Sixes

It was Jo’s idea last year, and we’re doing it again this year.

Celebrate the first six months of the reading year by putting six books into each of six categories.

It’s not quite as easy as it looks. I tweaked the categories last year to suit my reading style, and I’ve tweaked them a little more this year to make sure that the right books got in.

Here they are!

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Six Books that tugged at my heartstrings

The Night Rainbow by Claire King
The Lonely by Paul Gallico
A Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson
The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Young Clementina by D E Stevenson
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

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Six books illuminated by wonderful voices from the twentieth century

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
The Fool Of The Family by Margaret Kennedy
A Pixy in Petticoats by John Trevena
Mariana by Monica Dickens
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

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Six books that took me to another time and place

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard
This January Tale by Bryher
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel
In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda
The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow
A Commonplace Killing by Siân Busby

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Six books that introduced me to interesting new authors

Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof by E.A. Dineley
The First Book Of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh
The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter
Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

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Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Yew Hall by L.M. Boston
Orkney by Amy Sackville
A Five Year Sentence by Bernice Rubens
The Asylum by John Harwood
Perfect by Rachel Joyce

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Six Books I started in the first six months of the year and haven’t quite finished … yet …

The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland
The House on the Cliff by Jon Godden
Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox
The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton by Diane Atkinson
Warpaint by Alicia Foster
The Rich House by Stella Gibbons

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Do think about putting your own sixes – it’s a great way of perusing your reading, and I’d love to read more lists.

Orkney by Amy Sackville

This is lovely: a beautifully painted story of love, obsession and loss, set on a remote northern Scottish isle, rising and falling like the tide …

Orkney“She’s staring out to sea now. My young wife. There she stands on the barren beach, all wrapped up in her long green coat, among the scuttle and clutter of pebbles and crabs. She stares out as the water nears her feet and draws back, and when that soft and insistent suck of the tide gets close enough to slurp at her toes she shuffles herself up the shore. Soon the beach will be reduced to a strip of narrow sand and she will be forced to retreat to the rocks; and then, I think, she’ll come back to me. In the meantime, I watch from the window, as she stares out to sea.”

Richard is a sixty-year-old English professor, Richard, captivated by his lovely young bride. She had been his student, his star pupil, and after a year of secret encounters, they ran away to get married, and then they ran to the one place in the world that called her. Orkney.

It was the sea that called her, and though she was frightened by its power, though maybe she had lost love ones to the sea, she had to watch it. Her husband can only watch, entranced by her. He is proud of his bride, and there are times when she clings to him, times are happy together. Times when Richard cooks for them both, when they sit together by the fire, drinking whisky and telling each other stories, when they retire to bed together.

But their nights are disturbed by her vivid dreams of being engulfed by the sea …

Richard is on sabbatical, working on the book  that will be his crowning achievement: a study of myths and legends about enchantment. Maybe the fair, ethereal girl standing alone in a windswept landscape has escaped from one of those stories. He knew little about her, and she contradicted many of the details in his stories of their history.

The story unfolds slowly, driven not by the simple plot but by the lovely, lovely writing. The words are poetic, lyrical, and lyrical and they describe the ebb and flow of the waves, the changing of the light, the coming of autumn and winter. The sea, the shoreline, the weather, everything came alive.

And it changed with the story: as Richard’s love grew obsessive the skies darkened, the days shortened, and the weather closed in.

But this isn’t a book to write about. It’s a book to feel, and a book that I know will haunt me.

Maybe an Orange … or two … or three …

I’m loving Paris in July, but I haven’t forgotten that this is Orange July too.

This year’s longlist and shortlist didn’t excite me a t first, but the more I thought and the more I read the more interested I was. And now I have two longlisted books in progress:

  • I have been slowly making my way through The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer for a while now. It’s a book that I needed to read slowly, but I think I will turn the final page this month.
  • Though I didn’t care for her earlier books, I gave Jennifer Egan the benefit of the doubt and ordered A Visit From The Goon Squad from the library.  Three chapters in, I have to say I’m impressed.

And I have more books on hand, some of my own and some on the library pile.

Here they are:

Are there any there that you would recommend?

And are you reading for Orange July?

Bookish Thoughts on Boxing Day

In our house, Boxing Day is a day for fun, relaxing, and a little contemplation.

And I’ve had a little fun contemplating this year’s reading, with the help of a set of questions that I borrowed from Verity, who borrowed from Stacy, who found it at The Perpetual Page Turner …
 

Best Book of 2010

I read many wonderful books this year, but if I have to pick out just one it must be Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley. Daphne du Maurier wrote an introduction to her friend’s book, and she can convey its charms much better than I ever could:

“”‘Love in the Sun’ will make other writers feel ashamed. And, curiously enough, old-fashioned too. It is a revelation in the art of writing and may be one of the pioneers in a new renaissance which shall and must take place in our time if the novel is to survive at all. While we struggle to produce our complicated plots, all sex and psychology, fondly imagining we are drawing modern life while really we are as démodé as jazz and mah jong, Leo Walmsley gives the reader a true story, classic in its simplicity, of a man and a girl who possessed nothing in life but love for each other and faith in the future, and because of these things, were courageous and happy…”

Worst Book of 2010

Luckily I didn’t read anything this year that was bad enough for me to give it the label “worst book.”

Most Disappointing Book of 2010

There were a few that I didn’t finish, but their names escape me now. The most disappointing book that I did finish was Trespass by Rose Tremain. Not a bad book by any means, but it didn’t live up to its potential or to the high expectations that Rose Tremain’s earlier work created.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2010

The cover of Diamond Star Halo was eye-catching, but it really didn’t look like my sort of book. That title rang a bell though, a tune lodged in my head, and the next line just wouldn’t come. I only picked it up to look for an answer, but the synopsis grabbed me, I remembered that I had really liked Tiffany Murray’s previous novel, and so the book came home. It proved to be a gem.

Book Recommended Most in 2010

I was a little disappointed when I saw The Winds of Heaven listed as one of the new Persephone Books for autumn. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Monica Dickens, but I already had The Winds of Heaven and many of her other books on my shelves , and I had hoped to discover a new author or two. I read The Winds of Heaven on holiday, loved it, and saw that it fitted into the Persephone list perfectly. And I’ve been saying that ever since!

Best Series You Discovered in 2010

I met Gussie just a few weeks ago when I read The Burying Beetle, and I fell in love with the gravely ill but wonderfully alive twelve-year-old, who so loved books, films, the whole world around her. I am so pleased that Ann Kelley continues her story in three more books, and the next one has already found its way home from the library.

Favourite New Authors in 2010

It has to be a writer from the first half of the century who is only new in that she if new to me: Sheila Kaye-Smith. I read Joanna Godden in the summer, and it pushed her creator on to the “I must find all of her books” list.

Most Hilarious Read in 2010

I am not a great lover of comic writing, but there are one or two authors who combine wit with intelligence and warmth who I love dearly. L C Tyler is one of them and his most recent book, The Herring in the Library, was a delight.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010

Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, an Italian graphic novel that retold the classical story of Orpheus and Euridyce, was unsettling and utterly compelling. I read it in a single sitting.

Book Most Anticipated in 2010

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore was the Holy Grail for knitters for a long time. Copies were so scarce and changed hands for ridiculous sums. I could only dream of finding a copy and being able to knot some wonderful designs that had been in my Ravelry queue since day one. But then a reissue was announced and I am pleased to be able to report that I now own the new, updated edition, with wonderful patterns and so much information about Aran knitting, and that it every bit as wonderful as I had expected.

Favourite Cover of a Book in 2010

I was completely captivated by the cover of The Still Point by Amy Sackville as soon as it caught my eye. Now I just have to get past that cover and read the book!

Most Memorable Character in 2010

There are a few contenders, but I think it has to be Martha. I met her in The Eye of Love a couple of years ago and I read more of her story in Martha in Paris and Martha, Eric and George this year. Martha is both ordinary and extraordinary, and completely her own woman. And the incomparable Margery Sharp tells her story with such warmth and wit that it is quite impossible to not be charmed.

Most Beautifully Written Book in 2010

The Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson was just perfect.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2010

Beside the Sea by Veronica Olmi still makes me catch my breath whenever I think about it.

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited until 2010 to Read

I fell in love with Colette’s writing years ago and read everything of hers I could lay my hands on. How did Gigi slip through the net? Why did I wait until this year to meet her? I really have no idea!

Library Loot

Marg is coordinating Library Loot this week.

I really am trying to be moderate – my ticket is close to capacity -but there were three books that just had to come home this week:

Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor

 “They break down the door at the end of December and carry his body away. On a still and frozen day between Christmas and New Year, a man’s body is found lying in his ruined flat. Found, and then taken away, examined, investigated and cremated. As the state begins its detailed, dispassionate inquest, the man embarks on his last journey through a world he has not ventured into, alive, for years. In his wake, a series of fractured narratives emerge from squats and alleyways across the city: the short and stark story of the man, and of his friends who look on from the shadows, keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying their own particular homage. As they watch, their stories unfurl layer by layer; stories of lives fallen through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress and the disregard of the wider world.”

Not my usual sort of book, but I’ve loved Jon McGregor’s earlier novels and this has had so much praise that I just had to pick it up.

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

“In 1931 Carbon Hill, a small Alabama coal-mining town, nine-year-old Tess Moore watches from the darkness of her back porch as a strange woman lifts the cover off the family well and tosses a baby in without a word. It is the height of the Depression; while Tess’s father, Albert, performs backbreaking and dangerous work at the mine, her mother, Leta, makes do without meat on her table. But the family are luckier than most; the food they can grow on their plot of land has so far saved them from the crippling poverty and near-starvation that besets their neighbours. As Tess tries to unravel the mystery of the woman at the well, a portrait emerges of a family and a community struggling to survive the darkest of times.”

This went on my mental list when I read about it in a few places at the end of last year. This week it appeared.

The Still Point by Amy Sackville

“At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer’s day, Edward’s great-grand-niece Julia moves through the old family house, attempting to impose some order on the clutter of inherited belongings and memories from that ill-fated expedition, and taking care to ignore the deepening cracks within her own marriage. But as afternoon turns into evening, Julia makes a discovery that splinters her long-held image of Edward and Emily’s romance, and her husband Simon faces a precipitous choice that will decide the future of their relationship.”

The cover is the loveliest I have seen for some time, and the story sounds wonderful. I really couldn’t have left this one behind.

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?