I’ve started off my #20BooksOfSummer challenge in style … by immediately seizing on a book I was supposed to be saving for All Virago (and Persephone) / All August because I had to read it RIGHT NOW. Oops. But it was good. And I had another oops moment on Saturday. I’d been and volunteered at parkrun, had a cuppa in the cafe and wandered back home. I wasn’t in a huge hurry as a big job I’d been booked for had failed to materialise (this is upsetting but has given me a nice lot of reading and sorting out time) and I popped into the local Oxfam Books to see if they had a particular book I wanted to give to a friend. They didn’t, but … Well, let’s do the review first.

Dorothy Whipple – “Every Good Deed and Other Stories”

(5 November 2016 – from Verity)

My lovely Verity sent me this as an UnBirthday/UnChristmas present, which is the lovely idea of sending you something just because, rather than on the date in question. As I said above, I intended to save this until August. But I couldn’t.

There’s one novella and then some classic length short stories in this very nice volume from Persephone Books. The novella comes first, and “Every Good Deed” examines whether “Every good deed brings its own evil return” or “Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to thee after many days” should be assumed to prevail in life. The good Miss Tophams are quiet and unworldly, and easily fooled and taken advantage of, but isn’t it better to trust people and do good than to be suspicious and miss the opportunity to help someone? They certainly see badness and vulgarity for what it is eventually in the person of Gwen, a girl they take in who turns against them, as we expect her to. But this Elizabeth Taylor-like story with its conmen and blowsy women asks whether nurture or nature sill come out on top, and we silently cheer nurture on, however dry and silly the poor sisters first appear to be.

“Miss Pratt Disappears” is the longest of the remaining short stories, in which a lady forced to live with her brothers in turn ends up making a marvellous bid for freedom and is very satisfying. The rest of the stories are often bittersweet pieces about the gap between impression and reality which all work extremely well at capturing the ebbs and flows of life and relationships. “One Dark Night” gives a very claustrophobic and frightening picture of a journey in the blackout which, although returning to the Whipple world of shops and sisters, is unusual in its panicky atmosphere.

A lovely collection, and none of these are found in the “Persephone Book of Short Stories” which makes it good value.

This is Book #1 in my 20BooksOfSummer!

And thus to the horror that came back out from Oxfam with me … Some of them DON’T COUNT, honest!

Helen Cross – Spilt Milk, Black Coffee – this is an excellent novel by a local author – I already have a copy but I picked this one up because I like to send out local authors in the LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa.

Pamela Brown – The Swish of the Curtain – I already have an original TV adaptation copy of this but this is the pretty reissue of this childhood favourite so will also be used as a gift.

Charlie Hill – The Space Between Things – an excellent novel set in local Moseley in the 1990s, when my best friend Emma lived there – it’s out of print and I’ve been looking for a copy to give her for so long that I forgot whether I’d already done so!

These therefore DO NOT COUNT, as they are gifts.

Barbara Kingsolver – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – I have read all of hers and M many of them (apart from The Lacuna, which neither  of us fancy) so I pounced on this non-fiction about a year living off seasonal foods etc.

Cathy Kelly – Between Sisters – a reliable cosy read and I am a tiny bit low on light novels in the TBR at the moment

Samantha Tonge – Breakfast under a Cornish Sun – I’m going down to Cornwall for the photograph project I do’s summer party and this will be perfect for the journey down and even features bunting on the cover (the group loves bunting).

Halldor Laxness – The Fish Can Sing – yup, another weird one and I know I didn’t love the last one of his I read, but I can’t pass him by.

Georgette Heyer – Sylvester and April Lady – Sylvester DOESN’T COUNT as I already have it in an omnibus I acquired via BookCrossing, and I’m trying to collect all the books in that so I can pass along the omnibus. I didn’t have April Lady so that’s on the TBR now.

Katarina Bivald – The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – a Swedish woman moves to small-town America and opens a bookshop – a novel but it sounds very fun.

Have you read any of these? Am I beyond redemption?