2009: A Year in the Library … and a Year in the Pub


Let’s start in the library.

J. Kaye from J. Kaye’s Book Blog hosted the 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge.

You could commit to reading 12, 25 or 50 library books in 2009. I went for the maximum, and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.

Here are a few reasons why I love  libraries:

  • I am lucky to have a good public library service – I can order any book in the county or in a large reserve stock for just 50p.
  • I also belong to the wonderful Morrab Library. There are only 19 private subscription libraries in the UK and this one is just a few minutes walk from home.
  • I can still visualise where my favourite books were in the library when I was a child.
  • Without libraries I wouldn’t be able to read anything like as widely as I do.
  • I pass the library as I walk home from work. A little look around the shelves after a difficult day is wonderfully theraputic!
  • I like to think I can influence what the library stocks by ordering and borrowing books. I have been known to borrow under-borrowed books that I own to help their statistics.
  • Don’t book lovers have a duty to support libraries? If we don’t we can’t assume they will still be there and then how will people who can’t afford to buy books read and how will other people discover books?
  • I first met my fiancé in the library!

I’ve  read 106 library books this year.

Some wonderful new authors and a few books that I hadn’t heard of until I saw them on the shelves.

I’ve added some to my shelves since, there are more I’d like to.

And I’ve uncovered a few put of print gems.

The full  list is here.


And so to the pub

The 2009 Pub Challenge was hosted by Michelle at 1morechapter.com.

Read at least nine books published for the first time in your country in 2009. I’ve done 3 rounds – 27 books.

Here they are:




(There are a few more I’ve read but not written about yet and, I suspect, a couple I’ve missed.)

Some great books – the ones I’ve starred are la creme de la creme!

The Spy Game by Georgina Harding

The Spy Game

“There are different kinds of memory, conscious and unconscious. There are memories that the conscious mind goes over repeatedly, that are recalled, observed, caught like a snapshot of the time, and oneself in it, one of the figures in the picture. Memories like these become like history, fact-filed for recall, detached from emotion. But there are others that come back without conscious thought and that are experienced again, more or less vividly, like dream versions of themselves.”

On a cold morning in January 1961, eight-year-old Anna’s mother watched her mother disappear into the fog.

Later she was told that her mother would not be coming home again. She was dead, after her car apparently skidded on black ice on the road to London.

Later the same day a sensational story broke on the evening news. A Russian spy ring had been uncovered in London and several arrests had been made. Arrests of seemingly ordinary people who had lead double lives and carried extraordinary secrets.

Anna and her elder brother Peter were told little about their mother’s death, they didn’t attend her funeral and they were never taken to her grave. Was there father trying to protect them, or was it something else?

The two children thought it was something else. They linked the disappearance of their mother – a German refugee – with the spy case.

They begin their own investgation. At first Peter takes the lead, but later it is Anna.

It would be unfair to say more than that about the plot, but there is much more to be said about the book.

It grips from the first page and doesn’t let go.

The story shifts between periods and perspectives. It is sometimes a little difficult to keep track, but it serves the author well as she recreates England in the Cold War and the world that Anna sees just perfectly.

Georgina Harding writes wonderful prose and she shows great skill in creating characters who are utterly believable but also, ultimately, unknowable.

The themes are fascinating and well explored there are so many intriguing details.

It all adds up to a brilliant second novel!

The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding

The Solitude of Thomas Cave

I started reading The Solitude of Thomas Cave some weeks ago, but I put it down after just one chapter. Not because I didn’t like it – quite the opposite! I was so taken by the ideas, the prose, the images forming in my head, that I wanted to save the book for just the right day when I could get completely lost in it.

That day came a week ago and The Solitude of Thomas Cave has been echoing in my mind ever since.

The story begins in 1916, with a whaling ship sailing away south from the icy seas around Greenland. Winter is approaching, and yet a man has been left behind.

An argument among the crew provoked Thomas Cave into a bet with another crew member – that he could survive the winter alone in the Arctic. His fellow seafarers have little hope for his survival and try to dissuade him, but he is determined to remain behind. And so they leave him, with just basic shelter, food and supplies.

That was the opening chapter that captivated me.

The following chapters watch Thomas Cave, as he struggles to come to terms with not only the Arctic winter and with the pain and loss in his past that led him to the Arctic.

In the spring the Heartsease returns. What the crew find and what happens then it would be unfair to say. But what I can say is that the story remains intriguing right to the end.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave is a simple story quite beautifully told. Georgina Harding writes lovely prose – simple, but so evocative.

She paints wonderful pictures, and the chill and the isolation of Thomas Cave’s world are quite tangible.

And the story has so much to say. About man’s ability to survive, and indeed to do extraordinary things. And about his relationship with the world he lives in.

So this is a book with everything I look for – a captivating storyline, beautiful prose and thought-provoking ideas.

If only all books were like this!

Library Loot / Cover Attraction

Just one library book this week, but it’s gem. It’s also very beautiful and so it is doing double duty as both Library Loot and a Cover Attraction.

Here it is:

The Spy Game

The Spy Game by Georgina Harding

‘If you were a sleeper, how long do you think it would take before you forgot who you really were? If you were living undercover for years and years. Which person would be you?’ On a freezing January morning in 1961, eight-year-old Anna’s mother disappears into the fog. A kiss that barely touches Anna’s cheek, a rumble of exhaust and a blurred wave through an icy windscreen, and her mother is gone. Looking back, Anna will wish that she could have paid more attention to the facts of that day. The adult world shrouds the loss in silence, tidies the issue of death away along with the things that her mother left behind. And her memories will drift and settle like the fog that covers the car. That same morning a spy case breaks in the news – the case of the Krogers, apparently ordinary people who were not who they said they were; people who had disappeared in one place and reappeared in another with other identities, leading other lives. Obsessed by stories of the Cold War, and of the Second World War which is still a fresh and painful memory for the adults about them, Anna’s brother Peter begins to construct a theory that their mother, a refugee from eastern Germany, was a spy working undercover and might even still be alive. As life returns to normal, Anna struggles to sort between fact and fantasy. Did her mother have a secret life? And how do you know who a person was once she is dead?

Have you seen a lovely cover this week? Then do share your Cover Attraction here.

And have you found any great books in the library? Share your Library Loot here.

Teaser Tuesdays / It’s Tuesday, where are you?


Just quote a couple of spoiler-free sentences the book you’re reading to tempt other readers.

Here is mine:-

“I shall not forget the sight of him as we left, that picture stays strong with me: his figure still and straight on the wide shore, the land huge and bare about him, the snowy dip of the valley at his back, the mountains on either side, twin peaks they were of seemingly identical height, rising steep and smooth and streaked with grey as if in some strange reversal the rock were ashes that had been poured down to the earth from heaven; the sea a darkened pewter and having that sluggishness to its movement that comes from when it is heavy with the beginnings of ice. In all God’s earth, from the tip of Africa to the Indies or the wide Pacific, a man may never see a sight so lonely.”

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB


It is August 1616 and I am aboard the Heartsease.We have been on a whaling trip high into the Arctic, and now we must return home before the ice closes in. But we have left a man behind. Thomas Cave made a wager that he would stay, alone, until the next season. It is madness. Surely no no man could survive a winter so far north in such terrible conditions…

It’s Tuesday, where are you? is hosted by raidergirl3.

This all comes courtesy of The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding.

Highly recommended!

Library Loot

I am still in arrears with my library reading. This week I actually left a couple of books than I am keen to read on the shelves. But I did bring four home – here they are:

A Boy at the Hogarth Press

A Boy at the Hogarth Press by Richard Kennedy

“Richard Kennedy went to work for Leonard and Virginia Woolf at their embryonic Hogarth Press in 1926, at the age of sixteen. He had no qualifications—indeed his very lack of them had caused his Uncle George to ask his friend Leonard Woolf if he could find employment for his young nephew. Thus was Richard propelled into the strange, incestuous rock pool of Bloomsbury life, and the illustrated diary he put together forty years later gives us a vivid picture of its inhabitants and their eccentric ways. As a fly on the wall in the basement at Tavistock Square, the Woolfs’ London home where they ran their Hogarth Press, Richard made the tea, printed book-jackets on the treadle press, and helped Virginia to set type. He was of no consequence to the mandarins of Bloomsbury, hence they took little notice of him. Yet his apparently vague exterior hid an acute observation and a memory unusually retentive of dialogue and detail.”

Now doesn’t that sound wonderful. It’s a short book, simply and clearly written and wonderfully illustrated.


Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

“In Alabama, 1931, a posse stops a freight train and arrests nine black youths. Their crime: fighting with white boys. Then two white girls emerge from another freight car, and as fast as anyone can say Jim Crow, the cry of rape goes up. One of the girls sticks to her story. The other changes her tune, again and again. A young journalist, whose only connection to the incident is her overheated social conscience, fights to save the nine youths from the electric chair, redeem the girl who repents her lie, and make amends for her own past. Intertwining historical actors and fictional characters, stirring racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism into an explosive brew, “Scottsboro” is a novel of a shocking injustice that convulsed the nation and reverberated around the world, destroyed lives, forged careers, and brought out the worst and the best in the men and women who fought for the cause.”

My second venture into this year’s Orange prize books. So far I’m a little disappointed in the first shortlisted book that I picked up (The Invention of Evrything Else by Samantha Hunt), but I’m keeping the faith and hoping for better things from this book.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave

The Solitude of Thomas ave by Georgina Harding

“It is August 1616. The whaling ship Heartsease has ventured deep into the Arctic, but the crew must return home before the ice closes in. All, that is, save Thomas Cave. He makes a wager that he will remain there alone until the next season, though no man has yet been known to have survived a winter this far north. So he is left with provisions, shelter, and a journal – should he not live to tell the tale.”

I have read so much praise for Georgina Harding that I had to pick this up. And, judging by the few paragraphs I have read, I expect to be joining in the chorus of praise very soon.

Tom Browns Body

Tom Brown’s Body by Gladys Mitchell

“Mrs Bradley is visiting the picturesque village of Spey in search of a local witch when Gerald Conway, a junior master at Spey College, is found murdered. Despised by both pupils and peers, there is no shortage of suspects, but can the redoubtable Mrs Bradley use tact, wit and just a touch of black magic to make the boys and their masters divulge the truth?

I read Gladys Mitchell’s The Rising of the Moon a few years ago when it was reissued by Virago and really enjoyed it so I am very pleased to see that Vintage are reissuing a few more of her books.


Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

And what did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.