My Week in Books: 21 March 2018

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.


A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Currently reading:

The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, set in Canada in 1867. A man has been brutally murdered, a woman finds his body and her seventeen-year-old son has disappeared. She has to clear his name, heading north into the forest and the desolate landscape that lies beyond it, Also tracking him is what passes for the law in this frontier land: trappers, sheriffs, traders. As the party pushes further from civilisation, hidden purposes and old obsessions are revealed.

I’m not enjoying it so far as much as I hoped, or expected. It may be because I can’t get the characters clear in my head and have to keep turning back the pages to identify them.

I’m also reading a rather strange book, The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes, one of his Inspector John Appleby mysteries. It’s not at all what I expected but I am enjoying it. Set in the Blitz there’s a haunted house that has vanished, a horse, called Daffodil that has been stolen and two girls have been kidnapped. Appleby and another detective, Hudspith investigate. It is bizarre with elements of the absurd.

Recently finished:

The last book I finished is The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie. An explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

Cecily whose husband and best friend were inside the building. Kate, who fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her, and Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, who she says was also in the building. The story is told through each woman’s perspective. They all have secrets  – but who is the liar?

I’ll post my review soon.


I have so many books I want to read next, but right now I can’t decide. I really should start Little Dorrit, my Classics Club spin book soon. It was originally published  in nineteen monthly instalments, each consisting of 32 pages and I can’t imagine being a reader in 1855 keeping track of a story in monthly instalments over 2 years! I hope it won’t take me that long.

Little Dorritt

Blurb (Amazon):

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother’s seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy’s father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, “Little Dorrit” is one of the supreme works of Dickens’s maturity.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

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


which for me is Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by April 30, 2018.

Little Dorritt

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. As it’s on my list I do want to read it – sometime – maybe not right now.

I know very little about Little Dorrit, just that it’s long and my copy is one of the Wordsworth Classics in a very small font. I stopped watching the TV adaptation with Tom Courtney as William Dorrit – such a dark and dreary production with him in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison. The blurb on the back cover says that Dickens’ working title for the book was Nobody’s Fault. Well, it’s his fault for writing it – and mine for for putting it on the Spin List – oh, yes and the Spin God for spitting out number 3.

I just hope I enjoy it!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Little Dorrit is a classic tale of imprisonment, both literal and metaphorical, while Dickens’ working title for the novel, Nobody’s Fault, highlights its concern with personal responsibility in private and public life. Dickens’ childhood experiences inform the vivid scenes in Marshalsea debtor’s prison, while his adult perceptions of governmental failures shape his satirical picture of the Circumlocution Office. The novel’s range of characters – the honest, the crooked, the selfish and the self-denying – offers a portrait of society about whose values Dickens had profound doubts.

Little Dorrit is indisputably one of Dickens’ finest works, written at the height of his powers. George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a masterpiece among masterpieces’, a verdict shared by the novel’s many admirers.

A ‘masterpiece‘ – that makes it sound OK – doesn’t it?

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

Classics Club Spin

The Classics ClubIt’s time for another Classics Club Spin. I feel rather guilty because although I did read my last Spin book, Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, I still haven’t finished writing a post about it!

The Spin rules:

  •  List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
  • Number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Friday 9 March the Classics Club will announce a number.
  • This is the book to read by 30 April 2018.

This is my list:

Lorna DooneNicholas NicklebyLittle DorrittOliver TwistRomola

1) Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore

2) Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

3) Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

4) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

5) Romola by George Eliot


BirdsongParade's EndMary BartonNorth and SouthFar from the Madding Crowd

6) Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

7) Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford

8) Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

9) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

10) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

The Return of the NativeThree Men in a BoatLove in the Time of CholeraOne Hundred Years of SolitudeAll Quiet on the Western Front

11) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

12) Three Man in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

13) Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

14) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

15) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

East of EdenThe Grapes of WrathSweet ThursdayGulliver's TravelsFramley Parsonage (Chronicles of Barsetshire #4)

16) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

17) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

18) Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

19) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

20) Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

It shouldn’t matter which one comes up as I do want to read these books – but I’d like it to be one of Steinbeck’s books, or Birdsong.

The Classics Club Spin Result

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


which for me is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by December 31, 2017.

I’m pleased with the result as I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I saw a TV version. I’ve just checked and it was shown in 1994 with Paul Scholfield as Old Martin Chuzzlewit – that’s 23 years ago! It really is time I read it.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

While writing Martin Chuzzlewit – his sixth novel – Dickens declared it ‘immeasurably the best of my stories.’ He was already famous as the author of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist . Set partly in America, which Dickens had visited in 1842, the novel includes a searing satire on the United States. Martin Chuzzlewit is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates of moral redemption and worldly success for one, with increasingly desperate crime for the other. This powerful black comedy involves hypocrisy, greed and blackmail, as well as the most famous of Dickens’s grotesques, Mrs Gamp. 

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

Classics Club Spin

The Classics ClubIt’s time for another Classics Club Spin. I’ve been hoping we’d get another Spin in before the end of the year and here it is.

The Spin rules:

  •  List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
  • Number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Friday 17th November the Classics Club will announce a number.
  • This is the book to read by 31 December 2017.

This is my list:

  1. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore
  2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  3. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  4. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
  5. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  6. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  7. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  11. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  12. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  13. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  14. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  15. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  16. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  17. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  18. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  19. Framley Parsonage (Barsetshire Chronicles, #4) by Anthony Trollope
  20. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

It shouldn’t matter which one comes up as I do want to read these books – but ideally at this time of year I’d like it to be one of the shorter books on this list.

Six Degrees of Separation: Wild Swans to A Dark-Adapted Eye

Six Degrees of Separation is 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 the chain begins with Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang,

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

a family memoir – the story of three generations of woman in Jung Chang’s family – her grandmother, mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution. Her family suffered atrociously, her father and grandmother both dying painful deaths and both her mother and father were imprisoned and tortured.

Falling Leaves Return To Their RootsThe first book in my chain is also about a Chinese daughter. It’s Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter  by Adeline Yen Mah. She grew up during the Communist Revolution, was blamed for her mother’s death, ignored by her millionaire father and unwanted by her Eurasian step mother. A moving story set during extraordinary political events in China and Hong Kong.

The Buttonmaker's Daughter by [Allingham, Merryn]

My next book is about a fictional daughter: The Buttonmaker’s Daughter by Merryn Allingham, historical fiction set in Sussex in the summer of 1914 just before the start of the First World War. It covers just a few months, but those few months contain so much tension and heartbreak as the feud in the Summers family comes to a climax over the question of who Elizabeth Summer should marry and war on the continent becomes inevitable.

The Tiger in the Smoke (Albert Campion Mystery #14)

This leads on to a book by another author named Allingham. It’s The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham in which Jack Havoc is on the loose in post-war London, resulting in murder, mystery and mayhem. Meg’s marriage to self-made millionaire Geoffrey Levett should have been happy, until she began receiving photos of her late husband Martin, presumed dead in WWII. She calls on old friend Albert Campion to get to the bottom of things. For Campion, the case was cut and dry – until a brutal triple murder. I was immediately struck by the imagery – the fog pervades everything.

Our Mutual Friend

And the next book is also set in foggy London – Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens,

… the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking,  wheezing, and choking: inanimate London was a sooty spectre … (page 242)

This book has multiple plots, centred on John Harmon who returns to England as his father’s heir. It begins as a boatman, Gaffer Hexham and his daughter, Lizzie, find a corpse in the Thames.

A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint #4)

A body found in the Thames provides the next link in my chain to a modern crime fiction novel, A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton.  This is such a terrifying novel, particularly if like me, you have a fear of drowning. Police Constable Lacey Flint thinks she’s safe. Living on the river, she’s never been happier. Until she finds a body floating on the surface, as she wild-swims in the Thames.

This leads to the last book in my chain, another book with the word ‘dark‘ in the title:

A Dark-Adapted Eye

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. This is psychological crime fiction, you know right from the beginning who the murderer is, but not why or how the murder was committed.

The narrator Faith has spent her life avoiding thinking, talking or reading about the events that led up to her aunt’s hanging for murder. She only develops a “dark-adapted eye” very slowly when asked by a crime writer for her memories.

For once I have read all the books in my chain and they are all books I thoroughly enjoyed, a variety of genres – autobiography, historical fiction, classics and crime fiction. It begins in China and travels to Sussex to London through time from the nineteenth century to the present day.

When I begin a chain I never know where it will end. What about you, where does yours go and where does it end?

Next month (October 7, 2017), the chain begins with a book that I haven’t read (or heard about) – Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Wives and Daughters

 Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell was my Classics Club Spin book for March and April and I was rather daunted when I realised that the e-book version I had downloaded about six years ago has over 800 pages, but it’s really easy reading. It’s only the second book of hers that I’ve read – the other book is Cranford, but I think Wives and Daughters is so much better. Elizabeth Gaskell is a superb storyteller and I loved this book.

Today there are many editions of Wives and Daughters available. It was first first published in serial form in The Cornhill Magazine from August 1864 to January 1866. Elizabeth Gaskell had died in August 1865 leaving Wives and Daughters unfinished. The final chapter was added by the editor of The Cornhill. In his concluding remarks he stated that little remained to be added to the story ‘and that little has been distinctly reflected into our minds.‘ He continued that he had summarised in his remarks all that what was ‘known of her designs for the story which would have been completed in another chapter.

It is set in the late 1820s to the early 1830s in the village of Hollingford (based on Knutsford), a close-knit community much like Cranford, and centres around Molly Gibson, the only daughter of the neighbourhood doctor. The characters are all fully rounded and believable people, most certainly not perfect people with all their faults exposed through their dialogue and Elizabeth Gaskell’s ironic descriptions. There is gentle humour and the plot carries the novel at a fairly brisk pace despite the length of the book – I was eager to find out how everything was resolved.

The story opens when Molly, an only child, is twelve and eagerly anticipating her visit to Cumnor Towers (based on Tatton Hall) for the yearly festivities hosted by Lady Cumnor and her daughters. But her enjoyment is spoiled when she gets lost in the house. She is found but then is overlooked when the carriages arrive to take all the visitors home and she has to wait for her father to come for her. This little episode provides an introduction to the other side of the village – the aristocracy.

Molly is very close to her father. When she is seventeen the doctor becomes concerned that one of his pupils wanted to declare his feelings for her and so he sends her to stay with the local squire and his wife and two sons at Hamley Hall. Mrs Hamley becomes very fond of her and treats her like a daughter and Molly becomes very friendly with the second son Roger. However, she knows she isn’t considered a suitable match for the Hamleys and thinks of him and Osborne as her brothers.

All is going well until Dr Gibson marries Hyacinth Clare (a former governess to Lord Cumner’s daughters), hoping she will be a mother to Molly. But Hyacinth is a selfish, socially ambitious and manipulative woman and Molly’s life is no longer happy and carefree, even though she does get on well with Hyacinth’s beautiful daughter, Cynthia. The two girls become good friends. Cynthia, though gets involved in a number of romantic entanglements which then gets Molly into trouble.

I don’t want to go into more detail about the various sub-plots and romances other than to say I enjoyed it all immensely. The fact that Elizabeth Gaskell did not finish the book didn’t spoil the book at all for me. She had all but drawn all the threads together so that the editor’s concluding remarks coincided with the way I had hoped everything would be resolved. Needless to say really, but Molly was my favourite character, which says a lot about Elizabeth Gaskell’s skill and understanding in portraying a ‘good’ character. I was completely absorbed in the world that she had created.

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