Latest Additions at BooksPlease

Yesterday I brought this little pile of books home from Barter Books in Alnwick, my favourite bookshop. (This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.)

Barter Bks Nov 2019

From top to bottom they are:

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, a biographical novel of Michelangelo. I was delighted to find this almost pristine copy on the Barter Book shelves to replace my old tatty copy that is falling to pieces (you can see it in this post). There’s not a crease on the spine – I don’t think it’s ever been read!

Missing Joseph: An Inspector Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George. I haven’t read any of the Inspector Lynley novels, although I’ve watched the TV adaptations. This is the sixth in the series. I’m wondering if the book will be as good as the TV version. An Anglican priest is found dead – from accidental poisoning. But his death is far from straight forward.

Staring at the Light by Frances Fyfield. I’ve read just one of her books before, which I enjoyed. John Smith’s twin has disappeared. Cannon, a gifted artist, goes into hiding to avoid John’s destructive behaviour. Attorney Sarah Fortune shields Cannon, and more importantly, his wife, the real target. But is Cannon really telling the truth about John? Val McDermid is quoted on the back cover: ‘I doubt I will read a better book this year.’

Next two books by Edmund Crispin. I’ve read reviews of his books, so when I saw these two I decided to see for myself what they are like. The Case of the Gilded Fly, Crispin’s first novel, contains the first appearance of eccentric amateur detective Gervase Fen, Professor of English Language and Literature in the University of Oxford. It’s a locked-room mystery, written while Crispin was an undergraduate at Oxford and first published in the UK in 1944.

And Buried for Pleasure, in which Gervase Fen is running for parliament and he finds himself ‘in a tangled tale of lost heirs, eccentric psychiatrists, beautiful women and vengeful poisoners.’

And last but not least I found this hardback copy of a Daphne du Maurier novel – Rule Britannia. First published in 1972 in this novel the UK has withdrawn from the Common Market (as it was then called) and has formed an alliance with the United States – supposed to be an equal partnership but it looks to some people like a takeover bid. Rather prescient of Daphne du Maurier, I wonder …

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Mary Barton Gaskell

Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life by Elizabeth Gaskell was my Classics Club Spin book for September and October. It was her first novel, published in two volumes in 1848, bringing her to the attention of Charles Dickens who was looking for contributors to his new periodical Household Words. It’s the third book of hers that I have read. It is a long book and begins slowly, developing the characters and building up to the main story.

It covers the years 1837 to 1842, a time that saw the growth of trade unions and of Chartism, of industrial city expansion and a time of extreme economic depression. The structure of society and social attitudes were changing with the growth of materialism and class antagonism. As people moved away from the countryside and into Manchester to work in the cotton mills, the city grew from 75,000 in 1800 to 400,000 in 1848 when Mary Barton was published, creating great wealth for the mill owners whilst the mill workers were housed in horrendous slums.

Mary Barton is the story of ordinary working people struggling with the rapid social change and terrible working and living conditions. Mary is the daughter of John Barton, a mill worker and trade unionist. John is a hard worker, but he is determined that she should never work in a factory, so she works as an apprentice to a dressmaker and milliner. She is flattered by the attentions of Henry Carson, a mill owner’s son and believes he will marry he and that she will live in luxury and she spurns Jem Wilson, her childhood friend, only later realising that it is him she loves.

However, work for the factory dries up and it closes down. The workers are desperate and John becomes an active trade unionist and a Chartist. (Gaskell gives a detailed picture of the Chartist Movement and their demands for political reform.) Eventually he turns to opium to relieve his situation. Things go from bad to worse – Henry is murdered and suspicion falls on Jem. Mary realises the mistakes she had made and that it is Jem that she loves, and when her efforts to prove his innocence lead her to suspect the real culprit, she is left with a terrible dilemma.

I have only just touched the surface of this novel and there are many strands that I have left out. There is a mystery surrounding the disappearance of Mary’s Aunt Esther, the story of Mary’s friend Margaret, who is slowly going blind, and her grandfather, Job, Jem’s mother and his Aunt Alice country women who came to Manchester to work, a factory fire and the illnesses and diseases that were endemic at the time, amongst others. It is a touch melodramatic in parts and does include quite lengthy rhetorical passages and commentary in Gaskell’s own voice as narrator. But on the whole her style is clear and detailed giving a sense of reality. It is a powerful novel, a love story, as well as a tragedy, presenting a moving picture of the lives of working people in the middle of the nineteenth century.

3.5*

As well as being my Classics Club Spin book, Mary Barton is also one of my TBRs so it qualifies for Bev’s Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

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

5

which for me is Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by October 31, 2019.

Mary Barton

 

I’ve read some of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books and enjoyed them. This is her first book, set in Manchester between 1839 and 1842.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Mary Barton, the daughter of disillusioned trade unionist, rejects her working-class lover Jem Wilson in the hope of marrying Henry Carson, the mill owner’s son, and making a better life for herself and her father. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself painfully torn between the two men. Through Mary’s dilemma, and the moving portrayal of her father, the embittered and courageous Chartist agitator John Barton, Mary Barton powerfully dramatizes the class divides of the ‘hungry forties’ as personal tragedy. In its social and political setting, it looks towards Elizabeth Gaskell’s great novels of the industrial revolution, in particular North and South.

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

The Classics Club Spin: My List

 

63269-classic2bspin

It’s time for another  Classics Club Spin. By 23 September compile a Spin List of twenty books that remain ‘to be read’ on your Classics Club list.

On that day the Classics Club will randomly pick a number and that will be the book to read. You then have until the 31st October 2019 to finish your book and review it.

I have only 13 unread books left on my list  so, I’ve repeated seven of the titles to make the numbers up to 20.

  1. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
  2. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  3. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  4. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  5. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  6. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert
  7. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  8. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  9. Murder by Matchlight by E C R Lorac
  10. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  11. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarqu
  12. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  13. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  14. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexte
  15. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  16. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  17. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert
  18. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. Murder by Matchlight by E C R Lorac

I’m quietly hoping it will be Murder by Matchlight or Smallbone Deceased, but any of them will be OK.

Latest Additions at BooksPlease

BB bks Aug 2019

Yesterday I brought this little pile of books home from Barter Books in Alnwick, my favourite bookshop.

From top to bottom they are:

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott, his first novel, first published anonymously in 1814. It is set in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and tells the story of Edward Waverley, an idealistic daydreamer whose loyalty to his regiment is threatened when they are sent to the Scottish Highlands. I’m inspired to read this by a recent visit to Abbotsford, Scott’s home in the Scottish Borders.

The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, the eighth in the Martin Beck series – once more I’ve plunged into a series without reading the earlier books. But it appears that shouldn’t matter as each book is focused on one particular case. I’m not sure what to expect as the blurb on the back says it transforms the police force into the police farce.

The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter, the eleventh Inspector Morse mystery. Morse must solve two related murders — a problem complicated by a plethora of suspects and by his attraction to one of the possible killers. I’ve read several of the Morse books, so far, so I was pleased to find another one I haven’t read.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Hitchcock’s 1951 film is based on this book. Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno meet on a train. Bruno manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. “Some people are better off dead,” Bruno remarks, “like your wife and my father, for instance.” 

Sleeping Beauties by Jo Spain, the third Inspector Tom Reynolds novel set in Dublin and the surrounding areas. I’ve read the fourth book and have copies of the first two to read, so I was pleased to find this book on the shelves. Five bodies are found in woodland and a young woman is missing. A search is under way – can she be found before she too is killed?

The Headhunters by Peter Lovesey, second book DCI Hen Mallin Investigation (I haven’t read the first!)  Mallin and her team investigate the discovery of a dead body, found on the beach at Selsey. Gemma had joked about murdering her boss – and now her boss is missing.

The Vault by Peter Lovesey. I’ve read one of his Peter Diamond books before and enjoyed it. This book is the sixth book in the Peter Diamond series. A skeletal hand is unearthed in the vault under the Pump Room in Bath, England, near the site where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Then a skull is excavated. The bones came from different corpses, and one is modern.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I’d borrowed a copy of this from the library but hadn’t finished it when I had to return it. In 1986, The Panama Hotel in Seattle has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to internment camps during the Second World War. The novel goes back and forth between 1986 and World War Two

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, a book I’ve often wondered about reading. As the title reveals it is about Frank’s music shop, full of records, vinyl, that is. It’s set in 1988 and is a story about love and about how important music is in our lives. When Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music she is not what she seems and for Frank it opens up old wounds from his past.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Gaudy Night to The Cuckoo’s Calling

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month it’s a wild card – the chain begins with the book that ended our July chains, which means that my starting book is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers.

Gaudy Night

It’s set at Shrewsbury College at Oxford University. Harriet Vane attends the Shrewsbury Gaudy (a college reunion involving a celebratory dinner). It doesn’t go well – there are poison pen letters, nasty graffiti and vandalism causing mayhem and upset. It’s 1935 and explores the role of women in society, particularly with regard to education and marriage and the importance of truth and honesty. 

My first link is the word night’ in the title:

Endless Night by Agatha Christie. It differs from most of her other books in that it is a psychological study. It reminded me very much of Ruth Rendell’s books, writing as Barbara Vine. It has the same suffocating air of menace throughout the book, with more than one twist at the end. It’s a murder mystery, but there is little or no detection, and no investigators – no Poirot or Miss Marple – to highlight the clues to the murders, for there are several.

So, my second link is, The Brimstone Wedding, by Barbara Vine, also a book full of a menacing atmosphere. In it Stella, reveals her past as she talks to Jenny, one of the carers at the retirement home where she lives. It’s all very subtle at first with tantalising hints about what had really happened in Stella’s past. But the full horror is left to the end –  it’s not horrific in the overblown graphic sense, but in a sinister, psychological way that really is ‘chilling’ and inexpressibly sad.

And my third link takes me to another chilling book, The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton –  a remarkably powerful book, full of tension and fear. Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. The victims had been buried alive. But as she revisits the scenes of the burials she starts to think that maybe Larry wasn’t the murderer after all.

Moving away from chilling books about death and burials my mind jumped to a completely different book about death – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This is the story of Bod, the baby who escapes a murderer. He stumbles into the local disused graveyard where he is rescued by ghosts. Silas, who is neither dead nor alive appoints himself as his guardian. It’s about life, love and friendship, loyalty and the fight between good and evil. Above all it is about growing up and the excitement and expectations that Bod has about life.

Another character called Silas is Silas Marner, written by George Eliot about a weaver who was wrongly accused of theft and left his home town to live a lonely and embittered life in Raveloe where he became a miser, hoarding his gold and counting it each night. George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Anne Evans.

Finally this leads me to my last link, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, J K Rowling’s pen name. It’s crime fiction, set in the world of Cormoran Strike , an ex-army private detective, who is struggling to get clients and pay his bills, sleeping on a camp bed in his office.

My links are via the word ‘night’, chilling books, death and burials, characters called Silas and authors using pen names (the links on titles are to my posts on the books). I have read and enjoyed all these books.

Next month (September 7, 2019), we’ll begin with A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a book I haven’t read, or even heard of before.

Sanditon by Jane Austen, edited by Kathryn Sutherland

Sanditon

Jane Austen has long been one of my favourite authors so I was delighted when Georgie Malcolm at the Oxford University Press contacted me to see if was interested in a review copy of a new edition of Jane Austen’s final, incomplete work Sanditon, edited with an introduction and explanatory notes on the text by Austen expert and Oxford University lecturer Kathryn Sutherland. 

In Sanditon, Jane Austen writes what may well be the first seaside novel: a novel, that is, that explores the mysterious and startling transformations that a stay by the sea can work on individuals and relationships. Sanditon is a fictitious place on England’s south coast and the obsession of local landowner Mr Thomas Parker. He means to transform this humble fishing village into a fashionable health resort to rival its famous neighbours of Brighton and Eastbourne. 

In this, her final, unfinished work, the writer sets aside her familiar subject matter, the country village with its settled community, for the transient and eccentric assortment of people who drift to the new resort, the town built upon sand. If the ground beneath her characters’ feet appears less secure, Austen’s own vision is opening out. Light and funny, Sanditon is her most experimental and poignant work.

I first read Sanditon only four years ago, in a combined publication of  Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon and reviewed it in this post. I thoroughly enjoyed Sanditon, even in its unfinished state. It’s the last fiction that Jane Austen wrote, beginning it in January 1817, the year she died.

I’m looking forward to reading this new edition with great interest, particularly the introduction and the notes explaining literary allusions, references to diseases and contemporary medical treatments, Regency fashions, quasi-specialist language, etc. It certainly looks excellent!

And I see that ITV has a new adaptation by Andrew Davies of Sanditon that will air in eight parts this autumn.

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198840837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198840831