The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club
The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number … 6

which for me is The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by 1 June, 2020.

The Return of the Native

I’m delighted with this as I’ve been meaning to read it for years and never got round to it.

‘To be loved to madness – such was her great desire’

Eustacia Vye criss-crosses the wild Egdon Heath, eager to experience life to the full in her quest for ‘music, poetry, passion, war’. She marries Clym Yeobright, native of the heath, but his idealism frustrates her romantic ambitions and her discontent draws others into a tangled web of deceit and unhappiness.

Early readers responded to Hardy’s ‘insatiably observant’ descriptions of the heath, a setting that for D. H. Lawrence provided the ‘real stuff of tragedy’. For modern readers, the tension between the mythic setting of the heath and the modernity of the characters challenges our freedom to shape the world as we wish; like Eustacia, we may not always be able to live our dreams. (Amazon)

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts this meme – Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times.  I am enjoying this meme, looking round my actual bookshelves and re-discovering books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun basically.

This is really a Friday meme, but what with one thing and another, it is now Sunday and I have only just finished writing this post! I am so behind with everything these days.

If you were to visit our house as soon as you came in you would see a wall lined with bookshelves. The first bookcase has six shelves – the top two are filled with OS maps, then there are three shelves of biographies and autobiographies, with the bottom shelf containing random books. The photo below shows one of the shelves of autobiographies/biographies.

Biographies

I have read some of these books – those marked with an *. From the left (as you look at the screen) they are:

*Curzon: A Most Superior Person, a biography by Kenneth Rose. George Nathaniel Curzon was the first and last Marquess of Kedleston, who in 1898 became the Viceroy of India. I bought this book after we visited Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, several years ago. It’s been the home of the Curzon family since the 12th century.

Next to that is *The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir. I first read this book many years ago. In it she examined the available evidence of the disappearance of the princes in 1483 at the time her book was first published in 1992.

Then comes Boris: the Rise of Boris Johnson by Andrew Gimson, published in 2012. I bought this book secondhand several years ago after Boris had been elected as Mayor of London and it is an updated version of his earlier biography to include his time as the Mayor of London.

After that are two autobiographies that I have started reading, but haven’t finished yet. They are Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Slipstream, and Michael Palin’s Diaries 1969 – 1979: the Python YearsNext The Brontes by Juliet Barker, inspired by my visit to their family home in Howarth.

The biography of Eric Clapton by Michael Schumacher is my husband’s book. I’d probably enjoy it though as I like his music too.

I was stunned when I read *An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan, about the time he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi’ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for four and a half years between 1986 and 1990.

I haven’t read the next book, Howard Hughes: the Untold Story by Peter Brown and Pat H. Broeske, although my husband has – he thought it was excellent. It’s the book that inspired Martin Scorses’s film, The Aviator.

I’ve read the next four books, John Worthen’s *D H Lawrence: the Life of an Outsider, Agatha Christie’s *An Autobiography, * Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade and *Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin.

On top of the rest, because I couldn’t fit them in anywhere else, are two more books – one I have read, a biography of *Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster and John Grisham’s The Innocent Man, another book my husband has read but I haven’t yet. It tells the true story of Ron Williamson, who was arrested, tried, found guilty of the rape and murder of a cocktail waitress. He was sent to Death Row.

My Friday Post: Caught Out in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Caught Out in Cornwall

 

Caught Out in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho is one of the books I borrowed from the library before it closed because of COVID-19. So now I have plenty of time to finish reading it!

A small crowd began to gather. One minute, apart from a few distant dog walkers, Rose Trevelyan was alone on the beach; the next a dozen people had arrived to witness the ensuing drama.

A yacht is drifting dangerously, its mast snapped as a lifeboat goes to its rescue.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘So, tell me about your interesting day.’

‘Did you hear about that little girl that’s gone missing?’

‘Yes. Have they found her yet?’

Rose shook her head sadly before describing her part in it.

Blurb

When Rose Trevelyan sees a young girl being carried away by someone who appears to be her father, she thinks nothing of it. Until, that is, the appearance of a frantic mother who cannot find her child. Beth Jones is only four years old, and her mother is adamant that the man Rose saw taking her away must be a stranger.

Wracked with guilt for not intervening, Rose once again finds herself entangled in a criminal investigation. As time passes, it becomes clear that the chances of getting Beth back unharmed are very bleak indeed . . .

~~~

This is the seventh and last book in the Rose Trevelyan series featuring Rose, an artist and photographer. I’ve read and enjoyed two of the earlier books.

Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About

top-ten-tuesday-new

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About (This is for the books you liked, but rarely come up in conversation or rarely fit a TTT topic, etc.)

These are books I read before I began blogging. First is book I bought in an airport bookshop waiting to board a plane:

It’s Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. I had never heard of Anita Shreve, but I liked the look of this book – and the fact that it’s a chunky book of nearly 600 pages, so, good to read on holiday. It’s set in the summer of 1899 when Olympia Biddeford and her parents are on holiday at the family’s vacation home in Fortune’s Rocks, a coastal resort in New Hampshire. She is fifteen years old and this is the story of her love affair with an older man. I read more by her later and whilst I enjoyed her early books, I wasn’t so taken with her later ones.

Carol Shields is another author I’d never heard of until picked up Happenstance whilst at Gatwick Airport, waiting for another plane to go on holiday. I began reading it in the departure lounge, then on the plane and round the hotel pool, then passed it on to my husband. It’s written in two halves – one telling the wife’s story, then you turn the book round and upside down and there is the second half  telling the husband’s. Both tell their stories of a certain period in their lives from their own point of view. I read the wife’s side first. I didn’t talk about it to my husband just gave him the book and he read the husband’s side first. Then we discussed it and of course we both had different views on it. I’ve since read and enjoyed several more of her books

The Memory Box – Margaret Forster – A young woman leaves a sealed memory box for her baby daughter before she dies. Years later, as a young woman herself, Catherine finds her mother’s box full of unexplained, even bizarre objects. Finding out what the objects represent is her only chance to find out about the mother she never knew. A lovely book.

The Thornbirds – Colleen McCullough. I read this many years ago and have never forgotten it. In the rugged Australian Outback, three extraordinary generations of Cleary’s live through joy and sadness, bitter defeat and magnificent triumph – driven by their dreams, sustained by remarkable strength of character…and torn by dark passions, violence and a scandalous family legacy of forbidden love.

The Falls – Joyce Carol Oates. this was the first of Oates’ books I read and I loved it. A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. He’s a newly-wed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding. For two weeks, Ariah, the deserted bride, waits by the side of the roaring waterfall for news of her husband’s recovered body.

Possession – A S Byatt is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers combines two stories, that of Julia Garnet, a retired school teacher, who goes to Venice prompted by the death of a friend, and that of  Tobias and the Angel, which she sees in the Guardi panels in the Chiesa dell’ Angelo Raffaele. This is a beautiful book.

The Soldier’s Return – Melvyn Bragg, a novel about the aftermath of the Second World War. Sam Richardson returns home to Wigton in Cumbria where he finds the town little changed. But the war has changed him. His six year old son barely remembers him and his wife has gained a sense of independence from her wartime jobs. There are two further books to complete the story – A Son of War and Crossing the Lines. All three books are outstandingly good.

Glittering Images – Susan Howatch. The first in her Church of England series. I loved the whole series when I read them years ago. This book is set in 1937 and beneath the smooth surface of an episcopal palace lurks the sordid breath of scandal. Charles Ashworth, a Canon to the Archbishop of Canterbury is sent to untangle the web of corruption, only to become involved himself. I’m not an Anglican so I was fascinated by the description of the hierarchy within the church as well as all the scandals.

An Alien at St Wilfred’s by Adrian Plass is another book about an Anglican church, but this is very different from Susan Howatch’s series. It’s very funny, about a small alien, calling himself Nunc who comes to live in a parish church and learns to speak Prayer Book English. His effect on the vicar and the congregation is hilarious.

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts this meme – Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times.  I am enjoying this meme, looking round my actual bookshelves and re-discovering books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun basically.

My post this week is about my love of word puzzles. I love doing crosswords and codewords – any sort of word puzzles too – and do a few each day, either from a newspaper or from books of puzzles, such as these.

Codeword bks

I’m not very good at cryptic crosswords but I’ve got a bit better after doing an Alphapuzzles each day. This is today’s Alphapuzzle:

AlphaPuzzle April 2020

These puzzles have one clue, usually a cryptic clue, that helps enormously if you can solve it, as it gives you more letters to get started. So far today I haven’t worked out the answer to this clue – ‘Tonal switch for a hook‘.

And these books about puzzles are very helpful too:

Word play bks

The Crossword Lists and Crossword Solver edited by Anne Stibbs Kerr contains lists of words and phrases listed alphabetically and by number of letters under a wide range of category headings such as Animals in Fiction, Clouds, Writers, Playwrights and Poets, and characters in Lord of the Rings, for example. The Crossword Solver part contains possible solutions, such as place names, abbreviations and euphemisms and technical terms, and so on.

Puzzled: Secrets and Clues From a Life in Words by David Astle is a fascinating book. It’s a manual of how to solve those cryptic clues that I find so baffling. Astle is a Melbourne-based writer of non-fiction, fiction and drama. He co-hosted Letters and Numbers, the Australian version of Countdown, as the dictionary expert and his crosswords appear in Australian papers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

He begins the book with a Master Puzzle and leads you through each of the clues, revealing the secrets of anagrams, double meanings, manipulations, spoonerisms and hybrid clues. I’ve begun to understand … I think.

Word Play: A cornucopia of puns, anagrams, euphemisms & other contortions & curiosities of the English language by Gyles Brandreth is another book full  of surprising facts and anecdotes about words – old words, new words, funny words and ridiculous words. It’s a book you just open anywhere and get lost in – ideal for wordaholics, like me.

And here is another book I regularly use, practically everyday – it sits on the floor next to me. It’s The Chambers Dictionary.

Chambers Dictionary

My Friday Post: The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Mirror and Light

I began reading The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel as soon as it arrived in the post on 6 March – and I’m still reading it, very slowly, as it is a very long and detailed book.

It begins:

Wreckage (1)

London, May 1536

Once the queen’s head is severed, he walks away.

He is Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII, and the Queen was Anne Boleyn.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56: Chapuys, the  ambassador of the Emperor Charles V is talking to Cromwell about the dangers to Henry’s life:

A dagger thrust, it is easily done. It may be, even, it needs no human hand to strike. There is plague that kills in a day. There is the sweating sickness that kills in an hour.

How true!

Blurb

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

~~~

Does this book appeal to you too? Have you read/are you reading this book

Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs Lewis

3*

Blurb:

Poet, atheist and communist, New Yorker Joy Davidman is an unconventional woman – and an unlikely partner for an English academic and theologian.

And when she starts a correspondence with Narnia author C. S. Lewis, she isn’t looking for love. Her own marriage crumbling, she seeks refuge in her work, and guidance from a writer she admires.

But in Joy’s letters Lewis discovers a kindred spirit, and an intellect to equal his own. Bonding over a shared love of literature and ideas, a deep connection is forged between the two.

Embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, Joy travels from America to England and back again. Facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, against all the odds, the couple struggle to secure a love that will endure forever.

My thoughts:

I was keen to read Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan as I have read many of C S Lewis’ books and was enthralled watching Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, and Julian Fellowes in Shadowlands (not a dry eye in the cinema) some years ago. Shadowlands is  about his meeting with Helen Joy Davidman and about the events that led to their marriage. I think the blurb (see above) summarises the events that led to Jack and Joy’s marriage very well and it was what made me want to read the book. 

When I’d read part of the book I discovered that Patti Callahan was giving an online blog tour.  It was very helpful, as I had been wondering whether the correspondence between Jack (as C S Lewis was known to his family and friends) and Joy that she quoted in the book was taken from their actual letters. She clarified that their letters had been lost – Jack had destroyed Joy’s letters to him because they were personal, whilst Joy had kept his letters to her in a trunk, but later it was vandalised and all the letters had gone. So, she had read the letters they had written to other people and used those as a basis for the letters in her book. In other words the letters in the book are imagined but inspired by those letters. She also said that the bones of her book are based on the facts – the dates and times are correct the rest is fiction.

However when I went back to the book I became disappointed. Written as though Joy herself is telling their story it is intense, passionate and very personal and I felt very uncomfortable reading it – as though I was eavesdropping on the characters. If I had been reading romantic fiction I wouldn’t have felt that way – but then I probably wouldn’t have read it at all.

Joy’s marriage was portrayed as a nightmare, her boys were in fear of their father and what he wanted from Joy was not the independent woman she was, but the little wife at home, submissive and obedient to him. He was abusive, an alcoholic and subject to rages. She found acceptance and understanding from Jack both in his letters and in person when she met him in England. What I found difficult to read is the personal thoughts and feelings ascribed to Joy and her desire for a physical relationship with Jack. I couldn’t warm to her, which is a shame as Patti Callahan’s admiration of her came over very strongly in her talk and she said that she had written the book so that people would care about her. It appeared to me from this book that she was almost stalking Jack. I was surprised that she felt able to spend so much time in England, despite missing her sons. She had left them at home with her husband and her cousin who was so obviously the kind of woman her husband desired.  

I was in two minds several times about finishing the book, but I’m glad I persevered to the end as overall I did enjoy it even though I think it went into too much detail. It has inspired me to look back at the books I have by and about C S Lewis and  to find out more about Joy Davidman.

My thanks to Harper Collins Inspire for a review copy via NetGalley.