“The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” round-up and “A Word Child” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


So it’s time to round up our reading of “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” and look forward to what has always been a personal favourite of mine, “A Word Child”. My review of “Sacred and Profane” is here and we’ve had a good discussion in the comments, particularly on the roles of wives and mistresses. Do pop your thoughts in the comments there if you have any to add – and don’t worry if it’s not February 2019 when you do so – I always want to talk about Murdoch!

Away from my review and comments, Bookish Beck has been reading along with us with all the IM books she had, and has now finished (I thought she had “The Book and the Brotherhood” but I must be thinking of someone else, and did a great review of this one, with which I tend to agree. Jo’s Goodreads review is excellent as ever and I love the quotes she pulls out as well as those memories of trendy 1970s living rooms!

Maria Peacock has sent me these cover images of the 1976 Penguin paperback (a few people have this as it’s the copy Bookish Beck read, too):

Maria Peacock’s Penguin ed of “Sacred and Profane Love Machine”

Maria Peacock’s Penguin ed of “Sacred and Profane Love Machine” – blurb

and added this information:

“The detail in the 1976 copy is of a painting by Titian and shows the wrist and hand of the ‘sacred’ bridal woman. According to the Wikipedia entry one interpretation is that the  two women represent the goddess Ceres ( the naked one) who brought her daughter Prosperina ( the one in the frock) back from the Underworld. Emily in the novel refers to this myth when she says Blaise has killed her and sent to hell and he must come and find her to make her live again.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_and_Profane_Love

Peter Rivenberg contributed the more recent Penguin than mine:

Peter Rivenberg’s newer ed Penguin

“A Word Child”

I cannot WAIT to read this one. Set partly on the London Underground with the most delicious doubling and repetition and patterns, groovy coats and drug references and some pop music, I seem to remember. I’ve always really liked this one, maybe because I understood it a bit better, seemingly buying and reading it first on my 23rd birthday!

Here are my three copies. I love the First Ed but it’s a bit fragile to release entirely from its protective cover, so sorry it’s a bit reflective. Guesses on who all the heads represent (Oh, I THINK I’ve done a diagram of the relationships in this one that goes in a circle, something to dig out for the review!).

So Penguin had got into their new edition when I bought my copy in 1995 and there’s a great picture of the Hungerford Footbridge on it – I always thing of this book when I’m in London and trot across the bridge. I’m not quite sure what the IKEA chair on the new Vintage represents but there we go.

The blurb in the First ed (sorry this didn’t photograph well):

That’s a great blurb, isn’t it! We’re a bit more terse in 1995:

and the Vintage copy seems strangely derivative …

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “A Word Child” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite? (and why has no one answered that question yet?)

You will find a page listing all of these blog posts here, updated as I go along.

Book review – Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery”


A birthday book from last year today, and a book I’d heard about and seen but hadn’t got round to picking up: I’m glad I was compelled to read it by being given it as I did get a lot out of it. It’s always particularly lovely to read about your home town and Fowler appears to live so close to me that I’m pretty sure I must know somebody who knows her, One Degree Of South Birmingham being what it is!

Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature”

(21 January 2018 – from Jen)

Narrative of a summer where Fowler explores the canals of Birmingham in a very small inflatable boat (why have I never seen her?) and also comes to a surprising and marriage-ending realisation about herself.

I get frustrated with nature books that shoehorn personal life into them to cover more bases, but here the two are tightly interwoven and the beautiful writing draws irresistible parallels between the two. It’s also a lovely celebration of friendship and of other people’s relationships – Dave and Louise who live on a boat, strong and happy Sarah and Ming, each bringing her strengths and happily bickering about how to row their own boat.

I really loved, of course, when she described “our” bit of the canal (see my running posts on a Sunday for endless canal pics), including the lovely toll cottage which devastatingly burned down WHILE I WAS READING THIS BOOK and the Brandwood tunnel – now I know the picture of the man on one end is Shakespeare, which is nice! I also loved how they collected sightings of themed things like coconuts on their travels, something I often do with my running buddies. She also writes brilliantly about how we make maps full of our own experiences – again, something that running has given me (here’s the place where I sat down and had a cry, here’s where we ‘chased’ that nun up the Bristol Road) so that was something lovely to identify with. I can’t help wishing there’d been a real map in the book, however.

There is naturally some dead and icky stuff seen on Fowler’s travels: I was OK with it and I’m pretty feeble, as long-term readers know; it wasn’t gratuitous at all. The descriptions of nature and its interface with industry and residential areas was fascinating and the book as a whole was an interesting meander through the natural environment, with a moving story of a woman finding herself woven within it.

No acquisitions recently, although I did find a cheap edition of a scarce Virago for Ali! I’ve moved on to reading my book about the Brixton Academy bought last month, and am writing a review of Malala’s dad’s book for Shiny which I will link to here when it’s published. I really hope I get to read more books next month!

Book review – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb – “I am Malala”


Plucked from the middle of the TBR because I won her Dad’s book on NetGalley (I have read that now but am going to review it for Shiny New Books so will share my review there when it’s done – I’m glad I read this one first). It does feel like I’m the last person to read this book, so I was pleased when Gill brought it to put on the coffee house shelves and I could grab it, especially as Malala moved to Birmingham when she came to the UK for medical treatment, and I wanted to read about what she thought of our city.

Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb – “I am Malala”

(3 Dec 2018 – BookCrossing)

The updated autobiography of the famous advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan, including her journey for treatment and new life here in Birmingham (I’m glad she likes our city, on the whole). Her story and personality are remarkable but her father comes across as remarkable, too (on a side note, I was a bit shocked to realise he’s about my age! But of course he is!). I hadn’t realised that she’d made a film with the BBC and produced a diary of life under the Taliban’s rule for them, too, so it made more sense about her coming here.

I was proud to read about the care she had from medical staff here (including the Muslim chaplain and various nurses who found food and care for her) and I liked her relationships with her old friends, still going strong. It’s well done as there’s enough history and cultural stuff to explain the background but all related to Malala and her family, and enough detail on the violence and repression to make an impression, but never gratuitous.

She comes over as a very normal young woman as well as an exceptional one, and it’s a great read that I highly recommend.

Sedate lady running 18-24 February 2019 #amrunning #running #FebruaryFive


A “rest” week from mara/ultra training made slightly testing by a few additional things / worries in the background which made it less restful than I would have liked. Also a bit random in the days I ran as it was quite hard to fit stuff in around work and personal matters (all is OK, pet illness (OK) and various bits and bobs not directly to do with me and all hopefully resolved). In the background, I’ve been doing my physio exercises twice a day, pretty well every day.

Wednesday – I was meeting my friend Ali to pass her a book I’d bought her and to collect my copy of the same book I’d loaned her plus some of my special cheese she’d ordered in her grocery delivery. I had a main lunch then felt a bit full so left some of it (you know you’re a runner when # 182 – you eat your half-eaten lunch when you get home because veg portions). I had a big caramel latte with Ali then ran back with that swishing in my tum and a backpack on my back. It was almost all uphill, too!

Here’s a nice pic of standard 1930s suburbia for all you readers who think all my runs are pretty (there were almshouses to the left, all in scaffolding).

In suburbia

3.6 mi / 11:52 mins per mile

Thursday – I had an hour between jobs so nipped out with Claire, who had a day off work. There was blossom in the park! We were less on the canals than usual as only had room for 5.5 miles.


5.5 mi / 12:12 mins per mile

Saturday – For the first time this year I managed to volunteer at Cannon Hill parkrun. I found out later it was my 123rd volunteering stint (I’ve run it 25 times). I was on the HILL with my friend Trudie, so we were cheering people up the hill that comes just before the end of the run – someone came round afterwards and thanked us for getting him up the hill which was lovely.

Then I went and led the run and talk session we run jointly with Bournville Harriers. I did the intro and did a loop of the park walking with Lisa then had to go off to meet the in-laws for lunch. Pleased to get two volunteering stints in one morning!

Double volunteering

Sunday – This is the reason I’m posting late: my husband said it was a good idea to talk honestly about my fears and experience going out on the trails. Although I have run cross-country races twice (over about 6k, from memory) and the Sutton Fun Run, which is park paths, I haven’t been out on proper trails just running. One guy from club runs a regular session over on the Lickey Hills (Birmingham lies in a circle of hills and the Lickeys are the closest to us) and although he wasn’t there today, four of us headed out. Dave gave me a lift – we officiate quite a lot together and he ran my DIY marathon with me, Kate is a fellow-librarian and Rachel was new to me but very kind.

It was SO FOGGY when we set out at 8am!

foggy road

We got to the car park in good time and got going. It’s quite a challenging route with a lot of hills from the off. I mean, it’s beautiful and everything, and I had Saucony Peregrines on which did feel quite reassuring, but I spent a lot of the first two miles seriously gasping for breath – I think to be honest that while everyone was being so kind and understanding, I was kind of on the edge of panic. It’s so much concentration: where do I place my feet? mud or roots? don’t bang into brambles and ping them back at someone; is it better to run down the stony path in the middle or the grass slopes at the sides?

We were out of the mist but it was hanging around in the basin of the city – so pretty.

I think this bit looks like Scotland or the Lake District because of the pines.

Here we are

And this is the view from a castly turret sort of thing at the very top. Foggy city and the hills the other side rising out of the mist.

I was getting the hang of at least the paths under the trees (leaf mould and earth, not paved) and managed to run more continuously at more like my normal pace. Kate’s recommended Salomon’s YouTube channel with hints and tips. I was so scared, esp going down slopes, with loose stones and very unclear. I did not cry, and I did not fall, and I sort of enjoyed the mile running along the forest floor near the end. But look at that elevation profile (the grey background).

I’m not looking for sympathy or praise but when you first went off-road onto the trails, how long did it take for you to get used to it? If you loved it immediately, is there any hope for one who didn’t?

That course profile!

5.1 mi / 13:59 mins per mile

One good thing: my friend Trudie created this runners’ bingo for the club this month and I’ve managed to complete a line! Cross train – try something knew was today, I have volunteered for club running the 4 mile run last Sat and co-leading run and talk / jeffing the other Thursday, I volunteered at parkrun yesterday and I have worn my hi-viz for evening runs and also as an official!

Feel good February!

Miles this week: 14.2 Miles this year: 157 (9 to do to hit my 1,000 miles this year target)
Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here. Note: the weekly wrap is apparently ending this week! oh no! I’ve found loads of brilliant women to follow and hopefully we’ll keep wrapping up the week anyway and reading each other’s blog posts (I’ve got the most frequent posters on my Feedly feed now anyway). Or maybe it’s time for me to stop now, too, and stick to the book reviews?

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


As promised, I’ve managed to get this one read a bit earlier than the December and January reads, so there should be plenty of time for discussion before my round-up post. I’ve had some front covers sent to me already but always have room for more for my post at the end of the month!

Note I can’t help but have plot spoilers in this review, so maybe save it to read later if you haven’t read the book yet and intend to!

So this one was of course a re-read, probably my fourth read of it; I’ve always seen this is a bit of a minor work (and only really remembered the shocking act near the end) but I got such a lot out of it this time, and reassessed my feelings on various characters, as I seem to this time round, as a married mid-forties person. It’s so interesting how our views change, isn’t it.

Iris Murdoch – “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine”

(11 January 2019)

We find the Gavender family, Blaise the conman psychotherapist (in his own estimation), placid Harriet, wrapped up in her things and home and family, and tortured David who is, sorry, just being a fastidious teenager; and next door there’s Monty Small, mourning his wife and wondering how to escape from the detective he created. But Blaise has a secret and she has a child and a weird friend, and they’re all about to clash …

What a rich setting for a novel! Two houses and a flat, two families, two sons, a sort of Greek chorus observing things in the shape of two misfit neighbours, and then a drunken truth-teller. Although there’s a small cast, this doesn’t feel as suffocating as some of her novels, maybe because there are voices from outside. And we have lots of pleasing tropes that echo through the other novels – including many people standing in gardens looking in!

The opening of the book is very strong, with three separate characters all gazing at a small figure in the garden of Hood House.  We also see Harriet’s “pale form” (p. 14) in the garden early on. We also have Emily running down the street away from Blaise and being chased, and then falling (doesn’t someone else do this?). And hooray – Monty climbs a fence, continuing a long stream of fence-climbing in these middle-class thinking folk that IM likes to write about! I also now feel that people opening their tops to their waists is a trope and not an echo of this book or that book – Pinn does it to Monty here (but he doesn’t act on the temptation). Ectoplasm is one that’s only come in since about “The Nice and the Good,” with Harriet describing herself as it here (p. 238).

Cluttered rooms, that favourite of IM’s, are only really found in Harriet’s domain, where she’s collected all but the “serious family stuff” and gaudy things from holidays. It’s awful when these are disposed of later, isn’t it! Poor old Harriet, I could remember what was going to happen all the way through, the downside to re-reading, although there are some pretty clanging portents, too. Back to the usual themes and we have soldiers – Harriet’s father and brother. Have we had a soldier recently? We have a big important book which Blaise is failing to write. Edgar is a pink man with a fat face and fluffy hair – a real Murdoch type and of course Monty is dry and severe, another type. Just like when Gracie in Accidental Man messes up the bits of London that IM most loves, Blaise is “not interested in pictures” while Harriet has amazing pleasure from them: a sure marker of a dodgy character and a good one. Another indication of goodness and badness is in the reaction of the dogs to people, rolling around happily with Edgar, trying to eat Blaise!

There’s not so much water as there usually is, however the Thames acts as a separator between Blaise’s two households and crossing the river is always “a bad moment” for him. There are plenty of tears – or no tears in Monty’s case. There is some humour, I liked Monty being rather in thrall to his detective but then at the last moment being rescued by the actor who plays him. Also Pinn, when chasing Blaise the first time: “… he heard those sharp accelerating footsteps behind him and turned to see those slinky spectacles glinting in the sun” (p. 83). I also like Monty’s pricking of Blaise’s worry about Harriet finding out about Emily:

‘I feel if Harriet ever knew about Emily the world would simply end in a huge explosion.’

‘Your ordeal is that it won’t. You’ll all go on existing, sleeping and eating and going to the lavatory.’ (p. 112)

There’s some great doubling, too, not only the two families, two households, two sons, two deflowerings but also a severing of the Achilles tendon in the TV detective series and when Blaise gets attacked by the dogs. There are two brothers in some kind of an asylum (as described in the novel).

On the portents, crikey! When Emily is having one of her moans about her second-best status in the arrangement, first of all she claims “I’m the flesh and she’s the spirit, don’t tell me, I know!” and then, chillingly, “God, sometimes I feel like people who go to an airport with a machine gun and just shoot everyone within sight. You simply have no idea how much I suffer” (p. 79). In addition, when Harriet is dealing with finding out about Emily, she brings to mind her soldiering family and then, “Harriet was determined to stay upright now in the gunfire” (p. 131). Did first-readers notice or go back to this?

Who is the saint and who the enchanter? I’m not sure there’s an enchanter as such, is there? Blaise likes to think he is and it’s interesting that all his patients do so much better when he withdraws from their lives, but he’s imposed himself on them more than being created as an enchanter. Harriet doesn’t think she’s a saint, finding her charity work and interests easy and boring, and feeling she’s selfish. But her last act is a selfless one, of course. Blaise thinks (or thought) of her as “not an intellectual but – what? – a sort of saint? Well, not a saint so much as a noble lady” (p. 58), also saying that she’s completely normal and absolutely open (as contrasted with his peculiar desires (unspecified) that he shares with Emily. Monty sees her as “a gentle utterly harmless person who could make no one her victim” (p. 179) however, these are both men seeing her through their eyes. There’s an indication of the nature of goodness when Monty remembers Sophie’s dying: “He ought to have accepted that suffering from her with profound gratitude as a proof of her love” (p. 22) but he didn’t.

Is Edgar the saint? He loves selflessly, he keeps his odd desires to himself, and strives to help others. He tells Monty to let Sophie go, with a short piece on death (p. 263), counsels David wonderfully:

One’s mind is such an old rubbish heap. All sorts of little bits of machinery start up. Don’t bother about them. Watch them a while, then make a change. (p. 315)

which is the complete opposite of Blaine’s analysis and meddling or Monty’s avoidance, and accepts his loss at the end in the same frame of mind. IM seems to make a clear statement about him at the very end:

He might resemble a huge pink baby and spend his time in libraries reading very obscure texts, but he had had his share of soldiering through nightmares, and things had happened to him of which he could not speak even to Monty. (p. 317)

and in the last words:

Three good-looking women, he thought, and all of them after me! And he could not help being a little bit cheered up and consoled as he got into the Bentley and set off alone for Oxford.

I thought a lot more of Edgar this time around. Whoever the saint is, Harriet has learned and changed by the end of the book, realising she’d not been prepared for the battle she had to fight – “for a situation where she was not needed she had no heroism” (p. 235). She tells Monty she has become her own person and hard in the middle, although he’s not hugely impressed and seemed to prefer her vague married form.

So a deep and satisfying and complicated book (though the inter-relationships are not too hard to understand this time round). And a new favourite character in Edgar.

Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Book review – Ian Thorpe – “This is Me” #amreading


I seem to be reading a bit slowly recently, not sure why really, and this appears to be my first book review of February. However, I am getting on nicely with my Iris Murdoch read for the month so that should be up next. Here’s one of the books I bought with a book token back in January last year, at a good price because it was slightly battered.

Ian Thorpe – “This is Me”

(14 January 2018)

A good autobiography (written with Australian sports writer Robert Wainwright, who is acknowledged on the title page) although it’s in a bit of a funny order: it’s a diary of his 2011-2012 attempt at a comeback after being out of swimming for four years, then looking back on his sporting life, although not all in chronological order. It’s all clear in the end and is probably fine if you’ve followed his career in detail.

He’s honest about his depression, towards the end and also about his terrible struggles with the media, which I hadn’t realised about, but I loved the bits about his love for Japan and his passion for his charity work with Native Australians – there are a few rants in there, good for  him. He also has an interesting view on training and racing, using racing as an excuse for doing what he loves best – training. I can identify with that in my running – although obviously he enjoyed and excelled at racing. It’s also interesting to think that you’re always in your lane in swimming, not the case with most running. I did get a bit lost in some of the technical details of his swimming training and strokes, but enjoyed the descriptions of his interactions with the water.

I got very excited at one point, when I was reading about Thorpe attending a swim camp in Tenerife at the same time as my friend Verity was attending her usual swim camp there – and yes, it was the same place!

What came through was an inquisitive mind searching for something outside swimming: I think he’s become a good commentator so hopefully he’ll continue with that (this book really finishes with the London 2012 Olympics). An interesting read.

Book review – Bella Mackie – “Jog On” #NetGalley #JogOn


A running book with a difference, I was very glad to win this on NetGalley and can highly recommend it if you’re interested in the links between mental health and exercise or want to know more about getting a handle on anxiety.

An excellent book, part memoir and part how-to book, about how running helped the author’s quite severe mental health difficulties and can help others’. She usefully explains some of the issues one can face, and is pleasingly robust about post-natal depression not ‘just being a bit of baby blues’ and OCD not being about having tidy cupboards and I loved her honest and forthright style – she felt like someone you can trust, having been there herself but having the insight and self-knowledge to help others while telling it how it is.

Mackie’s breakdown and inspiration to start running were triggered by the end of her short-lived marriage, but she had deep-seated and life-limiting anxiety and depression from way before then. By starting running bit by embarrassed and difficult bit (she never, ever makes out it’s easy), she has chipped away at her fears, achieving what she refers to as small moments, for example getting on the Tube for the first time in years, or going through Camden Market. To be honest, I think this is more relatable than some of the big things people take on, and fits with the theme of the book being very personal and non-intimidating.

As part of this, I absolutely love how she isn’t a racer, not a marathoner, not a runner who ‘achieves’ some of the things other runners do (she does go to parkrun, though). I know the big racers and marathon runners (even one like me: I don’t like to think of myself as intimidating but I have a friend who was relieved when someone told them at a Run and Talk session that you can stick at 10ks or whatever, you don’t have to run marathons, and I try to remember to mention that now) can be intimidating and put new runners off, so I love this. She shares her struggles and is realistic, and also shares other people’s stories so the range of different kinds of runner is there, but it always comes back to the simple, pure running.

I love her description of a “good runner”:

By [good runner] I just mean a person who enjoys running and wants to keep enjoying it.

Mackie’s portrayal of how anxiety feels is top-notch but she doesn’t allow herself or her readers to beat themselves up over how they feel, act, or have felt or acted in the past. She’s very reassuring. She’s also very honest about how running isn’t a cure-all or an instant cure, and is strong on how we shouldn’t be afraid of using medication and therapy and also talking about that. She’s honest about how running can be another crutch and become obsessive, and bravely shares her own experience, shocked out of her for a lucky escape. She’s all about limiting how much you use it to keep it enjoyable and helpful.

From an acknowledgement that running can seem to mimic the symptoms of an anxiety attack (which is so helpful, I think, and also helpful for people to know who work with anxious runners) to an acknowledgement that everybody hates the first 10 minutes of a run, this is a book we can all relate to in some way. With a great resource list at the back, I have no reservations in recommending it highly.

Although I finished this book in January, it’s an ideal one to share in Time to Talk week which is all about exercise and mental wellness.

Thank you to William Collins for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

State of the TBR February 2019 plus birthday book bonanza (and one more confession)


First off, sorry if you’ve commented on my running or books posts this week; I’ve got myself all behind like a cow’s tail, but I have a weekend off this weekend and am going to spend at least some of it doing blog admin – also including reading the blogs I’ve fallen behind with.

I’m going to tell you about my birthday book bonanza first. Lucky me (I also have book tokens, honey, ear warmers and Lush vouchers and my lovely husband has paid for various items of deeply attractive and flattering officiating wear). Here’s the pile, then I’ll reveal whether I burst the TBR shelf …

From the top, I have …

Angela Thirkell – “Grown Up” – one of the ones Virago haven’t reprinted, in a lovely ex-Library edition

Robert Arthur et al. – “The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot”, “The Mystery of the Talking Skull”, “The Mystery of the Green Ghost” – three of the Three Investigators Mysteries I was missing – all lovely early ones

Anne George – “Murder Runs in the Family” – one of the Southern Sisters cosy mysteries, set in Birmingham, Alabama!

Mary Mackie – “Cobwebs and Cream Teas” – the year in the life of a National Trust property

Edith Ayrton Zangwill – “The Call” – A suffragette novel published by Persephone

Mark Mason – “Walk the Lines” – walking the London Underground lines above ground (ooh!)

Elizabeth Eliot – “Henry”, “Mrs Martell” – two more quirky novels; I loved her “Alice” – all republished by Dean Street Press

And another confession -all those books in and I popped into the newish Acorns charity shop to look again for the bookcase I know will eventually appear there that fits in THAT space just perfectly (next to the bathroom door, left-hand side) and they have their book stock in there and here’s a history of the Brixton Academy music venue, where I’ve seen Green Day, Eels, Foo Fighters and Lamb (Simon Parkes’ “Live at the Brixton Academy”), so I couldn’t leave that there, could I? Right?

Did these books all fit on my TBR shelf? Well, with some fiddling. I finally finished and reviewed my Iris Murdoch of the month (must do better and start the next one at the weekend) and could take a new book to read off the start of the TBR. Then I took Malala Yousafzai’s “I am Malala” off the middle of the TBR because I’ve won her dad’s book on NetGalley and hadn’t yet read this one, so grabbed a BookCrossing copy Gill was waving around. And the Three Investigators Mysteries went on the separate Three Investigators Pile on the shelves, and then I put the books on the shelf (the Thirkell with the Christmas Thirkells as it comes in the middle of them) and this happened …

So along with the associated piles (books in series where I’m waiting to get the next one; big Icelandic sagas book on the back row, those Christmas Cornwall books waiting for Cornwall or Christmas …) I have exactly the right number and size of books to double stack my TBR shelf exactly. Which is some kind of achievement in itself, of course. I’m sure.

Currently reading and up next: I’m enjoying Ian Thorpe’s “This is Me” – a bargain in Foyle’s last January from the front of the TBR. Then up next is Iris Murdoch’s “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” which is February’s IM Readalong book, and “I am Malala” so I can have a sort of February Malala Fest.

How’s your TBR looking? As robust, at least, as mine, I hope!