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Review: Q's Legacy, by Helene Hanff

Pages: 177
Original date of publication: 1985
My edition: 1986 (Penguin)
Why I decided to read: I enjoyed 84, Charing Cross Road
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, December 2011


Q’s Legacy is Helene Hanff’s account of how she came to write 84, Charing Cross Road and its sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (so I guess this book is a part of that series). She starts with the day at the Philadelphia Public Library when she discovered Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing, which led her to begin reading the books he mentioned. That led to Helene collecting those books, which led to her correspondence with Frank Doel at Marks and Co. in London…

Helene talks about the books she read less than I would have expected her to, but what’s undeniable is that she definitely has her own distinctive narrative voice, seen in 84 and The Duchess, and continued in this book. She’s funny, smart, honest, and direct, all of the qualities that I love in her writing. Helene covers a large amount of…

Review: They Knew Mr. Knight, by Dorothy Whipple

Pages: 484
Original date of publication: 1934
My edition: 2008 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Dorothy Whipple is one of my favorite authors and you knew I was going to get around to this sometime!
How I acquired my copy: the Persephone shop, September 2011

Dorothy Whipple, how do I love thee? They Knew Mr. Knight is the story of a middle-class businessman, Thomas Blake, whose life and work becomes entwined with that of a big-time entrepreneur named Lawrence Knight—a man that the reader can quickly see is full of style but no substance. Everything Mr. Knight does revolves around money—he even looks at Thomas’s modest little house and sees things in terms of financial value. The novel follows the Blake family’s rise and fall, poignantly so in many places.

On the other hand is Thomas’s sensible wife, Celia, who shies away from the constant striving of her husband and Mr. Knight. Although written in the first person, the story is seen through the eyes of Celia Blake, probably the most like…

the Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday! For someone as anti-social as I am, I was quite busy this week! On Friday evening I had drinks with an old friend from middle and high school, and then yesterday I went to go see My Week With Marilyn, about Marilyn Monroe’s 1956 filming of The Prince and the Showgirl (with Sir Laurence Olivier, played by Kenneth Branaugh in this film). The story focuses on a young third assistant producer/director (aka: gopher) who strikes up a friendship with Marilyn (played by Michele Williams here) on set. I thought it was a really enjoyable film. You may or may not know that Marilyn was actually a great reader, leaving behind a library of 400-plus volumes at the time of her death. There’s a subtle nod to that in the film; Marilyn has a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses in her dressing room. In other news, classes began again this week—I’m taking two, one on editing and the other on research strategies for biomedical writers. We had our first “meeting,” i.e., webinar, for the editing class…

Review: Family History, by Vita Sackville-West

Pages: 315
Original date of publication: 1932
My edition: 1986 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: I like Vita Sackville-West’s books
How I acquired my copy: The Last Word bookshop, Philadelphia, August 2011


Family History is the story of a middle-aged woman’s relationship with a much younger man. Evelyn Jarrold is the mother of a teenage son, and although widowed, is still very much connected to her husband’s aristocratic family. She strikes up a relationship with Miles Vane-Merrick, an up-and-coming politician and writer 15 years her junior. The novel is set in the interwar years; a few characters from The Edwardians play a smaller role in this book (Viola and Leonard Anquetil, and Lady Roehampton).

It’s a flawed relationship, which the reader immediately senses isn’t going to turn out well. I loved how Vita Sackville-West depicts the relationship between Miles and Evelyn and the differences between them. Evelyn has a pretty conservative view of how relationships should be, and she’s never be…

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!

“She wore a black dress, as always, and very few jewels. Antonio thought it was a pity she was committed, as a widow, to perpetual black, for it did not in his opinion truly accord with her very black hair and Castilian pallor.”

-From That Lady, by Kate O’Brien

Review: The Blank Wall, by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

Pages: 231
Original date of publication: 1947
My edition: 2003 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: the Persephone shop, September 2011

Lucia Holley is a middle-aged housewife, living somewhere in America during WWII. Her husband is away, and she is raising her two teenaged children on the homefront. After her daughter begins dating an unattractive, married man who then turns up dead, Lucia inadvertently becomes involved in the crime when she attempts to cover it up in order to protect the person she thinks killed the boyfriend.
Holding wrote this novel at around the same time that Patricia Highsmith was writing The Talented Mr. Ripley series; and while The Blank Wall isn’t quite as suspenseful as Highsmith’s books, it belongs to the same school of psychological suspense novels. The plot moves quickly, and Holding doesn’t waste her words in order to convey the tension of the plot. The reader really feels Lucia’s inner struggle as she tries to cover up the crime and ca…

Booking Through Thursday

But enough about interviewing other people. It’s time I interviewed YOU.
1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?

Early in the morning.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)
It would probably be more true to say that I read during breakfast time, that is to say, I don’t eat breakfast but at that general time of day.

3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)
Bagels.

4. How many hours a day would you say you read?
About one.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?
Yes, but I’m becoming much more discriminating in my reading choices and habits.

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?
In comparison to other book bloggers, no, but lesser-read people call me that.

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Speed-reading. That way I could really all 200-plus book on my TBR pile and not feel any pressure. There's so much to read and too little time to read it in!

8. Do you carr…

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!

“Sunday, 10 August, 1941:
The last day of our ‘holidays and, what with the weather and two warring temperaments to contend with, I’m not sorry. Cliff and my husband seem to bring the worst out in each other, and I have not the patience and endurance I used to have when Cliff was at home.”

-From
Nella Last’s War, by Nella Last

Review: The Camomile, by Catherine Carswell

Pages: 305
Original date of publication: 1922
My edition: 1987 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of VMCs
How I acquired my copy: bookstore on 10th st., Philadelphia, August 2011


The Camomile is the story of one young woman’s coming of age in 1920s Glasgow. Having just spent several years studying music in Germany, Ellen Carstairs returns to Glasgow to teach, meanwhile realizing her ambition of being an author by keeping a diary of her experiences and writing letters to a friend.

I liked the idea of the novel, but I just wasn’t all that interested in the way the narrator talks about her experiences. She wasn’t compelling enough as a narrator for me to quite like her as much as I wanted to, which was disappointing considering that Carswell based Ellen’s experiences on her own, and held correspondence with many famous people, among them DH Lawrence, Vita Sackville-West, and Rebecca West. Ironically, I think maybe the story might have been better if it hadn’t been written in diar…

The Sunday Salon

Happy New Year! I’ve been a bit busy this past week; I began re-watching the first season of Downton Abbey in preparation for the premiere of the second season this evening in the US! I have been geeking out about this all week in the most insane way. I took the Downton Abbey personality quiz and it turns out that I’m Anna Smith, the head housemaid, but I think there’s a certain amount of Edith in there as well.

In reading, I finished They Knew Mr. Knight this week and embarked on Nella Last’s War this weekend. The problem I have at the beginning of the ear always is that there's so much possibility with every book I own that it's tough to decide what to read next!

On a non-book-related note, for the past couple of months I’ve been giving online dating a whirl. It can be so difficult to write a profile that’s meaningful and connects with someone, especially since most dating profiles are mere shadows of who we really are. Like job applications and cover letters, people really on…

Review: The Loving Spirit, by Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 404
Original date of publication: 1931
My edition: 2003 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: I’m a huge Daphne Du Maurier fan
How I acquired my copy: the Strand bookstore, New York, July 2011


The Loving Spirit is the story of four generations of a shipbuilding family in 19th and early 20th century Cornwall. More specifically, the focus is one four members of the family: Janet, who’s story covers the period between 1830 and 1863; her son, Joseph (1863-1900); his son Christopher (1888-1912); and his daughter, Jennifer (1912-1930).

From the bleak Cornwelian landscape to London and back to Cornwall, Daphne Du Maurier weaves a fascinating story, heralding some of the novels that later made her famous. What I love about Du Maurier’s novels is that she really knew how to tell a compelling story.

While I didn’t quite buy the spiritual connection between Janet and her son Joseph (which supposedly also connects Christopher and Jennifer but gets dropped partway through the novel), I did enjoy the dev…

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!

“Coggy had a thin, pale brown face and bright blue eyes which gazed out of windows and into corners for a long time at a stretch. Freda didn’t know why, but he made her feel as if she wanted to laugh.”

--From They Knew Mr. Knight, by Dorothy Whipple

2012 Reading

January:
1. They Knew Mr. Knight, by Dorothy Whipple  2. Nella Last's War, by Nella Last  3. Q's Legacy, by Helene Hanff  4. That Lady, by Kate O'Brien