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Archive for September, 2016

Preparing for the 1947 Club

1947clubFirst it was 1924, then 1938, and now 1947 (yes, you may point out, that’s how chronology works.  Shush, I say).  Simon and Karen are hosting another year-themed reading event; from October 10th to 16th, they are encouraging us all to read and post about books published in 1947.  And, miraculously, I am feeling vaguely prepared (this contrasts with the 1924 Club, which passed me by entirely, and the 1938 Club, for which I was only organized enough to talk about books I’d already read and then fail to finish the one book I was attempting to read – Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons.  Not recommended.).

This time, I have a plan.  I have a list.  And, to show how serious I am, I have library holds.  This is happening.

Here’s my reading short list (for now):

Chatterton Square by E.H. Young – I’ve owned this for a while now, having wanted to read it since Harriet reviewed it years ago.

The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute – any excuse for a Nevil Shute book is a good one.

Mrs. Tim Gets a Job by D.E. Stevenson – I love Mrs. Tim and read and enjoyed this a few years ago (though never got around to writing about it).  I’d love to revisit her in time for the club – let’s hope my inter-library loan comes through in time to let me do so.

Mrs. Mike by Nancy and Benedict Freedman – a childhood favourite that I’d been thinking about rereading after finishing several other books set in the West.  Providentially, it turns out to have been published in 1947.

Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson – a unread Persephone – set in my home province of British Columbia, no less! – that has been languishing on my shelf for too long.

Wanting to share reading suggestions, I looked through my old reading lists to discover I seem to have neglected 1947, with only three books from that year reviewed in my archives – and only one of them is particularly good:

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes – an exquisite post-war novel.

Private Enterprise by Angela Thirkell –  An unwieldy post-war novel that requires strong knowledge of existing Thirkell characters.  And even then it’s not brilliant (but I still enjoy it, having read it 3 times now).

Kate Hardy by D.E. Stevenson – instantly forgettable.  I literally remember nothing about this book.  But if you are fighting a very bad cold and have zero attention span, have I found a book for you!

Will you be joining the club?  Any favourite 1947 books you’d recommend?

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the-romanovsI started reading The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore yesterday afternoon and it is, as every single reviewer assured me, wonderful.  But, like all things Romanov-related, it is also rather overwhelming:

The Romanovs inhabit a world of family rivalry, imperial ambitions, lurid glamour, sexual excess and depraved sadism; this is a world where obscure strangers suddenly claim to be dead monarchs reborn, brides are poisoned, fathers torture their sons to death, sons kill fathers, wives murder husbands, a holy man, poisoned and shot, arises, apparently, from the dead, barbers and peasants ascend to supremacy, giants and freaks are collected, dwarfs are tossed, beheaded heads kissed, tongues torn out, flesh knouted off bodies, rectums impaled, children slaughters; here are fashion-mad nymphomaniacal empresses, lesbian ménages à trois, and an emperor who wrote the most erotic correspondence ever written by a head of state.  Yet this is also the empire built by flinty conquistadors and brilliant statesmen that conquered Siberia and Ukraine, took Berlin and Paris, and produced Pushkin, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky; a civilization of towering culture and exquisite beauty.

The sheer level of violence is extraordinary and the drama of the dynasty is completely absorbing.  I fell into the book for a few hours and emerged able to think of nothing else but the blood-thirsty early Romanovs and their supporters.

n33964With impalements by the dozen fresh in my mind, I decided something a little – a lot – gentler was needed before bed.  I wanted something that was all the things the Romanovs were not: peaceful, good-humoured and non-homicidal.  But I wasn’t quite ready to leave Russia so I turned to that most comforting of authors, Eva Ibbotson, and her first adult novel, A Countess Below Stairs.  Its fairy-tale like beginning was the perfect antidote:

In the fabled, glittering world that was St. Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to have lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance.

It was back to The Romanovs this morning but, I suspect, it will be back to Ibbotson tonight.  A perfect balance.

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Library Lust

credit: Billy Cotton (via Desire to Inspire)

credit: Billy Cotton (via Desire to Inspire)

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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.

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To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey – a little too complicated for me to attempt to blurb, so I’ll let the publisher have the pleasure.  I am three quarters of the way through and completely in love with this book.  I don’t want to stop reading but I certainly don’t want it to end.

The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore – murderous, mad Russians!  Fun times lie ahead.

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett – I’d been looking forward to this since Sarra Manning mentioned it back in January.  Read it quickly and have to say it didn’t make much of an impact.  Probably suffered from comparison to To the Bright Edge of the World (since my reading overlapped).

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A Killer in King’s Cove by Iona Whishaw – slight cheat here: this title and cover is the soon-to-be-released reissue.  I have the original.  But no matter, the story is the same and it sounds intriguing.  A post-war mystery – with spies! – in small town British Columbia is not something I even knew existed before.

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel – a hold I’d completely forgotten placing (placed, I think, after reading this LA Times review).  Sounds like fun.

Naga Path (also published as Drums Behind the Hill) by Ursula Graham Bower – I was 90% certain I’d heard about this book from Slightly Foxed.  But then I checked their index online and Bower is nowhere to be found.  So that’s a mystery.  Regardless, I’m very excited to read Bower’s story about her experiences in the Naga Hills, both as an anthropologist and, during the Second World War, guerrilla fighter.

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The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood – you know me, can’t turn down any sort of social history about the inter-war years.

I Was a Stranger by General Sir John Hackett – An account of Hackett’s experiences during World War Two, after escaping from a German prisoner camp and being taken in and hidden by a Dutch family.  This was reissued several years ago as a Slightly Foxed edition.

Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica A. Fox – I saw this memoir about a young woman who left her job in LA to go work in a Scottish bookstore recently and was intrigued (just not quite intrigued enough to buy it at the store where I spotted it).

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The Daughters by Adrienne Celt – I’ve had this on my radar since reading the NPR review last summer.  As autumn begins, it seems like the right time for a story about women, their families, and the stories they share.

My Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy – very, very excited to get my hands on this cookbook.

The Lady with the Borzoi by Laura Claridge – a biography of Blanche Knopf (of the publishing house) and her role as a literary tastemaker.

What did you pick up this week?

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Library Lust

Source: Architectural Digest (home of Amanda Brooks)

Source: Architectural Digest (home of Amanda Brooks)

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