July 2013 coming upTwo more old friends in my Month of Re-Reading, and you can see them both in the photo, I think … These were two more that I read on our recent holiday; I read all of “Perch Hill” in a few sittings and got up to the end of Book II of “Emma” on my Kindle, but I tired of reading the “Collected Works” on that and not knowing how far I was through the book, so stopped there and picked it up in my old Penguin Classics edition when I was back at home.

Was it worth taking my Kindle on holiday, by the way? The jury’s out this time. To be fair, I had crammed in a large number of Barbara Pyms because of the Conference. I would not have normally taken that many print books on a trip, now that I have the Kindle. So, even though I only read 2/3 of one book on it this time, I will take it next time …

Adam Nicolson – “Perch Hill”

(10 December 2005)

Needing respite after a bad year culminating in a mugging, Adam Nicolson and Sarah Raven determine to find a place in which they can nestle down and hide from the world. Having searched all over the country (as an ex-fellow Weald dweller, I smiled at “even East Kent”), they find Perch Hill, an unprepossessing collection of shabby farm buildings and poor land, but tucked into a beautiful, almost magical valley in Kipling country.

Their concerns may be the same as in any other “giving it all up and going to live in the country” narrative – hateful chickens, dim sheep, hard lessons, collapsing buildings, neighbours good and bad – but because it’s written by this author, we get wonderful writing that you can enjoy for its own sake as well as for the sake of the narrative, precise descriptions, emotional depth and a deep, abiding sense of his love of the English landscape and land, and in addition, it’s often very funny (I was constantly reading bits out to Mr Liz).

A worthwhile and enjoyable re-read as I had half forgotten that I owned this book, and remembered the feel of it (except at the very beginning) but not the detail. One of the great narratives of countryside living.

Here’s my previous review pf this book from March 2006 (when I didn’t review so comprehensively!)

Jane Austen – “Emma”

(late 1980s / early 1990s, dated from sticky-backed-plastic covering)

How DO you actually review a book by Austen? Hasn’t everything already been said before? This was one of the two least-known of her books to me (the other being “Persuasion”, which I read back in January) but it’s just such a good read, with wonderful characters, and, although I had forgotten much of it, I remembered the well-plotted and satisfying story.

As with other classics (see Hardy reads and “Middlemarch“, I have found my reaction to this book changing over time. I found Jane Fairfax unjustly judged now – although that’s obviously part of the story – where I found her annoying before, and I recall being more frustrated with Mr Woodhouse in earlier days – now I can see the worry shining through his dealings with anything at all out of the ordinary, having lost his wife young and only having one daughter left at home. Book blogger Dovegreyreader, who has also recently read and reviewed this book, although for the first time, points out the effects of the loss of her mother on Emma, and you can see that when it’s pointed out to you, with the lack of female guidance (think of Jo from Little Women without her mother) and only her governess to oversee her moral development, someone who is, although full of sense herself, perhaps a little over-indulgent of her dear Emma.  And I think that it is to these women of sense, rather than sensibility, that we turn as we get older, isn’t it? Emma perhaps moves from one point to the other over the course of the book, and of course her relationship with Mr Knightley is just perfect! A great read, anyway.

I haven’t read this one recently enough to have an existing review to quote. But here’s Heaven-Ali’s review from her Austen in August re-read.