10% Report: 100 Years of Books

100 Years of Books

I ditched my 100 Years of Books project when I made a new design for my reading life towards the end of last year.

I didn’t miss it at first, but in time I did, especially when other people – SimonAnnabel – I’m looking at you! – started lovely new projects!

I’ve learned that I need a project, but I also need plenty of space to read other things.

And so I’m picking up the threads again.

 100 different books by 100 different authors – 1850 to 1949!

But I’ve taken away the deadline. It’ll be done when It’s done.

If it can be done.

I’m not going to read books that I don’t want to read just to fill in missing years so I might never finish. But I think I can, if I do a little re-shuffling of books and authors along the way, so that the authors with many books can fit around the authors with not so many.

I’m going to carry on with my 10% reports every 10 books, and because I’ve read a few books from missing years since I ditched the list I’m able to say – here’s my third 10% report!

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1865 – Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

I am so pleased to say that I have finally discovered why so many readers love Anthony Trollope. In fact, if it isn’t wrong to say so after reading just the one book, I am now one of them. I’d picked up one or two books over the years and they hadn’t quite worked. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them but I didn’t love them, they weren’t the right books; I had to find the right place to start, the right book at the right time at the right time, and this book was that book.

1867 – Cometh Up as a Flower by Rhoda Broughton

The story is simple, but it is made special by the way it is told. Nell’s voice was underpinned by excellent writing, and Rhoda Broughton’s understanding of character and her command of the story stopped this from becoming a sensation novel. It’s a very human story of love, passion, betrayal, loss …

1891 – Mona and True Love’s Reward by Mrs Georgie Sheldon

At first I thought that Mona might be a little too nice, a little too good to be interesting, but she grew into a very fine heroine. She continued to be good, but she was ready to stand up for herself, she learned to be practical and capable, and she coped well with some very tricky situations.

1903 – The Girl Behind the Keys by Tom Gallon

She was hired, she was given an advance on the salary that was far more than she had expected, and she learned that the work would be not very demanding at all. It seemed almost too good to be true. It was, and it didn’t take Miss Thorn very long at all to work out that the Secretarial Supply Syndicate was a front for a gang of criminals; con men who were ready to use any means necessary to extract money from their victims.

1910 – The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson

I had to love Laura. Her letter’s home were a riot. I loved that she delighted the invitations to tea that the other girls dreaded, because it gave her a chance to examine new bookshelves, and that made the fear of being called on to recite or perform fade into insignificance. I loved her joy when an older girl look her under her wing; and her outrage when she found that she had a young man.

1920 – The Adventurous Lady by J C Snaith

I was intrigued to see J C Snaith described as a ‘teller of enthralling tales.’ I had never heard of the author, and when I went to look for him I found that he was very obscure, but I found a book titled ‘The Adventurous Lady’ that promised so many things I love – a train, a governess, a country house, a play – and so I had to start reading.

1927 – Red Sky at Morning by Margaret Kennedy

William and Emily Crowne were the loveliest of children. They were attractive, they were imaginative, and they played so happily together, caught up in their own world and oblivious to the world around them. They didn’t see how jealous the Frobisher children, Trevor and Charlotte, were. They didn’t know that their father’s notoriety would follow them into their adult lives.

1928 – Grey Mask by Patricia Wenworth

Something else I particularly liked was the way Patricia Wentworth threaded serious questions – about Margaret’s life as a single woman and the choices that she made, about Margot’s vulnerability and the position she had been left in, and most of all about the consequences of not knowing our own history – through an classic golden age style mystery. The story is bold, but its author clearly understands where subtlety is required.

1935 – Four Gardens by Margery Sharp

Caroline  – the heroine of ‘Four Gardens’ – would be of the same generation as my grandmother. My mother’s mother that is; my father’s mother was a good deal younger. They were born when Queen Victoria was on the throne, near the end of her reign but not so near the end that they didn’t remember her. Their values were formed by that age, and by the Edwardian era that followed, and after that they lived through Great War and the repercussions that reverberated through the twenties, the thirties ….

1945 – Haxby’s Circus by Katharine Susannah Prichard

I read that Katharine Susannah Prichard travelled with a circus when she was researching this novel, and I think it shows. The pictures she paints of the people and their world are wonderful.

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The full list of what I’ve read is here and my first two 10% reports are here and here.

I’m well on my way to my next 10% already, but I have lots more years to fill and so recommendations – especially for the earliest years – would be very welcome.


Cometh Up as a Flower by Rhoda Broughton

I found lots of good reasons to pickup a book by Rhoda Broughton. She’s been published by Virago, she’s been published by Victorian Secrets, I’ve noticed that Lisa has read a good number of her books …..

It took me a while to decide what to read, and I’m not quite sure now what it was that put this book, her second novel, published in 1867, at the head of the queue, I just remember reading something about it somewhere. I’m so glad that I did because I loved this book, and I was smitten with its heroine from the very first page.

“When I die I’ll be buried under that big old ash tree over yonder 0 the one that Dolly and I cut our names on with my old penknife nine, ten years ago now. I utterly reject and abdicate my reserved seat in the family mausoleum. I don’t see the fun of undergoing one’s dusty transformation between a mouldering grandpa and a mouldered great-grandpa. Every English gentleman or lady likes to have a room to themselves when they are alive. Why not when they are dead.”

I couldn’t help but love a girl who could declaim like that, who could open a conversation like that.

Nell Lestrange will tell her own story, eager to share every emotion and every insight, every idea and impression. Her voice is wonderful, because her head and her heart were clearly so very, very full.

There are times when her digressions weigh the story down, but there are far more times when it was lovely to read what she had to say about love, life, books, religion ….


Nell is one of two daughters of that last in the line of a great family, that can trace its lineage back to William the Conqueror. That great family is in decline, and her elderly, widowed father only hopes that he will live to see one, or maybe both daughters, marry well.

He didn’t realise that his daughter was desperately in love, that she had met the great love of her life as she was idling, alone in an untended graveyard.

That leaves Nell facing a terrible choice, because her lover is poor and because she adores her father and she knows that his dearest wish is to see her settled with another suitor who is so very eligible. She agonises over her decision, and try as she might she cannot find a way for her lover and her father and herself to be happy.

Nell’s sister forces her hand.

At first it seems that Dolly Lestrange, four years older than her sister, is simply too sensible, too practical, and unable to understand her sister’s passion, but as the story unfolds it is clear that the truth is worth than that, that Dolly is worse than that, and the consequences for Nell are tragic.

The story is simple, but it is made special by the way it is told.

Nell’s voice was underpinned by excellent writing, and Rhoda Broughton’s understanding of character and her command of the story stopped this from becoming a sensation novel. It’s a very human story of love, passion, betrayal, loss …

In its day it was deemed shocking – because Nell spoke of meeting her lover covertly, of enjoying his attention, of her reluctance to be intimate with the man she might have to marry – but there’s nothing at all that would shock a reader now.

The social events that Nell was pitched into were a little dull, but they were enlivened by the wit and irreverence of her observations.

The father-daughter relationship was beautifully drawn. They loved each other, they understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and their dialogue was pitch perfect. Nell had been left to run wild after her mother’s death, but still she tried to shield her father from the worries of running his household and the creditors that were beating at his door.

Nell could and would give everything for the people she loved, but without the she was lost.

I appreciated that Hugh – the suitor Nell was steered towards – was a good and decent man. He was just blind to some things.

Nell couldn’t bring herself to care for him, or to play the role that was expected of her, and so there could only be one conclusion.

It  was tragic, but beautiful in a way that only fiction can be.

‘Cometh Up as a Flower’ is not a happy story, but it is wonderfully engaging.

I am so glad that I met Nell, and I am quite sure that I shall be reading more of Rhoda Broughton’s work.

Victorian Challenge


The Victorian Challenge is being hosted by Alex here.

I was thrilled as soon as I saw the words “Victorian” and “Challenge” together. I have read so many wonderful books from and about the period and there are still lots more out there.

So I am definitely in!

Here’s how it works:

  • The challenge runs between 1st January 2009 and 30th June 2009.
  • It is open to everyone who wishes to participate.
  • You can choose one of four reading levels.
  • You can be added to the blog if you want.
  • You can share your reviews or make updates in the blog.

Books allowed:

  • Books wrote during the Victorian Era
  • Books set during that period
  • Books about that period or biographies

Reading Levels:

  • A drink at Whitechapel: 3 books
  • A walk in Hyde Park: 4 books
  • A tour of the British Museum: 5 books
  • A visit to Buckingham Palace: 6 books

I’m opting for a tour of the British museum, and these are my books:

  • Little Dorritt, by Charles Dickens
  • Belinda, by Rhoda Broughton
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
  • Miss Cayley’s Adventures, by Grant Allen
  • Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell

I plan to turn the titles to links once I have read and reviewed and I’ll track progress in my sidebar.