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Posts Tagged ‘monthly roundup’

May has been a lovely reading month for me. Of course, #DDMreadingweek was a particular highlight – and it looks like I will be doing it again next year.

I’ve read nine books during May, and not a bad one among them. So now it’s June – and I am looking forward to summer – with a couple of seaside breaks booked, and maybe a bit more reading time.

I began May reading The Psychology of Time-Travel by Kate Macarenhas for my book group. A book combining women scientists, psychology and time travel. Everyone in our book group loved it.

A Touch of Mistletoe by Barbara Comyns was a pure delight, I have loved everything I have read by her. This book took some tracking down, so I needed it to be brilliant – and it was. There’s darkness here of course, Comyns’ style is such that she shields us from the true misery that lies beneath.

The Breaking Point Stories by Daphne Du Maurier – was my first read for the reading week, for me it was more like ten or twelve days though as I started early and finished late. These eight suspenseful stories cross the boundaries of reality several times, depicting people as they reach their breaking point. The stories take us from Devon, to London to Venice To Hollywood and the Greek mountains. Again, Du Maurier showing us what a wonderfully versatile storyteller she was.

The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier – my second read for DDM week and my second book (perhaps ever, never mind during this month) featuring time travel. It will almost certainly be on my books of the year list – my goodness I loved it. Such wonderfully inventive, compelling storytelling.

Well I just couldn’t get enough, so I then moved on to Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier a biographical novel about Mary Anne Clarke; DDM’s great-great grandmother – who was an extraordinary character.

Blitz Writing by Inez Holden comprises a novella; Night Shift and a memoir; It was Different at the Time. Together they provide a portrait of a city under daily bombardment, showing the lives of ordinary working people in factories and hospitals.

Mrs Tim Carries On by D.E Stevenson was a lovely bit of 40s escapism – the second book in the series that started with Mrs Tim of the Regiment. This sequel was published with a view to bringing some light relief to Stevenson’s fans living under wartime strictures – but despite that Stevenson never completely shies away from the realities of wartime life.

Jessie at Dwell in Possibility is again hosting the Persephone readathon (May 31st – June 9th) and I again started early and have somehow finished two very different books already. Emmeline by Judith Rossner was the first of them, a little under 400 pages, I had thought it was bigger and would take longer to read. I absolutely flew through it. Emmeline had been on my tbr for ages – and somehow reviews of it had passed me by, and I didn’t know anything about it. Set in the American Midwest in the 1840s/50s it is not a happy story.

Maman, What are we Called Now? By Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar is the wartime diary of the last days of the German occupation of Paris. It’s extraordinarily poignant, endlessly quotable with so much of it resonating with me – it’s a stark reminder – should we need it, of what can happen when extremism takes hold.

I have a few plans for June – I really want to get to grips with some review books I have been sent – I mentioned that in a recent post. Since then I have ticked two off the list. Late last night I started Death in Captivity a WW2 mystery by Michael Gilbert sent to me by BLCC which I have seen some great reviews for. Then, I will have to read my book group choice (cutting it fine as ever) Transcription by Kate Atkinson, it was my suggestion, and now I am nervous about it. My feminist book group were all quite excited at the prospect of reading it, we all said women spies – yay! Since then I have read a couple of reviews in which the readers concerned were rather underwhelmed. I probably shouldn’t have read the reviews. Oh well, time will tell, perhaps I will love it. I have been itching to read Spring by Ali Smith since I bought at Easter, I may find time this month. The LT ‘reading the 1940s’ project continues, and June is a wildcard month – no particular theme – so as I have lots that could easily fit in, I hope to read at least one book.

What brilliant things did you read in May? As always, I would love to know what you’re planning to read in June.

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I’m a day late with this round up – the beginning of May has rather crept up on me. I love May – blossom and bank holidays and my birthday! (My family have asked for the titles of Persephone books I might want – hooray). April was a pretty good reading month – 9 books read, and a few of them were a bit longer than I sometimes read.

I began the month reading on my kindle – one of the forgotten books. A Summer to Decide – was the third in the Helena trilogy by Pamela Hansford Johnson – it was a longer book than anticipated, but a thoroughly engrossing read, nonetheless.

Bookworm a memoir of childhood reading by Lucy Mangan – was my book group’s April choice – and was enjoyed by all of us, although I was unable to go to attend when it came to it. A lovely nostalgic read for all us bookworms, it took me right back to those childhood reading days.  

The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall – is a novel I had had waiting for months – I bought it because it had people living in railway carriages in it. I wasn’t disappointed, set in Bromsgrove a town near Birmingham The Last of the Greenwoods is a story of past mistakes, damaged relationships and a final healing of wounds in the present. Morrall weaves together stories of several generations with understanding.

Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck – was another kindle read – one of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles from Dean Street Press. Told in diary form is the story of a week in the life of a vicar’s wife during the early days of World War Two. First published in 1940 it depicts a busy, harassed woman who has too many calls upon her time and only one servant. 

The Aloe by Katherine Mansfield is an exquisitely beautiful novella, published after the author’s death. It is the original work that was later reworked into Mansfield’s short story Prelude. It is less than 100 pages and I would have been happy for it to be twice as long.

The Young Spaniard by Mary Hocking – well when I discovered there was a Mary Hocking novel that I had unread which fitted into the 1965 club I just had to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the Barcelona set novel which sees a young Scots lawyer pulled into the mystery surrounding his cousin’s older boyfriend.

The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark was my second read for the 1965 club. Spark’s longest novel – is set in Israel and Jordan the year of the Adolf Eichmann trial. I thought it was excellent, it’s Muriel Spark’s most conventional novel, yet retains many elements of Spark’s unique storytelling.

The Call by Edith Ayrton Zangwill is a wonderfully feminist Persephone book.  First published in 1924 The Call is a novel of women’s suffrage – among other things. It is also about the struggle for a young woman to be taken seriously within the scientific field. I found it thoroughly involving and an enormously important testament of the struggleh for women’s suffrage and for a woman to be taken seriously in the world of science.

Company in the Evening by Ursula Orange was another book I read on my kindle and another lovely Furrowed Middlebrow title. It is something of a comfort read – and I found I flew through it. Set during WW2 a divorced woman in her thirties has to juggle her job in a literary agency with her home life. This home outside of London she shares with her four year old daughter, her interfering servant and very young, widowed sister-in-law who she has recently invited to live with her. One day when she least expects it, she bumps into her ex-husband. I shall be reviewing this in a few days – but I can say I really enjoyed it.  

I am now reading my book group’s May choice, The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascsarenhas. It’s fair to say that this novel is not my usual fare- and yet I am enjoying it. Like The Call it features women scientists and is a cleverly constructed novel. We meet to discuss it next week.

While I was away in the Like District last week, I bought books, new books at that – well I like to support independent booksellers when I can. One book came from Sam Reads in Grasmere and two from Fred Holdsworth’s bookshop in Ambelside. You will notice two are ‘new’ books *shock* it’s reminded me that I still have ‘new books’ tbr from last year and the year before sitting unread on my shelves, two or three of them were gifts at Christmas – I really must start reading more of my newer fiction. I still haven’t started on my Women’s prize list either – that was always going to be a challenge though, (anything published after 1990 is new books to me). I bought; Spring by Ali Smith, Transcription by Kate Atkinson and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – which I want to re-read at some point – my old copy has sadly not turned up.

Looking ahead, May will be largely taken up with Daphne Du Maurier reading week – #DDMreadingweek for those on twitter, please use the hashtag so I can keep track of your links, photos etc. There has been a lot of interest in this so far – and I am probably going to start a few days early so that I can make sure I can read and review at least two Du Maurier books during the week. I do have a lot of other things going on in May, and will be grateful of a distraction, but probably won’t be able to read more than that. I am hoping to get a collection of stories and a novel read – and can’t wait to see everyone else’s reading choices. You don’t need a blog to join in. If you are on Instagram or Twitter – then you can share your Daphne Du Maurier reading using the hashtag or leave comments here on my original announcement post or below any upcoming Du Maurier reviews.

Happy May reading everyone. What did you read in April?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Following the two other round-up posts I have done this week a December in review post seems a little redundant, but it helps to complete the picture of the year.

I read nine and a bit books in December – the bit will now have to be my first book of 2019 – finished my A Century of Books and scored a wonderful pile of new books at Christmas.

I began the month reading A Saturday life by Radclyffe Hall, a comic novel about a precocious child, artistic experience and the possibility of reincarnation.

Olivia by Dorothy Strachey (published under the pseudonym of Olivia) was a little surprise, I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much. Olivia is sixteen when she is sent to Les Avons a finishing school near Paris, run by two mademoiselles. This is a school of an entirely different kind. It is a school where there are few rules, where laughter and passionate discussion are actively encouraged. Olivia revels in this atmosphere so unlike anything she has experienced before.

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay is a novel with a famous opening line – but it is worth reading for more than that. The novel follows the progress of a group of characters as they embark upon a journey from Istanbul to Trebizond. They are, Laurie – our narrator, her Aunt Dot (Dorothea Ffoulkes Corbett) and Dorothea’s friend, high Anglican priest Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg.

I’ve loved everything I have read by Diana Athill and Stet – an editor’s life was no exception. Shining a light on fifty years of publishing, her work alongside André Deutsch, and the writers she worked with, I can see why Stet is a favourite with many Athill fans.

For my 1993 slot of A Century of Books I read A Virago Keepsake, a collection of essays published in 1993 to celebrate Virago’s twentieth anniversary. Twenty pieces by or about Virago writers – many of them reminiscences of the beginnings of Virago, and the start of careers. There were very familiar voices with pieces by Margaret Atwood and Maya Angelou, other writers were new to me. A collection very much of its time.

The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy was one of my highlights of the month. In Honey Flood we have a fascinating unreliable narrator. In a city of bohemians, drug users, hipsters, jazz clubs and smoky bars, Honey sets about meeting C.D McKee, a legendary Englishman of enormous proportions and wealth. She is a young woman on a mission, and she needs to reinvent herself to put her plan into action.

Basil Street Blues by Michael Holroyd was recommended to me by someone on Twitter – a family memoir in which Holroyd writes honestly about his family, taking something of a back seat himself.

Playing the Harlot by Patricia Avis was my final book for ACOB, first published in 1996 having been initially refused publication when it was first written. Set among the raffish literary crowd in which Avis moved – which included Philip Larkin, we follow Mary and her friends and lovers through several years of complicated relationships.

Appointment in Arezzo – a friendship with Muriel Spark by Alan Taylor is a wonderful book, having read Spark’s autobiography Curriculum Vitae last month, this book provides another layer of understanding about Muriel Spark.

So, yes rather untidily I do still have two books from 2018 to review – I will get back to reviews soon.

In 2019 I will be reading more of whatever I please – fewer challenges this year. Though I am looking forward to the Librarything virago group’s year long reading event. Reading the 1940s – which is something which will be very easy to dip in and out of. There is a theme for each month – January has the theme of family. There aren’t really any rules – most of us will probably read mainly Virago and Persephone editions/authors though I can see Dean Street Press editions and perhaps Vintage editions creeping in too. I already have lots of books that will fit so I will probably join in quite a lot. Pretty much anything goes – published in the 40s or set in the 40s – fiction or non-fiction, set anywhere in the world, we’re certainly not restricting it to the war years.

In a couple of weeks, I will be re-reading Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym with a Barbara Pym FB group I started a few years ago. My book group will be reading Milkman by Anna Burns, so that will probably be my next read. I am currently reading Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson on my kindle – and enjoying its relaxed and witty tone.

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Unbelievably we are already into the final month of the year. Soon I shall have to think about my books of the year list and say a fond farewell to #ReadingMuriel2018 – which I have enjoyed enormously. However, there is still time for all that – so let’s talk November reading.

November began with me reading The Diviners (1974) by Margaret Laurence – a Canadian modern classic and novel I knew it would be hard to better with anything else I read during the month.

Lucia’s Progress (1935) by E F Benson has languished on my kindle along with the other Mapp and Lucia books for years. It was a fun, escapist read, Elizabeth and Lucia are both is full battle cry for most of the novel – and it’s frequently hilarious.

Destination Unknown (1954) by Agatha Christie – as always, Christie is perfect for over tired, weekend reading. I loved this one, one of Christie’s thrillers set outside the UK.

Life Before Man (1979) by Margaret Atwood I read for Margaret Atwood Reading Month – it was one I missed when I was reading her earlier novels back at the end of the 1980s. It’s a novel about three people trapped by their various love affairs. Fairly unlikeable characters, fantastically explored, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Curriculum Vitae (1992) by Muriel Spark is her short autobiography, it takes us up to the point of the start of her writing success. I enjoyed this glimpse into Spark’s life, and yet she remains fairly elusive throughout.

Home Life (1986) by Alice Thomas Ellis – is the first volume of Ellis’ Home Life articles that she began writing for the Spectator in the 1980s. Warm, and humorous it was a delightful read.

I seem to have been reading quite a lot of short books in my race to finish ACOB Casualties of Peace (1966) by Edna O’Brien was another. It’s the story of an innocent and a crumbling marriage that descends into violence.

Jill (1946) by Philip Larkin has been sitting on my shelf since a bookcrossing friend gifted it to me – last Christmas. I had already read and loved A Girl in Winter so looked forward to it. Jill – which I still have to review – is an excellent novel but not quite as pitch perfect as A Girl in Winter. I still wish Larkin had written more novels.

The Birthday Boys (1993) by Beryl Bainbridge – is Bainbridge’s story of the five men who were part of Scott’s expedition to Antarctica and who died on their return journey from the pole. I had seen some amazing reviews of this, and although I am nervous of the real people in fiction thing – I think this is a good novel and a must for those fascinated by those tragic explorers. I didn’t quite love it as much as other readers – but Bainbridge’s writing is excellent, and her exploration of the psychology of these men is particularly good.

All these books were read for my A Century of Books, I am suffering a little for all the duplicate years I read a few months ago – I should really have finished by now. Anyway, I will have six years left after my current read which I may finish today – December is busy though, with several evenings and weekend afternoons already booked up, which impacts on my reading time.

Very much looking forward to going away for Christmas – and I am hoping for lots of cosy reading time (well I can dream) in the last week or ten days of the year. After I finish my A Century of Books, I will read just whatever I feel like.

Yesterday I popped down to London for a few hours to visit a couple of book shops and meet up with a couple of friends, including Karen from Kaggsy’s bookish ramblings. We visited Foyles on Charing Cross Road, Oxfam bookshop in Bloomsbury and of course the Persephone bookshop.

I know I had sworn not to buy books before Christmas – but of course I didn’t stick to that – though nothing I bought was from any of my current wish lists. I bought several books as gifts which are now hidden away – but ended up these for myself – some new some second hand – and three passed on to me by my book enabling friends. I know my tbr has just gone nuts – but I can’t help but love the look of them all piled up there. In case you can’t read the spines, this is what came home with me, from the bottom up.

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Daughters of Decadence – women writers and the fin de siècle Edited by Elaine Showalter, short stories.
Unexplained Laughter by Alice Thomas Ellis – Simon just reviewed this one.
A Winter Book by Tove Jansson
The Listener by Tove Jansson – been meaning to read more by her for a while, and they have French flaps! Sold.
The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar – I found out about Margaret Millar’s fiction through Buried in Print’s blog – and stupidly bought a massive omnibus of four novel. I say stupidly, because I loathe reading huge, heavy omnibus editions and so it is unlikely I will ever pick it up. Seeing this single version of a Millar novel (not included in my omnibus edition) I snapped it up, as I have wanted to try her work for a while.
The Casino by Margaret Bonham – short stories
Journal of Katherine Mansfield
(I had bought 4 Persephone books as gifts so had to buy two for me to get the deal – they are cheaper in threes, plus I got a free tote bag). I resisted buying the new ones in hopes of at least one of them for Christmas.
Eve in Egypt by Stella Tennyson Jesse
The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin – these two kindly passed on to me by Karen.
Moonraker by F Tennyson Jesse – which was passed on to me by my friend Claire.
I know! – oops indeed.

cof

That’s it – on to December – is your tree up yet? I might do mine next weekend as I’m away for Christmas, I won’t get to enjoy it much otherwise. I refuse to be all bah humbug about Christmas trees etc – because the world is dark enough right now and I love Christmas lights.

Hope your November was good for books – what brilliant things did you read?

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