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March 2019



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Another book meme

This is a meme from Stuck in a Book and here are the rules:

1.) Go to your bookshelves...
2.) Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...

Most of my books are in a shed in the garden and I have no desire to go out in the cold and snow for a rummage there. There’s quite a few book cases in the house, though, so I decided to have a go at this meme. Blindfold yourself? It’s like living inside a cloud here today; just leave the light off and it’s way too dark to see your books. Cheat a bit? Tempted, because I seemed to pick books without pretty covers, but I decided to stick with the challenge. What the book says about you? I don’t do that sort of meme. You just have to guess.

All links are to my own journal entries. Terrible photos: it’s so dark!

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This one of my current reads, so was lying around. I wanted to re-read it after watching the film again and I wish it were longer. I first read it when I was a teenager, which is of course the right time for such a rite of passage book but although I liked it a lot I didn’t love it the way I do now. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t remember where this copy came from but there’s an old pencilled price of 15p inside so I’m guessing a charity shop in the days when you could still find such things.
Shoal Water by Dornford Yates. The bookcase this one came from contains only books by Dornford Yates, Angela Thirkell and Georgette Heyer. I have a complete set of Dornford Yates’ books and had read most of them by the time I was about twelve. As you might guess, family members were keen on them and most of my copies belonged to my mother or aunt. Shoal Water comes under ‘Other Volumes’ in the list of titles; it’s not a Chandos or a Berry book. To be honest, I can’t remember what it’s about and I’m far more likely to re-read one of the series books.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. This is a Folio Society edition out of the ‘mostly classics’ book case. I have at least two other copies around somewhere, including an old Penguin paperback kept handy in the bedroom. What can I say about this book? It’s so beautifully written you can read it for that pleasure alone, even if the characters annoy you.
The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham.
Very appropriate that this was the one to come from the ‘old green Penguin’ collection in the spare bedroom. I love Dorothy L Sayers but think of her more as a novelist than as a detective writer, brilliant though she was at it. When it comes to classic crime Margery Allingham beats Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and the rest hands down, as far as I’m concerned. I love Mr Campion and his sidekick Lugg and their little office by the nick in Bottle Street. I love how atmospherically Margery Allingham could write about both the Suffolk countryside and London. My favourites are probably Sweet Danger and More Work for the Undertaker. The Tiger in the Smoke is in a class of its own I think. The Beckoning Lady was first published in 1955 and is not as good; but they’re all good.
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. This came from a book case full of the type of book which Virago and Persephone have reprinted. Thanks to first line book quizzes, I bet more people know the first line of this novel, "Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, than have read it. I’ve always found it funny and was delighted to pick up this first edition recently for next to nothing. I also like The World my Wilderness.

Great Northern? by Arthur Ransome. In the ‘children’s favourites’ book case with Monica Edwards, Pamela Brown, Jane Shaw et al. Great Northern? is not my favourite Ransome; those are Swallowdale, Pigeon Post and The Picts & the Martyrs. I will just put on record that I consider Arthur Ransome the greatest of all writers of fiction for children. The restrained style, the complexities of character, make these books to be enjoyed even more as an adult than as an eager child reader. There’s a reason I remembered all my life the simple line, ’He was father.’ If you also love the books, you’ll know what I mean.
The School on the Cliff by Angela Brazil.
This is from a dedicated Angela Brazil book case. Angela Brazil gets a bad press even amongst people who like school stories but I like her far more than most people do and I don’t laugh at her as Arthur Marshall used to. I like the varied nature of the books, the mix of home and school and the feeling of life for certain types of middle class families at the time she was writing. The early books make me think of Lutyens and Elgar. The School on the Cliff is a late one (1938) but still enjoyable. She wrote through two world wars and her books were still being reprinted in paperback in the 1970s so she must have done something right. If I have a favourite it’s probably At School with Rachel.
What was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn.
This came off the 'TBR and modern books which haven’t found a permanent home' shelves. It’s a stunning debut and one of the best new novels I’ve read in recent years.
Queen Lucia by E F Benson.
Luckily, I bought all the Lucia books, including the Tom Holt continuations, as they were reprinted by Black Swan. I’ve tried a lot of E F Benson’s books and found some (Dodo, for example), unreadable but I never tire of Lucia.
Swan Feather by Lorna Hill.
From a shelf containing a complete set of the Wells books. Swan Feather is the one I most vividly remember reading as a child, probably because of the melodramatic death which starts the heroine’s career. It also contains the nicest of all Lorna Hill’s heroes. This book is part of the luckiest book haul I ever had in my life. I went into my fave charity shop, which supports our local hospital, and spotted two pristine Wells books in the ‘old books’ section (all praise to the shop for having one). I bought them, of course, then thought, ‘Might there be more?’ I went back to ask and they dragged out for me, oh glory, a box full of the kind of book one dreams of finding: Abbeys, hardback Drina first editions, Susan and, still out the back, all but one of the Wells books and all in dustwrappers. I insisted on paying more than they were asking for the books. Then I went over to Safeway for a trolley and wheeled away my booty. I’ve never forgotten it and nor have the people in the shop!

There you are; a completely random selection, no cheating. All but one of these books was bought or acquired second hand. Apart from What was Lost, the most recent publication date is 1956. Make of it what you will.



A really lovely selection there - definitely tells me all I need to know about your kind of book, and I more than approve! I have all the Mapp & Lucia books in Black Swan *and* Folio...

Simon T
Glad you approve! You definitely need more than one copy of favourite books.

I watched an old Campion episode of Sweet Danger over Christmas, and thought I would re-read it when I got home, but I no longer seem to own a copy. So that's some of my Christmas book token spoken for!

The VG keeps telling me I must read What Was Lost - she thought it was fab too.

And your book shop haul - am faint with jealousy. I did once find 3 of EBD's La Rochelle books on a bookshelf when visiting my grandad in a male geriatric ward. A kind nurse let me liberate them, but it was a long way short of a trolley load.
Most of my Margery Allinghams are old Penguins but they were reprinted; there's a three-in-one which is good value. I'm looking forward to reading The Lives of Margery Allingham.

Believe the VG and me!

I still get a thrill just thinking about that day. I'm sure its like will never come again.


What a great meme! I'll have to do it myself. Love your list of books. skirmishofwit
Do have a go! It's rather like grubbing in a Christmas stocking, wondering what will come out. I was quite disappointed by some picks but that's the game.



Too late to choose 10 books, but love the Lorna Hill books have them all in original bindings, except the last two (have these in Girls Gone By paperback.) But Campion ... I decided to buy the first of these but have given up on it, as it all seems so silly. Perhaps the first one which introduces Campion isn't the best (the list in order of publication is on www.fantasticfiction.co.uk)? I watched the series on TV at Christmas and loved it and have bought the DVDs, but the books? They should be good because otherwise they'd not have been made into TV dramas which work so well, but I simply can't get through the first one, with the dagger in the back, the secret cupboard through which Campion escapes and the bad 'uns are just laughable ... I know this was written by a 23 year old who hadn't yet matured into an adult writer, but it has put me off further Campions. Please tell me I'm wrong, that they are worth reading!
Margaret P

Re: Campion

What can I say about Margery Allingham? You like her books or you don't and I do. Sweet Danger is good, where Campion first meets Amanda.

Edited at 2010-01-15 05:47 pm (UTC)
I have dreams like that book haul! I started doing this meme, but I was aware that there was too much cheating going on and I'm in a lazy Sunday afternoon mood.
Sometimes dreams come true!
Shame you didn't do the meme, I'd have been interested.
I missed this when you posted it - what a tremendous list! There are 7 books there I love (I sometimes think The Beckoning Lady might be my favourite Campion, although I know it isn't as good as some of the others). I don't think I've ever read any Angela Brazil, but you make them sound appealing; Lorna Hill I know of but haven't read (goodness knows why, given my obsessions with old books and ballet), and I'll look in the library for What Was Lost.
My appreciation of Angela Brazil is somewhat idiosyncratic. I happen to have a spare copy of The Youngest Girl in the Fifth (1914) which I'd be happy to send you. I upgraded my copy and this one has a plate missing, so I wouldn't sell it but won't give it to a charity shop to bin. Email me if you're interested.