Books marked * count towards the Library Challenge.
Wideacre, Philippa Gregory. Abandoned.
*The Northern Clemency, Philip Hensher.
*The Camel Bookmobile, Masha Hamilton.
*A House in the Country, Jocelyn Playfair
*Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener, M C Beaton
*A Little Learning, J M Gregson. Abandoned.
The Terracotta Dog, Andrea Camilleri. An Inspector Montalbano mystery.
Bedtime reading this month has mostly been rereading two of my favourite books by O Douglas: The Proper Place (1926) and The Day of Small Things (1930). These are linked books dealing with Nicole Rutherfurd and her widowed mother, Lady Jane. I include the publication dates because they are very much post-war books and make an interesting comparison with the usual misery memoirs. Nicole’s two brothers have been killed in the war and shortly afterwards her father dies. There's not enough money to keep up the big house and the women decide (or Nicole does) that they must move right away to a smaller house where they can afford to live on their income. Not surprisingly, Lady Jane is pretty floored by all this and seems likely to join her husband but Nicole is resolute and cheerfully sets about finding the perfect home.
‘Cheerfully’ is the significant word; because Nicole is always so bright and chatty and confident, some people think she ‘takes things lightly’. Nothing could be further from the truth but she embodies one of O Douglas’s strong themes, that of carrying on, making the best of things, not giving up. I personally find this admirable; others might think it sugary. Another theme in her books is that being good doesn’t mean dressing frumpily or depriving yourself of whatever beauty you can find or afford in the world. The Rutherfurds are not poor, just down in the world and they find enjoyment where they can. ‘Small things, Mums,’ says Nicole about the pleasures of a fire, new books to read and a new sewing project for mother; small things which make life liveable.
Who am I kidding? I don't read these books for the moral tone, however much I approve of it. I like all the descriptions of houses, clothes, gardens and books and the colourful characters; Mrs Jackson, the newly-rich Glaswegian with a heart of gold and hospitable Mrs Heggie, who fears she doesn’t get on in society because she is too middle class. These women remind me of some of L M Montgomery’s characters on Prince Edward Island; the two authors have a lot in common, I think, partly because the society they write about is largely female.
The School at the Chalet, Elinor M Brent-Dyer, re-read! This was a lucky find recently and as all my Chalet School books are in an unmarked box and can’t be got at, I read it. It’s rather good.
*The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole 1999 - 2001, Sue Townsend. The latest in the Mole family saga is a retrospective and although there are some good jokes, to be honest it doesn’t really add to the canon.
For non fiction I’m currently ploughing through *Austerity Britain, (Tales of a New Jerusalem), by David Kynaston. I’m not very impressed so far as it’s not the sort of history I enjoy; too much narrative and not enough analysis.