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December 2018




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Dec. 13th, 2018


Book bargain

Today you can buy The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford for £2.99. That’s all eight novels, for the Kindle. I couldn’t resist.

Dec. 11th, 2018


Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield wrote The Thirteenth Tale, which I loved and Bellman and Black, which is very good but which I didn’t like as much as other people did. Once Upon a River is better than either, I think. The title is perfect for the book because it all begins with story-telling. The setting is a stretch of the river Thames, in particular the area around the Swan inn at Rushton. The inn is famous for its stories, people gathering there to tell their own tales and listen to those of others. One dark night a tale begins which will be told forever: an injured stranger staggers into the inn, carrying what appears to be a puppet but is actually a drowned child. Yet the child lives! She seems to come back to life; is this a miracle? A child had disappeared from a wealthy family home, but is she the same girl? Much of the book is about this mystery but there’s so much more to it.

The river is the story; people live beside it, work on it, drown in it. The story is like a river, now flowing smoothly in straight narrative, now shifting to tributaries to describe the characters and their back stories, now overflowing to flood the land and threaten chaos. We meet Rita, the nurse who is ‘as good as a doctor’; Daunt the photographer from Oxford; Armstrong, that rare person, a prosperous black farmer, the kindest man in the world but grieved by a bad-lot stepson; poor Lily suffering from her evil step-brother, who has a large part in the plot. Always we come back to the inn, run by Margot with her husband and children. It’s where the story begins and ends. But the story doesn’t quite end. Although there is one conclusion there are still mysteries and events which hint at the supernatural. In this watery world, anything seems possible. It’s beautifully written and in parts, as in the description of the happy life of the Armstrongs on their farm, almost Dickensian. I enjoyed reading it so much that although I wanted to find out what happened, I didn’t want to finish it.

I read this thanks to NetGalley and it’s out on 17th January.

Dec. 3rd, 2018


November books

The Sentence is Death , Anthony Horowitz
Middle England , Jonathan Coe
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J K Rowling
Lady Macbeth, Nicholas Freeling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling
All for Love, Jane Aiken Hodge
Constable Goes to Market, Nicholas Rhea
Buried in the Country, Carola Dunn
Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield
reviewsCollapse )

Dec. 1st, 2018


Advent calendar time

Today I opened the first window on my Talking Pictures calendar (a surprise present from huskyteer) to reveal
ta da!Collapse )

Nov. 30th, 2018


Those Christmas socks

I’ve finished the Fairy Lights socks. Socks always look rather lumpy until they’ve had a wash. There's lots of yarn left over, enough for another pair, I should think.

Nov. 20th, 2018


In the garden: all wrapped up

It was freezing cold this morning and dark when the gardener came to tidy the hedges and cut down some shrubs which were annoying me. Now the view from every window has changed for the better. I like to have the garden tucked up tidily for the winter. I feel the same about the countryside beyond the garden, loving to see neat hedges, empty fields and the bare silhouettes of trees. Like the face of a woman with good bone structure, the trees get more beautiful with age. The pots of summer bedding have been emptied, scrubbed and put away and all the flower beds mulched with my own compost (hard work).

Looking at the picture frame of winter jasmine which has suddenly appeared around the dining room window, the gardener remarked, ‘You forget it the rest of the year’. So true; nothing to look at in summer, overshadowed by the clematis and honeysuckle on the same trellis then, just as the days grow dark and short, it bursts forth in starry sprays. It’s pouring with rain this afternoon so the picture above is one taken two years ago.

Gardeners always have something to look forward to. There will be snowdrops and hellebores and the daffodils potted up in September are showing little snouts already. Depressed because autumn is turning into winter? Not at all!

Nov. 14th, 2018

Autumn leaves

Autumn light

There is something special about the light at this time of year. It’s a pain for driving out early, as I was this morning but there’s compensation in the glorious leaf colour all around. Back home, I was so struck by the beauty of the light coming through this fern that I attempted to photograph it. Not a great result but I know how nice it looked

Nov. 13th, 2018

woman's magazine

A treat for January

If you follow Scott’s blog, you will know already that in January, Dean Street Press are to publish more Furrowed Middlebrow books. Fans of D E Stevenson will be delighted that her ‘Mrs Tim’ books are among them. I’ve read several of these already and am slightly ambivalent about them, finding Mrs Tim rather a snob. I’ve been sent an e-book of Mrs Tim Carries On, which I haven’t read and look forward to because it’s about wartime.

The other book now on my iPad is Alice by Elizabeth Eliot, an author I’d not previously heard of. Reports later but I may be saving these for a cosy Christmas read.

Nov. 11th, 2018



Such a busy weekend of remembrance and rightly so. Our town, like many others, has giant red poppies on all the lamp posts and signposts. Today I want to remember not just those who died or were horribly injured but those who returned, with their lives changed. Here’s my grandad:

Just an ordinary Londoner, taken from an ordinary life and sent, amongst other places, to Gallipoli. No land fit for heroes when he came home. My other grandfather was also at Gallipoli but I have no photo of him at that time. My mother told me once that when she was a child, her father found her playing with a toy gun (she was quite the tomboy). He was very angry and took it away from her. I think that tells you a lot about how ex-soldiers felt.

I found the most moving part of yesterday’s Festival of Remembrance was Bryn Terfel singing Roses of Picardy. The poignancy of these old songs has lasted for a hundred years. Here’s John McCormack singing it.

poem by Isaac RosenbergCollapse )

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