There has been bookshopping ….

…. there often is, but it’s a long time since I’ve found so many interesting titles in the course of just a few days.

* * * * * * *

On Saturday morning I spotted a ‘3 for £1’ sale at a charity shop in town. I’ve not had much luck with those sales lately, but of course I have to look, and this time my luck was in.

WP_20140506_007

Nancy Milford‘s biography of Zelda Fitzgerald has been on my wishlist for ages, and so I pounced as soon as I spotted.

I was very taken with Sarah Moss‘s first novel – Cold Earth – and I’ve been wanting to read her second, and so when I spotted a copy of Night Waking I picked that up too.

And then I needed a third. There was nothing unmissable but I spotted a book by Victoria Holt that I didn’t know – The Silk Vendetta – I liked the look of it and so it became my number three.

* * * * * * *

There is a lovely café-bookshop a couple of hundred yards from my mother’s nursing home, and I hadn’t visited it in the nine months I’ve been visiting her. That was because I had Briar with me, but I haven’t taken her since my mother was ill, and became so much more frail than she had been. I would if she asked, but she hasn’t …. and that meant I could look in the bookshop.

I found two lovely numbered Penguins.

WP_20140506_012

I have loved Daphne Du Maurier‘s writing from a very young age; I read every book the library could offer and, later on, I built a collection of my own, but I never came across a copy of The Du Mauriers before. I knew that it was a history of the family in the 19th century, but I hadn’t realised that it was written as a novel. I was smitten from the first page …..

Tea With Mr Rochester by Frances Towers is already in my Persephone collection, and it is a lovely collection of stories. But it holds ten stories – four less than the original edition. I don’t know why, I don’t know whose decision it was, but I remember finding out and being horribly disappointed that I had left a Penguin copy behind in the Oxfam shop a few years ago.

* * * * * * *

I took a couple of extra days off work after Monday’s bank holiday – one for a jaunt and one to catch up with things around the house – and today was the day for the jaunt!

We try to visit St Ives once a year, to look around the town, to visit the galleries, and to investigate some different bookshops.

I didn’t expect much from the first charity shop we visited. There was a very small selection of books, but I spotted the name of a favourite author

WP_20140506_020

The Landlord’s Daughter and The Room Upstairs both date from the late sixties. The reviews seem to be very mixed, but I love Monica Dickens‘s writing and so, of course, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

The Oxfam Shop has been a happy hunting ground in the past, and it was again today.

WP_20140506_001

The Birds in the Trees by Nina Bawden fills a gap in my Virago Modern Classics collection. I loved her books for children – especially ‘Carrie’s War’ but I still haven’t read any of her adult novels. I really must.

Judasland by Jennifer Dawson also comes dressed in Virago green, but it was published as a new novel in 1991, not as a modern classic. I’ve read one of her books – The Upstairs People –  I love her style and I have a feeling  that this comedy, set in academia, could be rather special.

Summer in Baden-Baden is Leonard Tyspkin‘s homage to Dostoevsky and, because Russian novels are calling to me, because it’s a train book, I decided to pick it up.

And, best of all, I found a book by Francis Brett Young. I love his writing, and I love that Mr and Mrs Pennington is the story of the first year of a marriage in the 1920s.

* * * * * * *

Now I just need to magic up some more shelf space ….

A Box of Books for 2013

I have a love-hate relationship with year-end lists.

I have loved lists – writing them, reading them, studying and analysing them – since I was a child. And yet I find it difficult to sum up a year of reading in a list or two. I know that it’s for the best of reasons: I have learned that there are so many wonderful books out there, and so I have learned to read the books that call; the books I want to read, rather than the books I ought to read.

So I’m going to do what I did last year. I’m going to assemble a virtual box of books to capture all of the things that I’ve loved in this year’s reading. It might sound like a list, and maybe it is, but to me feels like I’ve pulled some great books from the shelves because those are the books I want to pull from the shelves right now. It’s not quite so definitive.

And here it is – in the order that I read them:

2013-12-28

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard

“What a wonderful idea: the story of the sixty something years when Queen Victoria reigned, told through the experiences of the men and women who served her. The experiences of high-ranking courtiers, who were close enough to see how the queen and her family lived, who were not overawed by the world they found themselves in, and who, of course, left letters and diaries to speak for them.”

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

“I must confess that, though I loved the recent film adaptation of The Painted Veil, I have been circling my copy of the book for a long, long time. Because for years Maugham lived in my box marked ‘A Great Author But Not For Me.’ Wrong, wrong, wrong!”

The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel

“I was smitten with ‘The Love-Charm of Bombs’ from the very first time I read about it. The prospect of seeing London in the Second World War through the eyes of five remarkable writers – Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and Henry Yorke (who wrote under the name Henry Green) – was simply irresistible.”

A Pixy in Petticoats by John Trevena

“Some people look at a hedgerow and see just that. A hedgerow. But others see more: a network of different plants, signs of the wildlife that live there, evidence of what the weather had been doing. John Trevena saw those things and he was able to bring that to life on the page, to pull his readers into his village and over the moors.”

The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow

“In 1869, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, staying with friends near Carlisle, reported in a letter to his mother that he had come across ‘some most remarkable architectural works by a former Miss Losh. She must have been really a great genius,’ he wrote, ‘and should be better known.’ She should.”

2013-12-281
Mariana by Monica Dickens

“Now it has to be said that Mary is not the most sympathetic of characters. She is often awkward, thoughtless, selfish even. But she was real, and for all her failing I did like her, I did want her to find her path in life, her place in the world. Sometimes fallible heroines are so much easier to love.”

Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof by E.A. Dineley

“It’s a lovely period piece, full of lovely characters, pieces of history, references to beloved books, clever plotting, well-chosen details … and it’s utterly, utterly readable.”

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

“Barbara Pym constructed her story so cleverly and told it beautifully. There is wit, intelligence and insight, and such a very light touch and a natural charm. A simple story, but the details made it sing. It was so very believable. It offers a window to look clearly at a world that existed not so long ago, but that has changed now so completely.”

The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter

“In ‘The Sea Change’, Joanna Rossiter spins her story around a mother and daughter, both caught up in life changing events – real, historical events – that are very different and yet have similar consequences. She does it so very well that I can scarcely believe it is her debut. But it is.”

The Young Clementina by D E Stevenson

“I was so sorry to have to say goodbye to Charlotte and her world, after being caught up in her life and her world from start to finish. That points to very clever writing and plotting. Charlotte’s world, the people in it, all of the things she lived through were painted richly and beautifully. Her story lived and breathed.”

2013-12-282
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

“That I felt so deeply for these three siblings, that I was so upset, is a measure of what Rebecca Wait has achieved in her debut novel. I never doubted that she really knew, that she really understood, and that her accounts of depression, of bereavement, of grief, were utterly, utterly credible.  And the simplicity and the clarity of her story and her writing allowed that understanding to shine.”

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson (re-read)

“Lady Rose was the only child and the heir, thanks to the good graces of Queen Victoria, of the Earl of Lochule. She was pretty, warm, bright,  and her open heart, her boundless curiosity, her love of life, charmed everyone she met. And she grew into a proud Scot and a true romantic, inspired by the writings of Walter Scott, the history of Mary Queen of Scots, and, most of all, her beloved home and lands.”

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

“Best of all, the story of the golem and the djinni spoke profoundly of humanity, of its strengths and weaknesses, and of what it is that makes us human.”

No More Than Human by Maura Laverty

“She set off for Madrid,  to become a ‘professora’ – a free-lance tutor and  chaperone. It was an independent lifestyle that suited Delia very well, but it wasn’t easy to establish herself when she was so young, and maybe her reputation would follow her. But Delia was determined, and soon she was setting her sights even higher …..

Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy

“There was no wedding: Lucy was jilted, and of course she was devastated. She knew she had to carry on, and she knew she had to get away. She hated watching people being tactful, knowing she was being talked about, seeing reminders everywhere. And so, when she saw on opening for  a drama teacher at an arts institute, she grabbed it with both hands.”

2013-12-283

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns (re-read)

“Barbara Comyns tells all of this so well, at times painting pictures with every sentence, and balancing the commonplace and the highly improbable so well that I was completely captivated by a story that was somehow dark and colourful at exactly the same time.”

The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb

“I was captivated by ‘The Misbegotten’, a wonderfully readable, utterly compelling story, set early in the eighteenth century. It is story of dark secrets, terrible losses, devastating lies, of the lives that they affect, and of truths that may be brought to light at a very high price.”

Penmarric by Susan Howatch (re-read)

“The story is told in six volumes, by five different narrators: Mark Castellack, his wife, one of his illegitimate sons, and two of his legitimate sons who would, in their turn, be master of Penmarric. Sixty years pass – from the later years of Queen Victoria’s reign to the end of World War II full of every kind of family drama you could imagine. In the wrong hands it would be a mess, but Susan Howatch made it work.”

Nearest Thing to Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes

“It was all so horribly believable. And it was unsettling, seeing how easily a life could be knocked off course, a mind knocked off balance. The story built , slowly and steadily, never losing it’s grip, towards a very clever ending. An ending that I really didn’t see coming, but an ending that made perfect sense.”

Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

“Frost Hollow Hall is more than a ghost story; it’s a story that lives and breathes, and paint wonderful pictures, and it’s a story about love, family, loss, regret, and learning to let go, told beautifully, with both subtlety and charm.”

2013-12-284

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman (re-read)

“The story begins with Richard as a small child and follows him through the course of his life, in exile when the House of Lancaster is in the ascendancy, and at court when the House of York rises. He becomes a formidable battlefield commander; he becomes a trusted lieutenant of the brother, Edward IV; he becomes the husband of Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, who he has loved since child; and eventually, of course, he comes king.”

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (re-read)

“Now I find myself wanting to do what Alice did at the end of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I want to throw you in the air and say, “You’re just a fictional character!” But I can’t. Because you are so utterly real; not a heroine, not a villainess, but a vivid, three-dimensional human being, with strengths and weaknesses.”

The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox

“I loved the way that the story of Shiva and Pravati, and stories of her family, were woven into Alice’s own story. The contrast between India and England was very, very effective, and there were so many lovely things to notice along the way: bookish references, period details, real history – everything you could want.”

High Rising by Angela Thirkell

“It’s a simple story, but it plays out beautifully, because it is adorned with so many lovely dialogues, so many interesting incidents; and because everything works beautifully with the characters and their situations.”

Maidens’ Trip by Emma Smith

“It is a wonderful adventure for three young women  – Nanette, Emma and Charity – all from conventional, middle-class backgrounds, who have completed basic training and have been dropped into the very different world of the boating fraternity.”

*******

And that is very nearly the end of my reading year.

All that remains is to tell you about the very last book I read for my Century of Books, and to wind up that project …..

The TBR Pile Challenge 2014 …..

I’m signing up for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader, because I need something to remind me how many good books I have waiting for me on my own shelves.

2014tbrbuttonIt works something like this:

Pick a dozen books that you have owned for more than a year and not read. Pick two alternates, just in case one or two of that dozen, doesn’t work out. Read them in 2014.

I’m only picking books I really want to read, because life is too short and there are too many great books to do anything else, but I did set myself some other criteria.

I’ve picked my books from different shelves around the house so that I look at all of the other books that aren’t on the list along the way.

Every book I picked has acome from a different place – not for any particular reason, just because I wanted to see if I could work things that way.

And none of these books are on my Classics Club list or anything to do with any other projects, because I want to read a wider range of books next year.

So here are the twelve:

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

This one came my way courtesy of ReadItSwapIt a couple of years ago. I really do want to read it, because I like the look of one or two of the books later in the series.

Devotion by Nell Leyshon

I picked this up from a book stall because I recognised the author’s name. I loved The Colour of Milk and I have high hopes for this rather different, contemporary story.

The Phoenix’ Nest by Elizabeth Jenkins

I spotted this one in a local bookshop, sadly now closed, not knowing at the time that it was rare. Searches have revealed noting, it doesn’t get a mention in the author’s biography, but the opening suggests that it is set in an Elizabethan theatre …

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

I bought this second novel when it was brand new in local bookshop, because I loved Ali Harris’s first book.

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

This one was sitting on a charity shop shelf, and I had to bring it home.

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

I spotted this one at a fundraising sale for our local museum.

Eden’s Garden by Juliet Greenwood

This one was ordered from the publisher after reading Claire’s review.

You by Joanna Briscoe

This one dropped through by letterbox, unsolicited, a few years ago, and I like the look of it but I’ve never quite got around to picking it up.

Darkness Falls All Over Again by Nigel Balchin

I bought this one when I was living in London. I remember listening to the radio, hearing somebody pick this as their favourite book set in London. and saying that it was like ‘The End of the Affair’ – but better.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

This was a gift from a very generous Virago Secret Santa a couple of years ago,

Two-Thirds of a Ghost by Helen McCloy

This is a green numbered Penguin that I picked up in a very good second-hand bookshop in Falmouth.

A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau

I can remember my fiancé – a trained spotter of Virago Modern Classics – coming home with this one.

And here are my two possible substitutes:

The Children’s Book by A S Byatt

I pounced on this brand new hardback copy when it was being sold very cheaply at a library sale.

The Heart of London by Monica Dickens

This one came from a bookshop in Redruth, on a day when I had to be very picky because there were so many books I would have liked. It made the cut because I love Monica Dickens, and it is such a lovely editions.

Wish me luck!

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!

******

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.

A Little Holiday Book Shopping

A week’s holiday at home always means a trip to visit bookshops in another town, and today it was Truro.

Our first port if call was Pydar Mews Books, which has been a wonderful hunting ground for me over the years.

Here’s what I brought home today.

2013-05-15_20-11-42_558

I already own Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but I couldn’t resist adding a numbered Penguin to my shelves.

By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens was a random book I picked up because it was a numbered Penguin. It’s a story of small town America and there was a very warm endorsement from J B Priestley on the back cover.

And another numbered Penguin. Clochmerle by Gabriel Chevalier is, it seems, a much loved French comedy, and that was a good enough reason to pick it up.

Amberwell by D E Stevenson was an auto pick up!

The Happy Prisoner by Monica Dickens was a lovely find, as I left a copy behind in another bookshop a couple of years ago and regretWhite Ladiested it. I just love her writing.

I tracked down a particular edition of Jennie by Paul Gallico for a friend a few years ago – she had borrowed a copy, lost it, and wanted to track down another copy of the same edition but didn’t know her way around the internet- and I liked the look of it, so the next copy I saw I picked up. Today!

And another by Paul Gallico: Love Let Me Not Hunger came home because it was a very pretty hardback, and because it was set in a circus and that made me think of ‘The Love of Seven Dolls’ which is a wonderful book.

And finally there’s a copy of White Ladies by Francis Brett Young. I’ve read it, I loved it, and I really wanted a copy to keep. There’s a copy in my local  bookshop, but I couldn’t justify the price of a signed first edition. This slightly worn, slightly later edition I could.

All of those for the very reasonable price of £17.50!

I spent my change from a twenty pound note in the Oxfam shop.

2013-05-15_20-14-20_54

I’ve just begun reading ‘The Ascent of Woman’ by Melanie Phillips, which is a broad overview of the history of the suffrage movement and I had it on mind to track down a couple of books with a narrower focus. I’m still looking for ‘Rebel Girls’ by Jill Liddington, but I found The Pankhursts by Martin Pugh today.

And my fiancé was exceedingly pleased with a signed biography of a fighter pilot and an interesting volume of local history.

Nothing much on the other charity shop, but we did one or two other things, we bought my mother a nice new pair of slippers, and we had a very nice lunch at The Crab and Ale House.

And on the way back to the car I had a quick look in the library, because the literature collection in the county lives in Truro.

I could have picked up any number of books, but common sense prevailed and I just picked up one.

2013-05-15_20-13-42_274

The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald!

Her novel! Short stories! Articles! Letters!

I’m really hoping that nobody else orders this one so that I can hang on to it for a while.

And that was it today, but before I finish I must mention two books I found locally on Monday.

2013-05-15_20-12-21_257

The paperback edition of Gentleman Prefer Blondes was so pretty, it has the sequel – Gentleman Marry Brunettes starting from the other end, and an endorsement from Edith Wharton.

But it was Linda by John Coates that made my heart leap. ‘Patience’ wasn’t one of my favourite Persephone books, but this book is late, the dust jacket describes it as being more serious than his earlier books without being heavy- which might suit me better – and it’s set against a theatrical background.

It really has been a wonderful week for books!

Mariana by Monica Dickens

This may be the loveliest opening to a novel that I have ever read.

“Mary sometimes heard people say: ‘I can’t bear to be alone.” She could never understand this. All her life she had needed the benison of occasional solitude, and she needed it now more than ever. If she could not be with the man she loved, then she would rather be by herself.”

It captured my own feelings perfectly, and expressed them more beautifully than I ever could.

MarianaMary escaped to the country with just her small terrier dog, Bingo, in tow. Her husband was at sea, in the navy, and the country was at war. Because she wanted to be quiet, to remember, to think.

It was lovely watching Mary and Bingo settle in, lovely to be reminded of the depth of Monica Dickens’ understanding of character and of her talent for catching exactly the right details to paint a perfect picture.

I was particularly taken with her understanding that a terrier can be sound asleep and alert at the same time …

The peaceful scene was disturbed when Mary switched on the wireless, when she heard that her husband’s ship had been hit. There were survivors, there was hope, but Mary had a night to get through before she found out the next morning if her husband was alive or dead.

It was a sleepless night, and as she lay awake Mary turned over memories in her mind.

She remembered her childhood, with a mother who had been widowed in the last war and who worked as a dressmaker to support them. Her husband’s family would have helped but she didn’t want to be beholden to them. It was enough that they gave Mary lovely, idyllic summer holidays in the country. And a place in a bigger family.

She remembered going to drama school with grand plans, and coming to realise that she was on the wrong path. Fashion college in Paris was a much better idea. She could have a lovely time and she could play a part in the family business. Mary had a wonderful time in Paris, and she made a marvellous catch. But even the most marvellous catch is not necessarily the right catch.

Mary found her happy ending back in England, at the most unexpected moment.

Now it has to be said that Mary is not the most sympathetic of characters. She is often awkward, thoughtless, selfish even. But she was real, and for all her failing I did like her, I did want her to find her path in life, her place in the world. Sometimes fallible heroines are so much easier to love.

And Mary was real, alive, and her emotional journey was so utterly real. There were highs and lows, tears and laughter. Every emotion a young woman might go through. And so many incidents, so many moments to recollect.

All of this was observed so beautifully, with understanding, intelligence, and just the right amount of empathy.

But if Mary’s life was the foreground, the background was just as perfectly realised. Her world was as alive as she was, and every character who was part of that word, even if only for a short while, was caught perfectly.

I loved watching over Mary’s life. It was an ordinary life, but every ordinary life is unique and Monica Dickens highlighted that quite beautifully.

And I could have stayed in her world quite happily, but morning eventually came, and Mary had to face whatever news of her husband might come. And when it came I had to leave.

I’d love to know what happened in the next chapters of Mary’s life, but failing that I’ll go back and read about the years I know all over again one day. Because this is a lovely book, and a lovely way to get lost in another life and another world.

10% Report: Reading the 20th Century

My 20th Century Reading Project continues to roll along. First there were ten, then there were twenty, and now there are thirty books.

The plan was to complete the century over two years, sixty in year one and forty in year two, as it gets more difficult as there are fewer spots to fill.

So I’m a little behind schedule but I’m not going to worry about it – I’m going to read what I want to read, keeping an eye on the years in need of books, and it will be done when it’s done.

I already have a few books that I wish could go on but their years were already taken. The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks got the spot for 1960 and so Scenes From Childhood by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Memoirs of an Armchair couldn’t go on.

And I’m only allowing one book per author – unless there is a long period between books and much to distinguish them – because I want to my final list to be as diverse as I can make it.

But enough rambling, here are the books:

1911 – The Limit by Ada Leverson

Just one conversation brought the couple and their world completely to life, and opened the door to a lovely comedy of manners, light as air but with just enough serious underpinnings to stop it floating off into the ether.

1930 – The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

There are familiar elements: a clock, apparently knocked over and confirming the time of death; an unfinished letter, that may or may not have been tampered with; confessions that cannot possibly be true.  – but they are used well, throwing many questions into the air and creating a seemingly unsolvable puzzle..

1935 – White Ladies by Francis Brett Young

Bella was a wonderful character. She wasn’t always likeable, indeed she was often maddening, but I could see what made her the woman she became, and I never stopped loving her spirit and her determination.  And what a story!

1953 – Murder in Time by Elizabeth Ferrars

The police investigate. The guests talk about what has happened, they tell their stories – or in some cases have their stories drawn out of them. But it was difficult to know who was telling the truth, how the facts would fit together. As new facts emerged I changed my mind about what might have happened, about what was truth and what was lie. I had an idea, but I couldn’t make all the pieces fit

1959 – Mizmaze by Mary Fitt

Imagine, if you will, a country estate. A grand house with extensive grounds set on the English coast. A house named Mizmaze, because the main feature of those grounds is a maze. At the centre of the maze a man lay dead. He was the owner of the house, and his murderer had struck him down with one of his own croquet mallets.

1961 – The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

Having Mary tell the story was a wise decision. I questioned her reliability, and I wondered what she might be holding back, but now that her story is done I can’t fault her narration. I understand the reasons for everything she said and did; and for everything that she didn’t say and didn’t do.I wonder if it’s significant that the author gave her leading lady her own name …

1962 – Coronation by Paul Gallico

The Clagg family arrived at St Pancras station early in the morning, on the Coronation Special from Sheffield. It was to be the day out of a lifetime because Will Clagg, factory foreman accepted the offer of a lifetime. Five seats in a window in Wellington Place, just off Hyde Park Corner. A wonderful view. A buffet lunch. Champagne. And the price reduced from £25 to £10 – Will’s cousin Bert, a London chauffeur had some excellent contacts.

1989 – Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

The juxtaposition of serious issues – birth control and drug addiction – and frivolity – a wonderful array of frocks and dalliances with young men – is rather strange. Most of the time I liked it, but I did have moments when I was heartily sick of wardrobe details and just wanted something to happen..

1990 – Closed at Dusk by Monica Dickens

I knew that Monica Dickens was a wonderful author. I knew that she had written a marvellous range of books, works of fictions and non fiction, stories for children and stories for adults. But I didn’t know that she had written crime fiction until I spotted a tatty copy of ‘Closed at Dusk’ in a charity shop bargain box.

1993 – Pillion Riders by Elisabeth Russell Taylor

A trip to Paris highlighted the differences between the pair: he wanted to whisk her around the city, to have her experience everything that Paris had to offer, while she wanted to walk, watch, listen, and slowly absorb the city’s character.