Pamelad aims for 150 in 2021

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Pamelad aims for 150 in 2021

Redigeret: dec 31, 2020, 3:46 pm

My goals for 2021 are:

1. To review, or at least make a comment on, every book I read.
2. Read all of Henry Green's novels. I have three to go: Living, Concluding and Doting.
3. Read a history of Byzantium.
4. Read more books by Australian writers, particularly indigenous writers.
5. Read at least ten books I already own.
6. Read Voss, Doctor Faustus, and re-read The Man without Qualities

Redigeret: jul 3, 2021, 9:05 pm


1. Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich
2. Living by Henry Green
3. The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer
4. Follow the Blue car by R.A.J. Walling
5. The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
6. The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell
7. The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White
8. A Phantom Lover by Vernon Lee/Violet Paget
9. The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
10. The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
11. A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower
12. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
13. Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
14. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
15. Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer
16. First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn
17. Mike and Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse
18. Elyza by Clare Darcy
19. Victoire by Clare Darcy
20. Murderer's Mistake by E.C.R. Lorac
21. False Colours by Georgette Heyer
22. A Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Cole
23. Psmith in the City by P. G. Wodehouse
24. How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
25. Friends and Rivals by Brenda Niall
26. The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Ayme


27. Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac
28. The Gilt-Edged Mystery by E. M. Channon
29. Voss by Patrick White
30. Doting by Henry Green
31. Psmith, Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse
33. Finding Eliza: power and colonial storytelling by Larissa Behrendt
34. Leave it to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse
35. The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell
36. My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
37. Something Wicked by Jo Beverley
38. Devilish by Jo Beverley
39. The Little Nugget by P. G. Wodehouse
40. Escapade by Joan Smith
41. Delsie by Joan Smith
42. Spillover by David Quammen


43. Uneasy Money by P. G. Wodehouse
44. The Wife and the Widow by Christian White
45. The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
46. The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
47. The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai
48. The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse
49. The Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley
50. Queen without a Crown by Fiona Buckley
51. The Toast of the Town by Alice Chetwynd Ley
52. A Season at Brighton by Alice Chetwynd Ley
53. Marry in Haste by Jane Aiken Hodge
54. An Advantageous Marriage by Alice Chetwynd Ley
55. Escapade by Jane Aiken Hodge
56. A Highly Respectable Marriage by Sheila Walsh
57. The Pink Parasol by Sheila Walsh
58. Four in Hand by Stephanie Laurens
59. The Saint-Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon
60. Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac
61. Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
62. Twice Dead by E. M. Channon

Redigeret: jun 30, 2021, 6:45 pm


65. Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall
66. The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie
67. Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie
68. Of Mortal Love by William Gerhardie
69. The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter by Mimi Matthews
70. Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van
71. Harlequin House by Margery Sharp
72. Suffering the Scot by Nichole Van
73. Romancing the Rake by Nichole Van
74. Loving a Lady by Nichole Van
75. Mask of Duplicity by Julia Brannan
76. The Mask Revealed by Julia Brannan
77. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by P. G. Wodehouse
78. Here We are by Graham Swift
79. His Disinclined Bride by Jenny Goutet
80. Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Grant
81. Autumn Duchess by Lucinda Brant
82. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
83. Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
84. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
85. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
79. His Disinclined Bride by Jenny Goutet
80. A Fall from Grace by Jenny Goutet
81. Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Grant
82. Autumn Duchess by Lucinda Brant
83. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
84. Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
85. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
86. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
87. The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews
88. A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews
89. A Convenient Fiction by Mimi Matthews
90. The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews
91. Fallen Angel by Charlotte Louise Dolan
92. Imprudent Lady by Joan Smith
93. Circe by Madeline Miller
94. A Stolen Kiss by M. A. Nichols
95. Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly
96. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
97. The Obedient Bride by Mary Balogh
98. Simply Love by Mary Balogh
99. The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh
100. Wish by Peter Goldsworthy
101. Double Wager by Mary Balogh
102. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse
103. A Lord Apart by Jane Ashford
104. Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa
105. A Lord Apart by Jane Ashford
106. A Duke Too Far by Jane Ashford
107. How to Beguile a Baron by Jane Ashford
108. The Headstrong Ward by Jane Ashford
109. Last Gentleman Standing by Jane Ashford
110. Earl to the Rescue by by Jane Ashford


111. Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons
112. The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
113. Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Victor Frankl
114. Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
115. The Gilded Web by Mary Balogh
116. The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton
117. The Devil's Web by Mary Balogh
118. Pending Heaven by William Gerhardie
119. A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford
120. First Season by Jane Ashford
121. Bride to Be by Jane Ashford
123. Man of Honour by Jane Ashford
124. The Marchington Scandal by Jane Ashford
125. The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews
126. The Banishment by M. C. Beaton
127. The Homecoming by M. C. Beaton
128. Three Weeks to Wed by Ella Quinn
129. A Jury of Her Peers by Elizabeth Gaskell
130. Concluding by Henry Green
131. Brave New Earl by Jane Ashford
132. Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night by Kate Noble
133. Madness in Spring by Kate Noble
134. A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews
135. Nadja by Andre Breton
136. The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson
137. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut
138. This Rake of Mine by Elizabeth Boyle
139. Rain by Somerset Maugham
140. Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser
141. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
142. Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews
143. Earl's Well That Ends Well by Jane Ashford
144. Pack My Bag by Henry Green
145. They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy
146. Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie
147. Some Brief Folly by Patricia Veryan
148. Feather Castles by Patricia Veryan
149. The Tyrant by Patricia Veryan
150. A House in the Country by Ruth Adam
151. The Dedicated Villain by Patricia Veryan
152. Love's Lady Lost by Patricia Veryan
153. Married to the Rogue by Mary Lancaster
154. Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
155. Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
156. The Chimney Murder by E. M. Channon


157. The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie
158. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
159. A Less Than Perfect Lady by Elizabeth Beacon
160. The Earl and the Heiress by Barbara Metzger
161. A Debt to Delia by Barbara Metzger
162. Who Killed Dick Whittington? by E. & M. A. Radford
163. Tea and Scandal by Joan Smith
164. Marriage Made in Shame by Sophia James
165. One Unashamed Night by Sophia James
166. One Illicit Night by Sophia James
167. The Dissolute Duke by Sophia James
168. The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard
169. With This Ring by Carla Kelly
170. The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley
171. The Captain's Disgraced Lady by Catherine Tinley
172. Who's that Earl? by Susanna Craig
173. The Lady's Deception by Susanna Craig
174. Waltzing with the Earl by Catherine Tinley
175. The Makings of a Lady by Catherine Tinley
176. Lord Somerton's Heir by Alison Stuart
177. Inspector Frost and the Waverdale Fire by Herbert Maynard Smith
178. The Heir by Grace Burrowes
179. The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
180. The Mesalliance by Stella Riley
181. The Player by Stella Riley
182. A Wicked Kind of Husband by Mia Vincy
183. A Passionate Endeavor by Sophia Nash
184. The Wicked Cousin by Stella Riley
185. They Were Found Wanting Miklos Banffy
186. They Were Divided by Miklos Banffy
187. A Beastly Kind of Earl by Mia Vincy
188. Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews
189. Inspector Frost's Jigsaw by Herbert Maynard Smith
190. Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
191. Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh
192. The Duke's Disaster by Grace Burrowes
193. To Wed a Rake by Eloisa James
194. A Duke of Her Own Eloisa James
195. Heiress for Hire by Madeline Hunter
196. Duchess by Night by Eloisa James
197. His Auction Prize by Elizabeth Bailey
198. Duchess by Night by Eloisa James
199. Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie
200. St Peter's Umbrella by Kalman Mikszath
201. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
202. The Absolute at Large by Karel Capek
203. Hazard by Stella Riley
204. To Kiss a Thief by Susanna Craig
205. Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes
206. The Vagabond by Colette

Redigeret: okt 2, 2021, 2:38 am


207. The Yield by Tara June Winch
208. After the Fine Weather by Michael Gilbert
209. She by H. Rider Haggard
210. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
211. Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas
212. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
213. Locos by Felipe Alfau
214. Forbidden by Jo Beverley
215. Hazard by Jo Beverley
216. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
217. The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James
218. Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James
219. What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
220. Rescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally Britton
221. Murder by an Aristocrat by Mignon G Eberhart
222. Melora by Mignon G Eberhart
223. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
224. The Heir by Johanna Lindsey 1.5*
225. The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn ***
226. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
227. The Heir by Johanna Lindsey 1.5*
228. The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn ***
229. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn ***
230. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase ***
231. Brighter than the Sun by Julia Quinn 2.5*
232. Cadenza by Stella Riley 3.5*
233. The Wicked Baron by Mary Lancaster **
234. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
235. Uncle Dysfunctional by AA Gill
236. Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell
237. Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell
238. The Swimming Pool by Mary Roberts Rinehart
239. Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas 3*
240. What the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries 1.5*
241. The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardner
242. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage by Judith Brett
243. On Patrick White by Christos Tsiolkas
244. Viscount Vagabond by Loretta Chase
245. The Devil's Delilah by Loretta Chase


246. Warlight by Michel Ondaatje
247. Death at the Dog by Joanna Cannan
248. Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
249. Much Ado About You by Eloisa James
250. Kiss Me, Annabel by Eloisa James
251. The Duke's Cinderella Bride by Carole Mortimer
252. Miss Devon's Choice by Sally Britton
253. Their Marriage of Inconvenience by Sophia James
254. The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright
255. Lady into Fox by David Garnett
256. Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
257. Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James
258. Marriage Made in Money by Sophia James
259. Marriage Made in Hope by Sophia James
260. Marriage Made in Rebellion by Sophia James
261. The Golden Songbird by Shelia Walsh
262. Bath Intrigue by Sheila Walsh
263. The Far Cry by Emma Smith
264. A Woman of True Honor by Grace Burrowes
265. Cecily by Clare Darcy
266. Whispers in the Wind by Janet Woods
267. Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
268. Ravished by Amanda Quick 3*
269. Dangerous by Amanda Quick 3*
270. Reckless by Amanda Quick 3*
271. How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn 3*
272. Ruining Miss Wrotham by Emily Larkin 3.5*
273. Scandal by Amanda Quick 3*
274. The Earl's Dilemma by Emily Larkin 3*
275. Primrose and the Dreadful Duke by Emily Larkin 3
276. Trusting Miss Trentham by Emily Larkin 3.5*
278. Sauce for the Gander by Jayne Davis 2.5*
279. Romancing Mr Bridgerton by Julia Quinn 2.5*
280. The Spinster's Secret by Emily Larkin 3*
281. Resisting Miss Merryweather by Emily Larkin 2.5*
282. Discovering Miss Dalrymple by Emily Larkin 2.5*
283. The Viscount's Dangerous Liaison by Louise Allen 2.5*
284. The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas 3.5*
285. Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed by Anna Campbell 3.5*


287. The Dashing Widows: Six Regency Novellas 3*
288. What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell 3*
289. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
290. Untouched by Anna Campbell 3*
291. Midnight's Wild Passion by Anna Campbell 3*
292. Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell 3*
293. A Rake's Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell 3.5*
294. A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna Campbell 2.5*
295. Three Proposals and a Scandal by Anna Campbell 3*
296. Lord Garson's Bride by Anna Campbell 3*
297. Days of Rakes and Roses by Anna Campbell 3*
298. A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens 3*
299. All About Love by Stephanie Laurens 2.5*
300. The Highlander's Lost Lady by Anna Campbell 3*
301. The Highlander's Forbidden Mistress by Anna Campbell 2*
302. To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn 3*
303. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn 3*
304. It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn 3*
305. The Reluctant Wife by Caroline Warfield 2.5*
306. The Girls, Alone by Bonnie J. Rough
307. Seduction by Amanda Quick 3*
308. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
309. I Could Murder Her a.k.a. Murder of a Martinet by E. C. R. Lorac
310. Shadows Before by Dorothy Bowers
311. The Curate in Charge by Margaret Oliphant
312.On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn 3*
313. Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare 3*
314. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas 3*
315. One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare 3*
316. Twice Tempted by a Rogue by Tessa Dare 3*
317. Three Nights with a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare 3*
318. Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare 2*
319. Quills - Scandal's Lady/Scandalising The Ton by Diane Gaston
320. The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashton 3*
321. Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh 3*
322. Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh 3.5*
333. Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase 3.5*
334. The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross
335. Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase 3*
336. Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase 3*
337. Isabella by Loretta Chase 2.5*
338. Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh 3*

Redigeret: nov 2, 2021, 1:22 am


339. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas 3.5*
340. His at Night by Sherry Thomas 3*
341. Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas 3*
342. Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas 3*
343. The English Witch by Loretta Chase 3.5*
344. The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase 3.5*
345. The Duke Knows Best by Jane Ashford 3*
346. The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn 3*
347. An Affair in Winter by Jess Michaels 3*
348. Mr Impossible by Loretta Chase 3*
349. First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh 3*
350. At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh 3*
351. Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase 3.5*
352. The Companion's Secret by Susanna Craig 2.5*
353. The Lady's Deception by Susanna Craig 2.5*
354. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean 3*
355. Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean 2.5*
356. RSVP Murder by Mignon G Eberhart
357. The First Mrs Winston by Rae Foley
358. Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie 2.5*
359. Unknown Quantity by Mignon G Eberhart
360. Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh 3*
361. The Loudwater Mystery by Edgar Jepson
362. A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh 3*
363. One Night For Love by Mary Balogh 3*
364. A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase 3*
365. Enchanting Pleasures by Eloisa James 3*
366. The Escape by Mary Balogh 3*
367. Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh 3*
368. Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase 3*
369. Not Quite a Lady by Loretta Chase 3*
370. Only Beloved by Mary Balogh 2.5*
371. The Unexpected Wife by Jess Michaels 2*
372. My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale
373. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale 4*
374. A Rake's Guide to Seduction by Caroline Linden 2.5*
375. Mr Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn 2.5*
376. Fortune's Lady by Patricia Gaffney 2.5*
377. The Countess by Lynsay Sands 2.5*
378. Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale 3.5*
379. One Week as Lovers by Victoria Dahl 2.5*
380. The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale 3*
381. The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas 3.5*
382. A Dance in the Moonlight by Sherry Thomas 3*
383. Rogue for Hire by Sasha Cottman 2*

Redigeret: dec 29, 2021, 11:36 pm

Non-Romance Tally

January - June
1. Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich
2. Living by Henry Green
3. Follow the Blue Car by R.A.J. Walling
4. The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
5. The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell
6. The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White
7. A Phantom Lover by Vernon Lee/Violet Paget
8. A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower
9. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
10. Mike and Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse
11. Murderer's Mistake by E.C.R. Lorac
12. A Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Cole
13. Psmith in the City by P. G. Wodehouse
14. How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
15. Friends and Rivals by Brenda Niall
16. The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Ayme
17. Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac
18. The Gilt-Edged Mystery by E. M. Channon
19. Voss by Patrick White
20. Doting by Henry Green
21. Psmith, Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse
22. Finding Eliza: power and colonial storytelling by Larissa Behrendt
23. Leave it to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse
24. The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell
25. The Little Nugget by P. G. Wodehouse
26. Spillover by David Quammen
27. Uneasy Money by P. G. Wodehouse
28. The Wife and the Widow by Christian White
29. The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
30. The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai
31. The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse
32. The Saint-Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon
33. Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac
34. Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
35. Twice Dead by E. M. Channon
36. Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall
37. Of Mortal Love by William Gerhardie
38. Harlequin House by Margery Sharp
39. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by P. G. Wodehouse
40. Here We are by Graham Swift
41. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
44. Circe by Madeline Miller
45. Wish by Peter Goldsworthy
46. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse
47. Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa
48. Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons
49. The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
50. Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Victor Frankl
51. Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
52. The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton
53. Pending Heaven by William Gerhardie
54. A Jury of Her Peers by Elizabeth Gaskell
55. Concluding by Henry Green
56. Nadja by Andre Breton
57. The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson
58. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut
59. Rain by Somerset Maugham
60. Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser
61. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
62. Pack My Bag by Henry Green
63. They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy
64. A House in the Country by Ruth Adam
65. The Chimney Murder by E. M. Channon
66. Who Killed Dick Whittington? by E. & M. A. Radford
67. Inspector Frost and the Waverdale Fire by Herbert Maynard Smith
68. They Were Found Wanting Miklos Banffy
69. They Were Divided by Miklos Banffy
70. Inspector Frost's Jigsaw by Herbert Maynard Smith
71. St Peter's Umbrella by Kalman Mikszath
72. The Absolute at Large by Karel Capek
73. The Vagabond by Colette

July - December

74. The Yield by Tara June Winch
75. After the Fine Weather by Michael Gilbert
76. She by H. Rider Haggard
77. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
78. Locos by Felipe Alfau
79. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
80. Murder by an Aristocrat by Mignon G Eberhart
81. Melora by Mignon G Eberhart
82. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
83. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
84. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
85. Uncle Dysfunctional by AA Gill
86. Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell
87. Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell
88. The Swimming Pool by Mary Roberts Rinehart
89. The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardner
90. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage by Judith Brett
91. On Patrick White by Christos Tsiolkas
92. Warlight by Michel Ondaatje
93. Death at the Dog by Joanna Cannan
94. The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright
95. Lady into Fox by David Garnett
96. The Far Cry by Emma Smith
97. Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
98. Stasiland by Anna Funder
99. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
100. The Nancys by R. W. R. McDonald
101. The Girls, Alone by Bonnie J. Rough
102. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
103. I Could Murder Her a.k.a. Murder of a Martinet by E. C. R. Lorac
104. Shadows Before by Dorothy Bowers
105. The Curate in Charge by Margaret Oliphant
106. The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross
107. RSVP Murder by Mignon G Eberhart
108. The First Mrs Winston by Rae Foley
109. Unknown Quantity by Mignon G Eberhart
110. The Loudwater Mystery by Edgar Jepson
111. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
112. The Husband's secret by Liane Moriarty
113. Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by Helen Joyce
114. Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock
115. The Luxembourg Run by Stanley Ellin
116. Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nelly Bly
117. Latecomers by Anita Brookner
118. The Doors Open by Michael Gilbert
119. A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England by Sue Wilkes

Redigeret: jul 3, 2021, 1:39 am

Favourite books of 2020

L’Étranger by Albert Camus 5*
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann 5*
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk 5*
Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard 4.5*
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 4.5*
Our Women on the Ground by Zahra Hankir 4.5*
The Long Prospect by Elizabeth Harrower 4.5*
See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill 4.5*
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes 4.5*
The Kindly Ones, The Valley of Bones, The Soldier's Art by Anthony Powell 4.5*
Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys 4.5*
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 4.5*
Our Women on the Ground by Zahra Hankir 4.5*
The Long Prospect by Elizabeth Harrower 4.5*
See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill 4.5*
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes 4.5*
The Kindly Ones, The Valley of Bones, The Soldier's Art by Anthony Powell 4.5*
Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys 4.5*

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles (Tubi)
2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (YouTube)
3. Claire's Knee Erich Rohmer (Mubi)
4. Le Bonheur Agnes Varda (Mubi)
5. The Little Foxes (Kanopy)
6. The Stranger Orson Welles (Kanopy)
7. Woman on the Run (Kanopy)
8. The Fallen Idol (Mubi)
9. The Wicked Lady (YouTube)
10. Le Quai des Brumes (Mubi)
11. Le Jour Se Leve (Mubi)

dec 30, 2020, 1:43 am

Hi pam, you are super organised, good luck with your reading (and everything else) in 2021.

dec 31, 2020, 3:24 pm

>8 bryanoz: Thanks Bryan.

jan 1, 2021, 12:00 am

1. Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich

It starts in 306 with Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of the Romans, and ends with Charlemagne and the division of the empire in 802. In-between are more than sixty emperors, wars, religious disagreements so deep that they divided society and led to emperors being overthrown, barbarian invasions, wars and brutality. So much brutality: tens of thousands of people put to death, often in a single day, because they'd supported the wrong man; blindings; tongues removed; noses removed; patricides, fratricides, matricides, filicides and infanticides, mariticides and uxoricides.

Norwich has an engaging writing style, and covers the ground smoothly. There are a lot of people to keep track of, and at times I felt I was drowning in blood, but that's Byzantium.

This is the first of three volumes. The next is Byzantium: The Apogee

jan 1, 2021, 6:41 am

>10 pamelad: I read a condensed volume of this Byzantine trilogy years ago. Marvellous narrative style. I would recommend his history of Venice also.

jan 1, 2021, 2:02 pm

Happy reading in 2021!

jan 2, 2021, 1:48 pm

Good health and good reads in 2021!

jan 2, 2021, 3:05 pm

>12 jfetting:, >13 hemlokgang: Happy New Year with lots of good books in 2021!

jan 2, 2021, 3:28 pm

Your target is impressive, Pamela :)

jan 2, 2021, 6:23 pm

Living by Henry Green

Right at he start you're thrown into a conversation on the factory floor between people you've never met, whose names you're coming across for the first time. After a chapter or so, people start to emerge from the crowd: Lily Gates, who keeps house for her father Joe, her father's friend Mr Craigan who is in charge, and the boarder, Jim Dale, who wants to marry Lily; Bert Jones, a foundry worker who Lily hopes will take her away from Birmingham and her dreary future. The factory workers and their political machinations emerge: Mr Bridges, who runs the foundry and listens to no one; Tarver, who wants Bridges' job; Tupe, the snivelling boss's man who runs to Bridges with tales about his fellow-workers. Then there's young Dupret, son of the factory owner, who's ordered around by his father, ignored by Bridges, and patronised by his father's assistant. If his father, who is old and ill, is to die, Dupret will be in charge and able to exert his authority over all the old men who he believes are holding him back.

It took a while to get into the book because I was very confused, but after a while everything started to make sense. It's about the working and home lives of the foundry workers, their bleak, poverty stricken futures, their lack of choice and control, their dependence on the good will of their managers and the foundry owner.

I've started Living a few times, and am pleased to have read it. It was well worth the effort.

>15 john257hopper: I've lost the taste for watching television, but if it returns I'll be struggling to get to 150.

jan 4, 2021, 2:54 am

3. The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

Elinor Rochdale, a young woman of good breeding, is in circumstances so reduced that she must support herself by working as a governess. She has travelled by the stage to an inn where she expects to be collected by a servant of her new employer, Mrs Macclesfield. When a gentleman asks her if she is the lady who has replied to the advertisement she says she is and, gratefully gets into the carriage. After a much longer drive than she expects, Elinor arrives at a decrepit mansion and learns that another woman had agreed to marry Eustace, the drunken cousin of Lord Carlyon, the man who had collected Elinor at the inn. When Elinor marries the dying Eustace, she becomes drawn into a plot involving secret passages, Bonaparte spies, murder and violence, all dealt with as an amusing adventure!

Although the plot is very silly, I enjoyed The Reluctant Widow. Elinor is a capable and entertaining heroine.

jan 4, 2021, 7:39 pm

If anyone is looking for escapism (and doesn't fancy Georgette Heyer) I recommend The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both of them made in 1939 and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I found The Hound on Tubi and The Adventures on YouTube.

jan 5, 2021, 12:28 am

4. Follow the Blue car by R.A.J. Walling

A thirties mystery by a member of the Detection club. I'd enjoyed They Liked Entwhistle, so decided to give this one a go, but there's not much crime and a lot of talking. I don't think I'll try any more in the Philip Tolefree series.

jan 7, 2021, 3:23 am

5. The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer

Captain Staples is on his way to visit his friend Babbacombe, when he gets lost in the dark. He is relieved to come across a building, which turns out to be a toll-gate, manned by a frightened boy whose father has disappeared. Staples, who is a man-mountain stays the night in the toll house and the next day falls instantly in love with the large grand-daughter, Nell, of the local nobleman, Sir Peter Stornaway, who is on his death bed. So Staples stays on, pretending to be a toll-keeper, so he can be near Nell.

There is quite an adventure, but it does not involve Nell, who does not play a large enough role for my liking. Sir Peter's shifty heir has invited Coate, one of society's fringe-dwellers, to stay in his grandfather's house and they are clearly involved in something criminal. There is a bow street runner in the mix, a highway man, and a large limestone cave.

This was just OK, because the boys were having an exciting time while the girls stayed home.

jan 7, 2021, 12:07 pm

I must admit, while I've never considered reading a Georgette Heyer and am not in the target demographic, your summaries and reviews make them sound good fun, Pamela!

Redigeret: jan 10, 2021, 12:26 am

Thanks John, they are wonderfully escapist reads for a disengaged brain.

6. The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell

This is the third book in the Barsetshire series, and is unlike any of the others I've read in that there is almost no romance, and the main character is an 11-year-old boy. Tony is the youngest son of Laura Morland, who supports her three boys and pays their school fees by writing books. The older boys no longer live at home, and Tony lives there only during the holidays because middle-class people like Laura send their little boys to boarding school. The three sections of the book cover Tony's exploits during the Easter holidays, the half-term holiday and the summer holidays. For most of the time he is accompanied by his friend Donk, a silent child who plays the mouth organ. Tony is an enormously verbose and egotistical child; he knows everything and loves to boast.

I was amused by Donk and Tony, and thought this a pleasant, undemanding read. It is available for free on Gutenberg Canada.

7. The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White

This thirties crime novel is available on Gutenberg Australia. Caroline, who has been sharing a small flat with her sister and brother-in-law and feels she's in the way, finds a job as a games mistress at a girls' school. Because she is the unacademic one of a clever family, the Beloved Fool, who can't qualify as a teacher because she can't pass exams, she's lucky to find a job at all. When Caroline arrives at the school she finds that the intimidating matron is implicated in the death of the previous games mistress and has too much control over the school principal. By uncovering the matron's incompetence, Caroline puts herself at risk.

Ethel Lina White wrote The Wheel Spins on which Hitchcock's film The Lady Vanishes ( on Tubi, if you're interested) was based. It's is the best of the books of hers that I've read.

I liked The Third Eye for: the eerie atmosphere; the Silverline bus, which dominated the second half of the book; Caroline finding a job instead of moaning about being poor; the fabulous names of two other important characters, Blanche Bat a.k.a Miss Bat of Bat House, and the matron, Miss Yaxley-Moore.

Redigeret: jan 10, 2021, 6:17 am

>22 pamelad: I've read a couple of Ethel Lina White's including The Wheel Spins and Wax. Surprised she's not better known.

jan 10, 2021, 11:12 pm

>23 john257hopper: Yes, I've read a few Golden Age crime novels that deserve to be unknown, but Ethel Lina White's are a lot better than that.

8. A Phantom Lover by Vernon Lee/Violet Paget

I came across this book in an article about Reclaim Her Name. 25 books, originally published under male pseudonyms, were re-released under the writers' female names to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Women's Prize for Fiction. Unfortunately, the research was poor, mistakes were made, and the celebration is no more. Vernon Lee, for example, dressed in men's clothing and called herself Vernon, not Violet.

This is a Victorian ghost story, an atmospheric novella about the exquisite Alice Okes, her unfortunate husband, and a story from the past that infiltrates the present. I liked it, and it's free.

jan 11, 2021, 12:53 pm

Sorry I am a bit late to all of this.

Good luck for your reading in 2021, Pam - I see you are already off to a great start.

jan 12, 2021, 7:14 pm

>25 Eyejaybee: Thanks James.

9. The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

When Lord Darracort's oldest son dies in a boating accident, an unacknowledged grandson becomes the heir. Hugh Darracort's father was disowned for a mesalliance, and apart from his grandfather, noone in the family knows of Hugh's existence. His other grandfather was a weaver, and since the deaths of Hugh's parents, has brought him up in Yorkshire, where Hugh has apparently acquired a broad local accent, an enormous liability for a member of the quality.

Lord Darracort is a tyrannical old despot, who dislikes almost everyone in the family apart from his indulged grandson Richmond, brother of the heroine, Anthea. The old man tries to compel Hugh and Anthea to marry, which antagonises them both, but they become friends all the same. Hugh, an army Major, eventually overcomes the antipathy of his relatives and shows himself to be indispensable.

Anthea had too little to do here. The main protagonists were Richmond, Hugh, and their cousins Vincent and Claud, who were caught up with smugglers, secret passages and policemen. The book was entertaining, but I prefer those where the heroine plays an important part.

jan 13, 2021, 10:31 pm

10. The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

The sixth Earl of St Erth had two sons, his much-loved second son Martin, by his second wife, and his loathed elder son and heir, Gervase, whose mother had disgraced herself by deserting her husband. A year after the old earl's death, Gervase returns to the family seat to find that his step-mother and half-brother had hoped for his death, as a soldier in the Napoleonic wars, and were angry and disappointed at his survival. The only person who appears to be pleased to see him is his cousin Theo, the agent.

There's a little bit of romance, and quite a bit of mystery. There are two young women: the beautiful, sunny-natured heiress, Marianne Boldrewood and the sensible, practical, dumpy Drusilla Morville. The four men, who seem to be in competition for Marianne, are St Erth, Martin, Theo and St Erth's friend, Ulverston. But more important than romance are the attempts on St Erth's life. Is hte culprit Martin, racked with jealousy and resentment? The evidence certainly points that way.

The women were stuck at home again in this book. I was pleased to see that Drusilla was so capable, but I would have liked her to get out more.

jan 16, 2021, 10:03 pm

11. A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower

In the fifties Harrower's writing was praised by Christina Stead and Patrick White, deservedly, because she is that good. She writes with lightness, irony and humour about kind, diffident people, dominated and destroyed by malicious domestic tyrants who create misery because they can. You feel for these victims. Their suffering haunts you. But they accept the devastation, learn, and carry the damage with them. Harrower's people do not wallow: they accept.

I also recommend The Long Prospect and The Watch Tower.

Redigeret: jan 19, 2021, 11:15 pm

Duplicate post.

jan 17, 2021, 8:56 am

>18 pamelad: I love the old Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone! I became a Rathbone fan through watching these old films.

>22 pamelad: The Barsetshire books featuring Laura Moreland and the irrepressible Tony are among my favorite Barsetshire stories; this a series I’m meandering through at a leisurely pace.

And The Third Eye sounds great. I love a mystery with a school setting.

Happy reading, Pam.

jan 17, 2021, 3:06 pm

>30 Matke: Hi Gail! When Basil's not being Sherlock Holmes, he's a good man in a sword fight. Have you seen him in Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn?

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

A light and entertaining mystery. The Thursday Murder Club consists of four people in their late seventies, who live in a retirement complex. (Osman calls them pensioners, but you would not get away with this in Australia because the self-funded retirees would be very annoyed.) Joyce was a nurse, Elizabeth a spy, perhaps, Ibrahim a psychologist, and Ron a militant trade union leader. The founding member, Penny, was a police officer who provided the files of the unsolved cases that the group investigates, but she can no longer participate. When one of the complex's business partners is murdered, the club members are delighted to have a real-life murder to investigate.

The book was a tiny bit twee, but entertaining and good-hearted, so I enjoyed it. The retirees were satisfyingly capable people, with individual personalities.

jan 18, 2021, 9:28 pm

13. Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Serena Carlow's father, an earl, has just died, leaving his title and entailed estate to a dull cousin, and a fortune to his daughter. Serena's money is not hers to manage, however, because her father left it to be managed by Lord Rotherham, a marquis, to whom Serena was once engaged. Serena and Rotherham are volatile, domineering characters, who clash whenever they meet.

Serena moves with her father's young widow, the kind and brainless Fanny, to the Dower House, where they find life tedious, then to Bath. In Bath Serena runs across an old flame, Hector. There's a third young woman in the mix, Emily, a young neighbour of Serena's, with a crass, designing mother who would marry her to any toothless old man as long as he was rich and of high rank. She is the daughter of the formidable Mrs Floore, Emily's doting grandmother.

There is a tangle of engagements between ill-assorted couples, complicated by the rules of gentlemanly behaviour that won't allow a man to cry off even when he realises that he is betrothed to the wrong woman.

Entertaining, although I wasn't all that keen on Serena and Rotherham who were tiresomely argumentative.

Redigeret: jan 19, 2021, 11:14 pm

15. Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Deborah Grantham is a croupier in a gambling establishment run by her aunt, Lady Bellingham. The young Lord Mablethorpe fancies himself in love with Deborah and has proposed, angering his mother and his older cousin, Max Ravenscar. Believing Deborah to be a jade who is out to profit from an inexperienced boy's infatuation, Ravenscar tries to pay Deborah off. She determines to pay him back for insulting her.

Another enjoyable story, and relatively short. Lots of humour.

jan 19, 2021, 11:16 pm

14. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Sir Gareth Ludlow still mourns for his fiancee Clarissa, who died seven years ago, but must marry to provide an heir, so he decides to make an offer for Lady Hester Theale, who has been left on the shelf. Hester must decide whether to agree to this loveless marriage. On the way to the Hester's family's house, Sir Gareth comes across a very young woman, Amanda, who has run away from home, and takes her with him because she has no idea what risks she is taking. Hester's family believes Amanda is Sir Gareth's mistress, and a disreputable uncle spirits her away. Sir Gareth goes in pursuit, and ends up in a great deal of trouble, caused by the heedless Amanda and a young man they meet along the way.

Redigeret: jan 25, 2021, 10:05 pm

>31 pamelad: Yes! It’s my understanding that BR was considered the premier fencer in the movies. Certainly that Robin Hood/Sheriff of Nottingham fight has remained a great movie memory for me.

I missed it up in >1 pamelad: , but you number one goal is the same as my private goal.

Are you making your way through Heyer this year? I loved Faro’s Daughter and three or four others, but it’s been a long, long time since I read them. Have you tried her mysteries?

jan 28, 2021, 6:26 pm

>35 Matke: I started on the Georgette Heyer romance re-read in November. They're just what I feel like reading right now - a bit of humour, a happy ending and a predictable outcome. I've stuck to the Regency and just before, but since I have only one of these left to read I might have to seek out the others e.g. Beauvallet, An Infamous Army, The Spanish Bride. I've read all the detective stories too, not so recently, but am not tempted to re-read them because, while I enjoyed them, there are plenty of other mysteries as good or better.

jan 28, 2021, 6:29 pm

15. Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Deborah Grantham is a croupier in a gambling establishment run by her aunt, Lady Bellingham. The young Lord Mablethorpe fancies himself in love with Deborah and has proposed, angering his mother and his older cousin, Max Ravenscar. Believing Deborah to be a jade who is out to profit from an inexperienced boy's infatuation, Ravenscar tries to pay Deborah off. She determines to pay him back for insulting her.

Another enjoyable story, and relatively short. Lots of humour.

16. First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn

Very few Heyers left to read, so I gave this Regency romance a try in the hope of stretching them out. It's a prequel to The Bridgertons series. No period details, very little plot. I was thinking that all that sex got in the way of the plot, but it is the plot. Not my cup of tea.

jan 28, 2021, 6:32 pm

17. Mike and Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse

Mike's father has removed him from his school, Wykym, after yet another bad report and sent him to Sedleigh, a small school with the reputation of making its students work hard. On his first day Mike meets the emaciated, monocle-wearing Psmith, whose father has removed him from Eton for the same reason. There's a lot of cricket in this book, and a lot of ragging (boys creating havoc for amusement). I will read more in the Psmith series.

18. Just read Elyza by Clare Darcy and liked it, though some sections might have been lifted from Georgette Heyer's books e.g. a curricle race I'm sure I just read about in Faro's Daughter, and talk of the sword of Damocles that reminded me very much of similar talk about Nemesis in Cotillion.

Elyza Leigh has run away dressed as a boy to escape a proposal. Her purse has been stolen so she is unable to pay her bill at the posting inn, but she is helped by a rich and mysterious stranger, Cleve Redmayne. Redmayne is a Gatsbyish character, a man of mysterious antecedents and fabulous wealth, who dreams of the beautiful Corinna Mayfield, and will go to any lengths to meet her. Elyza is the daughter of sir Robert Leigh, a diplomat who spends little time with her. He married beneath him, an inn-keeper's daughter who died when Elyza was two.

If you're running out of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, Elyza is definitely worth a try.

Redigeret: jan 28, 2021, 6:34 pm

I've given up on The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell. The reviews said it was funny, but I'm a third of the way through and he hasn't stopped moaning. He keeps slagging off his customers, which I don't find at all amusing. On the contrary, he comes across as an arrogant and unpleasant man.

19. Victoire by Clare Darcy

Enough Clare Darcy. This was quite readable, but seemed like a cut and paste of a few Georgette Heyer novels. I recognise many aspects of the heroine from These Old Shades, voyons?

jan 28, 2021, 6:35 pm

20. Murderer's Mistake by E.C.R. Lorac was first published in 1946. Like Crossed Skis, which I read last year, there are many loving descriptions of food. It's set in the countryside in Lancashire, so there is plenty of fresh milk, cream and butter, meat and fruit. Perhaps in the cities people still depended on powdered eggs and milk, and were missing fresh food. There is also much lighting of fires. In one of Angela Thirkell's books written around the same time, the characters also appreciate a good fire, and Thirkell explains that for the duration of the war there was not enough fuel, so people could never get warm.

I was not engaged by the plot, and was more interested in reading about living conditions after the war. One of the characters is a petty criminal who is part of a ring that trades in clothing coupons. Because he is a coward, he has moved from London to the north of England. Another character gives away secrets of his background during the long nights of duty as an air raid warden, when there is often not much to do but talk to ones colleagues.

Giles Hogget, a farmer, owns a cottage which the family uses for holidays in the summer time. When he visits it to check that it is in condition to survive the coming winter, he finds evidence that a stranger has been there. On checking inside he finds a number of things missing, and becomes concerned that a crime has been committed, so he writes to Inspector MacDonald in London. MacDonald finds an excuse to come to Lancashire, and ends up investigating the crime.

I would recommend this book for the descriptions of the Lancashire countryside and the details of life after the war, but not for the plot or the characters.

jan 28, 2021, 6:36 pm

21. False Colours by Georgette Heyer

Kit Fancot arrives in London to find that his twin brother Evelyn is missing. Kit's mother persuades him to impersonate his brother at a dinner to celebrate Evelyn's engagement to Cressida Stavely. Evelyn and Cressida are planning a marriage of convenience so that Cressida can escape her father's household after his marriage to a woman barely older than herself, and so Evelyn can gain control over his capital and pay his mother's debts. As a plot device the debts are a bit thin, I think, but no matter. Kit and Cressy are appealing characters, the dowager Lady Stavely is amusing, and everything works out for the best.

22. A Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles

A man is discovered in the ocean, in Germany, still alive but with a damaged face and a serious head wound. He eventually recovers physically, but after many months has no idea who he is. He adopts the name of a doctor who treats him, adopts a kind elderly woman as an aunt, and finds work. he believes he is German.

This spy story is set mainly in Germany in 1938. Hitler is in power. I can't say more because it would be too easy to give away the plot, which is breathtakingly ludicrous. It romps along and, if you can suspend disbelief, is an entertaining read.

jan 28, 2021, 6:37 pm

23. Psmith in the City by P. G. Wodehouse

Psmith and Mike end up working in a bank run by Mr Bickersdyke. Mike's mind is on cricket and Psmith's is, as usual, on managing people's lives. He's a very funny man. I enjoyed this and am now reading Psmith, Journalist.

jan 29, 2021, 3:56 pm

24. How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa is a short story collection about Lao refugees in Canada. Most of the characters seem adrift. The adults have escaped a war, spent many years in refugee camps and are now working in physically demanding, badly paid jobs with no hope of advancement. A couple of the stories show the invisibility of the Lao workers who are passed over for promotion in favour of young inexperienced white people. Others show the fractured relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives. A light-hearted story about trick or treating was a welcome relief.

25. Friends and Rivals: Four Great Australian Writers by Brenda Niall

The writers are Ethel Turner, Barbara Baynton, Henry Handel Richardson and Nettie Palmer, only one of whom, Henry Handel Richardson, could be described as great.

Turner wrote the much-loved children's classic, Seven Little Australians, and churned out a book a year for decades to support her family. She had ambitions of writing literary masterpieces for adults, but was driven by the need to earn money. She ended up in the middle-class, but certainly didn't start there.

Barbara Baynton was new to me. She also had a difficult start in life, one of many children in a large, poverty-stricken family, deserted by her husband and left destitute with three children. Baynton ended up a rich woman with a title. She wrote bleak short stories about women's lives in the bush.

Henry Handel Richardson wrote The Getting of Wisdom, which we read at school and called The Wetting of Gisdom, and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, the last volume of which, Ultima Thule, was widely acclaimed as masterpiece and is almost unbearably tragic to read.

Nettie Palmer was also new to me. She wrote some poetry and a lot of journalism and was a great supporter of Australian writers. Like Ethel Turner she was driven by the need to earn money. She worked to allow her husband, Vance Palmer to fulfil what she saw as his enormous potential.

Friends and Rivals was a bit superficial, as you'd expect with four writers covered in a short book. The author seems to approve of everyone except Henry Handel Richardson, who comes across as a leech.

Redigeret: jan 31, 2021, 1:08 am

The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Aymé

There is a statue in Paris of Marcel Aymé, the writer of this wonderful collection of short stories which was first published in 1943 when Paris was under German occupation and the war seemed as though it would go on forever. In the title story, a lowly clerk discovers that he can walk through walls, so he suspends himself on the wall of boss's office like a hunting trophy, and tells the boss what he thinks of him. It's sympathetic, ironic and sad, and very funny.

In Tickets on Time it is decreed that people will be allocated life according to their usefulness. As a writer, the narrator is allocated two weeks of life a month. On the fifteenth of the month life stops, and it resumes on the fist of the next month. In the meantime, workers continue their lives, but they are often poor and unable to pay for fuel and food, so they sell some of their days. It all seems quite reasonable according to Aymé's logic, and is a brilliant example of the arbitrariness of rulers and the impotence of the citizens.

Aymé's sympathies are with the poor and the powerless. With wit and charm he pushes the possible beyond the ridiculous and creates little philosophical masterpieces.

Here is a a review from The Guardian.

jan 31, 2021, 10:41 pm

You’re doing some good reading!

Faro’s Daughter is one of my favorite Heyer romances; These Old Shades was another.

Wodehouse is such fun to read. I haven’t tackled any of the Psmith books yet, but I have some on an e reader. I’m taking a leisurely journey through The Indiscretions of Archie, but put it aside for a bit and then forgot about it! I’ll be finishing it this month.

I wish you a good week.

feb 1, 2021, 4:44 am

27. Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac

This was an unsatisfactory mystery. The murder victim was good man who had been introduced at length, so the reader was invested in him. The murderer was a madman, and in the end he shot himself. The locals spoke dialect. There were a lot of irrelevant characters who had very little to do. You could tell one woman was a tart because she wore make-up, but didn't wear tweeds.

>45 Matke: I'll put the The Indiscretions of Archie on the list. Archie is a famous name, these days!

feb 3, 2021, 5:00 am

28. The Gilt-Edged Mystery by E. M. Channon

Alured Dalmaine is on holiday in Switzerland when he runs across his tiresome and demanding cousin who drags him off to a school concert to see her daughter in a tableau. Part of that same tableau is the lovely Helga, a young teacher at the school. She asks Dal to seek out her sister Ida, who is living near Dal with her much older husband. Ida has replied to none of Helga's letters, and Helga is worried.

On the train returning to England, Dal meets a pleasant little man, Hooper, who has received a huge legacy from a cousin he has never met. He is off to stay at a swish hotel near Dal's home, where he has invited his other cousins, all seven of them, for a free holiday. Coincidentally, two of Dal's cousins, including the one he me in Switzerland, turn out to be related to Hooper.

Two people are murdered but I won't say who in case, as I do, people like to guess who the victim will be. The plot hinges too much on coincidence, but I liked Dal and the journalist friend covering Hooper's murder. This was a pleasant, undemanding read.

feb 6, 2021, 10:06 am

>46 pamelad: “You could tell one woman was a tart because she wore makeup, but didn’t wear tweeds.”
Village/Small Town life in a nutshell.
I’m sorry about this one; it doesn’t bode well for this author. Well, I mean it doesn’t bode well for me, when I get around to reading her books.

feb 8, 2021, 1:55 am

29. Voss by Patrick White

At times I thought, "Laura Trevelyan and the explorer, Voss, demonstrate aspects of Patrick White." They didn't strike me as independent characters, but as vehicles for White's ideas. Le Mesurier's journal performed a similar function.

The severe and intelligent Laura Trevelyan has recently arrived from England to live with her aunt and uncle, the Bonners, and their daughter Belle. Mr Bonner is a rich draper from a humble background, a kind and vulgar man who counts the cost of everything, despite his generosity. Mrs Bonner and her daughter Belle are affectionate, empty-headed women who cannot understand Laura, but recognise her superior qualities.

Bonner is financing an expedition led by the German explorer, Voss, who meets Laura when he arrives one Sunday while his backer is in church. Voss and Laura meet again at a celebratory dinner and have an intensely spiritual conversation in the garden. Voss has no time for humility; he believes in his own strength. To Laura, it seems that Voss is setting himself above God, which will lead to his destruction. She promises to pray for him, to save him. She and Voss have a mystical, spiritual connection. They appear to one another in dreams, and at times of crisis.

Voss heads off into the unknown with eight men: Palfreyman, the diffident ornithologist, who is trying to expiate his sins by devoting himself to caring for his companions; Judd, the ex-convict, a strong and capable man, humbled by illiteracy; Frank Le Mesurier, an intellectual who keeps a journal; Harry Robarts, an unintelligent, obliging, well-meaning giant of a man who needs a leader; Turner, an evil-minded drunk; Angus, a rich squatter; Dugald, an old aboriginal man; Jackie, a young aboriginal man. They are an ill-assorted group, its members imposed on Voss by well-meaning, ignorant businessmen in Sydney. The men take with them, as well as food and instruments, a herd of cattle, cattle dogs, a flock of sheep and a herd of goats. The animals are to provide food for a journey that may take years, but they make progress slow and complicated.

The book cycles between the expedition and the people back in Sydney. The harsh conditions of the expedition, the lack of water, the desperation of the men, contrast with the frivolity of social life in Sydney. It is a contrast between the wide-open mystery of the country and the pettiness of the city; the materialism of the city dwellers with the vision of Voss.

I'm glad I read Voss. I enjoyed it for its language, the idiosyncratic phrases that are perfect; the descriptions of the characters, particularly the recognisable people in Sydney, with their pettiness and hypocrisy, generosity and kindness, their well-meaning stupidity, their pomposity and obtuseness. I was less engaged by the religious symbolism, the sacrilegious arrogance of Voss, his spiritual communion with Laura. I question the validity of Jackie's action in the final chapters.

Redigeret: feb 8, 2021, 2:02 am

30. Doting by Henry Green

Such a relief after Voss! Both White and Green are modernists, but they're almost opposites. In Voss the characters were roiling with spiritual anguish, but in Doting, we see exteriors. Green never delves into his characters' interiors; they reveal themselves through conversation.

Arthur Middleton and his wife Diana have invited Annabel Paynton, a young woman of nineteen, for a night out to celebrate the first night of their seventeen-year-old son Peter's term holiday from boarding school. Arthur is very much attracted to Annabel and takes her out for lunch. When Diana accompanies Peter to Scotland to fish for salmon, Arthur invites Annabel to his flat for dinner, an ill-judged action that offends Diana, who decides to pay Arthur back by spending time with an old friend, Charles Addinsell. Claire, a friend of Annabel's, also becomes enmeshed.

it's all very brittle and funny. The conversations seem so true to life, and show so much about the characters, who can't see just how much they are revealing.

Redigeret: feb 8, 2021, 4:37 pm

31. Psmith, Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse

I've become attached to the elegant, courteous, prolixity of Psmith, who has accompanied Mike to the US, and is at a loose end in New York as Mike travels the country playing cricket. A meeting with the young journalist, Billy Wilson, who is acting editor of the twee newspaper, Cosy Moments, provides Psmith with the opportunity of a journalistic crusade, as he persuades Billy to sack the existing staff to pursue sensational stories. Billy and Psmith become boxing promoters; they entangled with a cat-loving gangster; they are pursued by a gang hired by a corrupt politician. In fact, corruption is the theme of the story and Wodehouse seems quite taken aback by how prevalent it is in the New York of the twenties, though he treats it with his usual light hand.

This, the third in the Psmith series, was not quite as entertaining as the previous two volumes because corruption is hard to laugh at. But if anyone can, it's Wodehouse. The descriptions of Cosy Moments and its contributors were highly amusing.

Not the twenties. It was first published in 1915.

Redigeret: feb 10, 2021, 2:47 pm

>51 pamelad: I remember Psmith in the City was one of the first P G Wodehouse books that I read, maybe forty years ago now. Leave it to Psmith, the next in the sequence is right up with Wide house’s finest, and features Blandings Castle and its cast of glorious characters too.

feb 13, 2021, 4:07 pm

>52 Eyejaybee: I've started Leave it to Psmith and am pleased to be introduced to Lord Emsworth in greater depth. The Empress hasn't yet made an appearance - Emsworth is obsessed with flowers, not pigs. The earlier Psmith books were gently amusing, but this one is much funnier. The chrysanthemum! Good for the crops!

feb 15, 2021, 5:04 am

32. The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning

Manning was an expatriate Australian who enlisted as a private in the British Army and fought in France in 1916. He was an educated man, a literary aesthete, but not a product of the British class system. The Middle Parts of Fortune is the title of the unexpurgated version of this fictionalised memoir of Manning's war experience. The Bowdlerised version was published as Her Privates We.

The main character, Bourne, is based on Manning. His loyalties lie with his fellow soldiers in the ranks; they are not friends, but comrades, who share what they have, look after one another, and depend on one another. The book begins with a battle, and ends with another, but in between the men are marching, scrounging food and drink, hanging around in estaminets, parading for little purpose, and drinking. They are the walking dead, knowing that they have little chance of survival. Theirs is the bravery of despair.

The book is not against war. Bourne accepts war as inevitable, an acceleration of reality. It is a philosophical book, with Bourne searching for the essence of himself and looking for it in his comrades.

Most of the novels and memoirs of WWI were written by officers, so Manning's book provides a different perspective. The officers do not know the men; they deploy them as resources. Manning writes about the individuals in the ranks.

I would recommend this book because Manning was there.

feb 16, 2021, 5:28 am

33. Finding Eliza: power and colonial storytelling by Larissa Behrendt

Larissa Behrendt is an Aboriginal lawyer, writer and activist. She investigates the story of Eliza Frazer, who was shipwrecked on Frazer Island, the home of the Butchulla people, where she stayed until she was "rescued" by two convicts who had spent many years living in Aboriginal communities. Eliza's story is that she was brutalised by savages. It suited the colonists to describe Australia's indigenous people as barbarians and cannibals to justify dispossessing them of their lands, hunting them down and slaughtering them. The convicts who saved Eliza magnified the danger because they wanted to be pardoned. Eliza herself wanted the public's sympathy and financial support.

The oral history passed down by the Butchulla people is quite different. They protected Eliza and found her uncooperative and ungrateful. They date the beginning of their dispossession from Eliza Fraser's arrival.

The author branches out from the Eliza Fraser story to consider other colonial narratives, not just in Australia. She talks about cannibalism: many indigenous peoples, all over the world, have been accused of cannibalism, but the evidence is slight. It is anecdotal, multiplying on itself, feeding the colonists' need to believe.

Some of the books Behrendt mentions are: A Fringe of Leaves; Coonardoo; Kings in Grass Castles; Heart of darkness; Robinson Crusoe and, bizarrely, Mutant Message Down Under, which was a best seller in the US and is a complete fake.

Well worth reading. Lots to think about.

feb 19, 2021, 11:52 pm

34. The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell

This British Library Crime Classic was first published in 1938. The best things about it are the descriptions of the docks, the Thames, the fog, the crumbling houses in the poor back streets, and how welfare and the health system work. The worst things are the plot and most of the characters. The plot involves smuggling and is quite silly. I saw no need for the complication of the pink night dresses, except that the lingerie shop gave some of he characters a place to work.

35. Leave it to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse

This is the fourth and last of the Psmith series. I will miss Psmith. His family has lost its money and he has been employed by his uncle, the fish magnate. Fed up with fish, Psmith resigns his position and puts a notice in the paper advertising his services. The notice is read by the feeble minded Freddie Threepwood, who has promised his uncle by marriage that he will steal his aunt's diamond necklace, but fears he is not up to the task. Psmith puts himself on the spot by impersonating a Canadian poet, author of the well-received Songs of Squalor.

This was very funny. It's one of the early Blandings castle books with Lord Emsworth, father of Freddie and just as feeble minded, pottering around ineffectually and obsessively in his garden. The great love of Emsworth's life, the gigantic, prize-winning pig The Empress of Blandings, has yet to appear.

feb 20, 2021, 9:08 am

You’ve been doing some great reading! Im glad to learn of the Manning book; I wasn’t aware that Her Privates We was expurgated.

I think I prefer the Blandings Castle books to the Wooster saga.

feb 27, 2021, 4:34 am

39. The Little Nugget by P. G. Wodehouse

This is an early Wodehouse, 1913. At the request of his fiancee Cynthia, Peter Burns has agreed to try to kidnap Ogden, the obnoxious cigar-smoking son of an American millionaire, and return him to his mother. Peter takes a job as an assistant master at the boarding school the boy attends, but the kidnapping is complicated by the involvement of a gang of gun-wielding gangsters, and the famous, educated criminal Smooth Sam Fisher. Another complication is the presence of Audrey, Peter's ex-fiancee and the woman he truly loves.

The book is amusing, but there are differences from Wodehouse's later books. A long section is told in the first person by Peter, who is often earnest, and the romance between him and Audrey is quite sincere.

feb 27, 2021, 4:40 am

>57 Matke: There's confusion between the titles now. Originally Her Privates We was expurgated, but some recent edition aren't.

It would be hard to choose between the Blandings and the Jeeves books. I'd probably vote for Jeeves, because the Empress of Blandings is occasionally too much of a good thing.

feb 27, 2021, 4:51 am

36. My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
37. Something Wicked by Jo Beverley
38. Devilish by Jo Beverley
40. Escapade by Joan Smith
41. Delsie by Joan Smith

I am currently reading Spillover, which is starting to seem longer than the bible, so I've broken it up with five Regency and Georgian romances, the salted peanuts of fiction. All of them were entertaining, but I doubt I'll bother with either author again. Not Georgette Heyer!

The Jo Beverley books plonk an anachronistically feminist young woman into a time when women had no rights at all.

The Joan Smith books are more traditional, but why are these people speaking contemporary American? They're in Regency England!

mar 4, 2021, 12:53 am

42. Spillover by David Quammen is about zoonotic infections, infections that start in animals and spill over into humans. Quammen starts with the Hendra virus, which infected and killed horses and two people in Queensland. He looks at influenza, ebola, Marburg, SARS and AIDS. I was fascinated by the scientific information, the isolation of viruses, the tracing of animal reservoirs, the dead ends, the successes. The book was written before the Covid pandemic, so it is chilling to read about the role of wet markets and bush meat in spillovers, and that bats are the reservoir for so many viruses. Scientists have been warning about the next big one for decades, and Covid might not even be it. Something worse could be on the horizon. These warnings make it all the more shocking that the world was so poorly prepared for the Covid pandemic.

Unfortunately, there's too much Quammen in the narrative, and he is extremely verbose. There is even a hypothetical section where Quammen fantasises about the first man to take AIDS from the bush to a big city. I found the book very interesting, but it could have been a lot shorter, and better for it.

mar 4, 2021, 1:19 am

43. Uneasy Money by P. G. Wodehouse

Bill Chalmers, the impoverished Lord Dawlish, is engaged to the beautiful and mercenary Claire Fenwick. He works as a secretary for a gentleman's club and makes enough for his needs, but Claire wants him to use his connections for profit and is not too bothered about Bill's integrity.

Bill is a big, kind, generous man, good at sport, slow of thought, and a liability on the dance floor. An American millionaire, whose golfing slice Bill once cured, disinherits his relatives and leaves a fortune to Bill, who sets off for New York in order to share the money with the former heirs.

Thee is a cast of entertaining characters: the barefoot dancer, Lady Wetherby, who lives with a snake and a monkey for publicity purposes; Claud Nutcombe Boyd, party boy, who expected to inherit; Claude's sister Elizabeth, who keeps bees; another millionaire, who is ensnared by Claire; a press agent; an ebullient and not very competent solicitor.

I enjoyed it.

mar 5, 2021, 2:53 am

44. The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

The widow's story begins with the disappearance of her husband, missing after an overseas conference on palliative care. Her story and the wife's are told in alternating chapters. We know thee is a connection, but it's not until midway through the book that we start to realise what it might be. The main action takes place on an island in Bass Strait, accessible only by ferry from the Bellarine Peninsula. In summer the place is full of wealthy visitors, tourists and the owners of holiday houses, but in the off-season the island is a cold and lonely place, most of the businesses closed, the locals scratching a living.

I thought this book was set in my part of the world, not far from Melbourne, in a seaside town I should be familiar with. But the island is imaginary, so there's no sense of place. Huge disappointment! Apart from that, it's a gripping read. I thought the ending was rubbish, but that's a common problem.

mar 8, 2021, 4:09 am

45. The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

Sir Waldo Hawkridge has just inherited his uncle's run-down property, Broom Hall, near Harrogate, and has travelled there to fix the place up and convert it to a self-supporting school for orphans. His young cousin Julian, Lord Lindeth has taken the opportunity of escaping from the London season and accompanied Waldo. Julian and Waldo get to know the neighbours, including the beautiful Tiffany Underhill, and her well-born governess Miss Trent. Tiffany's appalling behaviour causes a great deal of drama.

Another comforting read.

mar 12, 2021, 11:10 pm

46. The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

This collection of linked short stories features Bertie's cousins, the high-spirited, hell-raising Claude and Eustace, and Bingo Little, an old school friend who falls in love at the drop of a hat. When Bertie tries to help he makes small problems into large ones, but Jeeves always has a solution. Perfect pandemic escapism.

mar 17, 2021, 5:04 am

47. The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai is set in a poverty-stricken Tunisian village, a few hours by bus from the capital, but without electricity or running water. Most of the villagers cannot read or write, and the one television runs, connected to a car battery, only when an important soccer match is playing. The last dictator has died, and the country is soon to have its first democratic elections. The spruikers for the two main parties arrive in the village, but only the religious party provides the food, blankets and clothing the villagers need. The men grow beards, the women cover themselves from head to toe, and everyone prays far more often.

Sidi the beekeeper is devoted to his bees, his girls, and is devastated to find a hive destroyed, surrounded by the bodies of thousands of bees that have been broken in two. like the village, the hives have been invaded by something foreign. Sidi, a literate man who has seen the world outside the village, sets out to find the destroyers and save his girls.

The author has nothing good to say about the instigators of the wave of religious fundamentalism that overcomes the country. The first chapter takes place on a yacht, where a debauched Saudi prince and an ageing Italian politician seem to be striking a bargain to exploit the newly democratic country. Another interlude, where Sidi remembers his time working for Bedouins, comes to an end when Sidi witnesses debauchery, hyprocrisy and a sad misuse of honey.

The political points were made with a heavy hand, but overall I enjoyed the book for its descriptions of the villagers and their way of life,. I was also interested in the details about Sidi's bees.

Redigeret: mar 18, 2021, 5:29 am

48. The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse

Apart from the first Jeeves story, this collection didn't seem like Wodehouse at all. All the stories were readable, but they were sentimental rather than comic, and not special. They are interesting because they're so early in Wodehouse's career, 1917.

One story is narrated by a dog. If the writer were anyone other than Wodehouse, this would be unforgiveable.

mar 18, 2021, 7:27 pm

49. The Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley is a Georgian romance. Susan Fyfield attended a young ladies' seminary with Georgiana, the sister of the dashing Hugh Eversley. Georgiana's stories of her brother, a glimpse of Hugh from a window, and the sheer uneventfulness of life in a ladies' seminary, have led to Susan having such a crush on Hugh that she sneaks away to get a glimpse of him. Meeting him in person only exacerbates her feelings.

Poor Susan lives with her aunt, the casually kind Mrs Fyfield, and Mrs Fyfield's nasty daughter Cynthia. She believes that her parents died when she was two, before she came to live with her aunt, but the truth turns out to be more complicated.

I enjoyed this undemanding romance. Not much humour, and a bit short on historical detail, but a pleasant, undemanding read. The author is British.

mar 19, 2021, 9:28 pm

50. Queen without a Crown by Fiona Buckley

Ursula Stannard is the illegitimate half-sister of Queen Elizabeth I, and a trusted companion. She is regularly called upon to put her life at risk in the service of the queen. The northern earls are preparing to restore Elizabeth's sister Mary to the thrones of both England and Scotland. Ursula is sent to gather intelligence about the plans of the traitorous northerners, using as an excuse a genuine investigation into a poisoning that had occurred in the palace more than twenty years earlier.

This is the ninth book in a series of 18, but the earliest available on Overdrive. I quite enjoyed it, but it would have been better to have started at the beginning.

mar 20, 2021, 3:34 am

>69 pamelad: The first 8 books have only ever been available in print form. I have them all, and books 9-18 in ebook form. It's a bit of a nuisance, but I can't see this changing as her books are not great bestsellers (though I think she should be better known than she is).

She has also written other historical fiction under her real name Valerie Anand.

mar 20, 2021, 4:45 pm

51. The Toast of the Town and 52. A Season at Brighton by Alice Chetwynd Ley are the second and third volumes of the Eversley series, which started with The Clandestine Betrothal.

The beautiful Georgiana Eversley, The Toast of the Town, has received seven proposals and refused them all. She is getting a reputation as a heartless flirt, which she cements by accepting a wager from her brother, who bets that she cannot get a young doctor to propose. The doctor is a gentleman, and heir to a Scottish title, so he would be an unlikely, but not ineligible, suitor.

A Season at Brighton begins five years later, when the witty, charming, handsome and kind Lord Pamyngton, rejected suitor of Georgiana, meets the lively, headstrong Catherine Denham, and extricates her from a nasty situation. He has introduced himself by another of his names (these aristocrats seem to have a string of them), and is amused to learn that Catherine is on her way to Brighton to avoid meeting Lord Pamyngton, whose mother has conspired with her own to marry one of the Denham girls.

Not much plot here, but predictability is part of the charm.

Redigeret: mar 20, 2021, 5:12 pm

53. Marry in Haste by Jane Aiken Hodge

Camilla Forest has been sacked from her governess position, through no fault of her own, and is waiting on an almost deserted road for the mail coach to take her to London, when a carriage stops and the driver tells her that the mail coach has crashed and is too damaged to continue. The occupant of the carriage, Lord Leominster, takes her to his home, where he makes Camilla a proposition. Leominster dislikes women because of a tragedy in his past, but his grandmother has threatened to leave her enormous fortune to a cousin unless Leominster marries before he leaves for a diplomatic mission in Portugal, only a month away.

Camilla, born Camille de Foret, came to England at the age of three, with her father the Count de Foret, to escape the French Revolution. She and her father are penniless and reliant on charity, and Camilla has realised that she is unlikely to be able to support herself as a governess, so she accepts Leominster's offer. With Leomister's young sister, Chloe, the couple travel to Portugal.

Will Leomister overcome his antipathy to women and fall in love with Camilla? There are many difficulties in their way, and great danger.

An entertaining read. No humour, but lots of adventure.

mar 20, 2021, 5:14 pm

>70 john257hopper: Thanks John. My local library doesn't have the earlier books, but I'll keep an eye out for them.

mar 21, 2021, 1:57 am

54. I'm making the most of my Kindle Unlimited membership and reading lots of vintage Regency romances. Alice Chetwynd Ley's books are comforting in that almost nothing happens, they're utterly predictable, and there's always a happy ending. An Advantageous Marriage follows the formula. The orphaned Eugenia is a cousin of the Turville family: her father, the younger brother, married a mill-owner's daughter. The snobbish and mercenary Turvilles want to keep Eugenia's money in the family by marrying her to one of her cousins, but they concerned that she might not fit into polite society. Eugenia does her best to exacerbate their fears, and in the meantime falls in love with a neighbour, Peter, who was once in love with the selfish, hard-hearted Lucilla Turville, who has recently been widowed.

This will be the last Alice Chetwynd Ley I read for a while. I want at least a little bit of plot!

mar 22, 2021, 4:20 am

55. Escapade by Jane Aiken Hodge

Charlotte, heiress to a private bank, had been told lies by her wicked old grandmother who blamed Charlotte's mother for the death of Charlotte's father. Charlotte trusts no-one, eats almost nothing, and vomits a lot. In a very unlikely plot twist, she ends up in Sicily, using a false name, with her mother's former maid, Beth, who is now a famous actress. Sicily is a dangerous place, with the British plotting against the Queen, who is exiled from Naples, and the Queen planning violent retaliation. Spies are everywhere.

Beth and Charlotte are caught up in a plot, and do not know who to trust. Charlotte, who at times appears to have no functioning brain, is a liability who puts everyone in danger. Fortunately, there's a childhood friend of Charlotte's and a American hero to help them.

This book had rather too much plot, so was not the relaxing read I want from a Regency romance. The characters were so busy that we didn't get to know them. No-one had anything good to say about the Sicilians, which is uncomfortably xenophobic.

mar 22, 2021, 7:54 pm

56. A Highly Respectable Marriage by Sheila Walsh won the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association, not ribonucleic acid) Award for 1984.

Pandora's father, Colonel Carlyon, had died in the Peninsula Wars, not long after the death of his much-loved wife. His wife and three children had "followed the drum", so Pandora is unaccustomed to the demands of polite society and remains her outspoken self. With her older brother at Oxford, Pandora and her younger brother, William, have been living with a half-sister, a bad-tempered, penny-pinching woman with an even nastier husband. Pandora wants to leave her sister's house and support herself, so after a half-understood conversation with her godmother, she presents herself at the residence of the Duke of Heron to apply for a position looking after his young wards.

Perhaps I've read too many Regency romances lately, but this one seems more than usually derivative, a cut and paste of a few Georgette Heyer books. The creepiness factor is high, with a naive young woman of nineteen and a rakish duke pushing forty. At least they're not cousins.

mar 27, 2021, 5:57 pm

59. The Saint-Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon

Maigret receives a warning of a crime to be committed in Saint-Fiacre, the village where he spent his childhood. His father was the manager of the Count's estates, and Maigret remembers the Count and his family with awe and respect. Now only the widow and her son, the current Count, remain, and most of the property has been sold. The widow scandalises the village with her liaisons with young male "secretaries" who are bleeding her of her remaining funds. When the widow dies in church, there are many suspects.

I was not in the mood for swimming in this cess-pit of vile individuals so struggled to finish this short book. Well-written, as is usual for Simenon, but too bleak, even for him.

60. Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

Richard Garth, the heir to the Garth family farm, has returned secretly after 25 years away. Did he kill his father, with whom he argued so bitterly many years ago? Or was it his sister, who keeps the farm running profitably despite her father's refusal to pay her a wage or buy her a bull? Perhaps it was the middle brother who returned penniless from Malaya, or the youngest brother, a sensitive young man who hates his father. Could the murderer be the local farmer who bears an old and bitter grudge? The answer is obvious, really.

As usual for Lorac, there are loving descriptions of the landscape and cursory character development. The policeman, MacDonald, is the only person with a personality. Lorac judges her characters by how hard they work on the farm.

mar 27, 2021, 6:16 pm

>77 pamelad: I read Fell Murder last summer on holiday in the Lake District, slightly north of where this is set. I really enjoyed it, despite its limitations.

mar 27, 2021, 6:48 pm

>78 john257hopper: It would make a difference, to be in the same location. She clearly loved the countryside.

mar 28, 2021, 11:51 pm

61. Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Jeeves and Bertie become embroiled in the love lives of Gussie Fink-Nottle and Tuppy Glossop. Gussie, a newt-fancier, is too diffident to propose to the fey and silly Madeline Basset, a woman whose every utterance sets Bertie's teeth on edge. Tuppy's tactlessness has led to the breaking of his engagement to Angela Travers, Bertie's cousin. Bertie's attempts to help make the situation much worse, so Jeeves has to step in.

Other characters are the wonderful Aunt Dahlia, and Anatole, the brilliant French chef. It's very, very funny, even after multiple readings.

mar 29, 2021, 4:31 pm

62. Twice Dead by E. M. Channon

This British crime novel, first published in 1930, is one of three in the E. M. Channon Collection: Three Golden Age Mysteries. It is part romance and part crime, with a cluster of exotic and irrelevant subplots.

Sylvia is in love with Tom, but Sylvia is rich and Tom is poor, so he is too proud to declare himself. Doctor Mackay is also in love with Sylvia, and Philip says he is. A mysterious fortune teller predicts a death, and attempts blackmail. An evil invalid spits malice. An exotic Chinese weapon is employed for no apparent reason. This was a complete hodge podge, replete with snobbery and xenophobia. I enjoyed it.

apr 1, 2021, 9:47 pm

65. Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall was first published in 1944 and is the basis for the film Wicked Lady.

The house Maryiot Cells, home of the Skelton family for generations, is notorious for the presence of the ghost of Lady Skelton, who died more than three hundred years ago. The first part of the book describes the hauntings over the centuries. Lady Skelton, dressed in men's clothing, has manifested herself at times of disturbance: at a wedding; when plans were made to tear down and rebuild part of the house. She is a force of destruction.

The second part is about Barbara, Lady Skelton, married off at sixteen to a man who bores her, concerned with herself and no one else, able to mask her feelings and present a bland and docile face to the world. A loss at cards drives her to recover her property by holding up a coach, and the thrill of the crime incites her to repeat it, and to kill.

I enjoyed this. I liked the distant, ironic tone, and was entertained by the evil Lady Skelton.

apr 2, 2021, 5:41 am

>82 pamelad: I love that film - must rewatch it, and hunt out that book.

apr 3, 2021, 11:54 pm

>83 john257hopper: It's available on Youtube, so I plan to watch it soon.

68. Of Mortal Love by William Gerhardie

Gerhardie was a well-regarded writer in the twenties and thirties, but then he stopped. He wrote philosophical, comic novels tinged with melancholy, though this one is the other way round: melancholy tinged with comedy. It begins with the death of Dinah, the beautiful young woman whom the narrator loved, returns to the start of their affair, traces its course, then comes back to her death. The narrator, Walter, is a composer, self-absorbed, chronically short of cash, who takes Dinah for granted. Dinah loves him frantically and jealously, and demands his attention. She lives in the present, but a woman in a book is more real to Walter than the woman in front of him.

Three men are in love with Dinah - Walter, her husband Jim, and another man, Eric - but they see her as an extension of themselves, give too little of themselves, and let her down. Only after her death does Walter realise how little he knows of the real Dinah.

The comedy is in the characters - the way they behave, the things they say, their self-deceptions. The melancholy is in the inevitability of failure, that a woman with Dinah's potential for happiness cannot find it.

I recommend this book highly, but I've been a William Gerhardie fan for a long time. Futility and The Polyglots are also well worth reading. They're more outward looking, less melancholy, and much easier to find.

apr 5, 2021, 6:09 pm

>84 pamelad: just rewatched the Wicked Lady - thanks for the YouTube recommendation, I would never have thought to look for it, or any full length film really, there, and the Greek subtitles were no distraction!

I have also downloaded the ebook.

Redigeret: apr 10, 2021, 6:12 pm

>85 john257hopper: I enjoyed the film, and hope you like the book. The film made a few changes.

71. Harlequin House by Margery Sharp

Dean Street Press has republished a number of Margery Sharp's books. Most of her books had been out of print, and those I've read I bought second-hand, so it's good to see that they're available again. Some of them are even in Kindle Unlimited, including this one. Sharp wrote gentle comedies populated with well-meaning, eccentric characters. Her books are kind-hearted, tolerant and funny, with an ironic take on the British class system. Harlequin House is no exception.

Mr Partridge is lawless in a small way, not really dishonest, just inclined to bend the rules almost to breaking point. He delights in observing people and when he can, participating in their lives. Meeting an elderly lady in a park leads him to an acquaintance with the equally flexible young woman, Lisbeth, who needs protection, Mr Partridge believes, so he inserts himself into her life.

I enjoyed this happy little book.

apr 10, 2021, 6:36 pm

72. Suffering the Scot, 73. Romancing the Rake, 74. Loving a Lady by Nichole Van

These are the first three books from the series Brotherhood of the Black Tartan. Six men took part in a privately funded scientific expedition to the New Hebrides, and were fortunate to survive. An evil captain attempted to murder the leader of the expedition, who came close to death. Jamie, the ship's carpenter, apparently died protecting the men, who have formed the Brotherhood to avenge his death.

Each book focuses on one member of the expedition, matches him with the perfect woman, and furthers the story about the expedition and the search to determine the fate of Jamie. I want to know what happened to Jamie, but not enough to read any more of this series. I hadn't realised that there was a subset of historical romantic fiction dealing with men in kilts, and find it very odd indeed.

I was entertained enough to read three books from this series, but there is too much sentimentality, hugging, and self-improvement jargon, and too many overly sensitive heroes and anachronistically independent heroines.

Redigeret: apr 12, 2021, 9:35 pm

78. Here We Are by Graham Swift begins in 1959 with a variety show in Brighton. The MC, Jack Robinson, sings a bit, dances a bit, and tells a few jokes. Jack's friend Ronnie stars in a magic act, Pablo and Eve, the audience's favourite, with his fiancee Evie. Variety is dying, and the three will never appear together again. There's a mystery about Ronnie. We learn about his early life with his mother in East London, the years he spent as an evacuee with the childless couple Eric and Penny, the events leading to him becoming a magician on stage in Brighton with his assistant Evie. Then the book returns to Evie, fifty years later, looking back. What happened to Ronnie?

I did not much enjoy this book and was pleased that it was so short. It is elegiac in tone, and the characters are lifeless because Swift describes them from the outside. Ronnie is the one character the reader wants to know about, so the ending, which verges on Magical Realism, was to me a failure of imagination and humanity.

This is the second of Graham Swift's books that I've read, the first being the Booker Prize winner, Last Orders. They share the same dreary tone. Swift is such a sad sack that I doubt I'll read another of his books.

apr 13, 2021, 7:06 pm

>88 pamelad: Still reflecting on why I disliked this book so much. I've been happily reading some real rubbish, but my expectations were much higher for Here We Are and I was disappointed. It was the magical ending, particularly the reappearance of the parrot, which made the book seem like a cold artistic exercise, where its structure was more important than its characters.

apr 13, 2021, 9:27 pm

82. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp

The Laventie family has a birthday tradition. Ever since Ann, the youngest, yearned for a hyacinth pie, every birthday pie has contained flowers. By now the adult Ann would much prefer something edible, like apples, but the tradition continues. The Laventies like to be unusual, to be seen as distinguished, so are inordinately concerned with the impression they create: their neighbours are too common to associate with; their house is exquisitely furnished; their conversation is intellectual, their pursuits literary and artistic. Out of family loyalty, Ann does her best to fit in with her distinguished father, brother and sister, but it does not come naturally and she is drawn to people whom her family find common and worthless.

This is Margery Sharp's first book and very funny. I snorted with laughter quite a few times. The Laventies are appallingly and emptily pretentious, and Sharp must have known people just like them.

apr 27, 2021, 5:52 pm

93. Circe by Madeline Miller

This is a sympathetic story of Circe, from her own perspective. I have almost zero knowledge of Greek mythology, except for what I learned reading The Silence of the Girls last year, so had never heard of Circe and find it hard to say anything sensible about this book. I quite enjoyed it, and have now learned who the Olympians and the Titans were. I've also learned more about Odysseus.

apr 27, 2021, 5:54 pm

100. Wish by Peter Goldsworthy

John James's parents are both deaf, so he learned sign language before he learned to talk. He earns a living teaching Auslan (Australian sign language) and in a night class meets Stella Todd and Clive Kinnear, who employ him to give private lessons to someone whom he assumes is their non-verbal child.

This was a thought-provoking read. There's a lot about sign language and linguistics, which I found interesting, and animal rights. Kinnear has written a book that sounds a little like Peter Skinner's Animal Liberation, though Kinnear is not based on Skinner. He is a proponent of suffrage for animals, and a monomaniac. I don't want to say too much and ruin the ending.

Some people might find this book distasteful.

apr 27, 2021, 5:55 pm

77. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, 102. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse

The The Jeeves Omnibus - Volume 4 is the perfect reading in bed book. It's light, humorous and cheerful, not at all nightmare material. Because I've read all the Jeeves books before there's no urgency to keep reading all night to find out what happens. I read Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit earlier this month, have just finished Jeeves in the Offing and have started Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. All three books feature Aunt Dahlia, Bertie's favourite aunt who never speaks below a bellow, and her husband Tom Travers, who collects antique silver and hates to pay taxes. When I've finished this volume, I'll probably buy another.

apr 27, 2021, 6:05 pm

Due to the extraordinary number of rubbishy Regency romances I've read this month, I've passed the hundred. Normally crime is the genre fiction I choose, but at the moment I'm looking for happy endings, and have no inclination to read about death and corruption.

What I'd REALLY like is cheerful books with some literary merit. Suggestions are welcome.

apr 28, 2021, 5:05 am

Impressively early in the year to reach the target, whatever the genre! :)

Redigeret: apr 28, 2021, 5:40 pm

104. Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa

Corporal Lituma and his assistant, Tomas Carreno, have been appointed to Nacco, an isolated town in the Andes, to guard the workers who are building a new road. Bands of Shining Path guerillas are based in the mountains, from where they launch raids on towns and travellers, stoning victims to death. An attack on a bus and raids on a town and a national park are described in devastating detail. Nacco was once a thriving town, but a cantina and the workers huts are all that remain.

Lituma comes from the coast, a world away from the mountain people whose Catholicism is overlaid with the ancient beliefs in the spirits of the Andes. He is investigating the disappearance of three men. Were they they the victims of Shining Path, or did the spirits take them? The owners of the cantina, Dionisio and his wife, Senora Adriana, known as a witch, are linked to the disappearances, but how?

Every night, Tomas tells Lituma the story of Mercedes, his obsession, whom he has rescued from a violent man, or has he? Mercedes does what she needs to survive. The narrative switches without warning between Tomas's story, Lituma's investigation, the attacks of the guerillas, Dionisio and Adriana, the past and the present, with the story of Tomas and Mercedes ending each day.

The tangled layers of the novel reflect Llosa's view of the complexity of Peru, a place that fascinates outsiders, those people from clean, clear places, who cannot comprehend the country's murky depths.


apr 28, 2021, 5:38 pm

>95 john257hopper: Thanks John. I'm aiming to read more variety in May.

Redigeret: apr 28, 2021, 5:41 pm

Duplicate post.

maj 9, 2021, 10:16 pm

111. Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons

Jakob and Sadie Rosenblum, Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, arrive in England in 1937 with their one-year-old daughter. They were lucky to obtain exit papers, and had to leave behind the rest of their family, who were not so fortunate. On arrival they are given a list of rules to follow in order to assimilate into English society. Jakob embraces the challenge with enthusiasm and his first step in becoming an Englishman is to change his name to Jack. Sadie, however, sees Jack's optimistic focus on the future, his refusal to feel sad, as an insult to the people they have lost, and they grow apart.

Jack builds a successful carpet business, which allows him to acquire the outward trappings of a successful Englishman - an impressive house, a Saville Row suit, a Jaguar - but he cannot fulfil his ambition of joining a golf club because no club will take Jews. He decides to build his own, so buys a ramshackle house, with enough land for a golf course, in Dorset.

Jack's obsession with building the golf course doesn't chime with the character who built a successful carpet business and was devoted to his wife and daughter. This section of the book is almost unbearably twee, and only the realism of Sadie's melancholy ties it to reality. Fortunately, something happens to restore the sympathy between Sadie and Jack.

The best parts of the book were the insights into the difficulties experienced by Jack and Sadie: the racial prejudice; the clash of cultures and lack of understanding; the difficulty in getting out of Germany and leaving people behind; coming to terms with the loss of their extended family; the class system. The author is the grand daughter of Holocaust survivors whose experiences she used as a basis for Sadie's and Jack's. The worst parts were the lengthy fantasy about building the golf course. The book was far too long.

maj 9, 2021, 10:19 pm

112. The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson is set in the 1890s and was first published in 1909.

Laura Robotham's father is dead and although her mother barely supports the family by doing embroidery, she has scraped together the money to send Laura to board at a ladies' college in Melbourne. We now know it is PLC, the Presbyterian Ladies' College, which was then located in East Melbourne. We also know that the country town where Laura's family lives is Maldon, which I know well, so I can trace her journey on the coach to Castlemaine station, then to Melbourne by train. All the places in the book are familiar: Prahran, where Laura's godmother lives; Collins Street, where people used to 'do the block', walking up and down dressed in their best, meeting friends; Eastern Market, which used to be at the top of Bourke Street; Sorrento, the small town on Port Philip Bay where Laura went for a holiday. I loved reading about these places as they were 130 years ago.

I last read this book in year 9, which is over fifty years ago. It made a strong impression on me then, partly because, like Laura, I was a new student and the new school felt strange. I remember Laura's embarrassment at the bright purple dress her mother made her wear, and the sympathy I felt for her need to be just like the other students. But Laura is not at all a sympathetic character. She tells lies, has no sense of humour, toadies to people she wants to know and is cruel to people who don't interest her. If Laura is, as is often assumed, based on the author, this is a brutally lacerating portrait.

I enjoyed this re-read.

maj 9, 2021, 10:20 pm

113. Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Victor Frankl 1946

This is the first English translation of three lectures delivered in 1946 at an adult education college in a district of Vienna, 9 months after Frankl had been liberated from the Dachau concentration camp. They were published as a book the same year. Frankl draws on his experience in the camps, in hospitals and clinics, in order to reach his conclusions.

The first lecture, On the Meaning and Value of Life I, concludes that life becomes more meaningful the more difficult it becomes, that each person is responsible for his own existence. The second lecture, on the Meaning and Value of Life II makes the case that all lives are valuable. Frankl is responding here to the "euthanasia" of the mentally and physically ill. In the third lecture, Experimentum Crucis, Frankl talks about the people who knew nothing, and distinguishes between being responsible and being liable.

maj 9, 2021, 10:21 pm

116. The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton was, according to Amazon, voted the greatest Norwegian crime novel of all time.

Most of the protagonists are staying at a seaside hotel in a rural Norwegian village surrounded by farmland, mountains and forests. The descriptions of the surroundings are poetic and beautiful, and contribute enormously to the atmosphere of the book. It's summer, and the nights are short, with only two or three hours of darkness. A man's body is found on the plain, and a detective is called from the city. He knows who the killer is, but there is no evidence, so he must find a way of proving his case.

The Iron Chariot is a local folktale. People hear the sound of the chariot when someone dies, and it was heard on the night of this death.

I enjoyed this book. It was slow, dramatic and atmospheric. It was first published in 1909.

maj 9, 2021, 10:22 pm

118. Pending Heaven by William Gerhardie 1930

The two main characters, Victor Thurbon and Max Fisher, are based on the author and his friend, Hugh Kingsmill. They first meet in the Cap d'Antibes, where Victor leases a house, then again in London, where Victor has a flat and a secretary, the young widow, Phyllis Blackadder. The three of them decide to share a flat, but the arrangement ends when Phyllis leaves with Max, to Victor's chagrin. Max and Victor compete over literature and women, and Max manages to spirit away another of victor's women, the harpist Helen. Max ends up in Victor's house in Cap d'Antibes with both Helen and Phyllis, plus a third young woman, Sheila. Max acquires mistresses but cannot get rid of them.

There's hardly any plot. It's episodic, comic and melancholy, with a few recurring themes. Max is swindled over a horse and for most of the book tries to get his money back; Helen's vanity is ludicrous and entertaining; Sheila, Helen and Phyllis all think they're the most important and intelligent woman in Max's life. They move to Algeria, where Max suggests a Mohammadan marriage. It's very amusing book, and you can't help but feel sympathy for Max and Victor, though they're a pair of selfish, incompetent womanisers.

I enjoyed Pending Heaven, but had to suspend judgement. Max loves womanhood, but finds women's individual personalities tedious and unnecessary.

Redigeret: maj 9, 2021, 10:25 pm

129. A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell Short story, 1917

A man has been strangled with a rope, and his wife arrested. Three men, the sheriff, the county attorney and a witness, are upstairs investigating the crime and searching for a motive, while downstairs in the kitchen two women are collecting the clothes and other necessities for the jailed women. The men's jocular criticism of the woman's housekeeping and their condescending comments about women's concerns contrast with the women's sympathy for the accused. By observing domestic details the men cannot see, the women understand the motive.

Highly recommended.

maj 10, 2021, 8:02 am

130. Concluding by Henry Green

In a Henry Green novel the characters were living before the reader picked up the book, so when you arrive you don't quite know where you are. Eventually things start to make sense, but you can never be sure that you understand, because the characters don't understand either. They might be deliberately misleading one another, not making themselves clear, not listening. One of the characters, Mr Rock, is partly deaf, so he both mishears and pretends to mishear.

Mr Rock is a retired scientist, a man with a distinguished career behind him. A grateful government has granted him the lifetime tenancy of a cottage, where he lives with his grand daughter Elizabeth who has had a nervous breakdown. The cottage is on the grounds of a government girls' school run by two governors, Miss Edge and Miss Baker, who are scheming to move Rock on. They're also scheming to keep their jobs and avoid scandal, so when two students go missing, Edge and Baker don't report it.

The plot is the day. The girls and the staff are preparing for a Founder's Day celebration. Girls visit Rock's pig. People search for the missing girls. People move through the day gossiping, misleading, manipulating, trying to get their own way, hiding their motives from themselves. Green's descriptions of physical world they move through are strange, dazzling and perfect.

This is a confusing, unsettling, brilliant book.

Redigeret: maj 12, 2021, 5:56 pm

135. Nadja by Andre Breton

Andre Breton is known as the father of surrealism, so I read his book in the hope of clarifying what does, and does not, qualify as surrealist literature. The term surreal is so debased now that people use it as a synonym for strange. Had I not read The Hearing Trumpet I would be tempted, on the basis of Nadja, to dismiss the surrealist novel as pompous twaddle, but the sample size is far too small and Breton denies that this is a novel.

Nadja doesn't appear until a third of the way through the book. The author is attracted by her appearance and picks her up in the street, hoping that she is not a prostitute. She's not, and her unconstrained behaviour and conversation strike a chord with the author. Nadja and Breton meet every day, and he is impressed by Nadia's artistic insight and natural affinity with the surrealist philosophy. He discusses Nadja with his very understanding wife. After a week, which includes a trip to the country and a night together, the author tires of Nadja and he loses touch with her, despite Nadja's reliance on him and his wife for support. Nadja has no instinct for self-preservation, and her immoderate behaviour, which Breton has encouraged, leads to her committal in an asylum. Breton muses on the differences between asylums for the rich and the poor: the possibility of recovery for those rich enough to be treated well, and the inevitable descent into incurable insanity for the poor. But he never takes action, or even visits Nadja.

I've reviewed this book on the basis of my impressions of Breton's character, which is hardly objective, but I can't separate his philosophy from his behaviour.

maj 12, 2021, 6:52 pm

Here is Andre Breton on the unconscious.

May the great living and echoing unconsciousness which inspires my only conclusive acts in any sense I always believe in, dispose forever of all that is myself.

136. The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson

The narrator first meets Engelbrecht at the Walpurgis Night Witch Shoot, which is just like a duck shoot except that the vicar and choir are the beaters, the loaders are chaplains and instead of ducks, the prey are witches and warlocks. Englebrecht seemed a pleasant enough little chap - a dwarf, of course, like nearly all surrealist boxers who do most of their fighting with clocks. He and the narrator are sharing the finest witch stand in England, and they say the splash as the witches plop into the water all round you is the most exciting sound in the world for a witch shooter and one he never forgets.

The exploits of Englebrecht is a collection of short stories, most of them based on sporting contests organised by the Surrealist Sporting Club. They're all ludicrous and extremely funny. There's Engelbrecht's greatest ever fight, with a Grandfather clock, a golf match that covers the universe and goes on for centuries, a football match against Mars. The narration is deadpan, as though these are the sort of events you'd read about in the daily paper.

I'd be almost certain that The Exploits of Engelbrecht wouldn't qualify as surrealist literature, despite being littered with the term surrealist. Every time I came across the phrase "when he recovered the priceless gift of consciousness" I had to laugh, and thinking of Andre Breton made me laugh harder.

I absolutely recommend this extraordinarily funny, madly imaginative book.

maj 14, 2021, 4:12 am

137. When We cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut is shortlisted for the International Booker. It is, according to Labatut, "a work of fiction based on real events......The quantity of fiction grows throughout the book......while still trying to remain faithful to the scientific concepts....." The book begins with chemistry, Goering's addiction to hydrocodeine, moving onto the Wehrmacht dependence on the amphetamine Pervitin, then to cyanide, a by-product of the manufacture of the first synthetic pigment, Prussian blue, and the suicides of Hitler and his staff, then to Zyklon B, the cyanide based poison used in the gas chambers. Having established the link between chemistry and war, he moves onto Fritz Haber, whose Haber-Bosch process for fixing atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia was developed for making explosives during WWI, but when used to produce fertiliser led to the improved agricultural yields that have allowed the world's population to explode. Ammonia wasn't Haber's only contribution to the war effort: he masterminded gas warfare, flooding the trenches with chlorine.

The second chapter is about Karl Schwarzschild, a brilliant mathematician whose calculations, carried out while he commanded an artillery unit on the Russian front postulated the existence of black holes: the Schwarzschild singularity. The author imagines Schwarzschild's emotional state, his reaction to his discovery, Einstein's response. In the third chapter, the focus remains on mathematics, with the withdrawn Japanese mathematician Mochizuki linking to the life and work of Alexander Grothendieck, who retried at the peak of his powers to devote his life to environmental causes and religion, becoming increasingly eccentric and ascetic. Or is this the author's conjecture?

The longest section of the book covers the quantum physicists, in particular the work and rivalry of Schroedinger and Heisenberg. With Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, we cease to understand the world.

I found this book fascinating and enjoyed reading it, but where does fact end and fiction begin? What thoughts, opinions and emotions has Labatut imposed on his scientists? What dread?

maj 17, 2021, 9:20 pm

139 Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser is set in the Benjamenta Institute, a school for servants, where students are taught to be small, and that is what Jakob wants from life. He wants rules and punishment, to lose himself in activity and to stop thinking. "Certainly one must think.... But to comply, that is much more refined, much more than thinking. If one thinks, one resists, and that is always so ugly and ruinous to others........" He professes to love his unthinking fellow students and to want to be like them, but he is proud to be intelligent, to be able to think and to write, and to be admired for it. And he doesn't actually want to comply. "What I mean is: if you aren't allowed to do something, you do it twice as much as somewhere else. Nothing's more insipid than an indifferent, quick, cheap bit of permission.... Everything that's forbidden lives a hundred times over..."

It's a strange book, because it's as though Walser is sharing his thoughts without censoring them, with all their contradictions and diversions. He drifts off into dreams and fantasies, then returns to the mundane as though he never left. He seems to be in despair, but keeping it at a distance, and treating it as comical.

This is a thought-provoking book. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it. I'll read another of Walser's books, but not straight away.

Redigeret: maj 18, 2021, 10:11 pm

140. A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

A thirteen-year-old girl is sent away by her middle-class parents to live with poor strangers. The unwelcoming strangers are her birth family: she had never known that the couple who had brought her up were distant relatives who had unofficially adopted her. She cannot understand why the people she thought of as her parents have abandoned her.

In her new life she shares a bed with a younger sister, and her three older brothers share the same room. There is a risk of incest because the girl and the boys have not been brought up together. Food is short. The girl's brothers left school as soon as they could, and the same fate lies in store for her sister. As the mother tells the girl, poverty is more than hunger. The ten-year-old sister shows strength of character and compassion, in contrast to the adults, and by the end of the book the rejected girl is determined to help her sister to a better future.

Recommended because it compares with compassion the lives of the poor and the middle-classes, points out middle-class prejudices and shows how difficult it is for the poor to escape their backgrounds. It's set in the seventies, in Abruzzo. Are things better now?

maj 19, 2021, 5:22 pm

141. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka 1915

I should have read this long before now, but I didn't realise how comical and domestic this famous short story would be. Gregor Samsa wakes up and finds that he has turned into a cockroach, and initially his main worry is that he will be late for work. The concern is valid because the chief clerk turns up to find out why Gregor missed his train.

I read the Michael Hoffman translation from Metamorphosis and Other Stories.

maj 23, 2021, 6:14 pm

144. Pack My Bag is Henry Green's memoir, written when he was 35. During WWII he was working with the London Auxiliary Fire Service, putting out fires started by bombs. He recorded his memories in case he didn't survive. He reminisces about his education: private school, public school (unnamed, but it's Eton) and Oxford. Green's description of the violence and the toadying culture of Eton shocked me. This book is a bit of a mess, obviously rushed, but interesting in parts because Green was so honest.

It was first published in 1940.

maj 24, 2021, 1:30 am

145. They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy 1934

This has been sitting on my Kindle since 2015 and I'd put off reading it because I thought it was going to be long and difficult. Long it is, but difficult, No! It's a sweeping story of pre-WWI Hungary, written by a Hungarian Count, former diplomat and member of parliament, who is interested in everything going on in Hungary: the balls, the horse racing, the shooting parties, the social climbing, the gossip, the lives of the peasants, horse breeding, forestry, and above all, the politics.

The story starts in 1905. Transylvania is a part of Hungary, as are a number of Slavic states, including Croatia. The two main characters are the cousins Balit Abady and Laszlo Gyeroffy. The noble, honest and well-meaning Count Balit Abady is an independent member of Parliament, having refused to join either of the two main parties, which are bickering about superficialities while behind the scenes the Austrians are planning to subsume Hungary. Balit is in love with a friend from his childhood, Addy, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a violent and possessive man. Balit's cousin, Count Laszlo Gyeroffy, orphaned as a young boy and never quite belonging anywhere, is a potentially brilliant musician who is starting to destroy himself with drink and gambling.

Six hundred pages whipped by, and I'm looking forward to They Were Found Wanting.

maj 28, 2021, 6:37 pm

150. A House in the Country by Ruth Adam

During the Blitz, when friends were bombed out they moved into the narrator's house, already home to herself, her husband, and three children. In the evenings the crowd of friends, most of whom were connected with the BBC, would fantasize about moving to the country where they would have plenty of space and fresh food, so when they read a newspaper advertisement for a thirty-three room manor in Kent, they all moved in together. At first, living in the country was idyllic but eventually things fell apart. This pleasant, often humorous book is the story of the narrator's eight years in the country manor.

I quite liked this, although I'm not very interested in domestic things. People who are should love it.

This was book number 150, an insane number to have read in four months. I plan to read fewer, longer, more demanding books in future, and to go out more.

jun 5, 2021, 1:16 am

162. Who Killed Dick Whittington? by E. & M. A. Radford

This started off really well, with lots of colourful theatrical characters. The principal boy of the pantomime, Dick Whittington, dies onstage and the prime suspect is his cat. The death turns out to be linked to a series of fires, suspected insurance frauds. Unfortunately the story became bogged down in the tedious ratiocinations of the scientific detective, Doctor Manson, who burbled on about paraffin and indium and analysed a lot of soot.

jun 19, 2021, 6:08 am

186. They Were Found Wanting and 187. They Were Divided by Miklos Banffy

These are the second and third books in the Transylvanian trilogy, which begins with They Were Counted. The trilogy, which is really one long book, starts in 1905 and ends with the outbreak of WWI. Balit Abady, the main character is, like the author, a Hungarian count and an elected parliamentarian. While the world outside Hungary moves closer to war, Hungarian politicians argue about trivialities, fail to implement the parochial policies for which they were elected, and block all efforts to modernise the military. Meanwhile, corrupt notaries and bankers cheat illiterate peasants of their land and men gamble away estates that have been in their families for centuries. The lavish balls and hunts continue, and Banffy describes them in brilliant detail. His descriptions of the Translylvanian countryside he loved are beautiful. He is recording the lost world he loved.

Highly recommended.

jun 19, 2021, 7:28 pm

Lately I've read a few historical romances that I'd classify as "if they'd only known then what we know now" because they're about people with medical conditions - dyslexia, bipolar disorder and depression, so far. Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews is one of them and I found it dreary, although I usually enjoy her books. I do not like psychology and excessive talkiness in a historical romance, and much prefer froth. Fortunately it was short.

Inspector Frost's Jigsaw by Herbert Maynard Smith

This is the first Inspector Frost book, the third I've read, and the second to feature the caning of a small boy. The canings make me uneasy, so I have lost faith in the jovial and paternal Inspector Frost and will probably not read another in this series. It's longer than the other two, and more confusing, with rather too many plot strands.

jun 24, 2021, 7:24 pm

200. St Peter's Umbrella by Kalman Mikszath was first published in 1895, ten years before the start of Miklos Banffy's They were Counted, and is set in a Slovak village in what was once the Hungary of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Unlike Banffy's books, which are centred on the upper classes, St Peter's Umbrella is concerned with the middle and lower classes. As in Banffy's books, there are many ceremonies and celebrations with lots of food and drink, and dancing to gypsy orchestras.

The book reads like a fable related by a kindly, humorous and ironic narrator. It consists of five sections, linked by the journey of an old red umbrella. The umbrella makes its first appearance when a mysterious, bearded old man shelters a little girl from the rain. She is the sister of the priest, who uses the umbrella for a rainy funeral ceremony during which an unlikely event occurs, which the villagers believe is a miracle. The villagers think that the mysterious old man who gave the priest's sister the miraculous umbrella must have been St Peter.

In the middle sections the umbrella's journey begins. A young lawyer, heir to a missing fortune, sets out to find the umbrella, which has been missing since the death of his benefactor.

As in all good fables there is a moral, and a happy ending. I enjoyed St Peter's Umbrella, particularly because it added another a layer of detail about pre-WWI Hungary.

jun 26, 2021, 2:47 am

202. The Absolute at Large by Karel Capek

It's short book, full of big ideas, that made me snort with laughter. Just about perfect.

The engineer Marek has made a machine that produces energy from matter not by burning, but by releasing the energy stored in its atoms, so it runs cheaply on minimal amounts of fuel. The problem is that God is in everything, so when the atoms are used up God, the absolute, is set free. The people working on Marek's prototype, which he has named the carburator, show signs of the absolute's effects: loving their fellow man; giving away their worldly goods; performing miracles. Marek foresees enormous problems and wants the responsibility of carburator out of his hands, so he gives the machine to to an old school friend, the businessman Bondy who, motivated by profit, improves on the prototype and sells thousands of carburators, releasing the absolute all over the world.

Banks collapse because the staff give the money to the poor. Religious cults form around carburators. The absolute takes over industry and produces goods in such quantities that they can't be sold, so there is no commerce and goods of all kinds are in short supply. The leaders and followers of the world's religions insist that there is one absolute, one religion, and it's theirs, so a religious war breaks out.

Some of the bits that made me laugh the most were the experts' - religious, scientific, political - rationalisations of the absolute. I particularly enjoyed the Catholic Church canonising the absolute, and the scientists denying miracles such as restoring life to a man whose head had been severed from his body and insisting that there is a rational explanation.

Highly recommended.

jun 29, 2021, 7:24 pm

206. The Vagabond by Colette was published in 1910, the first under her own name. Renee, like Colette herself, is divorced from an unfaithful man who has exploited her and taken her earnings, and is supporting herself as a dancer and mime. Her husband's betrayals have left her humiliated and mistrustful, unwilling to marry again and subject herself to a man's control. When Renee falls in love with a wealthy admirer, she leaves to go on tour, postponing the decision to live with him but imagining that she will return.

Colette brings this theatrical world to life: her fellow artists, some with success in their grasp, others ill and close to destitution; the theatres, large and famous, small and local; the people in the audience, rich idlers, working people, petty criminals; the cold and grime; the costumes, the make-up, the smell. She reminisces about the countryside of her childhood, and sees the beauty in the places she passes through.

The Vagabond is a piece of history, acclaimed as a feminist classic. In her time Colette was as well-regarded as Proust and read much more widely. Highly recommended.

The Translations.

I started with the new translation by Stanley Appelbaum for the Dover 2010 edition. The introduction is useful in that it names the real people behind some of Collette's characters, and reveal's Appelbaum's opinion of Colette. He is not in sympathy with the writer or the book. His translation is clumsy, and he has converted to French of 1910 into American. I gave up after a few pages and found the 1955 Enid McLeod translation in the Open Library.

The Enid McLeod translation has its own problems in that the French slang of 1910 is translated into Britishisms, currency is translated into pounds and shillings, and I suspect that it's more genteel than the original. But unlike the Appelbaum translation, it's poetic and it flows. Where Appelbaum writes of vaudeville, McLeod leaves the original French, cafe-chantant and cafe-concert, which are clear enough because Colette describes them. These terms evoke 1910 France. Vaudeville evokes America.

By transposing France to America, Appelbaum underrates American readers and alienates the rest of us.

jul 1, 2021, 3:39 am

207. The Yield by Tara June Winch

August, a Wiradjuri woman, has come back to Prosperous House for the burial of her grandfather Albert Gondiwindi . Prosperous was the mission run in the early 1900s by the Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf, a well-meaning Lutheran who tried to replace the Wiranjuri religion with Christianity, its indigenous foods with European crops, and its traditional culture with that of Europe. The brave and misguided Greenleaf did his best to protect the aboriginal men from murderous attacks by the angry whites from the nearby town of Massacre Plains, and the women and girls from rape and abduction.

When Albert, called Poppy by his family, realised he was ill with cancer, he started writing a dictionary to preserve the Wiradjuri language. In his dictionary entries are the histories of his people and his family. They make up one of three narrative threads. The other two are excerpts from Greenleaf's diary, and August's experiences in the present.

August returns to find that a mining company has taken over Prosperous, and her grandmother Elsie is to be evicted. Prosperous was originally built on Wiradjuri lands, so this is a double eviction. August knows that to establish Native title over the Wiradjuri land, and prevent the tin mine, she needs to prove a continuous cultural connection to the land and Poppy's dictionary is the start, if she can find it.

This is a confronting book. It deals with the aboriginal peoples' displacement from their lands, destruction of aboriginal culture and language, massacres by early settlers, the separation of aboriginal children from their parents, the incarceration of aboriginal people, drugs and alcohol. Even so, it ends on a note of hope.

Highly recommended.

jul 2, 2021, 6:49 am

208. After the Fine Weather by Michael Gilbert

Laura has travelled to the Tyrol to stay with her brother, the Vice-consul. There's a political situation involving the Tyroleans, the Italians and the Austrians, in which Laura inadvertently becomes involved and which puts her in great danger.

This wasn't one of Gilbert's best, with too many deaths for my liking, but it was quite readable.

jul 3, 2021, 8:02 pm

209. She by H. Rider Haggard

The academic, Horace Holly, living in a university residence, adopts Leo Vincy, the son of the man in the rooms next door. Leo's father gives Horace a box, to be given to Leo on his 25th birthday. It contains proof of Leo's descent from an Egyptian prince 2000 years ago and evidence of his forebear's murder, which over many generations Leo's ancestors have sought to avenge, without success. Leo takes on the quest and Holly accompanies him. Holly, Leo and their loyal servant end up in a remote and almost inaccessible cave system in Africa, built more than 8000 years ago by an ancient civilisation that died out, now inhabited by a primitive tribe, the Amahagger, under the command of a 2000 year-old white woman, Ayesha, known as "she who must be obeyed".

She was written in 1885, and reflects the racism and imperialism of the times, with many of the Amahagger being violent cannibals ruled for their own good by white people. There are, however, some brave and trustworthy Amhagger. Initially I thought that the book was misogynistic, but on reading further, I decided that Hagger was being facetious. She is wildly imaginative and adventurous, bloodthirsty in parts, philosophical in others, with an underlying vein of sardonic humour.

An entertaining read.

jul 4, 2021, 7:56 pm

210. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The fifteen-year-old Michel Berg is seduced by thirty-six-year-old Hanna. He reads to her before they make love. They meet nearly every day, then Hanna disappears without warning. Years later, when Michael is a law student, he sees Hanna again when she is a defendant in a trial of concentration camp guards.

Does Hanna's illiteracy reduce her culpability? No. Is this book making excuses for the perpetrators of the holocaust? Yes.

I disliked this book.

jul 7, 2021, 7:32 am

213. Locos by Felipe Alfau

Felipe Alfau emigrated from Spain as a fourteen year old and wrote this book in 1928, in English. It took a long time to find a publisher and was finally published in 1936. It's a collection of short stories, set mainly in Madrid, linked by recurring characters, but the characters change names, appear in unlikely places at unexpected times, and escape the author's control.

Once I was at the Cafe de los Locos in Toledo. Bad writers were in the habit of coming to that cafe in quest of characters, and I came now and then among them. At that particular place one could find some very good secondhand bargains and also some fairly good, cheap, new material. As fashion has a good deal to do with market value, one could find at that place some characters who in their time had been glorious and served under famous geniuses, but who for some time had been out of a job, due to the change of literary trend toward other ideals.

Here is Dona Micaela, whose hobbies are going to church and to funerals. She spends a few months of each year being dead.

...there was something about Dona Micaela that was weird........It was that appearance of a wax figure that no matter how faithful an imitation it may be of nature, is always sordid. Her clothes did not wrap Dona Micaela with a warm, soft caress as they do other people; they just lay on her with apprehension and coldness, visibly displeased by the close contact. Those clothes did not cover a resilient flesh that yields and adapts itself to its surroundings, they seemed to cover a stiff frame and that reluctantly as one who complies with a distasteful duty. Seeing Dona Micaela one realized that clothes sometimes have feelings.

Felipe Alfau was before his time. In the afterword Mary McCarthy compares Locos to Nabokov's Pale Fire and to the works of Italo Calvino. I highly recommend this weird, witty, imaginative book and plan to read Alfau's only other novel, Chromos

jul 7, 2021, 5:42 pm

216. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of the Cranford Chronicles. Lady Ludlow's family has owned most of the land around Cranford for many generations. The locals look up to her, so she has a great deal of influence. She is kind, generous and well-meaning, but her attitudes belong to the past so she obstructs the efforts of her agent and the vicar to start a school and refuses to countenance new farming methods. But times are changing, and Lady Ludlow must reconsider.

I enjoyed this as a piece of history. A long digression about the French Revolution slowed things down, but it was interesting for the insight into the impact of the French Revolution on the British upper-classes, and their fear that educating the masses could lead to revolution in Britain. Because I enjoyed My Lady Ludlow I've now started Cranford.

Redigeret: jul 11, 2021, 7:42 pm

222. Melora by Mignon G. Eberhart

The young and unsophisticated Anne has recently married Brent, a successful lawyer. His sister-in-law, Cassie, has managed Brent's household since her husband died and would like to marry Brent, so she tries to stir up trouble between Brent and Anne. Brent is divorced from Melora, and Cassie tries to convince Anne that he still pines for her. The other members of the household are Cassie's teenage children, Tod and Daphne, the butler Cadwallander, a maid, Daisy, and a couple of other servants.

Brent makes a last-minute decision to go to France for work, leaving Anne behind. Cassie has gone away for a short trip, the children have left for school, the servants have finished work and gone home, so Anne believes she is alone in the house. Daphne, however, has been sent home from school with a fever, which is just as well, because she shows a lot more gumption than Anne does when they find themselves alone in the house in a snowstorm, with the telephone wires cut, menaced by a knife-wielding stranger. Anne continues to behave so idiotically, putting herself at risk for no good reason, that I almost stopped reading, but after reading thirty of Eberhart's books I know better than to expect intelligence from her heroines.

The plot involves Brent's Paris case, his ex-wife Melora, and the knife-wielding stranger, and leads to two deaths. Cassie is also implicated, and Anne is very much at risk.

I enjoyed the book, but Anne is such a drip.

Redigeret: jul 11, 2021, 7:42 pm

221. Murder by an Aristocrat by Mignon G. Eberhart

A happy find on the Internet Archive, a Sarah Keate novel I hadn't read. Sarah Keate has been employed to nurse Bayard Thatcher, vicious ne'er do well cousin of the rich and aristocratic Thatcher family. Bayard has been shot in the shoulder, an impossible wound for the purported gun cleaning accident that caused it. There's a large cast of Thatchers and hangers on: Miss Adela, the oldest sister and head of the household; Hilary, Adela's blustering lawyer brother and his pragmatic wife Evelyn; youngest brother Dave, reclusive and unwell, who is married to the young and beautiful Janice; Alan, brother of Evelyn, in love with Janice; Florrie, a nosy, malicious maid; the loyal, deaf servant Evangeline; the doctor, whose mother is a Thatcher; an untrustworthy gardener. When there is a murder, everyone is suspect.

I enjoyed this leisurely period piece. Nurse Keate spends a lot of time going over what has happened and saying how frightened she is, building atmosphere. The plot is dependent on timetables: who could have entered the house to carry out the crime? Suspicion passes from one character to another in the traditional way. Not one of the author's best, but I liked it.

There's only one Sarah Keate I haven't read, apart from a short story collection, but From This Dark Stairway is only available as a very expensive hard copy from overseas.

Redigeret: jul 12, 2021, 3:46 am

223. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Carol Spencer, compelled by her selfish and unreasonable mother to open up the Spencer holiday mansion in Maine, arrives with her three servants to find a burned body in the linen closet. No one knows who the dead woman is, but it turns out that she had tried contact Carol at her home in New York, so the police suspect that Carol knows more than she is saying. When the victim's identity becomes known, other members of the Spencer family are implicated in the death.

This 1945 mystery has a large cast of characters. There's an ex-FBI man, recovering from a leg wound received in the war, who undertakes to find the murderer in order to relieve his boredom and protect Carol. There are a number of servicemen, including Carol's brother Greg, a young man called Terry who may or may not be on the West Coast, and Carol's dead fiance Don, believed by his father to be alive. Lucy, the Spencer's housekeeper, is in hospital being held incommunicado by the sheriff. She knows something about the night of the death. Elinor, Carol's callous and selfish older sister, married to an obscenely wealthy man, could shed light on death, but prefer to avoid troubling herself. Don's father, the colonel, is no longer welcome at the home of his old friends, the Wards, and Nathanial Ward has armed himself with a pistol.

The plot is enormously convoluted and the resolution unlikely, but the book clearly shows the impact of WWII on people's lives. The war overshadows everything. Worth reading.

jul 15, 2021, 8:42 pm

226. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout is a collection of linked short stories about Olive and her fellow inhabitants of Crosby, Maine. The book starts with Olive's marriage, in her late seventies, to Jack, a retired Harvard professor, and continues for ten years, ending with Olive in assisted living. Olive is a wonderful character, abrasive and brutally honest with herself and everyone else. She has mellowed, so is recognising the prejudice and short-sightedness that causes her to be so dismissive of people who don't meet her expectations. The stories are sad because the characters are ageing, recalling the mistakes and tragedies of their lives, but there are sunny moments of connection and recognition.

I very much liked Olive Kitteridge, and this sequel is just as good. Highly recommended.

jul 18, 2021, 8:24 pm

231. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

In Cranford, the story of a country village, most of the characters are spinsters or widows, not very well off, gossiping, attending small social gatherings, looking after one another. It's kind, gentle and humorous. I loved it.

jul 19, 2021, 5:58 am

>131 pamelad: I didn't get on with that, though I loved her North and South and liked Mary Barton.

jul 20, 2021, 6:21 pm

>132 john257hopper: I liked those two as well. With its kindness and optimism, Cranford is good pandemic reading. Not a lot happens, but that suits me right now.

Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

A newly-qualified young doctor moves into a village and becomes entangled in the matrimonial expectations of at least three women. This novella is delightful.

I am continuing with Mrs Gaskell, and am now reading another novella, Cousin Phillis.

jul 21, 2021, 10:07 am

>133 pamelad: I do rate Mrs Gaskell and want to read more of her.

jul 21, 2021, 11:21 pm

Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell

Phillis Holman is seventeen, a gentle, obedient young woman living on a farm with her religious parents. She shares with her father, a minister, a love of knowledge. The narrator, Paul Manning, a nineteen-year-old trainee railway engineer, is working in the area. He visits the Holmans at his mother's request, despite being disinclined to spend his leisure time with religious people, because Mrs Holman and his mother are cousins. But Paul and the Holmans end up liking one another very well, so Paul visits often. He brings his boss, Holdsworth, a charming young man only a few years older than himself, to meet the Holmans, and when Holdsworth is recuperating from a serious illness the Holmans invite him to stay at the farm. Unbeknownst to Phillis's parents, who think she is a child, an unacknowledged affection grows between Phillis and Holdsworth.

Mrs Gaskell is brilliant at describing how people live. Here she is describing the interactions between the people on the farm: the Holmans, their labourers and the house servants. She places everyone clearly in a social sphere: Mrs Holman and Paul are of a slightly lower class than Mr Holman, but Paul has raised himself because of his father, a remarkably intelligent working man who has gained recognition for his inventions; Holman and Phillis are intellectuals, studying Latin and Greek; Holdsworth is of a higher class again, well-educated and well-travelled. Phillis leads the passive existence of a young woman of the time, mid-nineteenth century. She cannot make her wishes known, and must do as her parents wish.

I enjoyed Cousin Phillis, but it's not as cheerful as Cranford, perhaps because we see Phillis's predicament so clearly. Cranford's Miss Hattie suffered from the same powerlessness as Phillis, as did Sophie in Mr. Harrison's Confessions, but the latter two books were comedies.

Redigeret: jul 23, 2021, 7:02 pm

The Swimming Pool by Mary Roberts Rinehart was first published in 1952 but harks back to the twenties, when the Maynard family was wealthy and the swimming pool at its summer residence was full of young men paying court to the beautiful Julia Maynard. Those carefree days ended with the stock market crash of 1929, and the suicide of Julia's father. But bankruptcy wasn't enough to cause Mr Maynard to take his life. Something else happened. It involved Julia and her mother, and Julia has never been the same.

The story is narrated by Lois, Julia's much younger sister, who lives all year round at the summer residence with her brother Phil. Julia arrives, frantic and fearful, then a murdered woman is found in the swimming pool.

This is a classic had-I-but-known with a lot of portentous build-up and plenty of reflection on past mistakes. I enjoyed it, despite having zero sympathy for the Maynards who were down to their last two servants.

jul 25, 2021, 7:24 am

>133 pamelad: I have just read this and enjoyed it, more so than Cranford. The amorous misunderstandings were hilarious.

jul 27, 2021, 3:48 pm

>137 john257hopper: Glad you enjoyed it.

The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardner

Two Mrs. Hastings, two guns, one murder victim, multiple divorcees and crowds of young women, weight 110 - 120 lbs, wearing big dark sunglasses. Perry Mason sorts out the confusion with his usual aplomb.

One woman is described as not too tall, 115 lbs, perfect. Good to know what's important in the perfect woman!

jul 28, 2021, 6:57 am

The Castle by Franz Kafka

The first English translation, by Willa and Edwin Muir, published in 1930, was based on Max Brod's heavily edited version of Kafka's manuscript and was influenced by Brod's religious perspective. The Critical Edition, based on Kafka's original manuscript, was compiled by a team headed by Malcolm Pasley and published in 1982. This 2009 translation, by Anthea Bell for the Oxford University Press, is based on the Critical Edition.

After an arduous journey, K has arrived in a poor and miserable village to take up a position as a land surveyor. He needs to reach the castle that overlooks the village in order to contact the man who employed him, but a minor castle functionary denies that the land surveyor has a position and tries to expel him from the village. K. persuades the landlords of the Bridge Inn to allow him to stay the night, but he is unwelcome because no one in the village wants to risk the disapproval of the castle.

I suspect that The Castle has as many meanings as it has readers and that every time you read it you find more. Is K. really the Land Surveyor and was he ever offered employment? Will he ever get to the castle, and why is he so determined to when there seems to be no point? Reading the new translation, K.'s determination to reach the castle seems less like a quest and more like obstinacy in the face of futility.

jul 29, 2021, 3:04 pm

>139 pamelad: I read The Trial early last year and it felt very similar.

jul 30, 2021, 3:36 am

>140 john257hopper: I'll have a look for a new translation of The Trial. Which one did you read?

From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting by Judith Brett

In Australia, registering to vote and voting itself are compulsory. There is one electoral roll for the whole country, and these days it's updated automatically from other government databases when people die or move. We can vote in a Federal or State election from any polling place in our own state, and if we're overseas or interstate can attend an absentee polling place to register a vote. Elections are managed and electoral boundaries redistributed by the non-partisan Australian Electoral Commission. Before I read this book I thought that, apart from the US, it was as easy to vote in most democratic countries as it is in Australia, but it's not by a long shot.

I've learned that Australia gave the world the secret ballot, with its ballot papers and separate polling booths. We were the first to use ballot papers with check boxes next to candidates' names. South Australia was the first place in the world to give women the vote and allow them to stand for parliament. Shamefully, our Aboriginal people were denied the vote from Federation in 1902 until 1983.

Brett's book traces the history of Australian voting from before Federation to the present. Her left-wing bias matches my own, so that's not a problem. She's very much pro-compulsory voting and pro-preferential voting, which result in our majoritarian democracy and centrist governments.

Interesting and informative.

jul 30, 2021, 6:02 pm

>141 pamelad: translation by John R Williams

jul 30, 2021, 9:05 pm

On Patrick White by Christos Tsiolkas, from the series Writers on Writers.

Tsiolkas is an Australian writer whose parents emigrated from Greece. His hypothesis the Greek Orthodox religion of White's lifelong partner, Manoly Lascaris, has a discernible influence on the spiritual aspects of White's writing. Tsiolkas theorises that White's awareness of Lascaris' exile from his birthplace, the melting pot of Smyrna, adds depth to White's own sense of exile, and that of his characters.

Tsiolkas spent a year re-reading White's oeuvre, and this short book is the result. It made me want to read more of White's work.

aug 1, 2021, 5:00 pm

Warlight by Michel Ondaatje

Warlight is almost no light: one orange light on the Thames to guide a boat, a blue light on the corner of a street. The war has recently ended and Nathaniel's parents are moving to Singapore for a year, leaving him and his sister Rachel in the care of a man they call "the Moth". Moth's friends are a varied and disreputable group, linked by their work during the war. What they did is obscure, as is everything else in this book. It plods along in a melancholy way, hiding the motivations and the past actions of the characters to the extent that I lost interest in them.

aug 2, 2021, 5:10 pm

Death at the Dog by Joanna Cannan

Mathew Scaife, the local squire and a nasty old man, is found dead in the lounge of the village pub. Many of the other drinkers have motives for the murder, but none admit to seeing it. The local superintendent of police has interviewed the suspects and drawn his conclusions, not so much on the basis of fact but on his own prejudices. He cannot abide bohemians or independent women, so his suspicions have fallen on the writer Crescy Hardwick. Fortunately, the local police call in Inspector Guy Northeast from Scotland Yard.

The book was first published in 1941, and is set in 1939. WWII has just begun. Some of the male characters in their late twenties and early thirties have tried to enlist and been rejected, and are looking for ways to get into the services (which reminds me of Anthony Powell's The Kindly Ones, where Nicholas Jenkins is doing the same). People gather together to listen to Winston Churchill on the wireless.


Redigeret: aug 6, 2021, 11:25 pm

#144 Must read more Patrick White myself..cheers Pam

aug 8, 2021, 6:30 pm

>147 bryanoz: So far I've found that everything I've read of Patrick White's has been worth the effort. It's getting started that's difficult.

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright

The 1854 miners' rebellion, culminating in the Eureka Stockade, started the journey towards democracy and universal suffrage in Australia. By 1854 the surface gold had been exhausted, and many miners were earning too little to support their families. Living costs were high, and increased further by the 30 shilling per month miner's licence, which many miners had to pay at the expense of feeding their children. Armed soldiers swept the diggings almost daily searching for unlicensed miners who were jailed, their families left to destitution. At the same time police, government officials and soldiers were making a fortune from bribery and corruption.

The forgotten rebels are the women. The Eureka story has come down to us as a story of men's heroism, and the role of women has been ignored. Wright tracks down the women on the Ballarat goldfields, some of whom played important roles in the fight for democratic rights.

We learned about the Eureka Stockade and the miners' rebellion in primary school, but we didn't learn about the government corruption, the arbitrary arrests and convictions of innocent men on trumped up charges, the soldiers' brutality, the bayonetting of unarmed men and women, the firing of tents with women and children inside them.

An interesting and very readable book about an important piece of Victoria's history.

aug 8, 2021, 11:56 pm

Lady into Fox by David Garnett is a novella, first published in 1922. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Award and is available free on Gutenberg.

The newly married Mr and Mrs Tebrick were very happy together until one afternoon, when they were out walking, Mrs Tebrick was changed into a fox. In human form she had nothing in common with a vixen, although her hair was dark red and her maiden name Sylvia Fox. Mr Tebrick could see that his wife looked out through the eyes of the vixen, so he bundled her up and took her home to keep her safe.

At first Sylvia retained her human characteristics despite the limitations of her fox's body: she liked to listen to music; she played cards; she enjoyed being read to; she ate the same food; she wore clothes; she slept in her husband's bed. But as time wore on, Sylvia became more fox-like until, much against his wishes, Mr Tebrick had to set her free.

This strange, puzzling little story is narrated from the point of view of Mr Tebrick, who goes into a decline at the loss of his vixen. One on level, this is a simple fairy tale. On another, it's the story of the decline of a marriage. Perhaps it's about adaptation and acceptance, or the need for freedom. Like The Metamorphosis, which preceded it by ten years, Lady into Fox is thought-provoking, philosophical and comic. Unlike Kafka's novella, Lady into Fox is very, very English.

aug 9, 2021, 3:27 pm

>149 pamelad: sounds a little bizarre but interesting

aug 14, 2021, 4:46 pm

The Far Cry by Emma Smith

The young author won the 1949 James Tait Black Memorial Prize with her first and only novel, which is based on her 1946 trip to India. Theresa Digby is fourteen, an awkward, resentful child living with her cold but well-meaning aunt, when her father, a selfish, bombastic windbag, hears from from his ex-wife, Theresa's mother, that she wants to re-establish contact with her daughter. Mr. Digby's response is to spirit Theresa away to India where his idealised older daughter, Ruth, lives with her husband, a tea planter.

On the ship Theresa meets Miss Spooner, one of the two kind and genuine people in the book. Eric, Ruth's husband, is the other. Everyone else is dislikeable, which is the problem I had with the book: the author sneers at her characters. I didn't much enjoy reading about the interior lives of people whom the author had judged and found wanting. I did enjoy reading about the journey from England to Assam, and the descriptions of India.

aug 17, 2021, 6:13 pm

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald won the Booker in 1979.

A group of disparate people, living on barges permanently moored on the Thames near Chelsea, forms a community. Richard, the de-facto leader lives with his disgruntled wife Laura on the immaculate Lord Jim and departs each day to his job in the City. The elderly Woodies spend summer on the Rochester and winter in their country house. The other barge dwellers are not at all well-off and are struggling to survive: Willis, the ageing marine painter, needs to sell the leaky Dreadnought so he can retire to live with his siter; Nenna, unwillingly separated from her husband who refuses to live on a boat, lives with her two daughters on the Grace; the kind and thoughtful Maurice, whose answers to the name of his boat, picks up men for profit and stores stolen goods in the hold. The barge dwellers, despite their different social and financial backgrounds, look after one another.

The central characters are Nenna, a Canadian, and her impossible precocious daughters, the six-year-old Tilda and responsible, eleven-year-old Martha, who is more mature than her mother. All three of them want their father to return home, and the plot, what there is of it, hinges on Nenna's efforts to reconcile with her husband.

I enjoyed this short, gentle, tragi-comedy.

aug 23, 2021, 4:24 pm

Stasiland by Anna Funder

In the 1990s Funder was working for a German television company. She suggested a program about people in East German who had resisted the regime but her superiors rejected the idea, believing that there had been none. Funder began her own investigation with an ad in the newspaper seeking people who had worked for the East German security forces, the Stasi. Her book is based on interviews with Stasi members and their victims, interspersed with her own reactions. The victims include a woman whose critically ill baby ended up on the Western side of the wall, and who bravely helped people escape to the west; a young woman who was jailed because of her relationship with an Italian man; a woman whose husband was killed in jail. Even the Stasi men themselves were victims, with their superiors threatening wives and children. It is estimated that, counting Stasi employees and their informers, there was one Stasi member for every 6.5 people. No aspect of a person's life was private.

This is a gripping depiction of life in a totalitarian state. Recommended.

Redigeret: sep 11, 2021, 6:01 pm

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I've been reading this short book off and on for more than a week (despite averaging over a book a day) because I found the main character to be annoyingly passive, so I had minimal interest in how her life would turn out. Laura, called Lolly by her family, is a well-off spinster and could escape her dreary family any time she wants, but it's 1926 and it's hard for a woman to live independently, so she allows herself to become an indispensable maiden aunt, her individuality ignored. Eventually she escapes to a small village where she is happy until her nephew Tobias arrives and takes over her life. To make Tobias move away, Laura accepts help from an unusual source. I found the ending to be ludicrous, and it made me think even less of Laura. No-one likes a manipulative whiner!

The points this book makes about women's independence may have been relevant and interesting in 1926 when it was first published.

Not Tobius, Titus, which probably symbolises something.

sep 6, 2021, 6:02 pm

The Nancys by R. W. R. McDonald

Tippy Chan is 11, mourning her father who died in a car crash. When her mother Helen wins a two-week cruise in a competition, Tippy's Uncle Pike, with his boyfriend Devon, arrives to look after her. Pike escaped this small Otago town for Sydney many years ago, leaving his closest friends without warning, and became a highly successful celebrity hairdresser. Devon is a highly successful clothing designer. Soon after Pike's arrival, the headless body of Tippy's teacher is discovered at the town's only traffic light. When an old friend of Pike's is arrested for the crime, Pike, Devon and Tippy decide to investigate. Because of Pike's and Tippy's love of Nancy Drew mysteries, they call themselves "The Nancys".

There are many plot strands in The Nancys, including a boy in a coma, a mystery about Tippy's dad's death, a beauty contest, a Peeping Tom and Pike's past. Some of them are just clutter. There's a lot of gay humour, mainly the repartee between Pike and Devon, which goes over Tippy's head. The reviews referred to Ru Paul's Drag Race. "So banal," I thought, but after reading the book could see why. Pike and Devon are almost caricatures.

I enjoyed The Nancys and thought it was a good first attempt, but there's plenty of space for improvement.

sep 9, 2021, 2:47 am

The Girls, Alone: Six Days in Estonia by Bonnie J Rough

I read this short book for The Europe Endless Challenge, which I started in June 2010 and return to at random. There aren't a lot of books about Estonia, and even fewer that are available as Ebooks. This one told me a little about Estonia and a lot about the author. Her great grandmother was Estonian, so the author set out to find the place where her great grandmother had lived and, in the process, to find herself, which is a lot to ask of a six day trip.

This was a quick, easy read that just glanced across Estonia. It feels like cheating, so I'm planning to read The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross as well.

sep 14, 2021, 5:43 pm

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Will and Jules are perfect together, both ambitious, successful, semi-famous and good looking. They are getting married on an Irish island where the only permanent inhabitants are the couple who run a luxurious accommodation and event business. The wedding party is dominated by the groom's old school friends who, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, revert to the barbaric, tribal, adolescent behaviour of their school days. Charlie, an old friend of Jules, who attended the groom's bucks' night, has already been their victim.

The story begins with an hysterical waitress who has witnessed something terrible, probably a body. The groom's friends, against all advice and despite the dangers of steep, crumbling cliffs and deadly peat bogs, set off into the night to find the body. We don't know who's dead. It could be the sociopath who truly deserves to be the victim, whose sins have been revealed in flashback, or yet another of this vile person's victims, murdered to cover up past crimes.

An entertaining read, told from multiple points of view and switching between the present and the past.

sep 15, 2021, 6:16 pm

I Could Murder Her a.k.a. Murder of a Martinet by E. C. R. Lorac

In the aftermath of WWII Britain has a severe housing shortage, so Anne Strange and her husband Tony are living in Tony's mother's house. Anne hates it there because her mother-in-law, Muriel Farrington, is an interfering, controlling, selfish, malicious hypochondriac, but Tony can't see the problem. The other occupants of the house are Eddie, Colonel Farrington, Muriel's second husband; Farrington's daughter Madge by his first marriage; Joyce Duncan, the married daughter of Eddie and Muriel, and her husband; and the twins Peter and Paula. Muriel owns the house and is well-off but parsimonious, keeping her husband and children short of cash and treating Madge as an unpaid drudge.

One night Muriel pushes Madge too far and ends up dead, but perhaps Madge isn't the culprit. Everyone in the house has a motive. Inspector MacDonald is called in to investigate.

I guessed the murderer straight away, but enjoyed the book all the same, mainly for the picture of post-war Britain. The plot is a bit of a mess.

sep 18, 2021, 5:15 pm

Shadows Before by Dorothy Bowers

Bowers was a member of the Detection Club, but wrote only five crime novels before dying of TB. I've now read her entire output, and this book is not her best. Some important characters are introduced in the first chapter, then nothing much happens for a couple of chapters until Inspector Dan Pardoe arrives about a third of the way through. There are too many characters and a convoluted, many-stranded plot that depends too much on coincidence. Overall, after a dull beginning this was flawed but enjoyable.

My favourite books by Dorothy Bowers are Postscript to Poison and Fear and Miss Betony.

sep 19, 2021, 6:39 am

The Curate in Charge by Margaret Oliphant

An Oxford Theological College controls the dispensation of the living for the parish of Brentburn, and has given it to a College fellow who, after two years, pleads ill health and retires to Italy, keeping the bulk of the income and paying the rest to the curate who runs the parish. Cecil St John, the curate, is an unworldly man, dedicated to his parishioners, unambitious, and happy to remain as a curate, despite he uncertainty of his position. His much-loved wife manages the household capably and frugally, and Cecil trusts in God to provide for the future of his two daughters, Cicely and Mab. When Cecil's wife dies, a governess, Miss Brown, is employed to look after the girls and to manage the household. She is as ineffectual as Cecil, and when the girls leave home and go to school, incompetence reigns. When the girls return to look after their father, they find disaster.

The Curate in Charge has a number of important themes. It's a feminist novel: Cicely is an intelligent and capable person, far more so than her father, and far more concerned about the family's future, but she has to follow Cecil's direction. Eventually her independence of action, and need to do what she thinks is right, prove more important to her than her feminine role and social position. It's about the failure of the Church to ensure that livings are given to men who can and will manage a parish, its failure to reward men like Cecil, who can serve others all their lives only to be left destitute. It's about people with power, including those in the church hierarchy, who respect others only for their money and social connections.

A worthwhile read. Recommended.

sep 27, 2021, 7:11 am

The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross takes place in nineteenth century Estonia. The nobleman Timo von Bock believes in the rights of man and demonstrates his sincerity by purchasing the freedom of Eeva, a peasant women, and marrying her. To prepare her for marriage, he arranges that she and her brother Jakob are educated, learning the German of the ruling class and the French of the aristocracy. Only peasants speak Estonian. Eeva, now called Katherina, and Timo are happy together and have a son. Jakob lives with them and keeps the diary that makes this book.

Timo is a friend of the Czar's and has made an undertaking that he will always tell him the truth, which Timo does in a letter that describes clearly and in great detail the Czar's failures. The letter leads to Timo's arrest and for many years his family cannot find out where he has been taken. After nine years Timo is released, certified a madman, and is held in a villa on what was once his own estate. Only a madman would have criticised the Czar, but is Timo truly mad?

The Czar's Madman is operating on many levels. On the surface it is an historical novel, dealing with a real person and real events in the history of Estonia. On another level it is about the Estonia of Kross' time. Tens of thousands of Estonians had been sent to the Gulags and hundreds had been executed. Kross himself was deported to Siberia in 1946 and incarcerated for eight years. On both levels it is about bravery and truth. Timo wants to change the world he lives in and must speak up, despite the danger to himself and his family.


okt 10, 2021, 10:23 pm

RSVP Murder by Mignon G Eberhart

LT tells me that I have 32 books by Mignon G Eberhart. The 32 doesn't include pre-LT library borrows and other books of hers that I've disposed of when the book collection got too big, or I moved house, but it does include books I don't own because I use LT to record everything I've read. This one was borrowed from the Open Library.

Frances Hilliard's father has just died in Nice. He'd never spent much time with his daughter, but knowing he had little time left, he'd taken Frances on an extravagant European holiday. Unknown to Frances, her father had always spent everything he earned, so she is shocked to find that she is staying in an expensive hotel suite, without enough money to pay the bill or the fare home to New York. When a man reeking of perfume accosts her in the street, then sends her $5000 she realises that her father has involved her in a risky situation she does not understand. The arrival of Richard Amberley, whose wife was murdered 2 years ago, and who has received a letter from Frances's father, begins to explain what her father has done.

This was a very good Eberhart. It had an idiot orphan heroine who blundered around in blizzards pursued by a murderer; a love interest decades too old; a horde of wealthy upper-class suspects that included an eccentric uncle and a beautiful, brainless eavesdropper with a malicious, impecunious younger brother.

okt 10, 2021, 10:24 pm

The First Mrs Winston by Rae Foley is a had-I-but-known from the seventies, when young women in crime novels married at the drop of a hat to men much older than they. In those olden days, vicious ex-wives could be nymphomaniacs. You just don't hear that any more!

Connie Winston, married just that morning after a whirlwind, month-long courtship, arrives with her architect husband at her new home to find a surprise party, which is about to drop from distasteful to disastrous with the arrival of the first Mrs Winston. The very next day someone is murdered, and it seems that all the suspects were present at the party.

Foley's Connie is a much more intelligent and energetic heroine than Eberhart's usual droopy orphans, but, just like an Eberhart heroine, she puts herself in danger. Don't trust him, Connie!

A competent mystery with a nice seventies flavour. I'll look for another by Rae Foley.

okt 12, 2021, 5:00 pm

Unknown Quantity by Mignon G Eberhart

Sarah Travers is even more brainless than the average Eberhart heroine. She's married to the controlling Arthur, a fabulously wealthy oil mogul who relies on Sarah's family's illustrious history to lend him credibility. Arthur tells Sarah that he is undertaking a secret mission for the US government and persuades her to allow Jake Davis, who looks just like him, to pretend to be her husband for a week to put Arthur's enemies off the track. Sarah and Jake become murder suspects.

This was a short book, less than 200 pages, but was repetitive even so. The plot moved at a glacial pace, with Sarah talking and thinking and reiterating at great length. Whenever there was a chance to do something stupid, she did. The three other female characters didn't have much to recommend them either. One was old, ill and dependent; another was a malicious, mercenary liar; the third was enraged and bent on revenge.

Despite my affection for the books of Mignon G, I cannot recommend this one.

okt 14, 2021, 10:05 pm

The Loudwater Mystery by Edgar Jepson

Loudwater was an earl, a belligerent bully who was stabbed to death in his library. Mr Flexen, the Chief Constable, investigates. There are numerous suspects: the earl's beleaguered wife; the wife's potential lover, Colonel Grey; the butler; the secretary; a mysterious woman. All of them had both motive and opportunity. None of them are telling the truth.

This is a police procedural with few procedures. A suspect is allowed to destroy evidence and to mislead investigators. Flexen tries to silence an important witness. Both Loudwater's heir and a solicitor who knows the identity of the mysterious woman are incommunicado in Mesopotamia.

The Loudwater Mystery was first published in 1920. I liked the book's oddness, but couldn't really recommend it as a mystery because although it started well, it faded away to an unsatisfactory ending. The murderer was obvious from the beginning because he had a weak chin and didn't belong to the upper class.

Redigeret: dec 10, 2021, 5:02 pm

Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by Helen Joyce

I first started to have qualms about self-identification of gender when I spoke to an elderly lady at the gym - she no longer went to the one nearest her home because she couldn't deal with sharing the change rooms with people with male genitalia. That was the first time I realised that gender self-identification didn't just relate to a very small minority of transwomen who lived as women and tried to pass as women. Then there was the ever-increasing number of trans students at the inner-city secondary school where a friend teaches. She was concerned that these were kids with hard lives and many, many difficulties, so what evidence was there for deciding that changing their gender would fix their problems? Then there were the threats against JK Rowling for crimes including supporting a woman who'd been sacked for saying sex is binary; raising the issue of safety in what used to be female only spaces; and highlighting the disappearance of women from the language, replaced by terms like people who menstruate. And of course there's sport.

Helen Joyce discusses all these issues, and more. She's brave. She's angry, biased, and probably cherry-picking her evidence, but people need to be able to raise these issues without being accused of transphobia, sacked from their jobs for hate speech, and attacked as TERFs.

Highly recommended.

dec 11, 2021, 11:42 pm

Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock

Stock is a British academic, a philosopher from outside the gender studies field. She is not beholden to gender studies orthodoxies, and applies her own rigorous analyses to theories of gender identity, examines the evidence for and against, and clearly explains the relevant concepts. This book was heavier going than Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, requiring rather more concentration and reflection. It repaid the effort and I recommend it highly.

dec 12, 2021, 1:52 pm

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty is Moriarty's first published book. Like her others it consists of the stories or multiple characters, intertwining around a mystery, but unlike her other books, the mystery is revealed half-way through, so it lacks their pace. I thought that the ending was unsatisfactory: trite, sentimental, amoral and far too tidy. If I'd read this book first, I probably wouldn't have bothered with another, but fortunately I started with Big Little Lies (before the TV serial came out), which really got me in.

dec 14, 2021, 4:56 am

The Luxembourg Run by Stanley Ellin

I chose this because Luxembourg is one of the last remaining countries in my Europe Endless Challenge, and books set in Luxembourg are hard to find. This one wasn't, really. Luxembourg is the destination of an illegal currency transfer which ends so badly for the courier that he spends the rest of the book planning revenge on the people who betrayed him.

The second reason for choosing this book was that years ago I read a lot of Stanley Ellin's crime novels and liked them. But that was then. Now I'm annoyed with the empty, cliched female characters, sacrificed for the plot. I just hate it when the hero's woman is murdered, as though she's a valuable possession that's been stolen from him. I stopped reading James Lee Burke for just that reason: the high turnover in wives and girlfriends.

A well-written, well-plotted thriller that I didn't much like.

dec 17, 2021, 9:00 pm

A Load of Old Bones by Suzette Hill

The Guardian says, "Quite why this series should be charming, astringent and witty, instead of emetically twee, I am not sure, but it is entirely delightful".

I like the phrase "emetically twee" and, unlike the Guardian reviewer, would apply it wholeheartedly to this cosy mystery, which is related by a cat, a dog and a vicar. Stopping now.

Redigeret: dec 17, 2021, 9:06 pm

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nelly Bly

In 1887, the ambitious young reporter, Nelly Bly, was given an assignment to get herself committed to Blackwell's Island and report back. It's shocking to read about the ease of getting diagnosed as insane and being committed indefinitely, and the impossibility of being released when every request for a re-evaluation is classified as new evidence of insanity. The violence, cruelty, cold, starvation and filth that Bly uncovered were shocking and led to a Grand Jury Investigation.

This was short and interesting. We need more reporters like Nellie Bly and fewer peddlers of political opinions.

dec 20, 2021, 1:07 pm

Love your organization. May I copy it in 2022? Congrats on your making 100+!

dec 20, 2021, 2:50 pm

>172 hemlokgang: You certainly may! Thank you.

I haven't met the goal of reviewing every book this year because I've read over 400, including nearly 300 historical romances. There were a few that rose above the pack and are worth recommending, but most of them are interchangeable. They were an escape from the reality of Covid and lockdowns and, most importantly, had happy endings. It's summer now, time to get out more.

The books I've reviewed on this thread give a skewed impression of what I've actually been reading! I started a separate list of books that aren't historical romances, and they're the books reviewed here.

dec 21, 2021, 12:52 pm

400 in a year, wow!

dec 23, 2021, 3:46 pm

>174 john257hopper: Not something I aim to repeat! The plan for 2022 is fewer and better.

The Doors Open by Michael Gilbert is the third book in the Inspector Hazelrigg series, but Hazelrigg is a minor character. In fact, the book is full of minor characters. People appear and are followed for a while, then they recede into the background and someone else takes over. Eventually the main characters make themselves known: Legate, the manager of a well-regarded insurance company, and Lord Cedarbrook, the well-connected ex-military man, ex-diplomat, ex-spy and brilliant actor, who impressed me as a contender for the title of the most capable Englishman ever.

There are financial shenanigans, murders, Communists, court cases, Italian villains, two interchangeable fiancees, and numerous upright Englishmen who went to the right schools and are above suspicion. Trade unionists are villains. One character was imprisoned, effectively for being a shop steward, and that seems to be quite acceptable. This book was a mess, but it was readable enough. I'll keep trying Michael Gilbert's books because many of them are free on Kobo Plus, and the good ones are very good.

dec 30, 2021, 1:17 am

5 Star Reads

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy
Concluding by Henry Green
A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell
The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson
The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Ayme

4.5 Star Reads - a selection

Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout
The Absolute at Large by Karel Capek
Locos by Felipe Alfau
Of Mortal Love by William Gerhardie
The Yield by Tara June Winch
A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower

Least Favourite Book of 2021

Half a Star

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

So far I've tagged 427 books 2021, and know I've missed some. 308 are historical romances, escapist pandemic reading, but for a book to be a favourite it has to offer more than entertainment. A good book has to be thought provoking and romances aren't, which is the very reason I read them!