How’s this for a haul of books? All in one week, all second-hand and I haven’t left the small town where I live!
A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin
“A new look at the War of the Roses, through the eyes of people who have been frequently cast in the role of villain. The Woodvilles were a powerful family of nobles who became entwined in the political struggles of the day. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, was a beautiful widow when she caught the eye of King Edward IV, and became the Queen of England and mother of the two Princes in the Tower, whose fate remains one of the most-debated mysteries in British history. Her brother, Anthony, was an influential figure in his own right, guardian and surrogate father to his nephew Edward V, crusader and courtier, and the first author published on the first printing press in England. Elizabeth and Anthony’s stories are interwoven with the modern-day story of Una Pryor, a bibliographer and historian who is studying the Woodvilles, and who, in returning to England to deal with the remains of the family business, must face her own history of grief and loss.”
I borrowed this from the library and it looked wonderful, but it wasn’t the right time to read it so I took it back again. So when a like-new copy turned up for 50p in the town art gallery sale I had to buy it.
Parents and Children by Ivy Compton-Burnett
“Ranging from nursery to university age, the nine Sullivan children live with their parents, Eleanor and Fullbert, in a huge country house belonging to Fulbert’s parents, Sir Jesse and Lady Regan. Sir Jesse then sends Fulbert, his only son, on a business mission to South America. The news follows of Fulbert’s death and his exeutor, Ridley cranmer, plans impulsive marriage to Eleanor…but is Fulbert really dead?”
A lovely 1970s Penguin edition.
Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim
“Lucy Entwhistle’s beloved father has just died; aged twenty-two she finds herself alone in the world. Leaning against her garden gate, dazed and unhappy, she is disturbed by the sudden appearance of the perspiring Mr. Wemyss. This middle-aged man is also in mourning – for his wife Vera, who has died in mysterious circumstances. Before Lucy can collect herself, Mr. Wemyss has taken charge: of the funeral arrangements, of her kind aunt Dot, but most of all of Lucy herself – body and soul.”
Virago Modern Classic #102. Found in the Oxfam shop and brought home to join the collection that you can see part of in the back of the photograph..
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets
Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock’n’roll era.
“Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumblng ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry… “
Another book I read from the library, loved and wanted to add to my shelves. For ages all the copies I saw were really tatty, but today a lovely copy turned up in the gallery sale and I swooped.
Bess of Hardwick by Mary S Lovell
“Bess of Hardwick was one of the most remarkable women of the Tudor era. Gently-born in reduced circumstances, she was married at 15 and when she was widowed at 16, she was still a virgin. At 19 she married a man more than twice her age, Sir William Cavendish, a senior auditor in King Henry VIII’s Court of Augmentations. Responsible for seizing church properties for the crown during the Dissolution, Cavendish enriched himself in the process. During the reign of King Edward VI, Cavendish was the Treasurer to the boy king and sisters, and he and Bess moved in the highest levels of society. They had a London home and built Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. After Cavendish’s death her third husband was poisoned by his brother. Bess’ fourth marriage to the patrician George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Earl Marshall of England, made Bess one of the most important women at court. Her shrewd business acumen was a byword, and she was said to have ‘a masculine understanding’, in that age when women had little education and few legal rights. The Earl’s death made her arguably the wealthiest, and therefore – next to the Queen – the most powerful woman in the country. “
Another book that I read from the library but wanted to own. Today a perfect copy turned up in a charity shop.
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
“Damian Baxter is very, very rich – and he’s dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern: who should inherit his fortune… Past Imperfect is the story of a quest. Damian Barker wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married in his late thirties he was sterile (the result of adult mumps), but what about before that unfortunate illness? He was not a virgin. Had he sired a child? A letter from a girlfriend from these times suggests he did. But the letter is anonymous. Damian contacts someone he knew from their days at university. He gives him a list of girls he slept with and sets him a task: find his heir… “
Another from the gallery sale. I read the first page in the queue and was entranced, so home it came.
The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West
“Isabelle is very beautiful, immensely rich and a widow at the age of twenty-six. The year is 1928, she leaves America for Cannes and Paris in search of high society – and love. For though outwardly she has everything women dream of, inside she craves the peace of a lasting marriage. To find the kind of love she needs Isabelle must choose between three men: her violent, fascinating lover, the aristocrat André de Verviers; a reserved plantation owner from the Deep South, Laurence Vernon; the eccentric millionaire Marc Sallafranque…”
Happiness is an original green VMC for 25p in the bargain bin!
My Just Desire: the Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter by Anna Beer
“The name of Elizabethan adventurer Walter Ralegh is familiar to many people, but few know anything about his wife, Bess. Born Elizabeth Throckmorton, her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I was considered an important step for her family in an age when power and influence were achieved primarily through one’s connections. At court she met the dashing Ralegh, and they were secretly wed. Ralegh was a royal favorite who had already had a hand in establishing a colony in North America and defeating the Spanish Armada, but this did not prevent his downfall when the queen learned of his marriage. Through years of Ralegh’s imprisonment and further exploits to regain his status, it was left to Bess to keep the family estates together and preserve a legacy for her sons.”
I love the period and this looks to be a fascinating story, and very readable.