Vriagoes and PersephonesI’ve done it! This is my last 20 Books of Summer book and I finished it on Friday night, with three days to go! Was this aided by the fact that it was a book of stories for children? Maybe, but it was still a proper book with 438 pages. I summarise my 20 Books of Summer experience after my review.

Joan Aiken – “The Serial Garden”

(01 February 2020)

Not a 2018 or even early 2019 book at all, but at the time of putting together my Pile, this was the next Virago on my TBR.

This is the collected Armitage Family stories, starting with a prelude which explains how this extraordinary family ends up having so many adventures – especially on a Monday – and setting the down-to-Earth tone which gives the magic such a delicious base in real life: having accidentally summoned a sea serpent while on holiday …

With great presence of mind, Mrs Armitage said, ‘Not today, thank you. Sorry you’ve been troubled. Down, sir. Heel. Go home now, good serpent, I’ve got nothing for you’. (p. 5)

The introduction by Aiken’s daughter explains that the stories range from her very first published one to some of her latest, and there was always one in every collection she put out. I remembered at least aspects of some of them. On reflection, if I’d not been reading this for a challenge I think I’d have spread it out a bit and read something else alongside it, just because they’re short stories with a lot going on and it gets a bit hectic-feeling. The last stories got a bit complicated and I did rush through them a little.

There’s lots to love here, from the ingenuity of the tiny family who do some Borrowers-style making do to the resourcefulness and capacity of Harriet, just as in control and brave as her brother.

In a nod to Bookish Beck’s collection of booky coincidences, this book featured my second Aubusson carpet in two books!

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

20 Books of Summer in summary (summery?)

Thank you to Cathy over at 746 Books for running this project once again. I was really glad to get my 20 books done, and you can see a list of them with links to all the reviews (and lists for all the previous years I’ve attempted the challenge) here.

I made sure I prioritised the books from my pile each month: I had a clear idea of which ones I wanted to get to and I also, as I traditionally do, devoted August to All Virago (and other publishers reclaiming lost women writers) as part of the project, as this is a challenge I have enjoyed doing with a LibraryThing group for years. I got the right books done in the right months with nothing hanging over.

Did I achieve my aim?

Apart from reading 20 books, my main aim with this, as you can see in my pre-challenge post (here) was to power through the older books on my TBR, so that at the end, I had almost nothing left that I’d acquired in 2018 (as I try to read my books in acquisition order, it was a bit shocking to me that I still had books from then!). I knew I would have a couple of Angela Thirkells left over, as Virago have republished them out of order, so I was waiting for some new ones to arrive on 20 August that would interleave with the older ones. In fact, swapsies meant I read one of the new reprints as Book 19, which means I have now started its sequel, meaning I only have one book from 2018 left on the TBR! Success!

This was my TBR shelf at the start of June:

June TBR

… and here it is at the end of August:

So although it’s still very full, even maybe fuller than in June (although you can see a Pile nestling on the back row in June) it has certainly got more up to date (you can see Karamo has shifted up from nearly at the end to the right to a third of the way along from the left).

Did I read everything on the original pile?

Not quite. But swaps and changes are positively encouraged in this lovely, open and inclusive challenge!

In June, I gave up on Simon Winchester’s “Outposts” and added Jon Bloomfield’s “Our City” instead at the end of July.

In August, I swapped out “The Three Miss Kings” by Ada Cambridge because I want to read it for Australia Reading Month in November and swapped in Marianne Grabrucker’s “There’s A Good Girl”, which achieved a Women In Translation Month read as well as being by The Women’s Press.

Also in August, I rebelled at the idea of reading a third book in a row published in 1922-24 and swapped out “The Camomile” for Angela Thirkell’s “Cheerfulness Breaks In”.

What did I read? 

7 Fiction /  13 Non-fiction

16 Paperback / 4 Hardback

12 By women / 7 By men / 1 By one of each

Diversity – none by People of Colour, one including People of Colour as a major theme (but I did redress the balance in the other books I read during the months).

What else did I read?

So my pile was made up of books from my TBR, real, physical books. I got rid of 21 of those, with the aforementioned abandon and swaps. I actually finished 42 books during June-August (with one more to possibly finish by the end of this month). The others were made up of review books, ebooks (mainly from NetGalley, some bought), and books for my ongoing Paul Magrsathon, and the odd additional print book, especially as I wanted to keep the diversity of my reading up.