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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