What’s in a Name Challenge

Just over a year ago “What’s in a Name” was the very first challenge I signed up for via this blog. And it was the first challenge I completed ahead of schedule!

It’s a lovely challenge, and of course I’m going to do it all over again next year.

Beth at Beth Fish Reads is the new host, and there’s a dedicated blog here.

It’s really simple. During 2010 read one book from each of six categories.

I’ve perused my shelves and come up with a book for each category. So here are the categories and the books I’ve chosen:

  • A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Land of Green Ginger by Winifred Holtby

  • A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House

Brook Evans by Susan Glaspell

  • A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

  • A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson

  • A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia

Martha in Paris by Margery Sharp

  • A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

A Note in Music by Rosamond Lehmann

Changes are allowed, but I’m really looking forward to my sextet.

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!

The Swan in the Evening by Rosamond Lehmann

Swan in the Evening

“As she stepped away from me
And she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her
Move here and move there
And then she turned homeward
With one star awake
Like the swan in the evening
Moves over the lake”

From She Moved Through The Fair
by Padraic Colum

Beutiful words, but they, and in particular the image of the lone swan, are weighed down by sadness. And that fits this work by Rosamond Lehmann exatly.

Its subtitle, Fragments of an Inner Life, is fitting too. The facts of Rosamond Lehmann’s life and career are missing from this, her only autobiographical work, but the emotional events that shaped her are at its heart.

The first memories are of childhood and they are so vividly told. But the sense of loss is there from the very start. A teacher who leaves to marry and is seen years later in a restuarant, a shadow of her former self. A longed for perfume bottle that is wonderously received as a consolation prize, but loses its lustre when Rosamond is told that she doesn’t deserve it.

Wonderful tales, beautifully recalled and related, but an underlying sadness is always there.

The story then moves forward to tell the story of Rosamond’s beloved daughter Sally, and of the tragedy of her death at the age of just twenty-four. The love that pervades the story of Sally’s life and death is so, so moving.

And what mother can accept the loss of her child? Although she is a non-believer Rosamond enters the world of spiritualism. Her words are honest and emotional as she strives for understanding of what has happened.

Then finally there is a letter from the author to her grandchild. If not peace then at least acceptance.

I have written little about the latter chapters of this book. It would be wrong to pick out bits, you need to either make the decision to read the whole or not read at all. The writing is deeply personal, and all I could do was feel and be deeply moved.

An extraordinary piece of writing.

Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann


Virago Modern Classic # 53

Invitation to the Waltz travels into the life, indeed into the mind, of Olivia Curtis.

The plot is simple.

In the summer of 1920 Olivia receives wonderful presents, most importantly a roll of flame-coloured silk to be made into an evening dress, for her seventeenth birthday. That dress in for her first grown-up dance, in a country house. She feels a mixture of exitement and fear. Her dress is all wrong, her dance card is full of spaces, she doesn’t know how to make small talk, and she is unsure quite how she is expected to behave. But, after several strange encounters, her spirits are lifted by the son of the house, who treats her with sympathy and kindness.

Lovely, but it is the execution that makes this book great.


Olivia’s inner world is wonderfully created and, while some things may have dated, so much of what she feels is still recognisable. Her relationship with her sister, just a little older but so much more at ease, her anxiety at facing a new and unfamiliar situation, the outfit that she thought was perfect but really isn’t quite right, the relief and joy of being rescued from the wrong company, the whole journey from childhood to adulthood … every detail is perfect.

And Olivia’s stream of consciousness unravels in such beautiful, descriptive prose.

I loved and felt every moment!

Teaser Tuesdays / It’s Tuesday where are you?


Hello, I’m Olivia. Where am I? At home – The Lodge in Little Compton. It’s my seventeenth birthday today. We have just had breakfast and i have opened my presents: a roll of flame coloured silk for my first evening dress, an ornament, a diary to record my secrets and a ten shilling note!

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:-

“Her windows looked west over part of the lawn to the walnut tree with the swing in it, and some beds of massed shrubbery, and behind them the belt of elms dividing the garden from rough fields; and beyond it all, low grass fields and ploughed lands flowing away with their telegraph poles and haystacks into the distance. There had been gales; and now every branch was bare at last; December-naked; but today a carved quietness in the tree-tops, a luminous quality glowing secretly behind the white veil of air, promised the weather she liked best: windless, mild, faintly suffused with sun.”

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB

This all comes courtesy of Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann

Decades ’09 Challenge


The Decades ’09 Challenge is being hosted by Michelle here.

The rules are:

  1. Read a minimum of 9 books in 9 consecutive decades in ‘09.
  2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.
  3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.
  4. You may change your list at any time.

This is going to suit me well. I love reading books from different periods and reading a book from each year of the 20th century will help me towards my long term goal of having a list of 100 book that I have read and recommend for each year of the 20th century.

It may well change, but here is my initial list, one for each decade of the 20th century.

  • The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1909)
  • The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (1915)
  • The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey (1929)
  • Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann(1932)
  • Doreen by Barbara Noble(1946)
  • Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson(1966)
  • Mrs palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
  • The Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns(1985)
  • Symposium by Muriel Spark (1999)

Eight are from my TBR and one is a book that I have been looking for a good excuse to buy!