Just arrived

Lots of enticing new books have made their way into my possession in the last couple of weeks, both bought & borrowed. One of the books I’m most excited about is Mrs Griffin Sends Her Love by Miss Read. Miss Read died just last year but had been retired for some years before that so a new collection of previously unpublished pieces is a real treat. There have been a couple of “new” Christmas books published recently but they were actually written by her editor & “inspired” by Miss Read & just didn’t have the magic. This book is a collection of short essays & stories written for magazines like Country Life & The Lady. Her subjects will be familiar to anyone who loves Miss Read – rural life, childhood, teaching & the countryside as well as recollections of her collaboration with illustrator John Goodall & an account of how Miss Read was born.

I love Alison Weir’s books & I’ve gobbled this one up already. Elizabeth of York : the first Tudor Queen was an absorbing read & I’ll be posting about it soon.

More 15th century history with two books from authors new to me. I’ve been reading Susan Higginbotham’s blog, History Refreshed, for some time now & I’m looking forward to reading her book about the Woodville family. Do I need to read another book about Richard III & the Princes in the Tower? Of course I do! I’m always interested in another view & Josephine Wilkinson’s new book on the controversy was very tempting.

Greyladies are one of my favourite publishers & I’ve just bought their new edition of D E Stevenson’s first published novel, Peter West, as well as Susan Pleydell’s The Glenvarroch Gathering which was reviewed by The Captive Reader here. I’m always happy to add to my collection of Scottish domestic fiction. Greyladies will be publishing another mystery by Mabel Esther Allan in February & I’m already impatient to read it. Mum would have said my eyes were bigger than my stomach (or whatever the bookish equivalent is).

I haven’t just been spending money, I’ve been borrowing from my library as well. This lovely pile of books have been added to the last lovely pile of books on my desk. If only I could borrow the time to read them as well…

Eat by Nigel Slater – his new cookbook. I’m looking forward to browsing & trying out a few recipes.
Coming Home by Sue Gee – one of my favourite authors. Cornflower was lucky enough to hear Sue Gee speak at the recent Slightly Foxed Readers’ Day.
All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard – the new Cazalet book. I love the Quartet & I’ve already heard good things about this one.
The Assassination of the Archduke by Greg King & Sue Woolmans. Combines my fascination with royal history & WWI in the story of Archduke Franz Ferdinand & his death at Sarajevo.
Meeting the Enemy by Richard Van Emden – more about WWI. A book about meetings between the combatants from opposing armies. Sounds like a fascinating & different angle to take.
The Poets’ Daughters by Katie Waldegrave – a biography of Sara Coleridge & Dora Wordsworth, daughters of famous fathers. I read a wonderful book some years ago about the sisters, wives & daughters of the Lake poets, A Passionate Sisterhood, by Kathleen Jones. I’m looking forward to seeing the effect fame had on these two young women who were great friends.
Hebrides by Peter May – a beautifully illustrated book about the islands by an author who has written a crime series set there (which I still haven’t read but definitely want to get to one day).

Plenty to be going on with, then, you’d be right in thinking. However, too many new books are really never enough so there’ll probably be another new arrivals post in a few weeks because I also have the Emily books by L M Montgomery (newly reprinted by Virago) on the way as well as two more Angela Thirkells (also Virago), a new biography of Queen Victoria’s daughter Louise by Lucinda Hawksley & an anthology of Christmas stories from Vintage. Watch this space!

Just borrowed

I’ve just borrowed two beautiful books from work & wanted to share them. Daphne Du Maurier at Home is by Hilary Macaskill. I’ve reviewed her book on Charles Dickens at Home here & this new book is in the same style. Daphne Du Maurier’s novels were very often inspired by places, most especially houses in Cornwall like Menabilly & Kilmarth. From her first home in Fowey (which you can see on the cover) to Menabilly, the house she coveted & was eventually able to lease, to Kilmarth, her last home, place was very important to her. Menabilly was famously the inspiration for Manderley in Rebecca.

Menabilly also provided the inspiration for her historical novel The King’s General which was set during the English Civil War. In this picture, Daphne is looking up to where a bricked up room containing a skeleton was discovered in 1824. This incident was the spark that led to the novel. Daphne Du Maurier at Home  is a lavishly illustrated book describing all Du Maurier’s homes & the books she wrote while living in each of them.

I’ve been immersed in the Anglo Saxons lately. I’ve been enjoying Michael Wood’s latest documentary series, Alfred the Great & the Anglo-Saxons, which led me back to Asser’s Life of the king & Justin Pollard’s more recent biography. This beautiful book by Nicholas J Higham & Martin J Ryan is perfect for anyone who’s interested in the Anglo Saxon world. I read a review in one of my archaeological magazines & thought I would borrow it before taking the plunge & buying it (I’ve been a bit reckless in my book buying recently. I’ll have to do a confessional post when all the loot turns up).

The book is a synthesis of information from historical & archaeological sources. As well as the narrative proper, there are sections called Sources and Issues with more in depth information about topics such as the Staffordshire Hoard (above) that was discovered in 2009, King Arthur, the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill & the various settlements at York.

The illustrations are beautiful, from detailed maps & plans of archaeological sites to the great works of art, jewellery & manuscripts of the age such as the Vespasian Psalter above. I want to read it from cover to cover but it would also be an excellent introduction to the Anglo Saxons or a book to dip into on a specific topic. The authors acknowledge a long list of friends & colleagues who read & advised on different chapters as the book is obviously based on the work of many scholars past & present. I know I’m going to have to have my own copy, it’s just a matter of time.

Overflowing with blessings

What to read next? So many lovely books have come into the house in recent weeks that I’m having a hard time deciding what to read first. I spent last weekend reading Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson, one of the books I didn’t get to last year & wanted to read before the end of this year. I loved it & I’ll be reviewing it soon. Another of the books on that list was Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester but after reading Captive Reader’s review, I’m not sure I’m in the mood when there are so many other books clamouring for my attention. My copies of the beautiful Virago reprints of High Rising & Wild Strawberries have arrived.

Then, there’s this pile of new books from the library. The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow, about Sarah Losh, a remarkable woman who was an antiquarian & architect in a period when a woman wasn’t supposed to be either. These Wonderful Rumours! by May Smith, the diary of a schoolteacher during WWII. Serving Victoria by Kate Hubbard, life with Queen Victoria by members of her household including doctors & ladies-in-waiting. Thomas Wyatt : the Heart’s Forest by Susan Brigden. Wyatt is one of my favourite poets & I’m interested in Brigden’s interpretation of his melancholy life. A Question of Identity by Susan Hill is the new Simon Serrailler mystery. I always look forward to this series & I can’t wait to see how Simon deals with his new love affair. The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett. One of my most anticipated comfort reads each year is a new novel by Marcia Willett. Set in Devon or Cornwall, her books are always full of atmosphere & family drama. The Fishing Fleet by Anne De Courcy, about the young women who went out toi India in search of husbands in the days of the Raj. Lifting the Lid by Claire Macdonald is the story of the author’s life at Kinloch Lodge on Skye. Macdonald may be better known in the UK but I hadn’t heard of her. The book is the story of how she & her husband created the Kinloch Lodge Hotel, brought up their family & became a well-known cookery writer.

I’ve known about Girls Gone By, the publisher specializing in reprinting classic girls school stories, for ages but hadn’t bought anything until recently. I didn’t read school stories (except Enid Blyton’s Naughtiest Girl series) or books about pony-mad little girls when I was a child so I’m not interested in reading them now. However, I discovered these books on their list about young women & couldn’t resist buying them. Margaret Finds a Future by Mabel Esther Allan, The Bartle Bequest by Dorita Fairlie Bruce & The Scholarship Girl at Cambridge by Josephine Elder.

The new edition of Brontë Studies will be arriving any day now &, having seen the Table of Contents & noticing that many of the articles are about Anne’s Agnes Grey & Charlotte’s The Professor, I feel that I should reread both before I read the articles to refresh my memory. It’s been years since I read either of them.

I’ve also been tempted by Dani’s plan to read Fanny Burney’s Camilla & I’ve decided to read along. I’ve downloaded the free copy from Girlebooks but I’ve also borrowed the OUP edition from work so I can read the notes.

My next book should probably be one of the library books as I know I can’t renew some of them. It’s a difficult decision & I think a cup of tea & some soothing music (I’m listening to lots of Christmas carols & choirs at the moment) will be needed to help me get there.

Too many choices

I’ve been very restrained in my book buying lately. I do still have a few preorders from the Book Depository trickling in. Betty Miller’s On the Side of the Angels arrived this week. I’ve been looking forward to this as I enjoyed her novel, Farewell Leicester Square, which is a Persephone. This is the story of the psychological facts of war on two families.

I have bought a few e-books though. They’re invisible so they don’t really count. I bought Rosy Thornton’s More than Love Letters, her first novel & the only one I haven’t read. Also a new book about Jane Austen,  Jane Austen’s Cults & Cultures by Claudia Johnson, which was reviewed here along with John Mullan’s book, What Matters in Jane Austen? I’ve just finished the Mullan book & will be reviewing it soon.

I was dismayed but not altogether surprised to discover that the Book Depository are no longer selling e-books. I couldn’t find the e-books link on the website a few weeks ago & emailed them. I received a polite corporate speak reply saying that they didn’t feel they were offering a good enough e-book service to their customers & preferred to concentrate on the physical books. Now I’ve received emails telling me that all the e-books I’ve bought from TBD & have in my order history (because you can have 3 downloads per title) will be disappearing on July 1st. This is just one of many changes that will probably happen at TBD now that they’ve been bought by Amazon. Amazon obviously don’t want anyone buying e-books for any device except the Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle (although I do have the Kindle app on my iPad. I prefer my e-reader though because it’s so much lighter to hold) & TBD’s prices were very reasonable. I bought all my Bloomsbury Reader e-books there for around $6AU each. I can’t believe any bookseller is willingly ignoring e-books, it seems ridiculous to me.

I’ve also brought home a lovely stack of new books from work, all of which I’m desperate to read immediately. There’s A Question of Identity, the new Rona Parish mystery from Anthea Fraser; Sidney Chambers & the Shadow of Death by James Runcie which has had some excellent reviews; a stand-alone romance from Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Country Plot; Charles Dickens & the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow, one of the Dickens books I’m most looking forward to this year; Our Man in Rome by Catherine Fletcher which is about Henry VIII’s ambassador to Rome during the period of his divorce negotiations; The Other Dickens by Lillian Nayder, a biography of Catherine & The Manor Reborn, the book of the TV series (which I haven’t seen) about the restoration of Avebury Manor. The book is sumptuous & I would love the series to pop up on TV here one day – or even on BBC iPlayer Global (hint, hint!).

However, I’m not reading any of those at the moment. I’ve just finished A Modern Instance by William Dean Howells, which I was reading with my 19th century bookgroup. It’s the story of a young couple in 1880s Boston & their marriage. Bartley Hubbard is an unscrupulous journalist & his wife Marcia is a very jealous woman. The ending of the novel was quite scandalous for the time. I couldn’t sympathise with either Bartley or Marcia but I loved the book, it was a fascinating read.

Last night, I began Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the sequel to Wolf Hall. Thomas Cromwell, Jane Seymour & the fall of Anne Boleyn. There’s a long reservation queue for it so I must read it this week. I’m 30pp in & I love it. Can’t wait to get back to it.

I’m a third of the way through Queen Anne : the Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset, a biography of an often overlooked monarch. Anne Somerset’s books are always readable & based on excellent research & I’m enjoying this when I’m not reading

A Means of Escape by Joanna Price. I’m halfway through this mystery set in Glastonbury after reading about it on Eurocrime.

I’m also about a tenth of the way through Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley. I tried to order a physical copy from TBD but it was never available so I downloaded it to my iPad. It’s set in Cornwall & was warmly reviewed by Fleur Fisher. It’s now back in print but not that easy to get hold of.

Finally, some exciting news from Persephone. Emma Bridgewater has been commissioned to produce a jug & bowl to celebrate Persephone’s 100th book to be published later this year. This was on Facebook this morning & I can’t wait to see the design. The colours won’t be a surprise though. I just hope they’re available worldwide. I have all the books & I must have the commemorative crockery as well!