First Chapter, First Paragraph: Bilgewater

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from Bilgewater by Jane Gardam, one of my TBR books that I’m planning to read soon.

BilgewaterChapter 1

My mother died when I was born which makes me sound princess-like and rather quaint. From the beginning people have said that I am old-fashioned. In Yorkshire to be old-fashioned means to be fashioned-old, not necessarily to be out of date, but I think that I am probably both. For it is rather out of date, even though I will be eighteen this February, to have had a mother who died when one was born and it is fashioned -old to have the misfortune to be and look like me.

Blurb:

Marigold Green calls herself ‘hideous, quaint and barmy’. Other people call her Bilgewater, a corruption of Bill’s daughter. Growing up in a boys’ school where her father is housemaster, she is convinced of her own plainness and peculiarity. Groomed by the wise and loving Paula, upstaged by bad, beautiful Grace and ripe for seduction by entirely the wrong sort of boy, she suffers extravagantly and comically in her pilgrimage through the turbulent, twilight world of alarming adolescence.

I’m looking forward to reading this as I’ve enjoyed other books by Jane Gardam, such as her Old Filth books.

Would you keep reading, or not?

The Man in the Wooden Hat and Last Friends by Jane Gardam

These are companion novels to Old Filth, which I read years ago. The Man in the Wooden Hat is written from the perspective of Old Filth’s wife, Betty.

Blurb:

Filth (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) is a successful lawyer when he marries Elisabeth in Hong Kong soon after the War. Reserved, immaculate and courteous, Filth finds it hard to demonstrate his emotions. But Elisabeth is different – a free spirit. She was brought up in the Japanese Internment Camps, which killed both her parents but left her with a lust for survival and an affinity with the Far East. No wonder she is attracted to Filth’s hated rival at the Bar – the brash, forceful Veneering. Veneering has a Chinese wife and an adored son – and no difficulty whatsoever in demonstrating his emotions . . .

How Elisabeth turns into Betty and whether she remains loyal to stolid Filth or is swept up by caddish Veneering, makes for a page-turning plot in a perfect novel which is full of surprises and revelations, as well as the humour and eccentricities for which Jane Gardam’s writing is famous.

I suppose you could read this book without reading Old Filth first, but it certainly helps to know what happens in the first book from the husband’s point of view. Both books follow the lives of husband and wife over 50 years, but as The Man in the Wooden Hat is told from Betty’s point of view I got a totally different view of events, particularly of the couple’s relationship with Old Filth’s arch rival in Hong Kong, fellow lawyer Terry Veneering.

Last Friends revisits the same events telling Terry Veneering’s story from Dulcie Williams’ perspective. Dulcie is the widow of “Pastry Willy” Williams, a judge who was also in the foreign service with Old Filth and Veneering. She provides the back stories of these characters, and throws yet more light on the events told in the first two books.

Blurb:

Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat told with bristling tenderness and black humour the stories of that Titan of the Hong Kong law courts, Old Filth QC, and his clever, misunderstood wife Betty. Last Friends, the final volume of this trilogy, picks up with Terence Veneering, Filth’s great rival in work and – though it was never spoken of – in love.

Veneering’s were not the usual beginnings of an establishment silk: the son of a Russian acrobat marooned in northeast England and a devoted local girl, he escapes the war to emerge in the Far East as a man of panache, success and fame. But, always, at the stuffy English Bar he is treated with suspicion: where did this blond, louche, brilliant Slav come from?

Veneering, Filth and their friends tell a tale of love, friendship, grace, the bittersweet experiences of a now-forgotten Empire and the disappointments and consolations of age.

The three books together form a memorable trilogy, of love and life, humour and heartbreak in colonial Hong Kong and the contrasting setting of the English countryside. Maybe Old Filth is the outstanding book, but maybe that is because I read it first and loved it so much, that the others don’t quite live up to it.

I’ve had both these books for a couple of years, so both qualify for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2015, and The Man in the Wooden Hat for the 10 Books of Summer Challenge and the Colour Coded Challenge (the dominant colour of the  cover is white) too.

First Chapter ˆ¼ First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter ˆ¼ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I read Old Filth by Jane Gardam in 2008 and loved it, without realising at that time that there were more books about Old Filth QC (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong). So I was delighted to find there are two more.

I’ve recently read the second book, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and I’m currently reading the third, Last Friends – nearly finished it actually.

 

It begins:

The Titans were gone. They had clashed their last. Sir Edward Feathers, affectionately known as Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), and Sir Terence Veneering, the two greatest exponents of English and International Law in the engineering and construction industry and the current experts upon the Ethics of Pollution, were dead. Their well-worn armour had fallen from them with hardly a clatter and the quiet Dorset village to which they had retired within a very few years of each other (accidentally, for they had hated one another for over fifty years) mourned their passing and wondered who would be distinguished enough to buy their houses.

My reviews of  Last Friends and The Man in the Wooden Hat will follow shortly.

Adding to the TBR Shelves

A few days ago I rearranged my bookshelves – and now I’ve got to make space for a few more books, because I went to Barter Books in Alnwick on Tuesday and came home with more books to add to the TBR shelves.

Dead Scared pile I really enjoy going to Barter Books, wandering around the shelves and browsing. But I also take with me lists of books I want to look at including a list of the Agatha Christie books I haven’t read and don’t already own. There is always a good selection of books, the stock regularly changes, so there are always ‘new’ books to look at. (Barter Books is, as its name indicates, a sort of exchange of used books; you take some in and choose others in exchange. You can, of course, just buy the books if you haven’t any credit.)

I’m very pleased with this little pile of books because I’ve been on the look out for some of them for quite a while, although one of them is a book (Talking to the Dead) that I only read about on Tuesday morning on Alex’s blog Thinking in Fragments. They are (from top to bottom):

  • The Floating Admiral – this wasn’t on my list of books to look for, but it was filed with the Agatha Christie books (I always look there first) and I thought it looks good. It’s a collaboration by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and ten other crime writers from the Detection Club, with a prologue by G K Chesterton. It was originally published in 1931 and this new edition published in 1911 has an introduction by Simon Brett.
  • The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie, featuring Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin, the man ‘who appears from nowhere‘ and ‘unravels mysteries that seem incapable of solution’. It is one of the early Christie books, first published in 1930. This edition is one of the Penguin Crime fiction books in green and white reprinted in 1961 for 2/6. This fills a gap in my reading of her earliest books.
  • The Mousetrap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie. There are three other plays in this collection – And Then There Were None, Appointment with Death and The Hollow, adapted by Agatha Christie from her novels, which, with the exception of Appointment with Death, I have read, so it’ll be interesting to see how they differ from the originals.
  • The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam. This is the only non crime fiction book in the pile, by the author of Old Filth, which I loved. It’s described on the front cover as ‘Brilliant, wickedly comic … masterly and hugely enjoyable‘. It’s about a do-gooder and promises to be a refreshing change from the crime fiction.
  • Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham – the book recommended by Alex. It’s the first in the Fiona Griffiths series, a crime thriller in which police woman Fiona Griffiths investigates the death of a woman and her six-year old daughter. It is described on the back cover as ‘a stunner with precision plotting, an unusual setting, and a deeply complex protagonist … breathtaking.’
  • Dead Scared by S J Bolton. I like S J Bolton’s books and I’ve been looking out for this one, the second in her Lacey Flint series ever since I read the first book, Now You See Me. This is another crime thriller featuring a police woman, this one investigating a spate of suicides – all female university students.

Recent Additions – Waiting to be Read

I wrote about some of the books I have waiting to-be-read in May and I thought it was time to do another post about some more recent additions to my to-be-read piles.

This post is just to list some of the titles, quoting the publishers’ blurbs, with no recommendation to read them, as these are simply books that have been sent to me by the author/publisher to read and review, or books that I’ve recently bought. I may post my own thoughts on these books at a later date.

Gardam

First two books that the publishers have sent to me:

Silver by Andrew Motion. I’m really looking forward to reading this book because I loved Treasure Island. I hope Andrew Motion has remained faithful to the spirit of the original.

Silver‘Silver is the rip-roaring sequel to the greatest adventure ever told: Treasure Island. Almost forty years following the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver have seemingly put their maritime adventures to rest. Jim has settled on the English coast with his son Jim, and Silver has returned to rural England with his daughter Natty. While their escapades may have ended, for Jim and Natty the adventure is only just beginning. One night, Natty approaches young Jim with a proposition: return to Treasure Island and find the remaining treasure that their fathers left behind. As they set sail in their fathers’ footsteps, Jim and Natty cannot imagine what awaits them. Murderous pirates, long-held grudges, noxious greed, and wily deception lurk wickedly in the high seas, and disembarking onto Treasure Island only proves more perilous. Their search for buried treasure leaves every last wit tested and ounce of courage spent. And the adventure doesn’t end there, since they still have to make their way home…’ (Blurb from Broadway Paperbacks)

The Year of Miracle and Grief by Leonid Borodin. This was first published in English in 1984. This new edition is to be released later this year.

‘Deep in Siberia lies the oldest lake on earth, lake Baikal. When a small boy arrives on its banks, he is amazed by the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. As this astonishment yields to inquisitiveness, he begins to explore the fairytale of the area.  We’ve published a beautiful new edition of this magnificent title, which the New York Times called €˜a work of art so seamless and so natural one can only imagine it took ages and ages of hard dreaming to construct’. (Blurb from Quartet Books)

And lastly two secondhand books that look brand new hardbacks:

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam and Last Friends by Jane Gardam. These are companion books to Old Filth, which I read and loved a while back.

The Man in the Wooden Hat (blurb from the book jacket)

‘Written from the perspective of Filth’s wife, Betty, this is a story which will make the reader weep for the missed opportunities, while laughing aloud for the joy and the wit.

Filth (Failed ILondon Try Hong Kong) is a successful lawyer when he marries Elisabeth in Hong Kong soon after the War. Reserved, immaculate and courteous, Filth finds it hard to demonstrate his emotions. But Elisabeth is different – a free spirit. She was brought up in the Japanese Internment Camps, which killed both her parents, but left her with a lust for survival and an affinity with the Far East. No wonder she is attracted to Filth’s hated rival at the Bar – the brash, forceful Veneering. Veneering has a Chinese wife and an adored son – and no difficulty whatsoever in demonstrating his emotions ….

How Elisabeth turns into Betty, and whether she remains loyal to stolid Filth or swept up by caddish Veneering, make for a page-turning plot, in a lovely novel which is full of surprises and revelations, as well as the humour and eccentricities for which Jane Gardam’s writing is famous.’

Last Friends (blurb from the book jacket):

‘Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat told with bristling tenderness and black humour the stories of that Titan of the Hong Kong law courts, Old Filth QC, and his clever, misunderstood wife Betty. Last Friends, the final volume of this trilogy, picks up with Terence Veneering, Filth’s great rival in work and – though it was never spoken of – in love.

Veneering’s were not the usual beginnings of an establishment silk: the son of a Russian acrobat marooned in northeast England and a devoted local girl, he escapes the war to emerge in the Far East as a man of panache, success and fame. But, always, at the stuffy English Bar he is treated with suspicion: where did this blond, louche, brilliant Slav come from?

Veneering, Filth and their friends tell a tale of love, friendship, grace, the bittersweet experiences of a now-forgotten Empire and the disappointments and consolations of age.’

I just can’t wait to read all of them!!