Literary Ramblings

phoebeshelf

Here are just a few bits & pieces that I want to share – a quick review, some publishing news (more Furrowed Middlebrow – hooray!), a blog post that had me reaching for the tissues with tears of laughter & some new bookcases with obligatory cat picture. Phoebe is not defying gravity here, she’s decided that my new bookshelf is her new favourite spot for sleeping & just generally looking out over her world. I don’t know why photos I take on my phone refuse to be rotated even when they look fine in my editing software. Anyway, you’ll just have to look sideways at this one.

shelfThe new shelves were a gift from some friends who are downsizing. I’ve used them to shelve my unread Slightly Foxed & Folio Society editions. Apart from looking lovely, this has also freed up some room on the tbr shelves in the study. Not that I’m buying books. I’ve bought only a few books since October & have no desire to buy at the moment. This is what happens. I stop buying & then, gradually, the desire to buy just fades away… I only have two preordered books  – Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett (due in a couple of weeks)  & Richard III by Chris Skidmore (which I ordered in August 2014 & is now due in September although I’m not holding my breath).

dvds

I also now have all my DVDs in one place & in alphabetical order. I haven’t separated the watched & unwatched, they’re just one sequence. These shelves were the exact size I was looking for, as you can see. They fit perfectly in the space beside the window.

forsythoutsider

I’ve just finished listening to a wonderful audio book, The Outsider, Frederick Forsyth’s memoir. I haven’t read any of his novels (although I’m now keen to read or listen to The Day of the Jackal & The Odessa File)but I was intrigued to listen to this after John le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel. It sounds a silly thing to say about an author who has sold millions of copies of his books over the last 45 years but he’s such a great storyteller. I loved hearing about his wartime evacuation as a baby to a Norland training school where the nannies practiced on him, learning French & German on holidays where he immersed himself in the languages by staying with local families, his experiences as the youngest pilot in the RAF, the years in East Berlin & Africa as a journalist & the experience of writing his early novels & seeing Jackal made into a film. Beautifully read by Robert Powell, one of my favourite narrators.

garwoodlong

Darlene at Cosy Books has reviewed one of the latest Persephones, Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood. If this review doesn’t make you long to get hold of this book, I don’t know what will. It’s very close to the top of my tbr pile.

panterdownesooty

Speaking of Persephone, another book has leapt from the tbr shelves to the reading table after reading the latest Persephone Letter. As well as short stories & wartime letters from London, Mollie Panter-Downes also wrote this account of Ooty, one of the Indian hill stations where the English of the Raj spent the summer months. I picked this up second hand years ago in a previous fit of Panter-Downes enthusiasm. I wonder if Persephone are planning a reprint?

The most exciting publishing news I’ve heard in a while has been Scott’s announcement of the next titles in his Furrowed Middlebrow imprint (in conjunction with Dean Street Press). I’m especially excited by the Elizabeth Fair titles which sound perfect for fans of D E Stevenson, Angela Thirkell or E M Delafield. Also The Lark by E Nesbit which was enthusiastically reviewed by Simon here. They’re being published in March so I can feel a fit of preordering coming on when the books are listed at the Book Depository.

richardsonclarissa

Finally, I’ve also started another long book. A group of readers (see the post here at I’ve Been Reading Lately) are going to read Clarissa by Samuel Richardson on the dates that the letters in the book were written (it’s an epistolary novel). It’s not too late to join in. The book begins on January 10th & there’s a flurry of letters until January 20th then nothing until February 20th.

Dickens in December

dickenschristmas

For me, December means Dickens. This year I have a treat, a new Naxos recording of Dickens’ Christmas stories.These are the stories Dickens published in the 1840s. The first of them was the perennially popular A Christmas Carol.

dickenscarol

I’ll be listening to Miriam Margolyes reading the Carol as I have for the last few years. This new recording is of the other four stories – The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life & The Haunted Man. Even better, they’re read by David Timson, one of my favourite narrators. I listened to his recording of Dombey & Son last year & it was wonderful. He’s also recorded the complete Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon which I’m nearly halfway through. I haven’t read these later Christmas Stories as often as A Christmas Carol – I can recite whole passages from the Carol – but these later stories have never been as popular. The Carol was a hard act to follow. However, I’m finding a lot to admire & enjoy in them. I think listening is the perfect way to experience them.

colman

I’ve also been catching up on back issues of The Dickensian, watching Ronald Colman (photo from here) in the 1935 movie of A Tale of Two Cities (which made me want to reread the book immediately) & reading this terrific interview with Jenny Hartley where she chooses her top 5 books on Dickens.

murderchristmastree

Apart from Dickens, I’m also reading this anthology of Christmas stories. A mixture of old favourites & new discoveries. So far I’ve enjoyed rereading The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L Sayers & discovering a very Golden Age story by Val McDermid called A Traditional Christmas. There are also stories by Ian Rankin, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh & Margery Allingham. I bought the Kindle edition for only about $3 but it’s also available in paperback.

wintersonchristmas

I’ve also been tempted by bloggers to buy a couple of Christmassy books, the first books I’ve bought for nearly two months. Elaine’s review of Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days was so enticing that I ordered it straightaway.

christmaseveryman

I was also intrigued by Heavenali’s mention of this anthology of Christmas Stories published by Everyman. I love these chunky little hardback anthologies of short stories. There are several more here that I’m tempted by.

I’ll just finish this ramble with a link to a blog I’ve just discovered. Emily Rhodes works at Daunt Books, organises their very popular Walking Book Club & is a freelance reviewer. She also blogs at EmilyBooks. I’ve been enjoying reading her archive as she is a fan of Persephone Books, Slightly Foxed, Ann Bridge, Penelope Fitzgerald & Elizabeth Von Arnim.

I was going to finish this ramble but Lynne at dovegreyreader has written about the centenary of Penelope Fitzgerald’s birth here & I like her idea of a Persephone January. There, that really is the end.