Book reviews – A Book of Secrets and A Dance to the Music of Time: Summer


Sep 2013Deary me: a TBR like this and I appear only to have read six books this month. I’m not sure how that has happened, although, in my defence, one of those read is Dance to the Music of Time: Summer, which is three books in one, and I am on the third of three books in the Autumn volume, too. So really that’s another five, right …? Anyway, I deviated slightly from my lovely Bello books and big non-fiction volumes on a couple of bus journeys and a gym trip to read the lovely Michael Holroyd which I bought on our holiday in March. I am feeling slightly panicky about the reading I’ve achieved, and now Strictly Come Dancing has started up again, with its attendant daily programme on the telly, I’m going to have to be rigorous about carving out reading time. On the plus side, I haven’t acquired too many new books this month (in fact, none apart from a couple of cat behaviour ones, and I might have ordered one for work but that won’t arrive until next month …).

Michael Holroyd – “A Book of Secrets”

(6 March 2013, Dartmouth)

A multiple biography of Alice Keppel, Eve Fairfax, Violet Trefusis and a host of other women connected in some way to Lord Grimthorpe and his Italian villa. We visit the places they live and dip into their records and correspondence, and Holroyd himself and the process of writing biography is woven through the text as he explores his subjects’ histories and encounters other researchers of the families on which he’s working, and travels to the villa in Italy himself. This makes for a warm and intimate atmosphere, suitable perhaps for a book full of affairs, love and hidden intimacies themselves.

Holroyd works hard to keep us reminded about who everyone is, and provides family trees. There are some photographs but maybe not enough (although maybe they don’t exist). It was nice to find our old friend Vita Sackville-West (and her grandson, Adam Nicolson) and I’m reminded to re-read the Violet-Vita letters. A smallish volume and I think Holroyd’s last work of biography, which is a shame as he’s pretty well my favourite biographer.

Anthony Powell – “A Dance to the Music of Time: Summer”

(20 January 2001)

We’re on to the second Movement, or Season, of the series now, and our cast is either growing up or growing old, depending on which generation you’re looking at, their lives weaving together like those of the previous book, with an astounding regularity (which can seen over-contrived until you stop to consider, say, the phenomenon of one of your old Uni friends who lives in Scotland running a seminar with someone you met at a social media event in Birmingham, neither knowing that the other knew you).

While Spring was, of necessity given the ages of the central characters, but I think these themes bear discussing, all about how you find friends and form friendships, Summer is about marriage, with various different types of marriage and levels of success examined, even if it is apparently impossible to describe your own. Nick Jenkins, the narrator’s, life events happen off stage or as a setting for encounters between other characters, but somehow you develop a deep fondness for him nevertheless. This review is coloured by the war years reading of Autumn, but it was a very enjoyable read, comforting in its re-reading, and offering so many and varied characters and experienced, criss-crossing through time a bit but really never becoming too confusing. Oh, like the previous read there, too.

Currently reading – good old Autumn, and I must pick up my last book by Vita to round off the month. State of the TBR for October coming soon … watch this space on Tuesday!

State of the TBR September 2013 and report on All Virago / All August


Sep 2013Ooh dear. Not the best TBR in the world, is it! I’ve been doing All Virago/All August but it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I had 18 Viragoes, Persephones, Women’s Press and Published By Virago books to read, and managed to get through 11 if you count finishing “The Rector’s Daughter” this morning, but I thought that as most of them were fiction, I’d get through them more quickly. Having said that, the Elizabeth Taylor short stories and the two main non-fiction books I read were fairly hefty and took longer to get through. Anyway, I did get some fab reads in, notably “Fidelity” by Susan Glaspell, “The Rector’s Daughter” by F.M. Mayor (both reviews to come) and Edith Wharton’s “The Custom of the Country”, and I have been reading Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time” and am half way through the Summer volume, which does add another book or two to the total …

sept 2013 coming upSo I’m not going to beat myself up about it, I’m just going to look forward to what I can enjoy in September. September’s not a “special month” of anything, after re-reading in July and Virago in August, but I do have a few books which were either written by friends / associates (“Heroines on Horseback” by Jane Badger and “From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea” by Smoke London, which includes my lovely client Jude Rogers) or kindly sent to me by the publishers (the three Bello Books volumes) and I really feel that, even though they’re not officially next on the TBR, I should get to them soon. So I’m putting them first on the TBR, and hope to get them all read and reviewed in the early parts of the month.

Sept 2013 up after thatAnd looking forward, here’s the first section of the TBR in its normal reading order (acquisition order), so I have a nice lot of non-fiction there, moving into some slightly cheesy celebrity / entertainment autobiographies. Some nice autumn reading there, I think. Oh – “Tess” is the Hardy Reading Challenge book for September / October, but I’m going to see how these all go first, as I have the two months for that one. I haven’t read “A Group of Noble Dames” for that, yet, either!

What are you reading this autumn? Do you have any themes coming up, or just wading through the TBR?