Monday, 16 June 2014

A Few Book Finds


Pineapples make excellent bookends and wouldn't the library look ever so exotic if we used them instead of those stark grey functional devices?

Reading is happening in dribs and drabs here lately with getting the gardens weeded and tidied.  A viburnum valiantly attempted to leaf and then gave up the ghost, poor thing, prompting an overhaul of that corner of the garden.  A perfectly-timed business card arrived in our mailbox from an acquaintance who has started up her own landscape design company.  Over she comes and we hash our a plan, get it on paper, and the shovel is about to be cast when our neighbour behind decides the time has come to replace the fence which separates us and borders the garden project.  It would also be the fence we broached them about replacing six years ago but better late than never, I suppose.  Laughable middle class problems but there you have it.  Now on to books...

Fresh on the shelves at my house:

The Angel in the Corner by Monica Dickens - I picked this one up on Saturday while dropping off a box of things at the Reuse Centre.  It was published in 1956 and followed The Winds of Heaven, a Persephone reprint.  The main character is 'an ambitious young daughter of divorced parents.  She lives with her cynical and sophisticated mother, cherishing two ambitions - to succeed as a journalist and to be happily in love'.  Toward the end of the blurb on the jacket I was hooked by the reference to Dickens' love of London...'She describes with realism and humour contrasting scenes of luxury and poverty; life in the fashionable West End and squalor in the slums; a dinner party in St John's Wood and a snack bar off the Edgware Road'.  Sounds promising.

The Rich House by Stella Gibbons - This arrived in the mail last week after a recommendation from Fleur Fisher with a second from Scott.  I thoroughly enjoyed Here Be Dragons recently and look forward to this next story set on the eve of World War II which 'follows the love affairs of six young people and their intertwined adorations.  The bookshops in my area carry these Vintage editions but by authors they assume will go over well with Canadians which means classics and contemporaries.  I would love to see a wall full of the whole selection but barring that, thank goodness for like-minded readers who share their knowledge.

Belle The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne - My husband and I went to the cinema a few weeks ago to see the film version of Dido Belle's story.  We were unfamiliar with this woman's story but when a sweeping costume drama set in London with a decent cast comes to town (and my husband is promised his weight in popcorn) we're off like a shot.  Wikipedia filled in a few blanks but the book goes into a great deal more depth...'The illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman, Dido Belle was raised by her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, one of the most powerful men of the time and a leading opponent of slavery.  When the portrait he commissioned of his two wards, Dido and her white cousin, Elizabeth, was unveiled, eighteenth-century England was shocked to see a black woman and white woman depicted as equals.


The original painting featuring Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle (1779)

Eustance and Hilda by L. P. Hartley - So far, my favourite Hartley novel has been The Hirelings but I do find something very cosy about his writing.  I've had my eye out for this compilation of three books for ages and it has eluded me at every second-hand shop until recently.  Between the covers...'a complex and spellbinding work: a comedy of upper-class manners; a study in the subtlest nuances of feeling' a poignant reckoning with the ironies of character and fate.  Above all, it is about two people who cannot live together or apart, about the ties that bind - and break.  Comedy of upper-class manners is one of my most favourite key phrases in a description.

The Echoing Grove by Rosamund Lehmann - The jacket cover is so yellowed and the book is a bit whiffy but I just had to give it home...'constructed round three characters, Rickie Masters, his wife Madeleine, and her sister Dinah.  Their fatally inter-related lives are disclosed through the eyes and through the experience of each of them.  The rivalry that divides the two sisters and the love that unites Rickie to them both is the theme of this novel.  

The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir - If you've read this I would love to know what you thought.  It was dropped into the book drop bin as a donation; I attached a note asking that were it not to be added to the library's collection, could I please have it...'In her most famous novel, Simone de Beauvoir takes an unflinching look at Parisian intellectual society at the end of World War II.  In fictionally depicting the lives of her circle - Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler - and her passionate love affair with Nelson Algren, de Beauvoir dissects the emotional and philosophical currents of her time'.  Now I know that friends of mine will see this book as an unlikely candidate but there is something intriguing about it.  My reading really should step outside of London every now and then.

Nothing, Doting, Blindness and Surviving both by Henry Green - The compilation was picked up at BMV Books in Toronto and the other was found at the Reuse Centre for $1.  I doubt it has ever been read.  Surviving is a collection of Green's writings, a few articles and a short play, perfect for dipping in and out of.  For anyone who is a fan there are tidbits under the titles such as in the short story The Old Lady (unpublished 1943)...This story was shown only to John Lehmann, who did not like it.  Some of the images in this story recur in 'Caught', published in 1943.  As well as Mood (unpublished, c. 1926)...'Judging by its prose style it clearly predates 'Living', though correspondence with Coghill would suggest that Green was still working on 'Mood' in the early thirties.  'Your new book Meretricity (the original title for 'Mood') is very ambitious,' he wrote, 'and if you succeed in it, as you have in Blindness and Living, it will have been worth all your depression about it.'  To get the most out of this book I think it's best left until having read more of Green's work than just Loving and Back.

My time is my own today so it's off to the patio with a cup of tea and a book!

10 comments:

  1. I had a bit of a thing about de Beauvoir and Sartre when I was about 18 and a student - but I seem to recall that The Mandarins was so dull that it cured me! I'm pretty sure I didn't finish it - but good luck.

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    1. Oh dear...(we can't be doing with dull).

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  2. Oh Darlene, you have done well. I have had Eustace and Hilda tucked away for some time - in three volumes printed by Faber a very long time ago - and maybe you can inspire me to read them.

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    1. The first book strikes me as a summer read so watch this space!

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    1. The poor thing has since been chopped up and made very nice snack food.

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  4. What a tantalizing selection of new books, Darlene. I've had trouble engaging with Henry Green, for some reason, but I'm sure I couldn't have resisted the Vintage edition, and I've always meant to get to Eustace and Hilda. Will be looking forward to your reviews!

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    1. Well you can't win them all, Scott! I was hooked by 'Loving' but there's also something about writers from the WWII era that really intrigues me. Considering the length of time I've been lusting after the Hartley I had better hop to it and soon!

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  5. Oooh Darlene, The Echoing Grove is AMAZING. You need to read that one first! What a fabulous haul. Hope you are feeling better as well - you'll have to send me an email to update me on your news! x

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    1. Email has been duly sent! And thanks for the glowing report about my Lehmann, it brings me no end of joy to know that my $2 hasn't been wasted!

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