VARIOUS – Modern Delight

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21 Jan 2010 – from Sorcha

An ideal book for dipping into when you’re up in the night feeling unwell, this is a sweet collection of pieces by (mainly) writers about the simple pleasures that cause them delight.  From happy dogs through popping the seal on a jar of coffee to Twitter, there is something here for everyone, and the pieces are simple, poetic, moving and funny in turns.  One to look through when the going gets a bit tough.

EARLENE FOWLER – Mariner’s Compass

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Acquired via BookCrossing 02 Jul 2007 – book table at the Brighton Unconvention

Benni Harper herself is the centre of this mystery, as she receives a strange legacy from a man she doesn’t know. One condition of getting to keep the legacy is to stay in his house for two weeks. Of course, Gabe doesn’t like this, especially when scary things start to happen as the community realised who is in their midst. There’s a protective retired fireman next door, but can he be trusted? And just who is this mystery benefactor with his trail of clues?

Really good – Benni and Gabe’s relationship, threatened again by these events, seems real, and the secondary story about Dove and the other pensioners fighting to save their town museum is a good amusing counterpoint. The best of the series so far, I think! 

LAURA TALBOT – The Gentlewomen (Virago)

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13 Jan 2010 from fellow LibraryThing Virago Group member Aluvalibri

Illustrated on the front cover with a picture of a cat very like my Dot, and set partly in Birmingham, this book was a good match for me from the word go!  It’s also a marvellous read, reminiscent of Jocelyn Playfair’s "A House In The Country" as it’s set in a large house during WWII, with not quite enough staff and a social mixing taking place that would have been unheard of in the previous decades.  Miss Bolby arrives to be Governess to a rather unruly set of half-sisters.  Disappointed in life, she is constantly harking back to her early, colonial, years, and her sister’s good marriage, so she is at first thrilled and then dismayed to find a link with one of the other local aristocrats, Lady Archie.  As the war wears on and a new secretary arrives who also claims to be a gentlewoman, Miss Bolby’s patience and character begin to unravel and sour; there is a mystery over some lost bracelets and all ends in a rather melodramatic (but believable) climax.

I loved the beautifully drawn characters in both the boarding house and the big house in the country; the young girls are particularly well done and the atmosphere is evoked wonderfully.  An absorbing and satisfying read.

DOROTHY EDWARDS – Winter Sonata (Virago)

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13 Jan 2010 – from Aluvalibri from the LibraryThing Virago Group

A kind Christmas present and an absorbing, quiet read.  We follow the rather dim fortunes of Arnold Nettle, who comes to a village to work in the Post Office and to try to improve his health.  He lodges with one family and befriends another, yearns for one of the daughters of the other family while being nonplussed by the teenage daughter of the landlady.  The seasons, as autumn deepens into winter and winter recedes and allows thoughts of spring, are absolutely beautifully observed, as is the claustrophobia and boredom of life in a house in a fairly isolated village.  A bright spot comes in the form of Pauline, the wayward teenager, who doesn’t care what people thing of her, runs after men and makes a nuisance of herself.   Hugely atmospheric and much enjoyed.

MAUD PEMBER REEVES – Round About A Pound A Week (Persephone)

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25 Dec 2009 – from Matthew

I was thrilled when I saw this in the catalogue – I’ve heard about it but never seen a copy before.  So it went straight on my wishlist and I bought it for myself from Matthew on my Autumn trip to the Shop.

I won’t say I *enjoyed* this as it’s not a book to enjoy as such, being a description of the pretty awful living conditions experienced by the honest, hardworking but underpaid and overburdened working classes just before the First World War.  But I love sociology books, I love longitudinal studies, and I’ve read some of the books that followed this ("Four Years Old In The Urban Environment" and the more modern books about living on minimum wage by Polly Toynbee and Barbara Ehrenreich) so this was exciting to find both from a sociological and a historical point of view.  Some of the comments about the women are a little naive but should be read as a product of their time, and this is such an important work, one of the first systematic examinations of the lot of people who should be able to afford to raise a family but struggle.  The book ends with a call to arms to adopt a minimum wage and to stop assuming people can live in a "scientific" way on such a small wage.  It’s detailed, moving and I think still relevant today.

IRIS MURDOCH – Nuns and Soldiers

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Bought 30 Dec 1994

I must have read this before, as I’ve read all of Murdoch’s novels, but not this pristine copy.  It’s not one of her better-known novels although I wonder why this is, as I found it a really good read.  I didn’t remember much besides a few names, scenes and perhaps the "feel" of it, but there are some excellent and varied characters, well-done settings in London and rural France, and a decent plot; also a well described meditation on loss, love and marriage.  Plenty of Murdochian themes and characters, but it also reminded me of Margaret Drabble or Doris Lessing, maybe a bit more "open" than some of her more claustrophobic works, and with delightful flashes of humour.

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