This Time 10 years ago …

Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book posted earlier this year on books he had read ‘œOn this day ‘¦’ where he listed books he had read on a particular day in the year going back several years ‘“ in his case on 28 September. I haven’™t kept such accurate records as Simon, but as I found a notebook listing books I read in 1997 I thought I’™d look back to see what books I was reading in December in 1997, 2002, 2006 and this December. I didn’™t record the precise dates and have just picked one book out of the books I read in December during those years.

December 1997 ‘“ Homeland and other stories by Barbara Kingsolver. I made just a brief note at the time ‘œv. readable’. This is a book of short stories and I have to admit that at a distance of ten years I can’™t remember much about them. So, I’™ll just quote from the back cover:

‘œExtraordinarily fine. Barbara Kingsolver has a Chekovian tenderness towards her characters ‘¦ The title story is pure poetry.’ New York Times Book Review.

December 2002 ‘“ Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkein. I first read the books when I was at Library School ‘“ everyone on my course was reading them. I’™ve read them several times since then and this time I read them again, prompted by the films. The films compared quite favourably with the books, although I think the Ents didn’™t live up to my expectations. Ian McKellen as Gandalf was just perfect.

December 2006 ‘“ Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. I have read several Atwood books and I think this one is one of her best. It’™s based on the true story of the murder of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper in Canada in 1843. Grace and fellow servant James are found guilty of the murders. James was hanged and Grace imprisoned for life. The question, never answered to my satisfaction, all through the book is, was Grace guilty?

December 2007 ‘“ All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. I haven’™t read any other books by Sackville-West and was pleased to find it most enjoyable with an awful lot packed into what seems on the face of it to be a novel where not much happens. It’™s a novel of opposites. For example old age and youth are contrasted in looking back over the life of Lady Slane, widowed at the age of 88. I’™ll be writing about this in more detail, after 15 December, as it’™s the chosen book for Cornflower’™s book group.

A Christmas Meme

I was tagged by Sam for this Christmas meme.

What is your most enduring Christmas memory? I don’t think I could single out one particular moment, maybe remembering back to my childhood when Christmas was a magical time, later enjoying it through my son’s excitement and these days through my grandchildren’s eyes.

 

Do you have a favourite piece of Christmas music? Silent Night, but don’t ask me to sing it solo.

Do you stick to the old family traditions? Apart from giving present and celebrating with lots of food, no. My grandmother used to stand to attention during the Queen’s speech but no one else did, much to her disapproval.

What makes your mouth water at Christmas time!? I love all Christmas food.

How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down? It varies – we haven’t put one up yet. It has to be taken down and all Christmas decorations put away before Twelfth Night.

I would like to tag Nan, Kay, Cornflower and Geranium Cat for this meme.

Cranford – a “Multi-Threaded Production”

The third episode of “Cranford” is being shown on BBC1 this evening. Over the course of last week I have puzzled over my reaction to the production. If I hadn’™t only recently read Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford I might not have been so bemused. I was quite prepared to find that the actors and the locations didn’™t match the pictures in my mind ‘“ how could they? I also didn’™t expect the dramatisation to follow every word in the book ‘“ after all it is a dramatic representation, not a book.

Still, after seeing two episodes and looking at the preview of the third, I think that by amalgamating Cranford with two other books the end result is not Cranford. One difference that really has jarred is concerning Mary Smith. In the novel Mary is the narrator. She lives in Drumble (Manchester) with her father and writes about her visits to Cranford at different intervals over a number of years. Her father is an old friend of the Jenkyns family, maybe even a distant relative, who helps with Miss Matty’™s business affairs. Nowhere in Cranford is there any indication that Mary Smith has a stepmother and stepbrothers and sisters, but they appear in the TV series ‘“ I can’™t see how they add anything to the story. And why was it necessary to make Miss Brown’™s death take place before her father’™s? I could go on.

The BBC’™s Press Office page has some interesting information that explains how the script was written. The creators did not think that there was enough material in the novel suitable for a straightforward adaptation. So, as they wanted to keep ‘œtrue to the spirit of Gaskell’ they took several of her books and interwove them together. This quote from the Production Notes explains the process:

“We took a lot of liberties with Elizabeth Gaskell,” Sue continues. “We lost some of her characters, we amalgamated some and we invented. We shuffled story beats around and we added extras to some of the stories from the other books.

“And we lifted out two comic incidents from her essays about her childhood which weren’t in the novels. In the end, we had interwoven parts of all the three novels so closely that it took on a life of its own, and essentially became a new drama.’

Cranford is thus a multi-threaded production, combining three of Elizabeth Gaskell’™s books and essays as well as introducing new material. They have indeed produced a new drama. My question is ‘“ do I want to watch it? I’™m not so sure that I do.

Francesca Annis is quoted in the Press Pack:

“I read Gaskell’s My Lady Ludlow, and (Cranford writer) Heidi Thomas’s characterisation is quite faithful to her but she obviously had to leave out a huge amount of detail that I found completely fascinating.

“But then this serial isn’t called Lady Ludlow… unfortunately!”

Maybe it shouldn’™t be called ‘œCranford’, either.

One thing I do know is that thanks to this production, I shall read Mr Harrison’™s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow.

November Round Up of Books

Another month of good reading. I have already written posts about most of the books I finished reading in November. Clicking on the titles links to my posts.

Playing with the Moon by Eliza Graham – an excellent book, looking back over 60 years.
Lewis Carroll: a biography by Morton Cohen – long and detailed.
The Sidmouth Letters by Jane Gardam – good (better than I expected).
Remainder by Tom McCarthy – mixed feelings about this one, thought provoking.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – a very enjoyable read, better than the TV series for me.

The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning (the first in her Balkan trilogy) – set in Bucharest during the ‘phoney war’ period of the Second World War.

Posts to follow on these books that I’ve also finished:
Surveillance by Jonathan Raban – an interesting look at modern life.
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson – a thought provoking book.
Currently I’m reading:


My Cleaner by Maggie Gee. I’ve nearly finished this about Vanessa, English, middle class and Mary, Ugandan who used to be Vanessa’s cleaner.

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. I’ve read the first chapters of this story of an aging British aristocrat. This is the book chosen by Karen for her new book group.

Winter In Madrid by C J Sansom. I’ve just started reading this. I chose it because I read with great enjoyment his three earlier books, Dissolution, Dark Fire and Sovereign, historical mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake, a lwyer-cum-detective. I hadn’t realised this book was set in the 1940s when I decided to read it – yet another book from that period.

Cross Stitch – Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

For a change this post is not about books.

I like to do cross-stitching, but one of its disadvantages is that I cannot read and stitch at the same time. Other difficulties are that I cannot do it in the summer as my hands get too hot and at other times of the year I find the light is not good enough so I have to use a daylight lamp, which I don’t find very easy. Anyway, now that I’ve just finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack, which I’ll write about soon, I feel it’s time to get stitching again after many months of inactivity. I have quite a lot of different ones on the go, some I’ve been doing for years. One of them is a kit to stitch Little Moreton Hall. The photograph above shows the minimal amount I’ve done. It’s quite hard as it is such a fine canvas and small stitches – I’m no expert. The Hall, a National Trust property in Cheshire is a beautiful timber framed Tudor building as shown in the photographs below.

Little Moreton Hall is one of the most impressive buildings I know, with its wonderful decorative timber framing and patterned glazed windows. It is marvellous to be able to visit such an historic building and many rooms are open for the public to look at and walk through. It looks top-heavy with its projecting upper storeys. The earliest part of the building dates from the 1440s and 1450s when the Great Hall and the East Wing were built. A third storey was added in 1560-70 during the reign of Elizabeth I, containing the Long Gallery, 68 feet long with a massive arched roof. Cross beams were inserted into the roof trusses in the late seventeenth century to stop the walls from coming apart. The walls are crooked and the floor is uneven, so you experience a truly precarious feeling walking along the gallery. When I visited it quite a few years ago the Long Gallery was not furnished, much as it would have been when it was first built, because the Elizabethans used the room for walking, daily exercise and games. It was very easy to imagine what it must have been like.

I bought the Guide Book, the Cross Stitch Kit and a small bay tree in a pot for the garden as souvenirs. I like to buy Cross Stitch Kits of National Trust houses and properties wherever I can find them. I now have a few including a view of St Michael’s Mount near Penzance in Cornwall, and an ornamental gate in the garden of Townend, a 17th century solid stone and slate farmhouse near Windermere in Cumbria.

I also like to buy bookmarks to stitch. They are much quicker to finish and have a practical use. I’ve decided to start the bookmark shown on the left in the photograph below even though I have several other kits I’ve started and not finished.

Rolling – Booking Through Thursday

Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?
I don’™t so much mean something like reading a series from beginning to end, but, say, a string of books that all take place in Paris. Or that have anthropologists as the main character. Or were written in the same year. Something like that’¦ Something that strings them together in your head, and yet, otherwise could be different genres, different authors’¦

I suppose my immediate answer to this is yes, very often. I do like to read another book by an author when I’ve enjoyed one – but that’s not the question. Books in the same genre are also easy to think of – I took part in the R.I.P. Challenge, so that was all books with themes of mystery and imagination – I like those, not gory or horrific but books that keep you guessing and make you ponder. I like to vary my reading as well, so I do try to pick different types of books and different authors, ones I’ve never read before as well as old favourites.

But to answer the question, recently I find that some books I’ve read have a 1940s theme. I’m thinking of One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, set in England in 1946 just after the Second World War, Playing with the Moon by Eliza Graham lokking back after 60 years to the 1940s and The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning, set in Bucharest in 1939/1940 at the outbreak of the War. Even Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner fits in with that time and Surveillance by Jonathan Raban looks back to the 1940s as Augie writes about his wartime experiences as a refugee from Germany.
When I decided to read these books I had no idea that they were all linked like this.

Cranford – Revisited and Nostalgic Memories

It was the second episode of Cranford on Sunday – see the BBC website here. There were so many scenes that were all totally unknown to me that it was as if I’d never read the book. I was able to watch it without my pre-conceived pictures intruding. It was a mixture of comedy and tragedy, as is life. See the Radio Times website here for more information on the cast and crew, location shots, photos and video clips. I thought Julia Sawalha was just right as Jessie Brown and I was pleased to read in the RT that she is in Lark Rise to Candleford, which is coming to the BBC next year. I read Lark Rise about 10 years or so ago when I was recovering from flu, so I’m looking forward to seeing it. With such a gap since I’ve read it I’ll be able to watch it with fresh eyes – I’m not planning on reading again until I’ve watched the drama.

Thinking of Cranford has made me think back with nostalgia to my schooldays at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. I remembered today that the house I was in at school was called Gaskell after Mrs Gaskell (the school houses were named after people with local connections). I got out some old school magazines and read them with great pleasure wondering what has happened to my old school friends. My school has its own website and I had a look tonight. It has changed almost beyond recognition, although the main school building is still the same. I wonder if they still have the same house system.

Cranford is the only book I’ve read by Elizabeth Gaskell and I must read some more. I’d like to read Mary Barton and Ruth, which sound very different books from Cranford, but as I’ve got Sylvia’s Lovers I’ll start with that.