callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

February Books

Raisins and Almonds, Kerry Greenwood. OK, but Phryne Fisher is not for me.
Purbeck Adventure, Eileen Meyler. First book about the Elwood family.
Requiem for a Mezzo, Carola Dunn. My third Daisy Dalrymple book running and I liked it even more than the first two. Set in the world of opera this time when a singer drops dead on stage, with Daisy and Alec conveniently in the audience. The Daisy/Alec affair progresses very nicely.
Good Wives, Louisa May Alcott, re-read
Footsteps in the Dark , Georgette Heyer
The Unfinished Clue, Georgette Heyer
Why Shoot a Butler?, Georgette Heyer
Death in the Stocks, Georgette Heyer
More Work for the Undertaker , Margery Allingham, re-read
I then tried another Heyer but there’s no comparison.
Adventure at Dale House, Eileen Meyler
Behold, Here’s Poison, Georgette Heyer. I perhaps liked this best of all the ones I’ve read so far. I do wonder though why Miss Heyer invented Inspector Hannasyde when so often the mystery is solved by one of the other characters?
Adrian Mole, The Prostrate Years, Sue Townsend. The usual brilliant zeitgeist-y social comment, whether it’s Adrian unable to make a an appointment with his GP or the council menacing his parents for not putting out and removing rubbish bins at exactly the right time. A lot of the charm of the books comes from the atmosphere of extended family and the way figures from the past like Brain Box Henderson still turn up in Adrian’s life. Not a bundle of laughs, though; I found it very hard to read about Adrian’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
They Found Him Dead, Georgette Heyer
A Peep Behind the Scenes , Mrs O F Walton
Poppy’s Presents, Mrs O F Walton
Back to Me , Marcus Trescothick with Peter Hayter

Nibs and the New World
The Blakes & the Blacketts

It’s so long since I read these books that it was almost like coming to them for the first time. I had a sudden yen to read Nibs and the New World and went on from there in reverse order. We first meet the Blakes in the 1939 book The Blakes and the Blacketts. They are an aristocratic family who’ve run out of money while the Blacketts are nouveau riche. The children meet up when the Blakes are packed off to stay with aunts. At first they dislike each other but, largely due to the extraordinary niceness of Mr and Mrs Blackett, the families become good friends. Cressida, the eldest Blake, is snobbish and resentful of their loss of fortune; Musgrave a quiet, dreamy boy who spends all his time drawing battles; Nibs is the only one with any sense. No wonder the Blakes don’t make a very good impression when they meet John and Mary in Switzerland in New Friends for John and Mary (1941). This time around I found the children and their adventures rather tiresome.

Grace James obviously decided to revive these characters after the war, this time with Nibs writing in the first person. I noticed a few continuity errors. The world has changed but the other Blakes won’t see it and the burden falls on Nibs. In Nibs and the New World, the best of the three books in my opinion, the lost fortunes have been restored but the parents are bad managers. Poor Nibs actually makes herself ill worrying about the state of the house, feeding people and coping with guests. Meanwhile her mother floats around looking beautiful and making plans for the garden. Luckily for Nibs, lovely Mrs Blackett (who suffers from nostalgie de le boue) comes to the rescue and carries her off to Riverton to learn housekeeping. There’s a crossover here when they visit John & Mary at Smockfarthing. By the time Nibs returns to Blakeney a small revolution has taken place.

I could happily smack Lady Blake but Grace James pragmatically sees her as part of the English heritage, which should be preserved. This view is expressed through Charles, my absolute favourite character. He is first the Blacketts’ footman then becomes major domo at Blakeney. He’s kind, full of common sense, able to bring order out of chaos and make other servants do their work properly. He’s more help to Nibs than her parents are and it's thanks to his overseeing the smooth running of the household that she can relax and behave like a child again. She’s only twelve! Charles has a lot in common with Windermere, Mrs Lane’s chauffeur in the John & Mary books, who is so kind to poor Evangeline Lane. I did enjoy the re-read but these books are not as good as the John and Mary ones. There are far more copies around now than there were when I first started looking for them.

Tags: adrian mole, georgette heyer, grace james, sue townsend

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