A shelf full of Shakespeare! Old school editions of Hamlet & Macbeth & the BBC films from the 70s & 80s that were a real bargain. I remember seeing a lot of them on TV at the time – I especially remember getting up early on Sunday mornings to watch the Henry IV plays – but I’ve gone back & watched some of them again & plan to get through the whole lot eventually.
Mostly Carol Shields on this shelf. I bought the old orange editions of George Bernard Shaw at the Lake Daylesford Book Barn in the early 80s. A friend had a house right on the lake, this was long before it was a fashionable spa town again, & the bookshop was just two doors away. I spent a lot of time there. I haven’t read any short stories for quite a while so I think the Carol Shields Collected Stories will be next. If I have a collection of stories on my reading table, I read one or two every night. Elaine Showalter is one of my favourite critics. I recently bought her book about American women writers, A Jury of Her Peers, & have been dipping into it already as part of my recent interest in the subject. The only trouble is that I keep adding books to my online wishlists as I want to read every author she discusses.
A couple of Nevil Shutes – another discovery of the last few years, although I’ve also been listening on audio. Helen Simpson is one of my favourite contemporary short story writers. One of her best stories is The Festival of the Immortals, available to read here. Michael Slater’s immense, compelling biography of Dickens is one of the best books about Dickens I’ve read. I’m listening to the very first Dickens biography, by his friend, John Forster, on audio at the moment & enjoying it very much. It’s quite touching as Forster refers constantly to conversations he had with Dickens, trips they took together. It’s a very intimate biography although there was much that Forster didn’t reveal, such as his relationship with Ellen Ternan, the subject of Slater’s other book, The Great Charles Dickens Scandal.
Catherine Helen Spence was an Australian writer & feminist. I researched a bibliography on her at the State Library for my librarianship degree. That was in the days when it meant flipping through handwritten card indexes looking for entries & then calling down the bound volumes of periodicals from the stacks to read the articles.It was only the late 1980s but feels like the 19th century now. I’d like to read Spence’s Autobiography & her other novels, some of which are available as free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. Dale Spender is an Australian academic & feminist critic who wrote an immense amount about women writers in the 1980s. She was the editor of Pandora’s Mothers of the Novel series & wrote Mothers of the Novel : 100 good women writers before Jane Austen.
Stevensons – D E & R L – & Mary Stewart. I only discovered D E Stevenson a few years ago & have read about half of her books. She’s slowly coming back into print, thanks to Greyladies in the UK & Sourcebooks in the US. Mary Stewart was a favourite from my teenage years & I”m slowly rereading her again.
The short story collections from the Strand magazine are from the Folio Society & next to them, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, one of my favourite childhood books. I read it over & over again, even though I can’t sing or dance & have never wanted to do either. I just loved the three sisters & their make do & mend lives. Summers & Mangold’s The File on the Tsar is another book I read many times. I really wanted their theory to be true – that Alexandra & her daughters weren’t murdered at Ekaterinburg, that they did escape & that Anna Anderson really was Anastasia. Sadly, it wasn’t true. The end of this shelf is stacked with Sutherland. John Sutherland’s clever, witty books about the mistakes & unanswered questions in fiction, mostly 19th century. The first two books are the best (Is Heathcliff a Murderer? & Can Jane Eyre be Happy?) but there are interesting essays in all of them & I wrote about them here.
Don’t forget to click on the photos to see the full shelf.
Next week, Suyin to Westwood.