Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘monthly roundup’

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.

Read Full Post »

I nearly didn’t bother with this post and am only really doing it to complete the record of my reading year 2019. I have read a little more than most months, mainly because I have been laid up the whole month. Pain is very soporific though, so I haven’t really read that much more. Anyway, all in all a good reading month.

I began December with Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, a touching debut novel.  It’s a fairly simple story about friendship, about the ordinary uncelebrated people in the world who are capable of changing everything for someone, in small, quiet ways. Leonard and his best friend Hungry Paul see the world a little differently to many of the people around them, united by their own brand of humour, their love of board games and fascinated by facts. 

Mrs Tim Gets a Job by D E Stevenson from the delightful Dean Street Press is the third in the Mrs Tim series. In this novel we see Hester take up employment in a Scottish hotel while her husband remains in Egypt waiting to be de-mobbed and her children are away at school.

Deep Waters; mysteries on the waves edited by Martin Edwards – is a fabulous collection of golden age short stories. Each story has water somewhere at the heart of it, pieces written by a host of famous golden age names, and several that were new to me.

A review copy from Virago that I was very excited to read was The Street by Ann Petry. The Street concerns a beautiful, bright young woman who wants only to make a good and honest home for herself and her eight year-old son Bub. Lutie Johnson has already had a lot to put up with in her life – and she is determined it will be better for her son. Lutie is an extraordinary character, the novel brilliant and devastating.

Another good novel from Dean Street Press was Peace, Perfect Peace by Josephine Kamm, which perfectly demonstrates the domestic and emotional difficulties that came along after the war ended. What Josephine Kamm does well in this novel is to show us how with the coming of peace not everything in the garden was immediately rosy.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume was a Christmas gift last year, it was definitely time I read it. I thought it was a brilliant novel, though it is a little dark in places. It’s poignant exploration of loneliness and loss and the extraordinary restorative nature of friendship. In this case the friendship is between a man and a dog. Two misfits, cast adrift by the world around them, come together, and find companionship and understanding.

Another Christmas gift from last year was Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban, a new author to me. A quirky tale of two lonely people, told in two voices, the novel is ultimately a touching portrayal of how they re-define their lives. Turtle Diary is a novel about freedom – what it means and how it’s achieved. Told in the alternate diary entries of William G and Neaera H, it is the story of an obsession; the release of sea turtles from the zoo into the English Channel.

I read Christmas mystery The Night of Fear by Moray Dalton on my kindle – such a compelling story I flew through it. Scotland Yard detective Hugh Collier is visiting his friend Sergeant Lane when news comes in of a sudden death in a large country house a couple of days before Christmas. Collier accompanies Sergeant Lane to the house where they find a Christmas house party in some disarray. A game of hide a seek in the dark had been in progress – the guests sporting fancy dress, when one guest; Edgar Stallard had been found dead in an upstairs gallery.

With my kindle all primed and ready to go – I then finally read The Sum of Things by Olivia Manning. The third book in the Levant trilogy, and the sixth book overall in the epic Fortunes of War novels, I found it as unputdownable as the previous five volumes.

Having so loved I’m Not Complaining by Ruth Adam fairly recently, I found a copy of one of her later novels on ebay. So Sweet a Changeling – one of four books from 2019 I still have to review – portrays the emotional ups and downs and official struggle, a couple have to adopt the little girl they have been caring for.

I received The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters as part of my bookcrossing secret Santa parcel and it looked so good, I decided to read it straightaway. Despite being very nearly 600 pages, I found it a very quick read, although not all the characters are that likeable, I found it readable and compelling.

It seemed ages since I had read a Muriel Spark novel, regular readers will know what a fan I have become. Aiding and Abetting one of her later novels is a wonderfully strange take on the Lord Lucan mystery.

So that was December – and I have made absolutely no plans for my January reading at all. I am going with mood. My book group will be reading and discussing Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo, which of course I have already read, and which made it onto my books of the year list. I am going to be catching up with reviews over the next week or so I hope, still struggling to get everything done, but I’ll get there. I have begun the new year reading a Persephone book – well I do have several tbr – I’m about 150 pages into Milton Place by Elisabeth De Waal and finding it very good indeed.

Tell me about what you read in December – I always love to know.

Read Full Post »

It’s the 1st December today, and November really did fly by, the year is racing to its end, and Christmas is on the horizon. Many of us still have the present buying, wrapping, card writing, work Christmas meal eating to do, and then there is the small matter of an election over here to be endured. I’m not in any way religious but I enjoy our small family Christmases and I am looking forward to a few days away with family. I shall be buying books for various friends and family this year, and I take part in two booky Secret Santas. For me there is no better gift – if you can be sure the recipient hasn’t read it already.

So, back to November and what I read. If anyone were to look back at my October in review post, and the photo I posted of what I might read during November and compared it with the photo above, they would see there are some differences, I remain forever a fickle reader.

I started the month reading The Silence of the Girls (2018) by Pat Barker for my book group (which in the end I wasn’t able to get to on the night). A re-telling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women. It was the first of two books this month which let me down a bit. I really like Pat Barker’s writing, and what she has achieved with this novel is remarkable – her understanding of the psychology of men in warfare is spot on. However, I’m not a fan of things set in the ancient world, and the fate of the women in this novel, and their meek acceptance of it, I just found depressing.

The Artificial Silk Girl (1932) by Irmgard Keun was the perfect read for #Germanlitmonth. An evocative portrait of the roaring Weimar Berlin of the 1920s/30s – it is also a wonderfully poignant story of a quirky, radical young woman, whose voice I found immediately captivating. The Artificial Silk Girl was Irmgard Keun’s second novel – banned by the Nazis it had been an instant best seller when it was first published. With the Nazis coming to power in 1933, this novel depicts life just before that tumultuous time.

Hag-seed (2016) by Margaret Atwood Hag-seed is a brilliant re-telling of The Tempest. In the story of a man’s obsession to stage The Tempest and take revenge on the people who ruined him, she in fact tells an updated story of The Tempest. The old story within a story thing, that both Shakespeare and Atwood have employed before. With practised skill Atwood weaves a story of greed, revenge, grief and magic. In Hag-seed she is at her most compelling.

Next was a review copy from Virago, Corregidora (1975) by Gayl Jones, three of her books have been reissued recently, and I was delighted to discover her. Corregidora is often a tough read, painfully raw and uncompromising about the legacy of abuse and slavery and the relationships between black men and women at this period. Corregidora explores themes of race, sexuality and the repercussions of slavery. A compelling read, the ending I will admit left me raging.

After which, I read a book I only bought – completely on a whim – just before I read it – Ring the Hill (2019) by Tom Cox, which was a delightful mix of humour and the natural world. Ring the Hill is a book celebrating hills, mountains get enough attention. It’s written around and about hills, each chapter taking a different hill at its heart. In the company of Tom Cox – who is very good company indeed it turns out – we find out about a Northern hill, a very small hill, cliffs and tors.

I’m Not Complaining (1938) by Ruth Adam was hands down my book of the month. Bought for me by Liz last year, when she drew me in the Librarything Virago group secret Santa (well it had to happen one year). It’s always the sign of a very good book, when you are especially sad to finish it – I loved every word of I’m Not Complaining, I loved the less than perfect narrator and the 1930s social and political maelstrom of a Nottinghamshire town during The Depression. Our narrator; Madge Brigson is a Nottinghamshire primary school teacher in the 1930s, a neighbourhood dominated by large factories and increasingly plagued by high levels of unemployment.

The Girl with the Leica (2017) by Helena Janeczek was another review copy, and unfortunately another disappointment. I had been looking forward to this novel for a while and had even suggested it to my book group I was quite glad in the end they hadn’t chosen it. There is some lovely writing throughout the novel, and the subjects of the book, real life war photographer Gerda Taro and her friends are fascinating. Unfortunately, the novel becomes a little disorienting at times, some sentences rather unwieldy and by two thirds of the way through I found myself getting more and more fed up with it.  

I then treated myself to a biggish book of Persephone short stories – and why the hell not. The Second Persephone Book of short stories (2019) came out earlier this year, and in nearly 400 pages spans very nearly 100 years of women’s writing. If that isn’t exactly right up my reading alley, then I don’t know what would be. Of course, my own Persephone collection is extensive – you can see from my Persephone page, that there aren’t many gaps now. Having read all the other Persephone story collections, there are quite a number of stories I had read before. Still, there is nothing but pleasure in reading them again, several I had forgotten, truth be told, and I then had the pleasure of reading all those stories not previously included in Persephone collections. A full review soon.

I am not making any particular plans for my December reading, because I won’t stick to them. There are several VMC and Persephone books calling to me at the moment as well as several Dean Street Press books. I shall just have to wait and see what floats to the top. I am currently reading Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession which has been loved by so many other readers this year. I only started it late last night. I often read Christmassy books around this time of year, but I haven’t got anything new and though I am tempted to pull my Ten Days of Christmas off the shelf and re-read it I will probably stick to non-Christmassy books this year.

So, what have you been reading in November? Anything I should know about? What are your plans for December? I don’t know about you, but I need to start compiling my end of the year best of list.

Read Full Post »

October in review

I’m a couple of days late with this month’s roundup because I have been away for the last week. I arrived home a few hours ago, and before getting down to writing this, I finished my first book of November, The Silence of the Girls – started at the end of October, but it might as well go into the November pile.

Where September crawled by, October flew – and as you can see from the picture above, I am still not reading very fast. I have given up all hope I think of getting back to the kind of reading rates I used to enjoy, but as long as I am enjoying what I read – then I am happy.

I started the month reading Moor Fires (1916) by E H Young – a favourite author. Moor Fires was E H Young’s third novel and is definitely not typical of her later work. Still, for fans of E H Young’s work it is well worth reading. The novel set on a stretch of wild moorland, where twin sisters Helen and Miriam Caniper live with their stepmother; Notya and their two brothers. The sisters are twenty as the novel opens, and clearly very different. Helen is a domestic being, she loves her home and the moorland and has no wish to be anywhere else. Miriam longs to escape, she enjoys nothing more than to torment the young men who come in her way, proud of her looks and quick to make fun of others.

Nina Bawden’s Anna Apparent (1972) came next – another author I have read and enjoyed many times before, and this was another good one. Bawden is so good at portraying complex relationships within families. In this novel Bawden considers the question of nature versus nurture and the effects of childhood trauma. Who exactly is Anna? The carefully nurtured daughter of an adoptive mother, the younger second wife of Giles, casual lover to Daniel? While she is all of these things in time, she is also an individual. Anna’s view of herself is disrupted in the wake of a tragedy.

Karen and Simon hosted the 1930 club and my first read for that was A Shutter of Snow (1930) by Emily Holmes Coleman, a classic of American literature, It is the story of a woman’s two month stay in what was then called an asylum following the birth of her child.

My second read for the 1930 club was The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930) by Agatha Christie – well you can’t go wrong with an Agatha Christie. It’s a book of stories – though it is presented almost like a novel. Each chapter is a different story in which Mr Quin will turn up eventually. It’s a thoroughly engaging and entertaining collection, in which the reader must suspend disbelief as coincidences abound. Christie really does flex her storytelling muscles nicely with these stories, taking us from English country houses to the South of France and Corsica. While many stories feature the unravelling of mysteries of the past, other stories concern matters in the present, several pieces having a supernatural quality.

Girl, Woman, Other (2019) by Bernardine Evaristo was my standout book of the month. A worthy booker winner – I found it compulsively readable, a novel of modern Britain and some of the women who make it – their voices ring out clear and strong from every page. Twelve wonderful humans, mainly women, mainly black, scattered across the UK in town and country, who call this nation home.

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (1973) was sent to me by Virago books, a fabulous collection for this time of year. Delightfully chilling stories that never quite descend into horror, they bear witness to Wharton’s own fascination with hauntings, bewitchments and spirits. From childhood Edith Wharton had been terrified of ghost stories, and in these stories, she has channelled her fears in tales which expose the faults in us mere mortals; betrayal, grief, greed and the misuse of power. 

The Light in the Dark (2018) by Horatio Clare is a book I have had a long time, I first bought it in hardback, now the paperback is out. It is an absolutely glorious book, beautifully written. Look out for my review next week.

I ended the month reading The Silence of the Girls (2018) by Pat Barker – my book group’s choice. I finished it an hour or two ago, my first book of November it won’t be my favourite book of November, but it was compelling, and I will be interested to discuss it with my book group.

So on to my plans for November, my plans are fluid, as my reading mood is proving rather fickle. However, November is chock full of reading events – which you might aware of.

#MARM (Margaret Atwood reading month) hosted by Buried in Print and Consumed by Ink – is high on my agenda all being well. There is a read-a-long of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments for anyone who is interested in that. As well as the two novels I have tbr, I have several Atwood I would like to re-read, but Maddaddam and Hag-seed are novels I have meant to get to for a while. German lit month is again hosted by Lizzy at Lizzy’s Literary Life, and I have a book that should fit that and #novellasinNovember – so I think I might just start with The Artificial Silk Girl (I can’t remember who hosts Novellas in November, I’m sorry). It is also Non-fiction November (again I can’t remember who hosts that) and I have lots of books of essays on my shelves – I am hopeless at reading much non-fiction, so I have pulled one collection off the shelf – though whether I actually get to it, is another matter. Of course, I have other non-fiction books, and many other novellas, so we’ll see how the month goes.

I also have a couple of review books and a collection of stories I would like to find time for – but I have probably selected more than I can manage – I wonder how many of these will end up in the row of books I actually read in November? Anyway, lots of excellent reading events to join in with if that’s your thing.

What brilliant things did you read during October? Anything I should know about? Are you joining in with any of the reading events?

Read Full Post »

August in review

I can’t quite believe August is over, normal life resumes next week and I wonder how ready I am for it.

In my bookish life August became all about summer reading challenges, and in the end, it proved a bit much. I managed to complete my #20booksofsummer just yesterday, having swapped three of my original titles, I also read books for both #witmonth and All Virago/All August (the librarything Virago group event). There was a fair bit of juggling and little spontaneity however, which spoiled things a little for me. In fact, I didn’t read as many #witmonth titles as I would have liked to, as I hadn’t put enough on my 20 books of summer pile.

I started the month reading my September book group book as it fitted in with #Witmonth beautifully. Liar by Aylet Gundar-Goshen was my suggestion and I hope it will give us a lot to talk about. Translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverston; the novel is about an awkward, unhappy teenage girl, the lie she tells, the nature of lies and how they spread. My first book by this Israeli author, I’m sure it won’t be my last.

A Nail, A Rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe is a lovely little collection of stories by the Belgian writer whose work has been enjoying something of a renaissance recently. Focussing on women’s lives in the period around WW2, a couple of the stories come straight from the author’s experiences.

Another tiny collection of stories Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Sudanese author Rania Mamoun depicts life in modern Sudan. I like to be taught about places completely outside my own experience and this little book definitely did that.

The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West is styled as being four short novels, but it is probably more accurate to call them four long short stories. This VMC was undoubtedly one of my books of the month. Rebecca West’s view of the USA in the 1920s is fascinating – three of the four stories take place in America. The narrative voice throughout is extremely strong – and The Harsh Voice became a book I was sorry to finish.

Butterflies in November by  Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon is a book I got from Liz ages ago and I’m so glad I got around to it this #witmonth. It was a delight – a free spirited woman, whose life it set on an entirely new course, thanks to an Icelandic road trip and deaf-mute four year old. It’s a charming novel full of colourful characters, long empty roads and self-discovery. The ending was rather abrupt I thought – but that is perhaps a small criticism.

A few days before we met, I finally read my book group’s August choice; Educated by Tara Westover. A memoir that has been extraordinarily successful I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me – yet I was captivated by Tara’s story immediately. It’s the extraordinary story of a woman who grew up in a family suspicious of government agencies, preparing for the end of days, never going to school and helping out at her father’s scrap yard. At sixteen Tara started out on a journey to become educated, a journey that would cause conflict with her family and open her eyes to a world she had little idea about.

National Provincial by Lettice Cooper is a big chunk of a Persephone book, and is definitely my book of the month. A must read for those who loved South Riding, it is a novel of politics, social class and subtle feminism in 1930s Yorkshire.

Table Two by Marjorie Wilenski, from Dean Street Press, is a novel set in an office of translators during WW2. The world of the office is faithfully reproduced here, with all its petty jealousies and daily routines. In some ways not a huge amount happens, and yet Table Two is hugely readable.

For Robertson Davies reading week I read Leaven of Malice – the second book in the Salterton trilogy. The story centres around the local newspaper, the Salterton Evening Bellman, the family of Professor Vambrace, young Solly Bridgetower and his mother, members of the congregation of St. Nicholas’ Cathedral and the Dean of that cathedral. Davies writes his characters so well and reproduces the community of Salterton brilliantly, I must not leave it so long before reading book three.

Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson is a slight little Persephone book – and a Canadian modern classic. It is the subtle story of a young girl’s growth from innocence to maturity in her experience and view of the titular character. Hetty Dorval is one of two books I still have to review.

I was very lucky to have two lovely editions of The Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim to choose from. Handheld Press kindly sent me a copy of their beautiful edition which comes out in a couple of weeks. Elizabeth von Arnim’s voice – her wit – is what I love most about her writing, and that is wonderfully present in this novel. The Caravaners won’t be my favourite von Arnim though, because I found the narrator Baron Otto so irritating, I began to want to get rid of him.

September, I think will all be about finding the right books to counteract everything else that is going on. Current goings on in the UK are making me want to look away, and I really can’t face reading anything too modern or complex. So, although I am not selecting what I will be reading now, I expect it to be mainly middlebrow fiction, Golden age mysteries and perhaps some short stories. I have Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments on pre-order, and I will probably read that right away, but other than that I feel like a whole lot of cosy coming on. Watch this space, I am also in a very fickle reading mood having finally finished #20booksofsummer. I’m currently reading Surfeit of Suspects by George Bellairs, kindly sent to me by the British Library.

What did you read in August that I need to know about? – and what are your plans for September?

Read Full Post »

July has been a funny old month- it seems to have raced by in some ways, and I have now been on holiday from work for a week. However, I have only read seven and a half books during July – which is a little below my average. I have been utterly exhausted for weeks – and I still am, (living with and working with an autoimmune disease taking its toll I think). In fact, this year I am at least a month’s worth of reading behind where I was this time last year. Thankfully, the quality of what I read this month has been very high, and that is definitely more important. Anyway, I now have a few weeks recovery before I am back at work – time for some quality reading too, I hope.

I am currently away for a few days, which is why you have the rather odd pic-collage image above rather than the photo of book spines I usually do. Instead you have a couple of holiday pictures from Teignmouth – my very happy place (although it’s raining this Tuesday morning, hence me rattling away on my laptop). My reading mood has become very fickle in the last two weeks – and that is interfering with my #20booksofsummer (more of that later).

I began July reading An American Marriage by Tayari Jones which recently won the Women’s Prize. An American Marriage tells the story of Roy Hamilton and his wife Celestial. He has a good job and has married into a wealthy family. Then Roy is arrested and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. It’s an honest portrayal of American injustice an exploration of gender roles, as well as being a moving and compelling story of a family.

Marie by Madeleine Bourdouhxe is a novella a novel about love, sensuality and passion. Depicting the internal life of a married woman who despite loving her husband has a heady affair with a young man she meets at the beach. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

Next was Murder in the Mill-Race by E.C.R Lorac – another excellent mystery from the British Library. Set in Devon Dr Raymond Ferens and his wife Anne; tired of the depressing slums, preventable disease and dirt of Northern city life, take the opportunity to swap life in a Staffordshire mill town for that of a Devonshire village on Exmoor. Here they encounter a surprising amount of malice and hatred in the small community they are living in. Soon the warden of a local children’s home is found drowned.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje was my top read of the month, beautifully written and evocatively memorable. 1945 the war has ended, and the London landscape is changed almost beyond recognition. In Putney fifteen year old Nathanial and his sister Rachel have been abandoned by their parents and left in the family home in the care of a couple of strange guardians. Initially the bemused siblings rather assume their guardians are criminals of some sort – though in time, they worry about this far less than one might imagine.

Persephone book, Despised and Rejected by Rose Allatini is a remarkable novel, first published in 1918 it was definitely ahead of its time. Subject to a trial and a fine for the publisher it disappeared for many years. The novel’s attitudes to pacifism and homosexuality as well as its clear desire to see the continent of Europe united was contrary to popular opinion at the time. It is a bravely honest novel, that exposes the terrifying jingoism of a country obsessed with war.

Beneath the Visiting Moon by Romilly Cavan was another big hit for me from Dean Street Press, their Furrowed Middlebrow series is becoming a favourite. Likened by some to Guard your Daughters, it features an impoverished blended family and a large cast of supporting eccentric characters, romance, family and coming of age in the last summer before WW2.  

The Wedding by Dorothy West – recently sent to me by the lovely Virago – it is the second novel from the author of The Living is Easy (a book I own but haven’t read). I have yet to review it – but I thought it was a wonderful book. I am very grateful to Virago for the sending me two Dorothy West books out of the blue, which inspired me to read an author I had meant to read for ages.

I am now a good way into Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen – which I will include in next month’s roundup.

August for me will be about recharging my batteries. I am going to be joining in Women in Translation Month and All Virago All August. I should be finishing #20booksofsummer – but I might be failing with that. I had read twelve books – than I decided to swap Beneath the Visiting Moon for Girl, woman, Other (which I hope to go back to but couldn’t get into) which made thirteen and now I seem to be set on a path of reading only books not on my original pile. Swapping all seven remaining books seems like a cheat – and a couple of those virago and Persephone books I might still read – I am in a mood of not knowing what I will read next until I pick it up. When I came away, I had to bring several books with me to pick from. So, apologies to Cathy, I knew I was rubbish at #20booksofsummer – I knew I shouldn’t have signed up – let’s just wait and see just how many I end up managing. My book group have picked Educated by Tara Westover for our August book – but I haven’t even bought it yet, and in fact I’m reading our September read first because I fancied it more.

So, let me know what your best books of July were – and what you have planned for August. Whatever it is – I hope you enjoy it.

Read Full Post »

I’m a little late with my round up post this time, a lovely, sociable weekend away with friends means I didn’t get chance to do it before now.

As far as my June reading goes, it was a little below par, three of the books I read were rather underwhelming – although I have managed to read nine books and eight of them were for my #20booksofsummer.

BLCC mysteries are good escapist reads, and Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert made for a good start to the month. A World War Two mystery set in an Italian prisoner of war camp. An unpopular prisoner is found dead in the most successful of the camp’s escape tunnel.

My first book from my 20booksofsummer pile was Transcription by Kate Atkinson which I read for my book group. It was a book that should have ticked a lot of boxes for me – and yet it fell rather short.

Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei on the other hand was wonderful. A review copy I had had tbr for ages it was a little gem. A novella set in Australia it tells the story of two women, immigrants to the country. They meet at an ESL class, and over time they bond through a language that belongs to neither of them, forming a lasting friendship.

Another lovely review book was Life in Translation by Anthony Ferner an excellent novel about the trials and tribulations of a group of translators. It’s a well written intelligent novel set in Lima, Paris and London.  

My favourite read of the month was undoubtedly A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore, an absolutely stunning novel – I was rather sorry to finish it. It tells the story of siblings Catherine and Rob in the years before the First World War. Abandoned by their parents they live in their grandfather’s house – and over the years their sibling love enters forbidden territory. There is a poetry in Dunmore’s writing that I absolutely loved – it is always a pleasure to read such exquisite writing.  It also ticked off a title on my Women’s prize list.

Unfortunately, The Stranger from the Sea by Paul Binding was another book which I had expected more of. Set on the Kent coast in the 1880s, it is a reimagining of the characters from Ibsen’s play The Lady from the Sea. Personally, I thought it might have been improved from being shorter.

Full House by Molly Keane was a breathe of fresh air after the previous book, I always like a Molly Keane novel – she is quite underrated as a writer, I think. She writes complex families so well and her writing is full of wonderful descriptions. In Full House an eldest son returns home after a nervous breakdown and the secrets and frailties of a family are gradually revealed.

The Furrowed Middlebrow imprint from Dean street Press has become yet another firm favourite with me. Henry by Elizabeth Eliot didn’t disappoint, the likeable narrator Anne Palliser relates her own story and that of her elder brother Henry, an irresponsible charmer who decides one day to open a maternity home.

I was tempted to buy Tangerine by Christine Mangan because of the setting and period – I should have known it probably wasn’t my kind of book. I generally don’t like modern psychological thrillers – and though this was much better than some (of the few I have read) I wasn’t completely enamoured. Review to come in a few days.

I am now taking a quick break from my #20booksofsummer list to read my next book group book – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – which will tick off another book on my Women’s Prize list.

After that it is back to my summer reading list – which I am doing ok with so far. I tend to get distracted from these lists right at the end and I realise I have foolishly put a lot of modern novels on to my list – which might have been a mistake – I usually like to spread them out a bit more than this. I might have to read the VMCs and Persephone I was supposed to save till the beginning of August for the LT All Virago/All August a little early.

I would love to know what you’ve been reading lately and what plans you have for July. As always, whatever you’re reading in July I hope you enjoy it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »