Virginia WoolfTwo very dissimilar books here just squeaking under the end-of-month line (I don’t like having reviews spill into the next month, although it’s often not preventable and I don’t mind if other people’s do). Not on the 20 Books of Summer list (of course they’re not – I must have read 40 books of summer by now!!) but both good reads suitable for the times in which they were read, and of course the second one fits into #Woolfalong, too!

Debbie Macomber – “Sweet Tomorrows”

(22 August 2016 – from Linda)

Linda and I both love Debbie Macomber’s easy-to-read community orientated novels and I’m keeping the collection for both of us. This one is the last Rose Harbour book and the reviews contained the dreaded word “bittersweet” so I was glad to have Linda read it first (there’s a dog in the series. Note: the dog is fine).

Jo, owner of the Rose Harbour Inn, is mourning Mark, the handyman turned beloved, who has apparently walked out of her and Cedar Cove’s life to settle a matter of principle, and is trying to start afresh yet again. Emily moves in as a long-term lodger and the women form a bond – she also provides a plot device to allow Jo to get some time away from the Inn now and then. We’re reminded of – and sometimes meet – people who have previously stayed, Jo receives a message from Mark, but is it all too late, and all in all, it’s a good way to wind up the series.

Joan Russell Noble (ed.) – “Recollections of Virginia Woolf”

(4 August 2016)

Top marks to Karen from Kaggsysbookishramblings for mentioning and then reviewing this one; I know there lots of Woolf books out there but this one’s been around since 1972 and I’d have loved to read it before now.

The book, published at a time when Bloomsbury was not in fashion, with the writer’s diary recently out and Woolf having a reputation as a bit nasty, seeks to redress the balance by gathering together tales of Woolf from those who actually knew her, whether central parts of Bloomsbury, people from outside like Rose Macaulay, people who worked for the Hogarth Press (I loved the views of this by different employees, one of my favourite parts of the book) and Leonard himself in a late interview; there’s also a very moving piece by Louie Mayer, who worked for the Woolfs for 30 years.

I learned some charming things about Virginia Woolf – she almost took her honeymoon in Iceland; she worked at a standing desk (apparently because someone said that her sister worked physically harder, being an artist, than she did as a writer) and she taught herself French from gramophone records but refused to speak more than a sentence in the language when in France with Vita Sackville-West. These glimpses, as well as the more commonly recorded flappy outfits and hooting laugh remind us of the real person behind the myths. Rebecca West excitingly says that Woolf was seen as being derivative of Dorothy Richardson, but reminds us the chronology doesn’t support that, so that was a nice link.

As Karen also mentions, there is a lack of context for the pieces in the book – their ordering seems fairly random, the acknowledgements state in a big block that many of the pieces came from books, others from a 1970s TV series, but it would have been useful to have that context with each piece, and there’s nothing about why particular people were chosen to be used. It appears that people were asked or the editor particular looked for pieces about Woolf’s perceived genius, and the echoes on that topic resemble those reflecting each other’s recollections.

A lovely and valuable book which will please fans of Woolf and will definitely be re-read.

This book was read for #Woolfalong Phase 4 – Biographies.

I’m currently starting to read Edith Wharton’s “Hudson River Bracketed”, which is my fourth All Virago / All August read and #20BooksofSummer Book 18 (handily, the summer continues until September 5). This has been a vintage reading month for me, with 14 books completed (if you count the Kynaston omnibus as two, which it is, and then count them both for this month as the first one hasn’t been counted anywhere else). I put this down to the two trips to Cornwall and Iceland, with their associated journeys, but it’s been very nice. The TBR is looking good (look out tomorrow) although I fear it’s about to expand again …