Bookish things

My holidays have been lovely so far. Apart from a very cold day of rain & hail on Easter Monday (perfect reading weather), the weather has been unusually mild & sunny (which is also perfect reading weather). You probably won’t be surprised to learn that some books have made their way into the house. Above are a few books I bought from my favourite remainders booksellers, Clouston & Hall in Canberra. I’ve been buying from their mail order catalogues (& now their website) for nearly 30 years. The latest arrivals are two books by Patrick Leigh Fermor. A Time of Gifts & Between the Woods & the Water have been recommended by many people over the years so this was a perfect chance to buy them. The other book, Cat Detective by Vicky Halls, needs no explanation. I need all the help I can get!

The other books are from the Folio Society. I’ve joined up for another year. I always wait until they offer the books at half price & the time had come. So, you can see I’ve bought lovely editions of On The Eve by Turgenev, Moonfleet by L Meade Falkner & Holinshed’s Chronicles. I’ve always wanted to read the Chronicles as they’re the basis for many of Shakespeare’s plays & this edition has many of the original woodcuts & commentary by Michael Wood, one of my favourite historians.

However, the most exciting of my Folio purchases (& the main reason I renewed my membership) is this one. Letters to Vicky, the correspondence between Queen Victoria & her daughter, Vicky, the Empress of Germany. This is the most gorgeously produced book I’ve seen in a very long time. Folio Society books always have lovely paper & good bindings but this one is just glorious. The photos are also beautiful, including several of the Royal family that I hadn’t seen before. The letters have been selected from the six volume edition published some time ago. I started reading it last night & I’m loving it.

Vicky married Fritz, a Prince of Germany, at 17 & mother & daughter wrote thousands of letters to each other over the next 45 years. Even in these first two years of the correspondence that I read last night, Queen Victoria has talked about what she called the “shadow side” of marriage – pregnancy & childbirth. Vicky has complained about her new German family & made some very sharp, brutally honest comments about various German princesses being considered as brides for Bertie, the Prince of Wales. It’s just luscious. The only problem is that the book is very heavy so I need something lighter in weight to pick up when Lucky decides it’s time to sit on my lap or when my neck starts aching.

I also visited one of my favourite secondhand bookshops last week. I had gone to Camberwell to look for a dress to wear at a wedding I’m going to in June. I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes so I promised myself a look in Sainsbury’s after I’d been to three clothes shops. I didn’t find an outfit but I did find two treasures. This lovely Folio Society edition of Mary Russell Mitford’s Our Village with woodcuts by Joan Hassall. It’s one of the Folio Society designs I especially like. Small & square with faux-marbled covers. I also bought a Penguin Deluxe edition of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. This was really silly as I already have two other copies of Ethan but I love this series & couldn’t resist. It was in perfect condition & half the price of the copy I saw in another bookshop the same day.

I’ve also discovered some news of forthcoming publications that I’m very excited about. This enthusiastic review of Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge at Book Snob made me wish again that I owned a copy of this book which has been recommended by every blogger I know. So, I was thrilled to discover at the end of the review that Daunt Books are reprinting Illyrian Spring next month. I’ve ordered it already, I couldn’t resist. Then, Dani at A Work in Progress mentioned forthcoming reprints of Helen Macinnes‘s spy thrillers. I haven’t read any of her books but Dani likes them & that’s good enough for me.

I know that Elizabeth Von Arnim is hardly a new name to most of you who visit this blog but Penguin have just reprinted Enchanted April as a Penguin Modern Classic. The rest of the world does catch up to us eventually! I wonder if they have plans for any more Von Arnim reprints? I’ve also almost finished cataloguing my tbr shelves on to Library Thing which has become just as addictive as I feared it would. I have almost 1000 books on LT although not all of them are from the tbr shelves. All my Persephones are on there but most of that 1000 are tbr. It’s a sobering thought & I’ve made a holiday resolution to stop buying books for a while. Apart from that preorder of Illyrian Spring, obviously. I wonder how long I’ll last?

We’re all in holiday mode here. I know it’s not Phoebe’s most attractive angle but she looks completely relaxed, doesn’t she?

This is a more dignified shot. She does love that purple velvet bed.

12 thoughts on “Bookish things

  1. I envy you the Holinshed – it is available free on Project Gutenberg, but is no substitute for a beautiful book! I've always been intrigued by the Shakespeare connection, and here in England the current BBC Radio 4 Classic serial is series three of The Plantagenets, a modern adaptation of Holinshed. This week (the final part) was Richard III but the series (like its predecessors) has been wonderful. An absolute gem, beautifully written and acted, which re-awakened my curiosity about Holinshed.


  2. The letters between Victoria and her daughter sounds really interesting. Looking forwards to reading more about your thoughts on them. I know what you mean about a large tbr pile. I daren't count how many are in my pile, but it is certainly in the 100s. I set myself a challenge for this year not to buy any books (the only expection being the Virago Book Club selections) and so have have been true to my goal, which I'm very pleased about. Although it does mean that I have not allowed myself the joy of browsing through bookshops in case I am tempted.


  3. Yes, I'm looking forward to reading it. I dipped in to the Macbeth chapter & it's very close to the play so I think Shakespeare followed his sources pretty closely. The radio series sounds great, we don't have the glories of BBC radio here so I'm sure I miss out on a lot.


  4. I'm nearly half way through the letters now & it's fascinating. I could probably do with a bit less of QV's self-pity but when she stops thinking about herself, the letters are very interesting. If only the book weren't so heavy! I have made another vow to stop buying books. I made the same vow at New Year & lasted about six weeks. We'll see how long I last this time.


  5. Lovely Folio Society editions you've got there! Am especially interested in the Letters to Vicky, so will be looking forward to your thoughts on that one.
    Great shots of Phoebe and her purple velvet bed, though I think I prefer the 'less dignified' shot better. 😉


  6. So glad you've preordered Illyrian Spring – I know you'll love it! I've never seen a book published by Daunt so I'll be interested to see what they come up with – hopefully it will be a beautiful edition.

    SO jealous of those Letters – I presume you've read Hannah Pakula's biography of Vicky? I gave up half way through eventually as she lost me on all the politics amongst the Prussian court but I was left with the impression that Vicky was a remarkable and interesting woman who had a difficult life. I'd love to read the letters – and that edition is gorgeous. BUT like you – I cannot justify buying any more books for a long while!!


  7. Yes, Folio editions are lovely. Letters to Vicky is one of the loveliest I've seen in a long time. The only downside is the weight! I'm over halfway through now & enjoying it very much. I love reading letters & this is a selection with lots of useful footnotes & beautiful illustrations. Phoebe's on her purple bed again right now, she spends a lot of time there. Lucky is on her futon so they're both settled for the afternoon, I think.


  8. I'm very curious about IS, I can't even find a picture of the cover so it will be a complete surprise.
    Yes, I've read Hannah Pakula's biography & thought it was very good. I think Vicky did have a very difficult life when she went to Prussia. Her relationship with her son, Wilhelm, never really recovered once the militaristic elements at Court got hold of him & turned him against her. His sensitivity about his damaged arm was also a factor. He came to blame his mother for the injury & the many painful treatments he had to undergo in childhood. She writes of him in the letters with such love & pride (although he's only 14 at the stage I'm up to now)& it will be a shame to see their relationship fall apart in later life. The tragedy of Fritz's short reign after so long as Crown Prince must have been frustrating too. No chance to put all their liberal ideals into practice.


  9. I hadn't heard of that Canberra bookseller, and I probably should have just shut my eyes and skipped over it as I too am trying not to buy any more books at the moment… but, still, thank you!


  10. Clouston & Hall are very good. If you get on the mailing list, they'll let you know when there's a truck sale in your city. They take an enormous truck on the road & visit Melbourne 2 or 3 times a year. I'm sure they go to other cities as well. They usually set up in a church or school hall. Their website is also excellent. But, as you're trying to be good, forget I said anything!


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