…. it was going to be the month when I got back to doing a lot more reading and writing about books, and I succeeded on one front but not on the other.
I read more read more this month than I have in a long time, partly because I kept my resolution to drop some minor interests that had been taking up too much time, partly because I had a week when I was too poorly to go to work but well enough to curl up in an armchair with a book, but mainly because I looked more closely at my own books and thought about what I wanted to read and not what I felt I ought to read.
I’ve not written much because first I was curled up in an armchair without the energy to sit up, think and type, and for much of the rest of the month I’ve been playing catch-up and wanting to curl up with a book or a piece of knitting and some music rather than firing up the computer. It’s not that I don’t want to write – I do, and I have lots of things of part written posts and other things I want to write about – but days have been running out without me finding the time, and suddenly the month is over.
February will be different – I think I’m back on an even keel now.
This is the book I didn’t quite finish before the month ended, because it is much too good to rush.
And these are the books that I did finish reading last month.
Some of them I have written about I will write a little more about in the weeks ahead, and some will just be mentioned here.
‘The Wych Elm’ by Tana French is a standalone, and not part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. The crime story was intriguing, but the exploration of what happens when a charmed life is derailed and of coming to terms with the past and with new knowledge about that past is the greater story. I missed the perspective that came from a detective pursuing a case in her other books, I don’t think its her best work, but it was an interesting change in direction, and Tana French a little below par is still top drawer crime writing.
I think that ‘The Call‘ by Edith Ayrton Zangwill might be the best book that I read this month. It is a story of a young woman scientist whose life in changed by Suffragettes and the Great War; wonderfully told by an author who understood that lives and relationships can have many different aspects and that women can be both modern and traditional at the same time. It was lovely to find a new Persephone in the library, but I really don’t want to give it back.
Rebecca West didn’t allow ‘Sunflower’ to be published in her own lifetime because, though the characters are quite different, it draws heavily on her own experiences as her relationship with H G Wells ended and a new relationship with Lord Beaverbrook was beginning. The prose was dense, but it was lovely too and there was a great deal for a careful reader to appreciate.
‘The Skylarks’ War’ by Hilary McKay is a lovely children’s book, that pitches its story of children who build their own family before and during the Great War quite perfectly; and at the centre of the story is the aptly named Clarry, who belongs in the great pantheon of heroines of literature for younger readers.
I picked up a copy of ‘The Spinning Wheel’ by Angela Du Maurier in the Morrab Library . It had no dust jacket, I knew nothing about what was inside simply on the basis of the author’s name. It was an entertaining saga and I loved the heroine, but it not particularly well executed and it stretched credibility in some places – as seems to be the way with Angela’s books.
‘Consequences’ by E M Delafield is the heartfelt and heartbreaking story of a young woman who wasn’t equipped for the life she was expected to lead and couldn’t find another path. Another excellent Persephone book!
‘The Glass Woman’ by Caroline Lea, set in 17th century, was a dark story perfect for cold winter evenings. I thought that it might be a retelling of an old story, but it proved to be an interesting variation with a very engaging heroine.
‘The Flower Girls’ by Alice Clark-Platts is a character driven crime story about two sisters, one in prison, and one who was below the age of criminal responsibility and assumed to have been lead by her evil sibling. The story is sensitively handled, different perspectives are considered and it did most of what it did very well, but at the moment I don’t have a lot to say about it.
I read ‘Harlequin House’ to mark Margery Sharp’s birthday. It’s not the book to start with if you haven’t read her before, but if you have and you like her style I would day that it is Margery in a minor key, that it is full of Margery-isms, and that it’s definitely worth looking out for a copy.
I read something somewhere about Wilkie Collins, and it made me want to re-read ‘The Dead Secret’ – the novel that he set in Cornwall. It’s the book of a developing writer – I could guess what the secret was but that didn’t stop me enjoying the telling of the tale and it was lovely to spot ideas he would develop more in his most famous novels.
‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata is the story of a young Japanese woman who doesn’t find her niche in life until she starts work in a convenience store. The insight, the evocation of the store and the storytelling were quirky, charming and intriguing
I picked up ‘The Ruin’ by Dervla McTiernan, which I think is the first book in series in a new series of crime novels. The story, the psychology and the issues that the story explored were interesting, but there was too much for one book and so it felt rather superficial and disjointed.
‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins was a beautiful book, I loved the concept and the issues that explored, but I felt that the characterisation and the storytelling was rather lacking. It was probably written for a different kind of reader, and I do understand why other readers would love it.
I have loved Dorothy Dunnett’s from the start but the third of the six books – ‘The Disorderly Knights’ – set in Malta and Scotland – made me realise quite how involved with the characters I was, it made me realise how carefully things had been set up in the first two books, it gave me more idea of where the story might be headed, and it left me eager to move straight on to the next book.
I’m calling that a very good month’s reading!
This is the pile of books that I have in mind for next month.
I won’t read them all – I have a couple of library books I must get to, I have some new titles on my Kindle, other books may call, and there aren’t as many reading hours as I’d like in the day – but I wanted to assemble a pile of books that I could turn to whenever I wanted something new or something different to read.
These are the books, and the reasons why they are in the pile:
‘Pawn in Frankincense’ by Dorothy Dunnett – because I have to know what happens next!
‘Belinda’ by Maria Edgworth – because I haven’t read anything from the period for such a long time and there’s a guided read in the LibraryThing Virago group.
‘The Pull of the River’ by Matt Gaw – because I love rivers almost as much as I love the sea.
‘The Brimming Cup’ by Dorothy Canfield – because it picks up the story of Neale and Marise, who I met in the book I read for Dorothy Canfield Fisher Day last February.
‘Orley Park’ by Anthony Trollope – because Cirtnecce mentioned reading this in February and it was on my pile of unread Trollopes.
‘And the Wind Sees All’ by Guđmundur Andri Thorsson – because I want to read at least one translation a month, and because I needed a small book to balance out all of the hefty tomes I was picking up.
‘The Lee Shore’ by Rose Macaulay – because her name has been in the air lately and I wanted to pick up another book I don’t know too much about but picked up because I have faith in the author.
‘Eve in Egypt’ by Stella Tennyson Jesse – because I like the idea of reading about somewhere warm on a cold winter night, and because I like reading books by different members of literary families,
‘The Sing of the Shore’ by Lucy Wood – because she understands the heart and soul of Cornwall, and she is so good at short stories.
I’d planned to write my January in knitting and music too, but I think I’ve been writing for long enough tonight.
I’ll come back to them ….