A few weeks ago I asked for recommendations for future reading, preferably by an author who has written a whole series so I would have a lot of books to enjoy and several visitors recommended Angela Thirkell. She is one of those authors I have always seen around in the libraries I used to work in many moons ago and, as with Dorothy Whipple, I rather turned my nose up at them and thought of them as 'old ladies books'. As I am now a senior citizen and can be viewed by some as an old lady myself, I now find I am reading them with a quiet enjoyment.
I am reading them randomly and totally out of order and I am not sure that this really matters very much. Characters pop in and out at various stages and it is quite a pleasure to find a book featuring the early life of a person who you have just read about as middle aged or married or a grandfather etc etc. Adds a slightly topsy turvy interest to it all.
So far I have read The Brandons, Love Among the Ruins and Cheerfulness Breaks in. I am about to start Northbridge Rectory which follows on from Cheerfulness which I deliberately sought out as there is a cliffhanger at the end of this book and I want to know what happens. I nipped into the Castle Bookshop in Colchester on Saturday after having my graying roots done, very handy as it is just next door, and found shelves of Angela Thirkell and had to restrict myself to the purchase of three books all very reasonably priced at £3 each. I have a feeling I am going to clear their stock out.
And what do I think of them? At first I wasn't sure, but slowly found myself being taken over by their quiet charm and simplicity, their old fashioned air and style of writing and their portrayal of life in the country. These are not books that are going to set the world alight, they don't arouse deep emotions, but instead give the reader a sense of goodness and comfort in small things. Not sure I am expressing myself very well here, but I found after I finished each of those I have read, that I felt very calm and serene. The books made me feel happy. Simple as that. However, in the middle of all this sweetness and light, there are shafts of cracking wit with perceptive and slightly malicious comments about human frailties that can take the reader by surprise, as you are just not expecting them. There is more to these books than meets the eye on first reading and I am becoming intrigued by them.
I know very little about Angela Thirkell, where she came from, what she did or anything about her life so I am going to get cracking on Google and find out more about her. And of course, how can I not love an author whose books are set in Barchester and who names many of her characters from he works of Anthony Trollope? I find them all quite fascinating.
I am also very happy that there are quite a lot to get through as well....
There are time when reading books out of order can be a good thing. This is what happened to me with the Kate Ivory books of Veronica Stallwood. I had been recommended them and as I love a long list of detective type novels ready and waiting, I bought the first two. Not overwhelmed by them at all and had no particular desire to rush out and get any more. However, I came across a good hardback edition of one of the later titles in a charity shop, bought it and read it and could not believe it was the same writer. So much better, tighter plotting and good dialogues.
So, back to the drawing board and I started to read them again, this time in no particular order and found I was really enjoying them. The later ones feature Kate's mother, Roz, with whom she has issues as her mother went off travelling for ten years and barely kept in touch. It is obvious they are very fond of each other but hide it by verbal skirmishing and it is these lively arguments and back chat that really livens up the story. Brilliant idea introducing this character into the series.
This weekend I have had a splurge, I had my daughter with me but we both had a good lie in on both days and so have read three of the Oxford Mysteries.
In Oxford Knot Kate is sent a mysterious gold knot ring by an anonymous admirer before she sets off on a book signing tour where strange accidents occur and it is clear that there is danger in the offing. back at her house, a friend is looking after her cat and one night opens the door and finds an unknown figure on the doorstep....
In Oxford Blue Kate is spending some months in a quiet country cottage recovering from events told in this previous story, she is hoping for some peace and quiet when out of the blue her long lost mother appears, and then later, the gardener is found dead in mysterious circumstances. So off Kate goes again, this time aided and abetted by Roz, to see if she can find out the true story behind the apparent drug overdose theory accepted by the police.
In Oxford Double Kate is back home with new neighbours on either side of her house and the Fosters, a retired couple are murdered in what looks like a contract killing. Have they been leading a double life? Once more, Kate gets involved and runs the risk of placing herself in a vulnerable position.
Great stuff, rattling yarns and, as I said above, the pace and style has picked up no end the more of these books Veronica Stallwood has written. Seems to my untutored eye that she has begun to really like her heroine and this shows. I could be totally wrong of course, and probably am, I daresay.
I think I only have another couple to go and then I have read the lot and will have to wait in patience for the next one to be published. In the meantime I shall hunt out the other non-Kate Ivory books by this author to keep me going.
I wish I didn't binge read but I know there is no hope for me, I have done it all my life when I find an author I like and cannot stop now....
Sun is still shining and mild weather giving one the false notion that summer is still with us, but once the sun disappears and the chill sets in and woolly socks are hauled out of the drawer, then the illusion is shattered. I have started to put my electric blanket on at night now which is a sure sign of dark evenings ahead. I gather the weather is going to be good for the weekend so long may it continue.
I start my new job on Monday and am feeling slightly apprehensive about it all and getting back onto the commute once more. Being at home for a month has shown me just how lovely it is to have time to oneself, to read, write, visit friends or just to chill out, without any time restraints. Another week of this and I would not be able to return to the daily rush so perhaps just as well that next week is The Return. I have my daughter down this weekend from Leeds so we will chill out and chat and watch Strictly Come Dancing which is still in the early stages where the wheat has to be sorted out from th4e chaff, we have to discover which personalities we like best and those we don't (I already have those sorted...) and who we are going to root for over the coming weeks. John Sergeant did the most delightful gentle old fashioned waltz last week and, to everyone's surprise, did not get slung off as everyone was predicting. Odd how everyone, from those of us at home, to the audience in the studio and the judges, all reacted to this charming performance in exactly the same way. Even Craig was beaming.
Collecting my new car this afternoon. Another Nissan Micra, bright red this time. Now that I have got into this having a new car lark, it makes sense. No worries about repair bills, no MOT for three years, always in warranty, the knowledge that on cold winter mornings it will always start, wonderful. However, this may be the last new one I buy as my income will be less and less in the coming years. We shall see.
One thing I am determined to treat myself to as long as possible is tickets for the opera and this week I have splashed out big time. I have purchased tickets for The Tales of Hoffman with Villazon in the title role in November at the ROH and then, o bliss o rapture, The Flying Dutchman with the Mighty Bryn next February. Fingers crossed that all goes well and he does not cancel and disappoint us all as he did last year with the Ring. I tried to book on line and the new website at the House has set up a Waiting room where you await your turn before being logged onto the actual site as it has crashed often in the past. Found I was 780, so went away and made a cup of tea. An hour later I was down to 40 and then the whole thing went bang crash and I shot back up to 1,769. As I had also been on redial at the Box Office for two hours I was hopping mad and fired off an email to the Head of the Friends at Covent Garden. Within five minutes she responded, asked for my telephone number and said she would ask the Box Office to call me. Well, cynical me responded as you would expect but, no, within half an hour a charming and helpful young man called me back and we got everything sorted in no time. Brilliant customer service.
Well I said this was Friday meanderings and it certainly is. To finish off this sparkling post, just to let you know that I did a pile of ironing last night while watching the last DVD in the Mapp and Lucia series and then went to bed with tea and the latest edition of Hello.
Still trying to get back into the old routine, only away for a few days, but even that short time shows what a creature of habit I am and I have to catch up on chores etc. I start my new job on Monday and the pile of ironing that I said I would do some weeks ago is still there and must be done before then as all my work clothes are in the heap. So tonight is the night. Find a good DVD to bung on and off I go.
In the meantime, I have some book reviewing to catch up on and one of those is The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi which I read a couple of weeks ago, sat down, straight through, loved it. I read her first in the series, The Messenger of Athens , which I reviewed here, and found it thoroughly intriguing so was very pleased when her next one dropped through my letterbox. It would appear that the author is basing her stories on the seven deadly sins, so at least I know I have five more to look forward to. The first was the sin of Lust, and now we have Greed.
Once again, Hermes Diaktoris, the 'Fat Man' is the 'winged messenger' sent from Athens to right wrongs and to investigate dark doings. The Temple of Apollo has been in the care of the old beekeeper Gabrilis for over half a century, but when the value of the land soars and a greedy developer eyes it up, he is forced to sign away his interest, and then later his body is found by the side of the road. As Hermes is the first one on the scene and discovers the body, he is the prime suspect but gradually others, all of whom have an interest in the land, emerge with strong motives for murder and the investigation widens.
The Mysteries of the Greek Detective are not your average run of the mill find body-grill suspects-announce culprit-Hercule Poirot style of murder mystery, they are more subtle with fully rounded characters whose fears and problems run alongside the main thrust of discovering who is the murderer. We meet two members of the police force, Gazis, a seasoned inspector with integrity and character, and his young side kick, Petridis, not yet totally sure of himself and his position and who is more vulnerable to the temptations offered to him in the way of bribes and pressure from the local villains and hangers on. It is this relationship and how Petridis faces up to his mistakes and learns from them, which adds another layer to the story.
Then we meet Sostis, a barber who deals with exactly twelve customers a day, in order to escape the land and spend the rest of his day fishing. He is a good man and he, with the others who help the Fat Man discover the truth, reap their reward at the conclusion of the story as Hermes dispenses his own unorthodox style of justice, one which would not be recognised in a court of law, but that which the gods on Mount Olympus would approve....
Another cracker in this series, with descriptions of the countryside and the heat which bring the scenery to immediate life. When reading the Taint of Midas, as with The Messenger of Athens, close your eyes and you can feel the heat and see Greece:
"The day's heat was at its height and the cicadas hidden in the ferny branches of the tamarisk trees were singing. A tiny jetty, its base a natural outcrop of rock levelled by cement cracked and fissured by salt water, jutted into the sea. At the jetty, a small fishing boat, painted blue with fine details added in read and yellow, was tied in close..................the sea was clear and cooling. Small silver fish darted in the shallows, black urchins formed deep blotches on the rocks.........the water changed from turquoise to ultramarine, where the sea floor dropped away form almost untouchable to the blank mysterious depths and the view beneath the surface was a blue infinity, like space"
I decided to sideline Patchy and Henry this time and make this draw myself as I love this book so much and I wanted the pleasure of pulling out the names of the lucky winners. I have only read this book in proof so it was such a delight to have a final copy in my hands. All of you who have won Resistance will, I am sure, be overwhelmed by the bravery, wit and humanity of Agnes Humbert. I feel that if she knew what we all think of her she would laugh and brush our compliments aside, but she was a brave and magnificent woman and I am grateful to Bloomsbury for sending me copies and also to Barbara Mellor, the translator, who will inscribe two for the lucky winners. So here we go:
The first two names out of the bowl were Catherine and Rhonda and they will receive two personally signed copies by Barbara. The second two names JB and Sari will recieve the other two copies. Can you please send me your mailing addresses via my email link on my blog and I will set the wheels in motion so that you have these as soon as possible.
My apologies for the slightly out of focus picture - my hands must have wobbled a bit...
My thanks to everyone who took part and glald to see so many of you showed such interest. If you did not win, please please please, do go out and buy Resistance. You will never have spent a better penny or two.
Have just returned from a visit to Yorkshire and delighted that the posts I set to appear on a certain date at a certain time, turned up OK. Never done that before so good to know it works.
Crammed an awful lot of visiting in the two days I and a couple of friends were in Bronte country and, once again, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Yorkshire. Of course it helped that the sun was shining and we hit the most glorious weekend. All the places visited, Haworth, East Riddlesden Hall, Skipton Castle and Bolton Priory brought back memories as the last time there I was with my husband and children and it brought back recollections of happy days. When I came across the stepping stones across the river in Wharfedale by Bolton Priory I got quite choked up at the thought of my two gorgeous daughters hopping across these and shrieking in fright in case they fell in. It was all lovely.
Over the next few weeks I will post pictures but for today I will concentrate on Haworth and the Parsonage. Each visit to the home of the Brontes is as if I was seeing it for the first time, I never fail to be overwhelmed by the feel and atmosphere which hits you as soon as you enter. The noisiest of visitors and children fall silent and walk round quietly, almost as if everyone was in a church. There is the table in the parlour around which the girls walked each night talking about their work and reading their poetry, there is the study where Patrick Bronte sat each night and read his paper and then went up to bed telling his girls not 'to stay up too late', there is the sofa on which Emily died, there is Charlotte's wedding veil (which I held in my hands on a visit to Haworth many moons ago, posted about here), the tiny little books with the miniature writing, the view of the churchyard from the windows, oh all simply breathtaking and never fails to bring a lump to my throat.
Haworth itself is full of the usual Bronte tea rooms and Villette coffee houses and yet it still retains its integrity. Perhaps because it was later in the season but it did not seem too crowded (I have been there over a Bank Holiday weekend when it was horrendous), and we were one of the first visitors to the Parsonage so had the place in peace and quiet for an hour. In fact this seemed to happen wherever we went over the two days, we seemed to arrive at a quiet time which made it all so much more enjoyable.
I will have to go back again next year and do it all over again...
Accent Press send me books on a fairly regular basis and I am most grateful to them for so doing. Some I have liked, others not, but one I very much enjoyed last year was The Death Pictures by Simon Hall which I reviewed in this post on three crime novels which I had read last year here.
At the time I made a note that I must keep an eye out for this author as he has a cracking pace, good imagination, tight plots and two interesting protagonists, a TV reporter Dan Groves and his friend, Chief Inspector Adam Breen. He lives alone with his dog, Rutherford, has recently begun a relationship with Clare, a colleague of Adam Breen's which is shaping up nicely after the loss of an earlier girl friend through suicide, and the reader is drawn into his life and thoughts, and gets to know and care what happens to him. Nicely done. Very filmic and I cannot help but feel this would make a good TV series. Let us hope somebody else thinks so as well though noting that Simon Hall, the author, is the BBC's Crime Corespondent in the south west of England, one hopes that he has good connections and might suggest this to somebody, we shall see.
Dan starts to receive mysterious letters from a masked man who keeps breaking into women's houses to steal only documents bearing their names. In each case, Dan finds a letter addressed to him. Somebody is threatening a crime, and taunting him with clues referring to his solving of the riddle in the Death Pictures and challenging him to come up with an answer to this mystery. Both Dan and Adam have no idea what the crime is going to be or when it is going to happen but they know it is soon and they need to track the mystery man down as fast as possible.
Then a child disappears......
Impossible to s say more without giving away the story or dropping clues to the denouement, but just to mention that there is another strand running alongside the main theme; this time an investigation by a seemingly over zealous inspector into two shootings by the same policeman who is suspected of being a rogue cop. And is he? Good twist and unexpected ending to this part of the book. I really enjoyed Evil Valley and was delighted when I cracked open the padded envelope and it fell into my hands. I sat down and read it straight through one afternoon and when I find myself caught up in a book and not wanting to put it down until finding out if the villain is going to be caught or not, then I know I have found a winner.
Simon Hall's book is such a one and I very much look forward to his next.
Thanks Accent Press for sending this to me and please keep me in mind when Simon writes his third...