicking the prioress, has been sent to live with her grandmother.

Once again thanks are due to The British Library who have recently reissued two more novels for their Women Writers series and sent me both. I simply couldn’t wait to read Keeping Up Appearances by Rose Macaulay (1928) – she’s a writer I admire so much. I wasn’t at all disappointed – I shall keep my thoughts for my review, which I hope to get up next week. Suffice to say it is hugely readable, shot through with Macaulay’s satirical wit, it is a novel about identity and deceit. First published in 1928 – its themes resonate sharply still.

The month ended with a lovely Dean Street Press novel Cecil by Elizabeth Eliot (1962)– I have read three other novels by Elizabeth Eliot, and enjoy the way she tells her stories. In this novel Lady Anne tells us the story of her husband’s step-brother Cecil. We only see Cecil from Anne’s perspective – and yet it is a brilliant portrait – not so much of Cecil himself, but of his mother the dreadful Lady Guthrie – who so dominates Cecil’s life, that she destroys it. Eliot reminds us how we never really know the complete truth about the people around us. I only manged to finish this on the evening of the 31st – so right up to the wire – and at time of writing haven’t started my next read yet.

So, on to April. Two things in particular stand out, the first; two weeks Easter holiday from work, including time by the seaside, and maybe more reading time, the second the 1954 club.

I haven’t decided what I will spend my Easter holiday reading, but it will be exciting to decide next week. I am very much sticking to going with mood – it’s the only way I can approach it at the moment. I had intended to try and read something for the Librarything Virago group’s challenge this moth – but that didn’t happen – and I had wanted to read Lucy Caldwell’s These Things for Reading Ireland month – but my impulse buy didn’t arrive in time – so perhaps I will read it in April instead. At any rate very much looking forward to the holidays – as I know many school staff will be. My book group will be reading Assembly by Natasha Brown, although I will be away when we have our meeting – as we meet by zoom I may be able to join in.

Karen and Simon’s 1954 club is just a couple of weeks away, and I know I have a couple of Dean Street press books by Margery Sharp and D E Stevenson on my kindle from that year. It’s time I had a look to see if I have anything else. There’s plenty to choose from I know, and the fifties are one of my favourite decades to read from.

Well that’s it – and as ever I love to hear what you’ve been reading and what your plans for this brand new month might be.

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March has been a pretty good reading month all in all for me – although I have slowed right down again the last few days. A key reading challenge during March is Read Ireland month and this year I only managed three and really could have done much better, but the three I read were really excellent.

In other news March has seen me accepting an offer on my house and having my offer accepted on a flat about three miles away, in an area I once lived before. My only hope is that everything goes smoothly, still early days.

So, anyway despite house selling distractions in March I managed to read nine and a bit books – the bit will go into April’s round up.

For read Ireland month I started the month with The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor. An absolutely brilliant novel, with a truly malevolent teenage character at the centre of it. Set in a fictional Dorset seaside town, William Trevor’s sense of place, attention to detail and character study make this my favourite of Trevor’s novels I have read to date.

I think it has become a tradition for me to read a Molly Keane novel for Read Ireland month – this year it was Time After Time one of Keane’s later novels. It concerns a visitor to the home of four elderly, squabbling siblings. It is a subtle, sophisticated novel – something of a slow burn in the beginning but well worth the time spent with it.

I reviewed The Visitor by Maeve Brennan alongside the Molly Keane novel as they shared some similar themes. At just over 100 pages it is a very slight little book, but here not a word is wasted. It takes real skill to produce something this good in so few pages. A writer I shall be reading again when I can.

The first of my kindle reads in March was The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler for Liz’s read-a-long. This was definitely a slow burn novel for me, at first I was underwhelmed by it – but thinking back on it later, I was reminded of so many good things about it. Tyler writes families so well and she manages to make them so real, the reader becomes completely involved with them.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of The Peacock by Isabel Bodgan from V&Q books thanks to Lizzy Siddal a few weeks ago. I read it straight away as it looked like exactly what I was in the mood for – it was. An absolute gem, quirky, funny, and hard to believe it was originally written in German, the humour often feeling very British.

My second novel in translation of the month and my second kindle read was Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg. Translated from Polish it is a coming of age novel, the narrator a young girl growing up in an agricultural community during the communist years of the 1980s.

It seemed so long since I read anything by Margaret Kennedy that I pulled one of my two Vintage Kennedy editions from the shelf. Together and Apart is the story of a divorce essentially. Kennedy depicts brilliantly the effects the separation, divorce and remarriage of Betsy and Alec Canning have on their family and friends. It is surprisingly compelling, I absolutely loved it. A full review will appear in due course.

Thank Heaven Fasting by E M Delafield came next, a novel in which Delafield depicts a young woman’s launch into society, the desperate search for a husband that was expected at that time. Delafield is very perceptive here, shining a light on some absurd practices and showing once again how for women at this time, options were limited, and really in this society how for many women finding an acceptable husband was a kind of salvation.

There is quite a bit that is a little grim in The Glass Cell by Patricia Highsmith, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. The first hundred and twenty pages or so are taken up with the main character Phillip’s imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit. Some of those prison experiences are pretty bad. Following his release, jealousy, suspicion, and the manipulation of him by another character take over his life. As ever Highsmith plays with the reader’s sympathies and knows just when to twist the knife.

Since finishing The Glass Cell, I have been reading The Years by Virginia Woolf but am only about a third of the way through it, two or three very slow reading days responsible for me not making a lot of progress with it. Anyway, that can be my first April book when the time comes.

April is already here; the Easter weekend approaches though with it comes some very un-spring like weather here in the UK we have been told. I hope it’s short lived I really want to return to sitting in the garden with a book after work. After, The Years I must read my book group book Maya Angelou’s I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I first read it more than thirty years ago – it will be interesting to read it alongside the group. After that Karen and Simon’s 1936 club gets underway. I don’t have as many unread books as I had thought for this year – a couple of kindle reads; A Harp in Lowndes Square by Rachel Ferguson and The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White both look promising as the only other one I have; None Turn Back by Storm Jameson is the third in the Mirror in Darkness series and I have only read the first book (years ago too).

How was your March for books? I love to know what you have been reading and what your plans for April are.

Happy reading.

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The book pile might look a little smaller this month – but I have been reading on my kindle a bit more lately. I may never love my kindle as much as my books, but it is definitely kinder on my hands.

So, March has finally come to an end, but what can I say about one of the strangest months any of us has ever lived through? The world feels like a strange and unfamiliar place at the moment, scary too, I have taken to hiding from the news. Staying at home all the time feels as if its something I have been rehearsing for all my adult life – unfortunately I can’t be very active at the moment anyway, as my RA is about as bad as its possible for it to be. So, with all that in mind I might have been expected to have read up a storm in March. However, like so many others it would seem, my reading rate has not really increased. There have been a few days when I felt like I was getting right into a reading groove again, then I would find myself sliding back into my previous mood, where I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes.

I started the month reading Mrs Reinhardt and other Stories by Edna O’Brien for Read Ireland month. In these stories, as elsewhere in her fiction, Edna O’Brien writes with honesty and great perception. Her settings vary, although Ireland appears in several of them. Edna O’Brien successfully portrays the emotion surrounding loves and longings, sexual repression and betrayal.

Next was my book group read on kindle; Sworn Virgin by Evira Dones in which the author explores a little known tradition, still practised, in remote northern Albanian villages. Here, women who have no wish to marry, and with no male heirs, can declare themselves to be a ‘sworn virgin,’ thereafter, living their lives as men. Adopting a man’s name, clothing and undertaking the work that in these regions are traditionally male. From then on everyone in the community recognises them as male. Hana who has lived as Mark for fourteen years takes up the chance to go to America where she can return to life as a woman.

I had been meaning to read Marilynne Robinson for a long time, and I finally did, starting with Gilead, the first of the series, also on kindle. I think I had avoided it for years because I thought the faith aspects might be too much for me, but I found the book beautiful and poignant. Written in a kind of stream of consciousness, Gilead introduces us to three generations of a family through the voice of the Reverend John Ames a Congregationalist minister from Gilead, Iowa. 

Dean street press books are often great escapism, and Mrs Martell by Elizbeth Eliot really hit the spot. Certainly, they aren’t nonsense though, Elizabeth Eliot’s voice is witty and sharp, she understands the motivations of people – both good and bad. Mrs Martell is a character none of us are supposed to like, in her Elizabeth Eliot has created a marvellous character, selfish, self-serving and always set on getting just what she wants.

The Ante-Room by Kate O’Brien for read Ireland month was a pretty intense read, although with a setting of 1880 provided a rather brilliant escape too. An intense family drama, set over three days of the Catholic calendar: The Eve of All Saints, The Feast of All Saints and The Feast of All Souls.

Don’t Look at me Like That by Diana Athill was a delicious discovery. I have loved so much of her writing in the past, that I was delighted to find she had written a novel too. A novel that is wonderfully evocative of bohemian Oxford and London in the 1950s, a time and place Diana Athill was well placed to know intimately. The novel concerns two friends, exploring aspects of love and betrayal as they move from adolescence to adulthood. This is as far as I have got in reviewing my March reads.

On my kindle I read Postscript to Poison by Dorothy Bowers a golden age mystery from the 1930s. Old Cornelia Lockwood ruled her household with an iron fist, controlling her purse strings and her step-granddaughters in her own inimitable way. When, having apparently recovered from a recent illness Cornelia dies suddenly, it looks like foul play. A Scotland Yard detective is called in to investigate.

Liz and I decided to read The Little Ottleys by Ada Leverson together. This volume is actually a trilogy, the three separate novels originally published between 1908 and 1916, they remain wonderfully bright and funny. I had already read book one; Love’s Shadow a couple of years ago, so having refreshed my memory a little I went straight onto books two and three. Many of the characters from book one don’t reappear in Tenterhooks and Love at Second Sight, other than the Ottleys of the title of course, so there was little room for confusion. So, I suppose I could count this as two books, but I don’t as it’s one volume.

My final read of the month was The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair – one of the gorgeous new women writers’ series from the British Library. I was surprised how slowly I read it considering how much I enjoyed it, but that was wholly due to my mood. It is the story of a family from the late nineteenth century through to the middle of the First World War. The novel was first published in 1917 before the outcome of that conflict was known.

No idea what April will bring, but I expect I’ll be sat here for most of it. Karen and Simon have their 1920 club – I know I had a couple of books sorted for it, I just wish I could remember what they were and where they are. My book group (we’re meeting by Zoom this month) will be reading Cat Person and other stories by Kristen Roupenian. I just started reading (on kindle again) the new Maggie O’Farrell novel Hamnet – which is longlisted for the Women’s Prize. Only one chapter in but I think I am going to like it a lot.

Hope you all had a great reading month (everything else is just weird) let me know what brilliant books I should know about. Whatever April brings you I hope you stay safe and have some wonderful things to keep you company.

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March is over, the clocks have gone forward here in the UK, and spring seems to be paying us a visit. Spring is my favourite time of year and I have a few spring flowers in the garden, there, with no help from me I have to say. The Easter holidays are not too far away, and I am looking forward to a break in the Lakes. March has been a pretty good reading month – with ten books read – the last of those finished late yesterday afternoon. Having glanced at the pile of books I read, I realise that most of the books I read were fairly slight – well that’s one way of getting through the tbr, although it wasn’t deliberate. I find I am often drawn to books that are less than 300 pages. Funnily enough, the one book that was longer – not far off 400 pages, with smallish print – was my highlight of the month.

During March the LT Virago group ‘reading the 1940s event’ had women as its theme – and else where it was read Ireland and reading Wales month. I had a good stab at joining in everything.

March began with me reading Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North – a British Library Crime Classic from 1960, the first book to feature this likeable Yorkshire policeman. I really enjoyed the setting and the characters in this one which does get quite dramatic toward the end

Liana by Martha Gellhorn was the first book I read for the LT group’s March theme. Set on a fictional French Caribbean island in 1940 – it depicts the unequal marriage of Liana – a young girl of mixed heritage and a wealthy white man. I must read more by Martha Gellhorn.

The Hotel Tito by Croatian writer Ivana Bodrožić was one of the books sent to me by the Asymptote book club. A coming of age novel set against the backdrop of the conflict in the Balkans – it’s a powerful reminder of what such conflicts do to children and families.

The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan was chosen by my very small book group, a collection of short stories which was my one disappointment of the month. The collection is slight and yet there are twenty stories, some little more than a few paragraphs. Although there were about seven or eight stories I liked, and I enjoyed Kirsty Logan’s writing, her use of imagery in particular overall the collection wasn’t really for me.

I read Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards for reading Wales – or Dewithon. It’s a beautiful quiet novel, having the quality I suppose of a slow, musical movement. I loved it. It’s so sad that Dorothy Edwards wrote so little.

Mary O’Grady by Mary Lavin was my second book for Read Ireland month (I read a Molly Keane novel at the end of February) and it was my highlight of the month. The novel follows Mary O’Grady from when she is a newly married young woman, to when she is an elderly woman, with decades of trials and tribulations behind her. It’s a novel full of life and emotion, I flew through it.

Death has Deep Roots by Michael Gilbert another lovely BLCC book – sent to me by the publisher. A solicitor races across the channel to discover the truth which lead to a death in a London hotel. His client, a French woman stands accused of murder and with the trial about to start there is no time to waste. A court room drama which harks back to the dark days of the French occupation.

The Persimmon Tree and other stories by Marjorie Barnard – another books for the LT group’s reading event – a collection of stories by an Australian writer best known for her works of collaboration with another woman. This collection which focuses on women’s experience was her only solo success. These were very much the kind of stories I like.

I still have to review the last two books I read in March. Landscape in Sunlight by Elizabeth Fair a title from the Furrowed Middlebrow series from Dean street press. I have had this for some time, but this novel of vicars, village rivalries, summer fetes and burgeoning romance was just what I needed last week.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore was my final book of the month and of Read Ireland month. Of course, my review won’t be in time – but I was glad to squeeze in this lovely, poignant novel of loneliness – which I had seen reviewed so positively by many bloggers whose opinions I trust. They were all right.

So, on to April. I do have a few plans – the 1965 club hosted by Karen and Simon is 22nd – 28th April – and I have about six books to choose from. It would seem that 1965 was a very good year.

My book group will be reading Bookworm A memoir of childhood reading by Lucy Mangan – which I know many people have really loved. It’s one I am looking forward to. The LT ‘reading the 1940s’ event will be focusing on ‘work’ and I have a couple of Furrowed Middlebrow titles including Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck that look like they will fit in perfectly, and I am leaning toward the possibility of a re-read of Laura Talbot’s The Gentlewomen.

Well that’s it – another good reading month and lots to look forward to. In bed last night I began reading A Summer to Decide by Pamela Hansford Johnson – the final book in the Helena Trilogy – which I nearly forgot all about with it being buried in my kindle. I absolutely loved the first two books..

What did you read in March? Whatever your plans for April I hope you have a lovely month and the sun shines on us all.

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It’s the first of April and Easter Sunday – a very Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it – but oh my it hasn’t felt very spring like at all. Still, a long Easter weekend is the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book, and I’m sure many of you will be doing just that.

March has given me some fabulous reading – quite a variety – some Virago Modern Classics, not one but two works of translation, short stories and a couple of modern novels. I went rogue a week or two ago – reviewing books out of the order in which I read them, so that my E H Young review would come out on E H Young day. I have made good progress on my ACOB – I accidentally read two books from 2011 in March – but as I’m doing quite well I don’t think it will slow me down too much. (I can’t believe how obsessed I have become with year published dates).

I began March with The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark definitely my favourite of the four I have read so far this year, on a par I think with A Far Cry from Kensington which I enjoyed so much last year. It is 1945 where all the nice people are poor, and the girls of slender means reside at The May of Teck club where they share a Schiaparelli dress. It’s a fantastic novel.

March was also Read Ireland month – I read two novels for the event – and the first of them Mad Puppetstown by Molly Keane. In this novel Molly Keane portrays an early twentieth century Irish childhood – compulsively evocative. It is almost certainly my favourite Molly Keane novel to date.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright was my second read for Read Ireland month. It is extremely well written, and yet something left me completely cold, and ultimately disappointed.

The Juniper Tree by Comyns was so, so good, it saw me ordering a couple more Comyns novels on the strength of it. It is one of her later novels, with a deceptively dark heart – as Comyns, having lulled us into a false sense of security, pulls the rug out from under us.

My latest book from the Asymptote book club was Love by Hanne Ørstavik, a heart-breaking story of a mother and son in Norway. Brutal and bleak it is another unforgettable little book.

Celia by E H Young – reviewed out of order for E H Young day – is novel which has marriage at its heart. In this 1937 novel E H Young examines the marriages of three related couples. It was my fattest book of a month – which generally saw me reading quite slight novels (I didn’t choose them for that reason honest). Young’s characterisation is always superb, and I very much enjoyed the eponymous character – who hides her sharp intelligence behind a domestic vagueness.

I love a novel set in World War two – and admittedly I would usually prefer them written during World War Two too, however Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans (which I had had on my kindle for well over a year) ticked off 2014 in my ACOB. It was an excellent read, and I am very much looking forward to reading more by Lissa Evans.

Persephone do publish some fabulous short story collections – Midsummer Night in the Workhouse by Diana Athill is yet another. I am already a fan of her writing through her memoirs, and these stories were every bit as good. I shall be reviewing them in a day or two.

Some of you may remember me pledging to read more books in translation during 2018 – in a bid to widen my horizons. That is what led me to sign up for The Asymptote book club subscription. I recently had a twitter conversation with a couple of people about women in translation. I asked for recommendations for mid-twentieth century women writers in translation – and got a long list to explore. One name which I was recommended first was Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian writer I have seen likened to Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and others, certainly Near to the Wild Heart did put me in mind of Virginia Woolf at times. It was a dense little read, quite challenging yet still very enjoyable. I needed something very different afterwards.

I had Pre-ordered The Trick to Time weeks ago – and it arrived on the day I finished Clarice Lispector. I loved My Name is Leon, and with Kit de Waal being a Birmingham writer – who writes about Birmingham I had to read it straight away. I’m not going to say too much about it now – but yes, it is certainly another good novel. Review to come.

April is upon us, and #ReadingMuriel2018 will see me reading The Bachelors and I hope to read The Ballad of Peckham Rye as well. I am still enjoying my Muriel Spark reading very much. The week after next my very small book group will be reading Men without Women by Haruki Murakami – a book of short stories, I have bought it for my kindle despite slight reservations. I’ll be honest – I have never considered Murakami to be my kind of writer – but we will see. The 1977 club starts on April 16th – and I have several books to choose from including Dancing Girls by Margaret Atwood (short stories) and The Danger Tree by Olivia Manning (book one in the Levant trilogy) I also have Agatha Christie’s autobiography and somewhere buried in the tbr is a book called A marriage of True Minds about Virginia and Leonard Woolf which I had originally meant to read for #Woolfalong two years ago!


As ever, please tell what you are reading, and what books you loved most during March.
Happy reading.

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Spring does feel like it’s finally arrived, the weather is still typically unpredictable but things to do seem milder, and daffodils are out in lots of parks and gardens around here. I am looking forward to the two-week Easter holidays – I’m definitely in need of a break, and I hope for a good bit of reading time, as well as having plenty of other things pencilled in. Nine and a half books read, which these days is pretty good – I managed two books for #ReadIreland17 hosted by Cathy and stepped royally out of my comfort zone with not one but two of the books I chose.

I began March reading The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning, the first book in her Balkan Trilogy, events take place in Romania during the first year of the Second World War. It brilliantly recreates a city living in fear of invasion, and the atmosphere that exists there for a group of ex-pats. I am looking forward to the next two books in the series, I should get around to the next one soon. I have found that I love Olivia Manning’s writing, and have a few books tbr.

A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair was a review copy sent by Dean Street Press – who publish the Furrowed Middlebrow novels, it made for perfect, lazy weekend reading. A Winter Away takes us to a small English village, and introduces us to twenty-year-old Maud Ansdell, who has come to stay with her father’s cousin Alice and her companion Miss Conway. She starts work as secretary to a local, wealthy eccentric, and becomes involved in the lives and loves of several village neighbours.

My local MP is Jess Philips who has recently published Everywoman, part memoir part feminist manifesto – it is perhaps not my usual reading fare – but I was convinced to read it after attending a talk with Jess Philips at Waterstone’s here in Birmingham. I recommend it heartily to everyone.

The Librarything Virago group are choosing a different Virago author for each month this year – Edith Wharton was our author for March and I had had Roman Fever a fabulous collection of stories tbr for ages. It is one of those collections where every story is quite honestly superb.

Molly Keane’s Conversation Piece was the first of my two reads for #ReadIreland17 and although it won’t be my favourite Keane, it was a good read despite rather too much racing/hunting stuff. Set amongst the shabby, gentility of rural Ireland; the world Molly Keane knew from the inside.

One of my favourite reads of the month was Every Eye by Isobel English – a Persephone novella, with a brilliant final line (that alone should make you want to read it).

The second book which took me outside my comfort zone was Hisham Matar’s brilliantly poignant memoir The Return – it is the story of his father’s disappearance at the hands of the Libyan regime and of his own return to Libya more than thirty years after he left it as a child. It has recently been longlisted for the Orwell prize; awarded for political writing.

Friends and Relations; Elizabeth Bowen’s third novel was my second read for #ReadIreland17 – Elizabeth Bowen qualifies as she was born in Dublin though most of her books are not set in Ireland. This one like several others set in London, where we meet four families linked by two couples who marry a few months apart in the early part of the novel.

My second Dean Street Press book of the month was, Arrest the Bishop by Winifred Peck, one I bought after reading a great review of it somewhere. Review still to come, but I did enjoy this Golden Age crime story set in a Bishop’s palace.

I am now reading A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau – which Simon reviewed recently – it was the nudge I needed. I love Pamela Frankau – well I have loved the three I have read to date, and about half way through this one I can say I am enjoying it hugely.

EVASo, April is here with the #1951club on the horizon, hosted again by Karen and Simon. I have three or four books which were first published in 1951 – so just need to decide which I will read. The LT Virago group are reading Elizabeth von Arnim in April, and although I am tempted to re-read The Enchanted April – I have three or four other von Arnims tbr which I will select from instead. I recently bought my mum a copy of The Enchanted April – she’s never read EvA – and I really hope she likes it.

On the subject of reading weeks,someone recently asked me if I was going to be hosting a Mary Hocking week again this year. The obvious time to do it is around her birthday which is April 8th – but I had already decided to not host anything this year – so, sorry, no Mary Hocking week this year.

What have you been reading in March? Anything I should know about?


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March seems to have rather run away with itself – is that just me?

Mind you I will be rather glad to see the back of March in some ways. I have manged to be ill for three weeks of it. The first week a heavy cold which I thought had gone away but came back in a different/far worse incarnation. I’m now on antibiotics for a chest infection. Blogging when ill isn’t easy I don’t find – but I have tried to keep up. Still some good reads in March, several of which were on my kindle which again is perched on top of my book pile photo.


I began the month reading Night and Day for #Woolfalong – definitely it was one of the highlights of the month, a longer novel than I generally associate with Virginia Woolf, and one that has a much more conventional structure than many of her more famous works. I then read Harriet Said… for my very small book group – I had read only one Bainbridge before it and now want to read many more. Our book meeting was postponed for two weeks due to my being ill; when we did eventually meet (I was ill again!) we had a lot to discuss, but basically we all loved it. Lots and lots of bloggers have been reading and reviewing some fascinating books for Read Ireland month, and Good Behaviour was my first read for it. Generally I really like Molly Keane, but I think her novels vary in quality; Good Behaviour I think must be one of her best (I do still have several to go). On my kindle I read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has been much talked about on social media, and I recently attended a talk at Waterstone’s by the author. I enjoyed it a lot – hugely readable with two lovely child characters, set in the infamous summer of 1976. Too Dear for my Possessing, also on kindle from the extensive catalogue of Bello Books is only the second Pamela Hansford Johnson novel that I have read, an excellent novel, the first in a trilogy that I plan on completing in the not too distant future.

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure is a novel I have had for around three years, I had been on the verge of culling it – when I decided to give it a go – I’m so glad I did. The third book in Joanne Harris’s Chocolat trilogy – it takes the reader back to the town of Lansquenet and the characters we first met in that first novel. The Maiden Dinosaur was my second read for Read Ireland month – and the fourth Janet McNeill novel I have read – it shows Janet McNeill to have been a wonderful observer of people, and really quite humorous although in a slightly dark way. My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather – one of my favourite writers – I am trying to eke out her books – was another book I have had for ages. A brilliantly short novella, in it we meet the memorable Myra Henshawe – seen through the eyes of a young girl. My third read for Read Ireland month was The Little Girls by Elizabeth Bowen – I wasn’t sure how I would find it as I have seen very conflicting reports of it but I enjoyed it enormously, though it’s not an easy read. My last completed book of March was Visitors to the Crescent by Mary Hocking on my kindle, in time for my Mary Hocking reading week at the beginning of April. I then moved on to The Lark by E Nesbit on my kindle which many of you will remember Simon of Stuckinabook enthusing about not long ago I’m less than half way through that but certainly enjoying it.

Mary Hocking reading week

So what lies ahead? I am looking forward to two reading weeks in April – Mary Hocking week of course – and the following week Karen and Simon host the 1938 club. For that I think I will read The Squire by Enid Bagnold – yet another book I have had for ages – though I could change my mind yet – I have at least one other contender. My very small book group will be reading The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson – which looks very good indeed. I also plan to get back to Virginia Woolf with Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf’s last novel.
What are your plans for April? Do share.

the squirethe daylight gatebetween the actsx

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malverninmarch(A lovely early spring day on the Malvern hills with my local rambling group)

Goodness how time flies – March seems to just have whizzed by. Ten books read during March – a really lovely mix of things although I didn’t get around to any non-fiction this month. The month began with the third book in the Dance to the Music of Time sequence – I am so enjoying the sequence so far. I read another two novels this month by Willa Cather, ‘One of Ours’ and ‘Sapphira and the Slave girl’ – my intention of reading more by her this year so far going well – I think could end up a bit of a Cather addict. A couple of lovely shiny new books ‘The Collected Works of A.J Fikry’ and ‘Winter’ – a novel about Thomas Hardy served to remind me that there is some great new things out there too. The month ended with an unusual Persephone book – Patience by John Coates, which judging by the reviews I have seen elsewhere now, really seems to divide opinion. I really liked it, but it’s certainly not flawless. I am currently half way through – A Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh – and loving it – but couldn’t quite get it finished in time, so it will have to go in my April books read list instead.

Here’s the full list:
22 The Acceptance World (1955) Anthony Powell (F)
23 Dew on the Grass (1934) Eiluned Lewis (F)
24 Winter (2014) Christopher Nicholson (F)
25 One of Ours (1922) Willa Cather (F)
26 The Collected Works of A J Fikry (2014) Garbrielle Zevin (F)
27 Sunlight on a broken Column (1961) Attia Hosain (F)
28 Lucia in London (1927) E F Benson (F)
29 Sapphira and the Slave girl (1940) Willa Cather (F)
30 Once Upon a timepiece (2013) Starr Wood (F)
31 Patience (1953) John Coates (F)

My stand out reads for March were: Winter by Christopher Nicholson, The Collected Works of A.J Fikry and ‘Sapphira and the Slave Girl’







So on to what I will be reading in April. April might just be a really good month. I have two weeks holiday from school coming up for Easter – yippee! During April I will be reading another Anthony Powell book ‘At Lady Molly’s’ and my next Hardy re-read will be The Well Beloved – which I have already read twice – and remember as being a fairly odd but strangely compelling little novel. I also have some nice looking new books to get around to really soon. I really want to read something else for the Great War Theme read too, and there are a couple of books I had hoped to read this month that I just didn’t get around to. Several collections of short stories are calling to me from the shelves – I find I am enjoying them more and more these days. So I am hoping for more reading time in April what with that lovely long Easter holiday, with what I would like to get through I’m going to need it.


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March has been a funny old month, here in the UK the weather has been spectacularly unseasonable, and I have had some big decisions to make. I don’t always enjoy having to do grown up real life stuff – and I have been a little stressed and over tired. This resulted in the first half of the month in particular being a slow couple of reading weeks for me. Thankfully the books I chose to read this month have proven to be wonderfully good company, and my reading has speeded up again this last week, making for a good end to a chilly March.
I have in the end read ten books this month, only one of them non-fiction. Some I want to draw particular attention to:
Read for my on-going Hardy challenge The Woodlanders was a true delight, I had remembered reading it in the summer of 1986 – funny how, having been so enthralled with it then, ever afterwards remembering where I was when I read it, that it took until now to read it a second time. Jane and Prudence read for the Librarything Virago group’s centenary read-a-long, was another re-read for me, a wonderful Pym novel with great characterisation. Ruby’s Spoon, which I read before going to meet the author at a local meet up group, was a wonderful surprise; I loved the characters and Black Country dialect, and can’t wait to read more from this author. Taking Chances was my classic club spin book – and only the third Molly Keane novel I have read, I look forward to the others of hers that I have TBR. The Heir is a beautifully poignant novella which I had been looking forward to reading, and has put Vita Sackville West firmly on that list of authors I must read more of.

The full list of what I read during March

24 The Woodlanders (1887) Thomas Hardy (F)
25 Jane and Prudence (1953) Barbara Pym (F)
26 The Death of Lyndon Wilder…(2013) E A Dineley (F)
27 Ruby’s Spoon (2010) Anna Lawrence Pietroni (F)
28 A Compass Error (1968) Sybille Bedford (F)
29 Mr Briggs’ Hat (2011) Kate Colquhoun (NF)
30 Taking Chances (1929) Molly Keane (F)
31 Nightingale Wood (1938) Stella Gibbons (F)
32 The Heir (1922) Vita Sackville West (F)
33 Less than Angels (1955) Barbara Pym (F)


So April is upon us – and I have been planning carefully what to read – given that the first two weeks of April I am on holiday I am treating myself to some extra lovely books. There are a couple of books that I had for Christmas, a couple of Persephone books No Surrender and Hostages to Fortune, and another Barbara Pym. I have chosen Volume 1 of the Complete Mapp and Lucia, which I bought with a Christmas Amazon voucher, I intend to read and review each of the three books contained in the collection, separately. Sense and Sensibility is another re-read, I have been looking forward to it since I got this new clothbound edition for Christmas. I will also be reading Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, Ragdoll books is going to doing some Evelyn Waugh reading this month, and as I have had Vile Bodies TBR for ages it seemed a good excuse to read it. I have also put Swan in the Evening on my April pile, it is the autobiography of Rosamond Lehmann, I previously enjoyed several of her novels, and look forward to finding out more about her. As I am undertaking to only read books by authors born in May for my month of birthday reading, I have put A Glass of Blessings on to April’s pile it can be my last book of April instead of my first book in May. My pile is not as big as it sometimes is, but the Mapp and Lucia count as three and if I get through them all I may just go mad and be spontaneous.
In other news I have been buying books again – no real surprise there and with a London book shop trip planned for Tuesday things could get a whole lot worse. I have also been updating my classic club list – I don’t seem to be able to leave it alone, it is getting to be like the forth bridge and the magic porridge pot.

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