Posts Tagged ‘monthly roundup’

August in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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