I’ve had a very disjointed reading week. After reading three books last week, I haven’t finished anything this week at all. I’ve read five archaeology magazines & this week’s instalment of Martin Chuzzlewit. My online reading group is reading Martin in celebration of the Dickens Bicentenary. It took me a while to hit my stride because the opening chapters are quite verbose, full of characters & none of them very nice. However, the last two weeks have been much more enjoyable. Martin has gone to America with Mark Tapley (this was a ploy by Dickens to increase sagging circulation for the book’s magazine publication & I must say it needed something to get things moving!) & back in London, we have met Mrs Gamp at the deathbed of old Anthony Chuzzlewit. I’ve been longing to meet Mrs Gamp ever since reading Miriam Margolyes’s Dickens’s Women a couple of months ago. I’m also about to start reading Zola’s Germinal with my 19th century book group & I’m looking forward to that.
Then, I started reading Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett on my e-reader. I keep reading recently that Arnold Bennett is a much underrated writer. Then, I read Harriet Devine’s review of Clayhanger & I remembered that Riceyman Steps had been recommended to me as well so I already had it downloaded & ready to go. Well, it turned out to be a frustrating experience. I was enjoying the book when suddenly the pages started skipping forward at a great rate & then the reader froze. I eventually unfroze it by plugging it in to my PC & I thought all would be well, just a glitch. But, it happened again the next time I sat down to read & only resetting the reader would get it working again. At this stage I was hunting out the receipt for the reader & muttering that this sort of thing never happened with a REAL book. Then, I thought it might have just been that file so I’ve started reading another book on the reader, Emergency in the Pyrenees, by Ann Bridge & so far, all is well.
I was about to reach for one of my favourite comfort reads, Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym when the new Joanna Trollope novel, The Soldier’s Wife, came in at work. I had to move this to the top of the pile because there’s a long line of reservations on it so I started reading last night & I’m half way through. I love Joanna Trollope’s books & this one is fascinating, about the stresses on an Army family when the man comes back from Afghanistan. I hope to finish it this afternoon.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t just a moan about all the reading I haven’t done this week. When I look at what I’ve written, I have actually read quite a bit, it just hasn’t resulted in finishing any one particular book. I have discovered that there are several exciting books to look forward to in the coming months. Mostly reprints but also a new book from Catherine Bailey who wrote Black Diamonds, a fascinating book about the coal mine owning Fitzwilliam family of Wentworth House. Bailey’s new book, which is not out until November, is called Secret Rooms. It’s about the Rutland family of Belvoir Castle. Sounds like another investigation of family secrets in a grand house. I can’t wait!
Elizabeth Taylor has been growing in popularity & critical esteem in recent years, mostly thanks to Virago’s reprints of her novels & Nicola Beauman’s biography, The Other Elizabeth Taylor. There have also been movies made of two of her books, Angel & Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. It’s the centenary of Taylor’s birth this year & there are celebrations happening all over the blogosphere. Virago are publishing the Complete Short Stories in June & New York Review Books have just published stylish editions of A Game of Hide & Seek & Angel.
New reprints of three of Dodie Smith’s adult novels are coming soon from Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson. The Town in Bloom, It Ends with Revelations & The New Moon with the Old are out in March. I love the covers. I’ve only read I Capture the Castle, although I have the recent Slightly Foxed edition of her memoir, Look Back with Love, enthusiastically reviewed by Elaine, on the tbr pile.
I’ve wanted to read Betty Miller’s WWII novel, On the Side of the Angels, ever since I read Persephone’s reprint of her Farewell, Leicester Square. Published in 1945, this is an exploration of the psychological damage of war. Capuchin are reprinting it in May. If you pop over to Capuchin’s website, you can also have a look at the brand new cover design they will be unveiling with their July titles.
Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym used by the poet Cecil Day-Lewis for his detective novels. I remember reading some of these as a teenager so I’m very pleased that Vintage are reprinting lots of them in May. Four titles will have striking new covers (you can have a look at them here) & the rest will be in their plain generic POD covers. They will also be available as e-books.
So, lots of good things to look forward to. I’ve kept to my usual New Year resolution of not buying any books so far this year but I know I’m going to be buying some of these. I’m strong but not that strong! If I hold out until May, I’ll be pleased & surprised.