Nov 15 tbrMore reviews from my somewhat frantic Christmas reading – but I’m not sure I’ve made enough room on the TBR shelf yet, especially because I seem to have fallen into a Waterstones clutching some book tokens today … more of that later. But for now, two re-reads from a long time ago and one lovely Georgette Heyer.

Penelope Lively – “The House in Norham Gardens”

(20 Jan 2015 – from Luci at the small Virago Group meetup in Birmingham)

A perfect, crystalline children’s book, read many years ago but largely forgotten. Fourteen-year-old Clare lives in a big old house in North Oxford with her elderly great aunts, immersed in school work, with her only change of scene an annual summer visit to her Norfolk cousins. Money is tight, and a lodger is introduced into the household along with the more modern ways of the 1970s.

While looking for an extra blanket in the attic, Clare finds a ceremonial shield from Papua New Guinea; then she both begins a dream life around the tribe her great-grandfather sourced it from and a new friendship with John, an African student she meets in the Pitt-Rivers museum.

Set in January, with the world muffled by snow and the dream world encroaching, the book takes on an atmosphere that lies somewhere between “The Indian in the Cupboard” and “The Dark is Rising”; things become hazy and unreal and a bit frightening.

Located in a believable and accurate Oxford, this delightful book is an absorbing Christmas read with its musings on history, colonialism and the passing of times, houses and people into more modern versions. Lovely.

This book will suit … lovers of older children’s fiction, people who live in or know Oxford

E. R. Braithwaite – “To Sir, With Love”

(20 Jan 2015, from Luci)

Another winner from Luci’s magical book bags, a school hardback copy (OK, THE school hardback copy) of the classic text about a new teacher and his class of East End pupils.

Ricky Braithwaite, disillusioned by the racist nature of post-war England, almost on a whim decides to go into teaching, and ends up working in a “progressive” school in the East End of London, where he first clashes with, then bonds with, the top class, who are coming up to leaving school. His romance with a fellow teacher (which I had entirely forgotten) leads to more pain and struggles, but it’s ultimately an uplifting story of respect, growth and hope.

It’s still worth a re-read, all these years later (in fact, it was published in 1959 and fills in a year in my Century of Reading – haven’t had one of those for a while!), although one instance of casual homophobia was disappointing in a book that works so hard against class stereotyping and racism.

This book will suit … well, everyone read this at school, right? But it’s worth a re-read.

This book covers 1959 in my Reading a Century project

Georgette Heyer – “The Black Moth”

(20 Jan 2015 – charity shop)

A good one, with brothers separated by an incident of cheating at cards, one in exile and being a highwayman, but gradually moving towards one another again. There’s a devilish duke connected with the family who has decided to seduce yet another lady – unfortunately, our older brother has also fallen in love with her, and is compelled to rescue her a couple of times.

It’s one of Heyer’s earlier novels, so her heroine isn’t quite as independent or spirited as the more major and exciting female characters in other books, but it’s a good and exciting read, with midnight gallops and fencing duels aplenty, along with the inevitable bullet in the shoulder which is a mainstay of books throughout her career.

This book will suit … might be one for the more diehard Heyer fans

Three books in a pile

It’s actually like a bit of a disease, really, isn’t it, though?

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And, the horror. I did end up with a few book tokens in the Christmas pile, and while sorting them out, discovered I had some more lingering from my last birthday, so it seemed a good opportunity to take them on today’s trip to Derby to meet up with my best friend Emma and her family (there were book tokens involved there, too). Derby has a nice Waterstones, and two of these were “Buy one get one half price”; all three were on my actual or mental wish list, so …

Gaston Dorren & Jonathan Buckley – “Lingo” – a journey through the languages of Europe.

Andy Miller – “A Year of Reading Dangerously” – he reads 50 books that change his life. BUT what is the book where a ?woman? reads books from all the countries of the world? Can anyone remember? I’m sure one of you has read it …

Anne Tyler – “A Spool of Blue Thread” – because even though “The Beginner’s Goodbye” profoundly depressed me (watch out for THAT review tomorrow!), this is her “last” novel and I have read every single one of her other ones.

I do know that I’m having ONE book for my birthday (a rather special one, if we can locate a copy) and I will be springing these off my wishlist right away, but what was I THINKING?

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Currently reading – I’m half way through a NetGalley ebook about buying nothing for a year, which immediately compelled the usually frugal me to buy three books and two offcuts of oilcloth for new tablecloths, and Dorothy Richardson’s “Pointed Roofs”, which I’m very much enjoying so far.