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Posts Tagged ‘monthly roundup’

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.

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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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October in review

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We turned the clocks back an hour at the weekend. Sunday was spent telling each other that yesterday it had been such and such a time – a yearly tradition in this part of the world that always makes me smile. Suddenly we have only two months of the year left, and again I’m forced to remember how true it is that the years go faster as we get older. I have always had a slight fondness for November – which I know not everyone shares – fireworks, poppies for remembrance, Christmas markets starting up – I quite like it really.

October was an ok reading month – ending with a half term holiday spent by the sea and visiting glorious moorland. Restorative and wonderfully bracing, and the extra reading time thrown in just what I needed.

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October began with me reading Early Spring a memoir of childhood and adolescence by Tove Ditlevsen, Early Spring faithfully recreates the sights and sounds of Tove Ditlevsen’s 1930s childhood environment. It was a childhood of great poverty, and loneliness and yet Ditlevsen grew up with a burning determination to write.

Staying with Relations by Rose Macaulay was the book which accompanied me on y weekend away to this year’s Bookcrossing convention. It is a book worth reading for Macaulay fans, and I enjoyed it, though I admit it is not as such a good novel as either The World my Wilderness, Told by an Idiot or Crewe Train. It tells the story of Catherine Grey a young writer who accepts an invitation to stay with her aunt, cousin and her aunt’s second husband and step children at her house in the Guatemalan jungle.

A Spark novel that I certainly hadn’t previously heard of, The Only Problem is a wonderfully entertaining novel. An academic writing a book on the Book of Job while his estranged wife runs around with French terrorists and a policewoman masquerades as a housekeeper – could any of this come from anyone other than Muriel Spark?

I had been looking forward to the second book in Olivia Manning’s Levant Trilogy, and The Battle Lost and Won really didn’t disappoint. Here we continue to follow the fortunes of Harriet and Guy Pringle and others in Cairo, as well as young Simon Boulderstone, a young officer fighting the war in the desert.

Seven for a Secret by Mary Webb was a book that I had had for years, never quite managing to get around to it. My A Century of books was the impetus I needed – and it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. Gillian Lovekin is eighteen as the novel opens, living with her father, on his farm in the Shropshire hills. Gillian is a very pretty girl, a head full of dreams and longings – including for men to lose their hearts to her. It is rooted in the Shropshire countryside of Webb’s birth, it tells the story of Gillian and Robert Rideout and the stranger who comes along and disturbs their rural community.

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen is a powerful little novella from Peirene Press. A novel about survival, White Hunger takes us to the heart of the Finnish famine in 1867. Uncompromising description, and some quite lovely writing, stop this from being utterly depressing – but it does make for a tough little read.

Another World by Pat Barker like Seven for a Secret was only pulled from my shelves because of ACOB. It was the only book I had for 1998 – and I already knew I enjoy Barker’s writing. In this novel, the shadow of WW1 falls across three generations of one family. It is the 1990s Geordie a WW1 veteran is dying at 101 years old. His grandson and his second wife have recently moved into an old house with their various squabbling children and a spooky old mural is revealed as they start to decorate.

Symposium by Muriel Spark was thoroughly enjoyable. It starts with guests at a dinner party – introducing us to quite a number of characters all at once. The narrative moves back and forth in time – slowly revealing the past of one of the guests in particular.

My very small book group picked Vox by Christina Dalcher as our November read. I decided to read it quickly while away as I can’t count it for my ACOB and the last two months of the year will be a bit of a race to the finish. Billed as a re-imagining of The Handmaid’s Tale – we were all very excited. I don’t want to pre-empt my review too much but – yes, it is very compelling, very readable but it is no Handmaid’s Tale and should not be seen as such. Part speculative fiction part thriller – it’s an entertaining read, but I can’t say I have been blown away.

So here we are – November 1st. My plan for the next few weeks as I mentioned is to make good progress with the last sixteen books of ACOB. I shall, however be reading Curriculum Vitae for #readingMuriel2018 and Life Before Man for Margaret Atwood reading month.

I have just started reading The Diviners by Margaret Laurence. I believe it is strictly speaking the fourth in her Manawaka series of novels, and I have only read and the first and second, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t matter what order they are read in.

As always, I love to hear about what you have been reading and about your plans for coming month.

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September has been a bit of a strain in one way and another – so much so that my reading and blogging has taken a bit of hit. The other day I was having a moan on Twitter (like we all seem to do these days) convinced that I had hardly written any blog posts this month – well things haven’t been that bad. I think the month felt so long – endlessly long and exhausting – that it made me feel as if I had read and blogged even less than I have. A perusal over the weekend showed me I really hadn’t done too badly. I’m hoping to do better in October – but we’ll see.

I read eight books in September – I’ve started another but that can go into next month’s pile. A nice collection of books in the end – most of which have gone toward taking me to seventy-seven years done in my A Century of Books.

Summer’s Day by Mary Bell – really got the month off to a great start, a much better novel than I had expected, Summer’s Day is a school story for adults. Bell’s characters are so well drawn, and the stories she weaves around the staff and pupils, compelling.

Loitering with intent by Muriel Spark is now firmly placed in my list of top five Spark novels. Published at a time when Muriel Spark’s writing career was already well established, Loitering with Intent is a novel about writing. It is a wonderful novel, reminding me somehow of Momento Mori maybe as it’s packed with eccentric characters.

Told by an Idiot by Rose Macaulay is the second novel by Rose Macaulay I have read this year, and the third overall. It prompted me to buy two more from ebay (quite good for second hand books). The novel charts the ever changing social, political and religious fortunes of England from the 1870s to the 1920s through the eyes of one family.

Dear Austen by Nina Bawden is a poignant work of memoir. A letter to her beloved late husband, Austen Kark, who was killed in the Potter’s Bar rail crash in 2002.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif – is an entertaining dark satire of Pakistani militarism and religious piety, it is a reimagining of the events surrounding the plane crash which killed dictator General Zia in 1988.

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer was a stunning novel I thought. Only the second Mortimer novel I’ve read, The Pumpkin Eater is novel about the pitfalls of marriage and motherhood, Mortimer’s simple prose is wonderfully immersive, dreamy and intimate.

Pirates at Play by Violet Trefusis – the only Trefusis I have read aside from her letters to Vita. While I didn’t fully engage with the author’s voice in this one, it is a well written, entertaining romantic comedy with a good sense of place.

The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude was my last full read of September chosen simply because I needed a vintage mystery fix – my go to genre when I over tired and struggling. I enjoyed the mystery – not too demanding but just puzzling enough to keep the reader guessing – having changed my mind once or twice I did settle on the correct culprit in the end.

So now it’s October, and I am looking forward to reading more titles for my A Century of Books, but apart from that I have no specific reading plans. My book group will be reading Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – but I read it last year, so I might move straight on to our November read soon instead, Vox by Christina Dalcher, which certainly sounds interesting.

Those of you who love old books and books by women might be interested in The Second Shelf – they are launching soon, and I have pre-ordered their first quarterly. Follow them on Twitter if you’re not already.

This weekend is the annual UK bookcrossing convention in sunny Ipswich, never actually been there before. I shall have the temptation of lots of books I can take away for free. Not to mention catching up with bookish friends, and two nights (with brekkie) in a Premier Inn, that’s a good weekend. Knowing what my tbr is like – I have every intention of being good when it comes to picking up books. 😊 I have seen a few people on Twitter talking about a book called The Lingering – not sure if it’s a me book or not – but the author S J I Holliday is one of the speakers at the event, so I shall make sure I catch her talk.

So, there we are – October is proper autumn isn’t it? – time to light candles and get the slippers out. Happy reading to you all. Tell me, what brilliant things did you read in September?

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