There has been Writing – There has been Shopping – There has been Reading

Time to catch up!

The Writing:

I’m quite sure that you’ll have heard about it already, but I must mention the fabulous new autumn edition of Shiny New Books.

There are far too many wonderful things to mention, but I pick out just a few:

  • Simon has written about one of my favourite books, that has just been reissued, and about one of my favourite authors.
  • You will find me revisiting two of my favourite books, both now available in paperback, in Annabel’s Fiction pages.
  • You’ll also find me writing about The Good Companion by Una L Silberrad. It’s a wonderful book, I’ll be looking out for more of the author’s work, and I found a heroine – from an earlier era – who I’d love to introduce to Lucy Carmichael. Yes – that good!
The Shopping

Our annual day trip to Truro resulted in a very fine haul of books from its two used bookshops and its charity shops.


I loved ‘The Lonely’ when I read a library copy, so I was very pleased to find a copy to keep. I’m not too sure about ‘Ludmilla’ – described as ‘a charming pastoral legend set in old Lichtenstein’ but as it’s by Paul Gallico I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

‘The Use of Riches’ by J I M Stewart (who also wrote under the name Michael Innes) is a story of art and intrigue, and so I had to pick it up.

I read ‘Bright Day’ by J B Priestley years ago, I loved it, and it has a Cornish setting, so that one had to come home to be re-read.

I saw a pile of books by Mazo de la Roche, and her name rang a bell but no more than that. I brought home ‘The Building of Jalna’, which on the first book (chronologically) in a long series. I liked the look of them all, but I thought it would be tempting fate to bring home more.

‘The End of Childhood’ by Henry Handel Richardson is the sequel to ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney’, which Cat loved and I know my library has.

‘The Old Ladies’ by Hugh Walpole was a book I had to rescue from a 50p table.

I know that the library has ‘Sissinghurst’ by Adam Nicholson and ‘Millions Like Us’ by Virginia Nicholson, but I also knew that I wanted copies of my own to keep and read at leisure, at the right time.

I know nothing about Mrs Henry de La Pasture, except that she was E M Delafield’s mother and that the Folio Society saw fit to reissue ‘The Unhappy Family’, and that was enough reason to bring the book home.

The Reading

This hasn’t been a great week for finding the time and the clarity of thought that I need to write, but I have been reading:

  • ‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’ by E M Delafield – the perfect way to change gear Margaret Kennedy Week.
  • ‘The Adventurous Lady ‘ by J C Snaith  – the report will be mixed.
  • ‘Privileged Children’ by Frances Vernon – I was very impressed by I have to track down her other books now.
  • ‘The Eustace Diamonds’ by Anthony Trollope – I liked it, but not as much as my first two Trollopes

I’ll elaborate, I’ll get back to writing, very soon ….

Margaret Kennedy Reading Week: A Look Back – and a Winner

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The first thing I must say thank you, to so many of you who banged the drum for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, who were ready to take a chance on a new author, and who took the time and trouble to write about the books that they read.

It really has been lovely to watch.

All that remains is to look back at what we’ve read.

And to give away a prize ….

The Ladies of Lyndon (1923)

Kirsty said: “Whilst ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ is nicely written on the whole, it does feel rather dated ….”

Jo said: “The book captures I think a snapshot of a period in history and if you were researching this era, then this would be a book which would give you quite an insight.”

Audrey said: “When I read the wonderful opening sentence, I knew I was going to love this book. My second thought was that this could be Jane Austen, writing 100 years later.  But looking back, while there are some Jane-ish echoes here, there’s much more snark and bite.”

Cat said:  “I would call The Ladies of Lyndon a domestic and social comedy. The plot is minimal and it’s the interrelationships, the actions and dialogue between the characters that brings the pre and post-war eras to life. “

 The Constant Nymph (1924)

Ali said: “I absolutely loved it, at once fully involving myself with the characters, as I became immersed in the world of ‘Sanger’s Circus’. I think Margaret Kennedy might be an author whose work I will have to read much more of.”

Helen said:  “I loved the setting, the characterisation and the elegant, engaging writing style and am looking forward to reading more of Margaret Kennedy’s books. “

 The Fool of the Family (1930)

GenusRosa said: “The intense bursts of lucid, fresh prose often kept me thinking about what I had just read. As a musician, there were many elements of the novel that resonated with my own perspective.”

Together and Apart (1936)

Kirsty said: “Kennedy discusses familial relationships and their breakdown throughout the novel ….. Together and Apart, even all these years later, is still an important novel, just as relevant to our society today as it was upon its publication.”

The Feast (1950)

Kaggsy said: “Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed.”

Cirtnecce said: “More than anything else, Ms. Kennedy understood both the most noble and the very base instinct of the human heart and her characters brought them forth with force and unerring honesty!”

Troy Chimneys (1953)

Elaine said: “Troy Chimneys is an odd and appealing Regency historical novel with a quiet, studious hero who creates a dashing alter-ego as his public persona ….. I really enjoyed this short novel. I have not read anything quite like it.”

 The Wild Swan  (or The Heroes of Clone) (1957)

I said: “Margaret Kennedy is wonderfully clear-sighted and unsentimental, and not at all judgemental. She just presents that characters and tells the story, and yet I knew that she knew. And I agreed.”

Lisa said: “I chose this one because I remembered it had something to do with a film production in a small town. As I discovered, that’s true, but it’s rather like saying ‘War and Peace’ has something to do with a battle “

Cirtnecce said: “The plot is wonderful, you are plunged write into the truth of Dorothea Harding’s life right at the start, but in a distinctive narrative style, it takes a while for the readers to actually put the whole jigsaw puzzle together.”

 A Night in Cold Harbour (1960)

I said: “There were moments when I saw the influence of Thomas Hardy, there was prose that might have been Jane Austen telling a story unlike any of her own; but what makes the story sing is a depth of feeling that belongs entirely to Margaret Kennedy.”

The Forgotten Smile (1961)

Simon, in Shiny New Books, says: “ Kennedy has created an evocative, moving, and – somehow – transfixing location, and peopled it with fascinating characters.”

I think that’s everyone, but if it isn’t let me know and I’ll put things right.

And so to the winner. The random number generator tells me that:

AUDREY has won a copy of – well, I’m not going to say, because she asked to be surprised, if she should win.

I’ll just say, Audrey, please send me a mailing address via the email in the side bar so that I can send you a lovely Margaret Kennedy novel.

I’ve loved Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, and so  I just have to say thank you again, so much.

A Night in Cold Harbour by Margaret Kennedy

‘A Night in Cold Harbour’ is set in the 19th century, it was published in 1960, but it explores a problem that is still very real, with compassion and concern.

How very easy it is for a man to lose everything ….

The story opens in a cold harbour:  a refuge for travellers and for the homeless. Margaret Kennedy paints a wonderful picture of the people who pass through, people who have built a community and who support one another. And then she introduces an old man who has been brought to the cold harbour by a much younger man. He was an educated man, a parson, and yet he was dying there, alone.

The story that follow explains how that came to be.

It is the story of a young man who was the heir to a fine estate, who was loved by his family, and who was terribly, terribly spoiled. He could not appreciate what he had and what others gave to him; he could only see what he did not have and he would not accept that his position carried any responsibilities.

He broke with his childhood sweetheart, because she wanted to stay close to her widowed father.

He abandoned another woman after a brief dalliance, leaving her to give birth to his child alone.

And then he left his father, his mother and his sisters, to travel and to love that life of a gentleman. That forced his father to sell part of his estate, to a pottery owner who wanted to build a factory.

His abandoned love was a lovely young woman; she refused to become bitter, and she continued to love and to want the best for him. She stayed home with her father, and she picked up the threads of the work that her mother had done in the community.

She even helped his illegitimate child to find a place in the world. A better place than the factory, when she knew the child workers were treated cruelly.

Her father, the parson, saw what was going on and he spoke out, but he found that nobody was willing to listen. When his daughter died he was heart-broken; his sons thought that he was mad – it suited then to think he was mad – and he lost his living and his home.

He faced a stark choice: he could flee or he could be sent to an asylum.

The spoiled young man learned lessons, and in time he would gain maturity and he would see the error of his ways. He would try to put things right but he would fail; it was too late.

Margaret Kennedy’s clear-sightedness suited this story wonderfully well. There’s a clarity of purpose too; she knew the period, she knew the history, but that was the setting for the story and the chain of consequence that is threaded through it.

It’s a story driven more by plot and less by characters than her other novels that I have read.

There are sub-plots, and there are lovely details along the way; they echo the themes, helping to make the point that virtue in not always rewarded, that sins are not always punished, that humans are horribly fallible, and that mistakes cannot always be put right; everything comes together in one elegantly constructed plot.

The central storyline holds the attention. The structure is a little like ‘The Feast’ in that you know what happens at the beginning and you read on to find how and why and to understand the real significance of that thing that happened.

There were moments when I saw the influence of Thomas Hardy, there was prose that might have been Jane Austen telling a story unlike any of her own; but what makes the story sing is a depth of feeling that belongs entirely to Margaret Kennedy.

I just wished that there had been a little more space; there was almost too much story for one short book; but the impression that story leaves is exactly what it should be.

A dramatization of ‘A Night in Cold Harbour’ could be amazing; but, for now, I am happy to have read a story that will stay with me.

Margaret Kennedy Reading Week: Updates and a Book to be Won

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So, what are we reading?

I’m going to work through the novels chronologically, but I may be distracted along the way ….

Cat and Audrey are both reading ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ and they both – quite independently – highlighted a wonderful opening paragraph.

I believe that My Book Strings is reading this one. And that Jo has read it too.

Kirsty has finished reading and she had mixed feelings, saying:

“Whilst ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ is nicely written on the whole, it does feel rather dated ….”

Ali was very taken with ‘The Constant Nymph, saying:

“I absolutely loved it, at once fully involving myself with the characters, as I became immersed in the world of ‘Sanger’s Circus’. I think Margaret Kennedy might be an author whose work I will have to read much more of.”

Helen is reading this one too.

GenusRosa has written a lovely piece about ‘The Fool of the Family.’

She says:

“The intense bursts of lucid, fresh prose often kept me thinking about what I had just read. As a musician, there were many elements of the novel that resonated with my own perspective.”

I know that Darlene is reading ‘Together and Apart’, because it says so in her sidebar, and I am very curious to know what she thinks of it.

Kirsty had words of praise for this book:

“Kennedy discusses familial relationships and their breakdown throughout the novel, and everything which she touches upon is shown in mind of the impending divorce.  Together and Apart, even all these years later, is still an important novel, just as relevant to our society today as it was upon its publication.”

Tina was planning to read this too.

Kaggsy was very impressed by ‘The Feast’ and she said:

“Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed.”

Cirtnecce has also read ‘The Feast’, and she told me that she loved it.

Cynthia is reading ‘Lucy Carmichael’ and I’m sure she is going to be one of the many who have fallen in love with that particular book. I think its still my favourite Margaret Kennedy novel.

I was very taken with The Wild Swan, I know that Lisa is reading the same book, and I’m looking forward to comparing notes.

I’ve read ‘Night at Cold Harbour’ too, and I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

You’ll find Simon‘s review of ‘The Forgotten Smile’ in  very fine new edition of Shiny New Books.

He says:

“One of the unexpectedly appealing things about The Forgotten Smile is the way that Kennedy plays with structure. It feels a bit as though the novel were a jigsaw puzzle that had fallen apart and been haphazardly reassembled, as the sections of the story are not given in either a linear order or any particularly logical one. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”

Eliza is reading ‘Outlaws on Parnassus’, Margaret’s Kennedy’s non-fiction work about the art of the novelist, and she described it thus:

 “Dated but full of excellent points. Also dry wit.”

And that reminds me that Claire has three of Margaret Kennedy’s works in her library pile: ‘The Feast’, ‘Lucy Carmichael’, and ‘Where Stands a Winged Sentry’.

I think that’s all I have. I hope I haven’t missed anyone, but if I have just let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

* * * * *

And so to the giveaway.

It’s very simple. You could win any in-print Margaret Kennedy novel in print. Just tell me which one you’d like to have if you win, and at least one very good reason why.

Some books are available already, and some of the reissues have been delayed and are now expected on 16th October. So the choices are:

Available now:

The Ladies of Lyndon
The Constant Nymph
The Fool of the Family
The Midas Touch
The Feast
Lucy Carmichael
The Oracles
The Forgotten Smile

Coming soon:

Return I Dare Not
A Long Time Ago
Together and Apart
Troy Chimneys
A Night in Cold Harbour

Now tell me, which book would you like to win?

A Dog Blog: A Special Edition of my Game for Margaret Kennedy Week

Hello bookish friends! It’s me – Briar!

Are you enjoying Margaret Kennedy Reading Week?

I am! Because Jane had some annual leave to use up before the end of the year and she took it this week. So I have had extra company and we have had some trips out into the country for special walks. I am a happy dog!


(Jane said I should show you this picture even though I’m not very big in it, because in the background is a literary landmark to do with one of the books you will see a little further down.)

I wanted to do something for the week, and so I should do a special round of my game. Do you remember how it works? We pick a person and we take a photograph of five books to represent them. Then you have to guess who they are.

Here’s a link to an previous game, if you want to see how it’s done.

This time we have picked people who are joining in Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, and each of them has a Margaret Kennedy book that they have read or are reading now in their pile of books.

Some of them have played the game, some of them have been answers in the game before, and you should be able to find links to all of them around the blog.

So let’s play!

Here’s the first:


To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Ladies of Lyndon by Mararet Kennedy
Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson
Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

* * * * *

Next comes number two:


Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
This is the End by Stella Benson
Mapp and Lucia by E F Benson
Sunlight on a Broken Column by Atia Hossain

* * * * *

Number three is in the middle:


Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy
Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

* * * * *

Next in line is number four:


The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Family Roundabout by Richmal Compton
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
The True and Splendid Adventures of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

* * * * *

And last but not least is number five:

An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy
London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins
A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Fiegel

* * * * *

You can tell me your answers in the comments and I’ll be along later to tell you if you’re right and to chat a bit.

If you’re the first person to get one of answers you will get a bonus entry in our prize draw, which will be coming along later in the week. You can guess yourself if you want.

So let’s go !!!

The Heroes of Clone – or, The Wild Swan – by Margaret Kennedy

Back in the 1920s Margaret Kennedy’s second novel, ‘The Constant Nymph’, was a huge, huge success. It was one of the bestselling novels of the decade, it became a successful stage play and then Margaret Kennedy was called upon to write a screenplay. That led her to more work in Britain’s film industry, and that experience underpins this novel.

The Heroes of CloneRoy Collins had been smitten with photography and cinema since boyhood, and when he grew up he set about working his way up in the cinema business. He had secured a job working on scripts for BBB – Blech Bernstein British!

Dorothy Harding had been a Victorian novelist. She had never married but she had supported her family, writing moral tales that were popular in their day but would quickly be forgotten. Dorothy would have been forgotten, had her diary and her poems not come to light after her death. They revealed a very different side of the author, and literary critic Alec Mundy published a book suggesting that the ‘G’ Dorothy wrote of with such passion was the man that she had loved and her sister had married. Playwright Adelaide Lassiter had taken that theory and turned it into a grandly romantic film that had become a huge hit and was going to be turned into a film.

And that was where Roy came in!

He had an uneasy feeling about the job. He was disappointed that the Harding family were only interested in the income that that film would bring them, he was interested that the there was such love for the author in the countryside around her home, and he began to wonder if the critic and the playwright had got things wrong.

Roy was right. The story stepped back into the past to tell Dorothy’s story.

The earlier chapters had been wonderful. A lovely introduction, as Roy visited the schoolteacher aunt who had understood him better than his parents ever had and spoken with her about what he was doing, set the story up beautifully. The gentle but knowing satire of the film business was so very well down. And Harding family, living in genteel poverty in a run-down country house, quite oblivious to the fact that the world had changed, were captured beautifully.

16031525The interlude in the past was even finer; I thought that I might have met the loveliest Victorian novelist I had encountered before; I realised that Margaret Kennedy had planned her story so very, very cleverly.

Dorothy’s real story was much deeper, much more moving than the story that the critic and the playwright had spun; and yet it was understandable that they had drawn the conclusions that they did. Dorothy had grown from an imaginative child into an intelligent woman, but her life had been sheltered, she was naïve about so any things, and her family and others had exploited that, and her good nature.

Margaret Kennedy’s work is informed by her love of Jane Austen, but Dorothy’s story suggests that she knew and loved the Brontes too ….

Roy loved his job, but he knew that he had to do the right thing;  he had to clear Dorothy’s reputation of the romantic fantasy the poet and playwright had concocted, even if it did cost him his  job.

I loved that way that the story played out. The playwright was disappointed that the truth failed to live up to her romantic fantasy, but she decided that she had to represent her heroine honestly. That was lovely. The film company and the leading lady pulled back from the project. That was understandable. And the critic – who surely should have done a little more research and a little less speculating – was determined to suppress the truth and preserve his reputation. That was worrying.

Margaret Kennedy is wonderfully clear-sighted and unsentimental, and not at all judgemental. She just presents that characters and tells the story, and yet I knew that she knew. And I agreed.

I loved Roy, I loved Dorothy, and I loved the way their stories were woven together.

This proved to be a story for the head and the heart.

There is much to reward careful reading; lovely details, allusions, and themes that echo through Margaret Kennedy’s work.

And the story of an woman whose reputation many are ready to tarnish, who accepts what life offers her and finds peace is both moving and memorable.

Welcome to Margaret Kennedy Reading Week

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Hello, and welcome to Margaret Kennedy Reading Week.

This week is dedicated to reading the work of Margaret Kennedy, who isn’t quite a forgotten author but who isn’t nearly as widely read as I think she should, or could, be. I started reading her books back in October 2012 and have enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read. They are wonderfully diverse, and, though some are stronger than others, each one has its own merits.

(I should mention at this point, just in case you haven’t seen it already and you’re wondering who the author is or which of her books you might like, that there is a bibliography, there are links, and there is as much information as I could pull together in one place back here.)

I want to thank everyone who has spread the word about this event and been so supportive about celebrating Margaret Kennedy’s legacy. It’s been lovely to find so any people who know and like her work, and to find others who are ready to be introduced to a new author. I’ve read about plans, I’ve spotted some people reading already, and I am so curious to read reactions to Margaret Kennedy’s work.

I will keep a running list here of all Margaret Kennedy posts written this week so that we can read each other’s thoughts. You can let me know you’ve posted by commenting here, by sending me an email at the address you should see near the top of the sidebar, or by tweeting about your post using the hashtag #mkennedyrw.

(When I say posts I don’t just mean blog posts, I also mean bookish posts on Librarything, on Goodreads, on Booklikes, and on other sites that I might have forgotten And please don’t feel left out if you don’t do any of that; just leave a comment here with your thoughts.)

Thank you to everyone participating – I wish you a wonderful week of reading Margaret Kennedy!

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

I fell in love with Can You Forgive Her, my first Trollope and my first Palliser novel, and when I had to leave that book behind I knew that if wouldn’t be too long before I stepped back into Trollope’s world with the next novel in this particular sequence. The fact that this was the novel where politics came to the fore worried me a little, but it wasn’t a problem; I was pulled right into the human story by the same storyteller I had come to love as I read that first book.

Phineas Finn himself was a charming, handsome, and eminently personable young Irishman. His parents had supported him when he moved to London to study to become a barrister. When he qualified his father, a country doctor, hoped that he would come home, that he would practice his profession, establish his own home, marry his childhood sweetheart, raise a family …. but Phineas had other ideas. He had an interest in politics, and a friends had suggested that he could become a member of parliament. Because in the days before parliamentary reform all that you needed were the needs of friends in high places who could offer a pocket borough.

Phineas FinnThere was one major drawback: he would be paid nothing as a member of parliament. But Phineas persuaded his father to support him for just a little longer, until he established himself and could either begin to practice the law or secure a lucrative government post. Doctor Finn gave way, because his wife and daughters were so thrilled at the prospect of what Phineas might achieve, and so, secretly, was he.

Success came easily to Phineas, thanks to his good locks his charm, and his straightforward, open and honest character. But he often ran into trouble, because it took him a long time to learn that the motivations of others were not so simple.

Lady Laura Standish was Phineas’ first mentor, and he fancied himself in love with her; she though chose to marry for the things that she thought she needed; money, influence, and social standing in the shape of Mr Robert Kennedy. But she was to learn that those were the wrong reasons, that she had married man who could had to rule everything and would brook no arguments. It was heart-breaking to watch the marriage fail, and to understand the terrible consequences that had for an intelligent and compassionate woman.

Violet Effingham; a lovely young heiress rich enough to remain single and independent if she wishes it, though that would come at quite a social cost. She was Laura’s closest friend and there was an understanding between her Laura’s brother, Lord Chiltern, but Violet was having doubts. Because he was short-tempered, thoughtless, and not inclined to see her point of view.

She was drawn to Phineas and he was drawn to her; but that upset her friend, her friend’s brother and her friend’s brother; and that was unfortunate, because it was his pocket borough that gave Phineas his seat in parliament ….

Trollope clearly understood with Violets reluctance to marry, and  Laura’s regret that she did marry, and he draws both of them, and the friendship between them quite beautifully. I drew parallels with the two friends, one linked romantically with the other’s brother scenario in this book and the one in ‘Can You Forgive Her’. There were some similarities but there were far more differences, and I thought that the characters and relationships in this book were rather more subtly drawn.

I found the continuing friendship between Laura and Violet especially engaging.

While all of this was going on Phineas was finding that his conscience and his party’s politics or his sponsor’s interests were often at odds, and that the political world was very tricky indeed.

Trollope deploys all of  his characters well, and there are plenty of events and incidents along the way to keep things interesting. I’ve pulled out a few strands, but in the book they are interwoven, and everything works together beautifully.

And then – when the story was simmering nicely, but I was wondering how it was going to fill such a big book – another intriguing woman character made her entrance.  Madame Max Goesler was young widow, with a  rather dubious past, but with more that enough money to assure her a place in society.  In the hands of some authors she would have been a stereotype, but Trollope made her a wonderfully real woman; the was independent, was bright and she understood people very well indeed.

Drawing parallel’s with ‘Can You Forgive Her’ again, I could compare Madame Max’s role in this book with the role of the widow in that first book. And again the second book wins, with a story arc that is gentler and sits more naturally in the book as a whole.

I must come back to Phineas Finn though, because his story is the thread that holds the story together. Trollope does a wonderful job of having Phineas learn and grow as the story progresses, without losing any of the things that made him such an appealing character when the story began.

The story plays out beautifully.

I’ve already moved on to ‘The Eustace Diamonds’ and I’ m looking forward to picking up Phineas’s story again in ‘Phineas Redux’ ….

An A to Z: looking behind and looking ahead

October is coming, and it is looking very promising:

Margaret Kennedy Week is nearly here!  I have a week’s holiday!

So it feels like time for an A to Z …..


A is for AUSTRALIAN READING MONTH. I loved this last year and so I’m very pleased that Brona will be hosting this again in November. I read My Brilliant Career last year, I want to read ‘My Career Goes Bung’ this year, and I have other possibilities too,

B is for BACKS OF BOOKS. I always enjoy perusing lists of other titles that publishers used to display in the back of books, and I’m in the middle of a lovely book by an author I discovered that way.

C is for CURTAINS. Automatic curtains are lovely when they work but a nightmare when they break down. We’ve taken two deliveries of spare parts, the curtains have been up and down and hanging elsewhere for a while, but we have fixed them and they are working beautifully.

D is for DAPHNE DU MAURIER. Kirsty has plans to read lots of her books in December, and I may join her for a book or two.

E is for EDGE OF THE WORLD BOOKSHOP. I was seduced by a lovely display of Slightly Foxed editions last Saturday. And that’s all I’m saying!

F is for FLORENCE. Do you remember Florence and Giles? I loved Florence’s wonderful narration of that story, so I was thrilled to find out that there is a sequel – ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Read’ – and I have ordered it from the library.

G is for GODREVY. Briar loves the beach there, the summer dog ban ends tomorrow, so it’s a definite possibility for a walk next weekend.

H is for THE HAPPY TREE by Rosaling Murray. A new Persephone book, coming next month. I know that the Whipple-lovers are eagerly awaiting ‘Because of the Lockwoods’ but I’m much more intrigued by an author I’d never heard of before.

I is for I START COUNTING. I love this song, and I particularly love Dusty Springfield’s interpretation.

J is for JANE CASEY. I’ve caught up with the two most recent Maeve Kerrigan books, and there’s a post about them both sitting in my drafts folder.

K is for KAFFE FASSET. The first clue for my ‘mystery cushion’ is due tomorrow, and I am ready to start knitting. I explained the plan to my mum when I went to see her on Saturday, and she loved the yarn and the whole concept.

L is for LAZARUS. I loved this but it had slipped out of my mind; luckily it was pulled back in again, when I heard it on the radio at the weekend.

M is for MARGERY SHARP. I’ve borrowed ‘The Innocents’ from the library three times but now I have a copy of my own and somebody else may have a turn. It really is a gem.

N is for NIGHTINGALE. You really should meet Miss Nightingale, in Edith Olivier’s recently reissued Night Thoughts of a Country Landlady.

O is for THE ORACLES by Margaret Kennedy. It’s in my library pile, ready for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week.

P is for THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters. I’ve advanced from ninth to fifth in the library queue since the book appeared in the library catalogue.

Q is for THE QUICK by Lauren Oliver. I started reading in the summer, but it was a book that needed dark evenings so I’ll pick it up again in a week or two.

R is for RE-READING WILLA CATHER. Ali has a reading week planned, and I don’t have anything new to read but I am giving serious though to reading all of Willa Cather novels again, this time in chronological order.

S is for SEDITION by Katherine Grant. It sat in my library pile for a while, but now I’ve picked it up and read the opening, and I have to say that it looks very promising.

T is for TROLLOPE. Definitely my author of the year. I finished ‘Phineas Finn’ last week and I’ve already begun ‘The Eustace Diamonds’.

U is for UNA SILBERRAD. I’ve just read her novel ‘The Good Companion’ for Shiny New Books last month, I loved it, and now I’m on the lookout for more of her work.

V is for VHS. I’m clearing out a stack of old tapes, but it’s taking time because I’m sure there are some interesting things, that I recorded years ago and forgot.

W is for THE WILD SWAN by Margaret Kennedy. I’ve already started reading, and it’s very, very good.

X is for XI. One for the Scrabble players! We started a new tournament in August, on the Man of the House’s birthday and it will run until my birthday in March.

Y is for A YORKSHIRE FABLE. It’s a lovely book of knitting patterns, and I was so pleased to be able to snap up a very reasonably priced used copy.

Z is for ZZZZZ. Briar was not at all happy with the failure of the curtains and the consequent disorder in ‘her’ bay window, but now things are right again and she can sleep peacefully in there.


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