Was that really February?

It seems to have come and gone amazingly quickly!

Hereabouts it has been a damp, grey month, the council has been digging roads up here there and everywhere, and because they have taken our old railings down and haven’t started putting the new ones up we still can’t get to the promenade or the beach.

this one

The spring cleaning bug bit early this year; we’ve revamped one room and have plans for other parts of the house.

I read less that I have for a very long time. But I read some very, very good books, especially the first one and the last one:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch
Set in Stone by Linda Newbery
Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar
What Lies Within by Tom Vowler
Girl in the Dark: a Memoir by Anna Lyndsey

I’ve only written about Vanessa and her Sister, but my head is full of things I want to say about ‘Girl in the Dark’, and I’ll catch up with the others very soon.

The TBR Dare stuck for a second month, but I’m calling time on it now. It’s helped me to rationalise my library borrowing, it’s made me more aware of the books I have on my own shelves, but I’ve reached a point where I’m thinking too much about what I can and can’t read.

I’ve picked up and dropped far too many books this month, and I have eight books in progress which is just plain ridiculous.

There are a couple of specific points too.

I want to start re-reading Winston Graham’s Poldark books before the new BBC adaptation starts.

And there’s a book in this month’s books shopping that I know I won’t be able to resist:

The local charity shops have served me well this month.

Charity Shops

Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill is an autobiography from 1963, and a very pretty little hardback.

I read about Something in Disguise by Kate Colquhoun in the paper and then I spotted it on the shelf, and though I wasn’t sure I’d read a book about a Victorian gardener, I decided that it was a sign. And that if I don’t read it the man of the house probably will.

Country Girl by Edna O’Brien was on the same shelf and quite irresistible.

Civil to Strangers by Barbara Pym is an upgrade; from a tatty old copy to a Virago Modern Classic.

And La Batarde by Violette Leduc is that rare and special thing, a Virago publication that I didn’t know I existed until I spotted it. Indeed I hadn’t even heard of the author, and she does see quite obscure, so here’s the synopsis:

“An obsessive and revealing self-portrait of a remarkable woman humiliated by the circumstances of her birth and by her physical appearance, La Batarde relates Violette Leduc’s long search for her own identity through a series of agonizing and passionate love affairs with both men and women. When first published, La Batarde earned Violette Leduc comparisons to Jean Genet for the frank depiction of her sexual escapades and immoral behavior. A confession that contains portraits of several famous French authors, Leduc’s brilliant writing style and attention to language transform this autobiography into a work of art.”

And then there was a little trip to the St Just Café Bookshop.

St Just

It was a plain little hardback but it was in lovely condition and so An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope had to come home.

There is No Armour by Howard Spring was a lovely addition to a growing collection of his work. I read some of his book from my parents shelves years ago, I read his lovely childhood memoir more recently, and I love the way he writes.

I pounced on a book by one of my most wanted authors: And Did He Stop and Speak to You? by G B Stern. It’s a collection of her essays about literary contemporaries, including Sheila Kaye-‘Smith, R C Sherriff, Pamela Frankau ….

But the book of the month was Trollope on the Net by Ellen Moody.; a book of essays inspired by an early internet discussion group, published by the Trollope Society in 1999.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the email addresses that adorn the cover were real?


I’ll settle though for meeting – and revisiting – them on the printed page.

I’ve balanced a wonderful month of bookish acquisitions with a good bit of shelf clearing. We dropped eight books of boos at a charity shop last weekend, I’ve found a new home for my mother’s complete collection of Inspector Morse videos, and three more bags of books and bric-a brac are ready to go.

That makes me feel much more positive about reading books and writing about books in March.

And I hope that Briar will get her promenade and her beach back.

Time will tell ….

14 responses

  1. Lovely books Jane! I didn’t know La Batarde was a Virago – I have a very old cheap paperback from years ago. It’s an odd book, I recall…

  2. I love Barbara Pym – I started reading them in my teens. She’s wonderful. Around the same time I discovered Elizabeth Jane Howard, and I still love them both. They make me feel like all is right with the world!

  3. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed The Luminaries. It’s quite an achievement isn’t? A book that seems to work on a couple of different levels (if not more).

  4. I agree that February has been rather dismal but the massed snowdrops in our garden have made a wonderful display and I will have to think of splitting some of the groups soon so that next year not only will there be more snowdrops but in different places.

    So glad you are enjoying Trollope but I’m jealous of your Diana Athill acquisition!

    Poldark is a sore subject with me! I will hold up my hands (both of them) to admit I have read one page of the first book – and that was enough for me! The written dialect was, in my humble opinion as they say, appalling but it was the made up title name that turned me off it. Don’t get me wrong I do not object to made up names but slapping Cornish and English together makes for a terrible relationship but then if he called it Poldhu I don’t suppose many people would have been impressed with a name that translates roughly as ‘Blackpool’. However, lots of people adored the books so I can’t deny the popularity of either the books or the television series. What I can point out, from bitter experience, is the effect that the television series had on my beloved Cornwall – ‘Poldark’ tea rooms, cafeterias, any object or situation that you could stick ‘Poldark’ in front of and the enterprising had a field day. Cornwall suddenly blossomed into a ‘Poldark’ theme park! Then the hordes descended on the place wanting to ‘live the dream’ as it were.

    Saying that the original Poldark television series was a lot of fun – all those RSC actors trying to sound Cornish had my family in whoops every Sunday evening – although my father, pure West Penwith, to his fingernails, needed some help with what the ‘locals’ were supposed to be saying. In the end we turned the experience into a game as the characters happily mispronounced place name after place name and we would sit around ‘the box’ shouting out the correct pronunciation. An early scene in the television series had our eyes popping out as well as one of my neighbours is seen ploughing with horses! Horses?!!! In the eighteenth century?!!! Nothing wrong with his ploughing – he’s an expert – but they would have used oxon to plough in those times! Horses pulled carts and provided transport!

    Gosh, I’m ranting and I didn’t mean to but when something gets under your skin it really, really irritates! I may dip into one or two episodes of the ‘new’ Poldark but I doubt it will either impress me or sustain me but the youthful part of me wants to shout: “It’s pronounced R’ DRUTH not RED RUTH”! at the television once more to rekindle all those memories of fun-filled family evenings of yore!

    Safer subject now. An old friend of mine who died many years ago, possibly before you were born, was Mrs Tremayne of Helligan. She adored Howard Spring and we had lots of lovely hours of conversations about his books. She had a enormous collection of his books on her shelves (possibly everything he had written and probably, knowing her, because she would have known him) but, unfortunately, when she died they were all despatched to a second hand book shop – charity shops were thin on the ground in those day – and I imagine they were sold off in ones and twos. The good thing is to imagine how many buyers of those copies admired his writing then went on to read more of Mr Spring! Rather like yourself discovering the ‘new’ amongst the ‘old’ as it were. Seeds blossom if well tended, don’t they?

    Happy reading and enjoy ‘Poldark’!

  5. I’m planning to re-read the first Poldark book too. Very much looking forward to the new series (and I hear Robin Ellis is playing the vicar).

  6. I’m in the middle of reading Ross Poldark at the moment and hoping to finish it before the adaptation starts. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed The Luminaries – the length has been putting me off, but I will read it eventually!

  7. Lovely to see Trollope on your stacks. I loved the Autobiography, it made me like him even more (and I think you said you’d be reading the Glendinning biography too?). I was lucky to find a cache of Barbara Pym’s novels last night, but Civil to Strangers wasn’t among them. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve collected all of her books.

  8. I can understand you wanting to move on from the TBR Dare – six weeks was enough for me. I love all your new acquisitions and delighted you loved The Luminaries.

    I hope you get your beach back very soon, Briar.

  9. I’m thinking I should leave Trollope’s autobiography until I’ve read more of his books … I loved the Poldark books, not sure I saw the original series, not sure I’ll watch this one – I’ll have a look at the cast and see if they match my idea of the characters first!

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