A Box of Books for 2018

Some people make year-end lists, but I prefer to pack a box of books as each year draws to a close. I have always loved lists – writing them, reading them, studying and analysing them – since I was a child; but I find it more interesting to  approach things a little differently.

I assemble a virtual box of books to remember my reading year. And I stick a virtual post-it note to each book, with my thoughts when I read it, to remind me why that book was in my box.

Some of them will be books that I can say quite objectively were the best books I read, but others are books that spoke to me for particular reasons, and books that do something that no other book in my array if boxes does.

This year’s box has a story set so close to home that I can believe I might have passed the characters in the street, a book by my favorite literary raconteur, a book that introduced me to a marvellous Victorian heroine who was both wonderfully modern and utterly of her time …

I surprised myself by leaving out certain favourite authors, because I know I have books I like as much – or maybe more – in earlier boxes.

I try to finish with a box that holds a cross-section of what I’ve read, so that when I look at a box I know where I was in my life as a reader that year.

Books that I re-read aren’t there, because of course I know I will find them in the boxes of the years when I read them for the first time. And I only allow an author one book a year, because I have to draw a line somewhere.

I have a book in progress that I suspect should go in a box, but as I won’t finish it for a few days it will be a candidate for next year’s box and I can put the lid on this year’s box.

Before I show you what is in my box, there are people I really must thank – authors past and present, publishers, sellers of books both new and used, fellow readers – who have all done their bit to make the contents of my box so very lovely.

And now – here are the books!

* * * * * * *

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Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

‘There were so many wonderful moments, so many perfect details, that I really could feel that I was walking through a world that had a history that had begun long before I arrived and that would go on long after I left. Anthony Trollope made that world spin, he managed all of the characters and stories in that world wonderfully well. He seemed a little less chatty than usual; maybe because there was so much going on.’

Rough-Hewn by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

‘The  story of each life was told quite beautifully, with sensitivity, with intelligence, with empathy, and without one single drop of sentimentality. There is no plot as such, but I was captivated by the unfolding of each life. I noticed that they were told rather differently. Neale’s story was told in a straightforward way, always from his point of view; while Marise’s story was often told through the accounts of people around her. That reflected the different nature of the stories, and while I found Neale’s story easier to read I was more anxious to follow Marise’s story.’

Grania: The Story of an Island by Emily Lawless

‘The pictures of Island life that Emily Lawless draws are wonderfully vivid. She conveys the unforgiving nature of the landscape and the ongoing struggle for poverty that trapped so many of the islanders; she understands the beauty of the island, and the strong sense of identity felt by the islanders. She sees the joys and the sorrows of their lives. Her characterisations are rich and complex, and I can believe that this community existed and that these people lived and breathed.’

Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge

‘That is just the beginning of a wonderfully rich tale of love and adventure in times and places where the world was undergoing great change. I had worried that it would be a tale of a great love lost, but of course in Elizabeth Goudge’s hands it was much more than that: it was a story that illustrated that the journey to grace so often begins by accepting that we may not be able to have what we want most and by finding strength to do what we must.’

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

‘An author who can set a book in a place close to home that I know very well and at a time when I could have been there, when I could have brushed shoulders with one of her characters, and hold me through the whole story without ever doubting that her characters lived and breathed, that the events she writes about happened, is an author I am very glad to have met. It takes more than authenticity to make a good book of course, and this book has much more than that. It has a wonderful understanding of character and relationships and it has an absorbing story where there is always something in the air; something like a great storm at sea moving closer and closer to the Cornish coast ….’

Thank Heaven Fasting by E M Delafield

‘Monica, her family, her friends, and her suitors were all trapped by ridiculous social conventions; and the range of characters and different experiences reinforced that point. Making herself attractive and appealing to men was the sole object of her life; because marriage was the only career opportunity for a woman of her class and anything other than that would constitute failure. Her failure meant that she remained in her mother’s care, she continued to be a child and she never learned to understand her own feelings or make decisions for herself. No woman ever needed to, because she would pass form her parent’s charge to her husband’s!’

Another Part of the Forest by G B Stern

‘G. B. Stern refers to a party she hosted for seventy literary figures, and I would love to know who they were. Maybe Somerset Maugham, as she was a guest at one of his house parties. Maybe H G Wells who was at the same house party and gave her a writing case for Christmas. Maybe Elizabeth Von Arnim. The author went on a picnic with her and imagined that she was a character in one of her books. Certainly Sheila Kaye-Smith, who was a close friend and co-author of two books about Jane Austen.’

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

‘I thought that this book might sink under the weight of its complexity but it didn’t; and I had a wonderful time caught in the moment with the narrator and his many hosts. I loved the different perspectives, and though I didn’t make a significant effort to see if all of the pieces of this gloriously complex puzzle fitted together I can say the things that I spotted did; and that said puzzle and its the myriad overlapping and intertwining story-lines can only have been the work of a brilliantly inventive mind.’

Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby

‘Each chapter is devoted to the story of one of these characters. The story-telling is immaculate, and I couldn’t doubt for a moment that Winifred Holtby had considered every detail of the different people, lives and relationships. They were beautifully observed, they were gently satirised, and the different stories spoke about so many things: class, race, faith, prejudice, family, loss, philanthropy, ambition …. Each chapter was absorbing, and could have been the foundation of a different novel.’

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

‘Her story is very well told, by her in the first person. Her voice was lovely, the story flowed beautifully. It was simple, but it was profound, and the things that it had to say felt utterly right. The post-war generation is caught perfectly, the period detail was pitch perfect, and that made it so easy to be drawn onto Lou’s life. I found it was so easy to identify with her, I loved seeing that story though her eyes, and everything that she felt, everything that she said, everything that she did rang true.’

Diana Tempest by Mary Cholmondeley

‘One of this books greatest strengths is its youthful energy and fervour. There is passionate advocacy of a woman’s right to set the course of her own life; and a very clear light is shone on the unhappy consequences of marriages contracted for reasons other than real love. There is righteous anger at social injustice, at moral weakness, and most of all at men – and women – who stand in the way of what the author has the wisdom and foresight to advocate. I had an idea how the story would be resolved I really didn’t know how it would get there until it did.’

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

‘The story moves slowly and it rewards slow reading. The writing is gorgeous, there are so much many stories within the story to read and appreciate, and it is lovely spending time with all of the people who are part of those stories. Every detail was right, every note rang true, and the world of this book felt utterly, utterly real. It was a wrench to leave, and I can’t quite believe that I couldn’t go to the Swan Inn and listen to the descendants of the people I have been reading about telling tales of them, telling the tales of this book, telling tales of their own ….’

* * * * * * *

Now tell me, what would you put in your box for 2018?

And what do you plan to read in 2019?

A Year in First Lines

The last month of the year is here, and so it’s time to play a particular game:

“Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.”

It’s an idea that started with The Indextrious Reader a few years ago and it really is an interesting way to look back at a year.

So here goes …

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(Artwork by George Lepape)

December

A BOOK FOR RUMER GODDEN DAY: THE BATTLE OF THE VILLA FIORITA (1963)

The opening scene is captivating.

November

HELBECK OF BANNISDALE BY MRS HUMPHREY WARD (1898)

Bannisdale was an old family home in the Lake District, a part of the world that the author knew well and brought to life with lovely and evocative prose.”

October

BROOK EVANS BY SUSAN GLASPELL (1928)

I was very taken with Susan Glaspell’s novel ‘Fidelity’ when I read it, a year or so ago, and because I knew that only that novel and one other were in print,  I thought that I should save that other for a little while, and enjoy the prospect of reading another work by a very fine author.

September

A BOOK FOR MARY STEWART DAY: THIS ROUGH MAGIC (1964)

Since I discovered what a wonderful writer Mary Stewart was – not so many years ago, though my mother had recommended her books many years earlier – I have come to love her writing and I have traveled to many wonderful places by book, in the company of a captivating band of heroines.

August

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.

July

A BOOK FOR ELIZABETH TAYLOR DAY: THE SOUL OF KINDNESS (1964)

I imagine that anyone who picks up this novel will know someone like Flora, the soul of kindness of the title.

June

A SEASONAL COLLECTION: JUNE

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade?”

From ‘Gardens for Small Country Houses’ by Gertrude Jekyll

May

GRANIA: THE STORY OF AN ISLAND BY EMILY LAWLESS (1892)

This tale of a girl who grows up on Inishmaan, the second largest of the three Arran Islands, evokes its heroine, her fellow islanders and the world that they live in quite beautifully.

April

BEAUTY’S HOUR BY OLIVIA SHAKESPEAR (1896)

History has it that Olivia Shakespear was the companion of better remembered men, but she was rather more than that.

March

NOT ALL STORIES ARE MINE TO TELL …

…. and so all I can say is that a few weeks ago life dealt me a blow that I thought I might never recover from.

February

A COLLECTION – OR SHOULD I SAY A PARLIAMENT – OF OWLS

“Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. ”

From ‘Titus Groan’ by Mervyn Peake

January

A BIRTHDAY BOOK OF UNDERAPPRECIATED LADY AUTHORS

A few years ago, when I noticed that the centenary of one of my very favourite underappreciated lady authors was approaching, I hit upon the idea of throwing a party on that day. I did, and it worked beautifully.

….

And that’s it!

I don’t know how it looks to you, but it has stirred memories for me.

Do have a go – it’s a lovely way to look back and I’d love to see your results.

Sixes

‘A Summer Afternoon’ by Herman Wessel

It was Jo’s idea, six years ago now, and it’s become an annual event – mark the end of the first six months of the reading year by putting six books into each of six categories.

It’s not quite as simple as that sounds, but working out what book might go where is a lovely way of looking back.

I’ve already spotted that Jessica has posted her list, and I am sure that there are – and there will be – others out there.

As usual, I’ve tweaked the categories to suit my reading style, and to make sure that this is a celebration of books I’m happy to remember.

And in the case of my last six, happy to be reading right now or very soon.

Here are my six sixes:

SIX BOOKS FROM AUTHORS WHO HAVE NEVER LET ME DOWN

‘Framley Parsonage’ by Anthony Trollope
‘Britannia Mews’ by Margery Sharp
‘Rough-Hewn’ by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
‘The Forgotten Smile’ by Margaret Kennedy
‘Because of the Lockwoods’ by Dorothy Whipple
‘The Soul of Kindness’ by Elizabeth Taylor

* * * * *

SIX BOOKS THAT TOLD STORIES OF TIMES GONE BY

‘Queens’ Play’ by Dorothy Dunnett
‘Circe’ by Madeleine Miller
‘Green Dolphin Country’ by Elizabeth Goudge
‘The King’s General’ by Daphne Du Maurier
‘Heat and Dust’ by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
‘House of Gold’ by Natasha Solomons

* * * * *

SIX BOOKS WRITTEN BY WOMEN IN THE 20TH CENTURY

‘Fenny by Lettice Cooper
‘Flowers on the Grass’ by Monica Dickens
‘The Godwits Fly’ by Robin Hyde
‘Thank Heaven Fasting’ by E. M. Delafield
‘Another Part of the Forest’ by G. B. Stern
‘Poor Caroline’ by Winifred Holtby

* * * * *

SIX BOOKS THAT TOLD TALES OF CRIME AND INTRIGUE

‘The Chinese Shawl’ by Patricia Wentworth
‘The Wicked Cometh’ by Laura Carlin
‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper
‘A Strange Disappearance’ by Anna Katherine Green
‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton
‘Fatal Inheritance’ by Rachel Rhys

* * * * *

SIX BOOKS THAT I CAN’T FIT INTO A CATEGORY

Grania: The Story of an Island’ by Emily Lawless
‘The Cliff House’ by Amanda Jennings
‘Beauty’s Hour’ by Olivia Shakespear
‘Girl With Dove’ by Sally Bayley
‘The Lady of the Basement Flat’ by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
‘Other People’s Money’ by Émile Gaboriau

* * * * *

SIX NEW BOOKS THAT CAME INTO THE HOUSE

‘City Folk and Country Folk’ by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya
‘The Artificial Silk Girl’ by Irmgard Keun
‘Putney’ by Sofka Zinovieff
‘The Revolution of the Moon’ by Andrea Camilleri
‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Wynn
‘All The Perverse Angels’ by Sarah K Marr

* * * * *

Building a Name out of Books

I never could resist an invitation to look through books to create something I would never have thought of myself.

This particular invitation came from Lynne at Fictionophile  and I found it thanks to Sandra @ A Corner of Cornwall.

“Spell your blog’s name from books on your shelves!”

With lots of books on the shelves and a reasonable short name I thought I can do it and I did. I found books that I loved for every letter.

It was only then that I read the small print, and realised that I should have been looking at books that I hadn’t read.

Maybe I’ll do that one day, but right now I rather like my name in books that I have loved and am happy to recommend.

BEYOND

EDEN

ROCK

 

10% Report: 100 Years of Books

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100 different books by 100 different authors – 1850 to 1949!

I realised some time ago that the way to finish a  project like this was to take my time; to focus on it when I want to and to put it to one side when I want to read other things. I’m reading the books I want to read. Sometimes I realise that a book I want to read will fill a year; and sometimes I think it’s time I filled another year and see if I can spot a book to fill a gap.

That’s why it’s been nearly a year and a half since my last 10% report; and it’s also why since looking at my list of possible books a few weeks ago I’ve read four of them and have several more sitting on my bedside table because I really want to read them soon!

I want to press on with this  100 Years of Books project, and maybe finish by the end of the year.

Now that I have read seventy books I really feel that the end is in sight and that this can be done.

But I say maybe because I know I’ll want to read other things, and I’m never going to tell myself that I can’t.

And I am never going to read a book just to fill a year; every book on the list is going to be one I wanted to read for its own sake.

I really want to see the final list one day – 100 years, 100 books and 100 authors!

Today though I just have my latest ten books – here they are:

* * * * * * *

1870 – Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

‘The very best things were the points that were made about the absurdities of marriage laws and the inequity of men and women in marriage. They were powerfully made and they were utterly right. That is both this books greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The author seems over-bearing when he addresses the reader directly; and his wish to make his point sometimes bends his characters and their stories out of shape.’

1871 – Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy

‘Thomas Hardy wrote a good sensation novel; and it was lovely to read that story mixed with the things that Hardy did so well. That made it feel familiar and yet unlike any other book I’ve read. I’m glad though that he didn’t continue down that route, and that he went on to do the other things he began to do well in this book even better as his writing career progressed.’

1872 – The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart

‘I loved Clarice for her lovely mix of imagination and sensibleness; and I appreciated that she was good not for its own sake but because the world and the people around her cared for her and she cared for them and wanted them to be happy. I loved Olga for her vitality, her joie de vivre, and her gift for doing the unexpected. The story shows them both off so well, a dramatic conclusion bring the best out of both of them, and I was captivated from the first page to the last.’

1880 – A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katherine Green

‘Anna Katherine Green constructed a very cunning plot, and she wrote very well. The story could have been set in any of a number of periods, but her writing style and her handling of romance places it very firmly in the Victorian era. When I read ‘The Leavenworth Case’ I saw the influence of Wilkie Collins, and I see it again in this book.’

1890 – An Australian Girl by Catherine Martin

‘ ‘An Australian Girl’ is the story of Stella Courtland. She was beautiful, articulate, and sociable; and she loved the world around her and all the things she could do in that world just as much as she loved her books and intellectual pursuits. She was one of the youngest children of a large family, most of her siblings had scattered, and only the youngest were left at home with their widowed mother. Stella was ready to fly, but she would never flout the conventions of society’

1896 – Beauty’s Hour by Olivia Shakespear

‘The plot is well constructed, and the story moves along at a good pace. It makes its points well, and though some of them might feel obvious they were points that were definitely worth making clearly. It was fantastical, but there was enough truth in the characters and the situations to make it feel real and to make me believe that it might have happened. And the suspense, the atmosphere, was perfect.’

1908 – Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater

‘The story was beautifully positioned between two different eras. Much of it feels wonderfully Victorian, but Alex is quite clearly a ‘New Woman’ caught up in small town life. The influences were clear. There are definite echoes of a particular Jane Austen novel in the characters and the relationships, and there were something in the style and in the drawing of the community that told me that the Findlater sisters must have read and loved Trollope too.’

1922 – Rough-Hewn by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

‘The story of each life was told quite beautifully, with sensitivity, with intelligence, with empathy, and without one single drop of sentimentality. There is no plot as such, but I was captivated by the unfolding of each life. I noticed that they were told rather differently. Neale’s story was told in a straightforward way, always from his point of view; while Marise’s story was often told through the accounts of people around her. That reflected the different nature of the stories, and while I found Neale’s story easier to read I was more anxious to follow Marise’s story.’

1931 – Saraband by Eliot Bliss

‘I saw the influence of Dorothy Richardson – a friend of the authors – on her writing; but I found Eliot Bliss’s style to be simpler and more accessible. Louie remembered and considered things; I was particularly taken with passages late in the book where she remembered stories her grandmother had told her about her youth, as the end of grandmother’s life was drawing near.’

1933 – Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge

‘ ‘Hostages to Fortune’ is one of those books, wisely rescued by the lovely Persephone Books, and it does some of the things I love most in a quiet book. It speaks to my sense of wonder that there are so many people in the world and that each and every one of them has a story of their own that might be told. It illuminates lives lived at a particular time, at a particular point in history so very well that I really do feel that these fictional characters lived and breathed, and that I have come understand how their lives were for them without ever intruding at all.’

* * * * * * *

The full list of what I’ve read is here and my first six 10% reports are  here, here, here, here here and here.

My thoughts on the books that will represent 1892 and 1917 will be along quite soon.

And I’ll get back to my list once I’ve read a book for Elizabeth Goudge’s birthday, a book for Margaret Kennedy’s birthday,  a wonderful new book by an author whose first novel I fell in love with a few years ago ….

* * * * * * *

A Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors

A few years ago, when I noticed that the centenary of one of my very favourite underappreciated lady authors was approaching, I hit upon the idea of throwing a party on that day. I did, and it worked beautifully. There were invitations, lots of guests took the trouble to find a book and post about it on the day, and I wrote a thank you letter to them all afterwards.

I always intended to celebrate more birthdays of favourite authors in the same way, but it never quite happened.

I couldn’t find the dates of birth of come of the authors I wanted. That ruled out Barbara Comyns, March Cost and Frances Vernon.

I found that the dates I could find didn’t spread out nicely over the year. February and December were terrible congested! Margery Sharp and Virginia Woolf shared a birthday!

And there was a certain amount of work involved. It wasn’t that didn’t love doing it – I did – but I was aware that it was absorbing time that I could have spent reading, and I was a little worried that I might be pushing others to read my particular favourites a little too much.

The idea drifted, but it never quite went away …

I decided that I would try to put together a birthday book to celebrate a number of my favourite authors over the course of the year. I looked at the authors whose books I had and really wanted to read or re-read, I did some searching; and I had to make some hard decisions, and accept that I couldn’t include every author deserving of a place, but I got there in the end.

* * * * * * *

A Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors

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25th January – Margery Sharp

17th February – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

26th February – Dorothy Whipple

21st March – E H Young

23rd April – Margaret Kennedy

10th May – Monica Dickens

9th June – E M Delafield

17th June – G B Stern

3rd July – Elizabeth Taylor

23rd July – Elspeth Huxley

31st August – Elizabeth Von Arnim

17th September – Mary Stewart

18th October – Helen Ashton

10th November – Patricia Wentworth

10th December – Rumer Godden

21st December – Rebecca West

* * * * * * *

I know that some of my authors are less underappreciated than others, but all of them are authors who have written books that I love; and I want to read more of their work and I know that there are more people who would love them too, if only they knew that their books were out there.

I think that they all have books in print, and I’m sure used copies of  titles by each and every author out there at reasonable prices.

It would be lovely to have company if you’ve spotted an author you love too, or an author you’ve heard good things about and wanted to read.

Just know that this is going to be quiet. I’ll just put a note in the sidebar to say whose day is next and post on that day.

And that there will be other posts about these authors and their books throughout the year, because putting this thing together has had me thinking of so many books that I really don’t want to wait to read …

A Year in First Lines

The last month of the year is here, and so it’s time to play a particular game:

“Take the first line of each month’s first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.”

It’s an idea that started with The Indextrious Reader a few years ago, and I remember that that it really is an interesting way to look back at a year.

‘An English Calendar’ by Evelyn Dunbar

* * * * * * *

December

The Cat’s Cradle Book by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A few years ago I was lucky enough to come across what must have been the collection of a devoted admirer of Sylvia Townsend Warner in a secondhand bookshop.

November

The Fortunes of the Rougons by Émile Zola

I love Zola’s writing, I have meant to read more of his Rougon-Macquart series, but I hadn’t read anything for such a long time because I was wondering just how to set about it.

October

The Story of Finding the Book that I Had Always Thought Would be Just Out of Reach

Do you have a book like that?

September

Love by Elizabeth Von Arnim

I remember, many years ago, falling in love with Elizabeth Von Arnim’s writing as I read every one of her books that Virago republished.

August

Stanhope Forbes: Father of the Newlyn School

The last exhibition at Penlee House – ‘A Casket of Pearls’ – a celebration of its twentieth anniversary – was always going to be a difficult act to follow, but I take my hat off to whoever decided that Stanhope Forbes was the man for the job.

July

Sixes

It was Jo’s idea, six years ago now, and it’s become an annual event – mark the end of the first six months of the reading year by putting six books into each of six categories.

June

Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy

I love Margaret Kennedy’s writing, but I didn’t rush to pick up this book because I wasn’t that taken with the subject matter.

May

The Saddest Day

Just after sunset on Saturday, my mother left this life.

April

An A to Z for a New Month

A is for ALEXANDRE DUMAS.

March

Danger Point – or, In The Balance, – by Patricia Wentworth

I realised that it was a long, long time since I had investigated a mystery with Miss Silver.

February

The Trespasser by Tana French

Ten years ago, a debut crime novel was published.

January

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser

The Quincunx is an enticing, entrancing recreation of a Victorian novel, written in such perfect period prose and holding so much that is typical of the Victorian novel that you might well believe that Charles Palliser had excavated it and not sat down to write late in the twentieth century.

* * * * * * *

And that’s it!

I can’t say that it’s exactly right, but it is an interesting snapshot.

Do have a go – it’s a lovely way to look back , and I’d love to see your results.

A Thank You Letter after Margaret Kennedy Day

88fe70ca7a39902253fe85ae7e942f1fI want to say thank you to everyone who played a part in this celebration of the lovely legacy of books that Margaret Kennedy left to the world.

Circumstances meant that the announcement was low-key and I’m sorry that this thank you is rather late; but I do really appreciate everyone who found a book to read, and everyone who spread the word.

I found some summer flowers for you all.

We covered a interesting range of titles, from four different decades, and we had some quite different – and very interesting – thoughts.

* * * * * * *

The Constant Nymph (1924)

Madame Bibi Lophile said:

“The novel is also not wholly a romance, but also a consideration of art and how to create it, how to pursue it, the value we attach to it and the various ways in which it is consumed. This is done with a lightness of touch and Kennedy never lets the broader themes get in the way of the plot.”

Christine said:

“It’s a clash of worlds as much as a clash of personalities: natural versus artifice; conformity versus rebellion; order versus disorder; outsiders versus those who belong… Lewis, Tessa, Tony, Lina and Sebastian are wild, anarchic, passionate creatures who know no rules and trail chaos in their wake. Set against them is the conventional, well ordered society created by Florence and her friends, where appearance is everything, and talking about feelings is more important than the feelings themselves.”

Juliana said:

“I could not help but have the feeling that there was a stronger story that had been left behind, waiting to be told. Either you tried to tame the circus and lost; or the circus has come close to enchanting you, and you run away from its wild exuberance.”

Together and Apart (1936)

Audrey said:

“Reading Together and Apart reminded me that one of M.K.’s greatest strengths, in my view, is how she draws her characters. From the very first page, when Betsy tells her mother in a letter that she is planning to divorce Alec, we have a strong sense of who she is, and M.K. stays true to this for the rest of the book. Whether we like them or not, or think they’re sympathetic or worthy or not, they definitely come to life.”

Madame Bibi Lophile said:

“I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say everything works out in the end. Which is not to say things work out perfectly. Lives are messy and Together and Apart shows how much of that mess is of our own making, but how we are myopic regarding our own situations and so clear-sighted regarding others. Once again, there are piercing, but sympathetic psychological insights.”

Lucy Carmichael (1951)

Simon said:

“The writing is great, there is wit and thoughtfulness; Kennedy is clearly trying to inherit the mantle of Jane Austen (and there are many references to Austen throughout; Melissa and Lucy are both aficionados) and that’s an admirable intention, even if it highlights the disparity between their achievements are ‘structurers’. There is a lot to love here, and I did love the final chapter so much that I almost forgave everything else”

Helen said:

“Margaret Kennedy shows a lot of understanding and sympathy for Lucy’s situation; being jilted at the altar is, thankfully, not something I have experienced myself but if it did happen I hope that I would have the strength to react the way Lucy does, with dignity and resilience, rather than allowing her heartbreak and humiliation to destroy the rest of her life.”

GenusRosa said:

“I really enjoy this aspect of Kennedy’s novels–how she creates character. Even seemingly unimportant characters are built in with a solid foundation and story. This gives the impression that you are entering a real world–warts and all–and a social environment that, while not one I have actually experienced, is still believable as though I know these types of situations and the personalities that give them life.”

The Oracles (1955)

I said:

“Margaret Kennedy’s twelfth novel is dark and clever. It is set in a small town close to the Bristol Channel, not long after the war; and it spins around the family of a Bohemian artist, a more conventional young married couple with a new baby, a number of their friends and neighbours, and its catalyst is a remarkable work of art.”

The Forgotten Smile (1961)

Ali said

“The Forgotten Smile is a later Margaret Kennedy novel – one offering the reader a wonderful escape to another world. The majority of the novel takes place on Keritha, a tiny Greek Island, largely forgotten by the rest of the world. A place of Pagan mysticism and legend, where the cruise ships don’t stop and aren’t really welcome. It’s a place out of step with the modern world and is perfect for an escape.”

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BadgeI think that’s everyone, but if it isn’t please let me know so that I can put things right.

I’m looking forward to seeing who reads what next.

I should tell you that this was the last day of celebration of this kind. But it isn’t the last celebration, because I have something a little different in mind for next year ….

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