I love taking part in group reads. I belong to a Yahoo 19th century book group which has been responsible for introducing me to some wonderful books by authors I’d never heard of like Allen Raine & Elinore Pruitt Stewart to name just two. I’m also a member of another online group & among much book talk & talk of every kind on topics from marmalade to hats, we occasionally decide to read a Victorian novel in instalments.
As Barnaby Rudge is my last unread Dickens novel, I suggested we read it after some of us had enjoyed Martin Chuzzlewit earlier in the year. I drew up the schedule (about 60pp a week) & started with the best intentions. Well, you know what they say about good intentions! Two weeks in & I’m already half way through. I’m loving it. How could I ever have thought this book would be boring & stodgy? It’s the title. Barnaby Rudge sounds very dull, reminds me of stodge & grunge. It’s true that titles have a great influence on whether or not we pick up a book. Anyway, I’m racing through Barnaby, probably because I know nothing about the plot so I’m eager to know what happens next. Stopping at the end of an instalment just wasn’t going to happen.
The first half is very melodramatic – two unsolved murders, a woman tormented by a figure from her past, star-crossed lovers, one Catholic & one Protestant, a young man running off to join the Army & Grip the raven, my favourite character. Grip was based on a pet raven that Dickens owned & he’s wonderful. I’m sure he’s taking notice of everything that goes on & will have a key role to play at the end. We’re just getting in to the political part of the plot now with the Gordon anti-Catholic riots on the horizon.
So, I haven’t finished a book this week & instead of a review, I thought I’d share a few recent purchases (I don’t know how these books appear on the doorstep. They just creep in, one or two at a time…) & some reprints to look forward to over the next few months.
I already have a copy of E M Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady. It’s one of my favourite books & I always remember laughing all the way through the first time I read it. I couldn’t resist this remaindered copy with the Cath Kidston cover & an Introduction by Jilly Cooper.
I got my tax refund a couple of weeks ago so I treated myself to the first two volumes of Agnes & Elizabeth Strickland’s Lives of the Queens of England. I’ve always wanted to read these & Cambridge University Press have brought them back into print as part of their POD Cambridge Library Collection. They’re not cheap but they’re substantial books (over 600pp each) & these two volumes from Matilda of Flanders to Anne Boleyn are the lives I’ve always wanted to read.
Then, a book I preordered some time ago arrived, Vintage Cakes by Jane Brocket. I love baking cakes & this book is lovely. Vintage recipes with gorgeous retro photography. I can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea & plan which cake, slice or biscuit to try first.
I love preordering books. Virago are reprinting Angela Thirkell & Rumer Godden over the next few months & I’ve ordered the two Thirkell titles, High Rising & Wild Strawberries (aren’t they the most gorgeous covers?)
as well as three of the Goddens, In This House of Brede (my favourite of her books. Even though I already own a copy, I couldn’t resist this cover), Black Narcissus (more nuns, I’m fascinated by them) & China Court (have to read this after reading Leaves & Pages’ review of A Fugue in Time here. I have Fugue on the tbr shelves so should really read it before China Court arrives). More beautiful cover art. How wonderful to have Rumer Godden back in print. I’ve only read a couple of Thirkells but I know her Barsetshire series is much loved, by The Captive Reader among others. Lots to look forward to.