It was Jo’s idea a couple of years ago, and now it’s become an annual event – celebrate the first six months of the reading year by putting six books into each of six categories.

Not quite as easy as it looks. I’ve tweaked the categories to suit my reading style, and because I wanted to push disappointments to one site and simply celebrate some of the books I’ve read and the books I’ve discovered.

Here are my six sixes:


Six books illuminated by wonderful voices from the twentieth century

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield
The English Air by D E Stevenson
The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goodge
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter


Six books from the present that took me to the past

The Visitors by Rebecca Maskell
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
Turning the Stones by Debra Daley
The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric
Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray


Six books from the past that pulled me back there

Wired Love by Ella Cheever Thayer
Esther Waters by George Moore
Griffith Gaunt by Charles Reade
Nine Pounds of Luggage by Maud Parrish
The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope


Six books that introduced me to interesting new authors

Wake by Anna Hope
Still She Wished for Company by Margaret Irwin
The Lie of You: I Will Have What is Mine by Jane Lythell
Mr Perrin and Mr Traill by Hugh Walpole
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
None-Go-By by Mrs Alfred Sidgwick


Six successful second meeting with authors

The Auction Sale by C H B Kitchin
The Twelfth Hour by Ada Leverson
A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell
Mrs Westerby Changes Course by Elizabeth Cadell
Her by Harriet Lane


Six used books added to my shelves

The Heroes of Clone by Margaret Kennedy
The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken
Portrait of a Village by Francis Brett Young
The West End Front by Matthew Sweet
The Stag at Bay by Rachel Ferguson
Elizabeth’s Women by Tracy Boorman


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

The Lie of You: I Will Have What is Mine by Jane Lythell

The cover caught my eye, the title intrigued me, and when I picked up the book I and started reading I realised that I would have to carry on and see the story through to the end.

There was a dual narrative, each focusing on one woman, each told in the third person, and each told in such a way that I might have been hearing about events from someone who knew both women and was eager to prove that she was in the know. And that would have been quite possible, because the two women worked together.

18690719Kathy was a magazine editor, with a handsome and successful new husband, and a lovely new baby boy, coming back to work after a period of maternity leave. She had everything, but she was still learning how to manage all of the different roles, and there was someone who didn’t want her to succeed.

Heja was the newest member of Kathy’s team and she saw everything. She was cool, she wad capable, and she was not the least bit sympathetic. Of course she was ambitious, she wanted Kathy’s job, but there was more to it than that.

The reason for Heja’s fixation became clear quite early in the story, but the background, the full story, was slower to emerge. I never came to like her, but I did feel for her, and I came to understand why she did the things that she did.

There were some contrivances needed to make her story work, and though one or two of them stretched credulity, the story was strong enough for me to be able to accept them.

My sympathies were with Kathy, who I liked from the start; she made mistakes, and there were times when she behaved badly, but that was understandable, given what happened. She was a real, fallible, three-dimensional human being.

A real woman in a real world – even when on a holiday to Cornwall she visited places and walked streets that I know.

The chapters are short and I found it very easy to read quickly. There was a difference in style for each subject, and each a style that suited the subject. Kathy was warm and chaotic, while Heja was always controlled, and always in control. The story got closer to Kathy, and that worked well for the storyteller, but it was right for the characters too. And it was very clever writing.

Every bit of the story grew out of the characters, and the character were all the products of their pasts.

It was fascinating watching Kathy’s marriage come under strain. She and her husband were very different, and though opposites had attracted they had very different ideas about family life, about the significance of certain events. The consequence, maybe, of meeting, falling pregnant, and marrying very quickly. Kathy came to think that she didn’t really know the man she had married very well at all.

I watched her at work too, where the watchful concern of her secretary was a nice counter-balance to Heja’s machinations. Some women are competive and judgemental; others are supportive..

This is as much a study of lives as it is a story of suspense.

The pace built steadily, the story was beautifully controlled, and I was compelled to read, to find out how things would play out.

There was, of course, a dramatic conclusion.

Heja’s story rushed to its resolution a little too quickly, but the psychology was right. And the ending of Kathy’s story was exactly right.

The book as a whole worked; and so I’ll definitely be picking up whatever Jane Lythell writes next.