Posts Tagged ‘november reads’


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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105 The weather in the streets    Rosamond Lehmann  (F)
106 The Mystery of the Blue Train    Agatha Christie (F)
107 A Start in Life    Anita Brookner (F)
108 My Ear to his heart    Hanif Kureishi (NF)
109 Five Boys    Mick Jackson (F)
110 Dancing Backwards    Salley Vickers (F)
111 The Moonstone     Wilkie collins (F)
112 The Tragic Bride    Francis Brett Young (F)
113 Goodnight Mr Holmes    Carole Nelson Douglas (F)

some great books this month. Special mention must go to;

The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins – a re-read of an old favourite.

Five Boys – Mick Jackson, a really good read, despite bad reviews on Amazon,

A start in Life – Anita Brookner – just love Anita Brookner.

The Weather in the Streets – Rosamond Lehmann – fabulous sequal to An Invitation to the waltz

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111 Agatha Raisin and the potted gardener M C Beaton F
112 Agatha Christie an English mystery Laura Thompson NF
113 Two Caravans Marina Lewycka F
114 Paper Lanterns Christine Coleman F
115 Jane Austen: A Life Claire Tomalin N F
116 A Word Child Iris Murdoch F
117 Disgrace J M Coetzee F
118 A long way from Verona Jane Gardam F
119 Embroidered Truths Monica Ferris F

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