Beyond Eden Rock


Almost as soon as I hit ‘post’ last week, I realised that I didn’t really want to say goodbye.

I didn’t want to let go of this lovely community of people who love books.

What to do?

Well, I decided that what I needed to do was to let go of the things that of the things that were weighing me down – the years of history, the multiplicity of projects, the pseudonym, the record keeping, and my own expectations of what this should be.

And so I’ve picked up the things I want to keep – my books, my knitting, my 100 years project – I’ve called my dog, and we’ve moved to a new home.

I don’t intend to lose my history, but I need a new beginning in a new home.

You’ll find me Beyond Eden Rock; where some things will be the same and some things will be quite different.

It would be lovely to see you there …..


The Continuing Story of a Girl Who Loves Books: Untying the Knot

This is the post that I didn’t want to write, that I’m still not quite sure that I should be writing, but I think I have to write ….

The Girl Who Loves Books discovered them when she was very, very small, and as he grew up she found more and more to love. Longing” ~ Heinrich Vogeler

There were so many worlds in explore, in the past, in the present, and in the future. There were so many fascinating people to meet; real people and fictional people. There were stories, there were adventures, there was so much to learn. And it was lovely to step out of the real world sometimes.

She knew that lots of other people liked books, but, maybe because she came from a very small town, she didn’t know anyone who loved a lot of the books she loved. It was lovely to be able to talk to them, to recommend books, and to dicover so many new books, new publishers, new possibilities …

One of those possibilities was a book blog. She started writing about books and bookish things on a blog of her very own. And in time she found more places to write her book thoughts. Just to celebrate the books and tell more people about them. Because some people don’t use LibraryThing, or read book blogs. It was lovely, but it grew and it grew and it grew.

In the end it became too much – there were too many books, too many projects, too many places to be, too many people to keep up with.

She decided that the only thing she could do was walk away. So that she could do other things, so that she could read a book without worrying about what she would say about it, and so that she wouldn’t spend so much time wondering if she was Jane or if she was Fleur.

She’ll probably come back one day; maybe here, but more likely in a new home where things will be rather different.

So I don’t think this is goodbye.

But it is goodbye for now.

The Reading of Books: Looking Back at May and June

I can’t quite believe that we’re half way through the year, but I know that we are.

The sun is shining, the town in full of tourists, and it’s almost time for bed but it’s still light outside.

It’s time to think about this years sixes.

It’s time to pick up my first book for Paris in July.

But I should look back first; and, because I was distracted at the end of last month, I have two months of books to consider.

These were some of my favourites:


And there were other books that I loved. Enough that I’d find it easier to pull a few weaker books from that bottom of the heap found it pulling a few favourites from the top.

So I’ll do is make a few little lists.

I won’t ramble, because I’ve had two good reading months and there are rather a lot of books to go on those lists.

I’ll just say – here they are!

Two very different pieces of narrative non fiction:

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams
This House of Grief by Helen Garner

The first fiction published by one of my most beloved authors:

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

Three lovely Victorian novels:

 The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy
Policy and Passion by Rosa Praed
The Vicar of Bullhampton by Anthony Trollope

Two contemporary stories of mystery and suspense that didn’t work for me:

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish
Disclaimer by Renee Knight

A not as good as her others – but by no means bad – book by a writer of traditional mysteries:

Lonesome Road by Patricia Wentworth

An excellent edition to one of my favourite contemporary crime series:

River of Souls by Kate Rhodes

Two very different books that I’d read before, and were just as good as I remembered:

Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Four fine novels by 20th century authors:

The Far Cry by Emma Smith
Modesta by G B Stern
The Meeting Place by Mary Hocking
Vain Shadow by Jane Hervey

Two promising first novels:

Clay by Melissa Harrison
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

One wonderful one-off:

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Two very good contemporary novels:

Flight by Isabel Ashdown
The Red Notebook by Antoine Lauraine

And one shiny new gem:

The Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

* * * * * * * * *

Now tell me – how has your reading been? – what do you have planned?

April Flew ….

…. and I’m not entirely convinced that the time before we went on holiday, the week away and the days we’ve been back add up to a whole month, but the calendar is quite certain that it does.


It’s not been the best reading month – I’ve picked up and dropped too many books as I tried to find the right book for my reading mood – but I have read some very good books:

This month’s Trollope

I decided to brave and pick up Cousin Henry to read during the month of the great man’s bicentenary. I say brave because I didn’t get on with the book when I decided that it was the place to start my Trollope reading a few years ago. This time around I’m pleased to say that I found much to love, and  I think that proves the importance of reading the right book – and the right author – at the right time.

Since I pick this book down I’ve started on The Vicar of Bullhampton, which I think I’m going to love even more.

One book plucked from tips for the Bailey’s Prize longlist

Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was one of the books that caught my eye when it appeared in almost every post I read about books that might be or should be listed for the Baileys Prize. It didn’t make the list, but it is a very impressive and readable first novel that wouldn’t have been out of place there.

I’m delighted to see that Claire Fuller has been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize for new fiction.

One comfort read:

During a stressful week at the beginning of the week I needed a comfort read,  Katherine Wentworth by D E Stevenson was just the thing

Two stories of suspense:

 After The Storm by Jane Lythell and Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes. Two interesting second novels, each one quite different from the book that came before and yet each one defining the author’s particular strengths. I’ll write a little bit more about that in a day or two.

One lovely children’s book:

I bought quite a few books when we were on holiday, in the lovely bookshops of Totnes, but I was very, very restrained when we were at home. I just picked up two Puffin books from the 1960s, that would have sat very nicely alongside the others I had on my shelves when I was young.I l

 I didn’t know the title Marianne Dreams or the author Catherine Storr, I loved the sound of it.

“Ill and bored with having to stay in bed, Marianne picks up a pencil and starts doodling – a house, a garden, a boy at the window. That night she has an extraordinary dream. She is transported into her own picture, and as she explores further she soon realises she is not alone. The boy at the window is called Mark, and his every movement is guarded by the menacing stone watchers that surround the solitary house. Together, in their dreams, Marianne and Mark must save themselves.”

I loved it, and I wish I’d spotted a copy when I was a child because I think I might have loved it even more,

The other Puffin I bought was a lovely copy of The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

I had another book for Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week The Rosemary Tree – but I’m afraid the week will be over before I’m finished. She’s an author who rewards time and attention, this week has been rather busy, and it wouldn’t be right for me to rush.

One big history book:

I took The Plantagents: The Kings Who Made England by Dan Jones on holiday, and it was so readable and so full of great stories that I flew through it. It’s a book about the history more than a book about the people, but that was what I needed to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

 My non fiction book of the month:

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell  tells a true story as remarkable as its title wonderfully well.

My fiction book of the month:

As Far As Jane’s Grandmother’s by Edith Olivier is a little gem, and as I wrote about it a couple of days ago I’ll leave it at that tonight.

And that was April!

I have a couple of books in progress, I have those books I picked up and dropped to reconsider, I have a few interesting review books, and I have my Classics Club Spin book.

That should see me well into next month, and then I’ll see which books call me.

Now, please tell me, how was your April? And what do you have planned for May?

Today is March and Tomorrow will be April ……

….. which means that it’s time I looked forwards and backwards at my reading.

March was a much better reading month than February.

I read four books from my pool for Reading Ireland Month

Broken Harbour by Tana French got me off to an excellent start. Yes it’s a crime novel, but it’s also a state of the nation novel, or quite simply a top flight contemporary novel I was tempted to start on Tana French’s novel for a while, but I settled for savouring the prospect for a while longer because I had lots of other interesting possibilities.

picmonkey-collage-2I had a lovely time In The Vine Country with Somerville & Ross. They were excellent company, they brought the trip to life on the page, and I’m looking forward to reading more of their books, both fiction and non fiction.

Then there was The Wild Geese by Bridget Boland; a historical family story told in letters. It’s out of print and a ‘pick it up if you see a copy’ book, rather that a ‘go out and find a copy’ book.

Maura Laverty is out of print too, but definitely worthy of reissue. Alone We Embark is a lovely, human drama; and a few weeks on from reading it the people and their stories are still swirling in my head, because Maura Laverty has art of making her characters feel like friends and neighbours.

I started ‘The Quest for Fame’ by Charlotte Riddell too, but I found that it was a book best enjoyed slowly, so that one will run on into April.

 I read two very good crime novels. I’ve already written about The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth, a lovely period piece for those who like their stories character driven and don’t mind if they work out the solution before the book gets to it. And I will right about ‘Humber Boy B’, a brand new novel by Ruth Dugdall, so for now I’ll just say that I was very  impressed.

I had mixed feelings about my other contemporary reads: I’ll just sat that:

  •  Rise by Karen Campbell was great
  • The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer was readable
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton was  ….forgettable ….

Now let’s talk about classics.

untitledLady Anna was my first non-Palliser Trollope and I loved it, for the drama and the romance of it all. It might not be his greatest work, but it is a very fine entertainment.

I’ m looking forward to reading more Trollope for his bicentenary next month. Ayala’s Angel is the book I have in mind, and I’m planning to take it with me when we cross the border for a week’s holiday in Devon.

 I’m afraid though the I was disappointed in this year’s Dickens – David Copperfield – there were moments when I loved it, but there were moments when I definitely didn’t. I’ll pull my thoughts together soon. I will say that it probably didn’t help that I read this not long after last years Dickens – Bleak House, which I loved – and that I wish I’d read Dickens chronologically, because I spotted one or two characters here that I suspect were re-worked for later books

I started with my new book of the month and I’ll finish with my old book of the month:

 The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp is a gem, and it so deserves to be reissued.  But even of it isn’t there will be another party next January, for Margery’s 111th birthday.

And that was March.

EGButtonNow for April.

I’ve mentioned Trollope, I’m putting a list together for the Classics Club Spin, and I have a book in mind for Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week.

Beyond that I shall, as always, be trying to read the books that call.

Now, please tell me how your March was? And what do you have planned for April?

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 ….

So that was January ….

…. the last week went missing, thanks to a horrible cough and cold,  a tricky few days when I went back to work, and a computer that started playing up horribly, and in the end had to have it’s factory settings restored.


But still I’ve managed to read more this month than I have in a long time:

‘The Lodger’ by Louisa Treger
‘The Faithful Servant’s by Margery Sharp (re-read)
‘The Curiosity Cabinet’ by Catherine Czerkawska
‘Jill’ by Amy Dillwyn
‘The Crooked House’ by Christobel Kent
‘The Prime Minister’ by Anthony Trollope
‘Linnets and Valerians’ by Elizabeth Goudge
‘Weathering’ by Lucy Wood
‘Enchanter’s Nightshade’ by Ann Bridge
‘The Young Pretenders’ by Edith Henrietta Fowler
‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent
‘The Gipsy in the Parlour’ by Margery Sharp
‘Don’t Let Him Know’ by Sandip Roy
‘The Duke’s Children’ by Anthony Trollope

I have to give great credit to the TBR dare, for keeping me away from the library and making me realise how many great books have been waiting on my shelves for far too long.

To date I’ve knocked eight books off the physical TBR and six books off the virtual TBR.

My book of the month has to be ‘Weathering’ by Lucy Wood, and I’ve not read a book that I haven’t liked.

‘Linnets and Valerians’ and ‘The Young Pretenders were for the Classic Children’s Literature Event.

I came to the end of Trollope’s Palliser novels; after eight months months in their company I’ll miss them, but I want to try some of Trolloe’s other books and I still want to read ‘The Forsyte Saga’.

‘The Gipsy in the Parlour’ – set in Devon – was my first book for Reading England.

Margery Sharp Day, on the 25th was a joy, and I am still absolutely delighted that so many found and enjoyed a book.

Since then I’ve been dabbling, and all of these have been picked up and partly read:

‘Saraband’ by Eliot Bliss (the jury is out)
‘The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife And The Missing Corpse’ by Piu Marie Eatwell (just as good as it sounds)
‘Troy Chimneys’ by Margaret Kennedy (one of her best)
‘The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (half-way through, and I love it)
‘Lady Anna’ by Anthony Trollope (I was smitten from the first page)

I’ll pick them up again in February, which I want to be a simple, project free month of reading the books that call.

I’ve added a couple of books to a new ‘after the TBR Dare list on my library account.

And I’ve added a few judicious purchases to my personal library:


‘Three Fevers’ by Leo Walmsley
‘Fire Over England’ by A E W Mason
‘Winds of the Day’ by Howard Spring
‘The Houses in Between’ by Howard Spring
‘All The Day Long’ by Howard Spring
‘The Jasmine Isle’ by Joanna Harystiani
‘Harlequin House’ by Margery Sharp
‘A Century of Creepy Stories’ edited by Hugh Walpole

They’re very much ‘library building purchases’; six on a day when I had an appointment in Truro and seized the chance to visit my favourite bookshop, one came from a local charity shop, and ‘Harlequin House’ arrived because I’ve been looking for an affordable copy for a long time and I finally found one.

I’ll have difficulty resisting that one until the dare is over, but I could read ‘All The Day Long’ because I had a tatty old copy and so the lovely, signed, hardback edition is an upgrade.

My old copy has gone to a charity shop, in one of seven bags we dropped off this afternoon.

I must declare one addition to the virtual TBR – ‘After The Storm’ by Jane Lythell – because I loved her first book, and because it was a ridiculously good bargain.

That was January.

A very good month for books and reading.

Now tell me, how was your month?

What do you have planned for next month?

A Box of Books for 2014

Some people make year-end lists, but I prefer to pack a box of books as each year draws to a close.

I have loved lists – writing them, reading them, studying and analysing them – since I was a child. And yet I find it difficult to sum up a year of reading in a list or two.

So I’m going to do what I’ve done for the last few years. I’m going to assemble a virtual box of books to capture all of the things that I’ve loved about the books I’ve discovered this year.

This year there have been a lot of classics, a sprinkling of new books, and shamefully few works of non fiction.

It might sound like a list, and maybe it is, but to me feels like I’ve pulled some great books from the shelves because those are the books I want to pull from the shelves right now. It’s not quite so definitive somehow.

And here it is – in the order that I read them:


The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull

“An operation she restore Adeliza’s sight – she had cataracts – allowed her to learn and discover even for. Her joy in seeing the world that she had previously only known by touch was palpable, and so very, very moving. Adeliza was still constrained by her lack of hearing, but she was freed by an upbringing that had been free of so many of the restrictions that would have been placed on other children of her age.”

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

“I loved the tone, the wit, the style, the echoes of great novelists; and I was dazzled by the depth of knowledge, by the love of the creator for her creation that shone from the pages, and by the work that she had so clearly done to allow this world so rich in detail, so real and so magical, to live and breathe.”

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

“I met a woman and, though we didn’t have too much on common, we bonded over books. We agreed about many – though not all – of them, she made me see a few books and a few of their heroines in a different light, and I wondered if I might have done the same if I could have only spoken back to this book. Oh the dialogue we might have had!”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

“There were so many scenes, so many moments, that took my breath away. It broke my heart that whatever The Count of Monte Christo did, there was no vengeance that could bring back those long years that had been lost in prison, or bring back happy future that had once been before the young Edmond Dantès. He knew that. He was a fascinating character,and I could never let go of his story.”

The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge

“This is a story of the darkest days of World War II, when only England stood against the Nazi forces advancing across Europe, and when the fear of invasion was very, very real. Elizabeth Goudge lived on the south coast of England then, close to the eye of the storm, it was during the war that she wrote this book, and it was clear as I read that she knew and she that understood.”

* * * * * * *

2ndAnna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“This is a book full of utterly believable characters and relationships. the depth and the detail of the characterisation.
That’s what I’ll take away with me. That and a head full of images …. Anna encountering Vronsky at the station …. Levin seeing Kitty on the ice ….. Karenin ill at ease as he visits a lawyer …. Kitty at her brother-in law’s death-bed ….  and most of all the final scenes of Anna’s story, which was one of the most compelling and moving pieces of writing that I have ever read”

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey

“I loved the storytelling: the voices were distinctive, the period touches were lovely, and the story was captivating. There’s a lot more than history and mystery, but this is too good a book for me to spoil for anyone else. It’s a lovely, it’s distinctive, it’s full of interest, and it’s told with just the right amount of verve. The author’s love of her story and everything in it shone from the pages.”

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

“The story was perfectly judged; mystery, suspense, romance, and just a dash of the gothic, woven together by a craftswoman at the height of her powers. And there was a nice balance of elements that were recognisably ‘Mary Stewart’ and elements that made this story distinctive. It was full of wonderful details; and I particularly liked the way that the small debt to Jane Eyre was acknowledged.”

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

“There’s wit, there’s colour and there’s love threaded through what might otherwise have been a very dark story. And at the centre of it all are those fascinating, infuriating sisters; they quarrel bitterly, they feud, they take sides against each other, but they also cling together and keep each others secrets. Such a wonderful portrayal of sisterhood! I loved watching them all interact, and their conversations were a joy.”

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

“‘Sugar Hall’ illuminates the time when the war was over but the consequences were still being felt, and the post-war world hadn’t quite begun. It explores the consequences of old sins and the reverberations they send into the future. It considers the importance of the home, the consequences of leaving, the importance of having a place in the world.  And it does that with the lightest of touches, so that the stories of lives and the story of the ghost can live and breathe.”

* * * * * * *

3rdCan you Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

“I am so pleased to say that I have finally discovered why so many readers love Anthony Trollope. In fact, if it isn’t wrong to say so after reading just the one book, I am now one of them. I’d picked up one or two books over the years and they hadn’t quite worked. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them but I didn’t love them, they weren’t the right books; I had to find the right place to start, the right book at the right time at the right time, and this book was that book.”

Tryst by Elswyth Thane

“There were some lovely moments, some amusing, some heart-warming, some sad, as Hilary made his way home and as Sabrina curled up in an armchair to read from his bookshelves. And though the arc of the story had a feeling of inevitability it never felt predictable, and I was always held in the moment. I was involved. I cared.  The characters are simply drawn, the logic probably wouldn’t stand up to close inspection, and I can’t deny that the story is sentimental. But it works beautifully, if you take it for what it is: a simple, ghostly, old-fashioned romance.”

Four Gardens by Margery Sharp

“I have to believe that Margery Sharp loved people; that sometimes they saddened her, sometimes they amused her; that maybe, like me, that there were so many people in the world and that they all had their own life stories that might be told. She clearly loved Caroline; she blessed her with a lovely inner voice and she gave her story exactly the right tone. There’s gentle wit, wry humour and acute observation in this story of a life well lived.”

Valentine by George Sand

“George Sand constructed and managed her plot beautifully, attending to every single detail; she brought the countryside to life with wonderfully rich descriptions; and she made her characters’ feelings palpable. She gave me a wonderful story, full of wonderful drama, and so many real emotions. And it was a story with much to say, about the separation of social classes, about the lack of education and opportunity for women of any class.”

The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes

“This story is clearly underpinned by detailed research. The practical arrangements in the high-security hospital seemed credible; the different approaches of the staff to their work, the ways they lived and the ways that they coped rang true. That was fascinating. And I loved learning about The Foundlings Hospital. Kate Rhodes teaches me something new about London with every book, and it is clear that she loves that city that she brings to life on the page.”

* * * * * * *

4thThe Good Companion by Una L Silberrad

“Julia was the star of the show. She was bright, she was capable, and she had such empathy and understanding. She could accept that others had weaknesses, had different values, wanted different things in life. Julia was prepared to work hard, and to learn from her mistakes, as she tried to live set her life on the right course. She was confident that she would, that she could, do that, because she loved people and she loved the world she lived in.”

The Wild Swan by Margaret Kennedy

“Back in the 1920s Margaret Kennedy’s second novel, ‘The Constant Nymph’, was a huge, huge success. It was one of the bestselling novels of the decade, it became a successful stage play and then Margaret Kennedy was called upon to write a screenplay. That led her to more work in Britain’s film industry, and that experience underpins this very fine novel.”

Privileged Children by Frances Vernon

“Frances Vernon would have sat very well in the Virago Modern Classics list, and I suspect that she might have read a few of those green books when she was very young and they were very new. She was born just three months before me, we would have been in the same school year, and I am quite sure that we would have read and many of the same books.”

Cometh Up as a Flower by Rhoda Broughton

“The story is simple, but it is made special by the way it is told. Nell’s voice was underpinned by excellent writing, and Rhoda Broughton’s understanding of character and her command of the story stopped this from becoming a sensation novel. It’s a very human story of love, passion, betrayal, loss … In its day it was deemed shocking – because Nell spoke of meeting her lover covertly, of enjoying his attention, of her reluctance to be intimate with the man she might have to marry – but there’s nothing at all that would shock a reader now.”

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

“It is said sometimes that Dickens’ characters can be flat. I can understand that because I know that there were sides to these people that I didn’t see, but in ‘Bleak House’ that didn’t matter. I was shown the aspects of their characters and their behaviour that I needed to be shown as the stories unfolded, and I found it easy to believe in these people and their lives.”

* * * * * *

 I’m pleased with what I’ve read, but next year I’d like to read a few more contemporary novels and much more non fiction.

Now tell me, what would you put in your box for 2014?

And what do you plan to read in 2015?

Now We Are Six …..

….. my blog and I. It was six years ago today that I pressed ‘post’ for the first time.

I feel that I should say something profound, but I’m just going to say THANK YOU!

To everyone who has come by and to everyone whose paths I’ve crossed and whose words I’ve read.

It’s been lovely to meet you!

(And if you’ve been quietly lurking I’d be so pleased if you decided that today was the day to say ‘hello’.)

There have been ups and downs along the way, but I’m still so glad that I took that first step.

I thought I should do something, and it occurred to me that I could adapt Jo’s game of sixes.

Six books for each of my six years. Not necessary my favourite six, but six very good books to track my reading journey.

* * * * * * *


1The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith

Doreen by Barbara Noble

South Riding by Winifred Holtby

Miss Cayley’s Adventures by Grant Allen

The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding

London War Notes 1939 to 1945 by Mollie Panter-Downes

A pitch perfect memoir of a Cornish childhood; a sensitive account of the torn loyalties of a wartime evacuee; I can think of no word but masterpeice; a lovely heroine’s adventure at the end of the 19th century; maybe the best opening of a novel ever; life in wartime London caught perfectly.

* * * * * * *


2Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley

Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico

Florence and Giles by John Harding

Joanna Godden by Sheila Kaye Smith

Diamond Star Halo by Tiffany Murphy

Beside the Sea by Veronica Olmi

It’s wonderful what you find on the Cornish shelves in the library; bitter-sweet and pitch-perfect; a gothic tale in a wonderful, unique voice; if only all rural novels were; a new story with lovely roots in books gone by; a tale to leave you lost for words.

* * * * * * *


3Sacrifice by S J Bolton

Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd

Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown

Never No More by Maura Laverty

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart

This was the year of my Crime Fiction Alphabet; I was inspired to write a letter to a wonderful heroine; in which it is proved that border terrier people can really write; oh, Delia;  I was captivated; one of my mother’s favourite became one of mine.

* * * * * * *


4Ten Days of Christmas by G B Stern

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

The One I Knew the Best of All by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

White Ladies by Frances Brett Young

Catherine Carter by Pamela Hansford Johnson

A wonderful discovery in the basement of a used bookshop; a timeless wintery tale; the essence of Cornwall; the author as a child who loved books and gardens; I wondered and when I saw the reviews of a Librarything friend I knew that I would love FBY; I passed by her books when I was younger, but this one caught my eye years later, and I loved it.

* * * * * * *


5The Love-Charm of Bombs by Laura Fiegel

The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Five authors and their work in wartime illuminated; and extraordinary lady, who left such a legacy; my favourite Pym; A story of magical creatures that says much about humanity; of course there has to be a Margaret Kennedy novel; a lovely little book, full of wintery words and images.

* * * * * * *


6The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

Tryst by Elswyth Thwaite

Four Gardens by Margery Sharp

Valentine by George Sand

Now I understand my so many so love this book; this was a wonderful way to vist the past; I fell in love with Trollope this year; a lost gem – romantic suspense at its very best;  no list of this kind would be complete without Margery; I saved this book because I thought it would be special and I was right.

* * * * * * *

 I wonder what happens next.

I don’t know how much longer this will go on, but for now at least I have no plans to go anywhere.

I have one or two things planned for next year, and I need to simplify things a little bit. I’ll explain more another day.

Today is for saying THANK YOU!

Last Month’s Reading and Next Month’s Reading

I found a lot of books to love in October.


I loved both of the books I read for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week – The Wild Swan and A Night in Cold Harbour.

‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’ by E M Delafield was exactly the right book to ‘change gears’ after a week absorbed in one author.

I read the opening chapter of The Adventurous Lady by J C Snaith a while ago, I meant to go back and finish it, and this month I did. The story didn’t quite live up to the lovely set-up, but it was readable, it was entertaining and it fills a year in my poor neglected century.

I’ve pondered shifting the century, giving up on the century – I’ve done it before so I know I can do it – but in the end I decided that my reasons for starting out were still good, but I needed more tie for digressions and to read some of those very big Victorian novels I’ve always meant to read. And so my century is open ended – no more deadlines – It’ll be done when it’s done.

Anthony Trollope has been one of those digressions – I only allow one book per author in the century but I’ve read three of his and I plan to read more. I found much to love in The Eustace Diamonds but it isn’t my favourite, and so I decided to have a little break with another Victorian before I go back to ‘Phineas Redux’, ‘The Prime Minister’, ‘The Duke’s Children’ ….

I turned to Charles Dickens and ‘Bleak House.’ The change of style was a shock – Dickens paints pictures where Trollope introduces people – but Dickens did what he did so well in this book that I was very soon absorbed and involved. And I will be for quite soe tie, because it’s one of those big Victorian novels I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

That’s my audiobook of the moment.

My traditional book of the moment is ‘The Shuttle’ by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. It’s lovely, the grown-up equivilant of her children’s books, and I don’t want it to be over but I think I may finish it tonight.

Frances Vernon is my best discovery of the month, Privileged Children will be one of my books of the year, and I already have her next book lined up and ready to go.

I’ve read just two recent books. I had mixed feelings about  ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters, but I loved a book that slipped out much more quietly –  The Girl Who Couldn’t Read by John Harding.

And that was October!


In November I want to finish all of the books I have in progress.

That includes ‘Folle-Farine’ by Ouida. I hadn’t meant to start reading but I had to because I was captivated by a lovely story wrapped up in pages and pages of description.

I have a copy of ‘The Hotel’ by Elizabeth Bowen lined up for a readalong. I’ve been meaning to read her fiction in order – reading some for the first time and re-reading others – and so this was a very well-timed push in the right direction.

And I have a few books in mind for Australian Reading Month. ‘My Career Goes Bung’ by Miles Franklin and ‘The Three Miss Kings’ by Ada Cambridge are possibilities from the Virago bookcase. And I have ‘The Idea of Perfection’ by Kate Grenville, which was highly recommended by last year’s Virago Secret Santa.

The year’s Virago Secret Santa is underway, so my only book-shopping between now and Christmas will be for other people.

And that’s not a bad thing, because I want to read more of the books I have already, I want to read the books that call.

What books are calling you? What are your reading plans?