Posts Tagged ‘monthly roundup’

July in review


July has been a funny old month, a heatwave in Britain, high temperatures that began in June, weeks of no rain, then finally some very welcome, heavy rain right at the end of the month. July is always tiring for those of us who work in schools, and July proved to be a tiring, slow reading month.

Thank you to those of you who regularly read, and interact with me here and on Twitter – during these really tiring weeks it has been a real struggle to keep the blog going.

Most of the books I chose as you can see from the photograph were very slight volumes, I seem to gravitate towards small books when I’m tired, because I get irritated very quickly, so when I am only managing thirty or forty pages a day – I tend to avoid large books. I also read three of July’s books on my kindle – it is much kinder to tired eyes.

There is one notable exception in the photo – The Collected Stories of Muriel Spark – I have cheated in including it – because I have only read a little over 260 pages of the almost 600 – what I have read is wonderful. I hope the same volume will appear in next month’s picture too. I would love to get the whole volume finished – but I do have rather a lot planned for my August reading, so I may not squeeze it all in. I have already reviewed five short stories from that volume – which I absolutely loved, and highly recommend them, if you haven’t read Muriel Spark’s short fiction.

I began the month reading Jane Gardam’s The Queen of the Tambourine, a quirky, one sided, epistolary novel with an unforgettable narrator.

The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts, one of those invisible kindle books, was my book group choice – and despite being very readable. And containing many important stories, it proved a tough read. We all found it quite unremittingly hopeless.

Loving and Giving by Molly Keane was probably my stand out read of the month. Keane’s final novel – it shows great maturity and has a killer twist right at the end.

The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davis on my kindle was something of a slow burn – the book was perhaps a little longer than I had expected. Overall, I really enjoyed the novel, though my enjoyment was affected by bad mood/tiredness. There is a wonderful sense of place in a novel in which belonging, and nationalism are important themes.

June’s offering from the Asymptote book club was the novella The Tidings of the Trees by Wolfgang Hilbig – which I have seen described as a prose poem. Hilbig’s prose is beautiful, full of meaning and metaphor.

Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull was a great lazy weekend read, a golden age style mystery from the British Library. Hull tells his story rather differently, beginning with a court case, where someone is on trail for murder. Only the reader doesn’t know who.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron is a light bright, breath of fresh air. Based on the story of Ephron’s second marriage, it is every bit as sharp as it is funny.

July’s Asymptote book club book is I didn’t Talk by Brazilian novelist Beatriz Bracher it tells the story of a man, retiring as a university professor. Still haunted by what happened in 1970, when he and his brother-in-law were arrested and tortured. No one at the time was sure whether he talked. I hope to review later this week or early next.

My plans for August are simple – though the list of what I want to read seems to grow daily. I continue of course with my A Century of Books which is going well – and I shall be reading books for two challenges: All Virago All August and Women in Translation month – which I blogged about recently.


I’m currently reading Open the Door by Catherine Carswell – an old green virago book which I was saving until I had finished school for the summer and could immerse myself in. Alongside that of course I am continuing with those Muriel Spark stories for #ReadingMuriel2018.

How was your July for books? What was your favourite reads?

And whatever you’re reading in August whether it is at home, or on the beach, happy reading to you.

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The second half of June has seen us in the UK bathed in glorious sunshine, our gardens are wilting, and temperatures are reaching over 30˚C somewhere in the UK every day. Hose pipe bans are being talked about already and there are wildfires raging on some of our moorland. Not much fun working in a building built before air con was ever dreamed of and not many windows that open – but once I’m home; I am managing to enjoy at least half an hour reading in my garden which is bliss. (oh and the dodgy looking fence in the picture was finally replaced yesterday – hooray!)

Eleven books read during June, two of them on the kindle.


June started with two Persephone books back to back – though I reviewed them out of order I think. The Carlyles at Home (1965) by Thea Holme portrays the home life of writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and his wife, during the thirty odd years they lived at Cheyne Row in Chelsea. Thea Holme; the author, wrote it while she and her husband were living in the house as custodians.

Young Anne (1927) by Dorothy Whipple – was just a joy, the final book of hers left to be reissued by Persephone books, it was actually her debut. I loved every word.

I was already part way through The Collected Stories of Grace Paley (1994) I had read about seventy pages of it during May but carried on dipping in and out of it while I read those Persephone books. I am a big fan of short stories, and I enjoyed this collection though I’m not sure if I Paley’s style was completely to my taste. I was impressed though, with her ability to bring the New York neighbourhoods she knew so well to such vibrant life.

The Takeover (1976) by Muriel Spark for the 70s phase of #ReadingMuriel2018 – set in Italy it is a story of corruption and money as a rich American woman tries to get her villa back from the Englishman who has laid claim to it.

Joanna Godden (1921) by Sheila Kaye-Smith was such a lovely read, it was a pleasure spending time on the Sussex marshes with Joanna in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Joanna is a gloriously unforgettable country heroine.

My first ever grown up A A Milne book Four Days’ Wonder (1933) was a big success, light, bright breezy fun, I really can’t wait to read more by him.

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan (2013) was my sixth book with the Asymptote book club. I am quietly impressed with myself for reading them within a few weeks of their arrival and not allowing a pile of them to just collect on the bookcase. The story of a family in a fiction town in Western China it isn’t my favourite of the Asymptote books – but I am glad to have read it.

Old Baggage (2018) by Lisa Evans is a prequel to her 2014 novel Crooked Heart which I enjoyed so much, I was offered a review copy of Old Baggage. I had meant to read it in time for its UK publication, but didn’t quite manage that. My review should be up in a couple of days all being well.

I read Who Calls the Tune (1953) by Nina Bawden on my Kindle – her first novel – I can’t say I expected much from it, I tend to find her later novels are better. But I really enjoyed this mystery style novel – the ending of which I did sort of guess. An entertaining quick read all in all.

Eliza for Common (1928) by O Douglas. I was fortunate recently to be able to buy a few books from someone in a booky FB group – two of the books I bought were these smaller style hardbacks of O Douglas. I was afraid the print would be very small – but in fact it wasn’t too bad. This is the story of a Scottish minister’s family in Glasgow, the eldest son, Eliza’s adored brother goes off to Oxford, later writing a play, that is something of a success. Eliza stays at home, nurses her mother though an illness, visits her brother in Oxford. It is the kind of novel where not a huge amount happens, I very much enjoyed it.

I finished the month by squeezing in Not to Disturb (1971) by Muriel Spark, again on my kindle – for #ReadingMuriel2018 – I was so sleepy last night I did have to finish the last bit this morning, despite it being a very slight 96 pages. Still most of it was read in June – just.

A good reading month all in all with Young Anne and Joanna Godden my reading highlights.

the war on women

On to July – I am dipping in and out of The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts for my very small book group – we meet a week on Wednesday and I have already read three chapters, so I should make it. I am also just about to start reading The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam one of those gap fillers I bought for ACOB. I will probably be dipping into the Collected Stories of Muriel Spark too – although I really don’t think I will be able to get through the entire collection, too busy reading for ACOB! Aside from those, I will wait to see where my mood and my A Century of Books takes me.

What did you read in June that I need to know about? What are you reading now?

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So that was May! A strange mix of my fiftieth birthday (which was a joy) and a horrible chest infection. Being ill for the last ten days has meant extra reading time though – and looking down the list of things I read, it was a pretty good month.

The month started really well with Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty, my second try at Welty which was much more successful. A slow, evocative read with a stunning sense of place.

The Hothouse by the East River by Muriel Spark for #ReadingMuriel2018 was a strange surreal little book, but one I really enjoyed. Set in New York in the late 60s/early 70s it really shows Spark’s inventiveness.

Having loved the Durrell TV series, I was eager to read Whatever happened to Margo by Margaret Durrell, it underwhelmed a little to be honest, and certainly it lacks the humorous brilliance of Gerald Durrell’s books, but it was entertaining enough.

The Cat’s Cradle Book by Sylvia Townsend Warner is a gorgeous little collection of unusual stories, telling us the traditional stories passed on by adult cats to their kittens. Perhaps only STW could write in such a way, and make it work like she does.

I always enjoy finding a new to me author, and Ellen Foster, Kaye Gibbons’ debut novel was my first by an author I knew nothing about. I have another of her books to look forward to and a couple of commenters filled me in about her and her other books.

The Honours Board by Patricia Hansford Johnson is a school set book for adults, and I know there are a lot of readers who enjoy those. This is another excellent novel from PHJ, who deftly weaves together the various stories of the men and women who live and work at an English preparatory school.

Writers as Readers the anthology of VMC introductions is a book I am sure I shall return to again, a wonderful collection of VMC voices I very much enjoyed dipping in and out.

My fifth book from the Asymptote book club was Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf one of several books I still have to review. It is a book I wasn’t sure I would like, but I did. It is a difficult book to describe, genre defying, it is part novel, part travelogue part research notes. Using stories of polar exploration, it is also the coming of age story of a young woman concerned about her older autistic brother.

Book two of the MaddAddam trilogy The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood kept me fabulous company as my chest infection really hit. The story in this book runs parallel to that of the one in Oryx and Crake, and in it we see again Atwood’s astonishing imagination.

Next, I read The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens for Shiny new books Golden Booker celebration, so the review will most likely appear there first – though not for a few weeks. I loved it, isn’t it wonderful when a book you have had tbr for an absolute age turn out to be so brilliant you wonder why it took you so long?

On a whim really, I chose to read My Wife Melissa by Frances Durbridge on my kindle – one of a number of Bello books I splurged out on a couple of years ago. I quite enjoyed it – though it did seem to be over almost as soon as it had begun. The story itself is entertaining, but for me there is nothing in the way of character development or setting description to lift it above the ordinary.

Yesterday afternoon I finished Tory Heaven by Marghanita Laski, which I only began on Wednesday evening. The mini Persephone readathon begins today, so despite having other things waiting to review, I shall review out of order and try and get this one reviewed by the end of the weekend. It is a sharply observed satire and a scathing indictment on the social hierarchy of the class system.

As well as all the above, I have read some of Grace Paley’s short stories in the new VMC edition of the Collected Stories. More about that in the coming weeks, as I continue to dip in and out.

Looking ahead to June…
I have just started The Carlyles At Home by Thea Holm – Persephone book 32 – it is about the lives of Jane and Thomas Carlyle when they lived at Cheyne row, Chelsea. I may stray away from my ACOB to read another Persephone book this weekend too, I shall see how I feel and what time I have. I shall of course continue with those Grace Paley stories and I am looking forward to The Takeover by Muriel Spark for #ReadingMuriel2018.

Whatever you’re reading in June I hope you enjoy it, and as always I would love to know about the best things you read during May.


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I am a little late with my monthly roundup – but all in all April was a pretty good month for books. One book was something of a let-down, but pretty much everything else was great. The reading challenges seemed to pile up a bit, my own #ReadingMuriel2018, the 1977 club and last weekend’s readathon have kept me busily juggling. What with reading challenges and book group reading, I have found that my ACOB is suffering a little bit. At the start of the year I was happily ticking off years for every book I read, recently more and more duplicate years are creeping in. In May I need to concentrate on ticking off a few more years.

Here, briefly is what I read during April.

Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay, Denham Dobie has been allowed to run wild, growing up abroad in a less than conventional household. After her father’s death, her smart, society relatives take her to London and try to civilise her. In this novel Macaulay highlights the absurdity in conventional society and the so called civilised way of life.

The Montana Stories by Katherine Mansfield – A wonderful Persephone collection of stories and unfinished fragments written in 1921/22 when Katherine Mansfield was in Switzerland attempting to recover from TB.

The Bachelors by Muriel Spark Has something of an unpromising opening, though I ended up really rather enjoying the novel. It is a novel of London in the 1950s, of bedsitting rooms, public bars and spiritualist meetings. Patrick Seton; a medium is the malevolent presence throughout the novel – he is a truly brilliant Spark villain. Patrick is due to appear in court – charged with defrauding a widow; Freda Flower of her savings. The Bachelors of the title are all connected somehow to Patrick or the court case.

Men without Women by Haruki Murakami; Was a collection of short stories chosen by my very small book group. It certainly gave us a lot to talk about. I really couldn’t engage with the book fully – and of the seven stories only two interested me at all. I decided Murakami wasn’t for me.

The Danger Tree by Olivia Manning; my first read for the 1977 club, The Danger Tree is the first book in the Levant trilogy, and gets it off to a fabulous start. We find the Pringles who we first met in the Balkan trilogy, in Egypt, and follow the fortunes of young junior officer Simon Boulderstone, who has just arrived with the draft.

Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy is beautifully written novella translated from Italian, it tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl’s fixation on another girl at their Swiss boarding school.

Dancing Girls and other stories by Margaret Atwood – Perhaps not my favourite Atwood collection of short stories, The Dancing Girls is still definitely worth reading, with at least half the stories being of really stand out quality.

Aunt Clara by Noel Streatfeild; A truly delightful read from the author of many children’s favourites, this is one of Noel Streatfeild’s novels for adults. Aunt Clara is the sixty something niece of curmudgeonly old Simon Hilton. Unmarried, he lives in London with his cockney valet Henry. Simon leaves Clara his house and some unusual instructions in his will – much to the disgust and bafflement of her selfish warring relatives.

Faces in the Water by Janet Frame is an incredibly powerful read. The story of a young woman’s life in two New Zealand psychiatric hospital.

The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark; The second book for #readingMuriel2018 I read in April was perhaps my least favourite Spark to date – oddly I know many people love it. I still have to review it –I loved the opening chapter and certainly the character of Dougal Douglas is superbly drawn – but I found other aspects of the novel a bit confusing.

Trick by Domenica Starnone; sent to me as part of my Asymptote book club subscription, Trick is translated from Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri a literary novelist in her own right. I loved this story of a grandfather and his grandson.

Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay; another winner from the British Library – I found this hard to put down, which was lucky as I read it during last weekend’s readathon. A woman is found dead on the steps of a tube station, and the residents of the boarding house she lived in begin to try their own theories out to discover what happened.

So, three of April’s books still to review, but I’ll get to them all in good time. Sometimes it’s a bit of a job finding the time and energy for blogging.

cofAfter all my reading last weekend I’m currently experiencing a bit of a slow reading week, juggling two books Writers as Readers, essays about VMC writers by other writers, and Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty. I’m also planning on reading The Hothouse by the East River by Muriel Spark, very soon, really looking forward to it.

A slightly rushed round-up I’m afraid – but I’m pleased that I managed twelve books in April – a little up on my average. I’m looking forward to a quiet-ish May bank holiday – with lots of reading time, and perhaps a trip to the cinema – if there’s anything on.

Today Virago are celebrating their 40th anniversary of beautiful VMC – you all know how much I love them, so it’s quite fitting that I’m reading an old green at the moment.

Let me know what you’ve been reading in April – anything I really need to know about? Happy reading for May everybody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how was your January for books?


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