My apologies for lack of regular blogging in the last week or so but have not been feeling too brilliant in general and, somehow, lacked the enthusiasm to get online and post. But my conscience is pricking me so have decided to do a general round up of books read and things discovered which I want to tell you about.
I have recently re-read The Kirov Saga by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. These books are, criminally, out of print and I really cannot understand why. The author is a simply splendid writer with a historical background and knowledge which must be unrivalled. Those of us who have read her Morland series will already know this. There are three books Anna, Fleur and Emily and set in Russia ending up with the 1917 revolution. Three English girls end up going to Russia and in their turn finding love and happiness there though not after difficulties and heartbreak are overcome. We learn about the Napoleanic wars, the infamous Retreat from Moscow, up to the Crimean war and then the overthrow of the Romanov family. Simply wonderful reading and rediscovering these books (I bought them second hand from Alibris) gave me tremendous joy and had me sitting for hours totally engrossed. I am sure there are many of you out there who have read them and for those of you who have not, I really recommend that you track them down.
Then two delightful books from Margin Notes Books which transported me back to my days of going to the junior library and borrowing books about vicarage families, plucky schoolgirls and that halycon world where all was innocence and everything came out right in the end.
The first of these two was by Clare Mallory, The Two Linties. Lintie Oliver is an orphan and a resident of St Anne's Orphanage. She is lively and mischievous and always getting into trouble and has a great imagination. One day she stumbles across a discarded newspaper in which a new club for children is being founded with a request for those who are interested to send in stories, poems etc. Lintie immediately sends off one of her stories and much to her surprise and delight, finds she has wond a prize. But how to keep all this secret? Nobody at the orphanage must know so she reinvents herself as Lynette Hope and writes under this nom de plume. Life begins to get incredibly complicated as she becomes more and more involved in her second life and it is inevitable that sooner or later, the two are going to collide. But all ends happily and joyfully as the reader would expect. Lovely.
Five Farthings by Monica Redlich is about the Farthing family who, because of illness in the family, move from a quiet corner of Sussex to the noise and bustle of the City of London where they find a flat opposite St Paul's Cathedral. This story reminds me very much of a Noel Streatfield tale where a family have to pull together in adversity and overcome difficulties and, always, successfully. The family dynamic at the time the book was published seems old fashioned to us now but reminds us how things were. While father is in hospital mother returns to work, the younger children are at school and the elder daughter Vivien looks after the house. There is no serious thought given to a career for her and by the end of the book she is engaged to be married - at eighteen! It is also made clear, when father returns home and gets better, that mother will give up work. It is all rather genteel and charming and I loved reading it.
Margin Notes Books do have some fascinating titles - do check them out. I have been the lucky recipient of review copies of the books they have published so far and they are all excellent. Amazon seem to only have second hand copies at the moment so I would suggest you order direct from the publishers. Do check out my reviews of the Streatfield and the other Clare Mallory book sent to me. Links below:
Over the last couple of days I found I simply could not pick up a brand new book to read. I have plenty to choose from but I am sure you understand that feeling when you just want something familiar to sink into so yesterday I read Cat Among the Pigeons one of my favourites by Agatha Christie. One of her later works but one that is coherent and well constructed before her rather rambling last few books. Set in a boarding school and teachers being knocked off left and right, jewels smuggled out of a middle eastern country before a revolution, blackmail and spies. Terrific and written with tremendous dash. I always feel when I read this that the author loved writing it.
Then complete contrast I sat down this morning with pot of tea to hand and read Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher. Why I do not know but it is my favourite of her books and full of warmth and happiness and I loved it all over again.
So hoping now I can tackle something off my To be Read pile which is monumental. I also have to get down to organising what I am going to say at the Felixstowe Book Festival next weekend in which Simon from Stuck in a Book and I are speaking. Getting panicky just thinking about it. When I said this to my daughter she said 'But why? You are so good at talking!' then looked at me and said 'That didn't quite come out right..............'