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badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Library Loot 1The Virago Book of Women Gardeners – From diggers and weeders, to artists and colourists, writers and dreamers to trend-setters, plantswomen to landscape designers, women have contributed to the world of gardening and gardens. Here Deborah Kellaway, author of The Making of an English Country Garden and Favourite Flowers , has collected extracts from the 18th century to the present day, to create a book that is replete with anecdotes and good-humoured advice. Colette, Margery Fish, Germaine Greer, Eleanor Sinclair Rohde, Vita Sackville-West, Rosemary Verey, Edith Wharton and Dorothy Wordsworth are some of the writers represented in this book.

Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso – …widely recognized as a milestone in the development of modern realist fiction. Set on the windswept prairies, it is a story of love and tyranny, of destruction and survival, told with vigour and lyric beauty. It is also a poignant evocation of loneliness, which, like the call of the wild geese, is beyond human warmth, beyond tragedy, “an endless quest.”

Dancing Fish and Ammonites by Penelope Lively – I did not have time to read this last time I checked it out so, even before I returned it, I put myself back on the hold list.  Several weeks later, here we are.  This time it is not going back unread!

Library Loot 2As Green as Grass by Emma Smith – Smith’s memoir of her teenage and young adult years, during the 1930s and 1940s.  I can’t wait to start this!

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed.

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick – Rachel raved about this back in January so on to my hold list it went!

What did you pick up this week?

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Drawn from LifeAfter reading the delightful Drawn From Memory, I could not wait to pick up Drawn From Life by E.H. Shepard.  While the first book focuses on one year of Shepard’s childhood, this volume lets us follow him through more than a decade of his life, from the death of his beloved mother when he was ten to school and then art school, right up to his marriage in his early twenties.

Because of the large time period covered in this book, Shepard does not linger lovingly over small events the way he did in Drawn From Memory.  Or rather he does, but not as frequently.  He tells of the time spent living with his aunts immediately after his mother’s death, of his school days, of his joyous family holidays in France, Germany, and various regions of England, and of his beginnings as an artist.  I loved hearing about his time at art school and his first (shared) studio.  Shepard and his friends do not seem to have had any pretentions of artistic grandeur.  They come across as nice middle class boys and girls, working very hard to earn a living with their pens, pencils, and brushes.  Luckily, there seem to have been plenty of contests with cash prizes and scholarship awards to help keep them afloat. P1080166 P1080168

The book picks up some structure towards the end, after Shepard realises he is in love with his close friend and fellow art student, Florence Chaplin.  Tortured by this revelation, he makes himself almost sick during a summer holiday, pondering all the reasons why he can never tell Florence of his love: she is cleverer than him, she is three years older than him, and, even if she would have him, how could he, with no steady income, support a wife?  Thankfully, this angst-ridden holiday ends with a visit to a close family friend, a woman who wisely reprimands Shepard for his black outlook and reminds him that “no girl ever minds being told she is loved”.  Florence, or Pie as she is known (Shepard’s own nickname was Kip), isn’t quite as sure of her own feelings when Shepard declares himself but she soon realises that friendship has also turned to love on her side.  Pooling their joint earnings (Florence was working on a mural at Guy’s Hospital at the time), the two decide to marry.P1080163 P1080165

One of the most touching things about these final chapters, as Shepard and Florence prepare to start their new life together in a small cottage outside of London, is how closely involved Shepard’s siblings are in the preparations for his wedding.  After their father’s death, the three Shepard siblings lived together.  Though Ernest was the youngest, he was the first to marry and both Edith and Cyril were delighted for him.  On the day of his engagement, Shepard describes coming home and spending the night talking over his future with Cyril in the bedroom they shared.  Once he takes the lease on a decrepit cottage in the country, both Edith and Cyril commit themselves to helping him make it not just habitable but cosy: Edith and Ernest camp in the cottage while the work is being done, with Cyril coming down from London on the weekends to help.  They are a close-knit trio and it is wonderful to see that the sibling affection from childhood only intensified with age.

The book ends in 1904 with Shepard’s marriage but also with the promise of a successful future: he has just sold a painting for £100 and been introduced to the senior cartoonist at Punch.  Wide-spread fame was another twenty years off but he was firmly set on his path.  The only sadness I felt at the book’s end was knowing that there was no third volume of memoirs to detail his adult years.  What a loss!

credit: Ben Pentreath

credit: Ben Pentreath

Happy Easter! After several very busy weeks, I’m delighted that we’ve come to a long weekend.  Time to catch up on all the things I haven’t had time for lately: cleaning, gardening, reading, and definitely blogging!

via Shelterness

via Shelterness

I have had this photo saved in my file for a few years now and, though I haven’t used it until now, I have a soft spot for it.  Not because I adore it (although, raspberry-coloured chairs are always delightful) but because it is exactly the kind of space my newly-wed parents would have wanted to recreate in their apartment circa 1978.

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I started my new job last week and it is going wonderfully! But it is not leaving me much time for reading and I haven’t adjusted my borrowing habits accordingly. Still, maybe having lots of books standing by will motivate me to work more reading time into my new, busier schedule. Here’s hoping!

Library Loot 4Drawn from Life by E.H. Shepard – after reading about Shepard’s childhood in Drawn from Memory, I’m really looking forward to hearing more about the later stages of his life.

Endgame, 1945 by David Stafford – a history of the final three months of the war, focusing on the personal stories of nine men and women.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan – I’ve heard excellent things about Milan’s romance novels and, after reading one last month, I’m happy to try another.

Library Loot 2Danubia by Simon Winder – following the very entertaining Germania, Winder has written “a personal history of Hapsburg Europe”

The End of Men by Hanna Rosin – given how often Rosin is quoted in magazines and articles, I suppose it is time to see if her book is really as controversial as its billed to be.

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie – Maddie was coping pretty well with the adultery, the embezzlement, and the blackmail. Then her old boyfriend came back to town.

Library Loot 3A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild – the first book in Streatfeild’s fictionalized autobiographical trilogy.

The Lovely Day by Dorothy Evelyn Smith – no idea what this is about, but isn’t the cover pretty?

Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy – since reading Lucy Carmichael, I’ve been looking forward to reading more Kennedy and Hilary’s review made this sound excellent.

Library Loot 1A Table Near the Band by A.A. Milne – I haven’t read anything by AAM in far, far too long.

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie – Sophie came to Temptation, Ohio to help her sister make a movie. Now she’s making trouble for the town council, love with the mayor, and lemonade for a murderer.

The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne – a fun reread.

Library Loot 5Year Zero by Ian Buruma – A history of 1945 (yes, another one).

The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson – First in a spectacular new series about two brother lawyers who lease offices on London’s Baker Street–and begin receiving mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

The New English Garden by Tim Richardson – This is the pretty thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. I might have to buy my own copy after I return this to the library.

What did you pick up this week?

SNB-logo-small-e1393871908245Shiny New Books, the brainchild of star bloggers Annabel, Victoria, Harriet, and Simon, launched today and its first issue looks great.  I’ve just skimmed it but I know I’m going to have many hours of happy reading once I get home from work tonight!  Here are just some of the pieces I’ve bookmarked to read first:

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Zola – An Introduction to His Books

Make sure you go check it out!

0375504419_0Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach – Steinbach, to me, is that well-meaning person who desperately wants you to like them and who is so earnest that you wish you could like but, really, you just spend every encounter wanting to hit them with something blunt. In this second travel memoir (following Without Reservations), Steinbach roams the world and indulges in too much introspection and overly romanticized prose.

9780375724596_custom-2efde7beec18b0b581c86a38388313349857619e-s6-c30The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman – a much more likeable Alice, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift is a wonderful comedy about a young, socially-awkward surgical intern in Boston (but of course – this is an Elinor Lipman book) who finds herself being wooed by Ray Russo, who seems very likely to be a conman. But at least he’s a man. It is fabulous and hilarious. Alice is marvellously blunt, Ray is exquisitely slimy, and the two friends Alice makes over the course of the novel – sassy Sylvie and supportive Leo – are friends I would love to have myself. Very, very fun.

The Ladies' ManThe Ladies’ Man by Elinor Lipman – I’ve read almost all of Lipman’s novels now (only My Latest Grievance awaits) and I have to say that this is not one of my favourites. That said, my least favourite Lipman is still better than almost anyone else’s best. Thirty years ago, Adele Dobbin was jilted by her fiancé, Harvey Nash. Suddenly, he shows up on the doorstep of the Boston apartment Adele shares with her two sisters with a belated apology. An inveterate ladies’ man, Harvey (now going by Nash Harvey) attempts to charm a series of women over the course of the book. Though the Dobbin women prove immune to his charms (one of them goes so far as to break a casserole dish over his head when he attempts to hit on her), his arrival does inspire them to look to the romantic lives they have largely ignored. Lipman is as clever and witty as ever, I just think there were too many characters splitting focus here, making for an uneven flow.

forever girlThe Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith – In that weird space between not good and not horrifically bad. So…inoffensively bad? There were some good moments but the characters were completely flat, every last one of them.

Spring MagicSpring Magic by D.E. Stevenson – I wish I had more to say about this book. It is pure escapist fantasy, about Frances, a young Cinderella-like woman, who is able to escape from her aunt after their London home is damaged by a bombing during the Second World War. The aunt heads into the country with the expectation that Frances will accompany her. Instead, Frances heads for a fishing village in Scotland to figure out her life and develop some independence. Her stay is enlivened by the arrival in the neighbourhood of a regiment of soldiers – and the officer’s wives. The socializing from then on is reminiscent of the Mrs Tim books, since the military wives prove far more interesting than Frances and her mild romantic problems. It’s a sweet book but not quite as energetic as DES’s best works.

JoieJoie de Vivre by Harriet Welty Rochefort – hands down the best – and most entertaining – book I have read about the French. Having lived in France and been married to a Frenchman for forty years, Rochefort is more than qualified to discuss the good, the bad, and the mysterious elements of French culture and the French psyche. She is humorous and does not over romanticize or demonize – an all too common failing of this sort of book. Very enjoyable.

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – Higgins is back on form after her disappointing last book.

It Felt Like a KissIt Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning – despite a title that makes the book sound like it is about domestic abuse, this was actually a rather interesting look at what happens when a young woman’s greatest secret – the identity of her famous father – is leaked to the press by a vengeful ex-boyfriend. The romance was less than convincing but the way Ellie’s life was twisted by the press with complete disregard for the truth was all too disgustingly real.

UnstickyUnsticky by Sarra Manning – A very fluffy premise – what happens to a young woman when she agrees to become the mistress and hostess for an older art dealer – but a surprisingly engaging and interesting book. I really enjoy Manning’s writing and though her books are always long, none of it feels like filler. I did find Grace’s liberal use of “like” wildly irritating, though that thankfully faded over the course of the novel, and was thrown by some of the little details of the scenes set in BC: Vancouver, which has the same climate as London, can hardly be described as the “icy hinterlands of British Columbia.” Also, where on earth did they find a Caribbean nurse in Whistler? But these were minor, minor issues and for the most part I loved the book. I also couldn’t help thinking that Clare Carrington from The New Moon with the Old would approve.

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