This book was part of my Christmas 2018 haul and I managed to realise I shouldn’t read it until the ones that came in between these four had been published – which is now. Read on for some acquisitions, too. Will I ever get down to one TBR shelf by the end of the year …?

Angela Thirkell – “Marling Hall”

(25 December 2018)

It’s 1941 and the war presses on – this book was published in 1942 and there’s a fascinating update of the war so far at one point which I found quite moving – we’re at Marling Hall for this one, where the family have adapted the house to circumstances and reduced Help and are making the best of things. There are a lot of characters introduced early on which got me a bit confused, but they did separate out and become clear. There were also no Mixo-Lydians and just some weird sentiment about Russians which was more to reflect the characters’ confusion than anything else, no hunting, and only really the snobbery that comes with a hierarchical society – the inhabitants of the Hall accept Mrs Smith, who is renting her house out to two intellectuals, as a sort of member of the community where kindness is owed back and forth, even if she drives her tenants to distraction. There is unfortunately a ‘village idiot’ but he’s a valued and useful member of the small society who fixes things and makes friends.

We find another bumptious younger daughter in Lucy, and it seems Thirkell can’t do without these, but she’s fun and a nice contrast with her reserved sister Lettice, widowed at Dunkirk, who has a more traditional time with suitors coming from all directions to court her. There are lovely nods back to the Pallisers and a nod forward if you have the whole series, as Miss Bunting features strongly but has her own book later on. I loved the interplay of the various nurses, administrators and secretaries, admitting privately they couldn’t do each other’s jobs!

A few books in and some pre-ordered that we won’t talk about until they arrive, right?

First off, the ebooks – all NetGalley except the last one. I don’t think I’d mentioned Chris McMillan’s “The London Dream: Migration and the Mythology of the City” (published 30 August) which is about just that, or Laura E. Gomez’ “Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism” (published 25 August) which looks at the position of Latinx people in American society, both won in late August and obviously to be read soon. “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer (published 08 September) fits in with my interest in books about new businesses and their cultures. I won all these by asking for them, but Phillipa Ashley’s “A Surprise Christmas Wedding” (19 October) and Emily Hougton’s “Before I Saw You” (04 February 2021) were both offered to me by their publishers, which was so lovely. I like Ashley’s Cornwall books and this is a Lake District one so should be fun, and “Before I Saw You” is about people who meet on a hospital ward but don’t see each other for ages, which sounds intriguing. Finally, Claire Huston’s pitch for me to read and review “Art and Soul” was so very well done (she’d obviously looked at my blog for one thing!!) that I couldn’t say no.

Moving into print, I don’t think I told you about Elliott & Thompson sending me Gareth E. Rees’ “Unofficial Britain” which is a work of pscyhogeography about liminal spaces like multi-storey car parks and motorway intersections. I though some of it might be a bit creepy or extreme for me when it arrived, but I’ve read it already and it was excellent. Review for Shiny New Books coming soon.

More psychogeography with Iain Sinclair’s “London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line” – I forgot why I’d ordered this but I’d been discussing it with my best friend as another potential read together, and maybe one day we’ll get to walk it together ourselves (not in one day, though!).

With that one arrived “My First 1000 Spanish Words” which fills in a lot of nouns I wanted to learn and is also delightfully inclusive, with a multicultural range of faces in the illustrations and somebody who uses a wheelchair on every page. And today “Conversational Spanish Dialogues” arrived – 104 dialogues to read and listen to and learn from (I’ve felt we’ve missed out on joining up our Spanish with Duolingo’s concentration on individual phrases.

It’s fortunate maybe that we’ve entered an enhanced lockdown where I am again, although I wasn’t doing an awful lot of meeting up with people indoors or out anyway. But instead of expanding our social life we’ll be rewinding it – more time for reading!

Have you got or read any of these?