Books · Witterings

My Weekend Life in Books

This last weekend for me has been a weekend of books. Although every weekend and days come to that are about books. This was more concentrated on books. I have read and reviewed my first Persephone, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Home-Maker. Also I have caught up on a weeks worth of the programme My Life in Books, BBC 2 1830-1900 with Anne Robinson, her of the evil wink on The Weakest Link.The premise of the book programme is getting two well known people, celebrities across different arts and get them to discuss 5 of their favourite books that have featured in their life.

What a fascinating programme, not just about the books that were chosen but the people who were chosen to talk about the books of their life and I think we should say their life so far. Who knows what books all of us have yet to discover and that have yet to be written.


This week we have seen the pairings of P.D. James & Richard Bacon, Giles Coren and Sue Perkins, Clare Balding and Hardeep Singh Kohli, Sir Trevor MacDonald and Rebecca Front and Peter and Dan Snow. I look forward to this weeks pairings.

Sue Perkins & Giles Coren
Peter and Dan Snow

The books that were chosen were an interesting mix and made me think  about the books I had read and where they fit into my life so far. Their choices are unique to each person and it was good to find out if they had read anything I had. What do the books say about these people was interesting way of ending each programme. What do my books say about me? Is that a question I can answer whilst I am still discovering books?

Having recently just reread Roald Dahl’s Matilda I was heartened to see that two of his books were chosen, Boy and Mr Fantastic Fox. The classics were covered well by all the guests; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen which a passage was read so beautifully and eloquently by PD James. An author I have failed to read, which I say with some shame as I enjoyed her contribution to the programme.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I recall having to read this at school and to be honest, I hated it with a passion and probably still do. It was a chore to read this book and the film which they always made us watch as well to given some substance the book was just as bad. This is one book, I know I could never go back to. Now I am trying to recall the books I did have to read at school and whether I want to go and revisit them.

Moby Dick, Crime and Punishment, Wuthering Heights, Mansfield Park, Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations all books which are famous or infamous and the majority of which I have only experienced through watching the television adaptations of them. Do I need to fix this and start reading some of them. Plenty of books that I had never heard of and it was interesting to see someone enthuse about something that was important to them, even if they knew someone else would find it deadly dull, dreary an d boring. That to me is what books are all about, they are about what each individual gets from them.

The weekend, or at least Saturday was bookmarked with the last part of Faulks on Fiction, this time covering ‘The Villan’. We all love the bad guy don’t we?

Sunday saw more reading, I am currently on the first Agatha Raisin book and also Bitter Chocolate by Lesley Loko. Going between the two to whatever suits me at the time. The weekend chapter comes to a close with South Riding by Winifred Holtby not the book but the TV programme, which the BBC have adapted as part of their year long journey into books, which I think is where I came in at the beginning of this post with my weekend journey of books.


Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I read The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, my first Persephone book for the Persephone Reading Weekend hosted by Verity and Claire.  But what of the author I chose to read?

Dorothy Canfield Fisher was born on 17 February 1879 and died 9 November 1958. She was an educational reformer, social activist, and best-selling American author in the early decades of the twentieth century. The book I read The Home-Maker was published in 1924. Her best known work is Understood Betsy a children’s book about a little orphaned girl this is probably why there is a children’s book award named after her.

Despite being fluent in 5 languages, writing novels and short stories, educational works and criticism of literature. She followed her husband to France in 1916 and helped blinded soldiers and established a convalescent homes for refugee children.  Her son was one of the two fatalities from the raid to free POWs imprisoned in Philippines. She never wrote anything else after her son died.

She brought the Montessori Method of child rearing to America. Now this is an area which I have no knowledge what so ever, that of child rearing although that makes it sound like something that is done on a farm. Searching to find what the best way to explain this method, I eventually found this explanation

The Montessori Method is a way about thinking about who children are. It is a philosophy that respects the unique individuality of each child. Dr. Montessori believed in the worthiness, value and importance of children. Her method does not compare a child  to norms or standards that are measured by traditional educational systems. It is founded on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.

A lady who achieved very much in her lifetime and has left us a legacy with her books which to me in having just read only the one is relevant today as it was published in 1924.

I am going to finish this post with a quote by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks’ vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days.

How true?


The Home-Maker – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

End paper of The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

This is the story of Lester and Eva Knapp, married with 3 children, Helen, Henry and Stephen who are trying to live a life by the correct domestic conformity and live in a perfect world. However everything is not perfect in this domestic setting and Dorothy Canfield Fisher constructs a story where everything that is held to be the correct way is challenged.

Eva is the perfect housewife (home -maker) she works from the moment she gets up to the moment she closes her eyes ensuring that everything is clean beyond perfection. That her children are clean, polite, controlled and her husband has a meal every day when he comes home from work after having a breakfast to send him on his way in the morning. To outsiders Eva is conforming, to Eva she is fighting a battle with all things domestic and motherly and this strive for perfection is affecting her children and her husband. To me it came across as Eva was sanitising life for everyone including herself.

Lester is a small cog in a machine and an insignificant one at that. In a job which he despises, this brings in little money and where he is not liked. His days are spent dreaming of the literature he loves and misses from giving up university to marry young. His nights are dreary and he wishes in simple terms that he was not on this earth.

Then everything an accident changes and roles are reversed. Eva now becomes a cog in a machine working at the local Emporium where Lester had previously been made redundant from. Eva suddenly finds her niche and that small cog becomes a much larger one and suddenly she feels she has a purpose and a belonging and achieving something. Lester on the other hand has to face up to his lengthy disability, with that becomes an epiphany moment when he becomes the home-maker. All of sudden, everything is not so clean, the children are allowed to run free uncontrolled and share in the love that their father obviously has the capacity to give. All of a sudden the stage where Eva worked before becomes a home.

They all learn together to adjust to their new circumstances and also those around her from her days when she was an important part of the Ladies Guild have to learn to adjust. They have to see Lester darning socks, making cookies and nurturing the children.

I actually did not like the characters of Eva and Lester, slightly oxymoronic perhaps considering I feel the book is excellent. Eva frustrated me in her seek of perfection and her condescending attitude towards her husband. And although I admit she did change in character slightly in the book, I still felt she had no real warmth for being a mother let along being a home-maker.

Lester is rather insipid. Before and after the accident. His only strength was he recognised something in developing his children and they blossomed into characters and personalities without being forced down a particular route. Canfield Fisher skill of creating these characters is excellent and that is why I enjoyed the book. It made you think about how life can be conducted and that perhaps fitting into stereotypes is not the path to happiness whether you are young or old. It is about finding your own path and creating your own individual stereotype.

This book resonates on many levels for me. Interestingly enough it has no time line, or place in an age gone past. Your only clue, other than the fact that it is set in America is perhaps the language that characters use. Its publication of 1924 would probably be right in its setting. However, this book is as relevant some 87 years later. You could say much has changed and that women are frequently seen in the workplace as well as still being seen as an important role model at home. There are an increasing number of male home-makers (house-husbands)but they are still the minority and considered something of a novelty. We all have ideals on who should fit into what role and how they should behave in it. Would reading this book in another 87 years time show that it is still as relevant then as it is today and all years previous since its publication?

The Home-Maker Dorothy Canfield Fisher Persephone Book No 7


This is the first Persephone book I have read. I picked it up with some trepidation and I did enjoy it and I hope my review does it justice. There were some elements of the book which were lost on me and I found it rather difficult to relate to being a parent. I am not. However I can relate to keeping everything clean and tidy and doing all the home-making stuff that this encompasses. The book made me aware of how I sometimes can strive for perfection in keeping everything clean, sometimes too clean and is something which my mum pulls me up on now and again and reminds me that life is too short to worry about a bit of dust.

One thing I have not done, and I am going back to do now I have read the book is read the preface by  Karen Knox and I think this will tie everything in nicely for me experiencing this book and more importantly discovering an author I would not have dared pick up otherwise. Therefore I will be posting about the author tomorrow.

Thank you to Verity and Claire for hosting this weekend. I am enjoying discovering other blogs and more importantly other books!


Persephone Weekend

This is the first time I have participated in any sort of reading challenge, read along or anything specific to books.  I have been intrigued by the these lovely grey books after having read about them on various blogs. So I thought I would join in and here I am and you can follow what is going on if you visit Verity or Claire’s blog.

I bought my first Persephone book a few weeks ago in preparation of this weekend. The book I chose was The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I have started it and this weekend sees me finishing it (well that’s the idea) and writing about it on this blog and also participating in all the other Persephone fun.

As I had a really bad morning at work and left earlier than I normally leave on a Friday (early finish on Fridays anyway) this has been my saviour for this weekend.

On with reading the book and visiting all the blogs participating! Talk to you all soon.


Matilda – Roald Dahl

I  have had an urge recently to revisit my childhood reading and within the look back I have found myself back at Roald Dahl. Thankfully they have not been tampered with as Enid Blyton’s have, I will you refer you back to a previous post of mine and not get on that soap box again!

I loved Roald Dahl books as a child, they were and are now having revisited this one delightful, well written, inspiring, strange and macabre as well as funny and poignant. You know there was good and bad in them, and everything was made into order by the end. You could tell who was good and bad by their names Miss Honey speaks volumes of someone soft and sweet, whilst Mr Wormwood is someone who is slimy and creepy getting into things he should not be. I think Dahl used his characters names for that purpose and they are just amusing to an adult who can see other meanings, than to a child who has not had the experience of meeting such people in real life.

I chose to reread Matilda. Why? Because of the love of books that Matilda and I both share. Here enjoyment of reading just jumps off the page and for someone so young (genius or not) she knows the best way to read a book

…Her own small bedroom now became her reading-room and there she would sit and read most afternoons, often with a mug of hot chocolate beside her…

Obviously there is the case when people do not understand what pleasure can be had with reading

…Perhaps his (Mr Wormwood) anger was intensified because he saw her getting pleasure from something that was beyond his reach…

When I read this as a small person, I remember being in the library and really excited at seeing this hardback version (exactly like the one pictured at the top of this post)  of the book on a high shelf just waiting to be read. Telling my mum that I had a book from the library that had only just been published or to me was just new was as exciting. I devoured the book. I cannot be sure as memory does funny things, but it must have been on Jackanory at some point as well. Even better seeing the book brought to life and hearing it read. I will gloss over the film adaptation.

My review for the book can be found here on Amazon. I wanted this post to be about everything that the book brings to mind and an Amazon review is not always the best place to do that.

I think mention also has to go to Quentin Blake for his illustrations something, for me they brought exactly what I was imagining and Dahl was describing to life.

Matilda surrounded by books

I have read this book on my kindle and the illustrations are on there as well – and they are just as effective. The one I have shown here probably resembles my flat at times, me sat there trying to choose what book to read next.

Miss Honey & Matilda

Obviously on the kindle they are not in colour. I am looking forward to picking up another Roald Dahl book with illustrations by Quentin Blake knowing everything has been captured correctly.

I will finish the picture of the kindle version which nicely bookends the first time I read Matilda and the last time.

Books · Witterings

Kindle Kid Reads – Results

If you read this blog then you know I inadvertently set myself a little project in regards to downloading samples of books on my kindle to see if I wanted to go and get the real thing.  Of the first few that I downloaded this is the outcome.

Sample Books

Chocolate Wars – Deborah Cadbury. Seen this mentioned on blogs and I do like chocolate. If I cannot eat it as much as I want perhaps I should read about it instead? RESULT – The introduction to this book was quite interesting, and the reviews on Amazon rate it highly. It is going to be one for the wish list or a library loan.

Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming. Read Casino Royale not long after the Daniel Craig film came out. Wanted to try another Fleming book having enjoyed the first and also the Sebastian Faulks James Bond novel as well. RESULT –I enjoyed the beginning of this, and it takes you right into the world of Bond! Time I corrected the fact that I have only read one of Fleming’s books.

Christmas at Harrington’s – Melody Carlson. Kept looking at this over Christmas on Amazon, not sure whether a Christmas book will work so well in February. RESULT – What an interesting start to a book. However, I think this will have to go on hold until much nearer Christmas.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death – M.C. Beaton. Read this many years ago, recommended by my mum. Did not really like it then, but wanted to give it another go and see if being older gives me a different opinion on it. RESULT –straight into either loving or loathing Agatha Raisin from the first few pages. I know I have read one of them in the past but long before I started recording these things.  Having checked my mum’s shelf, it is not on there although there are other Agatha Raisin’s. So I will have to get this one and for 99p it will be cheaper on the kindle.

Snobbery with Violence – M.C. Beaton. Discovered these on Amazon and are Edwardian Murder Mysteries. I am rather into these at the moment so wanted to see how I would get on with this one. RESULTHooked yet again on a cosy mystery. I think it is the combination of an age gone past as well as the crime/murder element of it as well. This book will be bought at some point!

Moab is My Washpot – Stephen Fry. Currently listening to this via my ipod. Not struggling with the subject matter or the narration by the author. I seem to keep get lost as to where exactly in the book I am when start to listen again. Whereas I never have this trouble when reading an actual book even if I have not read any of it for a couple of days. RESULT –I struggle with audio books. I was much more captured by reading the book than listening to it. I will keep a look out for this book when I am trawling the charity shops or at the library.

Of the ones I had already given a result for on my first post this is what has happened.

Chocolate Wishes – Trisha Ashley– Purchased in Feb 2011. Read in Feb 2011!

The King’s Speech -Mark Logue & Peter Conradi– Have downloaded the full book and this will be the next to read on my kindle after Little Women. Well that is the plan.

Free Books

Little Women – Lousia M Alcott.  Thoroughly enjoying this and it has been an eye opener for me. Having never got into it as a child. I am so much like Jo! Handy really considering that is my name. I have marked some lovely passages through the book and when I do a review I will share them with you all.

I am going to continue with downloading the samples and giving them a go, and I expect there will be more posts like this in the future.


Full Dark House – Christopher Fowler

This is the story of Arthur Bryant and John May a rather peculiar combination of detectives who work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Its inception in the dark days of the Second World War and right through some 60 years later, we are taken to their first case featuring some rather unexplained deaths in a theatre and a bomb explosion that has killed Arthur Bryant.

What Christopher Fowler does is take us on two intertwining stories, the story of the present is important to the story of the past. The unique characters of Bryant and May make for amusing reading. Their methods are both unique and unnatural as well as regular and by the book. But which will give the right result?

Fowler takes us into the depths of the Blitz, the blackout, the noise, the damage, to the point where you felt you were really there and could hear the sirens, smell the smoke and fear the outcome. The descriptions he uses for London in the war are just as relevant and as London in the present day. The comparisons are there and this sets the background for the two intertwining stories.

Everything is very dark in the Palace Theatre including the murders and it is all wrapped up in a Greek tragedy. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is tasked to investigate for fear of upsetting public morale during the Blitz. The play itself is more likely to upset public morality with is overt sexuality and nudity. But the show must go on, despite everything including Bryant and May trying to control the comings and goings of the theatre. Is it something tangible that is haunting the theatre or is it the supernatural?

Move forward 60 years and May is left to pick up the pieces when the Peculiar Crimes Unit is destroyed in an explosion and Bryant is declared dead, having been working diligently in the office as he had always done. May knows Bryant was onto something having found slight evidence that he was going back to their first case together, the murders at the Palace Theatre. Someone is haunting May and seems to be stalking him, but is it relevant to the explosion or the murders previous.

The story does take a lot to get going, and there was a point where I did feel like putting the book down as the story jumped about all over the place. However to any potential reader I would say, stick with it, because the dark humour, the murderous intent of the unknown all come to fruition in what becomes a fast paced story. Though the Greek god elements were a bit lost on me, my knowledge there is rather rusty or nonexistent!

A good first book introducing us to two characters that feature in subsequent books. If you want something quirky with your crime and perhaps feel Agatha Christie is not quite quirky enough but enjoys the golden age of crime then this could be the series of books for you.

This was the first book I read in the Transworld Crime Caper Challenge. I have been looking at it for a while and it has been in and out of my Amazon basket on more than one occasion, so when I saw listed for this challenge then I knew I must read it. It was better than I thought, especially as I felt for a long while the book was not going anywhere. It eventually did and I spent most of Saturday just past reading it because I wanted to get to the conclusion!  If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor is the next book I requested, not an author I have come across before so I am looking forward to it.


Chocolate Ganache

Definition of Ganache – is a glaze, icing, or filling for pastries made from chocolate and cream.

This was my experimental baking weekend. After having read Chocolate Wishes where chocolate is in abundance and also a recipe at the back on how to make chocolate ganache I wanted to see if I could have a go and then make some chocolate cakes. Mmmm sounded like a plan.

I bought the ingredients I needed, double cream and chocolate. I did buy the smallest tub of cream and the highest percentage of chocolate that I could get. Just in case it went horribly wrong not in case I ate it all.

I checked around for the best recipe for making it. Some say boil the cream add the chopped up chocolate, some said melt the chocolate add the cream? Confused? I checked with the Head Chef at work and it was boil the cream, until it starts to roll then take off heat and stir in the chopped up chocolate and that was the recipe I followed. And it worked. I chopped the chocolate on my glass-topped chopping board which made it easier – my tip!

It was surprisingly easy no I rephrase it was dangerously easily! Hence why the picture above is not mine (I could have taken a picture of the empty pot) and no cakes have been made and I am praying that when I get weighed on Tuesday it will have made no effect at all.

Looking at the positive side, I am really pleased I can make it and I am proud of my achievement if not slightly ashamed that I have eaten all I made.

I have spent the rest of Saturday asleep and reading. Safer that way I think.


Chocolate Wishes – Trisha Ashley

This is the story of Chloe who makes wishes. Chocolate Wishes. These delicious treats contain a wish or thought for each customer a prediction of what might happen in the future. Similar to fortune cookies but with more chocolate!

However, Chloe’s life is not so easy to predict. She was left to bring up her step brother Jake, when her mother went off on a cruise and never came back, which resulted in Chloe giving up university and the man she had fallen in love with Raffy Sinclair. He never responded to her letter. Years later it turns out she never responded to his message either and they had both been blaming themselves for no real reason.

Now time has passed and lives have changed Raffy is back in Chloe’s life under a rather different and surprising guise which unites the little village that Chloe lives in.

Chloe’s responsibilities are not for her growing business and growing stepbrother but also her rather eccentric family that she is attached to both through love and location. Her ‘Grumps’ as a character makes for delightful reading as does her aunt Zillah. Both have a unique way of predicting and perhaps determining the future with some rather strange methods.

This book has plenty to get absorbed in; the love life of Chloe mainly of the past which comes back to haunt her in the present. Her friends, Poppy and Felix who it is obvious should be together but have yet to realise that themselves. Chloe needs to help them. There is the eccentricities of Chloe’s family and the move to a new house to open a museum for all things ‘warlock’ as well as expand her own chocolate business and carry on as typist to her grandfather who writes novels. There is also village life to regale at, the parish council meetings, the threat of an outsider coming in and developing local land into housing estates as well as the theories about what actually will be going on in a museum to do with warlocks’ et al. It might seem very random but fits together for me very nicely.

Chocolate is melted throughout this book. We get descriptions of the smell, the texture, how the wishes are made, how the truffles Chloe makes just for herself taste, the quality of chocolate compared to the people she knows, in fact all things cocoa related.

A book to curl up with when you want some cheering up, a little cocoon to escape into and devour without perhaps putting any weight on! Though be warned it makes you want to eat chocolate……

I loved this book, it only took me a couple of days to read and it was a real comfort. If books can be a comfort? It did not give me the answers to the questions that have been running through my head lately but it was escapism, and a great book to curl up on the sofa with and then in bed with. The only downside, I want to eat chocolate. Not good when I have been really good lately and managed to control my chocolate intake. But emotions take over and I just want some comfort. Anyone that comfort eats knows exactly what I mean. I have a thing at the moment, about Lindt Lindor Eggs, currently 2 for £1.20 in all well known supermarkets. Now I can eat them, but I have to account for them on my diet and they are not helping me at the moment. You know the advert says “do you dream in chocolate” – yes I do!

Back to the book! This is the second Trisha Ashley that I have read, the first being her most recent novel Twelve Days of Christmas and I have loved them both. I downloaded a sample of Chocolate Wishes to my kindle just to see how I got on with it and the result was I wanted to buy it. And now I want to read more by the author. So I have downloaded some more samples of Trisha Ashley’s work to my kindle as another part of my project,  there will be more about that soon.


Death at Wentwater Court – Carola Dunn

This is the first in an ever growing series of books featuring Daisy Dalrymple and I am rather late in finding them. However the premise of a nice cosy mystery set in the 1920s was enough for me to pick this book up.

Daisy Dalrymple is writing a piece for Town and Country magazine and to prove her worth as someone who can make her own living and live independently in the ever changing modern 1920s and not simply wait to be married off and become Mrs somebody with interests only in her husband. Daisy is herself a member of the high society but uses it to her advantage and helps her forge a career.

It is this career that Daisy, notebook, typewriter and camera in hand she finds herself at Wentwater Court. The many characters there making up a house party are intriguing and varied. Lady Annabel the Earl of Wentwater’s second much younger wife, the infamous step children Marjorie, Wilfred, Geoffrey and the eldest James who harbour doubts about her reasons for marrying their father in protection of their own ends.  James fiancée Fenella and her brother Phillip, who has courted Daisy in the past or tried.  And to balance the ‘young set’ the Earl’s sister Lady Josephine and husband Sir Hugh Menton. All interrelated in some way but there was also another guest Lord Stephen Astwick who meets his end by falling through a hole in the ice seemingly having drowned.

All is not quite as it seems with this death, and to try to avoid scandal locally, they call in help from Scotland Yard. Enter Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher who is already in the area investigating a rather large theft of gems from another house party. Daisy and he hit it off, and she proves invaluable in the investigation and can see what she can achieve as an independent young woman.

To start of the series this was a good first book. The plot is somewhat woolly in parts and there was no obvious red herrings as that sometimes can be seen in these mystery books. For me there were far too many characters thrown in to begin with and I could not align who was who and connected to whom. However, once I had overcome this hurdle, the book goes a long at a steady sedate pace and was enjoyable. Daisy is going to make her mark on the detective world and her relationship with Chief Inspector Fletcher will probably raise a few eyebrows. Women in a man’s world in the 1920s especially one from the higher echelons of society is going to make for some interesting reading and I will put the second book on my list – I think Daisy is going to grow on me.

I have rather got a taste at the moment, for cosy mysteries. Having now read this book set in the 1920s. Rhys Bowen ‘Royal’ series set in the 1930s and James Anders0n ‘Burford’ again in and around the 1930s. I feel that these have a slight ‘tongue in cheek’ concept about them, which is why I would not place good old Agatha Christie amongst them. They certainly remind me of P G Wodehouse and certainly this one has that element of wastefulness of time that Bertie Wooster has with the sense somewhere of Jeeves. Why their appeal? Probably because of Agatha Christie and in particular Poirot but also the historical side of them, the bygone age, capturing the past and cleverly weaving in teaching us about history under the guise of a murder mystery. I knew my history degree would be used again, even if it is not for the job that I am doing now!

I am going to have to be wary of not reading these in quick succession as I feel that I will have all the characters and periods of time all in a muddle.