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!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

In Diamond Square by Mercè Rocoreda

Now this is lovely. A beautifully told love story, that grows into the story of a family, and then into something bigger and deeper. A compelling tale of life before, during and after the Spanish civil war.

And it was a bestseller in the 1960s, it was translated into more than twenty, it became a beloved classic, and now that I have read every word I can easily understand why.

In Diamond SquareNatalia was a shop-girl, with a fiancé, living in the working class quarter of Barcelona in the early 1930s. Her life changed at a fiesta in Diamond Square. She met Joe, she danced with him, and he told her that she would be his wife within the year.

He was right. They did marry, and they had two children: a son and daughter.

I warmed to Natalia from the start. Her voice was so warm and so honest, and I could hear her voice. It was clearly so important to her to tell her story, to make everything clear, and it felt as if she were speaking to a friend.

Natalia realised that life would have ups and downs, good times and bad times, and that she had to accept that and focus on what was important. Her home and her family. And she did make the best of things, though she was rather inclined to dwell on things, suffering in silence.

I wished she had spoken up for herself a little more because there were times when her husband needed telling!

Joe bred pigeons. It started with just one, an injured bird he found in the street, and that one bird led to many, many more. Joe and the children loved the birds, but Natalia hated them. The noise, the smell, the feed, the dirt, every time she had to go into the loft space.

When the war erupted, Joe left to fight the Fascists and Natalia was left behind, struggling to make ends meet when her employers said they didn’t want the wife of a troublemaker in their house, not knowing how she was going to manage to feed her children.

But when the pigeons flew away, because nobody came to feed them, Natalia hardly noticed. The war years were such a struggle for her, and for everyone around her.  And after the war her life would be very different.

Natalia said little about her feelings, preferring to speak of what she was doing and what was happening in her world. And yet I understood her feelings. The way she wrote about her husband, her children, her parents, her in-laws, made them so very clear.

Her words had such intensity, and she described everything wonderfully well: the home she made for her family;  the streets of her home quarter; her employer’s grand home; the shelves full of different goods in the grocers shop; Natalia noticed every detail.

In Diamond Square is simply one woman’s life. She doesn’t consider the politics, the bigger picture, she simply relates what happened to her, what she did, how she lived.

And that is enough, because she lived through such a significant period in her country’s history, and because her works are so lovely and they illuminate her life quite beautifully.

I love seeing history and visiting lives this way, and I’m delighted that In Diamond Square has joined the Virago Modern Classics List.