Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holiday Photo

All my posts at the moment seem to start by promising that I'll be returning to regular posts and proper reviews soon - at least this one comes with no false promises. I won't have time for a post today, since I'm off to Bristol to see Our Vicar, Our Vicar' Wife, and Colin all in the same place for the first time in 2011. So, instead, I'll just put up a photo of beautiful Compton Verney, which I visited last Thursday. As Debs commented, when we saw it, it's a bit like the first time Lizzie sees Pemberley...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

I've been off on trips this week - two to Swindon (yesterday I was there reading letters, rather than diaries - which meant reading lots of different people's handwriting, rather than just Edith Olivier's. Anne Sedgwick, whoever you may be, one day I will track you down and MAKE YOU WRITE YOUR Es PROPERLY. Ahem) And my housemate Debs and I also went to Compton Verney to see the Stanley Spencer exhibition, and enjoy the beautiful grounds. More on that next week, for today we need a book, a link, and a blog post.

1.) The blog post - I don't think I've ever had an easier choice to make than this one: Sakura's review of SiaB favourite Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns. I sent her a copy, because I can be a bit pushy when it comes to my favourite authors - and she has rewarded me with a positive and perceptive review that makes me want to read it all over again. (Take note, Rachel, take note.)

2.) The link - is of a similar ilk, but not from a blog. Here is an essay about Tove Jansson by Matthew Battles in the Barnes and Noble Review, w
hich some kind soul emailed to me... but I can't right now remember who. Susan? Ruth? Nancy? Thanks, whoever it was!

3.) The book - comes from lovely Folio Society. I am thrilled to be on their review list now, let me tell you, as my first encounter with Folio books was more or less the first time I realised that a book's beauty could make me gasp. That book - or, indeed, those books - being the Mapp & Lucia series, which I eventually managed to secure for myself. But the one I'm mentioning today is Camus' The Outsider (English translation, obv.) introduced by Damon Galgut and illustrated by Matthew Richardson. They gave me a choice of three, and this is one I've been intending to read for ages. I feel a bit as though everyone else has read it first, so I daresay you can tell me about it, no?

Happy weekend everyone - although, while I've been writing this, it has started raining here. I had intended to go to the park with a book... hmm.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A day in the archives

Today I had probably the most exciting day of my DPhil research so far - and, bear in mind when you read the rest of this post, I'm not being sarcastic. When I tell you that I was off on a research trip to Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office (rather than other research destinations I've heard of friends visiting - New York, Paris etc.) you might think that I'm rather overstating the case. But, in all honesty, today was one of those days that makes me realise that I'm not the world's least suited person to be doing a doctorate. For today I got my hands on Edith Olivier's papers.

I started off going to Chippenham Train Station - from which the record office is about three minutes' walk. I wondered why the website said it was ten minutes away, until I saw the average age of the people using the archives reading room - quite a few over 70s researching their families and, in the case of the lady behind me, the history of her house. An archives reading room, incidentally, is a great place for eavesdropping. Just so you know.

Back to Edith Olivier. An easy way to write original work is to choose a topic not many people care about. Scholars have not fought over who gets to look at Olivier's diaries and letters - although a sort of biography/selected letters was written by Penelope Middelboe, picking most of the choicest bits. But I still had a wonderful time working out Olivier's handwriting (she does the most peculiar things with 'p's and capital 'A's) and slowly reading her diaries. A couple of eureka moments - when I found that she had attended a party with Sylvia Townsend Warner, for instance, or her thoughts on To The Lighthouse ('far too highbrow for me as a whole. She demands too much of the reader – who has to make his own unity.’) I snapped away with my new camera - I mentioned in the comments the other day that I opted for a blue Canon PowerShot A3200 in the end; thanks again for all your advice. I signed something saying I wouldn't publish the photographs I took, sadly, but I have included a tiny snippet of the page on which Olivier records that Martin Secker had accepted The Love-Child (her first novel) for publication: 'A Great Day'.

I'll be going back on Friday, since I only read one folder of publishers' letters and three months' worth of diary (out of about forty years... hmm) and I want to take a moment to say thank you to all the staff at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. As most of you know, I work for the Bodleian. Whenever people tell me "This is my first time" my heart melts a bit, and I go out of my way to help them - and so I trotted out this line to everyone I encountered. I troubled four separate people, from receptionist to help desk to archivist - and they were unfailingly helpful and incredibly friendly. I was so impressed - not a smidgen of grumpiness with my ignorance and helplessness! There's not much of a chance that they'll spot this post - but if any of you do, thank you so much!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Our Vicar's Wife: Mr. Briggs' Hat

Back in the spring my Mum/Our Vicar's Wife/Anne featured in My Life in Books series chez Stuck-in-a-Book. The whole first series can be read if you click on the icon over there somewhere -----> and clicking on the link just above will take you to OVW's particular one. OVW got a very enthusiastic response that week, and I've been hoping since then that she'd pen me a review for the blog. The good people of Little Brown kindly sent a review copy of Mr. Briggs' Hat by Kate Colquhoun off to OVW and, without further ado, here are her thoughts. (As always, when I'm featuring friends' and relations' reviews, I expect my lovely, loyal blog readers to welcome them with open arms. This won't be difficult with such a familiar figure as OVW, I'm sure).

Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun: ‘A sensational account of Britain’s first Railway Murder’

From the moment I picked up Mr Briggs’ Hat I knew I was set on a truly Victorian quest. The dust jacket, with its ‘bloodstains’, black and red print, period font and perspective railway track was clearly going to draw the reader back to a time of sensational news reporting, embryonic police detection, circumstantial evidence and the hurly burly of 1864 London.

I settled into an armchair and began to read.

First, my eye was caught by a map of central London as it was in 1862. Smudged and dark, it was dominated by the river Thames, with narrow streets and alleys leading away into unknown territory. Having spent the past year researching into life in the London of this period I knew what I was likely to meet – but nothing prepared me for the matter of fact description of the ‘blood-drenched’ railway carriage on page 12. I read on, intrigued by the mixture of detective novel and historical guide to London. It wasn’t entirely clear to me whether Kate Colquhoun sought to give a factual description of events or whether what she had in mind was something in the line of a ‘Penny Dreadful’.

I read on.

The story is quite simple. Blood is found in a railway carriage. Murder appears to have been done, but no body is to be found. The only tangible clue is a somewhat battered hat. Upon this hat the entire plot pivots. Gradually details emerge about the victim. Against a background of respectable middle class contrasted with working class teetering into abject poverty and vice, the canvas is painted, the crime uncovered and then the race is on to find the murderer – or murderers. Everything hangs upon the circumstantial evidence of the hat – where it was bought, who bought it, who modified it, who left it in the carriage. As the police detective painstakingly works against the clock, a series of red herrings confuse the issue. The reader rises and falls with every new clue, new sighting, new evidence, new revelation or disappointment.

There is a phenomenal amount of detail in the book. Kate Colquhoun cannot be accused of skimping on her research. Perhaps from time to time there is a hint of repetition, a smidgen of ‘overkill’ in her style, but for the main part the author succeeds in maintaining the sense of a whodunit, rather than falling back into a less engaging stylistic form.

Halfway through the book I had a moment of uncertainty: was I reading fact or fiction? I turned to my husband for enlightenment. “Have you read the notes?” he asked.

Some people always flip to the end of a book before going to the front. I am not one of them. Others always look for a Contents page and muse long and hard upon it. Not I. If I had been either of these people it would have been obvious from the start that this was, if not a non-fictional historical account of the murder, at the very least a ‘factional’ one – with the very great quantity of fact made palatable by an excellent understanding of the need for narrative drive.

The notes are extremely helpful. Highlighted words and phrases from numbered pages enable the reader to unpick the finer detail. However, with nothing in the main text to hint at this largesse, it was lost on me during my first reading.

The case itself was of great interest to me as it contributed to significant changes in the law regarding the right of prisoners to speak in their own defence. I was particularly struck by the court scenes and the limitations of evidence at that time. I was also interested to see the prejudices at work at the time. With the rabble almost taking over the city every time there was a public hanging, it could be said that this book chimes with the spirit of summer 2011.

Did the power of public opinion make for a fair trial? Did the press conspire to rouse the feelings of the public against one man? Was nationality or class or level of education to blame for a miscarriage of justice? Did the representative of the Church tell the truth, or did he conspire with the powers that be in order to maintain the wider calm?

Read the book. Make up your own mind. Or not, as the case may be.

Mr Briggs’ Hat is published by Little Brown. They describe it as NON-FICTION.

Do you agree?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Remember, You Must Die

It's been so long since I wrote a proper review that I'm wondering whether or not I can still do it... I don't know about other bloggers (I would be interested to know, actually) but it usually takes me an hour or more to write a full-length book review on here. And whilst I love doing it, I do seem to come to my laptop most evenings too tired to do anything that complex! So, if this turns into a series of zzzzzzzz somewhere in the middle, you'll know why. Still, I am always amazed, flattered, and delighted that anybody would want to read my musings on the books I read - so thank you in advance!

In fact, that's as much as I managed to write last week, before getting too sleepy and going to bed. I didn't even get as far as writing the title of the novel - which is Muriel Spark's Memento Mori (1959). Congratulations to Terri for correctly working out the book from my clues.

Giving Muriel Spark a second chance is one of the best results of blog-reading, for me. The enthusiasm of Simon S and Claire led me back to Spark, after finding a couple of her novels a bit underwhelming six or so years ago - and, as regular readers will know, I now adore her. Over the past couple of years I've read The Driver's Seat, Loitering With Intent, and Not to Disturb - and I have plenty on my tbr piles. I fancied seeing what my book group in Oxford would think of Muriel Spark, and so picked one almost at random because I liked the title. Memento Mori it was.

Despite coming quite early in her career, when Spark was only just over 40 years old, the novel concerns almost exclusively old people. Many of these live on a ward, where their different classes and personalities are swept away into being termed 'Granny Duncan', 'Granny Barnacle', 'Granny Trotsky' etc. But others amongst the sizable cast of characters still live in their homes - notably Dame Lettie Colston, her philandering brother Godfrey, and his wife Charmian, once a famed novelist and now suffering Alzheimer's. These three are all heading towards their three-score-and-ten. In the first few pages, Lettie is visiting her sister-in-law, and their choppy dialogue reveals both the extent of Charmian's declining faculties, and the irreverent but grounded approach Spark takes.
"Did you have a nice evening at the pictures, Taylor?" said Charmian.

"I am not Taylor," said Dame Lettie, "and in any case, you always called Taylor Jean during her last twenty or so years in your service."

Mrs. Anthony, their daily housekeeper, brought in the milky coffee and placed it on the breakfast table.

"Did you have a nice evening at the pictures, Taylor?" Charmian asked her.

"Yes, thanks, Mrs. Colston," said the housekeeper.

"Mrs. Anthony is not Taylor," said Lettie. "There is no one by the name of Taylor here. And anyway you used to call her Jean latterly. It was only when you were a girl that you called Taylor Taylor. And, in any event, Mrs. Anthony is not Taylor."

Godfrey came in. He kissed Charmian. She said, "Good morning, Eric."

"He is not Eric," said Dame Lettie.

What makes me love Spark - and, indeed, what made me underestimate her six years ago - is her style. It is understated, so that a fast read through reveals little of its richness - Spark can even feel a bit bland at that pace. But once I'd stopped and begun to appreciate her writing, I realised how brilliant it was. Unsentimental, a little discordant, wry, ironic, and ever so slightly surreal. The first words of chapter five illustrated what I mean: 'Mrs. Anthony knew instinctively that Mrs. Pettigrew was a kindly woman. Her instinct was wrong.' Spark keeps the reader of his/her toes - conventional emotions or responses are dangled before the reader's eyes, then turned on their head. We had an interesting discussion at book group about whether or not Spark's style was funny. I suppose it isn't. Certainly not in the way that Wodehouse is, or Stella Gibbons is, or Austen can be. But it's an experience - a tone which diverts and engages and draws me in.

But I have yet to address the central momentum of the novel. On the opening page, Dame Lettie receives an anonymous phone call; a voice simply saying 'Remember you must die.' In fact, it is the ninth time she has had this call. But she is not the only victim - increasing numbers of people get the same phone call, with the same words (even if they cannot agree on the voice). Everyone from Charmian to the Inspector investigating the case receives the same message - each responding to it in different ways. Some are scared, some indignant. Mrs. Pettigrew (involved in a very Spark-ian blackmail plot) simply wipes it from her mind. Charmian gives the best response: "Oh, as to that, for the past thirty years and more I have thought of it from time to time. My memory is failing in certain respects. I am gone eighty-six. But somehow I do not forget my death, whenever that will be." The response of the anonymous caller? "Delighted to hear it. Goodbye for now."

If this were an Agatha Christie novel, then the Inspector would gradually eliminate characters from suspicion, and we'd witness an elaborate denouement, discovering that the least likely person had actually done it because they were the twin sister of someone who everyone thought had died decades ago, etc. etc. Whilst I love Dame Agatha, I've now enough experience with Dame Muriel to suspect it wouldn't work quite like that. I shan't spoil the surprise, but suffice to say that the outcome is unmistakably Spark-like.

There are any number of subplots in this slim novel, and dozens of characters. Memento Mori, whilst excellent, isn't quite as accomplished as some of the other, later books I've read by Spark - and I agree with the original New York Times reviewer that she could have achieved more had she included less. Occasionally I had to flick through the pages to work out which character was which. But there are a central few (the ones I have already mentioned) who are striking and memorable - with starkly human qualities coming through the veneer of quirkiness.

I don't think I'd recommend Memento Mori as a starting point for somebody wanting to try Spark - it might just be a bit overwhelming. Having said that, several people at my book group were reading Spark for the first time, and wanted to read more. I'd still put Loitering With Intent into the hands of anyone eager to sample Dame Muriel - but Memento Mori, for the Spark fan, is a wonderful slice of the bizarre and acerbic. It is not quite unsettling, but it certainly isn't cosy. There is humour, but mostly there is the delight of being carried along by an author who is entirely in control of her tone, with never a misplaced word or errant sentence. Perhaps, were I fifty years older, I would also embrace Spark's profundity - but, for now, I'm going to place it back on the shelf, anticipating picking it up again in a few decades' time. I rather suspect it will have changed a lot.

Laura, who joined my book group this month, later emailed a link to a really good article by David Lodge on Memento Mori, which I recommend you read - here it is. If I haven't convinced you, then I think Lodge might.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Song for a Sunday

Sit back and enjoy Charlotte Martin's beautiful cover of 'Wild Horses'.
No correct guesses on the upcoming book for review, from yesterday's clues!

Have a great weekend - mine will involve a lot of scones.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Holiday Photos

Normal service will resume soon, but here are some photos from my holiday.

Colin is leagues ahead of me as we clamber up Snowdon.

I look oddly pleased to be soaking wet, cold, and nowhere near the top of the mountain.

On one of our more relaxed days out, we visited Powis Castle - where I finished Westwood by Stella Gibbons, and started One Day by David Nicholls. It was pretty beautiful, if that doesn't sound tautologous.

We have been to Powis Castle once before - and it was at this very spot that we met Prince Charles. He asked us if our ice creams were nice - I said "Yeah" - then we ran up that bank. He spotted us again, and said "Fast movers!" So, basically, Prince Charles recognised me.

The gardens at Powis are rather gorgeous.

Did you know that dahlias were A.A. Milne's favourite flower? I like 'em too.

Rather fancy statue. Powis Castle tearoom also had peacocks, but they were real.

This amused me.

A labyrinth. If you want to know the difference between labyrinths and mazes, just ask. I once heard a FASCINATING Radio 4 programme on the topic.

One of the Youth Hostels we stayed in was Wilderhope Manor in Shropshire - a stunningly beautiful Elizabethan manor. When would I normally get the chance to stay somewhere like that for under £20 a night? This is why I love the Youth Hostel Association! I forgot to take a photo of the outside (plenty available online) - but the photo below is the view I had from my bed.

And we finshed the holiday with a trip to Clun Castle - the more assiduous of you will spot Col in this photo. Hope you enjoyed a few snapshots of our holiday - the last my trusty camera will show you (although some of these were post-camera-breaking and done on my phone). Thanks again for your camera advice - I have bought one, and it's one its way.

Book reviews coming next week. Here's a clue for the first one, to see if you can work out what it'll be. You'd see the title on gravestones, and you'd see the author near a matchbox.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Holiday Purchases

So, I didn't buy any books on holiday this year....

...of COURSE I am lying to you. I bought fourteen. Most of these came from Bristol, where my brother lives - and thus before we started the holiday proper, I suppose.
Books for Amnesty on Gloucester Road in Bristol is something of a treasure trove - I recommend you get there if you can. They even had a half-price sale on whilst I was there, so my books came to an average of less than a pound. A sale at a charity shop does feel a bit odd, but... well, at least I bought a lot.

Diary of Virginia Woolf vol.2
For years I've had volumes 1, 3, 4 and 5 - all bought just as I came across them - but I'd never found vol.2 before. Nice to have a complete set now!

Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann
One of these days, I will actually *read* a book by Ms. Lehmann. One day, one day. And I get more and more choices...

Robinson by Muriel Spark
This was her second novel, and will be the second reworking of Robinson Crusoe that I read, after Foe by J.M. Coetzee - having not actually read Mr. Defoe's book, I might miss something...

Self-Control by Mary Brunton
I read 1.5 novels by Brunton a few years ago, but they were from the library - and I never finished the second half of this one. Brunton is mentioned in Jane Austen's diary (with some irony) and she's much more fun than her serious sounding titles appear.

In My Own Time by Nina Bawden
I've never actually read anything by Ms. Bawden - although I've got a couple of hers, including the wonderfully-titled Tortoise by Candlelight - but she sounds interesting.

The Education of Harriet Hatfield by May Sarton
I keep amassing Sartons, and must read The Magnificent Spinster soon, which came courtesy of Rachel/Book Snob. I picked up this one because I thought I'd seen it reviewed on a blog somewhere... but I can't find the link anywhere.

And then I got another couple of books in a fun boutiquey little bookshop/cafe - the name of which, sadly, I can't remember.

The Mighty and Their Fall by Ivy Compton-Burnett
I bought this because it was the nice Virago Modern Classics edition, intending to give away the duplicate - but then it turned out that I didn't actually have it in the first place! Her titles are all so similar that it's impossible to remember. I'm feeling ICB-withdrawal, so might head onto this soon. I read one a year, maybe, and it feels like longer than that since I last had an Ivy moment.

Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark
This is described as 'a volume of autobiography', whatever that means - I hadn't realised this existed until I saw it mentioned by Frances. So, stumbling across it for 50p was rather serendipitous!

And on into Shropshire - these came from Much Wenlock and Clun. So, despite venturing into Wales, I bought nary a book there. To be fair to our Welsh cousins (and, incidentally, I do have Welsh cousins) I didn't go to any bookshops whilst there.

Silence in October by Jens Christian Grondahl
I loved Virginia, which I read earlier this year, and was happy to stumble across another novel by Grondhal tucked under a bookshelf in Wenlock Books.

Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford
This nice Penguin edition adds to my Mitford-mania...

Treasure Hunt by Molly Keane
I bought this partly to stock up on more Keanes to read, and partly because I loved the cover.

Women Against Men by Storm Jameson
I've been meaning to read Jameson for ages - maybe this one will be my first?

My Next Bride by Kay Boyle
And where better to finish off my haul than a book I bought simply because it was a cheap Virago Modern Classic? Nice rationale, Simon...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Taste of Slightly Foxed

Here is the link to the latest Taste of Slightly Foxed piece - about the wonderful Ex Libris, amongst other things. Usually I'd copy it across (they have given me permission to do this) but I was chuffed with their Blog of the Month pick - so want you to go and look at the whole newsletter!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I'm back!... and your advice, please.

Hi everyone - I'm back from my holidays, which were fun - some photos soon, and reports on my (fairly limited) reading. The last four books I've read have all been over 400pp., so I'm not rattling through them as I usually would on holiday. Here's one photo to be going on with (all these years with no photos of me on here, and now you're spoilt with three in the space of a few weeks... maybe this means I'm getting more confident!) This is me, weary and wet and wholly inadequately dressed, at the top of misty Snowdon.

But, before I do any recapping (and of COURSE there will be a post on my new purchases) I'd like your advice... my camera gave up the ghost on holiday, after having survived a respectable six years. Could you help me with advice for buying a new digital camera? I don't want anything too fancy, but reliable would be nice, and with good close-up focus thingummy...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Right, this time I really am off on holiday, to Shropshire and Wales sans internet, sans everything. See you in a week's time!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Page 56 Redux

Thanks for playing along - do keep your sentences coming! Just thought I'd let you know the answers - and point out my bit of trickery, which nobody spotted!

1.) is a rather lovely sentence from The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner.

2.) is in fact not Emma, but Mrs. Elton in America by Diana Birchall. Sneaky, no?

3.) was correctly identified by several people as The Bible.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Page 56

I spotted a fun and familiar idea on Facebook, to celebrate National Book Week, courtesy of my friend Katie. It comes with an unrelated picture of a horseshoe-horse, from Town Tree Nature Garden, which I visited yesterday.

The idea is to grab the nearest book (I wonder if any of us are more than arm's-length away from a book?), turn to p.56, and copy out the fifth sentence without identifying the book. Fairly pointless, but also fairly fun. I'll do three - and probably edit to add the book info in after a while. Guesses are welcome! And then, of course, have a go yourself.

1.) 'It is like turning such a brilliant light onto a tangle of wool that one doesn't see the woollen tangle at all, only some peculiar rhythm of curves.'

2.) 'This Miss Woodhouse was intolerable!'

3.) '"Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become far too numerous for us."'

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Song for a Sunday

Thanks for all your views on One Day - the general consensus seems to be in favour, so I might well give it a read - especially if I want to see the film when that comes out.

My week in Somerset comes to an end tomorrow - it has been great fun, although I read rather less than I thought I would. I'm back to Oxford for a couple of days, and then off to Shropshire & Wales - where I won't have internet access, so I'll either schedule posts or I'll be quite for a few days.

The song this week is 'You Already Know' by Bombay Bicycle Club. Which makes the second male vocalist to have a Sunday Song!

For all previous Sunday Songs, click here.

Friday, 5 August 2011

One Day one day?

So... everyone (including my bro) seems to be reading One Day by David Nicholls - but the 3-for-2 tables and newspaper musings don't give me the views I rely upon. I'm throwing this open to my ready-made decision-makers. One Day... thoughts? (I'm setting aside the fact that I totally had the idea for this sort of book years ago... except mine was going to cover eighty years... yeah, probably why that didn't get written.)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Buying books in Somerset

I've got surprisingly little reading done down in Somerset so far - still on my first book, Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley, which seemed to get the most enthusiasm when I mentioned it the other day. And, indeed, I am really enjoying it. Here it is, in situ, on the beach at Lyme Regis.

More on that another time. Today I'm going to tell you about the various books I've bought down here in Somerset so far - I've been to two secondhand bookshop in Crewkerne, two in Bridport, and two in Lyme Regis. Alongside a few books I bought for other people, not pictured, I have bought eight for myself...

The Pursuit of Laughter - Diana Mosley
The Making of a Muckraker - Jessica Mitford

Two non-fic books to fuel my love of all things Mitford.

This Real Night - Rebecca West
The Gipsy's Baby - Rosamond Lehmann
The Victorian Chaise-Longue - Marghanita Laski

And my love of Virago and Persephone! I have read the last, but didn't have a Persephone copy.

The Foolish Immortals - Paul Gallico
The House That Wouldn't Go Away - Paul Gallico

Bridport and Lyme Regis seem full of Gallico books! These seem like they'd be up my street - one about a conman who claims to sell immortality, 'but [to quote the blurb] is he being conned by someone else?' - cue Simon whipping it off the shelf and into his hot little hands. The second is about a previous house haunting the house built in its place. I love books about houses with bizarre powers (yes, what an odd taste to have, but... I do!)

The Book of Indoor Games - Hubert Phillips & B.C. Westall
I'd have bought this for the cover alone, but inside seems fun too. Lots on cards, chess etc. but - more to my liking - lots on parlour games! Interesting to see the precedents of games like Scrabble, Boggle, Scattergories etc. all included there. Will probably write more about this later...

A couple of photographs to finish with. This is one of the bookshops I went to in Bridport (the other, called Bridport Old Books, was being run by a woman reading A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor, so we had a nice little chat about that)

and here is the little lady who has brought me to Somerset, looking her adorable self:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wikio Rankings

Quick blog post, for Wikio blog rankings - always a bit of fun. Tomorrow - expect some Somerset photos, and a list of the books I've been buying... although, so far, I've bought almost as many for other people as I've bought for myself. Almost.

1Charlie's Diary
2tales from the village
3Stuck In A Book
4Making it up
5Reading Matters
6Playing by the book
7Savidge Reads
8An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
9Farm Lane Books Blog» Farm Lane Books Blog
10Book Chick City
11Wondrous Reads
13My Favourite Books
14Lucy Felthouse - Erotic Author
15chasing bawa
18Lizzy's Literary Life
19For Books' Sake
20The Book Smugglers

Ranking made by Wikio

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Verity and Ken

I'm joining lots of folk across the blogosphere today in wishing Verity a very happy wedding!

You'll probably see quite a lot of these greetings appear - it was the brainchild of the blogger we all know as Joan Hunter Dunn.

To make this a bit more collaborative, why not put forward your ideas for the best married couple in fiction? I'm always drawn to Jane and Bingley, even though we don't hear much about their married life together. Ian and Felicity in Greenery Street is another good'un. Thoughts?

Monday, 1 August 2011

All Virago/All August

I'm sitting in lovely Somerset at the moment, cat... well, somewhere, she's off exploring. And I'm musing over reading plans for my holiday. I don't normally plan my ahead for my fun-reading (since university and book group reading are scheduled as it is) but I did think I might get on board with 'All Virago/All August'. Not to be confused with Virago Reading Week, which I'm hoping will come back next year, AV/AA is run by the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing. It seems to be pretty informal - just a way of encouraging people to read the VMCs they've got waiting.

Well, most of the books I want to read soon are in Oxford, so I'm basically going to pick at whim down here in Somerset. Not that I'm short on books here - most of my collection is housed in my Chiselborough room - but the ones which I *really know* I want to read soon aren't here. Which means there are shelves and shelves of things with exciting potential...

Sprinkled through this post are my Virago shelves in Chiselborough. I have another 20 or so in Oxford - not a huge collection, compared to many members of the LibraryThing group, but enough unread to keep me going for August (and, indeed, probably most of 2012). Sorry the pictures are a bit blurry - however often I took pics, I couldn't get them any crisper than that. Hopefully you can make out the titles!

Of the ones I've not read, here are six which caught my eye. Any thoughts? (Oh, and I already love Ivy C-B, so no need to try and warn me off her! I know she's an acquired taste...)

And if you're a member of LT and not yet in the VMC group, I encourage you to join! I signed up months and months ago, but only recently started posting - they're very friendly, knowledgable, and even share out duplicate copies, when they turn up.

I'll let you know how I get on with All Virago/All August. I doubt I'll only read Virago novels during the month (indeed, I'm having something of a reader's block at the moment, and just started the most unlikely book - will tell you about it later) - but I'm hoping to read at least two or three that have been waiting for my attention.