…. and I can’t quite believe that it’s August, but it is, and it really is time I looked back and looked forward.
July was a very good reading month for me.
This is what I have read:
John Caldigate by Anthony Trollope – This was the right Trollope for me to pick up to continue my voyage through his stand-alone book. It’s not his best but I still found much to appreciate in this story of a careless young man who turns his life around in the Australian goldfields, only to find himself on trial for bigamy when he thinks his life is settled, back in England.
Mad Puppetstown by Molly Keane – Nobody writes about Irish country houses quite like Molly Keane, who has such knowledge and such love for her subject matter. This wonderful tale of childhood, a departure forced by the threat of violence, and a return when much has changed has become a particular favourite, and it would be a good point of entry for anyone who hasn’t read the author before.
The Easternmost House by Juliet Blaxland – This account of a year in a house near the edge of a crumbling cliff opened out into wonderful stories of the countryside and a way of life that the author clearly loved. I loved what she had to say about so many different things.
The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders – I loved Kate Saunder’s first Laetitia Rodd Mystery I looked out for a second book but it didn’t appear and I had almost given up hope when this book appeared. It was lovely to meet characters I had loved again and to follow a very different case, with echoes of both Dickens and Trollope, and with much to think about.
Under a Dancing Star by Frances Wood – I spotted this in the Guardian summer reading guide, the name of the author rang a bell, and I remembered that I loved her last book. This thirties-set story of Bea, who wanted to be a scientist but whose parents wanted to marry well, started slowly but took off when she was sent to visit family in Italy.
Westwood by Stella Gibbons – I have loved many of Stella Gibbons’ books but I couldn’t love this one. There are lovely details of character and life in wartime London in this story of a young teacher who is drawn into the life of the family playwright she adores, not knowing that she is pursuing one of her friends; but I couldn’t warm to the characters of the story, there were too many tropes that the author has used in other works, and the tone didn’t seem quite right.
The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan – I would have said that this story an eighteenth-century experiment in human isolation that that has unforeseen and disturbing consequences was unbelievable, had I not know that it was inspired by a historical record. I was intrigued, I turned the pages; and I am still thinking about the characters and what their stories told me.
In a Kingdom by the Sea by Sara MacDonald – This is a wonderfully readable contemporary story of a woman who finds herself at a turning point on her life, set in Cornwall, London and Pakistan. I really warmed to her, I found it so easy to empathise with her, and I was swept along by story.
On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming – This account of the uncovering of the past that was hidden to the author’s mother for much of her life has been much lauded, and I can only add to the chorus of praise. I loved the writing, the delicate unraveling of the mystery, the importance given to images, and the love between mothers and daughters.
Miss Carter and the Ifrit by Susan Alice Kerby – I knew this was a fantasy set in World War Two, but I had no idea that I would love the relationship between the two protagonists as much as I did, that the story would be so well thought out, and that I would finish the book bursting with curiosity about what happened next and eager to read anything else that the author wrote.
Last time I wrote about what I was going to read in the month ahead, I only read one out of the nine, and so I thought that I’d better not do that again. I’m not going to do that exactly, but I am going to set out five ideas about what want to read in August.
- I want to read something for All Virago All August. It’s a while since I’ve read anything by Angela Thirkell, the next book in her Barsetshire series I have to read is August Folly, and I think its time might have come.
- I’ve already started a book for Women in Translation Month. Cora Sandel’s Augusta and Jacob is making me think back to Dorothy Richardson’s Miriam Henderson, though it is quite different and a rather more accessible.
- I want to reduce my library borrowings – I haven’t read a single library book all month, I can’t hang on them for ever and I have reservations waiting for me. I think The Horseman by Tim Pears will be first.
- I plan to continue my journey through the Wainwright Prize shortlist. Wilding by Isabella Tree and Time Song by Julia Blackburn are both on my bedside table.
- I m going to start Checkmate – the last book in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. I may not finish before the month is over, I want to take my time, but I know that its time to take my first step in this final adventure.
August could be another very good reading month ….