Mar 2016 TBRI’ve got quite a few to fit in today before we hit the first of the month and the TBR photo tomorrow, but only one long review and the rest are kind of round-up ones, including, unfortunately, the first bump in my Dorothy Richardson “Pilgrimage” Road. I’ve managed to complete 11 books this month, including one I’ve reviewed for Shiny New Books (link to come soon when it’s out) and a Margery Sharp I’ve got to hold off publishing until nearer the date of her republishing frenzy. So, here we go …

Dorothy Richardson – “The Tunnel”

The longest novel in the sequence so far, and unfortunately I found this, the fourth in the “Pilgrimage” sequence, a bit of a slog. I did read it quite disjointedly, which probably didn’t help, as I do think you need to absorb yourself in her world to an extent.

The bits where Miriam moves into and sets up her new lodgings, learns to ride a bicycle, decides to cut her hair and wear divided skirts when she’s 30 and (some of) the scenes with her friends are still quite engaging. But there’s a lot set in the dental practice where she works, which is good on the ennui of office routines but quite confusing and also a bit icky in places. She also comes over as really immature in places, which is a bit grating (maybe I’m expecting as much of Miriam as I am of her author). The other scenes with friends or at lectures or having encounters with patients and random people are just confusing in places. It feels like someone’s private notes, so both intrusive to read and opaque.

I will persist with the next one, but you’d be even more lost if you tried to read it as a standalone. I wonder how people who have read the biographical novel got on with this one.

Harold Nicolson – “Diaries and Letters 1939-45”

(January 2016)

The middle volume, which I had to pick up second-hand having found the first and third in Macclesfield last March. Again wonderfully edited by his son, Nigel, this is fascinating reading, written as it happened, every day, so full of the immediate thoughts of an MP and landowner during the war. Nigel does an amazing job of giving a potted history of what is going on, explaining any misconceptions or errors and even keeping track of where he and his brother were when they went out to fight.

It’s a good mix of the daily diaries plus letters to and from Vita, holding the fort in war-torn Kent with the Battle of Britain raging overhead and stray bombs dropping regularly, and letters to Ben and Nigel in service overseas. He is specifically writing for his grandson or great-grandson, and rather sweetly makes a point of writing out his predictions, or his activities during a day, to dispel the idea that it’s just about lunching and socialising.

Harold attempts to do well in the House of Commons but finds himself out of step on occasion; however, being close to the action, he gives huge amounts of detail about Churchill, the exiled French leaders, etc., which all comes alive as you read it. And it’s all interspersed with the everyday life of Sissinghurst, with neighbours, bees and planting, as well as politics, history and warfare. Excellent reading and I can’t wait to start the next volume.

Jessica Ennis – “Unbelievable”

(18 May 2015)

Biography written with Rick Broadbent taking her from her family life and childhood dreams through to glory at the London 2012 Olympics. It’s got all the people, events, injuries and training, but unfortunately it doesn’t massively come alive. I know from working with writers that these can be a struggle for both writer and subject, and I think this would have been a difficult one to put together – maybe she’s just really reserved and didn’t want to talk about herself, which is fair enough.

One for the fans. My copy had some extra photos and also a random letter from an athletics club to a non-famous person inside. If anyone is a big fan, I’ll be happy to pass this along, as it must have been a review copy.

Debbie Macomber – “A Country Christmas”

(26 March 2016)

“Return to Promise” is the 8th and final Promise, Texas novel. We’re a few years on again since the last volume, and we go back to Doctor Jane and rancher Cal, separated by family illness originally, but then by miscommunication and an unpleasant young woman, not to mention small-town gossip.

In “Buffalo Valley”, we’re back in North Dakota for the eponymous series, and there’s quite a lot of rounding up of how all the couples got together as there had obviously been a gap since Macomber last wrote about this town. There’s a threat from a superstore chain and a battle for the heart of a corporate man who falls in love with the town and one of its inhabitants (this theme sounds familiar but I’m not sure which other book I’ve read it in).

We know how both books are going to end, but they’re comforting reading, like a warm Radox bath.

Currently reading – I’m on another Margery Sharp at the moment, then I will pick up the next Richardson – and it’s on to Harold Nicolson Vol 3!