When I realised that my 1000th post was coming up I thought I should do something a little different. But what? In the end I decided an A to Z was in order, to pick out some highlights.
So these are the posts that caught my eye. It isn’t definitive, it misses some great things, but I’ve picked out some posts I was fond of, and some that I’d nearly forgotten but was pleased to remember…
A is for ALI HARRIS. I read Miracle on Regent Street last Christmas and I was charmed by a story with exactly the right balance of reality and magic set in a London department store. I suspect it may have been inspired by the book I have at the opposite end of the alphabet…
B is for BOOKS FOR A DESERT ISLAND. “Desert Island Discs is on the radio. I think there should be a Desert Island Books where the guest tells us which books he/she would take … “ As soon as I read those words in Ann Kelley’s The Bower Bird I began to wonder what books I would take. Gussie, the young heroine, had a great list and I think mine’s pretty good too.
C is for CRIME FICTION ALPHABET. I did it in 2011 – and here’s the list to prove it! I would love to do it again and I tried again this year, but life got in the way and I had to give up. Maybe another time …
D is for DOREEN. The sixtieth title published by Persephone Books is a compassionate and thought-provoking account of the war-time experiences of one little girl. I can warmly recommend the book, and Jessica Mann’s informative introduction, to anyone with an interest in Britain’s policy of evacuating children during WWII.
E is for EMMA SMITH. I picked up The Great Western Beach, Emma Smith’s memoir of her Cornish childhood between the wars, with great expectations, and those expectations were more than met. It’s a wonderful book..
F is for FIVE THINGS. It started as a bookish meme for humans, but I had to let Briar put her own spin on it. She chose beaches, tennis walls, watching, cheese and sleeping.
G is for PAUL GALLICO. Love of Seven Dolls, sadly still out of print, was a wonderful find in a secondhand bookshop in Truro.
H is for JOHN HARDING. He wrote Florence and Giles, another take on the story told by Henry James in The Turn of the Screw. It often appears on lists of recommended titles when I look up other books, and I almost find myself wishing I hadn’t read it so that the wonderful voyage of discovery would still be ahead of me.
I is for THE IVY TREE. Mary Stewart’s take on The Franchise Affair was a joy from start to finish
J is for JOANNA GODDEN. I have met many remarkable women between the covers of green Virago Modern Classics and I have to say that Sheila Kay-Smith’s Joanna Godden is one of the most remarkable of them all.
K is for MOLLY KEANE. I picked up Time after Time for Virago Reading Week, and it was a delight.
L is for LONDON WAR NOTES 1939 TO 1945. Mollie Panter-Downes’ columns from London for The New Yorker bring the city in wartime to life, and they really should be brought back into print.
M is for MARRAINE: A PORTRAIT OF MY GRANDMOTHER. I spotted this one in the library, picked it up because I recognised the name of a Persephone author, and found a lovely family memoir.
N is for NEVER NO MORE. Maura Laverty had me utterly captivated with the story of Delia, growing up in the 1920s, in the Irish countryside in the care of her beloved Grandmother.
O is for OLIVIA MANNING, who pulled me right into the fifties London when she told Ellie’s story in The Doves of Venus.
P is for PULLED HITHER AND THITHER BY BOOKS. It was lovely to celebrate the many places, and the many periods, that books allow us to visit.
Q is for Q by Evan Mandery. A great concept – a man is visited by his future self, who has travelled through time to warn him that he absolutely must not marry the love of his life – and the execution was pretty good too
R is for RAMBLES BEYOND RAILWAYS. A restored Victorian edition of Wilkie Collins’ Cornish travelogue was a wonderful library find, and every bit as wonderful as it sounds.
S is for SARAH STRICK. Randle Hurley gave the world a highly amusing and utterly believable collection of stories about a family who lived her, in my own home town, not so many years ago.
T is for TEN DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. It was a plain, unremarkable hardback book on a shelf in a secondhand bookshop. I picked it up because I knew the author, G B Stern, was on the Virago list and I wondered why there were ten days rather than the more traditional twelve. I found a gem, a story both simple and profound, and an author to cherish.
U is for AN UNSENTIMENTAL JOURNEY THROUGH CORNWALL. When I wrote about Wilkie Collins’ Rambles beyond Railways I was recommended another travelogue by a Victorian novelist: Mrs Craik. It was another gem.
V is for VIOLET TREFUSIS. Her Memoirs of an Armchair took me on a wonderful journey through three centuries of history just a few weeks ago.
W is for LEO WALMSLEY. I picked up Love in the Sun in the library because I knew a family with the same name, I was drawn by Daphne Du Maurier’s fulsome endorsement, and I fell in love with both book and author.
X is for THE EXPENDABLE MAN. I had to cheat for the Crime Fiction Alphabet, and I’m having to cheat again now. It’s a classic tale of a wrongly accused man that has much to say, but because there is a twist very early on all I can say is that you really must read it.
Y is for YABA BADOE. Her debut novel – True Murder – was exceptional.
Z is for ÉMILE ZOLA. The Ladies’ Paradise was a wonderful, almost magical emporium, and Zola spun a wonderful story around it.
And now I think I’m past my milestone. I hope I can do another thousand, and that I can enjoy the journey and the view back just as much.
Thank you for the company and for the support!