The Morville Hours, Katherine Swift
Miss Hargreaves, Frank Baker
Saplings, Noel Streatfeild.
More Than You Can Say, Paul Torday
The Language of Bees, Laurie R King
Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome
Snobbery with Violence, M C Beaton.
Doreen, Barbara Noble.
The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope.
The Case of the Man who Died Laughing (a Vish Puri mystery), Tarquin Hall
Beyond Recall, Robert Goddard.
The Murder in Bethnal Square, Sydney Fowler (S Fowler Wright)
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
Chronicles, Bob Dylan
Past Mischief, Victoria Clayton
Katherine Swift has a new book out, The Morville Year. I hope to get hold of it so as a prelude I re-read, very slowly as it deserves, The Morville Hours, the story of the making of a garden. If you want a gardening manual or a chatty book in the style of Beverley Nichols, you must look elsewhere. This is probably the most literary book about a garden that I’ve ever read and I’ve read a few, believe me. It’s full of allusions and quotations which are as likely to be from Bob Dylan as John Donne. It tells the history of the landscape, the house, the church whose clock can be heard from the garden, the great families of the area, the farmers and labourers. Mythology features in this story, as do the stars, botany and the origins of names. The book follows the rhythms of the year: the Church calendar, the farming routines, the defining tasks and plants of each month. Chapter titles come from the rhythms of the day: the Church offices (nones etc) as described in the books of hours with their exquisite depictions of the year’s work. It’s beautifully written, both erudite and passionate.
I said before that I was keen to see if I could believe in Mrs Sherlock Holmes. I read The Language of Bees with the great disadvantage of not knowing the back story. As a result I couldn’t get on with it and for me the best thing about the book was that there’s a lot of Mycroft in it. Also, swizz, it turned out to be the first episode of a two-parter. If I’d known that I’d never have picked it up. I’ve now acquired the very first book, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (50p at the market) and will try again from the beginning. Mary Russell is a serious character, rather like Maisie Dobbs, so I'd like to find out more about her.
I was pleased to get the second Vish Puri book, The Case of the Man who Died Laughing at the library. ‘India’s most private detective’ is an absolute joy. In this book he’s set the task of finding the truth behind a murder which was apparently committed by supernatural means. I also found at the library the first book in what looks a very promising series, the Edwardian Mysteries by M C Beaton. I’m already a fan of Agatha Raisin for a quick, light read and Snobbery with Violence didn’t disappoint. Lady Rose and Captain Harry Cathcart investigate in the same hectic manner as Beaton’s other detectives: busy, busy, busy. I look forward to reading the others. The books were first published under the author’s real name, Marion Chesney.
Robert Goddard is a very different writer but as reliable at glueing you to the page. I read Beyond Recall in a day when I had a rotten cold and it was just the ticket. The Murder in Bethnal Square is by a completely new-to-me author, Sydney Fowler. I noticed two old hardbacks in a charity shop (rare enough, these days) and seeing that they were detective stories, grabbed them. A little research showed that Fowler was a prolific and at one time very well known author who also wrote (mostly SF) as S Fowler Wright. Bethnal Square features his characters Inspector Combridge and Mr Jellipot, the solicitor with an uncanny knack of being right. I found the book slightly plodding but entertaining enough.
It was interesting to read Doreen so soon after Saplings, as it’s also about the effects of war on children. Doreen lives in London in very poor conditions with her hard working and devoted mother. She’s evacuated to the country, staying with middle class educated people who, to her mother’s dread, can offer her more than she gets at home. It becomes almost a tug-of-love story and you feel for Doreen, loving her mother yet loving the new life. No spoilers but I have to say I think it’s a better book than Saplings, which is so melodramatic. Thank you, Persephone, because I’d never even heard of Barbara Noble.
Past Mischief is another Victoria Clayton novel set in a country house. Loved it.
My Kindle reads were Three Men in a Boat, The Importance of Being Earnest (still funny, thank goodness) and The Prisoner of Zenda. It’s years since I read any Anthony Hope and although I still enjoy a good swashbuckle, now that I’m older I find I’m less tolerant of casual violence. Reading it reminded me of a time when I was acting as a NT guide. Someone asked about a picture and I said it was of Prince Rupert (of the Rhine). ‘Oh yes,’ said the visitor knowledgably, ‘Rupert of Hentzau.’ Ha ha ha!