Log in


February 2017




RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com

Previous 10

Apr. 27th, 2016


[sticky post] (no subject)

Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Feb. 18th, 2017


Today's book bargain

Three Angela Marchmont novels by Clara Benson are currently free from Amazon for the Kindle. The titles are: The Murder at Sissingham Hall, The Mystery at Underwood House, The Treasure at Poldarrow Point. These mysteries are set in the 1920s.

I'd completely forgotten that I'd previously read The Murder at Sissingham Hall. I see I described it as an enjoyable light read.

Feb. 13th, 2017


The Woman who Walked in Sunshine, Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe, founder and owner of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Gabarone, Botswana, sat in her office, a steaming cup of redbush tea in front of her. Her former secretary and now colleague, Mma Makutsi, was busy at her own desk. ‘Mma,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘I have some news.’
‘You have some news, Mma? What is this news? I hope it is good news.’
‘It is about Mr Alexander McCall Smith. He has written another book about us. It is the sixteenth book.’
‘Ow!’ said Mma Makutsi. ‘Sixteen books! That is a lot of books, Mma. I think Mr Alexander McCall Smith is a very clever man. It is very clever to write sixteen books about the same people.’
‘Yes. Mr Alexander McCall Smith is a very clever man. He writes many other books as well.’

Mma Ramotswe reflected for a while on how it all began. After her beloved daddy Obed Ramotswe, that great judge of cattle, had become late, she had been very sad. But she had bought her house on Zebra Drive and started her own business. Later she had married that good and kind man, Mr J L B Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. There had been many cases since that time. She sighed. Those were exciting days. But now?
‘I have been thinking, Mma,’ she said.
‘Yes? What have you been thinking, Mma Ramotswe? Have you been thinking about the sixteen books?’
‘I have been thinking that there is nothing more to say. That is what I am thinking.’
‘What are you saying, Mma? Are you saying there is nothing more to say about us?’
‘Yes, that is what I am saying. That there is nothing more to say.’
‘I think you are right, Mma. Sometimes there is nothing more to say about a thing. That is well known.’

Mma Ramotswe drank her tea. Outside, the sun beat down. Soon there would be rain. The grass would grow and the cattle would feed. Life would go on.

Thousands of miles away, callmemadam was reading the book the ladies had been discussing. ‘I think it is time for this series to end,’ she thought. ‘That is what I think.’

I read this book courtesy of NetGalley.

Feb. 6th, 2017


The Warrielaw Jewel, Winifred Peck

I enjoyed Bewildering Cares (reviewed here), and thought I’d try one of Peck’s detective novels, reissued by Dean Street Press. Her detective stories had previously sunk without trace and, according to the introduction to this one, merited the barest mention in her obituary. This is very unfair as The Warrielaw Jewel is far better than many crime stories currently being published again. I loved it!

The story is told in the first person by Betty, an Englishwoman married to a Scottish lawyer. She’s looking back to the early days of her marriage, before the First World War. It’s a book full of interest for anyone living in or knowing Edinburgh and it’s gossipy, village-y society. As a new bride, Betty is plunged into a round of visits to and from people in her husband’s upper middle class circle. Amongst these are the extraordinary Warrielaws. The family were once great landowners but now two spinster sisters live in an old, decaying house, looked after by a loyal servant. The house and its contents belong to the elder sister, Jessica and Betty’s husband John is her lawyer. ‘All Warrielaws hate each other’ is one of many sayings about the family and it’s soon obvious. Miss Mary shares the house with dominant Jessica, who infuriates her many relatives by selling off treasures from the house and giving the money to her charming nephew, whom she dotes on, rather than spending it on the house.

The Warrielaw Jewel, known as the fairy jewel, is an ancient and beautiful thing and everyone is outraged when Jessica decides to sell it. But, the jewel disappears, a murder follows and a man is on trial for his life. For Betty, now closely involved, this is a period of horror. The mystery is absorbing and the book full of clues. At one point, towards the end, the author states that the reader now has every detail necessary to solve the crime and issues a challenge to do so before the end of the book. I was only partly right. There’s plenty of basic detective work involving timings, investigated by John’s friend Bob Stuart, an astute retired policeman. I won’t give anything away. The characterisation is what made this book special for me. A large cast of oddities and the Edinburgh background make it a real novel, not just a puzzle. Not a dull word in it.

Feb. 1st, 2017


Many, many welcomes, February fair-maid,

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

My snowdrops are on a bank on the far side of the garden, which is currently sodden. Much better to get up close and personal. The old green bottle was dug up in my previous garden.

Jan. 31st, 2017


January Books

The Schirmer Inheritance, Eric Ambler
Words and Music , William Mayne
Bewildering Cares , Winifred Peck
Death of an Airman , Christopher St John Sprigg
Thalia, Frances Faviell
Sally’s Family, Gwendoline Courtney
Elizabeth of the Garret Theatre, Gwendoline Courtney
The Hog’s Back Mystery, Freeman Wills Croft
Mrs Harter , E M Delafield
The Suburban Young Man , E M Delafield
The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson
Brothers in Law , Henry Cecil
Friends in Court, Henry Cecil
opinions, longCollapse )

Jan. 29th, 2017



David Beckham is not only one of the most attractive men in the world, he’s a really nice bloke. Hear him on today’s Desert Island Discs on the BBC iPlayer.
Yes, I know I’m old enough to be his mother but so wot.


Jan. 27th, 2017


Brothers in Law, Henry Cecil

On the Co-op charity book shelves the other day, I spotted A Companion Book Club ‘Extra’: an omnibus edition of three books by Henry Cecil. Thinking it was a very long time since I’d read anything by Cecil, I took it away with me and it turned out to be quite a blast from the past. This special edition is illustrated by stills from the Boulting Brothers’ film of 1957, so contains many pictures of Ian Carmichael, who specialised in good-looking-silly-ass roles at that time. As well as the film, Brothers in Law became a TV and then a radio series starring Richard Briers. I’ve certainly heard some of the radio version, probably on Radio 4 Extra.

Henry Cecil Leon was called to the Bar in 1923 and became a County Court Judge in 1949, so he knew what he was writing about. Brothers in Law was published by Michael Joseph in 1955 and proved a lasting success. This is slightly surprising since, apart from the criminals, it deals almost exclusively with upper middle class characters. Hard to believe it was published in the same decade as Room at the Top (1957) and Billy Liar and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (both 1959). It has far more in common with Richard Gordon’s Doctor in the House (1952) and its sequels, books which also deal with a naïve young professional just starting out. Several Doctor books were filmed, starring first Dirk Bogarde and then Leslie Philips.

The hero of Brothers in Law is Roger Thursby, twenty one years old and just called to the Bar. He joins the chambers of Grimes (a wonderful character), as a pupil and soon realises what a lot he has to learn. His life is complicated by living with a scatty and impoverished mother and by running two girlfriends (the rotter!) both of whom want to marry him. One of the girls, Sally, would obviously make just as good a lawyer as Roger.

The descriptions of the arcane goings-on in chambers and in court make one think that little about the law had changed since Shakespeare wrote of ‘the law’s delay’ or Dickens castigated the whole system in Bleak House. Some of the cases, especially those involving divorce, seem to prove that ‘the law is a ass’. So has the book stood the test of time? I’d say yes, for its humour and honesty. There’s much that’s ridiculous and Roger at first has grandiose dreams of a glittering future which are shattered by his first court appearance. He is clever, still wet behind the ears but basically a very decent chap you can’t help liking. By the end of the book we leave him, still unmarried, working very hard indeed to master the law and about to move to different chambers. I’ll be reading the next instalment, which is set twelve years later with Roger ‘one of the ablest counsel at the junior Bar’ and wondering whether to ‘apply for silk’. I’d be interested to know how today’s lawyers view these books.

This clip from the film is interesting because it shows Terry-Thomas in an unusual role for him. He could be Peter Sellers here! The scenes with ‘Mr Green’ are among the best in the book and result in Roger winning his first case.

Jan. 23rd, 2017


Act of Rebellion

woman's magazine

E M Delafield: two scarce books

I’m currently reading books from my shelves. I picked two I knew had been waiting a long time: Mrs Harter and The Suburban Young Man, which were lucky market finds. I was slightly shocked to find I’ve had them since 2010 without reading them.

Mrs Harter was published in 1924. It’s the tale of a doomed romance between two people who meet by chance in the close-knit community of a small town. The story is narrated by Sir Miles Flower, crippled in a flying accident. He is married to Claire, a highly strung, emotional woman who always wants to be the centre of attention. Miles is brutally frank about her character defects and the fact that their marriage has not been a success. There is a slight complication in that he’s in love with Claire’s wise, kind sister Mary but although both are aware of this, nothing will ever come of it; they will just be friends. Mary’s children Martyn and Sallie are hard, bright young things. Martyn’s at Oxford, Sallie studying medicine in London. Their view of life is strictly rational and their attitudes to human relationships clinical; they despise automatically all the beliefs and taboos of the older generation. They and the other characters have all known each other for most of their lives and take a keen interest in their neighbours and especially in any novelty.

Mrs Harter, as she is always referred to, is a native of Cross Loman, the daughter of a plumber and so out of the class of the main characters. She married an older man, a solicitor, and went with him out East. That marriage has failed and she returns to live in rooms in her birth place. There she meets Captain Patch, a gentleman who for unspecified reasons has become a lodger with Mrs Fazackerly, a widow famed for the fact that her late husband is reputed to have thrown plates at her head. Mrs Harter makes a poor impression until she sings at a charity concert. In no time she and Bill Patch are seen around together and tongues are wagging. They are in love but there are major problems. She is married and the two are of different classes. ‘the affair of Mrs Harter and Captain Patch’ as Sir Miles describes it occupies the community of Cross Loman for a brief period and is then consigned to the past. There is no happy ending.

moreCollapse )

Previous 10