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Archive for the ‘New Books’ Category

London is the perfect destination for many things.  For visiting extraordinary museums and galleries, seeing fantastic shows (Hamilton!  I saw Hamilton!  And yes, it was amazing), strolling through beautiful neighbourhoods, eating great food, and, for me at least, catching up with old friends.  And I got to do all of those things during my visit a few weeks ago.

But, very close to the heart of my love for London, is my belief that it is especially designed for book buying.

I slacked off this visit.  I didn’t spend my usual hours and hours browsing in used bookshops – in fact I barely visited any – but instead had a laser focus on newer books.

So what did I come home with?

Tory Heaven by Marghanita Laski – no trip to London is complete with a visit to Persephone.  It was pleasantly busy when I stopped in, including a group of three university-age German-speaking girls who each bought a book.  I bow down to their mastery of English; my sad language skills would not hold up if I tried to read a Persephone-level book in French or German.  I had a little thrill looking at the afterword to Guard Your Daughters and myself quoted there and then had a nice chat with Lydia, who showed me the most exciting thing in the entire shop – Mollie Panter-Downes’ kitchen table.  Finally, I left with Tory Heaven, excited to have another book by the always entertaining Laski to read.  Lydia had suggested I go from there to Sir John Sloane’s Museum, which sounds fascinating, but my heart longed for more books so…

The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham – From Persephone I strolled over to the London Review Bookshop and, helpfully, this was right there on the display table.  I am addicted to books about walking and have been wanting this since I first heard about it a few months back.

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps by Ursula Buchan – Also at the London Review Bookshop, I picked up this signed copy of Ursula Buchan’s biography of her grandfather, John Buchan.  I find Buchan – and his entire family – fascinating and was delighted when Kate, an authority on Buchan, gave this her stamp of approval.

And that’s all I bought during my first four days in town.  Such restraint!  Then, in my final 24 hours in town, I managed to pick up three more books:

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers – I met up with Simon and Rachel while in London and, after we’d said goodbye to Simon, ended up getting a tour of Rachel’s beautiful flat.  She happened to have some books in a closet waiting to be given away (I have a stack of the same in my own hall closet which makes it clear that this is completely normal behaviour, despite what I have been told in the past) and offered me my pick.  I’d delighted to have this little, light copy of Whose Body? to add to my collection and remind me of her.

Not That Kind of Love by Clare and Greg Wise – I whirled through the Gower Street Waterstones on my final morning to grab this joint diary showing both sides – Claire, the invalid, and her brother Greg, the caregiver – of a terminal illness.  I am confident I first heard about this on a podcast but cannot for the life of me find which one it was.  I read this on the plane home a few hours later and it was wonderful and also heartbreaking.  There were many, many tears over Greenland.

The Crossway by Guy Stagg – My last minute dash to Waterstones was to hunt down Not That Kind of Love but I couldn’t resist grabbing this as well. Again, I really, really love books about walking (this is a memoir of a pilgrimage) and I’ve been eyeing this one from afar since it came out last year.

The good news was that I could still close – and carry! – my bag coming home, so clearly I bought just the right number of books.

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For anyone already thinking about their Christmas shopping (or their own Christmas wishlist), may I direct you to Slightly Foxed?  On December 1st they are issuing two very wonderful childhood memoirs from the illustrator E.H. Shepard: Drawn from Memory and Drawn from Life.

Shepard, best known for his classic illustrations for A.A. Milne’s children’s books and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, grew up in a close-knit middle class family in Victorian London.  Drawn from Memory looks fondly back at the year he was seven while Drawn from Life covers a much longer period, picking up later on in Shepard’s youth and following him through the end of childhood, into art school, and right up until his marriage.  Both books are lovingly told, beautifully illustrated, and unexpectedly moving.  I love them dearly.

I read both books back in 2014 and lamented at the time that they were out of print, saying of Drawn from Memory that “this book is begging to be reissued and Slightly Foxed, who after all first alerted me to it in their Winter 2010 issue, would seem a natural publisher.”  I’m delighted they thought so, too!  I can’t wait to add these to my beloved collection of Slightly Foxed editions.

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Sometimes I Buy Books

For someone who reads a lot, I don’t have much of an interest in acquiring books.  The library is my friend, as is all my hard-earned money.  And when I do buy books they are usually ones I’ve already read (thanks to the library) and know I want to reread.

But every so often there are books that are so interesting or so obscure that my scruples are overcome and they are added to my shelves unread.  Oh the wild and crazy risks that I take!  On the assumption that everyone enjoys a “books bought” post (yes?), I thought I’d share a few of these recent acquisitions.

Among them are: two stellar books about books, three out-of-print mid-century light romances, a WWII memoir, a middlebrow clergy-themed novel, and two romantic comedies from Muslim Canadian authors.

Here they are:

Packing My Library by Alberto Manguel – I shared a quote from this back in April and there are a dozen more I know would resonate with all of you.  Manguel’s musings are always worth reading.

Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck – the only one of these I’ve actually reviewed!  My copy is headed for the give away pile but I’m still happy to have read this pleasant if not particularly well-executed story of a vicar’s wife during wartime.

A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell – I’ve been meaning to read this wartime memoir since Scott first raved about it back in 2013.  Now, delightfully, he has brought it back into print.

Ten Way Street, Murder While You Work, and Pirouette by Susan Scarlett – I never read Noel Streatfeild’s books as a child but I’m finally discovering her as an adult.  She wrote a number of light romances for adults (under the Susan Scarlett pseudonym), all of which were reissued by Greyladies but are now difficult to find, and I am slowly gathering them all.

The Arrangement by Sonya Lalli – this hasn’t even been released in Canada yet (it’s coming out here early next year as The Matchmaker’s List) but I couldn’t wait.  I am a sucker for rom coms about arranged marriages and the excitement over such a story not just existing but being written by a Canadian and set in Canada (big, big, big deal – when did you last read a rom com set in Canada?) was too much for me.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – this came out today.  I had my library hold placed and was planning to wait.  But there’s a bookstore in my office building.  And it was raining during my lunch break.  And once I started reading the first pages I couldn’t let it go (see above re my love of Canadian-set rom coms featuring arranged marriages).  So now my library hold is cancelled and I am a proud owner of this Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan – Perfect.  So, so, so perfect.  I will write about this at length but for now rest assured that it is going to feature on my “Best Books of 2018” list.

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  

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Back in 2011, I read Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham and absolutely adored it.  In fact, I loved it so much that it made my Best Books of 2011 list.  And the first thing I thought when reading it was how perfect a choice it would be for Persephone Books.

Well, turns out they thought the same way.  Six years later, I am delighted to say that Persphone has just reissued the book and it is now readily available for all to enjoy!  Happy reading!

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holiday-books

There are plenty of things to be excited about in 2017 and, for me, one of those things is this lovely pile of books I accumulated just as 2016 ended.  None of these actually made it under the tree at Christmas as they were delayed in transit but it was rather nice to get Christmas presents the week after Christmas – a way to prolong the holiday, if you will.  And they were certainly worth waiting for.

Here’s what I got:

Miss Bunting, Marling Hall and The Headmistress by Angela Thirkell – the most recent Thirkell reissues from Virago.  All three are favourites but I’m particularly delighted to finally have my own copy of The Headmistress – I think it’s the best of Thirkell’s novels.

The Marches by Rory Stewart – I love Stewart’s writing and to say I’ve been looking forward to this book for years is no joke as the publication date was pushed back time and again.  But now it is here and I am so looking forward to reading about the journey Stewart took with his father along the border between Scotland and England.

Dashing for the Post edited by Adam Sisman – If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years it is that you always need a little more Patrick Leigh Fermor in your life.  This collection of his letters promises to be full of extraordinary anecdotes, classical allusions I will not remotely grasp, and (given that it is PLF) probably a little too much purple prose.  I can’t wait.

The House by the Lake  by Thomas Harding – a unique history of Germany from the 1890s to the 2010s, told through the lives of five families linked by a lake house they each lived in.

Clearly 2017 is going to be a great reading year!

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New Arrivals

img_20161030_162558A few weeks ago, to reward myself after reaching a professional milestone, I placed a massive book order from Slightly Foxed.  And now it has arrived!

Here are my new arrivals:

The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

A Late Education by Alan Moorehead

My Grandfather and Father, Dear Father by Denis Constanduros

I Was a Stranger by John Hackett (I read a library copy of this in October and am so happy to be adding it to my collection now)

Basil Street Blues by Michael Holyrod

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Brensham Village by John Moore

And, of course, I have pre-ordered a copy of Terms and Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham, which is being released today.

Lots of happy reading ahead of me!

20161030_162801

My ever-expanding Slightly Foxed collection

 

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angela-thirkell-november-2016

It is my pleasure to reminder readers that Virago will be reprinting three new Angela Thirkell titles this November.  Time to place your pre-orders or, for those of you with self control, provide your families with a preview Christmas wishlist.  They are all wartime novels and, to my way of thinking, they are some of her best.  They are:

Marling Hall

The Headmistress

Miss Bunting

The Headmistress is probably my very favourite of Thirkell’s books and, having struggled to find a second-hand copy, I am delighted at the prospect of adding it to my library.

That said, I continue to object to Virago’s frankly irritating decision to release additional books in e-editions only, as they are doing with Growing Up and Peace Breaks Out.  While I’d agree the three books they are printing this time around are better than the two being released as e-books, I’d still prefer a complete set.  And I will never feel resigned to Cheerfulness Breaks In, my sentimental favourite of the series, being released as an e-book only.  I’m not sure what, if any, their plans are for future releases –  Thirkell’s post-war works are pretty sloppy – so hopefully they might go back and fill in these few gaps with proper reprints one day.  We can only hope and encourage them!

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