Charles Lamb, photo from The Guardian
I’m very bad at the sort of discursive, rambling writing such a post demands; it’s just not my style. But here goes. My reading lately has been rather sporadic and ‘June Books’ didn’t appear at all. Cricket hasn’t helped. When you don’t want to miss a ball on Test Match Special you need to be doing something compatible with listening and with shouting, ‘Slide, Ben Stokes, slide!’ or ‘Cor blimey, what a shambles!’. I wonder if the neighbours can hear me. These are the books I read in June, four of which did get reviewed.
The Rhyme of the Magpie, Marty Wingate
My Life in Houses, Margaret Forster
Capital Murders, ed. Martin Edwards
A Man of Some Repute, Elizabeth Edmondson
The American Lady (Glassblower Trilogy Book Two), Petra Durst-Benning and Samuel Willcocks.
The Dungeon House, Martin Edwards
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer.
I borrowed Margaret Forster’s book from the library but found I’m more interested in reading about houses than I am in reading about Margaret Forster living in them. Over the years I’ve read many of her novels but, I don’t know why it is, whenever I’ve read anything autobiographical, I’ve found it impossible to warm to her. The American Lady was disappointing after the first Glassblower book; far too much of it was unbelievable. Nevertheless, it ends on such a cliffhanger that I’ll almost certainly read the third book just to find out what happens.
I re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when I was looking for a ‘nice’ comforting sort of book. It fitted the bill and led me on to
Charles Lamb features a lot in this book and I realised that although I knew something about his life, I’d never actually read anything he wrote. Finding I could download some of his Essays of Elia free to the Kindle, I started dipping into these essays, reading a couple in bed every night. At first I was struck by the similarities with Dickens in the vivid descriptions of London places and people and the reminiscing about the London of his youth. Here was a man who never wanted to be anywhere but in London. Reading an essay on borrowers and lenders, when he describes the horror of the empty space on the shelf where a book has been borrowed and not returned, I’d think, ‘I *love* this man.’ Then would come an essay on why he ‘can’t like’ Scotchmen, Negroes (his word, PC police please note), and others, I’d feel that even if it were written tongue in cheek, I didn’t like it. I’m still only half way through the book and am now confused; not sure whether or not I like him and occasionally wondering what on earth he’s on about. I think his brilliance on reading and on the theatre will win me over.
In tandem with Elia I was re-reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady. I like to have a few old favourites like this on the Kindle (another cheapo) so I always have something reliable to dip into. But what’s this? I find I’ve completely gone off her! I’ve always been irritated by The Provincial Lady in Wartime, muttering that she should stop swanning around London fancying herself in a siren suit and go back to her village to do something useful for the war effort. Now I find she just irritates me, full stop, and that Robert was a very long suffering husband. This is rather sad.
I’m currently reading Unforgettable, Unforgotten, the memoirs of
O Douglas, picked up at the market last Saturday. I now admire the brave soul more than ever and she deserves a post of her own. (Coincidentally, she quotes Charles Lamb.) I once set myself the task (and some task!) of listing every book ever mentioned in her novels. That should also be worked up into a post sometime. You’re welcome to badger me to do these things as I sometimes need a kick to get going. For instance, the review of the Sitwell book, posted yesterday, should have been written long before but I kept putting it off until I thought, ‘Oh, for goodness sake!’ and wrote it in ten minutes. I’m only writing now because it’s pouring with rain (at last!) and I can’t spend much of the day in the garden, as I did yesterday. This drought-busting rain could not be more timely and I’m grateful for it.