Book review – George T. Eggleston – “Tahiti” plus @ShinyNewBooks reviews, incomings and current reading #20BooksOfSummer @eandtbooks @ThamesandHudson @DeanStPress

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A bit of a gallimauphry of catching up with bits and bobs today. And when I went to dig out this photo from when I acquired the book I’m reviewing, I was cheered to note that I have actually read all the books on this pile (these are books that Cari gave me when she came to visit in August 2018 and two that I bought on my trip round Stratford with her (I can’t remember how many I ‘encouraged’ her to buy …)). So a quick review of the first of the #20BooksOfSummer I’ve read, recaps of two wonderful reads for Shiny New Books, one incoming from a lovely publisher and a note about what I’m reading now as I accidentally left it a bit late after the publisher kindly sent it to me …

George T. Eggleston – “Tahiti”

(23 August 2018, Blue Cross charity shop, Stratford-Upon-Avon)

For a book published in 1956 this is not toooooo colonialist or patronising, although it does need to be read through a careful and modern-day lens. We tour the Society Islands of French Polynesia (still part of France even now) with an enterprising couple who think nothing of popping over to Tahiti to find a yacht to crew / take them island-hopping. They note that French has not really taken hold as the language of the country (and do attempt to learn the local language and even include a vocab list in the back of the book) and also point out the “ravages of ‘civilization'” – and I hadn’t realised that Tahitians and others participated in World War I and II and that many lost their lives in France in those wars. However, George’s wife Hazel does have to do all the supplying and cooking and is only allowed to get a  bit comically cross when she’s castigated for having a rest while he and their captain do the washing up, even though she is marked out as a highly competent sailor elsewhere in the book.

There are nice little maps at the start of each chapter, and cheerful and respectful descriptions of the islands and the islanders, as well as some good sailing narratives. A sweetly outdated guide to how to repeat the journey is included in the back of the book. He’s no Harold Nicolson but this was a pleasant read. I also loved the list of authors on the back flap of the book. The Travel Book Club reprinted this book, but the list of authors is so lost to me now – Freya Stark and J. B. Priestley yes, and a vague memory of a Tschiffely horse book, but what about all the others? My social media friends were similarly baffled!

This was Book 1 in my #20BooksOfSummer


Other booky loveliness …

I read two fantastic books from Thames & Hudson in June to review for Shiny New Books. I’m so fortunate that they give me the run of their catalogues twice a year. I read one other which hasn’t been published yet and am in the middle of my fourth at the moment!

“Tracks: Walking the Ancient Landscapes of Britain” by Philip Hughes is the ideal art book for the nature, archaeology, history, geology and/or map enthusiast. I said, in part,

Being a Thames & Hudson book (the paperback edition of an initial hardback, and lacking the endpapers of the former edition), the quality is high, the reproductions lovely, and all the details there, author biographies, lists of his exhibitions and a decent index.

This is a fairly short review as it’s an easy book to read quickly, not much text, lots of images. However, it’s a book you will want to return to again and again. The spare images, with no fussy detail, are calming to view and the notes charming. Highly recommended.

Read the full review here.

Then I read the first of the two Grayson Perry books in the set (hooray Grayson), “Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years”, edited by Catrin Jones and Chris Stephens, which was a great introduction to the artist’s early life, inspirations and themes. I said,

I loved reading Perry’s dialogue with his earlier self and his earlier work. He admits in his essay that he hasn’t seen many of the works since they were sold decades ago, and had often not kept records of them – “it has been wonderful to be reacquainted with the outpourings of a different me”, and he notices that he is more forgiving of them and compassionate about himself than he was at the time … What a treat to read the artist’s reactions to his own former self, seeming now so distant.

Read the full review (and see some images from the book) here.

Then I was fortunate enough to receive Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” from the super publisher Elliott & Thompson. They published the wonderful “Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt, which I reviewed for Shiny last year and came out in paperback this week and were kind enough to offer me a couple of new reads to say thank you for me writing that and sharing about the paperback. This is about the relationship the British have with nature and looks fab, and I’ll be sending in my review to Shiny soon (it’s out in early July). What a clever cover, with the inevitable crisp packet woven into the image of nature at its finest.

And finally, although I’m still reading the big monograph on Grayson Perry, having just finished Book 2 of my 20Books as well and having seen the announcement about their new books coming soon (in August), I realised with horror that I’d never got to the third book that Dean Street Press kindly sent me in January from their selection they were publishing then (I reviewed and Miss Read’s “Fresh From the Country” and D.E. Stevenson’ “Vittoria Cottage” from that batch earlier in the year, the Miss Read having arrived in physical paperback form for my birthday from my best friend!). So I pulled Doris Langley Moore’s “Not At Home” (the cover is so super and I will need to be buying a paper copy!) up on the Kindle and have enjoyed starting this just-post-WWII novel of household battles.


So, art, more art, mid-century women and travel – not a bad representation of my usual reading. And while we all try to get to grips with how we can approach Black Lives Matter awareness-raising and support in a meaningful way, I am thrilled to say that I’m chatting with a couple of friends about having them guest-post on here about the books by and about People of Colour that they’ve been getting hold of and reading. This is particularly useful when I can’t add to my collection due to the popular books going out of stock all over the place (which is a Good Thing).

 

Book review – Daphne Du Maurier – “Jamaica Inn” @Heaven_ali #DDMReadingWeek

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A second book read and reviewed for Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week and I’m quite proud of myself for that! I read and wrote a review to publish during the Week for “Rebecca” just in case I ran out of time to get this one read – of course, it turned out to be another one that cannot be put down, and I finished it in a great rush one lunchtime (of course, I slightly regretted reading it over my lunch, but I just about coped!). So although I will probably have a pause before reading more Daphne Du Maurier, I certainly won’t rule out dipping into her long list of works again, especially if there’s another Week next year. Thank you to Ali for introducing me to a new to me author (and Cornishgirl for sending me this one!)

Daphne Du Maurier – “Jamaica Inn”

(25 December 2019, part of my LibraryThing Virago Group Not So Secret Santa gift

I have realised that you can pretty well guarantee a cracking good story and a great sense of place with DDM. In this historical novel (yes, me reading a historical novel!), set in the 19th century just when the vile practice of “wrecking” ships was being stamped out, orphaned Mary moves to the forbidding Cornish moors from a hard life in a pretty village to stay with her aunt and the horrible man who she married, in their forbidding and empty inn.

The opening is suitably Gothic, with Mary swaying along in a coach in a storm, head full of warnings about staying at Jamaica Inn, all very Hardyesque or Mary Webbish (and in fact there’s a bit at the end that’s very Mary Webb but not quite as horrific). We have doors that are bolted to strange rooms, odd noises in the night, a bog to get lost in and a peculiar vicar who keeps turning up at just the right time, and it’s a touch more scary and violent than I’d normally read, but nothing is gratuitous. You know Mary is asking for trouble – or is she – when she’s too proud to turn down the opportunity to take a trip to Launceston on Christmas Eve with Uncle Joss’ younger and more attractive (mainly because he has basically killed fewer people) brother; it’s interesting when there’s a clear pivot point in a novel. But the story is by no means guessable or simple from there on in.

There’s an interesting gender politics angle – Mary is described as working or being fit to work as well as a boy, Uncle Joss wishes she were one, and she’s very clear that once she tries to escape the Inn, if she’d been a boy she’d have been sent off to work her way onto a ship, rather than being looked after and offered a cosy job.

I’m glad I read this one and didn’t run away screaming when it got a bit dark. It’s always handy to have read “Northanger Abbey” in these situations and to assume better than the heroine does, even if she turns out to be right in the end!


Book review – O. Douglas – “Penny Plain” #1920Club

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Well, I am writing this a day late, but I read 19 of this book’s 25 chapters yesterday, which was still inside Kaggsy and Simon‘s 1920 club week! I was alerted to this book by my dear friend Heaven-Ali (miss you! Waves!) who reviewed it earlier last week – I found a Kindle collection for less than a pound and it’s lovely to know I have four more of her books to read, too!

Ali points out in her review that lovers of D.E. Stevenson will like O. Douglas, and the comparison is apt, as it felt very Stevenson-esque in the lovely picturesque Scottish setting, the gentle and attractive characters and the gentle humour.

O. Douglas – “Penny Plain”

(17 April 2020 – ebook)

A charming novel. Jean and her brothers plus one “extra” who came to them by convoluted association, live in cheerful simplicity but slightly concerning poverty in the village of Priorsford. Moving towards them on the train from Euston are two people who will change their fates – Peter Reid, an elderly businessman who has neglected all other sides of life and who’s just had bad news about his health but finds himself unable to bring himself to throw them out of the house he actually owns once he meets them, and the Honourable Pamela, shockingly 40 and with a heart of gold, who is escaping the ‘good’ marriage she should be making to visit the place her old love Lewis spoke of with such love. Add in the neighbours, some nice, some comedic, some sharp social observation and some points about marriage and gender (including the observation that it’s best to let people be who they want to be, some not wanting to be ‘tuppence coloured’) and some comic servants, but also a leavening of sorrow and sadness running through the community, which comes from the date this book was published, I think, and you have a very satisfying read, not all light, but with some depth. You do kind of know what’s going to happen, but watching the careful unwinding of how it’s going to happen while reading about a lovely community is most entertaining. I’m very glad I got to read this!


Next up is a Paul Magrs, and continuing with the excellent “Hidden Figures”. My fiction is pulling strongly ahead of my non-fiction numbers, which I shall need to address soon!

Dewey’s Readathon update and book reviews Paul Magrs – “Fellowship of Ink”, Debbie Macomber – “A Little Bit Country” @readathon

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So I posted a little teaser about this yesterday and here’s my report. I was going to do an update post that I updated as I went along, but then I hadn’t actually finished a whole book by the time I went to bed and left it to round up today.

I wasn’t entirely successful in this. There were more distractors than I’d hoped for and, while I can’t stay up late or do without sleep, I slept more than I usually do! Here goes with the report, and I’ll do brief reviews of the two books I finished.

1.00-2.00 pm – in a course for Run Leaders put on by England Athletics – it would have seemed a little rude to whip out a book.

2.00-3.00 – After eating my sandwiches, I managed 6 pages of “Fellowship of Ink” on the bus back into town.

3.00-5.00 – At the BookCrossing meetup. Pictured above are me and Heaven-Ali, a good booky friend of mine who was also doing the challenge (read her report here). Although we did get everyone around the table reading a few pages, I’m not sure I actually got any proper reading done. Then got the bus home with lovely friends and wanted to talk to them rather than read!

5.00-6.00 – Sat on the sofa with the cat for the whole hour and read 100 pages of “Fellowship of Ink”

6.00-7.00 – I had to do some work which took out an hour and a bit of reading time.

7.00-8.00 – Part of the hour spent reading 20 more pages of “Fellowship of Ink”

8.00-9.00 – Eating my dinner and reading – 47 more pages

9.00-10.00 – Husband phoned for a chat and so 6 pages read. And then I fell asleep at 10.00 pm which has not happened for aaaages! Oh dear!

10.00-07.00 am – Asleep for longer than usual. Didn’t wake in the night awake enough to have a little read as planned.

07.00-08.00 – Breakfast with “Fellowship of Ink!, 50 pages down and not many to go.

08.00-09.00 – Finished “Fellowship of Ink” 82 pages done. Phew! But it was good (review below).

09.00-10.00 – Picked up Debbie Macomber’s “Summertime Dreams” which is made up of two books. Read 90 pages of “A Little Bit Country” through most of the hour.

10.00-11.00 – Finished “A Little Bit Country” – 111 pages and my most pagey hour. Very easy reading but a good one (review below).

11.00-1.00 – Took my Kindle to the gym and did post-marathon non-impact cross trainer and static bike while reading “Butterfly” by Yusra Mardini. I ended up reading 65%, the equivalent of 187 pages.

So in total a nice round 700 pages (I did not plan that). The experience was OK – the amount of info on the website, Goodreads group and Facebook page was a bit overwhelming but if you asked a question, someone was right on it answering kindly and patiently. I didn’t take part in hourly competitions etc as was just reading, and I know Ali tweeted a bit and got more interaction out of that. Because I can’t stay up late and because of the time zones, I felt a bit distanced, but that was my fault, not the fault of the group or organisers.

Paul Magrs – “Fellowship of Ink”

(17 June 2017)

A glorious romp of a book, with nasty creatures, fusty professors and heroic young men abounding. When Professor Henry Cleavis and his friend John arrive in Darkholmes, a university town in the north of England, they start encountering odd things right away. Will they be able to do their usual trick of investigating oddities or was Henry actually invited for his intellect and books? Alongside Evelyn Tyler, a downtrodden professor’s wife and, well, a certain fairly scarred lady called Brenda … they slip through holes in time and have a whale of a time.

Paul Magr’s trademark style is all over the book; he has a way of writing that instantly identifies itself and I love that he’s retained that over his career. Who else would write, “He went berserk in a very fastidious fashion, wreaking havoc in a quite localized area”? I loved the tying together of imagination and reality – when John enters a particular world, he almost recognises the worlds of magical animals that he used to draw as a child. How lovely!

There are loads of nods to other writers, from the worlds between worlds of Narnia and the endless winter there, and the Inklings themselves to Diana Wynne Jones’ Derkholm and Evelyn’s maiden name, Fisk. But the rest is of course highly original, funny, diverse and fascinating.

The book ended a little abruptly and looked as if it was heading for a sequel. Will there be one?

Debbie Macomber – “A Little bit Country”

(18 June 2017)

Rorie breaks down in the middle of Oregon and is rescued by a hunky horsebreeder and his sweet brother. Will she fall for their rural charms or head back for her city boyfriend? Well, we know the answer but it’s really nicely done as ever, with the addition of a friend/rival and a nice library background. A good read, fun and reliable.

Book review – Margery Sharp – “The Flowering Thorn” #amreading #margerysharpday @beyondedenrock

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Books published by Open Road Media

Books published by Open Road Media

The lovely Jane at Beyond Eden Rock runs a celebration of Margery Sharp’s birthday every year on 25 January. Last year, I missed the date by one day, and I was so determined not to do the same this year that this was actually the very first book I read in 2017 (did I write this up then, at my leisure? Did I ‘eck – here I am, frantically typing late on the 24th …). Margery Sharp is an excellent writer and I am very pleased to read her in fact more than once per year. And as you can see from the picture to the left, Open Road Media have republished 10 of her novels in e-book form, which makes them a lot easier to get hold of.

Margery Sharp – “The Flowering Thorn”

(21 December 2016, e-book)

A charming, funny and rather moving novel. Socialite Lesley Frewen decides on a whim to adopt the orphaned Patrick, a somewhat stolid child, much to the surprise and horror of her relatives and somewhat vapid friends. This precipitates a move to the country, and all the travails that come with this – although it’s noteworthy that she always has Help.

Lesley starts, however unwillingly, to slot into village life, with the vicar who’s once horribly ignored by a shrieking house party of hers turning out to be a solid ally. She can’t help but be drawn into the small but very real dramas of motherhood and marriages that permeate throughout the village, but realises that community rather than society can be a good thing.

It’s quite remarkable that Lesley is never really shown as actually liking Patrick, and indeed her benign neglect and lack of fuss is praised as being the right way to raise a child; however, their relationship is sweet and well-drawn, and Lesley’s reactions to the situations village life throws herself into – whether that’s sick vicarage children or a woman in trouble – are funny and believable.

But how will Lesley act when the boy goes off to school and she’s free to live her socialite lifestyle again? Will she lean towards the genuine American friends and the nice people she meets at her first party back in the mix, or return to the shriekers? A lovely read and thank you again, Jane, for reminding us of this fine author.

Book review – Vita Sackville-West “All Passion Spent” #Virago #amreading #books

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jan-2017-tbrThe lovely Virago Group on LibraryThing has decided not to do a big challenge this year (other years, we’ve done Elizabeth Taylor or Barbara Pym, for example), but to vote on an author to read per month, and then you can read anything by that author during that month, but dip in and out as you want. January came up with Vita Sackville-West, and as she’s a beloved author AND I wanted to do more re-reading this year, I decided to re-read “All Passion Spent”. I am not sure when I bought this – I have it in a slightly annoying to read hardback omnibus, and it’s got a pencil letter in which implies I bought it at either a book sale in Kent or one in Greenwich that I used to frequent. Anyway, I’m pretty sure it was one of the early Viragoes that I read, and I can’t think I’ve revisited it for a couple of decades. I’m glad I did.

Vita Sackville-West – “All Passion Spent”

(1990s)

An absolutely charming novel which completely vindicated my picking it up for a re-read, with the somewhat unusual central character an 88-year-old woman, Deborah Slane. The book opens as her husband has died, her pretty dreadful children have gathered, Something Must Be Done with the jewels, and Lady Slane needs to play her part. But she doesn’t want to play her part; aware of her extreme age, she resists being parcelled out among her children, refuses to see any of the great-grandchildren and claims her right to do whatever she wants to do, accompanied by her lovely French maid, Genoux, who has been with her for 70-odd years and speaks a charming Franglais (sample: “l’homme aux muffins” – all of her utterances are left untranslated in my edition, which I was fine with, but I’d be interested to find out whether footnotes are now supplied).

So Lady Slane and Genoux set out on a very small adventure, and our heroine mulls over the past and the life she’s led as an accessory to an important man. It’s hard not to think of Shakespeare’s sister from Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” when we learn that Lady Slane had ached to be an artist, and I also wonder if Vita was indulging in a bit of what-if when she describes Lady Slane’s life in the diplomatic and political worlds (I know I don’t like to bring an author’s life into their books, but she herself refused to travel with her diplomatic husband or help him with his political campaigns, refusing to be “wheeled out”, and created her successful writing career in those spaces). Lady Slane is not a feminist, however, and she puts the loss of her own career down to it being a marriage of “a worker and a dreamer”, while admitting her gender might have added a slight touch of extra difficulty. It’s worth noting that men are seen as needing to fit in, too, with one man who stakes his own claim to his life marked down as odd forever.

Lady Slane’s children are horrified by her “misbehaving” and patronise her and the two children she can tolerate madly, but she gives as good as she gets and delights in twisting their expectations. She makes some most unsuitable friends, who we can only hope will have the last word. When she has a slight crisis of conscience about denying the younger generations, she wonders if she will be given a chance to make amends. What is most important, though, the military parade or the butterflies? Lady Slane is not sure as she considers her long life.

This is such a lovely, funny and life-affirming book, even though there are a number of deathbeds found within it. A real masterpiece.

 

State of the TBR January 2017 and Christmas book confessions (happies)

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jan-2017-tbrI know, I know, a bonus post from me, two on one day. But I had a lot of stuff to fit in! First of all, here’s my January TBR, which I think you’ll agree is marvellous, svelte, hardly visible, etc. Well, you can see it’s smaller than January 2016‘s effort (and you can see the TBR wax and wane in my Year in First Lines post). This has been boosted by my lovely Secret Santa gifts.

Lovely Christmas arrivals

I’m in three Secret Santa arrangements every year. The first one to be opened is the BookCrossing one, as we do that over a meal some time in early December. Here’s my haul (minus a sweet Christmas tree decoration I had left downstairs) from my friend Jen:

dec-2016-christmas-1

… all off my wishlist, lucky me. Then I’m in a photo a day one and fortunately for the TBR, received a lovely parcel from Alexandra containing a super colouring book and a lovely notebook. That was opened on Christmas Day, as was my LibraryThing Virago one from Belva, complete with chocs and Parma Violets and a lovely double CD to listen to while I read!

dec-2016-christmas-1-5

Then, of course, there were lovely booky gifts from Ali and Gill, dear local friends (as well as lots of other good things from other friends, but this is about BOOKS, otherwise we’ll be here all day). So, here’s the pile in all its glory:

dec-2016-christmas-2

Scott Jurek – Eat and Run – about endurance running (and veganism) and apparently a v good read.

Miriam Toews – A Boy of Good Breeding – small town America and she writes so beautifully

Farahad Zama – Mrs Ali’s Road to Happiness – fourth in the lovely Marriage Bureau for Rich People series – I’ve loved the first three

Susie Dent – How to Talk Like a Local – a book on local accents and dialects by the Countdown Dictionary Corner queen

Mollie Panter-Downes – One Fine Day – her post-war book, which I’ve wanted for a while after reading her short stories and war reportage letters

Virginia Woolf – The Years and Between the Acts – I read BtA earlier in the year for Woolfalong, but only in an ebook copy, and didn’t have a copy of The Years – I read it between unwrapping it on Christmas Day and yesterday to finish off Woolfalong, so that was a great and timely gift!

Oliver Sacks – On the Move – his autobiography, and I’m just about recovered enough from his loss last year to read this now, so another timely one

Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes were Watching God – fills in a space in my Reading a Century and it’s a Virago!

R. C. Sherriff – Greengates – a lovely Persephone I’ve had my eye on for a while

Amber Reeves – A Lady and her Husband – a Persephone novel about fair wages for tea shop workers

Earlene Fowler – Delectable Mountains – one in a lovely series of cosy mysteries set around the quilting world

I’m so lucky, aren’t I! Have you read any of these?

Coming up next

jan-2017-coming-upI’m currently reading a lovely edition of Iris Murdoch’s letters, which I’m very much enjoying (I don’t like having a book hanging over from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day but was busy finishing The Years and letters seem less bad to hang over than a solid novel etc.). Coming up next are these lovelies from fairly late on in the year (my book buying was definitely weighted to the end of the year in 2016) – a couple of autobiographical works, a book about women and sport, a Kingsolver novel I’m still not sure about, a couple of novels (my second by Tove Jansson and a Joanna Cannan) and some older travel narratives that look really fun. I also have a few review copies on the Kindle and have made a start on Margery Sharp’s “The Flowering Thorn” to make sure I’ve read it in time for Margery Sharp Day later in the month. It’s absolutely DELIGHTFUL so far, as all her books are.

Reading challenges for 2017

Well, for the last six or seven years I’ve been engaged in reading projects – all of Iris Murdoch, all of Thomas Hardy, all of Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Pym, The Forsyte Saga, A Dance to the Music of Time, and, last year, the marvellous Woolfalong and the challenging read of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series. It’s been great, and it’s had me reading books I might not have read then or at all. But it’s time for a rest, I think.

So, NO CHALLENGES in 2017.

But that’s not strictly true, of course.

For a start, I’ve mentioned that I’m reading a Margery Sharp for Margery Sharp Day.

I’m going to do 20BooksOfSummer again in the summer, because I make that pile up out of books on the TBR and it’s so fun to connect with other bloggers.

I’m sure I’ll do All Virago / All August again, and again, that’s usually taken off my TBR.

I’m going to carry on Reading the Century and see how I’m doing by the end of the year – I might then start looking to fill the gaps.

And I have really, really wanted to do some more re-reading again. I used to have two months of re-reading a year, and that was too much, so I’m going to try to re-read a book a month through 2017.

In addition, of course I’ll carry on with my Shiny New Books reviewing.

So, not entirely challenge-free, but no big author project for once.

What are you up to with challenges in 2017?

 

Top Ten Books of the Year 2016 (and reading report)

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jan-2016-tbrWell, the TBR started the year as above and (sneak preview) finished it like this, so that’s some progress, right?

jan-2017-tbr

In 2016 I read 126 books in total (up from 115 in 2015): 77 of them were fiction (83 in 2015) and 49 non-fiction (32 in 2015) and I had 6 Did Not Finishes (3 in 2015). 84 of the books I read were by women and 42 by men (very tidy stats). As to diversity of location: not so much. 59 books where the location could be identified were set in England or the general UK, 24 in the US, 9 in Iceland, 4 in Switzerland, 3 in France, 2 each in India, Ireland and Scotland and one in Wales. Then there were 1 in Canada, Morocco, Japan, Spain and Europe in general. None in Eastern Europe, Russia or China? No South America or Africa as a whole? Hm. I re-read just five or six books, half for Woolfalong.

Top 10 books of 2016

So here are my top ten with links to their reviews.

Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour – community, nature, science, learning, wonderful novel.

George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss – just wonderful: these are classics for a reason, aren’t they!

Katharine d’Souza – No Place – set in a Birmingham that’s so recognisable and a fabulous story.

Lisa Jackson – Your Pace or Mine? – removed the last traces of shame at being a slow runner and the author even emailed me on marathon day.

David Kynaston – Modernity Britain – his volumes of social history always make my top ten.

Joan Russell Noble – Recollections of Virginia Woolf – such a special book of pieces by her contemporaries.

A.S. Byatt – Ragnarok – a good old-fashioned read and about the Norse mythology.

Simon Armitage – Walking Home – a bloomin good read about a long walk.

Bob Stanley – Yeah Yeah Yeah – the definitive history of pop and SO entertaining.

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse – difficult to choose between this and some of her others.

Honourable mentions to:

The rest of Woolf

Margery Sharp – brilliant and just pipped to the post

Jo Pavey – This Mum Runs

I know you’ve all done your top 10s now but have you read any of these?

Challenges completed

I got on well with my own A Century of Reading and now have read or own 70 of the years.

I completed 20BooksofSummer this year!

I completed #Woolfalong, reading a book for every section and thoroughly enjoying the process.

I read all of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series.

Happy reading for 2017!

Thanks to all my followers, readers and commenters; hope you have a great year of reading.

Coming up later: Christmas book pile (yay), state of the TBR and challenge plans for 2017 …

 

Book reviews – Dorothy Richardson and The Years #woolfalong #amreading

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dec-2016-tbrTwo final reviews for the year – of course, I’ve now got a few hours of 2016 left with no book started as I don’t like to be untidy, but there you go. Hope everyone’s had a good reading year, I’ll be doing my roundup and TBR photo tomorrow, and until then, I’ll leave you with two reviews of books connected with Modernist writers, the outcome of my competition to pass along the set of Richardsons and an offer to share one of the books reviewed here.

Carol Watts – “Dorothy Richardson”

(29 October 2016, Buxton)

Quite a hard book on the author whose “Pilgrimage” series I have of course been working through this year, which purposefully doesn’t set out to match biographical details to the novels, but instead looks at memory, relates the books to a separate short story called “The Garden” and talks a lot about the relationship of the books to the world of the cinema, which I can see, even though Richardson never mentions the cinema in the books, with all the tracking shots and changes in focus, etc.

There were some good finds in this short volume – as well as herself cutting up five volumes of Proust and reading them in a random order, Richardson apparently advocated reading “Pilgrimage” from a random starting point! There is a lot of meat in this but it was maybe a little academic for me. I do feel compelled to read the autobiography; not sure if I can face the semi-fictionalised book about her as I’m not usually keen on that sort of thing.

If you would like to read this book … As there have been a few of us reading “Pilgrimage”, I’d like to share this book about it. If you’d like to join a book ray for the book (so you will undertake to read it and post it on; it’s 90 pages long and will probably go Large Letter in the UK) then please post a comment and I’ll put a list of email addresses in the front cover and send it out.

*We have a winner* Winner of the full set of “Pilgrimage” books, chosen by random selection (numbers in a hat) is Dee! I will get in touch for your address. Of course you might like to circulate them among all three of you who entered the comp!

Virginia Woolf – “The Years”

(25 December 2016 – from Belva, my LibraryThing Virago Group Not So Secret Santa)

How fortuitous to receive this book just when I wanted to read it to round off #Woolfalong! It would make my top ten of the year easily were it not for the glaring anti-Semitism – I know it’s of its time etc. and expresses what people were thinking but it did make me pause.

But anyway, I got totally absorbed in this family saga running from 1880 to the late 1930s. It’s not nearly as experimental as “The Waves“, read earlier this month, although, as we’ll see, it’s far from being traditional. The middle generation are seen as they age from being a set of anxious children with an ailing mother to prosperous – on the whole – elderly stout folk, but the events and attitudes of the age undermine the paterfamilias, who is found to have feet of clay, and the central character, Eleanor, one of those spinsters who has lived for everyone else and not herself finds a new life of travel and maintains a gay best friend, and women move from father-funded and mocked philanthropy to independence, rooms of their own and careers.

I felt my assessment of this book as a “Forsyte Saga” with more on women’s rights and people’s feelings and better descriptions, or a “Pilgrimage” that you could actually understand and follow (there’s even a Miriam on one of Eleanor’s committees!) was a bit shallow, but the introduction to my (Wordsworth Classics) copy does in fact compare it to Galsworthy. But although it seems like a return to the standard novel in some ways, the ebb and flow of repeated memories, totem objects and thoughts is all Modernism and reminded me of “The Waves” to an extent. It’s moving, too, how episodes of childhood remain with the middle-aged and elderly and an object is given, ages, wears out, is discarded and is rescued by the servant.

Compulsive reading and an excellent finale to the year and to my participation in #Woolfalong.

Still to come tomorrow, State of the TBR, Christmas Book Pile, round-up of my reading stats, Top 10 books of the year and plans for book challenges for 2017. Happy New Year, everyone! And don’t forget to comment if you’d like to read “Dorothy Richardson”!

Book review – The Waves #Woolfalong #amreading

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dec-2016-tbrWell, what can you say about such an iconic and rather daunting book? I’ve so enjoyed taking part in #Woolfalong this year and was determined to fit some reads into the last section, Woolfalong Phase 6, in which we are asked to read any or all of “Jacob’s Room”, “The Waves” and “The Years”. So I started this a few days ago and finished it having woken early on Christmas Day with nothing particular to do (we were off to extended family, bearing gifts of Schloer, so got away without too much prep). I hope this review does it justice!

Virginia Woolf – “The Waves”

(4 January 1992)

This examination of six lives from childhood to middle age starts off with short sentences said by each of them, which feels like a clever word game such as the Bloomsbury Set would play, until you realise that it’s their internal monologues at work. Although the “Susan said,” etc. could feel a bit forced, it does make sure you know who’s talking and what they’re likely to be on about, so anchors you in this experimental world.

As the characters progress through life, their memories echo down the years, some fading, some becoming more insistent, and their preoccupations may change on the surface but their essential beings don’t seem to. They reflect on each other and particular episodes – hinging on two gatherings in youth and later years – in a way that seems almost Cubist, from different and sometimes surprising angles. As in Richardson’s “Pilgrimage”, the most important events occur off-stage and are referred to and reacted to rather than seen. I found Bernard, the writer, and his soliloquy that forms the end of the book, quite moving.

The book feels in part like a critique of gender roles, with the options for women in particular pretty limited (lover, wife, eccentric), and Susan in particular seeming to be lost in her role as matriarch, even though she longed and planned for it. To be fair, the men also seem to be set inside their suits and limited by their schooldays, and does Bernard actually ever produce anything apart from his interminable notebooks?

I felt a bit daunted approaching this one, obviously last read as a student, but was pleased I picked up on the echoes of T.S. Eliot that were mentioned in the Introduction to my World’s Classics edition. I did very much enjoy the beautiful evocations of the sun rising, moving and setting above the eternal waves in the interludes, and making my way through the characters’ stories.

I did actually receive a copy of “The Years” (in an omnibus with “Between the Acts”, very pleasingly, as I read that in an e-book edition) for my LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa, so might be able to squeeze that in before the end of the year. I’m still working my way through “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and have reached the 80s and times I experienced myself, so that book just gets better and better. I’m reading a Reykjavik Murder Mystery for a bit of light relief and you will NOT get my books of the year post until 31 December or 1 January, depending on when I finish my last book of the year! Who knows what gems will leap out at me!

I hope you’re all getting some nice reading time and opened lots of book-shaped parcels yesterday. Including my BookCrossing Secret Santa opened earlier in the month, I have acquired 11 new books, which seems doable and not stressful to the TBR …

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