The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970, Martin Salisbury
The Daffodil Affair, Michael Innes
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading , Lucy Mangan
Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce
The Family From One End Street, Eve Garnett
Further Adventures of the Family from One End Street, Eve Garnett
Holiday at the Dew-Drop Inn, Eve Garnett
Private – Keep Out, Gwen Grant
Wild Grapes, Elizabeth Aston
Life with Lisa, Sybil Burr (1958)
How to Stop Brexit (and make Britain great again), Nick Clegg
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend
The Seed Woman, Petra Durst-Benning
London Rules , Mick Herron
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books, Susan Hill
The Secret of High Eldersham, Miles Burton
The Secret of High Eldersham is illustrated here not because it’s such a great book, but because of the lovely cover; another winner from British Library Crime Classics. I got it at the library, in pristine condition. Books are obviously seen as disposable these days, as it didn’t even have a plastic cover. (I also got The Riviera Mystery by John Bude, only to find I’d read it before.) ‘Miles Burton’ was a pseudonym for Cecil Street, who also published as John Rhode and Cecil Waye. His output was prodigious. High Eldersham is a remote East Anglian village where people intermarry and rarely leave the area. Outsiders sense something odd about the place. One such outsider, a retired policeman, takes over as landlord of the Rose and Crown inn. Within five years, he’s been murdered. The local Chief Constable calls in Scotland Yard in the person of Detective-Inspector Young. Young soon feels matters are too deep for him and calls in his polymathic friend Merrion to help out. I learn from Martin Edwards’ introduction that Merrion is the main character in this (1930) and many other books; he last appeared in 1960. The poor old dead landlord is almost forgotten as Merrion investigates what he is sure is witchcraft, rife in the village, as well as a little smuggling on the side. To complicate matters, he falls in love with a local. The book is much better than many other BLCC crime novels I’ve read.
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books is billed as some sort of sequel to Howards End is on the Landing, i.e. more of the same. Reviews have been very mixed: ravings from the usual suspects (groupies); more cynical comments from others. I put myself in the latter camp. I found it less enjoyable than HEIOTL and just as misleading in its title. A year of reading? A year of bird watching and grumbling, more like. I like opinionated writing on the whole, but not when it’s so obviously wrong. For example, Hill states that Flanders and Swann have not stood the test of time. Oh? How come there are so many fans who weren’t born when they were perfoming and that The Lego Gas Man Cometh has had so many hits on YouTube? As for The Slow Train, it will be loved forever, I’m sure. There’s some annoyingly slipshod editing, too; in the Just William books, Robert is Ethel’s brother, not her fiancé. And ‘Howard’s End’ on the back cover?
Reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm led me to the clutch of children’s books I read during the month. The two books she raved about, Life with Lisa (1958) by Sybil Burr and Gwen Grant’s Private – Keep Out didn’t have me rolling about with laughter as they did the young Lucy, but they are good and it’s a shame they’re out of print. I enjoyed my re-read of the One End Street books but Tom’s Midnight Garden tops the lot. Although it’s a children’s book it’s the book of the month for me and I find it as magically wonderful now as I did when I first read it as a child. Susan Einzig’s beautiful cover is reproduced in The Illustrated Dust Jacket. I didn’t know before reading this that Einzig was a Kindertransport child. The book is full of such nuggets. It’s organised alphabetically by author, with full colour double page spreads throughout. The descriptions are very technical, full of details about such things as colour separation overlays but you don’t have to be studying graphic design to find the book interesting.
Amazon alerted me to the re-release of a book by Elizabeth Edmondson and, as I had a gift voucher, I bought Wild Grapes. It’s been published as by Elizabeth Aston (one of Edmondson’s pseudonyms), although it was originally by ‘Gally Marchmont’ (there’s a name). The plot is wildly improbable. Anglophile Gina is an American working in Oxford and her visa is about to run out. Thanks to the machinations of an amoral woman, she finds her passport and identity stolen. So she adopts the other woman’s identity, goes to stay with her family and almost marries the other one’s intended. There are so many muddles but Gina is lucky enough to have good friends who look after her, so all is well in the end. Very enjoyable and more re-releases are promised.
Nick Clegg’s How to Stop Brexit (if only!) is a short book and easy to read; you don’t need a degree in economics to understand it. His analysis of why it happened is good, his suggestions as to how it might be stopped, rather unrealistic. No, I will not join the Conservative party and fight it from within! Interesting that he doesn’t have a bad word to say about David Cameron. Theresa May, he has little time for and the villain of the piece is Boris Johnson; not an unpleasant personal attack, just an account of all the lies he told during the campaign.
I’ve now read quite a few books by the German writer Petra Durst-Benning. The Seed Woman is the first volume in yet another trilogy: The Seed Traders’ Saga. Her books are almost entirely about women doing jobs previously limited to men. In this one, it’s seed trading in Germany in the mid-nineteenth century, something I knew nothing about. Hannah is the heroine. Finding that she’s pregnant by Helmut, one of the travelling seedsmen, she goes to his home and insists on marriage. He’s not unwilling and in fact they are well suited. The problem is that he is already engaged to Seraphine, a beautiful woman who is obviously bonkers. Matters are complicated by the fact that Valentin, Helmut’s brother, is in love with Seraphine. Helmut and Hannah are married, Seraphine marries Valentin, although she’s still obsessed with Helmut. Phew. That’s quite apart from all the details about the seed trade and Hannah’s ideas for improving their fortunes. I got rather bored about half way through the book but carried on reading to see if mad Seraphine would kill someone or get put away.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole I read for the millionth time because, apart from maybe The Diary of a Nobody, there is nothing I find more cheering. It never lets me down and still makes me laugh out loud after all these years.