What’s in a Name Challenge: Complete!


This was a lovely challenge. Lots of time was spent happily browsing for titles to fit the categories.

And now I’ve read my 6 books for the 6 categories.

Here they are:

1. A book with a “profession” in its title

A Bookseller‘s War by Anne and Heywood Hill

2. A book with a “time of day” in its title

The Swan in the Evening by Rosamond Lehmann

3. A book with a “relative” in its title

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

4. A book with a “body part” in its title

Every Eye by Isobel English

5. A book with a “building” in its title

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

6. A book with a “medical condition” in its title

Among The Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Thank you to Annie for hosting!

Every Eye by Isobel English

Persephone Endpapers

Persephone Endpapers

“Sometimes, but not often, a novel comes along which makes the rest of what one has to review seem commonplace. Such a novel is Every Eye.”

Those are the words of John Betjeman, writing for Daily Telegraph in 1956 when Every Eye was first published.

It was republished by Persephone Books a few years ago. Their edition is, of course, quite beautiful and it comes with with an introduction by Neville Baybrooke, the author’s widower. He writes with such clarity about his wife and her writing and his love for her shines through. A wonderful start.

Every Eye is the story of Hatty. She is a piano teacher who has married late in life, and as she and her husband are departing for a belated honeymoon in Ibiza she receives news of her aunt’s death. Her thoughts turn to the childhood and upbringing that brought her to this point.

The story moves smoothly between past and present.

Hatty never really felt at home in her own family. She had a lazy eye, and maybe that made her see the world differently.

She was a talented musician with a dream of becoming a concert pianist, but her straightened circumstances, her lack of confidence and her family’s failure to understand put paid to that dream. Hatty takes the line of least resistance and settles for a quiet life.

But now, it seems, she has reached a turning point. She is thrilled by the experience of travelling across Europe and she is steadily becoming more comfortable and confident in her new life. And when she reaches Ibiza she makes a startling discovery that sheds fresh light on her own past.

Every Eye is a quiet novel with very little incident, and yet it contains so much. Isobel English’s writing is flawless and you must read every single word, otherwise you will definitely miss something.

Hatty’s inner life is wonderfully created, the period is vividly evoked, and places and characters are perfectly observed.

An immaculate miniature.

Library Loot

More wonderful library books this week:


Olivia Manning: a Life by Neville Baybrooke and June Braybrooke

“Olivia Manning was a superb writer – extravagantly funny and deeply serious at the same time – but her talent was not fully recognised in her lifetime. This beautifully written biography puts the record straight. Born in 1908 in Portsmouth into a naval family, she seized independence at the first opportunity, making a penurious life for herself in London as a furniture painter at Peter Jones, before signing up as a wartime ambulance driver – although she had never learned to drive. Her personality was as idiosyncratic her novels. Her husband, Reggie Smith, was equally a ‘character’ – a BBC producer, self-proclaimed communist and life-long philanderer. Both indulged in affairs, but their unusual marriage was sustained by his lifelong support for his wife’s gifts. After their adventurous war (Reggie was then in the British Council – and probably a spy) they became the centre of London literary life, numbering among their close friends Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Stevie Smith, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Anthony Burgess and Laurence Durrell. Olivia Manning died in 1980 in their house on the Isle of Wight; a cat lover, she left most of her money to the Wood Green Animal sanctuary. “

I’m plannining on reading Olivia Manning’s The Doves of Venus for a challenge soon, so when I saw this book in the library I picked it up to see if it had anything to say about that book. It proved fascinating and I discovered that June Braybrooke wrote inder the name Isoble English. I am reading her novel Every Eye now, and so I have a literary triangle of sorts!


An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

“1931. Maisie Dobbs’ new case takes her investigation into the pastoral beauty of the Kent Weald where acts of arson, theft and vandelism around the village of Heronsdene have gone suspiciously unreported for more than a decade. With the country in the grip of economic malaise, Maisie is relieved to accept an assignment from an old friend who wants her to uncover the truth behind these crimes, before he can buy part of the magnificent Sandermere estate at the heart of the village.

It’s hop-picking time and Londoners, including Maisie’s assistant Billy Beale, wanting to escape the Smoke for the summer, set up camp in nearby fields. Gypsies, too, have arrived to work the land. Maisie discovers the villagers are bitterly prejudiced against outsiders and, even more troubling, seem possessed by the legacy of a war-time Zepplin raid.

She has less than a month to find out why no one has been brought to justice and why secrecy shrouds the village. She must draw on all of her finely honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases.”

It’s lovely to find this on the shelves before I’d thought to check if it was in stock at my branch. I’m intrigued that the cover style is quite different from Jacqueline Winspear’s last book. Does it signal a change in direction or just a change in marketing strategy I wonder?


The Secret Life of Aphra Behn by Janet Todd

“Aphra Behn (1640-1689), poet, playwright, novelist, traveller and spy, was the first woman to earn her living as a writer. This biography uses recently-discovered documents in England and the Netherlands to unmask this elusive author whose works include “The Rover”, “The Fair Jilt”, “Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister”, and “The Forc’d Marriage”. Returning to England after the Great Fire from Antwerp, where she is believed to have spied for Charles II, Behn became a witty and versatile contemporary of Dryden, Rochester and Wycherley. As well as recounting Behn’s story and analysing her works, Janet Todd illuminates the political and social background of the period: the court intrigue, the theatre and its protagonists, and London life before and after the Restoration. Behn was also involved with the Popish Plot and the Monmouth Rebellion, the Stuart kings, Nell Gwyn, the Duchess of Mazarine and many others.”

Doesn’t that sound amazing?! I acquired a lovely green Virago Modern Classics edition of Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister last year and I wanted to learn a little more about its author and her times before I started reading. This is a fairly hefty tome but it looks very readable.


UFO in Her Eyes by Xiaolu Guo

“Silver Hill Village, 2012. On the twentieth day of the seventh moon Kwok Yun is making her way across the rice fields on her Flying Pigeon bicycle. Her world is upturned when she sights a UFThing – a spinning plate in the sky – and helps the Westerner in distress whom she discovers in the shadow of the alien craft. It’s not long before the village is crawling with men from the National Security and Intelligence Agency armed with pointed questions. And when the Westerner that Kwok Yun saved repays her kindness with a large dollar cheque she becomes a local celebrity, albeit under constant surveillance. As UFO Hotels spring up, and the local villagers go out of business, Xiaolu Guo’s startling parable of change imagines an uneasy future for rural China and its relations not only with Beijing but the wider world beyond. “

I have yet to read A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, and I’ve read mixed reports, but I spotted this on the new book shelf and it seemed worth a try.


What did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.

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


We are home now but tomorrow we are setting out to Ibiza, the wildest of the Balearic islands. We have been married for a year now and this is a long promised holiday.

But I have just heard that Cynthia, my aunt, has died. It was Cynthia who first told me about Ibiza. I can’t stop thinking about her, about the past …

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


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

Here is mine:-

“My hands stumbled about incoherently like strangers who had never before touched a keyboard; terrible sounds broke loose, of the kind that tiny children call Chinese music when they strive to express themselves by sheer persistence and force, sometimes by chance bringing together a natural harmony, a beautiful mad sound that can never be repeated. I felt the blood draining away from my face and a still coldness settle around my temples: “I can’t go on,” I cried at last, “I can’t find my place, I don’t know what’s the matter with me…”

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB

This all comes courtesy of Every Eye by Isobel English