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Posts Tagged ‘The Seven Ages of Women’

the love child - bello

Edith Olivier’s first slight little novel; The Love Child is a wonderful, quirky little fantasy. Part dark hearted fairy-tale, it is a story of an obsession born of loneliness.

Agatha Bodenham has lived a quiet, largely solitary life with her mother. When she is thirty-two her mother dies, and Agatha finds herself alone but for the servants. She remembers the friend and great joy of her childhood – Clarissa. Clarissa her imaginary friend with whom she played and had adventures, but who Agatha had to rid herself of at fourteen when her governess mocked her. Now, with loneliness swamping her, Agatha finds she can summon up the image of Clarissa – just as she was all those years ago.

“She was smaller even than Agatha had imagined her, and she looked young for her age, which must have been ten or eleven. Her hair was brushed off her face and tied back with a brown ribbon, a little darker than the hair, which was dappled like the skin of a fawn. Her face was tiny, very pale, and her eyes were dappled brown like her hair. She wore a short white dress of embroidered cambric, and on her feet were the little red shoes which Agatha knew she had always worn.”

At first Clarissa comes just by night, she remains an insubstantial spirit like wraith – and Agatha is able to play with the child of her imagination as she did in childhood. Clarissa brings Agatha great joy and companionship; she is a secret which Agatha hugs to herself. Yet Clarissa begins to develop more substance, and soon Agatha becomes aware, that sometimes, other people can see her.

Agatha takes Clarissa to Brighton – here among people who don’t know her, Agatha can spend several happy weeks with Clarissa. Homesickness calls Agatha home, and she must come up with a way of explaining the presence of Clarissa. In some panic Agatha rashly describes Clarissa as her own love child.

“ ‘A love-child.’ The phrase had surged up from her inner consciousness, and she spoke it without realising what it implied. It did just express what Clarissa truly was to her – the creation of the love of all her being. It was truth, and in face of truth she knew that no one could take the child away, She had saved her.
But at what a cost! Her position, her name, her character – she had given them all, but Clarissa was hers, with a right which no law could override.”

the love child vmcClarissa doesn’t remain a little girl, soon she is seventeen, and still awkward around other people she finds she is happiest staying close to Agatha. However Kitty the rector’s daughter who is the same age as Clarissa and who Agatha and Clarissa have been obliged to entertain over the years, introduces Clarissa to David. David, Clarissa and Agatha go driving and attend picnics, Agatha must always attend, and David becomes increasingly irritated. Agatha is watchful, jealous and terrified that David may take Clarissa from her. David is a dull young man, Clarissa’s irrepressible spirit draws David like a moth to a candle but Agatha is determined to keep Clarissa for herself. Both wish only to possess Clarissa for themselves. There was a moment which reminded me of Rapunzel as David stands below Agatha’s window calling to Clarissa. Agatha spirals off into obsessive, desperation; Clarissa is all that stands between her and the loneliness she fears.

This novella is an absolute joy, one I had meant to read for ages – there are a lot of books on my shelves like that though. I glanced through the frustratingly short Wikipedia entry for Edith Olivier, and see that until he died in 1919; Edith was fairly dominated by her father. In 1927 (the year this novella was first published) Edith’s younger sister died, and so I suppose it is possible to see elements of Edith in the character of Agatha – at least as she is when the story begins.

Bello books are doing a great job bringing books like The Love Child to a new generation of readers, and I am very happy with my little Bello edition – but of course original green Virago collector that I am – I will keep my eyes peeled for an original VMC edition to add to it.

edith olivier

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the lying days

Some books live unread on our shelves for an inexplicably long time, so that when eventually we pick them up, we wonder what on earth took us so long. That is certainly the case with The Lying Days, both this novel and Nadine Gordimer’s Booker winning The Conservationist have been residing on my to be read shelves for several years. I am very glad though that I started with this one, because it was, as I soon discovered, Gordimer’s first novel. As a first novel it is extraordinary – there is a slow, dreamlike quality to much of the narrative, sections where little happens, and in that perhaps we see the inexperience of a first time novelist. There is however, still so much to admire in this, South African novel of a young woman’s political and emotional emergence into a complex, divided society.

“Statutes and laws and pronouncements may pass over the heads of the people whom they concern, but shame does not need the medium of literacy. Humiliation goes dumbly home – a dog, a child too small to speak can sense it – and it sank right down through all the arid layers of African life in the city and entered the blood even of those who could not understand why they felt and acted as they did, or even knew that they felt or acted.”

Our narrator is Helen Shaw who grows up in the white community that surrounds the Atherton gold mine where her father is secretary. Here within a fairly privileged, sheltered white world – Helen is an only child, cossetted by a mother’s who has never sought to question anything around her. The family have a large, comfortable house, a black servant, Anna looks after the domestic tasks, but she lives outside the house in a small dwelling behind the main house. The family and the other white people associated with the mine, socialise only with one another. Meanwhile the black mine workers have little impact upon the lives of these white people whose very world is designed to come into contact with them as little as possible. For the first seventeen years of her life, this is the only world that Helen knows. Then, Helen is allowed to go and spend the summer with Mrs Koch a family friend on the coast. Here Helen meets Ludi, a soldier on leave, Mrs Koch’s son, is a lot older than Helen, sensual and a little unconventional, he begins to show Helen that there is another world than the one she grew up in.

Back at the mine Helen has to decide whether she will go to the University in Johannesburg. Delaying for a while in the turmoil she brings back with her from the coast, she eventually decides to go, surprising her parents and herself with her sudden decision. At first Helen travels back and forth by train, and it is on the train that she meets Joel Aaron, a young Jewish man around her own age. In her friendship with Joel, Helen begins to see the world as it really is, in her mother’s reaction to her friendship with a Jewish person, the scales begin to fall from her eyes. Other people Helen comes into contact with in Johannesburg further help to shape her new emerging view of the world, Mary, one of just a few black students at the University, comes from a very different world, her living conditions making it increasingly difficult to study.

“We followed Mary’s directions past decent little houses, each as big as a tool shed with a tin chimney throbbing out the life of the house in smoke. In many of them the door was open and a sideboard or a real dining-table in varnished wood showed. Outside their bare walls were ballasted with lean-tos made of beaten-out paraffin tins, home-made verandas like the shoemakers and porches made of boxwood, chicken wire and runner beans. Each had two or three yards of ground in front, fenced with a variety of ingenuity, and inside mealies hung their silk tassels from the pattern of straight stalk and bent leaf. Some grew flowers instead; as it was winter, rings and oblongs of white stones marked out like graves the place where they would come up again. And some grew only children, crawling and huddling in the dust with only eyes looking out of dust.”

township SAConcerned for Mary, Helen suggests that Mary should come to the mine, and be allowed to study in a room on their property, a plan greeted by horror by her parents. Helen decides to move more permanently to the city. Sharing a flat with a young married couple, Helen begins to move within a circle of bohemian dissension. Surrounded by these people Helen begins to grow, her politics and conscience formed by what she sees and hears around her. Here Helen meets Paul, a man actively working for change, and despite her parents’ outrage, sets up home with him. Gordimer explores their relationship with skill, from the first heady days of love, and daily domesticity, to the days when rising tensions begin to impact on their idyll.

Much of the novel – the days of Helen’s rising political awareness – is set to a back drop of the 1949 elections which saw Dr Malan’s Nationalist Party come to power.

“Nothing happened. Of course nothing happened. We wanted a quick shock, over and done with, but what we were going to get was something much slower, surer, and more terrible: an apparent sameness in the conduct of our lives, long periods when there was nothing more to hurt us than words in Parliament and talk of the Republic which we laughed at for years and, recurrently, a mounting number of weary battles – apartheid in public transport and buildings, the ban on mixed marriages, the Suppression of Communism bill, the language ordinance separating Afrikaans and English-speaking children in schools, the removal of coloured voters from the common electoral roll and the setting aside of the Supreme Court judgment that made this act illegal – passionate debated in the Parliament with the United Party and Labour Party forming the Opposition, inevitably lost to the Government before the first protest was spoken.”

Naturally now we can only read this novel in the full knowledge of what occurred in South Africa following this time. Nadine Gordimer chose to stay in South Africa where she continued to write and became very politically active herself. Several of her later novels came to be banned by the Apartheid government. A truly inspirational and fascinating woman – I urge you to read her Wikipedia entry if nothing else, among many awards throughout her career she won the Noble prize for literature in 1991. The awards are easy to understand – her writing is very simply brilliant, and I look forward to reading more.

Nadine Gordimer

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Some books are particularly difficult to talk about coherently because in many ways nothing very much happens. That is in no way ever a criticism from me – because quite simply I prefer books like that. The Happy Tree by Rosalind Murray – Persephone book number 108 – is a glorious example of such books. This is a novel about an idyllic childhood and the slow, sad disappointing years that come after it. The Happy Tree is not however a depressing book, it is somehow more than just the story of a series of griefs and disappointments. Rosalind Murray’s writing lifts it beyond that age old tale of the mistakes that are made when the choices for women are so limited. It is difficult to covey the absolute perfection of this novel, but it is certainly a contender for one of my books of the year.

“And my life up to now comes before me very clearly; the people and the places, and the choices and mistakes, and I seem to see it all in better proportion than before; less clouded and blurred across by the violent emotion of youth.”

The Happy Tree opens with the death of a young man, and told in retrospect by a woman who is slightly astonished to find she is now forty. Our narrator, Helen Woodruffe remembers her childhood with her adored cousins Guy and Hugo in the years before the First World War. We then witness the emotional toll the war takes on Helen, as it necessarily takes or changes the people she loves. Helen grew up spending part of her life in London in the home of her grandmother and part in Yearsly, the country estate of the Laurier family. Here at Yearsly Helen spends her happiest times, basking in the comforting, calm presence of Cousin Delia her husband John and their sons Guy and Hugo. At Yearsly life is easy and relaxed; the three children have the blissful freedom of gardens, tennis courts, meadows and woods in which to play, and their most special place – the Happy Tree.

“This wood was a particular home for us: we played in the trees like birds or squirrels, and built great nests of sticks in which we sat.
We had special trees too – good trees and bad trees, which seemed to us like people. There was one in particular, a very big one, which we called the Happy Tree.”

It is with Hugo that Helen has the strongest bond; she feels she shares a special understanding with Hugo that is unique. First Guy goes away to school, and then a couple of years later Hugo goes away too and Helen sees less of them as they grow up, but when the holidays come around the three come together again at Yearsly. All too quickly however, childhood ends.

the happy treeAs the elder sibling Guy goes to Oxford first, followed in time by Hugo. In these years of early adulthood before the war intrudes, Helen still sees a lot of Guy and Hugo, meeting them and their friends at Oxford. They introduce her to the Addingtons, Mollie and George a brother and sister who it soon seems to Helen she must have always known. These are the people most important to Helen as a young woman, she is (although barely admitting it even to herself) in love with Hugo, but when it appears that Hugo does not return her feelings, Helen drifts into marriage with an Oxford acquaintance of her cousins, Walter Sebright a rather dry academic. Walter’s outlook on life is very different to that of Guy and Hugo, Walter is irritated by Helen’s genteel cousins, he finds their easy way of moving through life at odds with his own hard-working, middle-class upbringing. Walter’s sister Maud is a headmistress of a school, a rather strident, managing woman she has very definite ideas about things and when Walter and Helen announce their engagement she is quick to tell Helen how she must expect to live as a poor professor’s wife. Cousin Delia is as supportive as ever, she seems to sense that Helen isn’t as happy with her choice as she should be, and counsels caution, but overwhelmed by the weight of the decision she has already made Helen goes ahead with her wedding.

“he said
‘It will be better when we are married. Only two weeks more to wait now’
And I knew then that it was bound to come; that I must go through with it; and I did not know whether it was a mistake or not”

War comes to Europe and everything is changed, Helen a young still quite newly married woman, fears for her husband now she is a mother, but Walter is passed as medically unfit for service. Guy, Hugo and many of their friends including George Addington head off to war, while Mollie turns her hand to nursing. Not everyone comes home, and those who do are changed, the world is changed and their special places are altered too. Helen struggles to find her way in this new, brittle, post war world.

“It’s hard for me now when I think of those years at Yearsly to see them clearly and critically at all. It seems to me now that the life we led was a perfect life, as happy and complete as any children could possibly have. I know that is unlikely to have been quite perfect for nothing is; perhaps we were too idle; perhaps we should have been made to work harder and take lessons more seriously, I know Walter thinks we were all spoiled, that the realities of life were not brought before us, and that Guy and Hugo suffered afterwards for this. There may be something in what he says. I don’t know. I only know that it was the happiest part of my life and I believe of theirs too, and that it helped me afterwards, when things were bad and difficult, to look back to those times and live them over again; and as for Guy and Hugo they were and are to me all I could wish for anyone to be, and I cannot wish anything at all different about them.”

Helen is just one of thousands of women, she understands that all too well herself, women whose lives were interrupted by a terrible war, who lost people they loved and married the wrong men. Helen is representative of that generation of women, who find they have aged quicker than they expected, emotionally scarred by the war, and the losses it brought. The past remains the one bright light in Helen’s life, her mind can’t help but return to the days at Yearsly when she Guy and Hugo were young. There is a beautiful, tender poignancy to this novel, by a woman I hadn’t heard of until Persephone re-issued this novel.

Rosalind Murray

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no more than human
My reading for The Seven Ages of Women theme read continues apace, this novel by Irish writer Maura Laverty fitting snuggly into the coming of age section of our list. I think we can all identify with those first stumbling steps of the almost grown, striking out into an uncaring world. Those mistakes, naivetés and youthful passions that wait to trip us up, and show us we’re not so very grown up after all. Maura Laverty understands those pitfalls well, faithfully portraying the path to adulthood that must so quickly be negotiated when one is alone and trying to make a precarious living abroad.

No more Than Human is Maura Laverty’s 1944 sequel to Never no More, which was the wonderfully engaging story of Delia Scully growing up in rural Ireland, living with her adored grandmother. At the conclusion of the previous novel, Delia was on the brink of great change, seventeen and going out into the world alone.

No more than Human, takes up the story of Delia as she arrives in Madrid in 1924 to take up a post as governess. Delia is still very young, not yet eighteen, a head full of dreams, she remains as irrepressible and hot-tempered as ever.

“I had no very well defined plan for the future, but I had a simple and lively belief that my governessing was to be a prelude to something grand and wonderful”

1920madridUpon her arrival in Madrid – dressed Delia firmly believes entirely suitably – the expression on her new employers face tells Delia that she may have made an error. Her coat; rather too small, the satin dress bought for her by her grandmother suddenly seem all wrong. Delia finds she must transform herself into a plain, conventional governess who will fade quietly into the background. Delia’s first employer is Señora Basterra whose disappointment in her new governess becomes quickly apparent. Delia is not quite ready for such a deferential role; the rules of her new world have still to be learnt. Spanish society keeps their governesses firmly in their place, there are few if any hours of freedom, and yet the ex-pat English community had no place for governesses either. Therefore the governesses form a little society all of their own. Delia can’t help but do things in her own way though, she makes friends with servants, goes into kitchens to watch the preparation of Spanish food, declaring the local cuisine to be wonderful, which is not the opinion of all the other non-Spanish governesses, who look with some disapproval on Delia’s enthusiasm.

Delia is given some sensible and sensitive counselling by experienced, middle aged governess Miss Carmody who Delia finds surprisingly sympathetic and who becomes her first and very best friend, despite the disparity in their ages. Miss Carmody is just one of a number of governesses most of them like Delia from Ireland – it seems many Irish Catholic girls were employed by Spanish families at this time – who Delia meets soon after coming to Madrid. The stories of these governesses are quite wonderful in themselves, in that they seem to tell the true unromantic story of such women, stories of unhappiness, loneliness and bitterness.

It isn’t too long before Delia falls foul of the rigidity of her new employment, quite by accident, and with the help of a scarlet bathing costume, Delia gains herself a reputation for being ‘fast’. Delia is dismissed from her job, and acting on advice received from her friends, she decides to strike out on her own. Delia decides to become a “professora,” in Madrid, a free-lance tutor and chaperone, many of the good positions are already filled, and Delia struggles to cope, existing on two small meals a day she watches the weight drop off her. Delia lives in a boarding house, where she makes friends with La Serena – an elderly servant who shows Delia great kindness, and who can’t but help remind Delia of her beloved grandmother.

Not all of Delia’s friends were women however, and Delia falls in love with an entirely unsuitable man, before meeting up again with a young Hungarian who does seem more suitable. All the time she is away, Delia keeps up an affectionate correspondence with Michael, a man from home, someone she met quite briefly but who had never forgotten her. Michael – helps Delia to find magazines who will publish her poems and stories, earning her a small amount of much needed extra money.

While struggling to make ends meet, especially over the difficult summer months when all her potential clients leave Madrid, Delia becomes determined to qualify herself for office work. She is told, in no uncertain terms, that this is a very difficult, nigh on impossible, transition to make. Yet with the help of a friend in the same boarding house, and due diligence in teaching herself shorthand and typing, Delia eventually secures herself a temporary position in an office.

“The sight of the Basque peasants wakened little stirrings in me and a hundred times a day I found myself thinking of how the gorse would be scattering its golden sovereigns at home, and how the banks on the Monasterevan road would be cream splashed with primroses. At the thought of primroses my fingers would feel the sweet coolness of delving deep in the moss and leaves for the little darning wool stems of downy pink”

Yet the pull towards Ireland is never far away, memories of her life with her grandmother, the people of the rural community she always felt at home with always in the back of Delia’s mind.
In writing No More than Human, Maura Laverty used many of her own experiences, and it is these experiences no doubt, that give the novel such a feeling of truth. Delia is a warm and engaging character, her voice so wonderfully distinct.

Both Never no More and No more than Human are delightful novels, I probably liked the first novel slightly more, the setting and the characters are so delightfully engaging, but No More than Human superbly depicts the reality of the work of governesses in the 1920s, and it was so nice to meet up again with Delia.

mauralaverty

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anepisodeofsparrows

I have seen An Episode of Sparrows referred to as a young adult or even a children’s book, although Wikipedia lists it in amongst Rumer Godden’s adult novels, and having read it I think it fits there more comfortably. To me it certainly doesn’t read as a children’s book (although nothing in the content would preclude a child reading it) but more, as a book for adults about children. As such it was chosen by the Librarything Virago group as one of the books for the childhood section of the Seven Ages of Women theme read. Rumer Godden’s depiction of children and childhood is particularly good as I have found in other novels by her. She understands acutely the heartbreaks and frustrations of children, how so often adults misunderstand them, and let them down.

Set in London sometime after the Second World War, among the street children who run up and down the grim, unloveliness of Catford Street, An Episode of Sparrows shows poignantly the simple joy that a garden can bring. At the end of Catford Street, is a gracious London square, a square of houses of an altogether different kind, they have a very pleasant garden, a gardener and a gardening committee. Catford Street is a place where nothing very much ever grows, the children there are small and scrawny, running wild, gathering in gangs in the bomb damaged ruins that still litter the street. Living in a large old house in the square are middle-aged sisters Angela and Olivia Chesney, Angela is the youngest by about a decade, but it is to her that Olivia, and the garden committee –among others – defer. Olivia likes to stand at the window in the old school room at the top of the house, watching, from there she can see Catford Street and the children that run up and down. Angela is a committee woman, a woman of a blinkered, narrow view of the world, domineering and cold. Her elder sister watches quietly and with understanding.

“The room still smelled of her mother; when Lovejoy burrowed her face against that spot on the armchair, instead of hard plush she seemed to be burrowing against the warm soft flesh she knew so well, that smelled of scent…gone a little stale, thought Lovejoy, of scent and powder and perspiration – Cassie had taught Lovejoy never to say sweat – of clothes and the warm elastic of stays, of cigarette smoke and drink; it was not altogether a pleasant smell, but it was the smell of Lovejoy’s babyhood, of her kitten-dance time, when she had been sweet and the word was safe.”

Lovejoy Mason is a tough little nut, a child more ridiculously named it is hard to imagine, as there is little love or joy in her life. She lives with Mrs Combie and her husband, with whom Lovejoy’s mother lodges when she is home – which she seldom is. Some kind of performer, Mrs Mason is an infrequent visitor who pays Mrs Crombie to look after Lovejoy, and Lovejoy treasures her small stack of postcards, and hopes her mother will realise that the clothes she treasures and cares for so fastidiously are getting too small. Mrs Crombie is a good soul, but finding life hard, money is very tight, her husband, George runs a restaurant called Vincent’s where he cooks food gastronomically superior to the local demand, clinging to the dream of being discovered by who he considers the ‘real people’ – i.e. society people. Cassie, Mrs Crombie sister is happy to show Lovejoy how much she disapproves of her and her mother, never letting a chance to snipe pass her by.

Tip Malone, is the head of the biggest gang of boys, a being so glamourous that five year old Sparky can only sit on his doorstep wrapped in newspaper (to keep out the cold) and dream of speaking to. Sparky wants desperately to be allowed to join the gang, and yet as everyone keeps telling him – he isn’t even six yet. Sparky is a small sickly child, he adores Tip Malone, and passionately hates Lovejoy Mason.

When a packet of cornflower seeds fall into Lovejoy’s hands it fuels an obsession. Lovejoy wants a garden, and from that moment pours all her energy into making one among the bomb damaged ruins and squalor. Concerned that the quality of earth is not going to be good enough for her precious seeds to grow, what Lovejoy needs is some good garden earth – as stated on the seed packet, but where can she get such earth? When your clothes are already too small, and you have nothing, the cost of a packet of seeds, a small trowel or a box of pansies is an impossible sum to raise. Continually frustrated in her small, determined efforts, Lovejoy receives some unexpected help from Tip Malone and young Sparky.

“The packet had said that the seeds would come up, Mr Isbister had said that too; when Lovejoy had planted them she supposed she had believed it, but it had been more hope than belief. Now, on the patch of earth under the net, had come a film of green; when she bent down and looked closely, she could see that it was made of countless little stalks as fine as hairs, some so fine that she could scarcely see their colour, others vividly showing their new green. They’re blades, thought Lovejoy, blades of grass!”

There are several unexpectedly poignant moments in this novel; yes I did actually have tears in my eyes once or twice. It is actually very hard to convey the loveliness of this novel, the children exist in a difficult world, the people of the square live by different rules, which the sparrows of Catford Street fall foul of. Dreams and hearts are broken and then made better again before this story ends, of which, I loved every word.

rumergodden

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My friend fickle

books2The year has got off to a fairly slow start for me in the reading stakes; last night I finished my fourth book of the year with the feeling that I have been reading quite slowly, although with great enjoyment, of those four books, two have been stand out five star reads, which at least bodes well as a start.

The long dark nights, post-Christmas/back to work grumps have seen me watching quite a bit TV– and struggling to motivate myself to get down to blogging. The last couple of reviews I wrote were quite simply a mammoth effort – so please bear with me while I sort my woolly head out.

nightwoodsThe #TBR20 challenge has really brought out the fickle reader in me. There I was all set to read mainly out of the pile – when I realised I wanted to read almost everything that wasn’t in the pile. As readers, I think we can be a pretty fickle bunch, one minute we want to read one sort of book, with just moments later our eyes travel to something entirely different on the book case, while our hand hovers ominously close to the buy button on various online booksellers. As I finished The Small Widow, which I had enjoyed so very much, I decided to read something rather different to it, partly to provide a good contrast and partly because I have had it over a year and it was given to me by a friend. So I sat down to read Nightwoods by Charles Frazier published in 2011. I loved Cold Mountain when I read it years ago, the images stayed with me for years after I finished the book, helped in part perhaps by the excellent film that was made of it, but – while, I didn’t, not enjoy it – I was a little underwhelmed by  Frazier’s second novel, Thirteen Moons, and remember virtually nothing of it. I wonder if that was just a case of a novel too long anticipated, I really can’t remember. I’ll review Nightwoods in a day or two – sleepy, woolly, cold threatening brain permitting, but I certainly enjoyed it more than Thirteen Moons. However, my old friend fickle rose its ugly head half way through and I began to want to read something else, I’m glad I persevered though; the writing is really very good, and it did provide a good contrast to other things I have been reading.

The Seven Ages of Women list is calling to me, and I fully intended to read No More than Human by Maura Laverty, which is handily on The Seven Ages of Women list and in my #TBR20 pile too, but I hadn’t reckoned on my old friend fickle. Discussions on the Librarything Virago group made me want to read a book from the childhood section of our lovely list. So that is why I am stepping momentarily away from my official #TBR20 pile to get started on the challenge with An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden from the childhood section of the list. Rumer Godden does childhood so well, that it feels like a perfect place to start – NB it is a Virago title but I have a nice old Pan books edition with a nice jolly cover.anepisodeofsparrows

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It wouldn’t be the New Year without a few reading challenges doing the rounds, and I am embarking upon three!

theforsytesaga1Forsytesaga2theforsytesaga3The nine novels of The Forsyte Saga Chronicles is the first, Liz, Karen and I and possibly one or two others are doing this – there isn’t a hard and fast timetable, broadly one volume of three novels every four months. I have talked about this read-a-long before, and can now report that having finished the first novel and the interlude which comes after it – I am hooked. My first Forsyte review will be up in a day in a day or two.

 

 

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The second challenge is another Librarything Virago group read, the Virago group have had some superb year-long challenges in the past – and this is another! The Seven Ages of Women; books concerned with; childhood, coming of age, independence, marriage and relationships, motherhood, self-discovery and old age of women. I have created a new page on this blog, mainly for my own use, but you can find the wonderful list of books that have been chosenhere. The books on the list are mainly Virago or Persephone editions – unsurprisingly we are a Virago readers group, and there are some simply fantastic titles on the list.

The final challenge is one I am in great need of; #TBR20 was started by Eva Stalker over on Twitter. Basically you pledge to read twenty books from your tbr before buying another book. I have no intention of just reading the twenty books in my pile and nothing else – so I am hoping that by the time I have got to the bottom of my #TBR20 pile – I will have made a much bigger hole in my enormous tbr. Many of the books in my pile are ones I want to read soon, but generally I gathered a fairly random pile together without thinking too much about it. Another great thing about #TBR20 is you can join at any time, it doesn’t have to be January the 1st. Some people are already a few books into their piles, while I am reading my first, because I didn’t add the Forsyte Saga to the pile.
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