The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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July 31, 2019

In July, I was reading ...




2018
Dear Mrs. Bird,
by A.J. Pearce

2017
A House in Flanders,
by Michael Jenkins

2016
They May Not Mean To, But They Do,
by Cathleen Schine

2015
The Red Notebook,
by Antoine Laurain

2014
Vertigo 42,
by Martha Grimes

2013
Clementine in the Kitchen,
by Samuel Chamberlain

2012
The Innocents,
by Francesa Segal

2011
The American,
by Henry James

2010
The Great Silence:  Britain from the  Shadow of the
First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age
,
by Juliet Nicholson

2009
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,
by Alan Bradley

2008
Belong to me,
by Marisa de los Santos

2007
Julia Child,
by Laura Shapiro

2006
The Short Live and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton,
by Kathryn Hughes

2005
With No One As Witness,
by Elizabeth George

2004
Hawthorne in Concord,
by Philip McFarland

2003
Child of My Heart,
by Alice McDermott

2002
Roman Fever and Other Stories,
by Edith Wharton



{The painting is Summer Sunlight (Isle of Shoals),
by Childe Hassam}

July 14, 2019

Paris in July



I'm off to a late start with Paris in July this year, but perhaps I can just pretend that I planned to start on Bastille Day all along. :)  And I did spend about 45 minutes in France during my trip to Switzerland (a trip to the Sunday morning market in Divonne, just over the border), so that should also count, n'est-ce pas?

I haven't had a chance to plan my reading, but before I left, I did find my first book at the library, and it was waiting for me when I got home ...


This is the second book in a series about a group of misfit French police officers -- a 'team of oddballs and no-hopers' (one of them insists that he is one of the Three Musketeers) -- who have been assigned to a cold case squad.  No one expects them to solve any crimes (though they are very good at it) so Commissaire Anne Capestan is surprised when they are called in to investigate the murder of her ex-father-in-law, a senior police officer.

I had enjoyed the first book in the series (The Awkward Squad) very much, so I was happy to find this one, and it was perfect reading for my still slightly jet-lag-fuddled brain. And one of the murders takes place in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a town in Provence that I've visited, so that was fun too.

I have Antoine Laurain's new book, Vintage 1954, to read next ... it may be my year for quirky, amusing books for Paris in July. :)


Stick Together, by Sophie Henaff
Maclehose Press, 2019 (originally published in French in 2017)
Borrowed from the library


June 30, 2019

In June, I was reading ...



2018
Guard Your Daughters,
by Diana Tutton
{a Persephone}

2017
Together and Apart,
by Margaret Kennedy

2016
Love & Friendship, In Which Jane Austen's
Lady Susan is Entirely Vindicated,
by Whit Stillman

2015
Doctor Thorne,
by Anthony Trollope
{#6barsets}

2014
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells,
by Sebastian Faulks

2013
Some Tame Gazelle and Excellent Women,
by BarbaraPym
{audiobook}

2012
The Optimist's Daughter,
by Eudora Welty

2011
The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris,
by David McCullough

2010
Cranford,
by Elizabeth Gaskell

2009
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet,
by Colleen McCullough
{audiobook}

2008
Educating Alice,
by Alice Steinbach

2007
Death Comes for the Fat Man,
by Reginald Hill

2006
Jane Austen:  a life,
by David Nokes

2005
Bridget Jones and the edge of reason,
by Helen Fielding

2004
A Chance Meeting:  Intertwined lives of American writers and artists, 
by Rachel Cohen

2003
Cooking for Mr. Latte,
by Amanda Hesser

2002
A house unlocked,
by Penelope Lively



June 17, 2019

Role model ...



That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in Mr. Featherstone's room and sat there almost through the small hours. ... There were intervals in which she could sit perfectly still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light. The red fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn existence calmly independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires, the straining after worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving her contempt. Mary was fond of her own thoughts and could amuse herself well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap, for having early had strong reason to believe that things were not likely to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time in astonishment and annoyance at that fact.  And she had already come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud, nay a generous resolution not to act the mean or the treacherous part. Mary might have become cynical, if she had not had parents whom she honoured and a well of affectionate gratitude within her which was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable claims.
 from Middlemarch, by George Eliot (Book III)


June 11, 2019

Persephone no. 21: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day



And then, the minute I finished Because of the Lockwoods (this being a readathon, after all), I did something I don't do nearly enough anymore ... I sank into my favorite chair on Saturday afternoon, with a cup of tea and a book, and read the whole thing, sometimes too quickly, other times too slowly, almost cover to cover in one sitting.  :)

I've read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day before, and seen the movie, and remembered them fondly;  I have the Persephone Classics edition on my shelf but borrowed the gray-covered, endpapered version from the college library because I could.  But I hadn't remembered that it's not just charming, but very funny, or how much Miss P. lets herself get into the spirit of the situation she finds herself in.

I always like reading the prefaces in the Persephone books, but this one was especially enjoyable, with its story of how this book was discovered.  It immediately sent me to all the online library catalogs I could find in search of Winifred Watson's other novels, but sadly, no luck.


Thanks again, Jessie!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson
Persephone Books, 2000 (originally published in 1938)
Borrowed from the college library

June 10, 2019

Persephone no. 110: Because of the Lockwoods




I had heard so much about Dorothy Whipple from blogging friends -- and then enjoyed Greengates so much -- that I have been slowly seeking out her other novels; Because of the Lockwoods, which I just read for Jessie's Persephone Readathon, is only my second, but it won't be my last.

At one time, the Lockwoods and the Hunters were neighbors in Aldworth, a town in northern England, and Mrs. Lockwood and Mrs. Hunter, mothers with young children, one married to a lawyer, the other to an architect, visit each other on almost equal terms. But when Mr. Hunter dies suddenly, leaving his family in precarious financial straits, everything changes.
      The Hunter children had rather an old-fashioned air.  The girls' dresses were made by their mother -- not a skillful needlewoman -- and Martin's supposedly short trousers were usually too long. Their appearance moved the Lockwood twins to scorn and giggles and Mrs. Lockwood to exasperation. Mrs. Hunter, she often said, had really no idea. She felt she herself, in Mrs. Hunter's place, would have managed so much better. In fact, Mrs. Lockwood talked as if having to manage on very little money was a most inspiring situation and one in which she almost wished herself, to that she could show what she could do.
      All the same, there was something about the Hunters, in spite of their clothes, that Mrs. Lockwood defined reluctantly to herself as 'distinction.' Why they should have it, where it came from and how it persisted in their circumstances, she couldn't think. Obscurely, it annoyed her. It made her wish, somehow, to keep them out of the way. She didn't quite want them to be noticed; especially not by their friends, Sir Robert and Lady Harvey.
The Hunters move to a smaller, meaner house; Mrs. Lockwood condescends to the Hunters, giving Mrs. Hunter her cast-off clothing and inviting the children to come see the presents she was bought for other people; and the Lockwood twins, Bea and Muriel, taunt the Hunter children.  But it's Mr. Lockwood who does the most damage:  pushed into managing Mrs. Hunter's financial affairs by his wife, he insists that Molly and Martin Lockwood leave school and go to work in jobs they are unsuited for, helps himself to what's left of Mr. Hunter's good cigars, and swindles Mrs. Hunter out of a piece of property that he had wanted to purchase himself.  All of the Hunters seem to have given up, except Thea, the youngest child, who finds a way to joining the Lockwood girls and a their wealthy friend Angela Harvey for a year at a finishing school in a provincial French town.

Thea is, for a while, the only one of the Hunters who is determined to rise above the social and financial constraints placed on her, but when she falls in love with a young Frenchman she is tutoring, she is sent home in disgrace.  She is willing to stare down the Lockwoods, who disown and humiliate her family, but she can't ignore Oliver Reade, the somewhat shady young man next door who finds ways to help the Hunters in order to push himself into Thea's life.

It's not even an especially uplifting story (though it has its moments) or one with very sympathetic characters (in the end, it's Molly, Thea's older sister, who seems to have found her way, though maybe I just liked her best because she bakes :). The events in the plot seem almost inevitable, but the people are so wonderfully drawn that I found myself wanting to keep reading and watch things unfold.

Thank you, Jessie, for organizing these readathons.  I'm already looking forward to the next one!


Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
Persephone Books, 2017 (originally published in 1949)
From my bookshelves (Kindle edition)

May 31, 2019

... and in June, I'll be reading ...



It's perfect timing, since I'll be ready for a new book tomorrow. :)

As for what I'll read, perhaps ...






{I'll start with the top one, I think.  Three of the others would be re-reads, but they're very tempting. )


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