Why on EARTH did Persephone Books choose William – An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton as their first ever book?!

Book Reviews, book shops, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Uncategorized


William’s controlling mother dies suddenly, and his new freedom finds him swept into the world of pre-war socialism. Finding love as well as dogmatically-parroted views in fellow campaigner Griselda, they marry and embark on a lonely, isolated honeymoon in Belgium. When they emerge three weeks later to the local village war has begun, and they encounter soldiers and the brutal reality of war in ways that shatter their previous reality.

It took me a long time to get round to reading this book. I bought it from Persephone Books, and was excited about the concept; the design, the ethos. Rescuing the forgotten, important novels of history written by women. I chose to buy this one, the first selected by Persephone, the first published and neatly labelled No.1 on the back. But something held me back from reading it until now, and my instinct was right. I’m pretty sure it if would be better if this particular book had remained buried by history.

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The White Queen totally overruled my anti-Philippa Gregory bias

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, London, Recommended, Uncategorized


Widowed Elizabeth Woodville stands ready to greet her King, her sons in tow and dressed at her most beguiling. The bond they forge leads to a passion that leads her family to the highest position in England – but not a stable one. Elizabeth must plot, scheme and do all in her power to subdue her enemies, please her husband and protect her family, but the odds against her are great…

Historical fiction based on real people is always troubling for me. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about a person and period in a fun and interesting way – but on the other, I resent that thoughts, actions and motives are placed upon them in a way that just cannot be accurate. Imagine someone in four hundred years trying to piece your life together into a story… I don’t think I’d like it much. BUT despite my reservations and long term avoidance of Gregory also due to an aversion to Tudors caused by their over-study in the British history curriculum, I was hooked.

A supernatural historal romp in Alison Goodman’s Dark Days Club

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Uncategorized

Lady Helen is about to make her entrance into Regency society – but there’s something different about her. She can sense things about people, can tell what is about to happen, can react with lightening speed. She meets Lord Carlston, who tells her she is born to help stop demonic creatures who prey upon innocent lives, and who tries to convince her to join the cause. She is at once attracted to and mistrustful of him, whilst on the side of society and propriety is another suitor…

I don’t really remember the plot of this one fully, but I have many lasting impressions. In lots of ways, it’s a book that does exactly what you’d expect. Lots of interplay between the dark supernatural world and polite society, the occasional emergence of a famous figure, and plenty of heartache for our feisty main character. As such, it wasn’t hugely stupendous or memorable, but was pretty enjoyable.

I don’t think I like these literary themed houseboats (and here’s three reasons why)

Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Uncategorized, Writing Thoughts

 





I saw these two barges whilst walking along Regents Canal. At first it was a pleasant surprise, a feeling of connection. Someone else loves that book too, hooray!

But really, underneath, I wasn’t so keen, and I’ve worked out why:

I want to buy this for everyone – Morgan Mccarthy’s The House of Birds

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Recommended, Uncategorized


Oliver and Kate met officially one afternoon in Oxford when they were young, she fell off her bike and they snuck a look at Kate’s creepy aunt’s house. Oliver’s family moved to Milton Keynes before they get to say goodbye, but they meet and get together years later at a party when Kate has just inherited the house amidst some controversy. After quitting his city job that he hates Oliver goes to Oxford to do up the house and finds himself enchanted by it and the diaries he finds in the books there. These engrossing letters tell of a woman in an unhappy marriage seeking comfort at the Bodlein, and an unlikely guide. The story Oliver chases has direct impact on the present for both his life plans and the ownership of the house.

I don’t know why but I kind of put off reading this book. I can’t believe it – it’s definitely in the top books I’ve read this year! So much so that I’m skipping all the other reviews I need to write to give it a shoutout. A beautiful sense of place, compelling dual timelines, lovely sympathetic characters, opposition of old and new and overall a sense of trust. I knew very quickly that this narrator was not going to mess me around. I wasn’t going to be disappointed. I enjoyed this thoroughly!

After Alice by ‘Wicked’ author Gregory Maguire – amusing and clever but a bit exclusive

adaptations, Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, children's books, London, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


Alice’s friend Ada is tasked with finding the fallen child, and finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole to find familiar faces and new adventures. Meanwhile the search for Alice continues, as her big sister and governess search fruitlessly, and their father receives a visitor with a foreign ward. The worlds above and below turn to chaos as everyone tries to find or leave home…

Hmmmmm. I was super excited to read this, though my excitement was tempered by the fact that LOTS of people had told me that Maguire’s Wicked was boring. Now, this book wasn’t boring at all. The plot was interesting, the characters intriguing, the concept brilliant. And there was a lot of Carrollian absurdity, invention and wit. But I think that the problem people have with Maguire’s writing is his elitist prose.

Lewycka charm in a council estate – The Lubetkin Legacy

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Recommended


On a council estate in London Bertie’s mother dies; and in a desperate attempt to reclaim the flat he believes to be his he adopts an old Ukranian woman from a hospital to pretend to be his mother. Meanwhile beautiful and idealistic Violet moves in next door while to work at a International Wealth Preservation company, and there’s a plan to take down the estate cherry trees. 

This is my first experience of Marina Lewycka, but from my assumptions of her writing it rings true. Realism that highlights, gently mocks and celebrates the bizarre and ridiculous but nevertheless true idiosyncrasies of human life. She manages to tell what are some terribly sad stories, and usually pitiable people, with warmth and kindness that emphasises humanity above all else. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

The Three Novels you should buy this year

Book Reviews, book shops, Book Thoughts, London, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


As usual I’ve read a lot of books this year, but there are three that clearly stand out from the crowd. These are the ones to buy your friends for Christmas, that are worth getting in physical form and that I would love to talk about with you. If you’re looking for a book to buy, look no further!

I was literally scared to go downstairs whilst reading The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

Book Reviews, literary london, London, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing


1837. Sarah Gale is sentenced to hang for the death of her ex-partner’s new wife, but not everyone is convinced that she is guilty. Lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is set the challenge of revisiting the evidence and making an appeal. But an untrusting Sarah isn’t cooperative, and very few people are – and even the stories Fleetwood hears are twisted and confusing, and no one seems to be telling the truth, even within his own family…

Oh. My. Goodness. This was amazing! For some reason I wasn’t expecting much when I picked this up, but I enjoyed it immensely. And also got so scared that I asked my husband to come downstairs with me when I had been reading in the middle of the night. We were in desolate, pitch black Scotland, in a pitch black and creaky house. He said no. I just about coped. But the twisting and turning and tales told and lies and mysteries here were just fantastic!

The four things that make me keep a book forever.

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, London


When we moved to London, we threw out SO MUCH STUFF. We thought we’d be moving into a pocket-sized apartment, and planned accordingly. It was hugely refreshing, and though we ended up moving somewhere way bigger than we had expected it made me determined to keep throwing things out.

I’m a natural hoarder, so this was a big step for me – and particularly when it comes to books. I have always had stuffed shelves, but I resolved that from now on, particularly since I get so many books these days, I will only keep them if they fulfil one of these particular criteria: