March 2015 To Be ReadTwo books, one from last month and one from this – linked by the fact that although one’s about the upper class and one about the working upper middle or nouveau riche class, the former mentions the latter at one point, which I quite liked. They’re both good reads, too, and, incidentally, both ones that I’ve read along with my friend Ali! I’ve also got one acquisition, and that’s a tiny one so hardly counts. Are you having a good March of reading so far? I will admit to having read almost three other books but being behind on my reviewing at the moment (oops).

Vita Sackville-West – “The Edwardians”

(16 August 2014)

A Virago kindly sent to me by Karen from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, this is effectively a novel about Vita, her family and her love for her home at Knole, which she lost as a result of inheritance laws (and yes, I know I bang on about “Death of the Author” and Reception Theory and all that, but this just screams autobiography at you if you know anything about Vita: we’re all allowed to drift away from our pet theory from time to time, aren’t we!).

The story is a portrait of Sebastian and Viola, twins who both have aspects of Vita (and also recall “The Heavenly Twins“), and their society mother at the very height of the Edwardian era, all country house weekends and reams of affairs which are kept from the masses by an elaborate scheme of facades and substanceless marriages. The outsider, Anquetil, very much not “one of us”, observes a house party with detached interest and has a profound effect on both twins, although it’s not clear quite how he’s affected them at first, as Sebastian turns down an opportunity and Viola starts up a correspondence. A middle-class woman of the working part of London life is drawn into Sebastian’s life but is seemingly the only person in the book with the courage to preserve her own moral code – it’s not quite clear who is being criticised, but there are some powerful scenes to this theme. She is the link to a Forsytean world of property, money and conservatism, which is mentioned as very much in opposition to the morally free upper class milieu.

Vita is pretty savage about high society and its hypocrisy, but also elegiac about a declining way of life on a country estate which is full of respect and honour between the upper class and the people. A good read which Vita rejected as being unrepresentative of her work (it was, however, a bestseller) with an introduction by Victoria Glendenning which rather amusingly urges people to go and visit Knole (more death of the Death of the Author there).

Ali happened to have this to read at around the same time, and her review is here. This book was published in 1930 so fills a year in my Reading A Century project.

John Galsworthy – “To Let”


The final book in the original (but now first of three) “Forsyte Saga” trilogy, and in this one we finally get to Fleur, who everyone seems to remember from the TV series, plus the bit where you really need a family tree at hand to work it all out, as the family feud carries on to affect the next generation. Young Jolyon’s son Jon and Soames’ daughter Fleur haven’t crossed paths, as the two branches of the family have pulled firmly away from each ther. Each is the apple of their parent’s eye, and efforts have been made not to let them know about the rift. But with a horrible inevitability (and there wouldn’t be much novel if they didn’t), they do meet at an exhibition, and there are more horribly predictable circumstances as they manage, in the new freedom of the 1920s, to arrange to meet up several times.

The wider family setting narrows a little in this volume – only Timothy is left from the older generation, and we are then confined, apart from some mentions, to Young Joylon’s older daughters, June and Holly, and Holly’s husband Soames’ nephew, who caused conniptions in the last volume, but they’re happily settled now. There’s plenty on how the Forsyte inheritance in terms of personality is getting weakened, while the inheritance in terms of money is building and strengthening, with Soames controlling it pretty well single-handed, although Timothy’s will does throw a slight spanner into the works. And some of the family, in going into farming, is returning interestingly to the roots of its founder. Family loyalties are strained and feelings run high, marriages are successful or not, and there’s s stressful process of finding out the truth. There’s an annoying Frenchman thrown into the mix which allows Galsworthy to be (slightly irritatingly) arch, and altogether it’s a successful ending to the first trilogy and whets the appetite for more.

Published in 1921, this also fills in a year in my Reading A Century project. I think I’m the first to get a review up, but will link to Ali, Bridget and Karen’s as they publish them.


Penguin 80 Gunnlaug's SagaWe had a lovely day out in Oxford yesterday with my Auntie Linda, Cousin Martin and Martin’s partner Rad. I was very restrained – in fact we didn’t really go near any bookshops, but did have a lovely time in the Natural History Museum, but we popped into Waterstone’s and I did pick up ONE of the new Penguin 80s (80 books at 80p each to celebrate 80 years of Penguin). I found out about these from Kaggsy’s tempting posts on the subject, and much as I’d like a complete set, I kept a lid on that tendency and treated myself to “The Icelandic one”.

I’m currently reading Helen Cross’ very good “The Secrets We Keep” which I almost couldn’t put down this morning, and have finished a good book on the Vikings and that Nick Hornby, about which I found little to say in my reading journal. More reviews soon!