Books

Dilly’s Sacrifice – Rosie Goodwin

Meet Dilly Carey, married to Fergal, mother to three boys, Declan, Kian, Seamus and one girl, Niamh.

Times are hard for them all, following an accident Fergal is not able to earn money to support his family and therefore it is Dilly who makes the sacrifice and goes out to work, to keep food on the table and some comfort at home.

Another mouth to feed would not be ideal, but of course you cannot stop nature. But you can perhaps realise that you might have to give something up in return.

That something is a baby, which Dilly takes up to the big house and gives it to the Farthings, having recently lost their own baby to measles, it can comfort them and also provide for Dilly and her family. The condition is that Dilly can become a maid in the house.

Everyday Dilly has to deal with her family she leaves at home with her disabled husband and go and work in a place where her newest born daughter is getting everything that Dilly could never be able to provide for her.

Her relationship with this family and the house is bound together in so much happiness but unpleasantness as well. As time marches on, Dilly has to find the strength to cope with many other challenges in her life that are inflicted on her, her family and even her friends. Some of it was quite harrowing, some shoe the strength and loyalty that Dilly has, all of it with its twists and turns kept me reading.

As The Great War looms from across the sea, it seems that Dilly is going to have to sacrifice more again to be able to keep together everything and everyone that is dear to her.

This book by Rosie Goodwin reminds me of the Catherine Cookson’s I used to read when I was younger. There is so much packed into the pages, with so much happening to the characters that you almost forget you are reading because you become so immersed in the story, it is as if you are there with them all. Whether that be in the damp dark home of Dilly in the Midlands, or across the Irish Sea to Dublin to visit Dilly’s in-laws.

This book was so good and although I am late to picking this up to read and review, I immediately went and got the next in the series because I wanted Dilly in my life for a bit longer. I love historical sagas and this book and author is one of the best out there.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

Dilly’s Sacrifice is out now, the second book in the trilogy Dilly’s Lass is also out and the third Dilly’s Hope is published on 7th April 2016.

 

Books

Longbourn – Jo Baker

This is the story that may have never been told.

The story of those who are behind the scenes in one of the most famous novels of all time.

This is the story of those that keep Mr and Mrs Bennet and their daughters;  Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia fed, clothed and clean. Presenting Longbourn to be as good as Pemberley or Netherfield Park if at all possible.

The story is Pride and Prejudice; but this is merely information. What author Jo Baker has done has given us the story of the servants and whilst may have taken liberties with their characters has remained true to Pride and Prejudice and you can see the story unfold upstairs as those that work tirelessly downstairs struggle.

In fact the two stories are very similar. Meet Sarah, the maid. Tired from working long hours, hands raw from washing in soda and bleach, nose twitching from having to make soap out of animal fat, has rather an outspoken manner about her (Elizabeth Bennet?) and would like nothing more than to experience love and fine and pretty things such as those ladies upstairs. Love for her is more actual, it is not about position or place or indeed money. It is much more pure.

Meet Mrs Hill, the housekeeper.  She is playing the game just like Mrs Bennet. She needs to secure her future and that of her husband Mr Hill and those that work downstairs. By working hard at the cooking and cleaning and making the house presentable, when the time comes for Mr Collins, who is as slimy as Austen makes him out to be, inherits he will be able to easily inherit the staff as well. Trouble is the Bennet girls cannot think of anyone they would rather not marry than Mr Collins. It looks like Mrs Hill might have to well impress her skills on another female to ensure longevity.

Meet James. A mysterious character who walks into town and walks straight into a job at Longbourn. Every good place needs a footman. There is something dark and brooding about him, something of the Mr Darcy perhaps. But he has a past and he would rather that it was kept there for no one to discover. He is charming and helpful (Mr Wickham?) Trouble is, Mrs Hill knows about his past and Sarah has the strong will to want to know.

And so life goes on day to day at Longbourn. Jo Baker, creates characters that you care for, that you want to only see good things happen to. When truths are revealed about some of them, we are taken away from Longbourn and into another world. A world of war, and the destruction of landscape and strength of discipline that forces men into positions that they then try and escape.  I was unsure whether being taken away from Longbourn would detract away from the idea of the book – the servants. It works, although slowly at first as then you actually forget about the Bennet’s and their contemporaries you are far more concerned as a reader about Sarah, James, Mrs Hill et al.

I have never read Pride and Prejudice although I know the story. This books stands alone from that so well, that you would actually be forgiven that it is based on a story which is 200 years old. It is historical fiction with added romance at it’s best. With the added appeal that it is a truth universally acknowledged that we always find those people that work downstairs or behind the scenes just as if not more interesting!

Longbourn is out now in hardback published by Doubleday. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to read and also letting this blog be part of the blog tour. If you have missed out : please click here to find out all about washing 200 years ago. 

And I think I will go and read Pride and Prejudice now. The reason I think for not having read it, was the occasions I did pick it up, I could not fall into the way of writing and the language. As I have got older, I have found that it has become slightly easier to pick up these books and expand my reading knowledge further. 

Books

Longbourn – Jo Baker – The Servants

Longbourn HB

10 things you might not know about life below stairs in Jane Austen’s day.

By Jo Baker

  1. Detergents weren’t developed until the latter half of the 19th Century. Households often made their own soap out of rendered animal fat and lye – so if someone wanted a clean shirt, you first had to kill a sheep.
  2. Lye, derived from potash, was also used as a laundry-bleach. It was so caustic that it would dissolve the fat-tissue of the laundress’s hands, turning it, effectively, into soap: it’s like using bleach without marigolds on – your hands feel slippy because your own fat’s dissolving. But not in a good way.
  3. Households also made their own laundry starch. This was a bit simpler – they used the water they’d boiled starchy foods in – dumplings, perhaps, or rice. Or potatoes, which were still something of a novelty. Dip your fichu in the cooking water, and hang it up to dry. Lovely.
  4. Some clothes needed to be unpicked before they were laundered – to prevent dyes bleeding, or delicate trimmings from spoiling – and then sewn back together again before wear.  To someone who shoves everything in the washing machine, switches on a thirty-degree non-fast coloureds cycle, and hopes for the best, this sounds like a terrible faff. Though if you wore those kinds of clothes back then, chances were you didn’t do the laundry, so the faffiness probably wasn’t that much of a concern.
  5. Sculleries, where the washing-up and laundry were done, were built with the ground a step lower than the adjoining rooms – with all that water sloshing around they needed to be, or the kitchen would get flooded.
  6. Larders were fitted with slate or stone shelves to keep food cool.
  7. Slate or stone shelves aren’t that good for keeping food cool…
  8. There are quite a few extant recipes for disguising spoiled food.
  9. As well as remedies for upset stomachs…
  10. Tea, though, was good for pretty much everything. It could be used – as either leaves or an infusion – to clean carpets and wooden floors, polish mirrors, windows, and furniture, treat eye infections, draw boils, dye hair and fabrics. Used leaves could be boiled up in fish-kettles and pans to remove the smell of fish; they were also, by more unscrupulous servants, dried, re-dyed and sold on to supplement meagre wages. Tea leaves could also be steeped in boiling water, to make a refreshing and consoling drink.

Next time I fling a few clothes in the washing machine, I think I might be grateful that Mr Persil, Mr Daz, Mr Ariel et al have made my life a lot easier.  At least while the machine is on I can sit back with a cup of refreshing and consoling tea….and read Longbourn. 

But perhaps I should read Pride and Prejudice which despite seeing the famous Colin Firth version on the television and numerous film adaptations I have never read. I am sure some of you are shocked by such a notion! 

Longbourn is published on 15 August in hardback and ebook. 

I am part of the Longbourn Blog Tour (get me! – even with my blog name on a poster – see top right of blog)

Yesterday the tour was at The To Read Pile.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 14 August) it stops at What Shall I Read?

Thursday 15 August it will be with Pamreader

Finally stopping on Friday 16 August at Northern Editoral

A rather eclectic mix of places to visit and find out more about the book and the author. Enjoy your tour and hope you come back and see my review at some point in the future.

Books

Books in 2012

I cannot believe it has come to the point where I am reflecting, writing and reviewing about a years worth of books read. And as I begin typing this I have no idea how I am going to approach it. Do I go with genres or authors? Kindle books or review books? I think I will just go with the flow please join me for the ride if you will.

Well do I have a book of the year? Yes but there is more than one? How could there not be? If you are going to push me then I am going to say Rachel Joyce – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. A wonderful story which was a slow burner for 2012 and now that it has been picked by Richard and Judy and winning awards towards the end of 2012 it is going to be blasted into 2013 for everyone to read!  M.L. Stedman – The Light Between the Oceans. A beautiful story which made me cry and also makes you question the actions of the characters, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Simon Kernick – Siege. A thriller I read in a day, I was hooked, I had to keep turning the page. James Runcie – Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. The beginning of a set of books which feature a crime solving Canon, starting in the 1950s and moving through the decades. The books are also a delight to hold and own, they will look good all together on a shelf. Marika Cobbold – Drowning Rose a beautiful story which stands out for me because of the way it deals with grief and guilt and how it can people very differently.

Jo's Books 2012 - 1

Why these five? Well why not, but they are actually all new authors to me for this year and in the case of two of them debut authors as well. I hope to read more of their work in 2013.

So what of authors I have read before, there are favourites in there of course and it is just easy to mention them Trisha Ashley, Debbie Macomber, Veronica Henry and Katie Fforde who is fast becoming a favourite and I do not know why I have not read any of her books before! Again these are authors I intended to read even more of in 2013. If you want some great women’s fiction then any of these authors are a definite choice. Jo's Books 2012 - 2

But there are some authors who I was left feeling a bit blah about – Marian Keyes new novel did not quite hit the spot with me, although in fairness it has been a while since I read any. It was a very brutally honest book which is perhaps why I was not quite comfortable with it. The same could be said for Dawn French and Oh Dear Silvia. A clever book, but for not as good as her first. But I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with. Some were complete misses and I think special mention must go to the 2012 publishing sensation E.L. James – Fifty Shades of Grey. At this point I just want to add a yawn! A rather large one. I read it, I was one of the masses (though it was a book club choice) and I stopped at book one,  I actually stopped a few Jo's Books 2012 - 3times in book one, to read something, anything in fact better written!

Now I want to rave about Lucinda Riley and her novel for 2012 The Light Behind the Window. I loved it, I do so with no payment from her or her publisher, just in case you think this is a case of sock-puppeting. This is simply just a reader enthusing about a particular author and their books. And I know I mentioned her at the end of 2011, but there you go. Her books have been such a great read nothing else gets done. Now interestingly media communications with authors have pushed me in some interesting directions reading wise and I am fairly laid back in giving most things a go. This was the case with Emma Burstall who contacted me as I had read her previous other two novels, and asked whether I would read her newest – The Darling Girls. Of course, the premise sounded good and it was my sort of book to be reading. I do hope someone takes this book up for printing as it is currently only available on Kindle and I am sure many would love to read it. Ironically, if I may digress it was Emma Burstall’s first book Gym and Slimline which sort of got me into reviewing in the first place. I contacted a magazine to see if I could be one of their reviewers (I have only ever reviewed one book for them) they sent me this book to read. Once it was published I stuck my review on Amazon and it was around that time I decided that I wanted to review every book that I read. And so four years later I am still doing it and it progressed into this blog about two and half years ago. Finally my third choice in this particular category of no definite name is Sadie Jones – The Uninvited Guests. It really captures the big country house, Edwardian standards, the beginning of a different sort of youth, and a mysterious element all of its own that it is a wonder and a puzzlement when you read it. It sticks out for the simple reason that if you have read Sadie Jones other work this could be a little way out there! Her fourth book is to be set in the world of theatre in the 1970s. How exciting to never know where an author is going to take you?

Jo's Books of 2012 - 3

See when you start writing these review posts the words flow and then you go back and look at the books you read and you think well I really must mention them too – so please bear with me, the end is in sight and I have not even covered crime yet! A December read which has made it into this post is Kathleen Tessaro and The Debutante and it is here that I reflect that I have read for me very little in way of historical fiction in 2012. This book gave me the taste of it all again, especially when there is the dual narrative, in this case the nineteen thirties and the present day. Then I was back in time with Judith Kinghorn and the First World War, I look forward to her new book. Mention must go to Emyila Hall another book with a dual narrative which was so different and refreshing! Jos Books 2012 1

And now thoughts turn to crime. I have a tendency to focus a lot on what is called the ‘cosy’ variety of crime. Body counts that do not normally exceed 2, no blood and guts, simple tales, with a bit of a village twist (Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton), community feel (Joanne Fluke and her Hannah Swensen series) and historic setting (Carola Dunn and the delightful Daisy Dalrymple series). Of course the Queen of Crime is always a must read – Agatha Christie.

Then there is crime that has more than one body count (Simon Kernick – The Last Ten Seconds), slightly more graphic (Mo Hayder – Hanging Hill) , based on television programmes (Ann Cleeves – Silent Voices (Vera)) (Cath Staincliffe – Dead to Me (Scott and Bailey)), popular authors (Tess Gerritsen – The Surgeon) and American settings (Barry Lyga – I Hunt Killers).

Jos Books 2012 2

It has to be said if it was not for publishers sending me books, the latter paragraph of crime would certainly have gone unread. I have been a bit more adventurous in that department in 2012.

So if there has been a lack of historical fiction this year, there has certainly been a lack of autobiography, despite many on my shelf. This is the staple read of my dad, and he is at the point, once his Christmas presents have been read in wanting more books to read. I need to crack on with a couple in 2013. I have a thing about needing to read the book before I lend it out! Strange I know.

Now probably what is strange to many people, is the lack of ‘classics’ that I read. (Do visit Savidge Reads, where Simon has discussed this in great length in 2012) I always feel rather a cheat in saying I am a voracious reader, when what I read sometimes cannot be classed as hefty tomes. However, I have come to the conclusion that reading these novels should be an organic process and when the time is right to read them, I shall if I so desire. That is how I have now read Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre and Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey. Not bad for me, even if I do say so myself. Now my other perhaps gap in reading knowledge is the many books I see on blogs about lesser well known women writers, blogging certainly brings them back into the forefront. So when I came upon Mary Stewart – Thornyhold in a charity bookshop I thought it was fate that brought us together. Such a great read, now I know what many of the blogs I follow have been going on about! The other is Elizabeth Taylor which Verity introduced me to and I read Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont. Again a book so beautifully written that I realise that there is so much more out there for me to discover with these less known authors and that blogging is enriching my reading every day.

So now for the statistics – I have read 110 books this year, including short stories, which is less than last year, but feels like more! Anyway it was more than 50 which really has been my aim these last few years. In 2013 I need to readdress this number. As for books on the Kindle it was 29 (31 last year) so it counts for about a quarter of my reading which I think is pretty good. I seem to go through stages of reading rather a lot on there, to tailing off and then picking it back up again to see what I have on their to read. The Kindle has a place in my reading life that is for sure.

And for unfinished books that simply stands at 1. More because of it being a hefty tome about The Mitford Sisters than not enjoying the reading matter. I think it could be a higher number, because I do persevere with some books when perhaps I should cut my losses and go “no this book is not for me, let me read something else”. Do I need to address this more in 2013?

So there you go my year in books, and actually I have not covered all the authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to (I did not want to make this post any longer than it was!) and also I have really only touched on the challenges I set myself (see previous bracket!) so in the coming days I will be reflecting on all of this and of course doing plenty more reading.

May I say a Happy New Year to you all and I hope you continue to visit my blog and enjoy it as much as I enjoy the cathartic process of writing the posts and constructing it all. I hope I have inspired some of you to try a different book than you would normally do.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Authors in October – Part 2

Are you all back and refreshed from a tea break. Did you indulge in some biscuits? I did, books and tea lead to biscuits…

Katherine McMahon

So I am back in the second row and this time it is just Guy on the stage and Katherine McMahon who I met and heard speak back in April. Guy had found out (from the internet) that she is friends with Mary Portas and met her at Am Dram some years ago. Katherine confirmed this, and proceeded to point out the bags, necklaces etc that Mary had tried to bring Katherine more fashionably up to date. That’s what friends are for of course! I hope Katherine gives Mary books to read.

The theme for this conversation was forgotten books, and Katherine had obviously spent some time thinking about this and had pulled books off her shelf so she could remind herself and us of some of them. Rereading Jane Austen throughout her life has given her a different slant on the books as time has passed. For different times of your life the books resonate in different ways. That is something which I have found to be true when my reading takes different paths depending on the mood I am in and what else is going on in my life at the time.

But instead of concentrating on what could be called the classics as forgotten gems, Katherine recalled:

One Pair of Hands – Monica Dickens (Katherine is convinced this is where Julian Fellowes got all his ideas for Downton from! – recommendation then!)

One Pair of Feet – Monica Dickens

Jigsaw – Sybille Bedford

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri (Short stories, which Katherine described as like full novels)

Dusty Answer – Rosamond Lehman

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith (This book got a loud murmur of recognition in the theatre, and one I must get round to reading, perhaps a challenge for 2013?)

Katherine is another author who immerses herself in the world she is writing about and cannot read other fiction without the possible effect it may have on her work. Katherine is slowly coming to terms with being classed as a historical fiction writer, and I think she accepts this title reluctantly but accepts the one as being just an author the easiest to swallow. She has a full day as a writer, writing from 8-6 most days, and is slowly trying to embrace the world of social media and combining it with being an author although, I think after what might be called a Freudian slip it may be awhile before we see her back on Twitter.

Blogging is useful when you see something and you simply want to point out something and share with everyone. It is those occasions when you read or experience something that you want to tell others all about it. Blogs are great for that.  But perhaps that is what 2013 will bring to the publisher world. Katherine thinks and again she has a valid point, that the future of such an industry and authors is in the hands of us the readers. Keep reading they need us. Katherine  wrote about readers’ and the readers’ day on her blog – sharing the reading experience.

Can we have a round of applause please and lets bring on the next two authors

Clare Clark, who Guy could find nothing about on the internet, which was an achievement more than finding something. (I have purposely not put a photo of Clare up, to aid to the mystery – but they are readily available on the web if you search) And Roma Tearne, who is not just an author but an artist and film maker as well. And for the record plenty can be found about her on the internet. Clare is another author who fits into the historical fiction genre and one again, who is taking her time getting used to this pigeon holing. Sage nods from Katherine in the audience. I digress here to mention that some of the authors stayed to listen to their colleagues (if you will) and how much they were enraptured with what they were saying and also taking book recommendation notes. That really was something which I found most respectful and enlightening as a reader. We are all readers, despite our jobs!

Clare was great to listen to and I was really interested to hear about her story from working for an advertising agency, moving to New York , having two children and writing novels. She has packed a lot in to life and has a rather wry view on being a mother!

Clare also found it challenging to pick some desert island books. Do you take a kindle and therefore take lots and lots of books. Clare is a fast reader in this format, and can ‘consume’ books quickly. Do you take books you have never read or tackled like some Tolstoy and Proust (her choice not mine!) Or do you take something familiar and comforting. Roma Tearne was of a similar outlook and would take anything by Virginia Woolf.  The books that were mentioned:

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (A large tome which is looking at me from my bookshelf) was one of Clare’s choices.

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

I have read neither of these authors, and did not recognise the name of Roma Tearne. I did have Savage Lands by Clare Clark on my shelf for a long time and tried more than once to read it, but I could not get into it. Perhaps I need to try her new novel Beautiful Lies, set in Jubilee year, financial uncertainty, riots and scandals aplenty. But it is not 2012 it is 1887 and Victorian London. Certainly piques my interest.

Roma Tearne

Roma’s new novel The Road to Urbino, a book set in London , Italy and Sri Lanka. The author having personal knowledge of Sri Lanka as she came to this country from there with her family when she was 10. This book meant a lot to the author as she took one theme of it, one strand and made a short film which was shown earlier this year. It was an interesting take on how an author sees their own work and what they can visualise. Sometimes it is left for others to bring the words to the screen, if it is lucky enough to be chosen to be made into the film. I think ‘option’ is the term used here.

Not having read the author’s work brings a different slant when you are listening to the talk. You are a blank page and what I liked the most about these two authors, was that there was no hard sell, there was no you must read my book or else about it. They have great respect for readers. Food for thought perhaps.

And it is that point where we break for lunch. Yum! A range of sandwiches, chicken and fruit. I topped this up rather naughtily with a wonderful slab of chocolate cake and a huge mug of tea!

Books

August Roundup

Emperor Augustus

I feel like I should be an Emperor for the amount of reading I have done in August. But it was my main holiday time and I have had a tough few weeks from mid July and so there has been a lot of therapeutic reading. Oh what a joy reading can be.

Comfort reading comes in many forms – a familiar author, a family saga and a great author with a new book. All three of them were provided for me. The familiar author came in the shape of Trisha Ashley – Wedding Tiers* I do like her writing, it is like getting onto a comfy sofa, a blanket, hot chocolate and biscuits and losing yourself for a couple of hours or days!

The family saga, of which I am quite partial to came with a new author to me in the shape of Sherryl Woods – The Inn at Eagle Point. It was again great escapism but I really cannot involved with another family saga, I have too many series on the go which I have been neglecting of late. But at least I know there is another author to pick up soon and by the time I get there, there will be lots of books to catch up on!

A great author with a new book has to be Lucinda Riley – The Light Behind the Window. This is her third novel and is a cracking good read, it took me away in terms of historical fiction to something which I had not previously read anything about and that was the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E) during the Second World War. Fascinating stuff!

Historical fiction came in many guises in August. More Second World War related reading in the true life book from John E Forbat – Evacuee Boys: Letters of a Family Separated by War*. Then back to the so-called ‘Roaring’ Twenties with Cora Harrison – Debutantes*. The beginning of a new series books (aimed at older children) in which it is the mid twenties and being presented at court as a debutante was about as good as it was going to get. But for women times were changing and this book covers many of these aspects as well as having that favourite character of mine in a book – a big house!

Sticking with the Nineteen Twenties but travelling to the other side of the world was Suzanne Joinson – A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar*. This book is a début novel and one which covered, religion and politics as well as a travel tale and life changing all between the covers and so you did not even know that you were reading about such subjects.

As for début novels, that continued with Emylia Hall – The Book of Summers. This was a book that surprised me, it took me to another place in the world I would never have considered to be one to visit within the pages of a novel – Hungary. The author has drawn on her own personal experiences of summers abroad to make a tale with a twist.

Now when you want twists in the tale who better to turn to than the best crime writers ever Agatha Christie and in this case the Three Act Tragedy*. Another Poirot novel, one where he is perhaps just an audience to the play which is being played out before him, but nonetheless his input is imperative and vital to the conclusion. Someone who is not always vital to the conclusion and sometimes gets in the way is Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C. Beaton.* but you know Agatha, she manages to turn it all round and we are ready to see what she gets up to next!

It is all about the conclusion in crime novels and in Niamh O’Connor – Taken we also get something more, the hint that the series will be carried on and that perhaps are protagonist DI Jo Birmingham has unfinished business she needs to solve with someone close to her. The hint is take, as I have the next one waiting to be read! Thank you publishers.

And a thank you must also got to Authors. I was contacted recently by someone who has previously only written two novels before, both I have read and reviewed. She spotted this and offered to send me her latest novel, currently only available on kindle. Would I mind reading it and writing about it, no pressure. Well thank you very much Emma Burstall for The Darling Girls. It was a novel again, with a difference to the previous two, the only similarities being how a group of women cope with the circumstances and situations they find themselves and their emotions in.

Well you know what women can be like when they are together and especially in pursuit over men. It is not a new concept which is why I read Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey this stemmed from me reading a short story of There Must be Murder a couple of months ago, where the characters feature from the said Austen novel. Language and society may have changed over the last 200 years, but there is something very recognisable in the characters of Catherine and Isabella.

Over periods of time, it has often been said “hell hath no fury than a woman scorned”. That is certainly the case with Tamar Cohen and The Mistress’s Revenge*. Plenty of ideas if you were ever lacking in here!

And so there goes August, there goes my last holiday until Christmas, with only a few random days off in between. A substantial amount of books read which will tail off in September. But what will I be reading? Do please pop back when you can and find out.

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.

Books

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic Novels and on her first visit to Bath, with family friends Mr and Mrs Allen she finds herself obsessed with something new – love.

All of a sudden her small familiar circle is increased. She befriends Isabella Thorpe a rather self obsessed girl who enjoys the conversation with men in the pursuit of the correct marriage (more financial, than romantic). One of these chosen men actually being Catherine’s brother who she has met previously. Catherine is enamoured by Henry Tilney in a short space of time and this causes some distress to Isabella’s brother John who is enamoured by Catherine himself. What transpire are the imaginations, hopes and dreams both coming true and brought to an end of young men and women in the pursuit of happiness and love.

John (and his family) tries to put obstacles in the path of any sort of relationship between Henry and Catherine. Catherine attempts to appease and please everyone without anyone’s feelings getting hurt. A task she finds most difficult. Isabella now betrothed to Catherine’s brother, feels Catherine’s own burgeoning friendship with Henry Tilney’s sister Eleanor treacherous to their own friendship and she also tries to come between.

Catherine eventually escapes Bath and goes to stay with the Tilney’s at Northanger Abbey. Catherine thinks all her dreams of gothic novels will be played out in a place called Northanger Abbey.

The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and, when she heard it rage round a corner of the ancient building and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an abbey. Yes, these were characteristic sounds; they brought to her recollection a countless variety of dreadful situations and horrid scenes..

But the visit which was to be a long one is suddenly cut short when news of James having broken off his engagement with Isabella and still the vindictive behaviour of John Thorpe reaches out as far as Northanger Abbey. Despatched back home, Catherine is forlorn and love struck but then an unexpected visit changes everything…..

A neat little novel in my opinion which reflects as much of life in terms of youngsters as it did when it was published more than two hundred years ago. The settings have changed and no doubt the interests, I suppose not many young girls are obsessed with gothic novels now? But I remember being young and worrying about the boy that likes you, the boy that you like. If they smile, if they don’t and all the worries in between. Close friendships with other girls in similar situations and the unity of one sex against another. Reflections on how devious women can be in the pursuit of men.

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.

This book made me smile and chuckle in places as Austen address the reader direct about such matters as well as the importance of the novel reflected by herself and in her characters.  How could Catherine even contemplate taking up with John Thorpe with his obvious distaste of novels;

“I never read novels; I have something else to do”

Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologise for her question, but he prevented her by saying, “Novels are all so full of  nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Ton Jones, except The Monk; I read that t’other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation.”

Any reader would have I am sure taken an immediate dislike to John, as I did. I wanted to tell Catherine never apologise for reading and enjoying novels. It keeps a great many authors in work.

Luckily Henry had different views

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

I quite agree! But then in the pursuit of men it seems Austen thought that women “especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”

This is the second Austen I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did have to perhaps concentrate a bit more, the language after all is dated. However, I am glad I have read it and it has certainly not put me off reading other Austen. I see I have a couple more on my kindle for when I feel like drifting back to another time.

I have used this book as one for my own personal 2012 challenge.

 

Books

July Roundup

You never really left us, you haven't travelled far.
Just stepped into God's garden, and left the door ajar

July is done and dusted and we are certainly now well into the last half of the year. It has been a rather roller coaster of a month reading wise as well as everything else in life as well. July is one of the busiest months of the year and I sadly lost my Nan who has now gone to join my Granddad, so I have sort of wobbled around the latter few days of the month.

However, this post is about my reading and all things considered, it has been a good month and a slightly different choice of books from most ‘average’ months.

Normally crime dominates more than anything, but this month was not the case. I am/was participating in the Crime Fiction Alphabet but I sadly did not keep up with the posts weekly as I wanted to but I read two books this month which will participate to it but cannot be counted ‘officially’. First was Mo Hayder and Hanging Hill, my first foray with this author and I was most impressed although I found it quite gruesome and graphic.  In a completely different crime was Ian Rankin and Watchman*, again this was the first book by this author that I have read. In both cases, I have read stand alone books which do not relate to their most famous characters, DI Caffery and Inspector Rebus respectively. I have yet to discover them.

So that was it for crime, although maybe I should count the short story I read, There Must be Murder by Margaret C. Sullivan if only because of the title. It was actually related to Northanger Abbey, and now I have that book on my must read. My lack of Austen reading is quite dismal, but I am slowly working my through them at my own speed.

The rest of the month’s reading was pure comfort in some ways and was probably what was needed for me at this point. Familiar authors to me came with Veronica Henry and The Long Weekend, her new novel only published in July. If you cannot get away for holiday this year, then read this book, it will certainly go some way to make up for it. Or if you are going on holiday, take this book with you and just enjoy. I checked in and did not want to leave!

Elizabeth Noble was another author I came back. Surprisingly because last time I was not overly enamoured in her last book I read. However her latest book Between a Mother and her Child was a much stronger read than some of her others.

Katie Fforde is a recent author discovery and I have to say, her book A Perfect Proposal* was a great piece of comfort reading when I needed it most. I really do like her novels and now working my way through them with 4 read now this year and 2 more on the shelf looking at me! All I can say is thank you Katie.

Now I am sure everyone knows about the Olympics (if you don’t, then please tell me how!) and I found this little short story Olympic Flames by Emma Lee Potter and thought to get into the spirit of the time I would read this. What a lovely little story and a great diversion if you want a bit of a rest from watching the Olympics.

Finally comfort reading with a new author, Robyn Sisman and Weekend in Paris* sadly it did not really come up to scratch for me and all it did was make me want to pick up a book I would be drawn into. That has come in ending the month reading the new book from Lucinda Riley (The Light Behind the Window) and I am loving it.

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.

Books

There Must Be Murder – Margaret C. Sullivan

This is a short story which follows on from some of the many of characters from Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It does not really matter if you have not read Northanger Abbey because the story is quite sweet on its own merit.

Catherine and Henry Tilney, recently married are back in Bath, to remind themselves of the places they have visited and the people they know. Henry’s father General Tilney looks like he is about to remarry Lady Beauclark widow of Sir Arthur Beauclark, but Sir Arthur’s sister is convinced that her brother’s death was not of natural causes. Added to that Lady Beauclark’s daughter seems obsessed with products from an apothecary who is obsessed with Lady Beauclark himself. The true heir to the Beauclark fortune, Sir Arthur’s nephew has a reputation and seems intent on making himself known to all the female characters within this novella.

Catherine and Henry, observers from the side and also part of the intrigue make a sweet little story which shows the rules and lives of the Regency period which Jane Austen captured so well in her novels. In this particular novel there are beautiful illustrations and they look as wonderful on the kindle version as well.

A book for all Austen fans. Or even those who like me have not read very little Austen, this is a good introduction to period, place and language of her novels.

I was pointed in the direction of this novel from seeing it featured on a blog, and my greatest apologies but I cannot remember which one. Please refresh my memory because I would like to thank you for it. It was a really pleasant little diversion from some of the other books I have been reading lately. I have now downloaded Northanger Abbey and will make an attempt at that at some point soon. I certainly want to see how Catherine and Henry came together. 

Books · Cooking · Witterings

Challenges

New Year, new start, new resolutions and new challenges. To be honest I am not one for making resolutions, as I think these can be made at any point in the year not just at the beginning of it. Plus there is the obvious wait as those around you who know that you have made a resolution wait to see you fall flat on your face!

I do know I want to do something different this year, something out of my comfort zone – but as of yet I do not know what it is and well I do not have to make up mind now do I? If anyone has any ideas or thoughts I would love to hear from them. Nothing dangerous to my health or others and nothing illegal!

There is always plenty of reading challenges doing the rounds and I have been reading about lots that many blogs I visit are starting for 2012.  This blog here  is a great start if you want to get involved, it seems to have something for everyone. I am so tempted by lots and lots of them, but I know with reading if I put myself under undue pressure nothing will happen and I will do my best to avoid reading for these challenges. However, they have given me an idea of my own and so I decided to set my own challenges. Without further ado….

Reading Challenges

The three Standard Challenges that I have every year is

  1. Read 50 books in the year
  2. Do not buy any more books
  3. Review every book I read
However, I thought I would perhaps expand this a bit and go for a few more.
New Challenges

The rules are simple for the first 5, read 1 book by that author.

Read 1 Charlotte Bronte Novel

Currently on Jane Eyre and have about 80 pages left and I know I started it in 2011, but I knew I was never going to finish it before the end of year.

Read 1 Charles Dickens novel

Not sure what book to choose here, so might leave that one up to fate. In addition thought with this one, as I live in Portsmouth and never been I am also going to visit Charles Dickens Birthplace at some point between 28 January and 4 November, if I can tie this in with the first Sunday of the month apparently they do some readings as well.

Read 1 Daphne du Maurier Novel

At the moment, I am thinking My Cousin Rachel, simply because I picked it up after having read Jamaica Inn last year and it is still on the shelf unread.

Read 1 Jane Austen Novel

Mansfield Park is the choice here. I already had downloaded this on my kindle after reading Persuasion last year, and then the delightful Rachel on Book Snob had a bit of luck getting hold of a rather beautiful copy, to read and well it would be rude not to join in!

Along with this one, is the fact that I won tickets to the Jane Austen House museum and need to go and experience all things Austenesque before the 31 August.

Read 1 Georgette Heyer Novel

I have never read any by this author and have seen lots and lots on the blogs I visit about her, so I knew that I must at least try one. Any recommendations?

Unfinished Books

I currently have a few unfinished books, they are currently unfinished because I have been struggling with them.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott I am just finding this quite a difficult read.

The Crimson, Petal and the White – Michael Faber This is a long book, and whilst it is good other books kept getting in the way. 

Wedlock – Wendy Moore I think I need to restart this one completely so I can enjoy it properly. 

I would like to finish 1 of these this year.

Series Challenge

Looking back on 2011 I have picked 3 authors whose series of books I am currently reading and would like to read 3 more in the current series I am reading.

  1. M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin
  2. Carola Dunn – Daisy Dalrymple
  3. Debbie Macomber – Cedar Cove Series

I am going to copy this onto a tab at the top of my blog, so I and anyone else can keep a track on them. That way I can also add in more challenges throughout the year as they come to mind, or as some really tempt me.

What sort of challenges are you doing for 2012? Any I might have missed out on?