Library Loot

It’s a very long time since my last confession Library Loot p0st.

No particular reason, I just slipped out of the habit.

But this week’s books want to have their moment of glory.

And I want to say, look at these lovely books! Do you know them? Have you read them? Are you curious about them?

Purely by chance, the four books that I bought home cover two world wars and the years between them. So I’ll introduce them chronologically:

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins

“Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience. In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings — the bathroom. The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’?”

It did cross my mond that this could be a case of “Mr Whicher was successful, so let’s see if we can do the same thing again.” But even if it is, the case is one I’m curious about, the period fascinates me, and it does look like a very well put together book.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“‘Fear no more the heat of the sun.’ Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s fourth novel, offers the reader an impression of a single June day in London in 1923. Clarissa Dalloway, the wife of a Conservative member of parliament, is preparing to give an evening party, while the shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith hears the birds in Regent’s Park chattering in Greek. There seems to be nothing, except perhaps London, to link Clarissa and Septimus. She is middle-aged and prosperous, with a sheltered happy life behind her; Smith is young, poor, and driven to hatred of himself and the whole human race. Yet both share a terror of existence, and sense the pull of death.”

This is going to be my first book for Anbolyn’s Reading Between The Wars project. I have my own copy, but it’s old and tatty and the library had a lovely, new Oxford World’s Classics edition.

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

“It is 1934, the Great War is long over and the next is yet to come. Amid billowing clouds of dust and information, the government ‘Better Farming Train’ slides through the wheat fields and small towns of Australia, bringing expert advice to those living on the land. The train is on a crusade to persuade the country that science is the key to successful farming, and that productivity is patriotic. In the swaying cars an unlikely love affair occurs between Robert Pettergree, a man with an unusual taste for soil, and Jean Finnegan, a talented young seamstress with a hunger for knowledge. In an atmosphere of heady scientific idealism, they marry and settle in the impoverished Mallee with the ambition of proving that a scientific approach to cultivation can transform the land. But after seasons of failing crops, and with a new World War looming, Robert and Jean are forced to confront each other, the community they have inadvertently destroyed, and the impact of their actions on an ancient and fragile landscape.”

I saw this on the returns trolley and I thought, “Laura!”  She read this book for Orange January and wrote about it a few days ago. I liked the look of it – tables and pictures in the text are always good in my book – and it was only a little book, so I decided that I would read it too.

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

“London, June 1940. When the body of silent screen star Mabel Morgan is found impaled on railings in Fitzrovia, the coroner rules her death as suicide, but DI Ted Stratton of the CID is not convinced. Despite opposition from his superiors, he starts asking questions, and it becomes clear that Morgan’s fatal fall from a high window may have been the work of one of Soho’s most notorious gangsters. MI5 agent Diana Calthrop, working with senior official Sir Neville Apse, is leading a covert operation when she discovers that her boss is involved in espionage. She must tread carefully – Apse is a powerful man, and she can’t risk threatening the reputation of the Secret Service. Only when Stratton’s path crosses Diana’s do they start to uncover the truth. But as they discover Morgan’s connection with Apse and their mutual links to a criminal network and a secretive pro-fascist organisation, they begin to realise that the intrigues of the Secret Service are alarmingly similar to the machinations of war-torn London’s underworld.”

I’ve liked Laura Wilson’s books in the past, and I’ve heard good things about this one, so I always intended to pick it up one day. A few weeks ago I read about the third book in this series and it looked wonderful, so I decided that it was time to make a start.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Which book should I go for next? And which are you curious to know more about?

And what did you find in the library this week?

Do go and tell Claire!

11 responses

  1. Great list – I haven’t read any of them but they sound like interesting reads. I got out of the library habit last month too – should really start placing some holds again!

  2. Well now I desperately want to grab a copy of Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, even though I’m already buried under library books!

    Those new Oxford World’s Classics covers are lovely. My movers finally brought my things earlier this week so I’ve been unpacking book boxes today and my old Oxford World’s Classics cover for Mrs Dalloway just doesn’t compare (ditto for my copy of North and South).

  3. Two of the most fascinating vintage Penguins I have read are the biographies of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, pathologist in the Brides in the Bath case, and of Sir Marshall Hall who defended the accused. The Brides in the Bath case was the most bizarre of a series of fascinating Victorian murder trials involving the pair. They were both larger than life, dominant in their field; and it is like detective fiction on both sides – how Spilsbury could find the evidence to solve crimes which seemed unsolvable, and how Marshall Hall could ask the right questions for the Defence and have watertight cases unravel. I couldn’t recommend them more highly. I hope The Magnificent Spilsbury is as good.

  4. My Mailbox Monday is up. I like Virginia Woolf – like her husband’s books as well. Did you know he was the Government Agent in Sri Lanka during colonial times. He was a very much loved person in this part of the world. (one of the few!)

  5. I’ll be interested in your thoughts on Everyman’s Rules. It is a nice short little book, I found it a quick, interesting read. Thanks for the link! 🙂

  6. Nice loot! Mrs. Dalloway is my favorite novel. 🙂 Also my copy is old and tatty, and I’ve been actually thinking of buying a new one for my next reread. I fear the old one is too brittle to handle anymore.

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