Posts Tagged ‘november reads’

December is here – crack open the mince pies and the Christmas books! – perhaps. I am feeling quite bah humbug about it all, as I did last year, but I shall try to get myself Christmas motivated over the coming few weeks.  

Now that we are into the final month of the year, I can confirm that it has been the worst reading year that I can ever remember – if we just look at numbers, but I won’t be looking at numbers and stats this year – I don’t think that would make me feel any better. It’s particularly galling because I haven’t been at work for months so theoretically should be reading more – only it hasn’t worked out like that. Anyway, considering some of the months I have had, November wasn’t too bad.  

We often talk about how a physical book can be a big part of the reader’s reading experience, a beautiful clothbound edition, quality paper or French flaps sparking joy in many of us. In November I was reminded how the physical nature of a book can also spoil a reading experience.  I had decided it was time to get some of the Persephone books I received as gifts the last two Christmases read finally, only I wasn’t in the mood for non-fiction, and the two novels I had are huge! A large Persephone book is not that easy to hold because of the thick paper and the double cover. I decided to read The Deepening Stream anyway – and get myself lost in a big book. Within a day my arthritic hands were really playing up – and the only e-book version I could find was a pdf and practically unreadable – so I tried to battle on. I began to lose interest as the pain in my hands got worse. Eventually I had to set it aside and read something on my easier to handle Kindle. When my hands improved, I went back to The Deepening Stream, and enjoyed it much more, though my hands did begin to complain again. My experience of reading that book was not very positive so my relationship with the novel itself was difficult though I am glad I persevered.

So, struggles aside – this is what I read in November.  

Two Thousand Million Man-Power (1937) by Gertrude Trevelyan – Trevelyan has been a brilliant discovery and I confess to buying two more novels by her that have been reissued by small presses. 

Palladian (1946) by Elizabeth Taylor – a re-read for my book group. Getting back to Elizabeth Taylor is always a treat. This is certainly not her best novel, but there are flashes of her brilliance throughout and I very much enjoyed it again. It’s amazing how much you forget and in re-reading you discover different layers and themes.  

The Deepening Stream (1930) Dorothy Canfield Fisher – the Persephone edition is just over 600 pages and frankly felt heavier than that. Luckily, the novel is very readable, the characters are very likeable. The novel provides a fascinating and no doubt horrifyingly accurate glimpse of life in France during WW1 through the eyes of Matey who we first meet as a child.  

Death of a Frightened Editor (1959) by E & M A Radford – e-book sent to me by Dean Street Press ages ago. Written by a writing partnership I hadn’t come across before. It’s the eleventh book in the Doctor Manson series – but I didn’t feel I suffered from not having read any others. Eight people regularly travel together in the first-class carriage of the London to Brighton train. One evening Alexis Mortenson – editor of a scurrilous newspaper dies from poisoning, a poison which acts very rapidly. Suicide is suspected then ruled out, how did the man come to ingest the poison when he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for almost an hour before? This had all the ingredients I enjoy in Golden age style fiction – though I think some of the characterisation was a bit flat with one character speaking in such an annoying way I was thoroughly irritated by him.  

A Sunday in Ville d’Avray (2019) by Dominique Barbéris translated from the French by John Cullen. An extraordinarily atmospheric novella taking place on a Sunday in that period between the end of summer and the start of autumn. Our unnamed narrator travels from her home in the centre of Paris to visit her sister in Ville-d’Avray. During the afternoon the sister reveals the story of an encounter she had years earlier with a man, who we never get to know much about.  

Twelve Nights (2020) by Urs Faes translated from the German by Jamie Lee Searle. My second novella read for Novellas is November. Manfred walks through a snowy landscape, back to the childhood home he hasn’t seen in decades, to hopefully meet again the brother from whom he has been estranged for so long. 

Territory of Light (1978) by Yūko Tsushima translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt. Told in twelve standalone fragments, is the story of an unnamed woman’s first year parenting her daughter alone after separating from her husband. She moves herself and her daughter – who turns three during the story – into a fourth-floor apartment that is filled with light.  My first by the author, but not my last, I am sure.  

The Other Day (1936) – Dorothy Whipple – a recent Persephone acquisition I made using the Persephone voucher Liz had bought me for my birthday in May. A new Whipple – what a treat – which means I have read all the Whipples Persephone have re-issued. This is her childhood memoir – Dorothy was born in 1893 and the book charts some of the highs and lows of her first twelve years. I found it utterly delightful. She was apparently reluctant to write it at all, which is perhaps why we only get those twelve years. Very much the story of a bygone age.  

So that was my November – and as always, I would like to hear about yours. 

On to December and I am currently reading One Pair of Feet (1942) by Monica Dickens for my book group – I first read it donkey’s years ago – and I’m enjoying it all over again. After that I may move on fairly soon to some Christmassy reads. This is something I have done before – but didn’t bother with last year. I have short stories from the British Library women writers, Maigret Christmas stories (never read Maigret before, but have meant to) Laurie Lee’s A Village Christmas and a Christmas mystery from the British Library. I am hoping they will help get me in the Christmas mood. Liz is also doing her Dean Street Press December reading event – and I always have some DSP waiting to be read, so I am hoping to join in with that too.  

Whatever you’re reading in December I hope you have a wonderful month.  

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So, here we are, into the last month of the year – again. I must be getting old because a year doesn’t feel like a year anymore. I have even started thinking about my books of the year list – but that won’t get posted till New Year.

After a pretty terrible reading month in October, November has been much better – thanks in part to #novnov which gave me a great excuse to read several very little books. I feels good to have clocked up a few more reads in November. In fact I think all but two of my reads in November fitted into one challenge or another.

So I read eleven books in November which is less impressive than it sounds when you consider how short some of them were.

I began the month with a delightful book that I was sent by MadamBibliophile In Pious Memory by Margery Sharp (1967) – it is probably not strictly speaking a novella – not having that feel of a novella. However a short novel coming in at around 180 pages – sneaking in under that 200 page limit – it got my #novnov reading off to a fabulous start.

All Gods Children Need Travelling Shoes by Maya Angelou (1986) was my first of three excellent reads for nonfiction November. The fifth volume in her autobiography, this volume takes us to Ghana where Maya and her son spend some time living.

My next nonfiction read was the stunning debut Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh (2021) a book that blends memoir, history and nature writing in a personal and very honest exploration of trauma and healing.

Murder in the Dark by Margaret Atwood (1984) a slim volume of prose poems was my one contribution to this year’s #MARM. It also ticked the #novnov box too by virtue of its size. I am a big Atwood fan – so glad I joined in again this year, albeit with a very slight read.

The Story of Stanley Brent by Elizabeth Berridge (1945) another novella – and one of my favourite reads of the month. Berridge’s depiction of an ordinary man’s life is extraordinary for how she manages to give the reader the feeling of this man’s whole adult life in just eighty pages.

A Peirene Press book I have had ages – probably a couple of years at least – caught my eye. Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda (2011) translated by Adriana Hunter a vivid portrayal of pre Gaddafi Tripoli in the 1960’s – it is a coming of age story narrated by an adolescent boy. Hameda is a Libiyan writer, poet and musician who grew up mainly in France and now lives in Holland.

The Abbess of Crewe by Muriel Spark (1974) was one of the Spark novels I didn’t get around to during the Muriel Spark centenary read-a-long in 2018. Spark is always a good choice when looking for quirky novellas. This one was fascinating, a comic satire of the Watergate Scandal. I need to get back to reading the rest of the Spark novels I missed in 2018. I am actually desperately trying to find the last couple of Polygon Collected Muriel Spark hardbacks – I foolishly didn’t buy them all in 2018. So now I have eighteen out of twenty two shelved, two more tbr, and two more still to find.

On my kindle I read The Man who Died Twice by Richard Osman (2021) over one weekend when I wasn’t very well. The longest book I read this month at something like 400 pages, it didn’t fit any challenges but was a perfect poorly read – fun, undemanding and a page turner.

Next up was Pulitzer prize winning The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (1973) I claim it for #novnov as it just slips into the page limit at 180 pages. In this novel a woman finally comes to an understanding of herself and her past when she returns to her family home of Mount Salus Mississippi – where her father Judge McKelva was a pinnacle of the community. Ten years after her mother’s death the Judge had married again, silly, Fay a woman younger than his daughter. For his daughter Laurel this was a betrayal she could never understand.

Another Kindle read was courtesy of Dean Street Press who sent it as a review copy – The Invisible Host by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning (1930). Set in New Orleans it is a gripping mystery in which eight people are invited to a surprise party at a penthouse. The guests have no idea who their host is – and once they are all assembled they find themselves at the mercy of an anonymous host who intends to murder them all. Published nine years before And There Were None by Agatha Christie it is suggested by some that it was where she got the idea (ooh controversial) – a real entertaining, page turner – but Agatha Christie was a better writer. At a little over 200 pages it doesn’t quite qualify for novellas in November – but it is a quick little read.

My next read also just fails to qualify as a novella – but as it is really a memoir I will claim it for nonfiction November. The last one of her books I had left to read Out of the Red Into the Blue by Barbara Comyns (1960) felt like a massive treat – reading a favourite author always does. It is the story of Barbara’s time living in Spain with her family – at least the story of the beginning of their time there. I am not very objective about my favourite writers, and I just loved this, and read it slowly to make it last.

I have finished the month reading Watson’s Apology by Beryl Bainbridge (1984) which I am enjoying enormously, but as I am only halfway through that can go into December’s round up.

So, on to December – and I have absolutely no plans at all really. I will clearly have several of my November reviews still to write up and post – all in good time. I am going to try and read Maya Angelou’s book six – and I have a book of Christmas mysteries which look very inviting. I would quite like to read at least one of the Persephone books I got last Christmas – but as they are both quite chunky that might have to wait till we break up for Christmas (roll on December 17th!). I do like a Christmas book or two so I may have to look to see if I have anything else that will make me feel rather more Christmassy than I do at the moment.

Tell me what brilliant things have you been reading in November? – and what are your December plans?

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November has whizzed by for me – perhaps because I have been working from home, it has become so hard to tell one day from the next.

November is a month of reading challenges, there are a good number around to join in with – and I did fairly well with #MARM and Novellas in November and even got one in for Nonfiction November. Ten books read – which would have been more if I had stuck to my plan of just reading novellas – but of course I didn’t.

I started the month with the first of three books by Margaret Atwood. Surfacing was a re-read for me, though I remembered nothing about it.  This is a novel about human behaviour, identity, personal and national, grief, loss and memory. I’m convinced that I appreciated this one so much more this time around.

The progress of a Crime by Julian Symons – a fireworks crime story sent to me by the British Library. I read it during the week of Fireworks night. There is little work for the armchair detective to do – but in the atmosphere of the early 1960s the conflict between different generations and its portrayal of police methods The Progress of a Crime paints a vivid picture.

My nod to Non-fiction November came in the shape of Popcorn by Cornelia Otis Skinner – a collection of autobiographical essays from the American actress and writer written during the Second Word War. A really enjoyable collection.

My first of two novellas in translation was A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, a novel that is both heart-rending and brilliantly compelling at the same time. It is a novel about mothers and daughters, family secrets and the nature of belonging.

Turnpike books kindly sent me copies of the two Barbara Comyns books they have brought out. The House of Dolls – a more minor Comyns perhaps but I loved it. The setting is a small boarding house in Kensington, the house is run by Amy Doll – who lives in the basement of the house with her daughter Hetty. Upstairs reside four middle aged or elderly ladies who between them and under the direction of two; Berti and Evelyn have established an eccentric kind of bordello for elderly gentlemen – finding a little prostitution on the side really helps to pay the rent.

My second read for this year’s MARM was Moral Disorder – a collection of linked short stories – which could almost be read as a novel. The stories are of one woman told in non-chronological order the ups and downs of family life – from childhood through to late middle age. Through these stories it feels like Atwood is recounting the stories of a generation – her generation.

MaddAddam is a very different novel to the first two Atwood books I read this month, showing what huge versatility she has as a writer. The third in the trilogy of the same name – its conclusion gave me reason to hope.

I have had A Month in the Country by J L Carr tbr for a ridiculously long time. Novella November provided me with the perfect occasion to read it. It is, of course every bit as lovely as everyone said – review to come.

I read the The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga translated from French by Jordan Stump for Novellas in November but also with #DiverseDecember in Mind (see below) – as I knew I wouldn’t have time to review it in November. I was very aware I had been skirting around this Rwandan novella for ages – having received it as part of the Asymptote book club when I was subscribing to that. There is a privilege in that choice to look away – which I am aware of – so decided to take a deep breath and get reading. It’s a poignant novel certainly, but nothing like as harrowing as I had feared. I hope to revie this later this week.

My second re-read of the month – The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, my book group’s December pick, and it’s been quite a while since I read it so read it again so I could talk about it. I am remined that there are quite a number of Edith Wharton books I haven’t even read for the first time.

So, that was November – a good month all in all.

Yet another reading challenge caught my eye last week. Naomi from The Writes of Womxn is hosting #DiverseDecember – and I probably had intended to read more diversely than I have managed this year so it struck a chord. As Naomi explains…

“#DiverseDecember is a month of reading and recommending books by Black, brown and indigenous writers. It is an opportunity to discover new books, to consider our reading habits and to make a permanent change in what we choose to read.”

Already this year I have encountered some wonderful books that would fit into the category above. Titles like The Vanishing Half, Queenie, Such a Fun Age, Quicksand & Passing, Brown Girl, Brownstones, Celestial Bodies and Dust Tracks on a Road – any of which I would recommend if you’re looking for #DiverseDecember inspiration. So, scanning my shelves (and my kindle) I realised I had quite a pile of really marvellous looking books – and quite a diverse group in themselves.

The problem I shall have is in choosing which to read – as I can’t possibly read them all. Here’s my pile (in addition my kindle contains The Distant Traveller by Attia Hosain, Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo and The Enlightenment of the Greenage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar)

Do you have any recommendations from the pile?

As always I would love to know what you have been reading in November and what if any plans you have for December.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.


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.


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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It’s the first day of December but I’m really not sure where the month went, I don’t feel as if I have had quite enough November yet.

In bookish terms it’s been quite a slow reading month – though I have read an interesting variety of books including two books by the Librarything Virago Group author of the month Margaret Atwood.

Oryx & Crake was the first of those Atwood’s – an incredible work of speculative fiction, which imagines the world as it could be if we don’t watch our step. I’m not sure I had expected to love it as much as I did, now I can’t wait to read the next two books in the MaddAddam series. What a writer Margaret Atwood is!

A bookish Facebook group I’m a member of was having an Angela Thirkell reading week towards the beginning of the month. I chose to read The Headmistress as I had found a fragile old copy of it several months ago while browsing in a second-hand bookshop. My experience of it was a bit mixed – Thirkell is loved by many for her cosy nostalgia – others find her class consciousness – and in this novel attitude to refugees – hard to stomach.

I have managed to dust off a couple of books this month that I have had ages! The first of these Who was Changed and who was Dead by Barbara Comyns is a superbly crafted little novel. A dark, quirky little novel which could also been seen as an allegory, it tells the story of a strange, unhappy family and the peculiar plague which comes to the village just before the First World War.

The second Margaret Atwood book I chose to read was a collection of stories, Wilderness Tips – which tell stories of women and the men in their lives exploring some of the extraordinary choices people make. It really was an excellent collection.

The British Library Crime Classics have produced an incredible array of vintage mysteries for those of us who like to relax with a bit of murder. Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate was a good World War Two mystery, and although I felt it sagged a bit in the middle – it is still very readable – and the solution was particularly ingenious.

Over the Mountains by Pamela Frankau is the third novel in the Clothes of a King’s Son trilogy. Taking us from London to Hollywood, from France to Spain and Portugal it completes the story of the Weston family who we first met in 1926.

I seem to have developed a fondness for trilogies, and having finished Over the Mountains, I was reminded of another trilogy I was overdue in catching up with.An Avenue of Stone is the second book in Pamela Hansford Johnson’s Helena trilogy. I read it on my kindle – which I really don’t use often enough – especially when I consider how many books I have squirrelled away on it. I raced through An Avenue of Stone – such a brilliant book – it’s hard to sum up in just a few worlds. PHJ’s characterisation is simply superb – and in this novel Helena is in her late sixties – a woman altered by time and experience from the one we met in Too Dear for my Possessing the first book in the trilogy. It’s an extraordinary portrait – and makes for surprisingly compelling reading.

Another book I have had for an age The Third Miss Symons by F M Mayor. I read The Rector’s Daughter by Mayor – a couple of years ago. That one is in my opinion a far superior work; this much earlier novella is altogether bleaker.

I have finished the month reading Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson which was loaned to me by Liz. I’ve not had chance to get very far with it yet – but I’m certainly enjoying it so far. I was amazed to see how long ago it was first published. I think I had assumed it to be from the 1930s or 40s – but a quick check revealed it to have been published in 1908. I very quickly had to reassess my idea of the costumes worn by the characters. This is my first experience of Ada Leverson who I had obviously placed in completely the wrong period. Anyway, I’ve read so little of it, it can go on next month’s pile.

December is upon us – and the bed news is that barring miracles or at least being seriously snowed in for four weeks I will (again) not make my Goodreads reading challenge. The only reason I care about numbers is because of the ridiculous numbers of books I have waiting. Oh well – maybe next year?

Sylvia Townsend Warner is the Librarything Virago group author of the month – and I am looking forward to re-reading Lolly Willowes with my very small book group. I may even manage some short stories too.

Other thoughts turn to Christmassy books. I have a couple of tiny little Christmassy books to read that I bought last year and didn’t get around to. Stories by Gogol and Capote, which look charming. I also have a BLCC Christmas mystery Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith which looks excellent and I am considering Winter by Ali Smith too.


As ever please share what you read during November – anything I should know about?

I particularly want to hear about your December reading plans – especially if they are Christmassy themed.

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November has turned out to be a rather good reading month, in purely numerical terms I did well because two or three of the books I read were thin ones. Those of you paying particular attention may notice two books on the list that I haven’t reviewed here. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman I read and reviewed for Shiny New Books – I think the next issue comes out at the end of this week, but I confess I’ve forgotten precisely. Quite a mix of things too; from the brilliant, Company Parade, a slow, thoughtful read but very impressive, to a book celebrating bookshops, Elizabeth Bowen’s second novel, complex and beautifully written for an online discussion group, Edith Wharton’s wartime observations and a sci-fi/dystopian novel for my book group, phew! 11 books in all completed and I’m half way through Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness.

110 The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (2014) Rachel Joyce (F)
111 Company Parade (1934) Storm Jameson (F)
112 The Bookshop Book (2014) Jen Campbell (NF)
113 Fighting Frace (1915) Edith Wharton (NF)
114 The Peculiar life of a Lonely Postman (2014) Denis Thѐriault (F)
115 The Hotel (1927) Elizabeth Bowen (F)
116 Temporary Kings (1973) Anthony Powell (F)
117 Aunt Sass Christmas stories (1941-1944) P L Travers (F)
118 Love in the Sun (1939) Leo Walmsley (F)
119 The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) John Wyndham (F)
120 Parson’s Nine (1932) Noel Streatfield (F)

My stand out reads for the month were:








Company Parade by Storm Jameson, a brilliant novel, a slow read, but I loved this introduction to her writing.
Temporary Kings by Anthony Powell – the 11th book in the Dance to the Music of time sequence, I found it really very compelling.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, was a big surprise to me, really didn’t expect to love it quite as much as I did, hard to put down and gave me lots to think about.
Parson’s Nine by Noel Streatfield – although not frothy or silly, this does fall slightly into the cosy reading category and it kept me company through a busy, tiring week, loved spending time with these characters.

willacather reading week

So on to December – the final month of 2014 – goodness how time does fly.
The start of the month will all be about Willa Cather week, I will start early after I have finished with the brilliant Radclyffe Hall. I am so looking forward to reading a couple of Cather back to back. Still haven’t finally decided which to read, I suppose I will surprise you. Though I am also looking forward to seeing what everyone else decides to read, and what you think. This week on the blog I might be a bit quiet – I’ll see how things go (it’ll depend on work) – but plan on posting a few Cather related things the following week.

After that I will wait to see where my mood takes me. I will naturally be reading the final Anthony Powell, Hearing Secret Harmonies – though later in the month than I usually do. I have a couple of Christmassy books set aside for Christmas week, Nancy Mitford’s Christmas Pudding, and The Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farejeon from the British Library Crime Classics.

As always would love to hear what you all plan on reading, especially if you’ll be reading Willa Cather. Please help spread the Cather word, on your blogs, on Twitter – wherever.

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In purely numerical terms I don’t think I have done very well during November. Only eight books read. I really don’t know why that is and I really don’t know where November has gone either. So then here is what I read.
114 The Haunted Hotel (1879) Wilkie Collins (F)
115 At Break of Day (2013) Elizabeth Speller (F)
116 The Three Miss Kings (1891) Ada Cambridge (F)
117 An Academic Question (1986) Barbara Pym (F)
118 An Interrupted Life: diaries and letters (1981) Etty Hillesum (NF)
119 The First phone call from Heaven (2013) Mitch Albom (F)
120 My Brilliant Career (1901) Miles Franklin (F)
121 Life’s Little Ironies (1894) Thomas Hardy (F)

I have picked just three of November’s reads for special mention this time: Elizabeth Speller’s At Break of Day – her recently published third novel – a wonderful novel of WW1. For those of you who may be joining in with the Great War theme read, At Break of Day would make for a brilliant choice. An Interrupted Life: the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum, an unforgettable Persephone book – which doesn’t always make for easy reading, but Etty’s wonderful spirit comes through so strongly it is somehow never really bleak. Finally, The Three Miss Kings – read for Ausreadingmonth – a novel of Victorian society in Melbourne, thoroughly enjoyable, I am now curious to learn more about the woman behind the novel.

2013-11-09 18.47.50So then it is now December – and I am looking ahead at what I might read. December starts with me wimping out of the Middlemarch read-a-long, which I had intended to do, but realised the other day I was in absolutely the wrong frame of mind. Not entirely sure what I will be reading, though of course I have the final Pym of the yearlong centenary celebration “Civil to Strangers” and as we finish our reading of Pym it seems fitting to read Barbara in the Bodleian – a non-fiction book written by Yvonne Cocking an archivist from the Barbara Pym Society. Other than that I will be indulging in some Christmassy books which I have already talked about. Currently I am reading a wonderful bit of gothic escapism, The Somnambulist by Essie Fox.

What will you all be reading as the year draws to a close?

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So this is what I read in November – some lovely books among them. I actually even managed to read two non-fiction books as well. The last week I have been reading very slowly, which may not bode well for December, and I have quite a pile gathered together for this month, but more of that later.

113. The Two Mrs Abbotts – D E Stevenson (1943)
114. Two on a Tower – Thomas Hardy (1882)
115. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont – Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
116. Shrinking Violet – Karina Lickorish Quinn (2012)
117. Tea by the Nursery Fire – Noel Streatfield (1976)
118. Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)
119. Brief Lives – Anita Brookner (1990)
120. Talking to the dead – Helen Dunmore (1996)
121. Jane Austen selected letters (2004)
122. To Bed with Grand Music – Marghanita Laski (1934)
123 The keeper of secrets – Judith Cutler (2007)

My special mentions for November will have to be :

1 The Two Mrs Abbotts – D E Stevenson, lovely cosy reading the third in the Miss Buncle series.

2 Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont – Elizabeth Taylor – a wonderful novel, deeply poignant.

3 Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins – a remarkable novel re-issued by Persephone books, based upon true events.

4 To bed with Grand Music – another Persephone book, a WW2 story about a woman with a rather different attitude than we often see.

Suddenly then it is the end of the year, Christmas is just around the corner, and I am considering which books will see me through to the end of 2012.  I have got together a fairly serious looking pile, so not sure if I’ll make it through the whole lot – but I will give it a good shot.


On my fairly extensive pile for December are:

(on my kindle) William: the story of an Englishman – Cecily Hamilton

At Mrs Lippincote’s – Elizabeth Taylor

Blaming – Elizabeth Taylor

Thomas Hardy – Thomas and Florence Hardy

Lost and Found – by Tom Winter  (sent to me by Corsair books)

The Starbound Sea – Amber Dermot (sent to me by Corsair books)

Jenny Wren – E H Young

The Easter Parade – Richard Yates (the book I won via the blog hop giveaway)

The Rector and The Doctor’s Family – Margaret Oliphant

Park Life – Katherine D’ Souza

An Inventory of heaven – Jane Feaver  (sent to me by Corsair books)

This is a list I could happily salivate over.  I just hope I get to read them all – I know I am busy this month, not to mention really tired – but at least I have the last ten days of December off work, and may be able to to just curl up and read and read and read.

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107 A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) Thomas Hardy (F)
108 The storm at the Door (2011) Stefan Merrill Block (F)
109 Frost In May (1933) Antonia White (F)
110 Somewhere towards the end (2008) Diana Athill (NF)
111 When the Wind Blows (1949) Cyril Hare (F)
112 Maps for Lost lovers (2004) Nadeem Aslam (F)
113 Minnie’s Room (2002) Mollie Panter Downes (F)
114 Agatha Raisin a spoonful of poison (2008) M C Beaton (F)
115 The Secret Life of Bletchley Park (2010) Sinclair McKay (NF)
116 O Pioneers (1913) Willa Cather (F)

An interesting mix this month – and no less than three re-reads. Surely a sign I am getting old. Special mention should go to:

1 Minnie's Room – Mollie Panter Downes – a delightful collection of short stories about Britain just after WW2

2 The secret Life of Bletchley Park – Sinclair McKay – fascinating book about an extraordinary place and the people who worked there.

3 O Pioneers! – Willa Cather – a beautiful novel highlighting the Pioneer way of life in the American mid west.

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