Book review – Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne” #20BooksOfSummer20 @PersephoneBooks

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Vriagoes and PersephonesMy first read for All [publishers reclaiming lost women’s works] / All August and Book 14 in my 20 Books of Summer 2020, I was both sad and happy to read the final Dorothy Whipple that Persphone have published – they’ve now covered all her novels, I’ve got them all, now I’ve read them all, over the years, and all I can do now is re-read them!

Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne”

(25 December 2018 – from Ali)

It’s not a new story, taking us from a rebellious child chewing a pew in church to a bored young wife tempted by an old flame, but Whipple gives us her customary deep psychological insight and understanding of how extended families, friendships, marriages and classes work, even in her first novel. And as the introduction notes, once you’ve picked up a Dorothy Whipple novel, you just can’t put it down, and this is true of this one, too.

As in “Miss Plum and Miss Penny“, the primary relationship in this novel, first love and husband notwithstanding, is that between a woman and her servant, with her since childhood. The scenes where Emily works her notice and the fear that she will be gone are devastating, as before are her worries about what will happen when Anne marries. Anne starts out as a portrait of a writer, even making her own money from her stories, but this gets lost in her wartime work and her marriage, with a glimmer of hope still holding out. In one of the many clever parallels in the book (please let Anne not become like her older, raddled, dissatisfied cousin!), the dreadful Aunt Orchard is also a writer – of “the ‘beautiful letters’ for which she was famous among friends and relations” (p. 121), shown up in a great scene during a family tragedy.

In another parallel, both Anne and her childhood friend and all-round “good girl” Mildred both “lay up trouble” for themselves by engaging in slightly hasty marriages to men who appear their superiors. I did wonder how on earth they would cope with the 24/7 aspect of lockdown – at least they have some agency and are not literally trapped in their houses. In fact, Anne does quite well with her car and her freedom, and Whipple is not too in love with her character not to have her learn some lessons. Oh – the cat is OK even if it’s put in to start off with to feed a comic one-liner.

An excellent introduction by Lucy Mangan reminds us of how much we love all of Whipple’s oeuvre and also makes a passionate plea for her acceptance and celebration as the excellent writer she is – a great addition to the text. Now, which one shall I re-read first?

This was Book 14 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.

Book review – Jacky Klein – “Grayson Perry” and #bookconfessions @shinynewbooks @thamesandhudson

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Last month I finished the sumptuous and beautiful “Grayson Perry” by Jacky Klein which the lovely folk at Thames & Hudson sent me to review for Shiny New Books. I could literally look at a page of this book every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it, always finding something new.

Coming right up to date in the final chapter with Perry’s Brexit and identity politics pieces, and his pair of prints, “Sponsored by You” and “Selfie with Political Causes” which take two views of humanity, basically, this is a wonderful, generous and colourful journey through Perry’s life and art which can be enjoyed on a detailed or surface level. Naturally, it’s a beautifully produced large-format paperback with French flaps, notes, a chronology, a list of public collections holding Perry’s work, his exhibitions, including the ones he’s curated, a bibliography and an index. A great gift that would be appreciated by anyone with more than a passing interest in Perry and his work.

Read my full review here.

Books in

I have been buying many fewer books on Amazon recently, however I happened to notice that Stormzy’s book (co-written with Jude Yawson), “Rise Up”, which is the story of his company Merky, was on sale for £2. I already had “Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible” by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené in my shopping trolley, as I have just won “Loud Black Girls”, which builds on its foundations, through NetGalley: it felt important to read these narratives of successful Black women’s lives first, so I will.

I’ve been enjoying interspersing my on-going reading with the books on other people’s lives than my own demographic’s (although a discussion of “The Girl with the Louding Voice” reminded me that I have indeed been reading such books all my reading life). I hope I get as many views and comments as I do on my other books; I was a bit disappointed to see so little engagement with my review of “Our City” although maybe people thought it was one of those “Old Birmingham in Pictures” type books rather than the excellent work of social history and 21st century discussion on immigration that it actually was. I’m not reading such books to be worthy or performative; I picked a load off my wishlist so I could read them at the same time as others and discuss them, starting with books detailing people’s lived experiences and going on to those approaching racism and activism, so I hope my blog readers will come along with me in this project, too, as I know you have all sorts of interests and experiences to bring to the table yourselves, and I’m sure you’ve seen a good scattering of such books here in the past so you know it’s not some sort of bandwagon-jumping!

State of the TBR August 2020 plus one more #Bookconfession #20BooksOfSummer20

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Although some might say that this TBR shelf has gone a bit extreme again, with its not just one but TWO piles of horizontally stacked books to fit them all in, I’m actually really chuffed with this.

TBR shelf August

What I’m chuffed with is the beginning of it. And yes, I’ve acquired a lot (see all posts with book confessions here), but thanks to my 20BooksOfSummer project, I have finally shifted a load of the books that were sitting at the beginning/oldest point of the shelf.

This was my June TBR right at the start of the project, and books from 2018 stretch to pretty well half-way along the shelf. Those have pretty well all gone, just the Angela Thirkells waiting for the reissue of the books that come before and between them, and a good chunk of early 2019 also gone.

June TBR

But also, those books at the start had been stuck there for aaaaages! This was April 2020:

and this was January 2020, with that Tahiti book still prominent quite near the beginning and not much leaving the shelf between Jan and March.

So on the whole I’m very pleased, I’ve acquired some smashing books and I’m reading more than I have for months, so should be able to maintain the momentum.

I read (or should say finished, as one of them was the Grayson Perry book I’ve been reading for ages) 17 books in July (18 if you count the Spanish children’s book with about 100 words), nine of which were from the physical TBR (the others were review books that sit separately so I get to them in time or e-books).

Currently reading

Oxford illustrated history of the bookI’m currently reading “The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book”, edited by James Raven, which is as sumptuous as you can imagine. Although I’ve got a pdf review copy (I’m reading it to review for Shiny New Books), the illustrations have come out beautifully in that and it’s still a good reading experience. I’ve just finished reading about the first iterations of books across the world and am about to dive into Byzantium, and I will spend quite a lot of this weekend on it as I have three review books to read by the middle of the month. How lucky I am – and how diverse they are (one on trespass and one a republished woman writer, see below …)

Coming up next …

Three books coming up, described in textSo coming up very soon will be Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass” which is the story of trespass in the UK and how that was instrumental in setting up and maintaining rights of way, plus information about land ownership. That’s a review copy from Bloomsbury (thanks, again!) and then I also have “Dangerous Ages” by Rose Macaulay, which is one of the new British Library Women Writers publications.

My Paul Magrs for the month I THINK is going to be “Exchange”, a lovely re-read, however I need to check that Bill in Australia, who won the copy in my competition at the start of the year, is able to access his copy to read! Otherwise I’ll be sharing a great interview I’ve done with Paul, and I’m considering which of his books on writing to pick up for a later month.

Vriagoes and PersephonesAfter/among these will be the last 7 books in my 20BooksofSummer project. I’ve been doing so well, got up to Book 13 yesterday (a low viewing and commenting rate on that review, though, so far, really not sure why!) so on track. This section has changed slightly in that “The Three Miss Kings” is going to wait for AusLitMonth in November, and I’ve swapped in “There’s a Good Girl” by Marianne Grabrucker (which is a lot shorter, and also covers Women In Translation month!). You can see one Dean Street Press book on there and once I’ve read this pile for 20Books and All Virago (etc.) / All August, I will be picking off some more of those (I also have one more ebook of their new set to read and review) plus some Virago Angela Thirkell reprints to round off that challenge.

On the Red HillAnd one book confession to round things off, and sorry it’s a picture of me (with my long lockdown locks, which I quite like and am keeping, even though my hairdresser is being terribly safe and careful), but I had shelved the book behind that right-hand pile before I realised I didn’t have a flat pic of it) – my friend Liz shared that she was reading this book about two gay couples who live sequentially in a house in Wales, and how moved she was by it, and I had to get a copy!