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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September 2, 2019

Another for my list ...



      Street pitch dark but very quiet, peaceful and refreshing after the underworld. Starlight night, and am meditating a reference to Mars — hope it is Mars — when Mrs. Peacock abruptly enquires if I can tell her a book to read. She has an idea — cannot say why, or whence derived — that I know something about books.
      Find myself denying it as though confronted with highly scandalous accusation, and am further confounded by finding myself unable to think of any book whatever except Grimm's Fairy Tales, which is obviously absurd.  What, I enquire in order to gain time, does Mrs. Peacock like in the way of books?
      In times such as these, she replies very apologetically indeed, she thinks a novel is practically the only thing. Not a detective novel, not a novel about politics, nor about the unemployed, nothing to do with sex, and above all not a novel about life under the Nazi regime in Germany.
      Inspiration immediately descends upon me and I tell her without hesitation to read a delightful novel called The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, which answers all requirements, and has a happy ending into the bargain.
      Mrs. Peacock says it seems too good to be true, and she can hardly believe that any modern novel is as nice as all that, but I assure her that it is and that it is many years since I have enjoyed anything so much.
      Mrs. P. thanks me again and again, I offer to help her find her bus in the Strand — leg evidently giving out altogether in a few minutes — beg her to take my arm, which she does, and I immediately lead her straight into a pile of sandbags.
   from The Provincial Lady in Wartime, by E.M. Delafield (1940)

{And thank you again and again to Nicola, for recommending this book, and the one I'm going to read right after it.} 


Henry in Charleston


Being a backwater was not all bad. When Henry James visited Charleston in the winter of 1904, he was charmed by its 'easy loveliness,' its gardens, and its 'silvery seaward outlook.' He enjoyed hot chocolate and Lady Baltimore cake, a local specialty, in a tearoom on King Street. 'Up and down and in and out, I strolled from hour to hour, but more and more under the impression of the consistency of softness.'

Henry James, The American Scene (1907), quoted in Charleston Fancy: 
Little houses & big dreams in the Holy City, by Witold Rybczynski

And, once again, I am charmed by Henry.





August 31, 2019

In August, I was reading ...




2018
Elizabeth and her German garden,
by Elizabeth von Arnim

2017
Matriarch:  Queen Mary and the House of Windsor,
by Anne Edwards

2016
The big house:  a century in the life of an American summer home,
by George Howe Colt

2015
The watchmaker of  Filigree Street,
by Natasha Pulley

2014
Under magnolia,
by Frances Mayes

2013
Eighty days:  Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's
history-making race around the world,
by Matthew Goodman

2012
Greenery Street,
by Denis Mackail

2011
The Warden,
by Anthony Trollope
{#6barsets begins!}

2010
The Grand Sophy,
by Georgette Heyer

2009
Thanks for the memories,
by Cecilia Ahern

2008
Miss Pettigrew lives for a day,
by Winifred Watson

2007
Espresso tales,
by Alexander McCall Smith

2006
Still life,
by Louise Penny

2005
Circle of sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones,
Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin,

by Judith Flanders

2004
Into love and out again,
by Elinor Lipman

2003
Eat cake,
by Jeanne Ray

2002
Good harbor,
by Anita Diamant


{The painting is Couch on the Porch,
by Childe Hassam (1914)}



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)


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