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Showing posts from July, 2011

The Sunday Salon

August is nearly here and therefore the end of summer! Where does time go? July was a slow reading month for me; I only finished five books: Before Versailles, by Karleen Koen; a re-read of Anne of Green Gables, by LM Montgomery; Pearl Buck in China, by Hilary Spurling; I’m Not Complaining, by Ruth Adam; and Lady of the English, by Elizabeth Chadwick. All of these were mostly or very enjoyable, so it was a successful moth in terms of finding things to read that I liked or loved. It’s been years and years since I read Anne of Green Gables last, so it was great to get back into a book I loved when I was younger.
I’ve been looking forward to August for a while now; a bunch of people in the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing is doing All Virago/ All August. I did it last year and in the process discovered F Tennyson Jesse’s novels, as well as I Capture the Castle (a highlight of 2010), Winifred Holtby, Vita Sackville-West, and Kate O’Brien, so I’m looking forward to participating…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

“In the morning, Will bore his new son to Arundel’s chapel and had him baptized and christened Godfrey, for Adeliza’s father. Her kinswoman Melisande and her husband Robert stood ad godparents.”

--From Lady of the English, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Review: Cassandra at the Wedding, by Dorothy Baker

Pages: 241
Original date of publication: 1962
My edition: 2004 (NYRB Classics)
Why I decided to read: found it through the VMC list
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, April 2011


Cassandra Edwards is a French literature graduate student at Berkeley, who returns to her childhood home for her twin sister’s wedding. She loves her sister Judth fiercely, and although she’s never met her fiancée, Cassandra is determined to stop the wedding from happening.

This is a very difficult novel to explain, because although short, and taking place over the course of a couple of days, there’s a lot going on. Cassandra is one of the oddest people I’ve run into in literature in a long time; although the book is told mostly in the first person from her point of view, I’ve never seen a character who is less self-aware. There are also a number of contradictions to Cassandra’s personality, which makes her an intriguing character. For example, if she loves her sister so much, then why is she hell-bent on rui…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

“The lightening played over my window. There was a fraction of a second’s pause and then a clap of thunder which seemed to go on and on.”

--From
I’m Not Complaining, by Ruth Adam

Review: There Were No Windows, by Norah Hoult

Pages: 341
Original date of publication: 1944My edition: 2005 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: heard about this through Persephone’s catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, October 2010


“She was all alone now in the darkness, now that to please Mr Mills she had left her torch turned off. There were no windows. Everyone was shut in upon themselves.” (p. 245).
There Were No Windows is the story of Claire Temple, an eighty-plus woman who has lost her memory. At one point in her life she was a well-known author with numerous love affairs; but now she lives alone, with only her servants to care for her. Set in London at the height of WWII, this novel chronicles the downfall of a woman who attempted, in her life, to be an individual, when the reader discovers that in the end, all of that doesn’t matter—because we all end up in some form or another like Claire (scary thought).

It’s a brilliant book, albeit with a difficult subject. How does an author get into the mindset of a…

Review: Don't Look Now, by Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 346
Original date of publication: 1952-1980
My edition: 2008 (NYRB Classics)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of NYRB Classics
How I acquired my copy: Borders, April 2011


Don’t Look Now is a collection of nine short stories that Daphne Du Maurier published between 1952 and 1980. Daphne Du Maurier’s writing runs the gamut from straight historical to suspense/thriller, so I was intrigued to see what her stories would be like.

These stories cover much of Du Maurier’s career, and they’re all stunning. She takes what are seemingly ordinary people and subjects and turns the story into something far more sinister. From the arresting opening story, in which a couple are grieving the loss of their child and take a holiday to Venice, to a story in which England’s birds attack the human population, to a story in which a woman has eye surgery and wakes to view the inner beast in humans, these stories are amazing and contain a lot of significance, even though some of them are a couple of p…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

“'Fiction is a painting,’ wrote Pearl, ‘biography is a photograph. Fiction is creation, biography is arrangement.’”

--From Pearl Buck in China, by Hilary Spurling

Review: Saraband, by Eliot Bliss

Pages: 316
Original date of publication: 1931
My edition: 1987 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: found this while browsing the shelves at the Philadelphia Book Trader
How I acquired my copy: The Philly Book Trader, March 2011


Saraband is one of Virago Modern Classics’s lesser-known reprints, and therefore often overlooked. I didn’t even know about it until I accidentally stumbled across a copy in a local bookstore. I'm glad i did, because I thought that this novel was wonderful. The story of this book follows the childhood and young adulthood of Louie, an intensely imaginative young girl who lives with her grandmother in the years leading up to WWI. When her cousin Tim comes to stay, Louie imagines that she’ll hate him; but instead, they become very dear friends. Their friendship sustains them through Louie’s time at convent school and secretarial college.

At heart this is one of those coming-of-age stories; Eliot Bliss’s style is very similar to that of Antonia White, who wrote about man…

Review: The Daughter of Siena, by Marina Fiorato

Pages: 387
Original date of publication: 2011
My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Why I decided to read: I enjoyed Marina Fiorato’s other books and thought I’d give this a go
How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, May 2011


Set amidst the danger and excitement of early 18th-century Siena, the plot of this novel centers on an event to which the Sienese look forward to eagerly: the Palio, a traditional horse race that takes place twice, in July and August. Pia of the Tolomei is descended from Cleopatra and the daughter of a wealthy patrician. He marries her to a member of a family from an opposing ward in the city, despite tradition. When her future husband is killed in the Julia Palio, Pia is married to his brother. Over the course of the next month or so, she develops a relationship with a horse rider, and the two of them work (in conjunction with Violante de’ Medici, who has governed the city for ten years) to fight a plot to take over Siena, led by the Nine—leaders from each section…

Review: Touch Not the Cat, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 276
Original date of publication: 1976
My edition: 1976 (William Morrow and Company)
Why I decided to read: Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors!
How I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009


Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors, and Touch Not the Cat reminds me of why I love her novels so much: she infuses her novels with romance, suspense, and a hint of the supernatural. Her novels usually take place in an exotic location, so I was a bit surprised to learn that Touch Not the Cat is set in England. It’s a lot more mature than some of her other books.

Bryony Ashley grew up at Ashley Court, ancestral home of a family that dates back to Norman times. When her father is killed in a hit-and-run accident, she returns to England from her temporary home in Madeira. She has a “relationship” with a spirit who speaks to her in a kind of psychic way. I rolled my eyes at the opening line of the novel (“My lover came to me on the last night of April, with a message and …