This was a really satisfying year of reading good literature even though I didn’t read that many books (about 35). I was able to read Dickens, Trollope and Gaskell from the classics and a few interesting biographies and modern classics.
There are several books on my Top 10 list that I know I will be re reading again and that have become great favourites. Read on and discover a few of my favourites (in no particular order).
1) A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. Full review here.
A Month in the Country by JL Carr is the story of war veteran Tom Birkin and the unforgettable summer he spends in the country, uncovering and restoring a medieval wall mural inside an old country church. It is a journey of discovery for Tom Birkin, both in regards to his work and rediscovery of self after the trauma and ravages of his war experiences. This is one of my favourite books read thus far this year. Full review on the blog (link in profile). #whpbookworm
2) Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield. Find my review for Novelicious on their website.
My first ever review for Novelicious.com is up today! It's one of my favourite books: The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield. If you are looking for a funny, light yet intelligent modern classic, definitely give this a try. In case you would like to learn more about the book please check the review link in my profile. PS: this would make a fabulous Christmas present 🎄📚.
3) Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Find review here.
A few days ago we discussed Dickens' opening of Bleak House and so many of you commented on the narrative structure of the novel. Bleak House is considered by many to be Dickens' masterpiece. For one, the narrative technique is extraordinary. In Bleak House we observe Dickens using two different types of narrative. The first is the omniscient narrator who is impersonally telling the story in the third person. The second is the first person narrative via the character of Esther. Whilst reading the story I immediately felt I was drawn intimately into the story in the 'Esther chapters'. The tone of the young girl is fresh and innocent although meek and considerably self-deprecating. This contrasts sharply with the satirical rather jaded tone of the omniscient narrator. In providing this vivid contrast in narrative and the tense in which the story is told (present tense for the omniscient narrator, past tense for Esther) we are alternately pulled in and out of the narrative. The use of the omniscient narrator broadens the scope of the novel, however. There are certain situations that Esther cannot be part of although we do see the narratives intersecting in certain parts of the novel (eg. The event of the young law-writer and lodger at Mr Krook's dwelling). ~ Here are a few questions for us to ponder: ~ What did you think of the narrative technique? Did it feel modern to you? Did you feel that the transitions were awkward or did they provide you with a respite from the intensity of a first person narrative for a novel of this immense length? Do you feel Esther is a reliable narrator at this point in the story? What do you feel about Esther's character so far? She opens her commentary with the disclosure that she is 'not clever'. Did you gain this same impression from her narrative technique? Is she how you imagine a Victorian woman to be represented? ~ We are a fourth of the way into the novel. Are you enjoying it so far? Feel free to also post your own discussion questions too below. I have not added any spoilers (I think!) but please realize a few may crop up in the comments below.
4) Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Find review here.
'Someone At a Distance' by Dorothy Whipple and published by @persephonebooks is a story about adultery. It is a story about a husband’s weakness, a wife’s short-sightedness and a young, ambitious girl’s yearning to rise up from her provincial upbringing and to destroy the happiness of others. But the book is more than the sum total of these individual parts and the title reveals this. The title 'Someone At a Distance’ is a curious one. It is only towards the latter part of the novel that the significance of the title emerges and one realizes it has been used with much thought. The title deals with the idea that a person’s negative actions and thoughts can have a far-reaching consequence on the lives of people far removed from them. It is like a ripple effect. A strong undercurrent of ill-will may wreak havoc on the hitherto peaceful lives of people on distant shores. Such is the inter-connectedness of the world and its people. It is a beautiful book. I read it in one breath. It was virtually unputdownable. Whipple’s storytelling is superlative. The psychological tension she develops in taut situations can be felt acutely. When Ellen grieves in the aftermath of her husband’s desertion, which has been dealt to her out of no wrong-doing of her own, we grieve along with her. We feel and comprehend her every emotion. We sympathize with her and we yearn for her strength and salvation. On the opposite side of the spectrum we despise the young French girl Louise’s every movement and intention. And we hope and pray for some kind of justice. Whipple manipulates our emotional well-being, during the reading of the novel to good effect and delivers yet another stellar story. To read the full review please click on the link in my profile. I highly recommend this one!
5) Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith. Full review here.
"Next to the morning-room was the very large kitchen, with two tall dressers, a long row of iron bells, and a vast kitchen range with a glowing fire in front of which, in our early days at Kingston House, I had my nightly bath. Above me hung the family washing, on a wooden rack that could be pulled up to the ceiling". -'Look Back With Love' by Dodie Smith. ~ If you like me, loved reading Dodie Smith's classic novel 'I Capture the Castle' you will realize, upon reading the memoir, Look Back With Love, that Cassandra is to some extent Dodie Smith. They feel one and the same. Besides providing a detailed historical description of life and times in the Edwardian age, this bookish memoir is an intimate glance at the person who created a veritable body of literature. The anecdotes are splendid and unique. I cannot recommend this memoir published by @foxedquarterly enough and I hope to read later episodes in her life history in future. For a full review on my blog please click on the link in profile! Everyone, have a great day. Grey skies here in Kolkata! 🌧
6) The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff. Full review here.
"He had had the idea for his novel at Bognor Regis: watching the crowds go by, and wondering what their lives were like at home, he ‘began to feel the itch to take one of those families at random and build up an imaginary story of their annual holiday by the sea…I wanted to write about simple, uncomplicated people doing normal things". ~ This is RC Sherrif's motivation for penning the classic 'The Fortnight in September' which is what I am #currentlyreading as part of #persephoneseptember. Deliciously detailed, very very slow and highly evocative, the book deals with the minutiae of middle class living, the joys of the annual holiday, the small rituals of family and I am enjoying it very much thus far. This is also my book for @bookclubcollective's #septemberScollection for books or writers beginning with the letter S. Do you enjoy writers who write with exacting detail? Of course Proust comes to mind and among modern writers A. McCall Smith.
7) The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher.
I am #currentlyreading @persephonebook's THE HOMEMAKER by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher. Published in 1924, this is the extraordinary tale of gender role reversal in a small-town American family and how it positively impacts everyone involved. Very ahead of its time and wonderfully real to read, I think this Persephone classic will become a favourite.
8) A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell.
Today is the release date of several long forgotten books published in conjunction between #deanstreetpress and Scott from the blog The Furrowed Middlebrow. Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell is described as "a remarkable memoir, one of the finest to have emerged from the Second World War. Kate Atkinson calls it 'a gem of a book, one of the best personal memoirs of WW2 on the home front, written with an artist’s eye for detail and immediacy.' I'm a few chapters into the book and I am captivated by the detail with which the author describes the build up to the war, the emotions of the civilians and how human nature can adapt to very striking, sudden changes in circumstance. More thoughts later. I'm drawn to war memoirs. Do you have any particular favourites?
9) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Wishing you all a lovely weekend ahead. I anticipate this is what I will be doing this weekend: glugging ginger tea, nibbling on coconut biscuits dabbled with powdered sugar and sinking knee deep into the powerful emotions of North and South. Seriously, this book is SO good! The context of the book is historically interesting and the romance is very provocative (swooning away here☺️).
10) Period Piece by Gwen Raverat.
PERIOD PIECE by Gwen Raverat was one of my most favourite books read in the past few months. I am a huge Charles Darwin fan. In my opinion, his theories on evolution were the singlemost important breakthrough in the collective scientific history of mankind. Hence, to be given an insight into life and times in the Darwin household (Gwen Raverat was his granddaughter) was an extra special treat. If you are curious to know about Victorian customs and etiquette in the vicinity of Cambridge, during these times, this is an excellent personal recounting. Gwen Raverat intersperses the narrative with a number of eccentric, wonderful characters that you might read about in books or imagine but never think existed in real life. It has been a couple of months but this book has secured a corner of my bookish heart. Do give it a try if you can find a copy. 💕
So that’s my ten from this year. Honourable mentions should be given to ‘Our Spoons Came from Woolworths’ by Barbara Comyns, ‘Britannia Mews’ by Margery Sharp, ‘ The Warden’ and ‘Barchester Towers’ by Anthony Trollope and ‘The Constant Nymph’ by Margaret Kennedy.
My Top 10 Books from 2015 can be found here
See you next year for more delightful reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and rest of the year.