A Design for my Reading Life, an A to Z and some Good News

When my road through life came to a major health bump and I realised that I couldn’t go on writing here, maybe for a while and maybe for ever, that changed me as a reader.

At first I avoided books that I would really want to share with others. That worked for a while, but in time I realised that I wasn’t reading my best books and that it was time that I did.

And so, from the first day of this year, I resolved to focus on my own books and a few carefully chosen library books, and to read the books I most wanted to read and re-read.

I started with Dorothy Whipple, and my resolution is working beautifully.

I wished that I had the time and energy to write about many of the books that I’ve read this year, but I knew that I didn’t.

Four and a bit months into the year I am doing the next best thing. I am celebrating some of those lovely books – and some other things – in an A to Z.

A is for AMBERWELL by D E Stevenson. I was so taken with this Scottish family saga that I did something that I never, ever do – I picked up the sequel as soon as I finished this book.

B is for BRIOCHE STITCH. I haven’t felt like doing the kind of knitting where I have to watch carefully and keep checking the instruction, and so I have been knitting scarves with easily memorised stitch patterns, to give me something that I could pick up when the mood struck. It occured to me that a scarf would be a good way to finally learn brioche stitch, and I have finally done it.

C is for COMING HOME by Rosamunde Pilcher. I bought this for my mother when it was published. She loved it, I borrowed it as soon as I could and I loved it too. Now I have inherited me mother’s copy and I decided that a re-read was overdue. It was wonderful and I flew through the book, having a lovely time spotting local places with changed names, and was sorry when it was over. It’s the kind of story I can easily believe happened nearby some years ago and, though the ending was all that an ending should be, I do wish I could know what happened next,

D is for DARK, SALT, CLEAR by Lamorna Ash. This outsider’s account of the fishing community of Newlyn, my father’s home town, is a book that I can warmly recommend. It isn’t quite perfect – it gives the impression that there isn’t more to the town than fishing and it understandably steers clear of some of the local politics – but the insight, the spirit and the writing are wonderful.

E is for ELISABETH INGLIS-JONES. Her book ‘Crumbling Pageant’ was reissued by Honno a few years ago, it spent a long time on my wish-list, until the end of last year when my lovely Virago Secret Santa sent me a copy. It was as good as I had hoped, the story of a woman’s blind devotion to a once grand house and its consequences, and I warmly recommend it to anyone who likes long Victorian and Edwardian novels.

F is for THE FOOLISH GENTLEWOMAN. Now that nearly all of her books are back out in the world I had hoped to revive Margery Sharp day on her 25th January birthday. It wasn’t to be, but I did read this book, I found much to love, and I think that it would be a good first book for anyone who hasn’t read any of her work yet.

G is for GATEPOST. Although the town is quieter than it usually is in May and fewer people walk on our side of the road now that the promenade has reopened, we reintroduced the box of free books on the gatepost over the Bank Holiday weekend. For a few hours all of the books stayed in their box but after that a steady stream of disappearances began.

H is for HOUSE OF TRELAWNEY. I really enjoyed Hannah Rothschild’s first novel, but I wasn’t sure that this second novel, set in a crumbling Cornish castle and the City of London would be as good. I picked it up thinking ‘read or ditch’ and found myself loving it. It was brash, it was unbelievable, but clever plotting, clear characterisation and great storytelling really made it work.

I is for INTERFACE. Please add me to the long list of people who are unhappy with the way that WordPress hid away the classic editor and tried to impose the block editor. I can see that blocks might suit some people but they don’t suit me and I am very relieved that I was able to recover the classic editor.

J is for THE JEWEL. I have admired earlier novels by Catherine Czerkawska, and so I picked up this book about Jean Armour, the wife of Robert Burns, curious to know more about her. It was an engaging and beautifully written novel, clearly well underpinned by research, and it felt truly biographical.

K is for KNITTING. When the Man of the House said he could do with another lightweight hat I put my brioche Stitch scarf aside to knit him one. I adapted the pattern to suit his personal preferences and to make the crown more interesting, that gave me a design idea for another hat, and that is what I am knitting now.

L is for LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE by Maeve Binchy. Many years ago, when I received my first university grant cheque, I had a little spending spree in W H Smith. I bought ‘High Land, Hard Rain’ by Aztec Camera, ‘Songs to Remember’ by Scritti Politti and this book. The music is still familiar but I had forgotten much about the book, remembering only that it was a story of friendship and family and I liked it more than enough to want to keep it. My re-read told me that what I remembered was correct, that it was wonderfully engaging, that it was grittier and less cosy than I recalled, and that I had been wise to hang on to my copy for all these years.

M is for A MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE. There is a bookcase to the left of the door of our library room (formerly the back bedroom) that faces inwards, and so the books there don’t catch the eye as much as others. I took a careful look at it a while ago, thought that I hadn’t read anything by Francis Brett Young for ages, and so I picked up ‘A Man About the House’. It tells the story of two sisters left in straitened circumstances who unexpectedly inherit a house in Italy, and it comes complete with a remarkable butler. The author is wonderfully reliable when it comes to storytelling, houses and characters, and my only disappointment was this book was that there were times when the psychology went adrift so that the plot could sail on.

N is for THE NEW HOUSE by Lettice Cooper. That this book has been published by Virago and Persephone is a sign of its quality, and I found much to love and much to admire. It tells the story of a family forced by changing times to move to a smaller home, and the characters, the relationships and the background are so very well done that it speaks both engagingly and profoundly.

O is for OUTSIDE. The combination of the virus and my treatment meant that I was very wary of going out, but I made a point of walking in places where I knew I could keep my distance every day to help my physical and mental health. It has helped, I have noticed and appreciated things I might have taken for granted before, and I have taken photographs of many of them.

P is for PERSEPHONE BOOKS I hadn’t been into the town centre for more than a year, but when the Man of the House told me that there were Persephone books in the window of a new antique shop not very far into town I knew that the time had come. There was a lovely array of books and I came home with three Persephones, one Virago Modern Classic, three numbered Penguins and one Nonsuch Classic.

Q is for THE STRANGLED QUEEN by Maurice Druon. This is the second of a series of seven books set in 14th century France. The first book was wide-ranging, straightforwardly written and very readable; and so, as the library has the whole series in stock, I placed my order and the Man of the House picked this one up on his last visit to our local library’s click and collect.

R is for ROSEMARY HAWLEY JARAMAN. I read ‘Crown in Candlelight’, a novel spun around the story of Katherine of Valois, and considering French, English and Welsh history. It was both evocative and engaging, it covered a period I haven’t encountered often in fiction, and I am looking forward to reading her other books.

S is for SOUNDS. I am listening to – and loving – Piano Flow with Lianne La Havas on BBC Sounds.

T is for THE TELLING by Jo Baker. This book had been sitting on a shelf for ages before I finally decided its time had come. It tells the story of a troubled woman who has come to clear the house where her late mother intended to live and the story of another woman who lived in that house many years earlier and was drawn into the chartist cause. The writing was lovely, the movement and the links between the two periods were very well handled; I loved the history I hadn’t encountered in a novel before and was only disappointed by some lack of clarity in the contemporary story.

U is for ALISON UTTLEY. I loved her book ‘A Traveller in Time’ as a child and on re-reading I found that I still loved it as an adult. It is the story of a sensitive child staying with relations in the country who finds herself drawn back into their house’s past, where she will meet the perpetrators of the Babington plot. The time travel feels quite natural, the descriptive prose is richly evocative, and the story is both engaging and haunting.

V is for VIOLA DACE – one of a wonderful cast of characters that made Barbara Pym’s ‘No Fond Return of Love’ a joy to read.

W is for WARTIME. ‘The House Opposite’ by Barbara Noble is one of the best – and maybe the very best – fictional recreations of wartime London that I have read. It tells the stories of a young woman and a boy who will soon be an adult. In time, while they fire-watch together, they form a friendship. Lives go on, even when the world is at war, and the author portrays those lives being lived with such clarity and immediacy.

X is for (E)XHIBITION. I am delighted that the Penlee House Gallery will be opening with an exhibition titled ‘Laura Knight: A Celebration’ and I have already booked our timeslot.

Y is for YOUNG ANNE. This is Dorothy Whipple’s first novel, said to be in part autobiographical, and it follows Anne from childhood into young womanhood. The writing feels wonderfully natural, there were times when I wanted to encourage Anne forwards and there were times when I wanted to pull her back, and that made me realise that while the book was completely of its time everything was so right and so real that it felt relevant and alive for the present day.

Z is for ZZZZZZZZ ……… well it is getting late.

This is getting rather long but I must just mention two five-star books that I couldn’t fit into the alphabet – ‘The Snow-Queen’ by Stella Gibbons and ‘Small Pleasures’ by Clare Chambers.

* * * * * * *

And so to the good news.

I seem to be finding my way around that health bump in the road. That journey isn’t over yet but I think that the worst if it is behind me, and that I can find my way back to a level path.

I am still here.


An A to Z to pick up the threads

I have been elusive – if not downright absent – for quite some time.

The world is still stange and uncertain, I have been travelling on a bumpy road, and a very big bump knocked me for six.

It was a health bump.

My prognosis is very good but the next few months are going to be tough.

I really don’t want to dwell on that but felt that I should explain, and say please understand that I may not be out and about in this online world very much at all.

What I do want to do is share some of the lovely things in the world right now – with just a few not so lovely things for balance – in the form of an A to Z ….

A is for ANTOINE LAURAIN. I am waiting patiently in the library queue for a copy of ‘The Reader’s Room’ and I must praise my library for balancing the need for precautions with its duty to put books into the hand of readers.


B is for BEWILDERING CARES by Winifred Peck. After loving one of her out-of-print titles, I think I am going to read this in-print novel next.

C is for CASTAWAYS. Desert Island Discs has had a particularly good run of episodes lately, with Bernadine Evaristo, Yusuf, Samantha Morton and Floella Benjamin.

D is for DEBORAH CROMBIE. I rarely read books by the same author back-to-back, but when I finished reading ‘To Dwell in Darkness’ I couldn’t resist picking up ‘Garden of Lamentations’ and it won’t be long until I pick up ‘A Bitter Feast’. Then I shall be completely up-to-date with the series for the first time.


E is for ELORIE. This is my knitting in progress. I have knitted from the top down to the bottom of the yoke and I am feeling virtuous knitting yarn that has been waiting for the right project for a very long time.

F is for FIFTEEN (NEARLY). My lovely Briar will be celebrating her birthday next weekend.

G is for GET GARTER.. I knitted the beanie for the Man of the House and I would like to knit the beret for myself one day. I love the way the German short rows disappear into the garter stitch and the pattern you see on the crown with a varieagated yarn.

H is for HELENE SCHJERFBECK. When I caught sight of one of her paintings I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been a lovely cover painting for a green Virago Modern Classic.


I is for I TRY NOT TO COMPLAIN TOO MUCH ABOUT VISITORS because a great many of them are lovely and I know that the local economy depends on them, but it seemed that this year a full season of the kind of visitors who forget that rules of the road and good manners apply here came in just a few short weeks and took over the town.

J is for JOHN HOWARD. A lovely addition to my life’s soundtrack – I have been listeing to the reissued albums from the seventies and his more recent material.

K is for THE KILLING. I always was a late adopter and I have reached episode 19 of 20. I am hooked but I am not sure that when I read the end and look back the psychology of some of the characters is quite right. I can’t see a way of resolving everything, but maybe ….


L is for LUMINOUS ISLE by Eliot Bliss. The writing is lovely, what she has to say is wonderful, but this book lacks the clarity her only other published novel ‘Saraband’.

M is for MATCHA TEA. I have never been a tea drinker but I have just given up caffeine and I thought I would try the single sachet that came from I -don’t know-where. I loved it!

N is for NICCOLÓ RISING. I have set off on my second series of books by Dorothy Dunnett and I am loving it.

O is for THE OTHER BENNET SISTER by Janice Hadlow. This is my next library book to read, because I have been waiting for it for a very long time, and because I know somebody else is waiting for it.

P is for PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke. I loved it bit I have no idea what to say about it.

Q is for QUEST ENSEMBLE – another recent addition to my life’s soundtrack


R is for RHODODENDRON PIE. I couldn’t be happier that this and other rare early Margery Sharp novels are to be reissued early next year.

S is for SECRET SANTA. This year’s LibraryThing Virago Secret Santa is open for business.

T is for TELL US OF BATTLES, KINGS AND ELEPHANTS by Matthias Énard. I had thought that my next journey to the Ottoman Empire would by in the company of Dorothy Dunnett, but no. This book has transported me there, in the company of Michelangelo.

U is for UPSTAIRS, We still have books in boxes but our shelves are being built and it shouldn’t be long now until they are installed.


V is for VOYAGING OUT: British Women Artists from Suffrage to the Sixties by Carolyn Trant. Darlene wrote about it, I asked my library to buy a copy, and they did!

W is for WALKING ON THE WALL. The promenade is still fenced off but work is nearly complete, so I hope it won’t be too long before Briar can walk on the wall again.

X is for EX LIBRIS: Confessions of a Common Reader by Ann Fadiman. We don’t often read the same books, but the Man of the House picked up my copy and he is very taken with it.

Y is for YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF. As our local charity shops don’t want books at the moment we have been putting out cast-offs in a box on the gate-post at the weekend when the weather was good. They were picked up at a steady rate and I think we will do it again next summer.

Z is for ZULEIKHA by Guzel Yakhina. This was an impluse purchase, and it looks very promising ….

The First A to Z of the Year …

How are you coping, in this changed, strange and uncertain world?

We are all fine, but anxiety got the better of me for a while and I have struggled to read, write or interact.

I’m learning to live with the uncertainty, the restrictions and the changes; and finally finding a book that made me care about the character and want to know how their lives would unfold really helped.

One day very soon I will start talking about books again, but before that here is an A to Z to pick up the threads ….

A is for ALDERMAN. My most recent piece of knitting has a simple shape, elevated by a simple but effective stitch pattern.

B is for Business as Usual

B is for BUSINESS AS USUAL by Jane Oliver and Jane Stafford. It is lovely to finally have a copy to keep and to have given back the old library copy from the fiction reserve.

C is for CLARA AMEDROZ. She is the heroine of ‘Belton Park’ by Anthony Trollope, the first novel that really engaged me after a long spell of picking up books and putting them down again.

D is for DOROTHY DUNNETT. My copy of ‘Niccolò Rising’ is on by bedside table, waiting for exactly the right moment to start reading.

E is for THE EIGHTH LIFE by Nino Haratischvili. I checked my library catalogue but there was no sign of a copy in stock or on order, and so I decided that I had to buy a copy.

F is for FINALLY FINDING A USE FOR A SINGLE SKEIN – The pattern Waterlands uses two contrast colours but I am using one lovely varieagated skein and really like the effect.

F is for Finally Finding …

G is for GULL. The limping seagull who visited our garden last year and the year before is back again.

H is for HONNO CLASSICS – I was delighted to find a copy of ‘My Mother’s House’ by Lily Tobias on my last visit to the library before lock-down,

I is for I KNOW THAT WE ARE LUCKY to have a view of Mounts Bay and good lovely places to walk close to home, but the thing I miss more than anything else right now is being able to go further afield, to Red River, to Hayle Towans, to Madron Carn, to Chapel Carn Brea …

J is for JUST ONE LOOK – I’m just a couple of episodes in on ‘All 4’ and I am intrigued.

M is for Maeve Kerrigan

L is for LESLEY DUNCAN. I looked her up after seeing her on a BBC singer-songwriters programme and I was disappointed to find very little available online and silly prices being charged. I don’t know what prompted me to look again but I did and I found that two career-spanning compilations has been released.

M is for MAEVE KERRIGAN. Her new investigation, and other developments in Jane Casey’s new book, are making me so eager to keep turning the pages.

N is for NEWLYN – I listened to Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town by Lamorna Ash on Radio 4 , and though I had some reservations by the time the book ended I was captivated – and I really want to read the book.

O is for OFFICE. I’m working full time from home, at the table in our Aga room.

N is for Newlyn

P is for PROMENADE. Resurfacing had to be suspended when lock-down began, the barricades are still up, but we noticed this morning that a small opening had been left so that we can at least go to the rail and look down at the sea. Thank you Cormac!

Q is for QUATUOR EBÉNÈ – a recent addition to my life’s soundtrack.

R is for RENEWALS. I haven’t read a single library book since the library closed and all of my loans were extended for three months.

S is for SCRABBLE. I have had an excellent run, I am currently leading 10-1, but there are still many matches to pay before our in-house tournament is concluded, on the Man of the House’s birthday in August.

V if for Vaughan

T is for TWO SCREENS. My adjustment to working at home has been easier than I thought it might be, but there are times when I look at my laptop and miss my usual two screen set up .

U is for UNPACKING. When I packed up a good number of my books so that our spare bedroom could be refurbished and bookshelves built I didn’t think it would be for very long, but it may be a good while know before the carpenter can begin work.

V is for VAUGHAN. It’s a pattern that I really want to knit but I have to think about colours first; because though I love the designer’s choice I know that it wouldn’t suit me,

W is for WHEN A PROJECT BECOMES A BURDEN. I took down 100 Years of Books project page for a while, because I began to feel that there was nothing I really wanted to read right now that would fill one of the vacant years, but once I had done that I felt much more relaxed about the whole thing and I read a wonderful book to fill the very first year.

Z is for ZZZZ

X is for (E)XHIBITION. Had you noticed that the Paris Museums have made a collection of more than 100,000 artworks freely available online?

Y is for THE YEARS. I read a sample of Annie Ernaux’s book and then I really couldn’t resist buying a copy.

Z is for ZZZZZZ. Briar had a lovely walk around the boating pond this morning, and now she is sound asleep.

The Last A to Z of the year ….

… because I like to do this from time to time, because I’ve been rather distracted lately, and because the time seems right.

A is for ALDERMAN by Georgina Farrell in my current knitting project.

A is for Alderman

B is for BRINGING HOME BOOKS I ALREADY OWN – because I like to help the library statistics of books I love when I have space on my ticket.

C is for THE CLAVERINGS by Anthony Trollope. It started slowly, I was having a lovely time spotting many things that are so typical of Trollope, but now that I am twenty chapters in I am completely engrossed in the human drama.

D is for DOROTHY DUNNETT. I have reached the end of the Lymond Chronicles, and I want to write about the last book this month. Then I can start reading the Niccolo books.

E is for EMERGENCY DASH. Two weeks ago I had to carry Briar to the vet and I thought that I might not be bringing her home again. The vet pinpointed the problem and said that her general health was very good for a dog of her age, and in in a few days she was her usual self again.

F is for Framing

F is for FRAMING. I have had a lovely painting sitting in a broken frame for ages, but now it is been to the framer and it is back on the wall where it belongs.

G is for GOING BACK. I’ve picked up and put down a lot of books over the last few months, and I’ve decided that this month I am going to go back and either finish them or ditch them.

H is for HANDHELD PRESS – I am so pleased that Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford will be reissued next year. I loved it and I really didn’t want to return the library copy that I read.

H is for Handheld Press

I is for ISLE. ‘Luminous Isle’ by Eliot Bliss has been sitting on my bedside table for a very long time. I do want to read it but it never seems to be the right time.

J is for JANE MUIR. I have admired her ceramics in the window of a local gallery for a long time, but I only discovered the name of their creator by chance when I was looking up another artist.

K is for KINGDOMS OF ELFIN by Sylvia Townsend Warner is a volume of short stories that I am reading very slowly, because I really don’t want to turn the last page and have no more stories left.

L is for THE LOST FUTURE OF PEPPERHARROW by Natasha Pulley. I am really looking forward to reading the sequel to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street next year.

J is for Jane Muir

M is for MUDLARKING by Lara Malkem is one of those books that I picked up and then dropped. I loved what I read but it wasn’t the right time for me to do it justice.

N is for NIGHT TRACKS is my favourite thing in the radio at the moment.

O is for ORGANZA BAGS. I brought a couple of packs of them and now my yarn stash is organised and easy to view.

P is for PALLISERS. I was very disappointed in the recent Radio 4 adaptation – there was some strange merging of characters, the modernisation lacked subtlety and it just didn’t work for me.

Q is for QUICKSILVER by Neal Stevenson. I spotted it on a list of best historical novels and I am trying to decide whether or not it is my kind of book.

M is for Mudlarking

R is for ROSA by Margery Sharp. A work email, from our shipping agents referring to Mexico’s Revolution Day, reminded me of this book and I ordered it in from the library’s fiction reserve to read again,

S is for STONECROP PULLOVER by Andrea Mowry is probably going to be the next thing I knit for myself. I have my main colour and a several possible contract colours.

T is for TIME TO FINISH. I just have half a sleeve to knit and then the Man of the House will have his new sweater. I’ve promised that it will be finished for Christmas – it’s not difficult but I don’t like knitting sleeves in the round and so I have let myself be distracted.

U is for UNDER THE TABLE. That is Briar’s summer retreat, but in the winter she prefers to curl up in her basket.

V is for VIRAGO SECRET SANTA. I have three parcels and I have a very good idea who they came from, but of course I’m not going to say who that is.

X is for (E)xclusion

W is for WOMEN’S PRESS. I spotted a set of four of their books in a charity shop, and it brought back memories of seeing their striped spines and Virago’s green spine together in the Silver Moon Bookshop many years ago.

X is for (E)XCLUSION. There are big fences up to keep people off the Promenade while it is refurbished, and they will be there until next June at the earliest. I miss walking there and Briar doesn’t understand why one of her favourite walks has been closed.

Y is for YONGE. I have ‘The Clever Women of the Family’ by Charlotte Mary Yonge in mind for my 100 Years of Books Project.

Z is for ZAWADSKI – Alice Zawadski has been an interesting recent addition to my life’s soundtrack.

An A to Z looking behind and looking ahead ….

… because I like to do this from time to time, and the time seems right.

A is for ANTONINE LAURAINE, whose new book – Vintage 1954 – will be out in the world tomorrow.

C is for Caldigate
C is for Caldigate

B is for BOWLS. We have two water bowls in the garden – a big one that Briar and bigger birds drink from and a shallow one for little birds and any small animals that might be passing through.

C is for CALDIGATE. After reading all of the Palliser and Barchester books, I felt a little lost among the many other stand-alone books by Anthony Trollope that I have yet to read, but a day or two ago I picked up John Caldigate and started to read.

D is for DUST BATHS. Briar loves watching birds in the garden from her seat in the bay window, but she isn’t entirely happy that the local sparrows have taken to having dust baths in the dip below her window. Too close!

E is for ELLA MAILLART, who wrote The Cruel Way. My copy is a Virago Traveller and it is sitting on my bedside table, because I hope to read it very soon.

F is for Flags

F is for FLAGS. The promenade flags have been up and down several times already this year. We have no idea why.

G is for THE GREEN. I love the design, the possible yarn combinations are intriguing, but do I really want to do that much repetitive knitting?

H is for HOW TO BE INVISIBLE. I knew exactly which book I wanted for my birthday, and the Man of the House picked up my carefully dropped hints.

I is for INDIANA by George Sand. It was a small book sitting on top of my library pile, and when something moved it fell down behind my desk. Rescue will necessitate moving more books, so I hope nobody else places an order for this one for a while.

J is for JUST ONE BOOK. The PBFA was in town last weekend. I admired lots of beautiful books, I noted a few names and titles, and I brought home just one particularly desirable book – the collected letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and David Garnett.

K is for Kingfishers Catch Fire

K is for KINGFISHERS CATCH FIRE by Rumer Godden. I’ve just discovered that I have two copies – a new Virago Modern Classic and an older edition from the 1950s.

L is for LIMPING SEAGULL. When we saw a seagull with a damaged foot in the garden we weren’t confident that he would survive the winter but he did. We’ve seen him picking up twigs and other bits and pieces, drinking from Briar’s water bowl and waiting under the bird feeder that he can’t reach in case any thing drops.

M is for MAURICE GUEST by Henry Handel Richardson is the next book I plan to read from my Virago Modern Classics collection.

N is for NOTEBOOK. A couple of weeks ago I did something that I have been meaning to do for the very long time. I took a new notebook and walked around two three rooms of the Morrab Library noting books I mean to read one day. I’ve covered History, Travel and Art, and I’ll move on to other room when time allows.

O is for ON THE WALL. Briar has been walking along the wall that separates pavement and promenade ever since she was a small puppy.

O is for On the Wall

P is for THE PENGUIN CLASSICS BOOK. There is a very small overlap between what I read and what the Man of the House reads, but when I brought this home from the library we agreed that we had to buy a copy to keep.

Q is for QUIET – soon to be shattered by the Golowan Festival!

R is for ROMILLY CAVAN. Her novel Beyond the Visiting Moon is one of many highly desirable and once elusive books forthcoming from Furrowed Middlebrow.

S is for SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO ASK. I’ve only put in requests for the library to add new books to stock twice, but it has worked both times.

T is for TEA WITH JAM AND BREAD. I’m knitting this for the Man of the House, in blues and greys. The body is complete but I’ve stalled for the moment, because I really don’t enjoy knitting sleeves attached to the body in the round.

W is for Wilding

U is for UP TO THE VERY TOP. Briar has always loved looking down at the world from a high vantage point, and last Sunday she had a lovely view from the top of Madron Carn,

W is for WILDING by Isabella Tree. I had ordered a copy from the library, but when I saw a paperback edition in my local bookshop it was much too beautiful to resist.

X is for (E)XHIBITION. I’m looking forward to seeing Munnings in Cornwall at Penlee House.

Y is for YORK SLOUCH. I ran this up in a couple of evenings. The Man of the House has a had a couple of Noro hats but this is my first. I really must find it and take a photograph.

Z is for ZOE KEATING. Snowmelt was a lovely part of the soundtrack to my life last winter, and I am sure that I will come back to it again when the weather turns colder.

An A to Z to pick up the threads ….

…. because days have flown by at great speed and I have been distracted from the important business of reading and writing about books by professional demands, health niggles and the ongoing demands of living in an house in need of tender loving care.

* * * * * * *

A is for AMIRISU. I don’t do a great deal of summer knitting but I loved this season’s issue and I’d love to knit Summer in Norway one day.

A is for Amirisu

B is for BRONZE. I was very taken with a bronze border terrier by Rosemary Cook. I’ve seen Briar sitting and looking up and me just like that.

C is for CUPIDO COWL. I’ve had this pattern for a while, I thought it would be the perfect pattern to use the yarn that was this year’s subscription gift from Rowan, but I am tempted by a pattern from the 40th anniversary book that would only take a few balls more. I have to resist, because I don’t lack garments but I do lack something to keep my neck warm in cold weather that doesn’t flap about.

D is for DOROTHY DUNNETT. I’ve told myself that I really must write about ‘Queen’s Play’ before I start reading ‘The Disorderly Knights’.

E is for END OF THE CENTURY. The books that are calling me at the moment aren’t falling into empty years in my 100 Years of Books Project, so the end of the century has been put back from the end of this year to sometime next year.

F is for Five Telegrams

F is for FIVE TELEGRAMS BY Anna Meredith and 59 Productions – I was captivated by the sounds and the lights.

G is for G B STERN. When I put ‘Another Part of the Forest’ back on the shelf I just had to pick up ‘Trumpet Voluntary’, her next volume of autobiographical writing.

H is for HONEYCOMB by Khaja Bonet – a lovely recent addition to the soundtrack of my life.

I is for I WISH PEOPLE WOULD REMEMBER TO RETURN LIBRARY BOOKS. It is very dis-spiriting when you look up the book that really out to have arrived by now and find that it is out and was due back a month ago; or when you look for a book, you find that there is one copy in the county and that one is out and was due back last December.

K is for Keeping One Ear Open

J is for JOHN JULIUS NORWICH. I’ve picked up bits and pieces of French history from my reading over the years and I’ve always wanted a book to help me fill in the gaps; a book with substance that’s accessible, and I think that ‘France: A History: from Gaul to de Gaulle’ by John Julius Norwich might be the one.

K is for KEEPING ONE EAR OPEN. Just because she’s asleep you shouldn’t think that Briar isn’t alert!

L is for LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I listened to a dramatisation on Radio 4 Extra, and now I’d love to revisit the book.

M is for MAKE ME A BOX! The Man of the House has followed the Virago Secret Santa with great interest for many years, he decided to do something similar for my birthday and he asked me to do something similar for his next weekend.

O is for Oblomov

N is for THE 1944 CLUB. It’s still some time away, but I am going to recommend reading ‘Cluny Brown’ or ‘Green Dolphin Street’ and tell you that I have a book by Emily Hahn lined up.

O is for ‘OBLOMOV’ by Ivan Goncharov. I like what I’ve read but I’ve drifted away, and that feels strangely appropriate given the nature of the title character.

P is for PRIVATE PASSIONS on Radio 3 is always a joy, when I listen my expectations are always high, but recent programmes with Audrey Niffenegger and Lauren Child surpassed them.

Q is for QUAIL STUDIO. There are some lovely designs in Rowan’s new autumn collection and it has been so helpful to see many of them styled and moving on YouTube, courtesy of Quail Studio. I rather like this cardigan, it has a Cornish name and I could make it from yarn that I already own …

R is for Rosalind Lyons Hudson

R is for ROSALIND LYONS HUDSON. A recent discovery. I’m not sure that I can say I love her art but it does pull me in.

S is for THE SALT PATH: A MEMOIR by Raynor Winn – a wonderful book and it was lovely to hear the author speak at my local Litfest.

T is for TROLLOPE. I have begun reading ‘The Last Chronicle of Barset’ and I am captivated.

U is for UNDERAPPRECIATED LADY AUTHORS. The next two authors in the Birthday Book may not as underappreciated as many on the list but could definitely be appreciated by many more readers – Elizabeth Von Arnim an 31st August and Mary Stewart on 17th September.

U is for Underappreciated Lady Authors

V is for VERY VIRAGO ALL AUGUST. The LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group has ‘All Virago All August’ is rolling along. I can’t do ‘All’ but I’m aiming for ‘Very’. I’ve read one of the newer VMCs by Patricia Highsmith, I have a couple more books from the list lined up, and I sthall endeavour  to write about books by Molly Keane and Winifred Holtby that I read last month.

W is for WAITING IN THE LIBRARY QUEUE. I’ve advanced from 26th to 13th in the list of readers waiting for a copy of ‘The Death of Mrs Westaway’ by Ruth Ware in the last month, so I should have a copy to read in early autumn.

X is for XHIBITION. If you are in Cornwall month you really should visit the ‘Scilly’ Kurt Jackson Foundation in St Just. Local art in a wonderful space, there is a lovely cafe/bookshop just around the corner, and the town car par is free ….

X is for Xhibition

Y is for YASMIN LACEY. A voice that has fitted to my life’s soundtrack this summer quite beautifully.

Z is for ZOE OLDENBOURG. I have been meaning to read ‘The World is Not Enough’ for so long, and at last I am far enough into the book to say that I will finish it this time. It’s ‘like very much’ but it’s not quite ‘love’ …

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Back soon ….

An A to Z of Persephone Books

I’ve been reading Margaret Oliphant, I’m reading Amber Reeves, and I may fit in another books before the Persephone Readathon hosted by Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility draws to a close.

What I lack is time to think and write about them. I might get there in time but, just in case I don’t, I thought I would do what I often do at times like this.

An A to Z …


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A is for AMOURS DE VOYAGE by Arthur Clough. This will probably be the next Persephone book I read, as I need a book from 1858 for my ‘100 Years of Books’ project.

B is for BIANNUALLY. It is always a red-letter day when the latest Persephone Biannually arrives, with articles, short stories, reviews, events, so much to peruse.

C is for COMING SOON.  ‘Despised and Rejected’ by Rose Allatini, ‘Young Anne’ by Dorothy Whipple and ‘Tory Heaven’ by Marghanita Laski will all be published in April.

D is for DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER, one of a select bank of authors to be published by both Virago and Persephone.

E is for EARTH AND HIGH HEAVEN by Gwethalyn Graham. I have an old edition, and it is one of a small collection of books that I chose to sit on top of my Persephone Bookcase.

F is for FRANKIE BARNABY, the young narrator who finds that she has much to learn in ‘Hetty Dorval’ by Ethel Wilson.

G is for GLADYS HUNTINGDON. My copy of ‘Madame Solario’ is sitting on my bedside table, and I hope it won’t be too long before I to find the time read it.

52c9389586e1fe7af9101dfc6839934aH is for HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE by Elizabeth Cambridge was one of the best books that I read last year.

I is for INDIA. I loved following a young woman’s journey to India in ‘The Far Cry’ by Emma Smith.

J is for JACQUELINE MESNIL-AMAR. My kind of generous Virago Secret Santa sent me two Persephone books from my wishlist, and her memoir ‘Maman What Are We Called Now?’ was one of them.

K is for KAY SMALLSHAW, author of ‘How to Run Your Home Without Help. It’s a book I would love to read, to remind me of some of the changes that my grandmother lived through.

L is for LIBRARY.  I read a library copy of ‘The Village’ by Marghanita Laski, I aspire to a Persephone copy, but I have an elderly hardback rescued from a bargain bin for now.

M is for MARINA by Monica Dickens. The heroine’s name was inspired by Tennyson’s poem.

N is for NORAH HOULT, one of many authors to be found in the beautifully curated ‘Persephone Hook of Short Stories.’

O is for OLGA, the irrepressible title character of ‘The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart; one of a handful of very well chosen stories for children in the Persephone list

P is for PAPER. Persephone books are printed on lovely, thick paper.

Q is for QUEEN ELEANOR. She appears in the second of the pair of novellas by Mrs Oliphant that Persephone published a few years ago.

R is for RUTH HOLLAND. Susan Glaspell tells her story in Fidelity, and, if you haven’t already, you really must find a copy and read it.

S is for SUFFRAGE. ‘No Surrender’ by Constance Maud is a passionate account of the suffragette movement written by one who was there. It hit me emotionally, and it taught me a great deal that I hadn’t known.

T is for TIRZAH GARWOOD. The Man of the House bought me her autobiography – ‘Long Live Great Bardfield’ for Christmas. I was so pleased, because I have read so much praise for this book.

U is for UNREAD. My copy of ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ by D.E. Stevenson has been sitting waiting to be read for a long time. The right moment hasn’t come, but I’m sure that it will one day.

V is for VERSE. The first novel in verse that I read was ‘Lettice Delmer’ by Susan Miles. I doubted that such a book could hold me, but I put my trust in Persephone and I found that it was utterly compelling.

W is for WOMAN ABOUT THE HOUSE  from’Tell it to a Stranger’ by Elizabeth Berridge. It’s an odd little story, but it still speaks profoundly.

X is for EXHIBITION.  The Persephone Post offers’ a parallel in pictures to the world of
Persephone Books every weekday.’

Y is for YOU MUST LOOK INSIDE .The dove-grey covers make books look alike, but the endpapers within, chosen to match the period and the style of each one, highlight the differences beautifully. I’ve chosen a few favourites to illustrate this post.

Z is for ZINNIA, the very last flower in the index of ‘Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart.

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Now that there are 125 books in the Persephone list it’s impossible to fit every gem into an A to Z. So please tell me, which books and authors you couldn’t have left out, which are your particular favourites, and which are you most looking forward to reading?

The Last A to Z of the Year

A is for ALAIN-FOURNIER’S LOST ESTATE. It’s a lovely mixture of book, biography and travelogue, and it’s still available on BBC iplayer.

B is for BLACK FOX RUNNING by Brian Carter. This lost classic of nature writing looks wonderful, and  I’m planning to read it very soon.

C is for CINEMA PARADISO. I was sorry to lose LoveFilm, but this is much better for the old films and the foreign films that are much loved in our house.

D is for DUSTY IN MEMPHIS. Not the album, a song by the Dreaming Spires that has been stuck in my head lately.

E is for EXHIBITION. It’s been lovely to see Kristin Vestgard at the Cornwall Contemporary Gallery and Catherine Hyde at the Lighthouse Gallery again.

F is for FRANZISKA. I just have one sleeve to knit and then I’m done.

G is for GLADYS HUNTINGTON. ‘Madame Solario’ is one of the books I’m hoping to read over the Christmas break.

H is for THE HAPPY READER. I’d dropped my subscription, but Annabel convinced me that I should pick it up again.

I is for INCOMING BOOKS. I was restrained for quite some time – until Karen mentioned the Verso Books sale …

J is for JAY GRIFFITHS. I love her opening piece in the Little Toller woodland anthology ‘Arboreal’ and I think I’m going to be looking more of her work.

K is for KNITTING NEEDLES. I realised that I had far too many and that I hadn’t used the long straight ones for quite some time; so I paired them all up and threw them in a charity shop bag.

L is for LESLEY BLANCH. I was delighted when the Man of the House found a copy of ‘On the Wilder Shores of Love in a charity shop and brought it home.

M is for MOTHS – something that every knitter dreads. I’ve lost a cardigan, I’ve saved a jumper, and I’ve ditched a wicker storage chest.

N is for NATASHA KHAN – better known as Bat for Lashes – is a genius, and I have played ‘The Bride’ so much recently.

O is for OCTOBER SUNRISE. This is my simple knitting project of the moments, for times when I want something do do but don’t want to look down at what I’m doing or look at my pattern too much,

P is for PLAYLIST.I love the appearance of my ‘best of the year’ playlist on Spotify. It always reminds me of something lovely that I haven’t heard nearly enough.

Q is for QUEENS’ PLAY. My second Dunnett is well underway, and it’s still love.

R is for ROOF. It’s lovely to be going into the winter with a brand new roof, and not having to worry nearly as much as we did last year when the weather turns stormy.

S is for SARAH EMSLEY, who has just launched a new series – ‘Youth and Experience’ – celebrating ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’.

T is for TIDE TIMES. We can look out of the window, but I need to buy a little yellow book showing tide times and heights for the new year so that we can plan ahead for beach walks and know when the biggest high tides are coming.

U is for UNDER THE GREEENWOOD TREE. The next book in my chronological re-read of Thomas Hardy is ready and waiting.

V is for VASS. I bought a set of Deborah Vass’s cards for my godmother, and I am sure she is going to love them.

W is for WATER. I thought that I’d taken a fairy standard ‘happy dog on a beach’ picture, until I saw the sky reflected in the surface water.

X is for XAN BROOKS. I’ve been disappointed with three of the books listed for the Costa First Novel Award, and I’m hoping that ‘The Clocks in the House All Tell Different Times’ by Xan Brooks will break my bad run.

Y is for YOKED SWEATERS. They seem to be everywhere at the moment, I’ve never knitted one, but maybe it’s time. I’m leaning towards Arboreal, and I’m thinking that I’m reading a book with the same name and maybe that’s a sign.

Z is for ZOE OLDENBOURG. I have been meaning to read ‘The World is Not Enough’ for so long, and I think – I hope – its time has finally come.