Dean Street Press December 2022 Round-up Post

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Well, that went well, didn’t it! I mentioned in November as a passing thought that I was going to read a few books published by Dean Street Press, the indie publisher devoted to finding and republishing good fiction and non-fiction, in December, I set the scene in this post with all the detail and I created this Main Post where I recorded all the reviews that people submitted with links to their blog, Goodreads review or Storygraph review (if I didn’t capture yours, please comment on this post with a link and I’ll add it).

What did we read?

I was astonished at the number of reviews that were submitted – thank you everyone! We …

  • Read books by 24 authors
  • Read 57 different titles
  • Wrote 66 reviews of those titles

Robin Walters “won” (there is no prize) for sheer numbers, with 30 books read and reviewed! I think I came second, with my eight. But I loved how many people took part – sixteen different reviewers, in fact! Thank you to everyone who joined in, and a big thank you to Dean Street Press for republishing (or publishing for the first time) these lovely books, and Scott from Furrowed Middlebrow for finding all his imprints’ books, which certainly featured heavily in my selection!

Are we doing it again in 2023?

Well, given the response and the requests to do it again, I rather think we will!

Book reviews – Dayo Forster – “Reading the Ceiling”

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Squishing in one more read for my Dean Street December challenge, taking the total to I believe sixty, which feels amazing!

*** Important update: participants have until the end (UK time) of Monday 2 January to submit their review links to me – I will do a round-up post once I’ve added the last few ***

The main post for the challenge is here. This was the one Kindle book I included (I do have a couple of Elizabeth Fairs on there I was hoping to get to but in fact I’ve “only” managed to read eight out of the ten here) and is the only modern DSP book I’ve read so far, published in 2007, by an author from The Gambia and set mainly there, so quite different from the other books I and others have read for the challenge – but REALLY GOOD still! You can find a link to the book here.

Dayo Forster – “Reading the Ceiling”

(03 October 2022, bought online, ebook)

Six months hasn’t been long enough to get me used to the inconsistency of English weather. It’s been long enough to help me shed the disappointment of Reuben – who I chose on a whim only to find myself in a muddy pool of self-pity. Sometimes, when I think of what he would have expected of me – I shudder. Me, to declare him as my boyfriend and allow him to claw my body. And to drift towards marriage with thorough approval from both families, having achieved the rare magic: “Krio titi marraid Krio boy”. Thank goodness I could leave.

As Ayodele turns 18, kept in check by her mum and, along with her younger twin sisters, exhorted to be a good, chaste girl, she determines to lose her virginity and start her adult life. But who should be the man who does the deed? She makes a list, then goes off to a disco with her best friends … and from here the narrative splits, so, like Theodora Benson’s “Which Way”, we return to the disco three times and, as she chooses a different man each time, follow Ayodele’s life as it turns out based on her choice.

Three times, she receives a letter about a university scholarship, and goes to England to study twice, each time she follows a different path through love and her career, twice losing a friend, once more close than the other time, and once staying in The Gambia and becoming a second wife, with all the potential strife that involves. Each time, her mother dies, and the descriptions become more detailed, until the third section feels almost mainly about that, very moving and detailed.

Pleasingly, to me, it lacks clumsy explanations of specific cultural terms and items, with only text in a different language being casually translated. This was a first novel which was shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2007 and republished by Dean Street Press in 2015: it’s astoundingly self-assured and technically well done for a first novel, especially with such a strong and complex concept. For example, we’re not told the timeline, but the clothes and music set the beginning of the novel in its context.

I would read more by this author, although it doesn’t look like she’s written any more novels since this one; she writes about this book interestingly here, however.

This was Book 8 in my Dean Street December challenge.

Book reviews – Molly Clavering – “Susan Settles Down” and “Touch not the Nettle”

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Two more reads for my Dean Street December challenge, as the total read by everyone gets near sixty! The main post for the challenge is here. These two were more lovely Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books, given to me for my birthday this year by my best friend Emma: my birthday pile is here and it was recent in terms of my TBR, so not surprising that I’ve only read one book of Maya Angelou essays, these two and “Anna and her Daughters” so far. These are a pair of books so I can’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but they’re very good ones and I recommend reading both for maximum enjoyment! These two get me up to seven read for my own Dean Street December and I have one last, maybe surprising, one on the go …

Molly Clavering – “Susan Settles Down”

(21 January 2022, from Emma)

When, in a fury of revolt against the domestic cares with which she, an unwilling Martha, was cumbered, Susan rushed out of doors, or even thrust her head out of a wide-flung window, a deep peace instantly fell on her, and she returned soothed and refreshed. (p. 38)

We are introduced first to Peggy, daughter of the Manse in a small town in the Scottish borders, but the narrative centres on her and the people who come to live in a neighbouring house with farmland, Oliver, invalided out of the Navy, and his sister Susan, aged 33 but having given up on love and excitement after a sad mistake in earlier life, who is housekeeping for them. Taciturn Jed, a neighbouring farmer, completes the positive characters, and then there are the awful Pringle sisters, who spread nasty gossip wherever they go, as well as being figures of fun.

We see Susan settle in to country life and realise it’s much nicer than town life, and Clavering’s descriptions of the local area and its seasons are as usual beautifully done. There are misunderstandings aplenty, but all sorted through, and dear Peggy does her very best to make things better for people. Susan is also, pleasingly, a novelist, but is a bit of a nightmare when she’s writing – I imagine a bit of a self-portrait of the author there!

Molly Clavering – “Touch Not the Nettle”

(21 January 2022, from Emma)

In the sequel to “Susan Settles Down” we find ourselves in the same community about three years later, the established couples fully established and Amanda, a fairly young relative of one of them being thrust upon them after her aviator husband has gone missing. But Amanda’s marriage wasn’t what it might have seemed, and her early disillusionment on matters of the heart makes her realise a kindred spirit when she meets one in a lonely, angry man who lives locally with his peculiar sister. Although they are drawn together, it seems there will be no future in it, so a vein of upset runs through the book.

Again, though, we have local events – fairs and races – local characters (the dreadful Miss Pringles and their parrot) and the lovely descriptions of the Borders through the seasons that Clavering should be better known for. An excellent pair of reads.

These were Books 6 and 7 in my Dean Street December challenge.

Book review – Margery Sharp – “Fanfare for Tin Trumpets”

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Yes, another read for my Dean Street December challenge, as the total read by everyone climbs past forty (I’m amazed and thrilled!). The main post for the challenge is here. We’re on to the second row of my picture (although I’m taking a short break for two Christmas-themed books now), this is another lovely Furrowed Middlebrow imprint book, and again from Ali for Christmas, and so now I have read seven of the books in this pile! The next ones come from my birthday pile. Margery Sharp is a writer I’ve been reading for a good while, back to when my friend Jane used to run a Margery Sharp week and she started to be reissued.

Margery Sharp – “Fanfare for Tin Trumpets”

(25 December 2021, from Ali)

“I’ve put myself down as a playwright,” he told Henry that evening. (It was seven o’clock, the meeting did not begin till eight-thirty, but he had already changed his collar.) “I don’t know whether I mentioned it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s my real line.”

It was quite true: almost immediately after their arrival in Bloom Street, Alistair had come to the conclusion that he would stop writing novels and write plays. Plays, as he now pointed out to his friend, admitted of a more direct attack on the emotions, satisfied eye and ear as well as intellect, and were altogether far more suitable vehicles for his art.

“They’re much shorter to write, too,” added Henry.

Alistair looked at him sharply. It was either the first or the last thing on earth one would expect from Henry, but he had no means of ascertaining which. (p. 35)

Alistair French, an unwilling teacher, throws up his job and moves into lodgings for a year with his best friend, having inherited £100 from his distant and peculiar father. Off he goes and we get all the colour and excitement of the “setting up home” theme I love in mid-century novels, here furnishing a Room and all the business that goes around washing and having a woman “in” and meeting the other inhabitants of a somewhat chaotic house in West London (they’ve moved to these excitements from Norbury). Winnie Parker is the chief inhabitant of the house, living with her frowsty mother/grandmother, taking in lame ducks, surrounded by a cloud of young men but with a central tenet never to be unpleasant to anybody which is very sweet.

Now, Alistair has, for some reason, decided to Write for his year, while his friend Henry is at teacher training college, and we see his struggles as he moves from novels (if he writes all day, he can write two novels and forty short stories in his year: as it is, he produces half a play script) to short stories, to plays. He has one moment of amazing luck and is whirled half into the land of showbiz, but fatally, he meets the fragrant Cressida, falls for her, and spends all the rest of his time (and meagre resources) on her rather than his writing.

Meanwhile, we see parts of the book from Winnie’s point of view, and there’s a very interesting passage where she realises her own guiding principle, that her body is more fastidious than her mind, when touching the alternate satisfying wooden counter and greasy metal edge in a shop. Sharp is never run of the mill, that’s for sure.

I should mention there are a couple of pages at a boxing match which are overtly antisemitic; unfortunately the setting is important for the scene so I’m not sure how they could have been excised; knowing they are at the only boxing match in the book means the reader who has read this review can skim them. “Of its time” (this book was originally published in 1932) but not nice now.

Alistair not getting far with either of his aims and having to admit the reality of the situation could make for a depressing book, but the lovely characters and his final realisations leave it positive, with the set pieces (two English people mistaking each other for French people in the park; a literary meeting) and heartwarming friendship of Winnie the most important takeaways. Did I mention it’s also very funny? I chuckled out loud a number of times when reading it; Sharp has a quietly acerbic way of pricking pretensions and showing us the truth underneath the facade, and is a writer I heartily recommend.

This was Book 5 in my Dean Street December challenge.

I got another Bookish Beck Serendipity moment out of this one: as in “The Swiss Summer“, though that book had more of it, there’s a sudden flash forward so we know what will happen in two years’ time, just the once. A somewhat startling sentence that stood out from the run of the narrative, though.

Book review – Stella Gibbons – “The Swiss Summer”

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I’m getting on nicely with my own Dean Street December challenge – and I’m so pleased that so many people are taking part and submitting their reviews! You can find the main post here where we’re building up a nice number of reviews during the month and you can see this post for all the detail. Finishing off the top row of my picture, this is another lovely Furrowed Middlebrow imprint book, again arriving from Ali for Christmas, and so of course I’ve now read six of the books in this pile, and have started the last one so will get Christmas 2021 nearly finished by Christmas 2022!). Stella Gibbons is very much more than just the writer of “Cold Comfort Farm”, but her books are often just slightly peculiar, this not being an exception.

Stella Gibbons – “The Swiss Summer”

(25 December 2021, from Ali)

Yes, the situation was more promising than she had at first thought; two romantic boys staying in a chalet miles from anywhere with a charming middle-aged woman – it must lead to trouble. Freda would be too busy cataloguing and making inventories to spend much time with the trio, and drama would develop unchecked by a fourth person’s presence. (p. 66)

In this engaging and substantial novel (249 pages but much smaller print than many of them), first published in 1951, Gibbons turns her beady eye on the middle classes and their travelling habits. Rather surprisingly, Lucy Cottrell, having visited an elderly woman and met her unpromising companion and Lady Dalgleish having taken a fancy to her, finds herself staying at Lady D’s Swiss chalet for the summer, with the aforementioned Freda Blandish, with the aim of cataloguing the contents and preparing it for sale or inheritance. Once there, looked after by the uncompromising Utta, who regards the chalet and the Dalgleishes as her personal property and is quick to take offence, they have very different guests to visit (Freda her unpromising daughter and several paying guests, Lucy simply two young men, one her godson, who she’d like to see) and different attitudes to the Swiss scenery (Freda isn’t bothered, Lucy we feel will be sustained by it through her life from now on.

Lucy harbours the secret sorrow of her childless state and while Freda is cutting about it, Asta, her daughter, is taken in hand by kind, careful Lucy, given some tips and hints and claims a sort of daughterhood which is quite moving. There are the usual battles among paying guests (especially the last, unrelated one), satire of a bright young girl with ambitions for her marriage and a careful delineation of how people can influence one another for good or for not.

Chapters move between different viewpoints, which is done technically well and rounds out the story: I felt very sympathetic towards Utta, for example. Of course there’s a climax and a nicely rounded-off story; as I said, being Gibbons, it’s just a bit odd here and there: there are tiny flashes forward which act as a guide to how Lucy and Asta’s lives will turn out suddenly inserted into the text; the shallow Kay only gets the imaginings of Lucy for her future.

An absorbing and engaging read with a lovely setting beautifully described.

This was Book 4 in my Dean Street December challenge.

Another Bookish Beck Serendipity moment occurred in this one: both Molly Clavering’s “Dear Hugo” and this novel feature the issue of only being able to take a certain amount of currency out of the UK, thus constraining holidays.

Book review – D. E. Stevenson – “Smouldering Fire”

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I’ve finished my third read for Dean Street December! I am reading them in order of acquisition, so it’s the third book along in the top row of the picture. You can find the main post here where we’re building up a nice number of reviews during the month and you can see this post for all the detail. This is yet another Furrowed Middlebrow imprint book, this time from Ali, and so of course I’ve now read five of the books in this pile, and should get another two done this month). I’ve read a good few D. E. Stevenson books so far, ranging from Mrs Tim’s military adventures to family sagas set in Scotland, but this one was set in the Highlands and with an almost timeless, and darker, feel to it. Very absorbing and a cracking good story, still!

D. E. Stevenson – “Smouldering Fire”

(25 December 2021, from Ali)

He had a careless, almost regal, grace of manner combined with a boyish joy of living. It was the kind of charm that had conquered Scotland in the person of Prince Charlie – the Stuart charm of manner – but in Iain MacAslan it was allied to a sense of responsibility, to an unselfish desire for the welfare and happiness of others, and especially for the welfare and happiness of his own people. Iain was a king in his own domain. His power was absolute within the boundaries of his small kingdom. His word was law in a literal sense. He ruled by right of his ancestry, but right of possession, and by right of the affection which he inspired in the hearts of his people. In the old days the chiefs of Ardfalloch ruled by the first two rights, but conditions were changing now, and, without the affection of his people, Iain would not have found his kingdom so easy to rule. (p. 14)

When we meet Iain MacAslan, he is distraught, because he’s had to rent out his Highland estate for the summer to a Londoner – what kind of Londoner he doesn’t know – and feels he’s let everyone down. But however much his neighbour, Mr Finlay, thinks business will save everything, somehow keeping to the traditional ways feels better for him (near the end of the book, he might have come around to considering one of Mr Finlay’s stock exchange tips).

Meanwhile, we meet Mrs Hetherington-Smith, wife of the Londoner, or Mary Smith as she prefers to think of herself. She’s been up and down in her fortunes with her financier husband and has, on balance, preferred the downs, when she’s lived happily cheek-by-jowl in mutually supportive poverty in tenements. This happily means that when she meets a kindred spirit, she is vastly more understanding and accepting than a true society woman would be. All she really wants is friends, to help people, and to be close to her husband, and she’s just a lovely character.

Into the middle of all this comes Linda Medworth. She’s just about to be divorced and has a dear little son who is terrified of his father, who wants to “mould” him and make a man of the sensitive, artistic boy. Now he’s after retaining his son so he can do just that. How is Linda important? Because five years ago, in London, Iain MacAslan laid eyes on a woman, helped her in a moment of need and fell hard for her – so hard that he can’t bring himself to propose to lovely Margaret Finlay, rich and a good friend, who would be the perfect wife for him. And now …

The background of the novel is the Highlanders and their deep loyalty to their chief. Donald, his keeper and manservant, would do anything for him. Janet from the Lowlands looks after his poor mother assiduously, Donald’s wife Morag keeps an eye on things when Iain insists on staying on the estate through the summer, and all of them and the village are deeply possessive and careful of him, presenting a masked, uncomprehending face to the visitors.

“It takes a Highlander to deal with peat,” Iain replied. “There’s a special knack – we’re rather like peat-fires ourselves, I always think, not easily understood by the Sasunnach. We smoulder away and look as if we were half dead, but it only needs a touch and a little draught to set us ablaze.” (p. 106)

This background is timeless, as I said, but also running up against modern times (between the wars) as things can’t always be done as they were (see the quotation at the top). It makes things get a bit gothic, as do some big storms and the flickering candle- and gaslight of a place without electricity (Mr Finlay has electricity from his own hydropower). As timeless passions and modern types of people collide, what will happen and who will support whom? Who are the odd people staying at the village inn and will all the estate folk stick together?

What a lovely, engaging book with a belief in true love and tradition but a steady eye and a dark undercurrent.

This was Book 3 in my Dean Street December challenge.

Book review – Molly Clavering – “Dear Hugo”

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Here’s my second book for my reading challenge this month: Dean Street December. You can find the main post here where we’re building up a nice number of reviews during the month and you can see this post for all the detail. This is another of the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books and the other one Emma gave me for Christmas last year (for those who like to keep count, I’ve now read four of the books in this pile, and should get another three done this month).

Molly Clavering – “Dear Hugo”

(25 December 2021, from Emma)

“You’ve nothing to wish for? You have everything you want?” She stared t me. Then her vivid face sobered. “Or there’s nothing you could get just by wishing?” she ended.

How could a young creature like that guess such a thing, unless through her own experience? Yes she seemed so untouched by sorrow of any kind … We stood there for a moment with the coloured leaves dropping gently, inexorable about us, until suddenly she laughed, and the spell was broken.

“What babies we are, to imagine that a dead leaf could make a wish come true!” she cried. “If we don’t hurry there will be no sloes left for us to pick!” (p. 44)

An epistolary novel, don’t you know – the Dear Hugo of the title being the man to whom our heroine, Sara Monteith, is addressing long letters. Hugo is the brother of Sara’s by now long-dead fiancé, Ivo, who died during World War Two – the book is set in 1951-53 so it’s a decade ago. Hugo lives in Africa, which does lead to a few unfortunate sentences about his servants and superstitions which we wouldn’t write these days and needs noting but doesn’t spoil the book, and Sara has just moved to a small cottage in the Scottish Borders village of Ravenskirk. What she doesn’t let on to anyone local is that she has chosen this location because Ivo and Hugo spent a lot of time there as children, and there might be people around who remember them.

Sara is quiet and reticent: so much so that the odd plot point gets mentioned in retrospect rather than report! Lest Sara be alone in cottage in her 40s, she’s given first a bustling set of neighbours, some lovely, some less so – the usual village novel characters of the demanding and judgemental older woman and the flighty woman led astray feature, as well as worth-their-weight-in-gold slightly comedy “helps – and a young boy, a second cousin, who’s thrust upon her but gives colour and humour (don’t worry: he’s not nearly as annoying as Tony Morland from Angela Thirkell!).

There are light romances and also darker moments and shade to bring them into relief: Sara of course has her sorrow and she meets sympathetic characters like the one in the quote above, and there’s a moral centre to the novel which allows for single motherhood kindly but wants to instill values of decency.

I don’t think his Christmasses have been very exciting up to date, and I want this one to be complete for him, not only with parties and a wee tree and presents, but with the Christmas day services as well. I want to lay the sort of foundation for Atty that will comfort and help him in years to come when he has his own memories and losses … (p. 63)

And I really think that Clavering is very brave in the outcome of her novel – several things start to look like they’re going to happen which you want to happen … but will they come out as you hope and think? Hm. But also: wonderful!

A quick edit to add a bit I forgot in my original review: I remember when the Queen passed away Scott from Furrowed Middlebrow saying that she was a last link back to these books so many of us love, and here is her coronation, of course, as well as the death of the King. The singing of “God Save the Queen” in the novel brought a mist to this not-really-royalist at all eye!

What an excellent, read – the setting is beautifully described, too, there are nice touches like the pink and gold Dresden china cups which also appeared in “Near Neighbours“, and I feel like this will be a comfort read with a strong centre and a bite to it for years to come now.

This was Book 2 in my Dean Street December challenge.

Book review – Molly Clavering – “Near Neighbours”

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Finally, I’m reading the first book for my own reading challenge this month: Dean Street December. You can find the main post here where I’m recording all our reviews during the month and you can see this post for all the detail. This is one of the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books; I’ve read some Molly Clavering novels before so I knew I’d like her, and I received this one from my best friend Emma for Christmas last year (for those who like to keep count, I’ve now read three of the books in this pile, but should get another four done this month).

Molly Clavering – “Near Neighbours”

(25 December 2021, from Emma)

Her very last waking thought was how astonishingly nice and good people were when you knew them; and then she was fast asleep.

What she did not know and would not have believed was that the people who knew her could not help living up to her belief in their good qualities, or that their virtues were sometimes no more than the reflection of her own shining honesty and kindliness. (p. 71)

In this fairy tale – for a fairy tale it is, if a believable one rooted in reality and with a central character who does have her flaws and failings – we meet Miss Dorothea Balfour, aged 68, whose tyrannical older sister has just died and who is able to start branching out in ways she had never expected, mainly by finally getting to meet the Lenox family next door, who she’s often watched wistfully out of the back window. Soon she’s engaging with them, providing useful advice and watching over the girls in particular as they negotiate marriage, for the oldest, and work and romance for the others. Then she has dramas of her own, including rescuing a baby and re-encountering her sister’s long-lost husband, a bit of a bounder but charming with it.

We see Miss Balfour blossom as well as watching the Lenoxes enjoy themselves and grow up as they do (or grow up, and enjoy themselves as they do). It does remind me of several other books: bouncing Holly reminds me of I think it’s Lydia Keith in Angela Thirkell’s novels, the sisters theme reminded me somehow of Stella Gibbons’ “The Pink Front Door” and the houseful of daughters E. H. Young’s “Chatterton Square“. But it’s its own book, too, and a lovely satisfying, comforting, kind one that I couldn’t put down.

This was Book 1 in my Dean Street December challenge.

State of the TBR – December 2022

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Looking at last month’s picture, I have done quite well again! Incomings have come in but books have come off the TBR, too. Even though I’ve added five books to the little pile at the end, it’s not as big as last month.

I completed 23 books in November (thanks to my week’s holiday and doing Novellas in November), and am part-way through three more (one my Emma Read and one reading along with Matthew), plus the long-term ongoing Tolkien and Sagas books. I read all my ebook TBR books for November (my picture was wrong last month; I have yet to review two of them), and also got my September ones and all but one of my October ones read or (one) started. I read eight out of the fifteen novellas I put out to choose from and two others (one in from a publisher then read right away, one from the TBR), making a total of ten, and I read three books for AusReading Month (one left to review) and twelve for NonFiction November.

Incomings

Incoming print books. I had some lovely books in this month.

“Mary & Mr Eliot” by Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner is an author copy from the publisher – it’s based on Mary Trevelyan’s manuscript about her friendship with T.S. Eliot which I copy-typed a few years ago to start off the process for Erica to edit and provide commentary on it. Lovely publisher Michael Walmer kindly sent me a review copy of his reprint of Howard Sturgis’ “On the Pottlecomble Cornice” which I promptly reviewed for Novellas in November and the British Library Publishing folk kindly sent me “Stories for Christmas and the Festive Season” which of course I have saved to read this month. We had a tea party at Ali’s the other weekend and Meg gave me her copy of Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” while Ali passed me her copy of Elisa Shua Dusapin’s “The Pachinko Parlour”. I went to a Brian Bilston poetry reading run by The Heath Bookshop last week and bought a copy of his latest book, “Days Like These” (a poem for every day of the year!), and finally I received a copy of Nigel Green and Robin Wilson’s “Brutalist Paris” which I had helped crowd-fund. What a lovely variety of ways to receive books!

I won five NetGalley books this month:

“The Silence of the Stands” by Daniel Gray (published November) is about football’s lost season in the lockdowns – whose blog did I see this on?? Alexis Keir writes about returning to St Vincent [edited out my error, apoplogies to the author] and tracing his family’s journeys to the UK and New Zealand in “Windward Family” (Feb 2023) and in “Black Girl from Pyongyang” by Monica Macias (Mar 2023) we’ll learn about how the author was transplanted from West Africa to North Korea to be raised, and how she searched for her identity once she’d grown up (that’s going to be a good one for the Stranger than Fiction segment of NonFicNov next year!). “Happy Place” (April 2023) looks like another good novel from Emily Henry, a break-up novel with a big lie to all the friend group and Shauna Robinson’s “Must Love Books” (Feb 2023) pits a young Black woman against the world of publishing.

And I bought three e-books from Amazon in their Black Friday sale:

I always think I have Trevor Noah‘s memoir, “Born a Crime” but I didn’t, until now. John Cooper Clarke is one of the few poets I like and I couldn’t resist his autobiography, “I Wanna Be Yours”, for 99p. And Patrick King’s “Stand Up For Yourself, Set Boundaries and Stop Pleasing Others” might stop me making myself labour over these massive posts (right?!).

So that was 23 read and 15 coming in in November – back in the right direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Settlers: Journeys through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London” by Jimi Famurewa, which is a NetGalley book published in October and is marvellous so far, Jini Reddy’s “Wanderland” is my readalong with Emma and most entertaining so far, and I’ve finally got to reading Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” with Matthew, so he does a bit of the audio book (with Dave narrating and a musical background) on his walk and I catch up with the book (no Dave’s voice or music) at home.

Coming up

This month, I’m taking part in two challenges: my own Dean Street Press December, of course (see my main post here) and I’ve laid out all the DSP books I have in paperback plus one more modern one on Kindle. I’m looking forward to seeing what I and everyone else can read in the month from this lovely publisher.

And I’ve also decided to do #DiverseDecember to maintain the diversity of my reading, though I don’t have a main post to link to for that. So upcoming are Nova Reid’s “The Good Ally”, Riva Lehrer’s memoir of her life and art living with a disability, “Golem Girl” and Rabina Khan’s essays, “My Hair is Pink Under this Veil”. I have my lovely Christmas stories from the British Library, too, and my great big Larry McMurtry, “The Evening Star”. This isn’t the end of Larry McMurtry Rereading, though, as I only have “Cadillac Jack” left so am going to read that in January.

My NetGalley TBR for December has just two books, but of course I have September to November ones, too:

“Beyond Measure” and “Femina” are older ones I need to get read, “The Racial Code” and “The Christmas Castle in Scotland” are two from October I need to polish off (the latter saved on purpose of course) and Meron Hadero’s “A Down Home Meal for Difficult Times” and Eris Young’s “Ace Voices” are published in December.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s one book to finish and 21 to read (ten of them paperback novels and I have a week off over Christmas …), but I’m looking forward to it all!


How was your November reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? Are you doing Dean Street December with me?

Dean Street Press December Main Post

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It’s time! Are you in? This month, I’m going to be reading quite a few books published by Dean Street Press, the indie publisher devoted to finding and republishing good fiction and non-fiction. This is the starter post and where I’ll record all your reviews during the month. See this post for all the detail. Dean Street December is now over for 2022 but will be returning in 2023 – my round-up post with all the stats is here.

What should I do?

Read your book(s) and comment on this post with a link to your blog post, Goodreads review or other place where you’ve written about your read.

I will also read and review books during the month and add my own links; please also feel free to chat about those books and visit other people’s links during the month and afterwards.

What if I don’t have an online presence?

If you don’t post about your reading online but want to join in, please send in a short review via my Contact Form and I’ll post a digest of your offline reviews at the end of the month.

Ready to go?

Are you in? Link to this post in your reviews, comment here with them and use the hashtag #DeanStreetDecember on social media through the month!

THE STARTER AND SUMMARY POSTS

Here are people setting their intentions for the month!

Robin’s Reading Rambles

All the Vintage Ladies

Hopewell’s Library of Life (with a selection of her older reviews)

And a summary post from Staircase Wit

THE REVIEWS

Anderson, Verily – Spam Tomorrow

Bush, Christopher – Cut Throat

Bush, Christopher – Dancing Death

Bush, Christopher – Dead Man Twice

Bush, Christopher – The Case of the April Fools

Campbell, Alice – Water Weed

Clavering, Molly – Dear Hugo

Clavering, Molly – Mrs Lorimer’s Quiet Summer

Clavering, Molly – Near Neighbours

Clavering, Molly – Susan Settles Down

Clavering, Molly – Touch not the Nettle

Cowdroy, Joan A. – Murder of Lydia

Dalton, Moray – One by One they Disappeared

Fair, Elizabeth – A Winter Away

Fair, Elizabeth – Bramton Wick

Fair, Elizabeth – The Marble Staircase

Faviell, Francis – A Chelsea Concerto

Ferguson, Ruby – Apricot Sky

Flynn, Brian – Dead Opposite the Church

Flynn, Brian – Such Bright Disguises

Flynn, Brian – The Fortescue Candle

Flynn, Brian – The Orange Axe

Flynn, Brian – The Padded Door

Flynn, Brian – The Sharp Quillet

Flynn Brian – Tread Softly

Forster, Dayo – Reading the Ceiling

Gibbons, Stella – The Swiss Summer

Gibbons, Stella – The Woods in Winter

Kerby, Susan Alice – Miss Carter and the Ifrit

Langley Moore, Doris – All Done By Kindness

Nesbit, E. – The Lark

Oman, Carola – Nothing to Declare

  • Clara’s review (see bottom of this post)

Scarlett, Susan – Babbacombe’s

Scarlett, Susan – Clothes Pegs

Sharp, Margery – Fanfare for Tin Trumpets

Sharp, Margery – Rhododendron Pie

Sharp, Margery – The Foolish Gentlewoman

Smith, Dorothy Evelyn – Miss Plum and Miss Penny

Stevenson, D.E. – Charlotte Fairlie

Stevenson, D.E. – Five Windows

Stevenson, D.E. – Green Money

Stevenson, D.E. – Mrs Tim Flies Home

Stevenson, D.E. – Smouldering Fire

Stevenson, D.E. – Spring Magic

Stevenson, D.E. – The Fair Miss Fortune

Stevenson, D.E. – Vittoria Cottage

Thomson, Basil – Richardson Scores Again

Vivian, Francis – Darkling Death

Vivian, Francis – The Elusive Bowman

Vivian, Francis – The Ladies of Locksley

Vivian, Francis – The Laughing Dog

Vivian, Francis – The Singing Masons

Vivian, Francis – The Sleeping Island

Wentworth, Patricia – Dead or Alive

Wentworth, Patricia – The Black Cabinet

Wentworth, Patricia – The Blind Side

Wilenski, Marjorie – Table Two

Clara’s review of Carola Oman’s Nothing to Declare:

A cosy village life novel set during WW2

Was I reading Miss Read or Barbara Pym? I wondered, attempting to speed-read this book in a hurry, flummoxed by the large number of characters. I warmed to the central character Mary (‘Button’ to her friends), and realised you could completely miss the gentle humour by reading too fast, as the humour isn’t immediately obvious, being built around character and situation.

The village’s adaptation as the war begins in 1939 sounds deceptively low key and uneventful, yet Carola Oman, a historical biographer, is making a point, I think, of recording a moment in time and place: the home front efforts of the village ladies, as they pull together to organise diverse activities from knitting to trialling gas masks. Oman is also summarising the class changes that have taken place in the years since WW1, with Mary living happily and comfortably in a cottage furnished with antiques she has chosen, having left the big country house where she was born.

Mary goes to do her nursing training in 1939 on the same day and month as she previously began nursing training 20 years before in 1919. Friends and relations visit, trying her patience in various ways; Mary’s warmheartedness and good humour always wins out, lingering pleasantly in the reader’s memory.

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