The plan was to complete the century over two years, sixty in year one and forty in year two, as it gets more difficult as there are fewer spots to fill.
So I’m rather behind schedule but I’m not going to worry about it too much. This has been a difficult year, and I’ve read the books I wanted to read without particularly looking for books that fit the project.
That’s left me with more than a dozen books that have had to be ruled out because a year was already taken or because an author was already represented.
I’m sure there will be books like that again next year, but I’m going to be more focused on reading books from years with slots to be filled, and books by authors who are still waiting to be represented.
But enough rambling, this is a 10% report, so here are another ten books:
1922 – The Heir by Vita Sackville-West
Blackboys was home, and its faded grandeur gave him beauty, comfort, and a place in the world, a point in history. He came to realise that slowly, as he walked through galleries full of family portraits, as he looked across beautiful gardens towards rolling hills, as he sat, peacefully in his wood-pannelled library.
1924 – The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The very, very best novels leave me struggling for words, quite unable to capture what it is that makes them so extraordinary. The Home-Maker is one of those novels. It was published in the 1920s, it is set in small town American, and yet it feels extraordinarily relevant. It is the story of the Knapp family – Evangeline, Lester and their children, Helen, Henry and Stephen. A family that was unhappy, because both parents were trapped in the roles that society dictated a mother and a father should play.
1925 – Streamers Waving by G. H. B. Kitchin
Miss Clame had accomplishments, she had social graces, and she had a wide circle of friends and a busy social life. But it wasn’t enough. She was acutely aware that she was a second-class citizen, that married women would always be one step ahead of her.
1939 – Heaven Lies About Us by Howard Spring
It wasn’t conceived as a memoir. Not long after he became a published novelist Howard Spring was asked to speak at a fundraising event in his home town. He spoke about his childhood and his first steps as a writer and, some years later, his lecture became this little book.
1952 – Catherine Carter by Pamela Hansford Johnson
There is a lovely moment, near the end of the story, when Mrs Carter is able to draw on her own experience to help her daughter with an aspect of a role she found troubling. Her happiness at being able to give something to her daughter was so clear, and I shared in it. There were so many moments like that, when I recognised an emotion, a reaction, and incident, and they all helped the story to sing.
1957 – The Happy Ending by Leo Walmsley
Castle Druid was just as wonderful as the name suggested, but there was much to be done to make it habitable as a family home. Walmsley was just as engaging as I had hoped he would be as he wrote about the dreaming, the planning, the scheming, the working, and of Clow, the local mason, who had family ties with Castle Druid.
1958 – Down to the Sea in Ships by Ursula Bloom
Ursula had become a bride in 1916 and a widow in 1916, but she knew that she was luckier than most. She shared a house in Frinton-on-Sea with her brother and she had already had three novels published. She was ready for the future and she loved it. Trading in her corsets for cami-knickers! Learning the tango! Going to the cinema to see Rudolph Valentino! And, most daring, most exciting of all, she had her long hair cut and shingled! And then she fell in love.
1964 – Memories and Gardens by Marion Howard Spring
I realised when I read the introduction that Marion Howard Spring was a very near contemporary of my grandmother (my mother’s mother). She was born in the 1880s, she remembered Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, she saw the coronation of Edward VII, indeed she lived the reign of six monarchs, and through two world wars. But this wasn’t a book about that .
1976 – Tea by the Nursery Fire by Noel Streatfeild
Now this was a lovely idea: an author beloved by generations of children, towards the end of her life, telling the story a much-loved figure from her own childhood. The story of her Gran-Nannie.
1986 – Tin Toys by Ursula Holden
And along the way Ursula Holden made me think of a number of other Virago authors: Molly Keane, Maura Laverty, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and the aforementioned Barbara Comyns. I can’t help thinking of them all as literary cousins. A distinguished company, and though I haven’t read enough yet to draw any real conclusions I am inclined to think that Ursula Holden belongs there.
That’s another ten!
And the next ten is underway. Book 41 has been read, and books 42 and 43 are in my library pile.
I’ll be browsing the lists of others for ideas for my missing years – especially those brave souls who are doing a century in a year – and you’ll find a link to my master list at the top of the page if you’d like to make any recommendations.