Book review – Elizabeth Eliot – “Alice” @DeanStPress

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The last of my reviews from 2018 – I just could NOT shoehorn another post onto the blog, could I! This was an ebook kindly sent to me by Dean Street Press in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint, and in fact there’s a brilliant review on Scott’s own Furrowed Middlebrow blog which pulls out a few quotations I loved, so here’s a link to that, too. The covers are so pretty aren’t they – reproductions of the original, and who hasn’t felt a bit faint and green on a sofa over the holidays, right? and with the lovely framing and font. This one’s out on January 09 in Kindle and paperback so not long to wait – they’ve also done all the Mrs Tim ones and I was lucky enough to receive one of those, too – review to come soon.

Elizabeth Eliot – “Alice”

One of the things I really like in a book is a particular almost flat, artless tone: think Barbara Comyns (though this is not quite so gruesome as she can be), Margery Sharp a lot of the time, or Dodie Smith’s books for adult readers or, I always maintain, Victoria Clayton’s modern novels. Stevie Smith, too, if you move away from the massive whimsy and get a little less poetic, and definitely Rachel Ferguson’s “The Brontes Went to Woolworths”. So if you like those, you will like Eliot, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of her books.

This charming, sometimes slightly bleak, always readable (it kept me up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, something I positively pride myself on not seeing in) novel takes us through the lives of the narrator, Margaret, with her glam mum and life living at her grandmother’s various houses, and her best friend Alice, who she always somehow fears for, from their school days (in a great odd school, again something I love in a book) through finishing school, courtship, a bit of marriage here and there and what we will delicately call relationships. We even go onto the stage and meet a whole cast of supporting characters who sway Alice’s opinions and morals here and there until she hardly knows whether she’s coming or going. Things are a bit mannered but never arch, and there are some glorious set pieces, but there’s always a string of angst beneath the hilarity (you know you’re reading a novel that’s a bit different when a character worries that the ship she’s travelling on is going to sink, not because of an accident or incident but because the laws of physics have suddenly changed).

There are so many wonderful turns of phrase, from mothers flapping out to greet one like a hen to mullings over the exciting lives servants lead compared to the people (well, women) they serve. A quirky and fun novel which you won’t be able to put down, and you hardly know which character to root for. Thank you to DSP for a great final read of the year!

Christmas acquisitions, state of the TBR January 2019 AND books of the year 2018

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Sorry, not sorry, you were either going to get two posts close together or one ginormous one … so here’s the ginormous one. We need to cover Christmas acquisitions, the current state of the TBR caused by these, and my books of the year or I’ll never get them done. Ready?

First of all, I want to share the brilliant state my TBR got into before the influx. Look at it! That’s what having a cold does for your reading …

At least this meant the acquisitions could fit in …

And here they are. Arriving on 20 December were three lovely books from my BookCrossing Birmingham Not so Secret Santa (Lorraine):

David Leboff and Tim Dermuth – “No Need to Ask!” about London Underground maps before the famous one.

Simon Winchester – “Outposts” – about the last pieces of the British Empire.

Stella Gibbons – “Conference at Cold Comfort Farm” – a sequel to “Cold Comfort Farm”!

Then from the lovely Cate for my LibraryThing Virago Group not so Secret Santa (along with a great Virago mug):

Angela Thirkell – “Miss Bunting”, “Northbridge Rectory”, “Marling Hall” and “Before Lunch” – all lovely Virago reissues.

From lovely friends:

Pamela Brown – “Golden Pavements” in the lovely Blue Door Theatre Company reissues.

Diana Wynne Jones – “Howl’s Moving Castle”

Sheila Wilkinson – “Too Many Ponies” – novel set at a horse rescue

Annon Shea – “The Phone Book” – I do love a ‘quest’ book and here he reads and discusses, yes, you guessed it …

Jeannette Winterson – “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere” – her and original suffragette essays

Tony Wilson – “24 Hour Party People” because there has to be a music book in there somewhere

John Sutherland (ed.) – “Literary Landscapes” – about the landscapes novels and novelists inhabit

Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne” (Persephone) – how did I not have this already?

Lucky me!!

And after they went onto the TBR shelf …

Uh-oh. So a double-stacked shelf NEARLY to the end on both stacks, plus a million Iris Murdochs and the Pile relegated to the lower shelf (large fancy Tolkien book just seen, too). Ulp.

My next two books to read are Tirzah Garwood’s “Long Live Great Bardfield” (the Persephone) and to be fair on me that’s my last Christmas 2017 book to be read, and Iris Murdoch’s “The Black Prince” which I will get read and reviewed earlier than the 26th of January, after December’s failings …

Then I do have some books on the Kindle to read, including one more lovely Dean Street Press book (I have read Elizabeth Eliot’s fabulous “Alice” now as my last book of the year: watch out for the review tomorrow.

Coming up after / amongst those, here’s the beginning of the TBR shelf, so I have a book about swimming (Ian Thorpe’s “This is Me”), a book about kayaking (and nature and personal life changes: Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature” which was a birthday book), a book about the Riot Grrrl movement in music (Sara Marcus’ “Girls to the Front”), a book about a charlady in New York (Paul Gallico – “Mrs Harris Goes to New York”), a retelling of a Shakespeare play (Anne Tyler’s “Vinegar Girl”) and a book about Greenland (Gretel Erlich’s “This Cold Heaven”) so a representative range of my reading tastes (maybe).

Moving on to …

Reading stats and BEST BOOKS of 2018

Are you still with me? Sorry about this …

OK, so in 2018 I read 115 books, down from 141 in 2017 (however, I wasn’t laid up for a month after an operation this year). I read 59 non-fiction books and 56 fiction, which is the first time I’ve read more non-fiction than fiction for years and years (I wonder if it’s down to my non-fic reviewing for Shiny New Books). I read 39 books by men, 75 books by women and one by one of each and this is slightly more balanced than last year, where I read twice as many books by women as by men.

So here’s my TOP 10 this year, with two highly commended reads and one reader I will be reading more of. I’m not sure why there are more books by men than women here, or why the novels are all by women. Maybe I just read more (good) non-fiction by men. Here they are, in the order in which I read them. No re-reads on there and The Works of Iris Murdoch are a category in themselves of course!

Lucy Mangan – Bookworm – childhood reading experiences that almost matched mine in terms of the books read – magical

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run – amazing autobiography, open, honest, funny and detailed

Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give – astoundingly good YA fiction on such an important topic

Neil Taylor – Document and Eyewitness – the story of Rough Trade Records, beautifully put together

Dan Hancox – Inner City Pressure – excellent work on the story of grime music

Benjamin Zephaniah – The Life and Rhymes Of – wonderful autobiography

Peter Ginna (ed.) – What Editors Do – essays that were so absorbing and wonderful

Thomas Williams – Viking Britain – undoes all the prejudices, absorbing and fun to read

Barbara Kingsolver – Unsheltered – she’s always in my top 10 and this zeitgeisty novel was brilliant

Kevin Crossley-Holland (and Jeffrey Alan Love) – Norse Myths – because how can a book on this topic, written like that and illustrated like that not be there?

Highly commended:

Katherine Findlay – The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward – commended for an amazing job of editing and putting together an excellent book

Ben Smith – 401 – commended for being a brilliant bloke who did a marvellous thing, is lovely, and mentions my running club and has a photo in the book that includes one of my friends

Will read more:

Robert MacFarlane – I read The Old Ways this year and loved it, then was discombobulated by him being younger than me. Why, I don’t know. But I am going to seek out his other works because they’re just magical

So there we go. I read a million running books and none of them makes it into the Top 10 – but then almost all the books I read this year were good, so do go back and have a poke around through the archives!

 

 

“An Accidental Man” roundup and “The Black Prince” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch

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I know I only just posted my review of “An Accidental Man” but it’s now time to round-up reviews of that one and talk about January’s read, “The Black Prince”. Fortunately, my lovely regular readers have come up trumps and started the discussion on the book even though they’ve only had a few days to do so.

Oh, and if you’re coming to this blog new at the turn of 2018/2019, I’d love to have you along for the ride if you’re doing a Centenary Read of Iris Murdoch’s novels: feel free to comment on all the reviews posted so far then read and review along with us, you’re very welcome!

So I had a bit of trouble getting started with this one due to the period, and a few others found the same. I had forgotten a whole pivotal scene which we all found troubling, and I found I’d changed my view of a few characters. A few of us have been discussing on the review and Jo has done her usual excellent Goodreads review.  Do post in the review comments if you’ve reviewed the book on your own website, blog or Goodreads page. I’ll add more links as you let me know about them.

Peter Rivenberg has shared two more odd covers for this book. I suppose the older and newer of mine do show scenes in the book (the poor Owl!) but the middle one still has me lost. Nothing of course beats the Horrible Penguin which Peter has carefully shared (coming up after the US one for the nervous reader who needs to skim) but the contrast between the blurbs on these US and UK paperbacks is very interesting.

Here’s the US paperback cover. Who is this egg-man? Apparently Humpty Dumpty is mentioned in the book. Is it Monkley? Who else has a moustache? It was published in the 70s so does everyone?

here’s the fascinating blurb

I think this is the first time we’ve had a quote from Playboy, right? (I remember being quite shocked when The Sun did a nice little piece when Murdoch died – seemed just odd to see).

And now … the horror of the Penguin cover. Argh!

What? Just what?

And the back is an interesting contrast with the US one.

The Black Prince

On we go to a favourite of mine but the only one my friend Ali refused to finish during our readalong (game for another go, Ali???).

I have the usual three copies and I have to say the front covers of the UK first edition, my Penguin bought on 19 January 1995 (when I was 22) and my new Vintage are not really that exciting, are they?

Well, the Penguin (I’ve never liked that very 90s edition with its rag-rolled border) does have the painting of Apollo and Marsyas on it and the most modern references Hamlet, but given that all the blurbs are quite excited about it being a thriller …

Here’s the first edition:

… and then no one seems to really go off these themes as we get in the Penguin:

and then the Vintage:

I’ve never thought of it as a thriller in the same way as “The Nice and the Good” can be read as partly one, but I suppose it has those elements. Anyway, off we set and I will try to get it read in better time this month …

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “The Black Prince” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up)? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite?


You will find a page listing all of these blog posts here, updated as I go along.

Book review – Kevin Crossley-Holland (ill. Jeffrey Alan Love) – “Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki” @jeffreyalanlove

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Sorry that I’m going to be double-posting again today: too many posts to fit into the end of the year! The other one’s an Iris Murdoch round-up – although I will have finished another novel by the end of the day, that one’s going to have to wait for its review until January (I hate doing that: I might delay finishing the book so as not to have to!).

This is a book I excitedly bought between Christmas and New Year last year, so it’s fitting I was reading it on 30 December, a year after I bought it. Must do better with my time between purchase and read!! Anyway, my eyes lit on it in Foyles, Birmingham, and with the subject-matter, my all-time favourite Norse myths and the very striking illustration on the cover, I just had to have it. Since then, it’s been occupying two spaces on the TBR, front and back row, as it’s a large and handsome book, and it had to be read carefully propped on my knees in bed or along a sofa. But what a read.

If you have an older child or know an adult who’s perhaps enjoyed the Thor and other Avengers films (yet hasn’t known to shout “That’s wrong!” “Oh, look, Asgarð looks like an inverted Hallgrimskirkja, cool”) they might very well like to read the origin story of all origin stories.

Kevin Crossley-Holland (ill. Jeffrey Alan Love) – “Norse Myths”

(30 December 2017, Foyles)

A beautiful book, lavishly illustrated on every page by Jeffrey Alan Love and re-told by a man who is now an expert in Norse mythology who admits to having gone to Iceland, fallen in love with the place and gone down a new career path (he’s also done the Penguin Book of Norse Myths which has rushed firmly onto my wish list.

The book takes us through all the major tales including these three figures, and the other gods when they interact with them, so a good full picture of the mythology in general. The illustration and description of the Nine Worlds comes on a double-page spread early on and is captivating. The tales are beautifully retold, clear but with the original language clinging around the edges. It’s engaging and exciting, even to those reading the stories for the nth time, with all the tales you’d expect, held within the framework of visits to the gods to gain knowledge by Gylfi, King of Sweden.

The illustrations add a whole new dimension to the book and really make it. They’re reminiscent of the great fairy tale and myth illustrations from the 60s, or those slightly frightening Eastern European animations that were around in the 70s and 80s (these are both good things) with a limited range of colours that’s really effective, and some quite frightening images. Wonderful stuff.


More books in – my final set of the Vintage Classics reissues with the red spines and introductions arrived suddenly today in a lovely big box also from Foyles. Yes, I’ve stacked them as they came, and yes, some of them look a wee bit more substantial than they were in my usual old paperbacks, but here we have “A Word Child”, “The Philosopher’s Pupil”, “Nuns and Soldiers”, “The Sea, The Sea” and “The Book and the Brotherhood”. The others will now creep in in the older edition from elsewhere, with some manufactured peril being produced by “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine”, which I’m due to read in February, not being due to arrive until the verrrrrrrry end of January!

Will any books take you over the New Year or will you manage to bring a nice tidy end to your reading year?

 

Sedate Lady Running 2018

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OK so I don’t have a running update for this week because I have been ILL! I knew this would happen – I got a bit overworked (not anyone’s fault, just how things fell, happens when you’re self-employed), my running days went erratic and then I went on two bus journeys where all I could hear was cough cough cough. I had an earache on Christmas Eve, a sore throat in the night and a full-blown cold for Christmas Day. I missed out on Christmas lunch, not wanting to take my germs to the extended family, and have been lolling around reading and sleeping and playing (fancy new) Mario Kart since.

As I won’t be running tomorrow, I decided to round up my running year and briefly discuss goals for 2019. And I’m hoping it’s OK to submit that to the weekly wrap!

Highlights of the year started with attending the National Running Show in January, going with lovely friends and seeing Ben the 401 Marathons runner again plus meeting the wonderful Lisa Jackson of “Your Pace or Mine” fame. Then in February, I was taking part in the lovely Verity’s February Five challenge again – proceeds go to Mind and it’s a nice little challenge you set yourself. I aimed to do five different stretches every day and managed, even if I did have to get up and out of bed just after midnight for one set. I wish I’d continued that to be honest.

Trudie, Grace, Liz and Sam with MEDALS

On 8 April I was supposed to be doing the Manchester Marathon. However, I’d come down with – yes – a COLD in my taper, a cold that never went away. And on the day, I was just too ill to run (having done two marathons before helped with this as I didn’t have anything to prove; I was gutted though as I was looking forward to it, and I’d already deferred from the year before when I had an operation, so couldn’t defer again). So on 15 April, with the combined help of Dave, Jenny, Trudie and Grace and with Sam with me the whole way as she’d missed it, too, I ran 26.3 miles around the streets of South Birmingham in my unofficial marathon. And Trudie even had medals for us at the end. All pics and the full story here.

It was around this time I decided to go for my 20 miles a week / 1000 miles in the year attempt (it was really the 20 miles a week that appealed, as I had found during the Manchester training that I felt well during the weeks I did 20+ miles up to about 35).

Sole sister running chums!

On 11 August I did the 18 mile LDWA Canal Canter event. This had the massive advantage of starting nearby, being for walkers and runners and having support stands along the way. I did it with the lovely Bernice, who I’d trained with when she was doing the London Marathon. We had a great time and ran well together, and this helped us decide on our big plan for 2019, I think. You can read our race report and see photos here. No medal, but we got a certificate and as much cake as we could eat! I was also doing the Weekly Wrap by then, something I’ve so enjoyed being a part of and will definitely continue next year. Brilliant women all doing different kinds of running around the globe, all supporting each other.

By the end of the year I’d reached my goal and hit 1,034.6 miles. I’d also kept things very regular which I loved – not too hard to fit in and I felt the benefits. A shame about this last week but that can’t be helped.

Look at those lovely even weeks – only one fall and one holiday (with a lot of walking) messing up the lovely regularity.

Of course my other big achievement was qualifying as a Level 1 Endurance Official (essentially, out-of-stadium officiating) and getting over half-way towards my Level 2 licence, and doing my courses for my Level 1 in Track, Field and Starter’s Assistant for in-stadium officiating and two of my experiences for my Field licence. Thanks to Alison, Hilary, Mary and Noel for their extra support in working towards these goals.

2019 plans

Bernice is very excited about running an ultra. Liz is too, but shows this more “subtly”. We have the same book!

This one gives it away really – Bernice and I plan to do the race to the Stones (2nd day) 31-mile ultramarathon in July. This is quite a big ask but it’s one of those things you start mulling over when you’ve done some marathons and wonder where to go next. Also, you get a special medal at the running club awards night when you’ve done a race you’ve not done before and unless we take up triathlons, this will be it. So we got the same book and frightened ourselves with the training plans and we’ll see how it goes.

We’re also doing the Liverpool Marathon in late May in preparation (esp for it being a sunny one). I’ll be supporting various friends at London and doing more training with Claire, who is great at encouraging me off-road and is training for London so a perfect combo.

My other plans for 2019 are to continue 20+ miles per week, continue with my officiating (hopefully gaining Level 2 in Endurance and Level 1 in at least Field) and continue helping to support new runners at club and through social media etc. I’ll also be volunteering at parkrun where I can.

In the near future, I’ve signed up for Mind’s RED January which encourages people to exercise daily in January. I won’t be running every day and as one of our club’s Mental Health Champions I’ll be encouraging people to take a gentle approach to this, involving stretching and yoga and walking as well as running (everyone who’s signed up so far and is talking about is being nice and sensible). Then in February my February Five will involve doing strength and conditioning AND stretching 5 days out of 7 for each week of February. Not my whole circuits routine but something from it, etc.

I hope all running readers had a great 2018 and have a good 2019. Anyone who isn’t a runner, thank you for putting up with these posts through the year: they will continue to be weekly with the odd race report, so shouldn’t take up too much space on the blog. And if you’d like to learn to run, talk to me if you have any questions!

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

 

 

Book review – Christopher Fowler – “The Book of Forgotten Authors” plus a book confession or three

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Well, my Christmas Cold seems finally to be subsiding, but I’ve been keeping wrapped up warm and out of the damp air and continuing to hack my way through my TBR – the only Christmas book left on the shelf now is “Long Live Great Bardfield” which I will at least start tomorrow. So I’m all the way through that left-hand end in the pic, including the big yellow one but not including the large grey one. I’m also quite excited that for the first time in a good few years, I’ll have read more non-fiction than fiction this year. Anyway, on to my most recent read, plus a few that arrived yesterday in the post …

Christopher Fowler – “The Book of Forgotten Authors”

(25 December 2017 – from Meg)

A natural book for me to receive as a present – on my wish list then off again. Amusingly, I think I was alerted to its existence by Simon Stuck-in-a-Book’s review, published exactly a year ago today!

An interesting book listing 99 books that Fowler, working on a column for the Independent and with a focus group of which half had to have not heard of the author, has decided are forgotten. Being alphabetical, it was a bit odd to start with Margery Allingham, who I’ve very much heard of: then again, I’m a big reader in my middle years who had a propensity for the mid-century book, so maybe fewer of them would be forgotten to me. There are also longer essays on the most prolific authors, writers who deserve to be forgotten, etc.

I did take exception to a few of them, not just Allingham. Georgette Heyer is constantly in print and found in The Works among other shops, and Delafield, Comyns and Watson have been republished by Virago and Persephone or other imprints and talked about … but maybe only in my immediate “bubble” I suppose. There were plenty of people I hadn’t heard of, although lots seemed to be crime and mystery writers, so this book wasn’t as hard on my wish list as I’d feared (this is a Good Thing, though!). It was exciting to see Frank Baker’s “Miss Hargreaves” mentioned, as that’s one Simon has always highlighted, and the personal touches were nice and entertaining – Fowler re-buying his own copy of a childhood favourite and getting a mention in the dedication of a republished novel by one of his finds, as well as his use of an Arthur Mee technique for slicing bananas.

An ideal Twixmas read for dipping into.


So it had become time to think about buying some more of the Vintage Classics red-spined Iris Murdoch reissues with their interesting introductions, as I’ve only got one left and they can take a while to come. Imagine my horror when I discovered Vintage are reissuing them AGAIN, this time with flowery covers, presumably for IM’s centenary in 2019. I couldn’t face having my “newer paperbacks” run (this is as compared to my UK first editions run and my “my original paperbacks” mix of Triad Granadas and Penguins, plus my incomplete sets of “early Penguins” and “horrific 70s covers”, hope you’re keeping up at the back!). What does a girl do when presented with this horror? Buys the last 11 (make that 9) all in one go.

Amazon never seem to quite promise to have the right ones, so I ended up buying those that are available with the red spines from Foyles and the rest that aren’t even available in that edition (but do have introductions, apart from the ones that don’t). And Vintage (which is an imprint of Penguin) never did reissues of “The Green Knight” or “Jackson’s Dilemma” so I will have to stick with my older copies of those, leaving me to have 24/26ths of the books in the new editions. The confusing editions are here and I really don’t trust them to do them all, so I’ll stay with what I have (also, where’s there a Swiss Cheese Plant in “The Sea, The Sea”??).

Anyway, here are the first two (non-red-spined ones) to arrive, plus a copy of Ada Leverson’s “The Little Ottleys”, which I bought for Ali for her LibraryThing Virago Group Not so Secret Santa gift then decided I wanted, too (I will pass along my copy of “Love’s Shadow” the first in the set, and that means this one doesn’t count as I will only need to read 2/3 of it, right??

Book reviews – Stella Gibbons – “Westwood” and Beverley Nichols – “The Tree that Sat Down”

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I don’t do double reviews very often but I’ve got a feeling I’m going to finish another book tomorrow and I hate to have them roll over into the next year, so here you go.  My stupid cold has persisted so all I’ve felt up to is sleeping and reading and a bit of Super Mario Cart. While reading is never a waste, obviously, and I have got a lot of TBR to get through, it’s a shame I can’t get on with the other stuff I wanted to do during the break.

Stella Gibbons – “Westwood”

(25 December 2017 – from Verity)

The last of Verity’s lovely parcel from last Christmas (the others were read during All Virago / All August) and a lovely big novel set near the end of the Second World War and published in 1946. Margaret, a plain and serious girl who’s a school teacher by happenstance and not vocation, is friends with cheery flibbertygibbit Hilda, busy doing her bit by keeping her service boys happy (and working at the Ministry of Food). Margaret meets an artist and his bohemian wife and brood of children, by accident, and through her, meets her father, the awful Gerald Challis, practitioner of nude yoga and serial philanderer, while Hilda encounters a sad lonely posh man in the blackout and takes up with him out of pity; we of course know they are one and the same and wait to find out what happens when they find out.

Against a wartime backdrop there’s the parallel plot of Margaret’s father’s friend and his daughter, who appears to be living with Down’s syndrome (this aspect is handled sympathetically but as you would expect of a novel from this era, in not a particularly enlightened way to modern eyes; there’s also a very stereotyped although mainly positive and strong female Jewish character so there’s a bit of discomfort in the reading, although not as much as there might have been). Margaret develops her character and becomes more attractive as a result: people keep mentioning that she needs some hardship to temper her and she does indeed blossom when she has actual difficulties to resolve outside of her parents’ unsuccessful and bitter marriage.

It all goes a bit odd in the end: the scales do fall satisfyingly from Margaret’s eyes re the Challis family, but when she’s reassured by Gerald’s mother than Beauty, Time, the Past and Pity will console her if she ends up alone in life, we maybe want a bit of a happier ending for her. Hilda meanwhile suddenly settles down. Gibbons’ wry voice can’t help intruding, especially on the awful Gerald, and that’s what brings the spark to this rather uneven novel.

Excitingly, this fills in another year in my Century of Books. That doesn’t happen too often these days!

Beverley Nichols – “The Tree that Sat Down”

(April 2018)

I bought this second copy of a beloved childhood read when replacing some books that had (long-distant) cat-related damage, and a Radox bath to help my cold brought this off my TBR pile as a second-hand volume that would take a little steam (it was fine).

Nichols, a big favourite of my blogging friend / actual friend Kaggsy, is of course best known for his acerbic novels and essays for an older audience. But he wrote a set of three children’s books in the 1940s and this is the first.

Judy and Mrs Judy, her grandmother, run a delightful shop in a willow tree in an enchanted wood, but suddenly experience unpleasant competition from the horrible Sam and his respective grandparent; Sam just wants to advertise and make money from the innocent animals. All looks to be lost when he brings in a witch to help, but the situation is saved by the kind and loving nature of Judy, who helps a tatty tortoise and gets frankly a somewhat unsatisfying reward at the end.

With its mentions of Bits of Paper which mean one thing in Germany and another in England (this was published in 1945) and its pathetic Russian bear who helps the enemy out of fear, I rather fear this is an Allegory rather than a straight story! I would like to read the unabridged version, however.


I’m currently reading my lovely big book of Norse Myths (mainly because as an oversized volume, it was occupying a space on both the front and back rows of the TBR) and Christopher Fowler’s “Forgotten Authors”, which was a 2017 Christmas gift. Will I get those nicely rounded off by the end of the year? Will I ever stop sniffling and coughing?

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