Book Reviews – The Virago Book of Women Gardeners and Armour Wherein He Trusted


Aug 2013As promised, once the non-fiction was read and enjoyed, and I review the second of those today, I’ve started to fairly gallop through the fiction, with the Mary Webb finished off during an energetic if stationary cycle ride at the gym (when people see me in there with my book, I think they think I’m in there for an easy ride, but no: moderate effort with a hard effort every fifth page does me very nicely, thank you, although I obviously take pains not to get my book damp!). Two lots of Virago here, a newer volume and a proper Virago Modern Classic, and two good reads, tied together, perhaps, by the grey castle garden in the Mary Webb.

Deborah Kellaway (ed.) – “The Virago Book of Women Gardeners”

(8 March 2013 – bought in Paignton)

A charming and well put-together book collecting women gardeners’ writings, mainly from the 1870s to the 1970s, with some earlier pieces, organised into sections on diverse topics such as countrywomen, townswomen, kitchen gardeners, colourists, etc.

Vita Sackville-West and Elizabeth von Arnim are there of course, and Gertrude Jekyll, but a host of others, too, professional and amateur, and the often beautiful writing is not just decorative, but has a lot of advice and experience that is useful  now (although I have to admit skimming slightly when it got to the bit about flower arranging as I much prefer a houseplant or the flowers on their plant and outside to cut flowers).

The introduction has a useful history of women gardeners through the ages, and there are useful potted biographies of the contributors at the back. Some illustrations might be nice, but all in all a compendium that can be read, re-read, enjoyed and consulted – the best type of non-fiction book.

Mary Webb – “Armour Wherein he Trusted”

(25 April 2013 – from Dee, LibraryThing Virago Group)

The title piece is a literally spell-binding unfinished novel written in a convincing medieval vernacular (like T.H. White for grown-ups?) and as full of weird happenings, religious symbolism and mysticism, courtly love and gentle knights as a Middle English or Old English epic poem. Also heavy and redolent with the Shropshire dialect, a real tour de force that loses something, true, but not everything, by the abrupt breaking-off. Some of the scenes in this book will stay with me for a good while, and the writing, while I’m sure it is not to everyone’s taste, is pretty amazing.

This long piece is accompanied by a set of short stories, some a couple of pages long, others more substantial: as the Introduction points out, some are like drafts for longer works, others are complete in themselves. They are full of the concerns of her novels: love, truth, death, mystical connections, long memories, lonely cottages in the brooding landscape, and familiar Webb themes of loss, fate and irony. “In Affection and Esteem” is almost unbearably poignant, although none of them are exactly jolly, but a connection to land and myth make them satisfying.

Curiously, the Introduction reminds us that Webb was not Hardy or Lawrence. I’m not sure what business a Virago Modern Classic introduction has in comparing her to the male canon. She has a peculiar mysticism and yes, an earthy, female feel which is different from them, not better or worse. She was gently mocked in “Cold Comfort Farm” (but so were the boys) and I personally find a lot to enjoy in Webb’s peculiar and dramatic work.


Currently reading: I’m very much enjoying Susan Glaspell’s “Fidelity”, set in a small town with small town views and treating a woman who breaks away from the established norms. It’s Persephone No. 4 – how on earth did I not get this one until April this year, as it very much conforms to a type of scenario I’m known to enjoy? Odd! I’m going to start an E.H. Young for the odd bus journey before the end of the month, and might squeeze one more in after that.

I’m looking forward towards September now. Really, I need to read and review two books by friends and three sent to me by their publisher, so it’ll be another month of picking through the TBR, not taking it in acquisition order. Is this the end of an era, or will I revert to the old ways once these are taken care of?

Book Reviews – Alexander’s Bridge and Cicely Hamilton


Aug 2013I’m back firmly into the world of woman-orientated publishing now, with a Bank Holiday weekend not entirely spent working meaning that I’ve got through a slight hump of non-fiction reading (one reviewed here, one to come) and am progressing well again with All Virago / All August. Today we’ve got two books that I bought on my trip to London back in April: both, in fact, from Any Amount of Books, a bookshop on the Charing Cross Road where I will always find something good to buy in the “£1 each or 5 for £4” boxes. I have given one away already, and will pass the other on, but I enjoyed reading both of them. So here we go – a Virago Modern Classic and a Women’s Press biography …

Willa Cather- “Alexander’s Bridge” (Virago Modern Classic)

(02 April 2013)

A quicker read than I expected, with large print and large margins, I was glad that I took the next read along with this one on my train journey to Oxford last Monday! This is Willa Cather’s first novel, and it doesn’t have the self-assurance and complete ownership of place that we find in her later works.

It’s set in Boston and London, like Henry James or Edith Wharton, both of whose books it does resemble, and partly seen through the eyes of the protagonist’s former tutor. Mr Alexander is a famous architect, reaching a physical and career peak in his early forties – or perhaps starting to decline a little – and indeed his bridges begin to show signs of strain and weakness just as his own personality, moral willpower and marriage do, too. The twin temptations of over-reaching known architectural specifications and the bounds of marriage, when he meets an old love unexpectedly and far from home, will surely prove to be his undoing.

The London scenes are interesting and evocative as our hero wanders well-known streets – I’ve only read Cather’s South-Western America novels before, so this was new. It’s a bit patchy, but an interesting read with the shifting viewpoints and rather enigmatic women characters, who seem to stay the same throughout, where the men are very much less solid, in many ways. There are moments of high drama, and this slight read is a good one.

There’s an excellent introduction as usual with Virago books (especially the older Classics volumes), and it’s already found a safe new home.

Lis Whitelaw – The Life & Rebellious Times of Cicely Hamilton (Women’s Press)

(02 April 2013)

Hamilton was the author of the Persephone book, “William, an Englishman” (a harrowing book about WWI) and a friend of people such as Winifred Holtby, so I pounced on this Women’s Press volume when I spotted it.

As befits a Women’s Press book published in 1990, the author is at great pains to make the research and writing process clear (with the word ‘herstory’ somehow hovering in the background) and to talk about the way women’s lives disappear from the record, and it gets rather bogged down in definitions of lesbianism and discussions about whether defining people by their sexuality is relevant and appropriate, and how one can define the subject – all rather earnest and very reminiscent of my Women’s Lit studying days at University. Not a criticism, but just a feature of this kind of book, and this kind of work needed doing at the time (and probably still does).

The author does well with the lack of recorded information on her subject, with her own autobiography glossing over many aspects of her life and work, painstakingly ferreting out details from contemporary accounts and the records of the many organisations to which Hamilton belonged, and cross-referencing information across these and other sources, managing to dig out quite a lot of information about her work with the suffragette and equality organisations, her friendships, and the circumstances surrounding the writing and production of her novels and plays.

it’s a competent book which of necessity sometimes loses the immediacy of one blessed with more primary sources. It is a shame that there are no illustrations, except the one on the front cover, especially as several photographs are mentioned and described in the text.


Currently reading: Now I’ve finished Cicely and the Virago Book of Women Gardeners (to be reviewed next time), i’m galloping back into the world of fiction with Mary Webb’s rather spellbinding “The Armour Wherein He Trusted” and Susan Glaspell’s Persephone, “Fidelity” on the go at the moment.

Book Reviews – Dance to the Music of Time (Spring) and Up and Running


Aug 2013There’s a bit of a detour from the Virago reading today, as I’ve also been doing one of my readalongs with Matthew and Linda. This time we’re doing Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time”, which we all have in the four-volume set, each volume containing three books, and divided into seasons. So, Spring has sprung now and we’re into Summer. Then we have a Virago non-fiction title which depressed me somewhat … read on to find out why!

Anthony Powell – “A Dance to the Music of Time: Spring”

(5 June 2009; replaced copy bought January 2001 and lent to a neighbour at my old flats in London)

The first three in the twelve-volume sequence, in which our hero, or anti-hero (invisible hero?) Nick Jenkins, progresses through school, university and the beginnings of a rather quiet professional life in publishing and writing, taking him up to around the age of 30.

He’s somewhat of a cipher in a world of forceful and coruscating characters who whirl in and out of his life in what can almost be construed as a pattern – certainly a dance – and the comments on the fact that certain people seem to reappear with alarming regularity set the tone and themes for the rest of the sequence. Indeed, on a re-reading, one can see that the whole pattern is set in the first few paragraphs. Re-reading also means that I can enjoy wallowing around in the excellent writing (although some sentences can be a bit convoluted, with M rewinding his audio book and me casting my eyes back over some particularly long sentences when the grammar gets confusing). At least I can be secure in the knowledge that the author will make sure that you remember who’s who among the massive cast – he’s very good at tiny hints and reminders, or having other characters explain someone so you understand. Having said that, a diagram would be useful, too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that this book is a roman a clef, and pick up characters from the mid-20th century, however M is enjoying it as much as I am without worrying too much about all of that (I’m the one who’s a bit of a mid-century nut, I suppose). Very atmospheric, with some great set-pieces and visions of London and country houses, and I’m really looking forward to reading my way through it through the autumn.

Jane McLoughlin – “Up and Running: Women in Business” (Virago)

(02 April 2013)

I’ve obviously skipped ahead in the TBR shown above, picking out the Viragoes and related volumes for this All Virago / All August month. This was one that I bought from Any Amount of Books on our Easter trip to London this year.

It’s a survey of high-flying executive women and women business owners that was published in 1992 and based on research done in the few years previously, which looks at sexism, pay, family, etc. It actually makes rather depressing reading, because the author is so excited about the advances that women have already made and the positive prospects that lie ahead of them – well, of course, not much has really changed, with gender pay gaps still there, women pushed into part-time work, great swathes of professions where women are the workers and men the managers, issues around job security and families, the double shift of work and childcare, etc., etc. It does remind us that we have come a certain way, but were the achievements of these women stalled and have things really improved in the 20 years since the book was published? I’d love to read an update of the author’s opinions and research on the subject. Actually, she seems to have written a book about women and politics in 2009 which does accept that a lot of these gains have stalled – interesting!


Currently reading: I’ve finished another Virago which I may review tomorrow. I’m reading two more non-fiction Viragoes which I hope to get completed soon, then I can fit a few more novels in by the end of the month. AV/AA isn’t going as well as I hoped it would, but maybe 18 plus the Powell was a bit over-ambitious!

Book Reviews – The Custom of the Country and Elizabeth Taylor’s Collected Short Stories – and another confession


Aug 2013The Librarything Virago Group is responsible for all of this post! I’m taking part in their All Virago / All August challenge, which I’ve talked about here, and both of the books I am reviewing today came as gifts from fellow Group members, and the reason for my new confession is that Ali and I had a day out in Oxford yesterday, meeting up with Simon and Elaine from, respectively, Oxford and Chicago, for tea and, with Elaine, a look around a few bookshops. M has already confirmed that all purchases were justifiable, but I really have got to STOP acquiring new books for a few months, to allow my TBR to reach more manageable proportions.

First the book reviews, both by authors who I have been reading for more than a decade!

Edith Wharton – “The Custom of the Country” (Virago)

(25 December 2012)

This was another Virago Secret Santa gift – I had read some Wharton previously, but I’m really enjoying my new forays into the work of this excellent author – and having read the Introduction after the main body of the novel, I can see that I missed a great deal of the satire and will need to re-read it soon!

This is a real page-turner as we meet the elegantly named Undine Spragg, a small-town girl named after a commercial product, as she attempts to take New York society by storm and then continues to blunder through America and France, trying to gather a surface understanding of the customs of each country in order to advance herself socially and materially, without, as a newcomer, trying to grasp the bigger, deeper picture. But her small-town upbringing drags along with her – or else she suddenly casts it off with predictably disastrous consequences – and figures from those days dog her or save her from herself.

Undine makes some fairly catastrophic errors of judgement in an age when it really wasn’t safe for a woman to do that, and can never seem to be satisfied with the progress of her life. She’s an amazing and rather monstrous heroine who leaves chaos in her wake – but she is always striving, taking responsibility for her decisions, even if they involve placing herself under the protection of one man or another and not having to concern herself with the minutiae of money worries and care. The side characters are very well drawn and it’s a masterpiece of psychology and subtle satire about New York society and America itself. As well as a very good story!

Read Heaven Ali’s review of this book here.

Elizabeth Taylor – “Complete Short Stories” (Virago)

(21 January 2013)

A huge collection of short stories from her four published collections, plus other stories published in magazines and newspapers, organised in I believe chronological order. They are very satisfying to read, after the slight panic at the size of “Hester Lilly”, the novella at the beginning of the collection of that name: although there are a lot of stories, and themes emerge, they are never samey and there is always something new. The stories at the end do become a  bit darker, and there are a couple in the collection with a real sense of danger and almost horror, amongst the other features that we are more likely to find in Taylor’s work: merciless skewering of pretensions, sharp observation, an ability to capture EXACTLY what it’s like to make holiday friendships or be a young and inexperienced girl, or bedridden. I particularly liked the story about an unwell woman who develops a horror of the cat her husband gets to keep her company, and the very clever “Mr Wharton”.

A good companion for many re-reads – I did read part of this on the coach down to and back from London the other week, on Kindle – and a lovely introduction by her daughter to round things off


Now to the horror of the confessions. You can’t really go to Oxford without going to a few bookshops, can you?

August 2013 1Sorry this is a bit of a dull picture – they’ve all been put on the TBR shelf already, so you’ll have to make do with this pic and a list. There are a couple of Virago Modern Classics in there – Gertrude Stein’s “Blood on the Dining Room Floor” is apparently quite hard to find, and “Sunlight on a Broken Column” is a Virago set in India in the early 20th century which will partake in a readalong with Ali at some point. I needed to add to my George Eliot collection, hence “Adam Bede”, and no political biography collection is complete without John Major’s autobiography, reputedly among the best in the genre.

How could I resist collecting the last Iris Murdoch book I didn’t have, and Winifred Holtby’s volume on Virginia Woolf, which neatly spans two collections? And the biography of Penguin Books founder Allen Lane is on my wishlist, and has now been purchased from virtuous Oxfam rather than naughty Amazon. Here’s Ali’s write-up of our day, by the way.

And lastly, two more Iris Murdochs. Yes, I have all of her books in paperback, and the odd (non-rare) first edition. I am NOT going to collect all editions of all the novels: I know that that way madness and lack of bookshelf space lies. But these two 1960s Penguins have SUCH good covers, I could not resist them!

August 2013 2

A lovely day


I’ve been making a real effort to take time out for myself and limit the amount of time I spend working on my business to an acceptable level. Part of this plan involves doing more THINGS and spending more time with the people I care about.

On Friday, I realised that a book that a long-term, regular and very nice client of mine, Jude Rogers, has worked on, was being launched at Greenwich Market on Saturday. I was chatting on Skype Instant Messenger with my friend Emma, and it all came together into a beautiful plan …

taylorI booked coach tickets for £18 return and got on a civilised 8.30 coach in Birmingham. I had bought a Kindle copy of Elizabeth Taylor’s “Complete Short Stories” for this very purpose – I have a lovely copy of the book, given to me by my friend Ali, but that’s a bit unwieldy (and lovely) to be shoved into a handbag. So a back-up Kindle copy was ideal, and I managed to get through loads of them on my two coach trips today. Short stories are in a perfect genre for travelling (as are travel books themselves) as you don’t need long swathes of concentration. So, a pleasant journey down.

I’d intended to take a bus journey through Peckham and New Cross, visiting old haunts, but I worried about the time and after asking a surprisingly cheery member of London Underground staff, found myself zipping over to Tower Bridge on the District Line (after my usual procedure of trying to jam a recalcitrant fiver into an Oyster card top-up machine), trotting round to Tower Gateway and confusing myself thoroughly on the DLR. Although I lived in London for 8 years, I didn’t get the DLR very often, and I always either walked or got the bus to Greenwich, so I became temporarily confused and had to do some urgent texting. What did we do before Smartphones?

SAM_0005Anyway, I managed to meet up with my dear friend Emma and her lovely daughters, Beth and Grace (I neglected to take a photo, so this is an old picture of us all from Christmas, but Beth and Grace look pretty much the same while Em and I have different haircuts) at Cutty Sark DLR stop. We then went straight to Greenwich Market to look for the Smoke: A London Peculiar stall.

SAM_0292After wading through the food stalls we found it, and Jude! I’ve been working with Jude since October 2010, so that’s nearly three years, and I’ve done transcriptions for her almost every month since then. We’ve emailed bits and bobs to each other among the professional stuff, as you do, but I’d never even spoken to her on the phone, let alone met her. I think we were equally excited. She climbed out from around the back of the stall to say hello and have a picture, and we had a lovely chat.

SAM_0297And, of course, there was the exciting book. Plus there were back issues of Smoke: A London Peculiar, which is a brilliant magazine with weird and wonderful writing and pictures about London. I bought the first five issues (usually from Foyles) when I lived in London, and I picked up the remaining back issues at the stall, plus the book, “From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea” which looks brilliant. Watch these pages for a review coming soon!

We had a wander around the rest of the market and visited a favourite stall of Em, Grace and Beth – The Fluffy Cosmo (see card in picture below). Even though they only visit once or twice a year, the stallholder clearly recognised the girls and commented on how Beth and Grace grow taller every time, while she herself only grows older! How lovely to have that feeling of community in a big city (mind you, my friends had already proved that by running into an old friend from North London, now living in the Isle of Man, as they waited for me!).

SAM_0296We were a bit hungry by now, so decided to take advantage of the stalls selling food in the market. Em and I had wonderful packed salad boxes from Return to Shashamane, a vegan food stall. Emilia, the stallholder, was lovely, patiently explaining to me what made up all of the different salads – of course, I’m not a vegan, but I do eat vegan quite a lot as I know there won’t be any animal fats in the food. It was absolutely delicious, with pulses, vegetables and carbs, all packed into a cardboard box with a wooden fork, and really good value. We had a chat about blogging (as you do) and I was so pleased to find a lovely lunch I could happily tuck into.

Once we all had picked up some food, we went and sat outside one of the college buildings and chatted in the sun. Em and I have known each other for 20 years now, so we were full of nostalgia and giggles – lovely to just sit and chat and pass the time, no rush and nowhere urgent to go.

SAM_0295Once fortified, we had a bit of a wander round Greenwich. I was disappointed to see that the Greenwich branch of a remaindered bookshop I like had gone, but we had a good search around Casbah Records and chat about music (do I prefer Blur or Oasis? Well, I prefer The Kinks to The Beatles …) and of course I managed to buy a BOOK … well, it’s by another occasional client of mine, so I couldn’t not, could I?

By now we had exhausted Greenwich, so we got the DLR back up into central London and went, of course, to the Charing Cross Road. We had a cuppa in Foyles cafe – Foyles is moving soon, so this was probably my last visit to the old shop. Lots more catching up and giggling and talking about music and books and all sorts. I had a very nice iced latte and then we whipped through the bookshop in search of loos (cafes, bookshops, loos … what’s not to like on this trip?).

SAM_0293I then said goodbye to my friends and wandered down the Charing Cross Road. Can you believe that I only bought two books at Any Amount of Books? To be fair, I didn’t have that much time … I then had a slightly fraught journey to Victoria, catching a very odd bus in the end which was like a modern version of a Routemaster with two staircases and three doors but the familiar narrow seats and lack of headroom of the old buses (I think it was one of these).

After being compelled to eat my salad crouching in front of the parked coach, I embarked for my journey home – more reading and a good journey, arriving 20 minutes early!

What a lovely day. I’m so glad that I have the schedule and the attitude that allowed me to have this spontaneous and excellent day out in London!

Book Reviews – Flush (Persephone) and Roman Fever


Aug 2013So, here we have the first two book reviews for All Virago / All August, which I’m embarking on this month. I’ve taken part in other Augusts, but I’ve never spent the whole month reading just books published by Virago (and Persephone Books, and The Women’s Press and Virago authors not in Virago editions). If you count books that fall into the categories included in those parentheses, I have 18 appropriate books in my TBR, so this seemed a feasible way of reducing the TBR and taking part along with my friends in the LibraryThing Virago Group (a delightful, tight-knit yet welcoming group of ladies and gentlemen spread across the world, who try to meet up, send books to each other and encourage one another in Virago collecting).

First up, we have a Persephone and a Virago Green, both sent to me by Heather for my Virago Secret Santa Christmas gift in 2012 (I’m currently reading the third one from that parcel). Both really good, in rather different ways, although have a great deal to say about the condition and treatment of women in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Virginia Woolf – “Flush” (Persephone)

(25 December 2012)

Woolf’s slightly fictionalised biography )do I classify it as fiction or non-fiction in my statistics?) of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s much-loved pet spaniel but, of course, also a discussion of the captivity, training and domestication of women in the 19th century and beyond.

It’s an interesting read on both levels, as Elizabeth and Flush’s experiences are told in parallel and compared. The stream of consciousness of the little dog’s explorations, delineating sight, sound and especially smell, give a finely grained evocation of London and Italy and are carefully and beautifully thought out and described, as is the relationship between woman and dog, making it far more than a piece of charming frippery.

The footnotes bring an added dimension, particularly in their long discussion of the biography of servants, as Elizabeth’s faithful maid has to be conjured up out of vague mentionings and half-knowings, even more than the dog does (the dog featuring more in Elizabeth’s letters than her maid did). An excellent introduction by Sally Beauman makes the work and its context clear.

I am really glad that I was given this slim volume, or I might not have read it, and would have missed what turned out to be a real treat.

Edith Wharton – “Roman Fever” (Virago)

(25 December 2012)

An excellent collection of short stories which I missed in my previous greedy Wharton-devouring session back in 1999.

The title story is full of twists and turns and is a masterclass in the gradual reveal of both plot and relationship between the protagonists. “Xingu” is a hilarious piece about snobbery in a women’s discussion group and the snobbery of an author when confronted with her readers. “The Other Two” takes a seemingly impossible – or at least implausible – situation and contrives to make it happen pretty believably, while also being a clever psychological study of a man married to a woman who has been married (twice) before.

“Souls Belated” examines a woman who thinks she’s conventional and what happens when she comes smack up against the conventions she thinks she’s escaped (classic Wharton territory in some ways, but a little shocking in others), while “The Angel at the Grave” looks at literary reputation and fashion and provides a stern if subtle warning against becoming too subsumed by the literature industry and wasting your life on a man. “The Last Asset” is about the most manipulative woman possible – I did see the main twist coming but it’s a wonderful study of personality seen from the outside. “After Holbein” is a rather creepy story about ageing, and “Autres Temps” is a heartbreaking story of history repeating itself, and about the breakdown in trust between a woman and her mother.

Seen as a whole, this collection shows off Wharton’s skill and range. It is very frank about the sexual and financial forces that underpin and undermine the fabric of society – perhaps more so than in her novels, where there is more room for subtlety. There’s an interesting introduction by Marilyn French to add that last layer to the treat (I always read the introductions last in Viragoes and Persephones!).


I’m currently very much enjoying Wharton’s “The Custom of the Country” with its horrendous heroine, as well as making my way through the second half of “A Dance to the Music of Time: Spring” with Matthew and Linda. All good!

Book Reviews – Regency Buck and False Colours and review of the Month of Re-Reading


July 2013 coming up Two last reviews from my Month of Re-Reading – the second of these was finished in August but started in July. And a little round-up too, of how I’ve got on with this latest Month of Re-Reading. First off, two jolly good Heyers. I have to admit cheating slightly, as I pulled three Heyer novels off my TBR, knowing that I’ve read them all. If I hadn’t had so many on my TBR, I would probably have replaced one or two of them with something else. But there you go!

Georgette Heyer – “Regency Buck”

(18 March 2013)

Judith and Perry, orphans, discover that their mysterious guardian is an odious and fierce man with whom they have both previously had rather embarrassing encounters. Trying to launch themselves into London society, they come into contact with him quite a lot, but are comforted by their supportive cousin, hitherto unmet owing to a rift between their fathers. But who is after their fortune and trying to bump off Perry?

We all start to suspect this shady guardian as the plot thickens … but is all as it seems? This one really does embrace the mystery genre that Heyer also wrote in – books that I’ve not read and don’t really fancy. This is close enough to her usual Regency romances to be OK, though. There’s lots of detail about the royal family, Beau Brummell and Brighton which adds to the weight of the book and adds more layers of interest – although it’s funny reading about the Duke of Cambridge from those times when the modern one has been so much in the news recently!

Georgette Heyer – “False Colours”

(18 March 2013)

My last Heyer TBR! This one’s an absolute charmer, if slighter than the last read. Kit and Evelyn are the identical twin sons of a still-delightful if flighty mother who is in a bit of a financial tangle. The only solution Evelyn can see is to get married and release the trust that is being kept from him at present because he, too, is a bit flighty. When Kit reluctantly agrees to impersonate his brother for what is supposed to be just one evening, he is dragged into further intrigue and realises to his horror that the lady in question is not right for Evelyn … The romantic storyline comes to a head somewhat earlier than is customary in Heyer’s books, which can leave it to the last page, leaving the rest of the book free to work out how matters are going to be resolved in the fine-mannered society in which they revolve. This also gives the heroine (or one of them) the chance to shine and be more than just a cipher.

There are some truly marvellous characters in the senior generation of this book, well worthy of an Austen supporting cast (there, I’ve said it, but you get some really funny secondary characters in Austen, don’t you!) and this makes it a real delight to read.

Month of Re-Reading: a Round-up

I had a very enjoyable month of re-reading again. If you click on the Month of Re-Reading category, you’ll be able to skim through all of my reads this month (and in previous sessions, too). I re-read 16 books in total (one started in June and one finished in August), which is way more than I usually finish in a month these days, but then 11 of them were novels and only 5 non-fiction, and we did have a week’s holiday early in the month.

Did I read all the books I set out to read (see the picture at the top of this post)? No, I did not. I never got to the Molly Moynahan to see if I wanted to keep it. But I did read all of the others, plus one by Stuart Maconie and several extra Barbara Pyms, because of going to the BP conference and worrying that I hadn’t read them all recently enough. Stand-out reads would have to be Magnus Magnusson’s “Iceland Saga“, Adam Nicolson’s “Perch Hill” and Jane Austen’s “Emma”, although there really weren’t any duds this time! I’m still reading “A Dance to the Music of Time” alongside Matthew and will finish that later in August (hopefully).

For August, I’m hitting the All Virago All August theme. Next Month of Re-Reading will be January 2014. I wonder what I’ll get up to then …

Did you do any re-reading in July? Because of this theme of mine or do you re-read throughout the year anyway?

State of the TBR – August 2013


Aug 2013Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I KNEW I shouldn’t have boasted about the minute size of my TBR last month. Because then this happened and I had a Month of Re-Reading which only took three books off the shelf…. and now it’s in the state you can see to the left. Oops! That doesn’t include the small pile of English language books and continuations of series, much less the tottering pile of Three Investigators novels!

Now it’s All Virago All August, which is a reading activity (I won’t call it a challenge, because it’s all very non-competitive, just an opportunity to read and share) taking place in the Virago Group on the Library Thing online cataloguing website’s forum. Because it’s not a challenge with rules, I’m including in “Virago” any Persephone and Women’s Press books I might have to hand, as well as books by Virago authors such as the Bello ones I was sent just after my holiday.

Aug 2013 coming up 1So, once I’ve finished the current “one last Georgette Heyer” read, review coming soon, and in conjunction with my readalong of the “Spring” volume of “A Dance to the Music of Time” which I’m doing with Linda and Matthew to the pace of Mathew’s audio book reading, I’ll be reading … well, I’m not sure. I’m not going to rush them, but I’m going to make a start with the front of my TBR (pictured to the right) and work through all of the Virago, Persephone, Women’s Press and Virago authors books that I come across, still in order of acquisition. You can see some here – the Elizabeth Taylor short stories will be popping off the shelf and onto my bedside table for bed reading through the month, and there is a small crop that would have been coming up soon, anyway (two Persephones there, you’ll see!)

Aug 2013 coming up 2This is the back shelf of the TBR without its protective “books to read first” covering, and, again, you can see a smattering of Viragoes and Persephones, a Women’s Press biography and, near to the end (right hand side), a few Virago authors in the form of an E.H. Young and two Vita Sackville-Wests. I have counted around 18 there, and I do have a couple of train journeys to come this month, so who knows how I’ll get on!

So, plenty to keep me busy, although not much non-fiction, and if I crave some of that, I will dip into the other books, although I can see a nice September of Non-Fiction creating itself if I don’t.

Are you taking part in All Virago All August? Do you read Virago books? Have you got special reading plans for August? Do share – I do like to know what other people are up to!