November 2014 books to readOK, confession time. These books have SO LITTLE in common that nothing can make this post come out right. Except maybe it represents the wide range of my reading tastes? I even thought, “Oho, that’s OK, they’re both on my Century of Reading List. But that turns out to be a different Georgette Heyer novel. So all I can do is apologise to the one or two readers who have made it this far. Spoiler alert: I may have enjoyed one of these books more than the other.

OK. Here goes …

Iris Murdoch – “Sartre: Romantic Rationalist”

(Bought 20 August 2013, Oxford)

Yes, I bought this well over a year ago, during a lovely trip to Oxford. All of the other books I bought then are long read and shelved or passed along. And I did start this one at the “right” time, as in I picked it off the shelf as it came to the top and started to read it.

What I can say is that I read all the words. I read Iris Murdoch’s novels a lot, and I love and understand them. But a philosopher I am not, and Murdoch with her philosopher hat on, writing about another novelist-philosopher, was always going to be a challenge. I think it was an online friend called Bill who mentioned casually that it was a work of literary criticism, really, and that helped to spur me on. But I have to admit to reading it rather mechanically, wishing that she’d put in some more commas to help the sense along, and feeling a bit lost.

There was a chapter about the way language describes the world which talked about the post-structuralists (or maybe it was the structuralists) a bit, and I did understand that better at the time. Oh, where is the Liz who read the “History of Western Philosophy” and understood it all (at the time)? She was 17 and fresh-minded, I fear.

Anyway, it was short, it’s been read, I’m keeping it in case I need to refer to it. I’m sorry, but it’s not left me with a burning desire to read Sartre’s novels which, frankly, sound rather terrifying. It does make me want to go back and check I still understand Iris Murdoch’s novelistic writing!

Georgette Heyer – “Cotillion”

(Bought 16 April 2014, The Works, Kendal)

Back from out of my depth and very much able to touch the bottom with my toe – but I wouldn’t call this shallow, as there’s a range of characters and motivations, sparkling wit, HUGE amounts of research worn lightly, and all the pleasures you’d expect from a vintage Heyer. It’s also one of the first books I wrote my married name in, as I bought it on our honeymoon in the Lake District (we had an exciting train journey from Windermere to Kendal, home of the mint cake and a shopping outlet mall).

This one has one of the jolly and resourceful heroines Heyer does so well, throwing herself on the mercy of her cousin as she tries to escape the miserly ways of her guardian. There’s a batch of amusingly different cousins who all have to end up vying for her hand (one of them is pretty mentally challenged, but as he does prevail in the end, it’s not a cruel portrayal, but an affectionate one – I did worry at the beginning). High-society London is all it promises to be and more, but Kitty keeps her head, and control of her purse-strings. But will she realise that the cousin she first loved is perhaps not the best match for her? And can her fiance persuade himself that there is more to his moral fibre and courage than meets the eye?

A lovely read, a good antidote to the rigours of philosophy!


Leonard Woolf the Wise Virgins PersephoneOnly one acquisition to report – after all, it is coming up to Christmas (including three Secret Santas) and birthday season, and I don’t want to accidentally undermine someone’s kind purchase by snapping up stuff myself! We were at our friend Bridget’s house at the weekend – unfortunately she’s developed an eye condition (she blogs about visual impairment over at A New Look Through Old Eyes) and isn’t able to read her cherished Persephones any more (she does do well with audio books and the text expansion capabilities of the iPad), and she kindly offered me one to add to my collection. As we had a large overlap, I was thrilled to find Leonard Woolf’s “The Wise Virgins” and bring it home with me – thank you again, Bridget! This is also handy in being published in 1914, just in case I find my current Reading a Century book for that year a bit much.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone or your depth in your reading recently? Was it a good or alarming experience? Is it a good idea to shake things up with a bit of a challenge now and then? Does that in fact make returning to the familiar that bit better …?