Archive for the ‘New Books’ Category


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!


My ever-expanding Slightly Foxed collection


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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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I popped over to Victoria this weekend for a mini summer holiday.  It only lasted from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon but it was a wonderful break and incorporated all the things I love about going to Victoria: stunning island scenery from the ferry, amazing floral displays at Butchart Gardens, excellent food in Victoria, and, of course, fabulous book shopping.

Russell Books, one of my all-time favourite bookshops, is located in central Victoria and I spent a happy couple of hours there on Saturday afternoon, sifting through my favourite sections.  Every fifteen minutes or so you would hear another delighted patron exclaiming over some find or the sheer variety of books on offer.  Deservedly so.  My hard work was rewarded and I can home with a respectable haul:


Window on My Heart by Olave, Lady Baden-Powell – how to resist something this random?  The autobiography of the wife of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, who was herself very heavily involved in the Scouting and Guiding movements.

A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor – PLF’s travel memoir about his time spent in monasteries.

P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters edited by Sophie Ratcliffe – There were shelves and shelves and shelves full of Wodehouse but I chose to go with a collection of Plum’s letters.

Nairn in Darkness and Light by David Thomson – a memoir about growing up in Scotland in the 1920s.

An Italian Odyssey by Julie A. Burk and Neville J. Tencer – I am fascinated by the Via Francigena but there are so few books about it.  This memoir about walking the Italian portion of the route is one of the few out there (alongside Like a Tramp, Like a Pilgrim, which I picked up earlier this year).

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay – slowly building up my collection of GGK, having read them all first from the library (as usual).

The Pebbled Shore by Elizabeth Longford – I learned about this when reading My History by her daughter, Antonia Forest.  Longford sounds absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to learn more about her life.

The Smell of Summer Grass and The Gentry by Adam Nicolson – both excellent books that I’ve been meaning to add to my library since I first read them. 

A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry – I can now safely return the library copy that I keep checking out.

A very good day’s work, as far as I’m concerned!  And also just a nice summer break in a lovely city.

Sunset Outer Harbour

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As you might recall, Virago will be releasing four Angela Thirkell titles this May: Before Lunch, Cheerfulness Breaks In, Northbridge Rectory, and Growing Up.   The covers for Before Lunch and Northbridge Rectory have now been released and both look lovely.

Irritatingly, Cheerfulness Breaks In and Growing Up are only being released as e-books but I shall still rejoice that they will be more readily available to the reading public now.  Privately, I shall brood and weep over the neglect for two of my favourite books in the series.

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Recent Arrivals


Taking the scenic route on my book-buying expedition

I have added a lot of books to my library this year. Well, “a lot” by my standards. (I think my year’s entire haul is about equal to one day of book shopping for Simon).  And now, with books teetering on every available surface (space on the shelves having run out long ago), I remember why I usually curb the instinct to buy.  But oh it feels good.

Here’s what’s come in lately:


First, three books arrived from Greyladies (two of them complimentary – a delightful surprise):

The Road to the Harbour by Susan Pleydell

Mrs. Frensham Describes a Circle by Richmal Crompton

Near Neighbours by Molly Clavering

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to head over to Vancouver Island for the day, partly to see stunning Butchart Gardens at the height of summer, partly to go shopping at Russell Books in downtown Victoria:


The sunken garden at Butchart


The beautiful provincial legislature in Victoria

At Russell Books, I picked up as many titles as I could carry (that A.A. Milne biography is heavy, as I discovered on the ensuing bus/ferry/bus/train/bus rides to get home) and left many more behind:

Victoria Books - Bought

The books I bought

Victoria Books - Not Bought

The books I left behind

Finally, this weekend, cheerfully ignoring the fact that the teetering piles of books in my office will crush me to death in event of an earthquake and really don’t need to be built up any further, I picked up two more new books:

Packing Up

I loved Diplomatic Baggage, Keenan’s first memoir, and have been itching to read this

Vienna Melody

A chunky saga about a Viennese family that seems very promising from what I’ve read so far

I should probably swear off book buying for the rest of the year. Or maybe just have good clear out of my existing shelves…

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Lovely Craftsman house in Laurelhurst with snowdrops galore!

I spent last weekend in Portland (Oregon, in case some of you might have thought I was very ambitious and had popped across to Maine for a couple of days).  Portland is just far enough from Vancouver to make any visit there feel special (I take the proximity of Seattle for granted so much that I’ve never actually visited) and it more than rewards its visitors with wonderful neighbourhoods, excellent restaurants, and, of course, one of the largest book stores in North America.

Thanks to a long weekend in BC, I was able to spend three nights in Portland and packed quite a lot in to the visit.  I visited neighbourhoods I had never seen before (Laurelhurst made me nostalgic for the way Vancouver used to look – and for the prices we used to have!), stood in line with hipsters for twenty minutes at Salt and Straw for ice cream (a scoop of Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper that was actually worth the wait), revisited favourite restaurants, attended the very enjoyable Italian Style exhibition (on loan from the V&A) at the Portland Art Museum, and visited Powell’s bookstore.  Twice.

Let’s be honest: book buying is half the attraction of visiting Portland.  I’m not as practised as some of my fellow bloggers but I came home with what, for me, is a large haul:


Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope – it is never a bad thing to grow one’s Trollope collection.

The House by the Dvina and A Home by the Hooghly by Eugenie Fraser – I was reading a library copy Fraser’s wonderful memoir The House by the Dvina just before we left for Portland and had to pick up a copy of my own.  And I couldn’t resist her second memoir either, about her married life in India

Anthony Trollope by Victoria Glendinning – Audrey has been reading this and sharing wonderful excerpts from it.

Talks with T.G. Masaryk by Karel Čapek – an interview of Czechoslovakia’s first president by one of its great writers.  I’ve been meaning to add this to my collection of Czech books for years.

The Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner edited by William Maxwell – STW is possibly the best letter writer I’ve ever come across.  A collection edited by Maxwell – a close friend and equally devoted correspondent – promises to be good.

The Virago Book of Women Gardeners a wonderful collection (and one of my favourite books that I read in 2014).

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan – Hazan is frequently mentioned by many of my favourite food bloggers and, having fallen completely for the few recipes of hers that I have tried, I knew I had to add this cookbook to my collection.

Now to find somewhere to put these books – my shelves were already overflowing!

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