Archive for the ‘New Books’ Category


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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New(ish) Books

Newish BooksI have not set out to accumulate new books this year and yet, miraculously, some have found their way into my home.  Here’ s what I’ve picked up over the last few months:

Selma at the Abbey by E.J. Oxenham – cheesy-looking schoolgirl book that I picked up for 50 cents at a school book fair.  Honestly, even if I can’t stomach the book, the 50 cents were well-spent just for blurbs at the back advertising Exciting Mystery Stories, Jennings (of the BBC) Stories, and Thrilling Western Stories.

Rilla of Ingleside and Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery – a lovely gift from Virago.

Summer Half, August Folly, and The Brandons by Angela Thirkell – an even lovelier gift from Virago.

Kilvert’s Diary edited by William Plomer – the public library was having a sale this weekend and I was delighted to find this there.  It has been on my TBR list for ages.  I do have a weakness for books by or about the clergy.

The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West – another find at the library sale.

Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther – Can you believe I’ve never read this?

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy – I went shopping for Mother’s Day and instead came away with a book for myself.  I read it immediately and loved every page, though it was bittersweet, knowing that Binchy is not around to write these wonderful stories any more.

Also, Little G by E.M. Channon is slowly working its way around the globe to me.  It left Scotland the first week of March and I have high hopes it will arrive here eventually.

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ThirkellMy (well, technically everyone’s but I have less faith that the world-at-large has been marking the days off their calendars as I have) long-anticipated Thirkell-filled Spring has arrived!  Yesterday, Virago released their three new Angela Thirkell titles: Summer Half, August Folly, and The BrandonsThe Brandons is as charming as Lavinia Brandon herself, August Folly delights with the foolish summer activities of a wide cast of characters, and Summer Half…well, Summer Half might just be my favourite Thirkell novel of all.  Happy reading, everyone!

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A Wall of Wodehouse

A Wall of Wodehouse

I love London.  It is full of wonderful museums and galleries, a dizzying array of theatres, beautiful historic buildings and neighbourhoods, world-class shopping, and, most alluring of all, an overwhelming number of bookstores, both new and used.  And I don’t hide my priorities when I visit: I go to London to buy books, taking advantage of the amazing variety on offer and, to my Canadian eyes at least, the amazingly cheap prices.  Everything else I do there is just a bonus.

I had a wonderful time visiting various book stores.  I devoted one whole afternoon to book shopping, darting through Bloomsbury, Notting Hill and Kensington.  It was wonderful.  I only bought books from a few of the stores I visited while in others I just spent happy hours exploring.  I went into Hatchards for the first time ever while waiting to meet a friend at Fortnum and Mason and completely fell in love with it.  I did not buy anything there but was tempted by everything I saw.  Everything is so beautifully laid out there and I was particularly awed by the two whole shelves devoted to the beautiful Overlook Press editions of P.G. Wodehouse’s books.

Here are the books I brought back with me:


Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – a wonderful history of St Philip’s School in London.  It is short and funny and made for the perfect airplane book on the flight home.

The Northern Fells and The Central Fells by Alfred Wainwright – bookish souvenirs from the Lake District.

The Real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – a biography of Joyce Anstruther, aka Jan Struther, written by her granddaughter and recently reprinted as a beautiful Slightly Foxed Edition in the most amazing shade of blue.

Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson – one of my favourite D.E.S. novels, I was thrilled to find this on the shelf at the Slightly Foxed bookshop.

Rosabelle Shaw by D.E. Stevenson – another find at Slightly Foxed.  I don’t know much about it but for £4 I was willing to risk it.

The Crocodile by the Door by Selina Guinness – a relatively new release, I had been eyeing this at Waterstones and other new bookstores but resisting.  When I found it in a used bookstore on Charing Cross Road, I pounced.

Peace Breaks Out by Angela Thirkell – I was keeping my eye out for this Thirkell throughout my bookstore wanderings and was thrilled to find it at Slightly Foxed.

The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope – more Trollope!  I am always interested in expanding my Trollope collection and was happy to find this Oxford World’s Classic edition at Skoob in Bloomsbury.


And, of course, there was a trip to the lovely Persephone shop where I picked up six new books to add to my collection.

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski – already a favourite

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Journal of Katherine Mansfield

The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart

The Montana Stories by Katherine Mansfield

The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

I did well, I think, but it is probably for the best (at least for my crowded bookshelves) that I only visit London every two or three years rather than every time I go to Europe!

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I picked up a few books just before I left for Europe, all of which I am very excited about:

Three Houses by Angela Thirkell – I haven’t read this yet but I am very much looking forward to Thirkell’s memoir of the homes where she grew up.  It sounds rather like the sort of book Slightly Foxed might have eventually gotten around to publishing if Allison and Busby hadn’t gotten there first.

In these beautifully nostalgic memoirs, eminent author Angela Thirkell recalls in rich detail the three houses in which she grew up and the childhood memories their walls contain. Focusing first on ‘The Grange’, where her grandfather, the celebrated Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, set the cultivated tone, Thirkell also reminisces over her parents’ home in Kensington Square and the Burne-Jones seaside retreat, where Angela’s cousin, Rudyard Kipling, lived across the green. Her elaborate portraits of the three houses and the lives within provide an invaluable insight into late Victorian life, while the personal recollections of Thirkell’s famous grandfather reveal a loving family man behind the renown.

The Harold Nicolson Diaries, 1907-1964 edited by Nigel Nicolson – I have been wanting this for ages and finally broke down and bought it.  Only my concern over damaging the paperback cover prevented me from taking it along to Europe with me.  Once I’m back, you can bet this is what I’ll be picking up first.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson – I borrowed this from the library, read it the same day, and then went out the next day to buy my own copy.  That is how much I adored this extraordinary fantasy novel.  I am already looking forward to reading it again and you can be certain that it will be high up on my “Best of 2013” list.

Alif has encountered three strokes of bad luck. The aristocratic woman he loves has jilted him, leaving him with only a mysterious book of fairytales. The state censorship apparatus of the emirate where he lives has broken into his computer, compromising his business providing online freedom for clients across the Islamic world. And now the security police have shown up at his door. But when Alif goes underground, he will encounter a menagerie of mythical creatures and end up on a mad dash through faith, myth, cyberspace, love, and revolution.

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Take Me to the Fair


Every spring, the boys’ school in my neighbourhood hosts a massive May fair.  It is always a fun event but, for me, the highlight is the book tent: I always come away with great finds and this year was no exception.

The real fun of any large used book sale like this is spotting all of the random books that I might otherwise never have known existed.  The cook books are always fun and extraordinarily outdated, though if you’re looking for 1970s entertaining tips you’d be well set.  Someone had donated a large number of Cherry Ames books, about a mystery-solving nurse, and there were quite a few buyers clearly excited about this.  I even saw a few of Noel Streatfeild’s children’s books (including Thursday’s Child) in one of the piles.

Cherry Ames

I only bought five books this year but I could so easily have grabbed two or three times as many.  Will I be kicking myself for not buying that Father Brown omnibus?  The old orange Penguin editions of Nancy Mitford’s Pigeon Pie and Monica Dickens’ One Pair of Feet?  The intriguingly massive Best-Loved Folktales of the World?  Maybe, but I only have so much room at home so I had to be ruthless.  Here’s what I came out with:

Fair Books

Laughing Gas and Meet Mr Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse – Laughing Gas is an old favourite while Mr Mulliner is one of the only Wodehouse characters I’ve yet to encounter.

Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich by Stephen B. Leacock – impossible to go wrong with Leacock.

1066 and All That by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman – always a favourite and this little 1954 edition was too cute to pass up.

Period Piece by Gwen Raverat – the find I’m most excited about.  I haven’t read this yet but I’ve only heard praise for it.

All in all, a good morning’s work!

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Persephone Spring

Sorting through the mammoth mail pile that accumulates during a holiday is rarely pleasant but this week it was a delight.  Amidst all the bills and bank statements and junk flyers were three items guaranteed to excite me: the two newest Persephone books (The Exiles Return and Heat Lightning) and the Persephone Biannually.  Now I just have to figure out which of these to read first!

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Bloomsbury Reader

Ever since reading and loving Another Part of the Wood by Denis Mackail and The Happy Prisoner by Monica Dickens, I have been looking forward to investigating some of the other e-books on offer from Bloomsbury Reader.  The selection is immense and tempting but, until now, I’d held off buying anything.  After more than a year with my Kobo Touch, I’ve only bought two e-books: everything else has been either in the public domain or borrowed from my library (including the Dickens and Mackail books I loved so much).  But then I saw yesterday that a number of Bloomsbury Reader titles were available for around $2 each in the Kobo shop.  That is a price that even I, cheap as I am, can get behind.  In the end, I purchased 10 new titles (the majority of which were heavily marked down):

The Fancy by Monica Dickens
Monica Dickens’s novel chronicles the lives of a group of female workers in an aircraft factory – their men are off fighting the Second World War, and the women have had to step up and take over.

The Lorimer Line by Anne Melville
The enthralling first volume in the sequence which chronicles the lives and fortunes of the Lorimer family from the 1870s to the 1940s.

Anna by Norman Collins
Against the background of France and Germany at the time of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Norman Collins tells with great brilliance the story of Anna, a beautiful woman. Born in Rhineland, when she was nineteen she fell in love with a French cousin whom she followed to Paris on the eve of the outbreak of war. When he was killed by her compatriots she found herself in besieged Paris, destitute, alone, and a German. Thrown into prison, she got out only by marrying a middle-aged restaurateur for whom she had no feeling. These are the opening incidents in a novel which is full of incident, of tragedy and of adventure, and which carries Anna from France to Germany, and finally to England, where at last she finds both peace and happiness.

The Proud Servant by Margaret Irwin
A tale of seduction and witchcraft and a promise made to Charles I to “raise Scotland for the King”.

Enchanter’s Nightshade by Ann Bridge
Bridge presents her reader with a “period piece” of Italian provincial society and distributes our sympathies over a surprising range of characters, several of whom touch on individual tragedies. The lovely “Enchantress” in the late thirties; the little English governess in the early twenties, full of Oxford enthusiasms; the ardent youth, Giulio; Marietta, that delightful child, puzzling over the problems into which she is plunged by the disaster which overtakes her beloved English instructress; the old Marchesa, whose hundredth birthday looms all through the book; above all perhaps the wise, patient Swiss governess – all these in turn claim our affection or our pity.

A Place to Stand by Ann Bridge
Set in Budapest in the spring of 1941, Hope – a spoilt but attractive society girl and daughter of a leading American business man – finds herself playing the lead in a dangerous and most unexpected affair of underground intrigue, through the machinations of her journalist fiancé. During the course of her activities she falls in love with a Polish refugee, and at the moment when Germany invades Hungary, she is already deeply involved – both emotionally and politically.

Children of the Archbishop by Norman Collins (Elaine just reviewed this yesterday)
A story of the unfolding secret of Margaret whose determination to be near and protect the orphan, Sweetie, is part of the crucial years at the Archbishop Bodkin Hospital. For Sweetie has set her heart on Ginger, and Ginger is geared only for trouble, while the new head, Dr. Trump, dreams of nothing but reforms when he replaces the loved, kindly Canon Mallow.

Lorimers at War by Anne Melville
Volume Three of the dramatic saga of the Lorimer Family

The Black Sheep by Ruby M. Ayres
Norma Ackroyd is the quintessential English country rose-pretty and rather innocent. But on the day her path crosses with that of the notorious womanizer from London, George Laxton, fate itself seemed determined to shatter her previously sheltered life.

The Lorimer Legacy by Anne Melville
Volume Two of the dramatic saga of the Lorimer Family

Since I’m currently out of town (I ran away to California again) and have a month-long trip to Europe coming up in June, having lots of new material on my e-reader is even more exciting than usual.  I rarely use it at home but when I’m on the road it’s my best friend.  Now if only all the Bloomsbury Reader Monica Dickens titles would get marked down I would really be set…

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