Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2013

Review: Farewell Leicester Square, by Betty Miller

Pages: 309 Original date of publication: 1941 My copy: 2010 How I acquired my copy: Persephone shop, September 2011
Persephone is famous for publishing out-of-print, lesser-known classics, but there’s a sub-theme to their list as well: they reprint a number of Jewish authors (Marghanita Laski, Amy Levy, for example). Farewell Leicester Square is the only one of Betty Miller’s novels that touches on the Jewish experience in England. This story focuses on a man named Alec Berman, who manages to rise to fame in the film industry (the opening scene of the novel is centered on the premiere of one of his films, Farewell Leicester Square) and marry a non-Jew.
From the way I saw the book described, I though that this was going to be a straightforward and pretty typical story. But Betty Miller turns it around a bit, by making the anti-Semite Alec himself. He’s so aware of his background as a Jew and not wanting people to mention it that he almost becomes a bit self-hating of his Jewishness He ev…

Review: Miss Hargreaves, by Frank Baker

Pages: 317 Original date of publication: 1939 My copy: 2009 (Bloomsbury) How I acquired my copy: Borders, November 2010
Miss Hargreaves is a novel of pure fantasy. Norman Huntley is a young man who lives in the cathedral town of Cornford and possess quite an imagination. As his father says to him, “Always be careful, my boy, what you make up. Life’s more full of things made up on the Spur of the Moment than most people realize. Beware of the Spur of the Moment. It may turn and rend you.” This novel is all about what happens when Norman forgets these words of advice.
It all happens one day when Norman and his friend Henry visit a church in Ulster and make up an eccentric elderly woman in her 80s named Constance Hargreaves. It all seems like harmless fun—until Miss Hargreaves actually comes to Cornford and begins to wreak havoc on Norman’s life.
At first I thought this was a charming novel—I liked Miss Hargreaves herself a lot. But as I continued to read, I thought that the joke got to be a…

Review: Wigs on the Green, by Nancy Mitford

Pages: 192 Original date of publication: 1935 My edition: 2010 (Vintage) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Borders, April 2011
Wigs on the Green was written as a satire of British fascism, and specifically a satire of the members of Nancy Mitford’s family that partook of the movement. Sir Oswald Mosley, Nancy Mitford’s future brother-in-law, formed the British Union of Fascists in 1932 and by the mid-1930s, when this book was written, the BUF had aligned itself with the Nazi party in Germany.
Mitford regretted writing this book and worked to suppress copies of it from getting out to the public (not surprising, honestly). The plot focuses on a young woman named Eugenia Malmain (based on Unity Mitford); and two young men who come to the town of Chalford with mischief on their mind. Eugenia is a rather idealistic young woman who works tirelessly on behalf of a political party called the Union Jackshirts (a play on the word “Blackshirts,” the uniform of the BUF), and the plot cont…

Review: Westwood, by Stella Gibbons

Pages: 448 Original date of publication: 1946 My edition: 2011 (Vintage) Why I decided to read: though it would be a good vacation/plane read How I acquired my copy: Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, September 2011
I’m usually hit or miss with Stella Gibbons’s novels. I was on the fence about her most famous novel, Cold Comfort Farm; but I loved Nightingale Wood. Westwood falls into the Nightingale Wood category, happily.
Set in London in the midst of WWII, Westwood is the story of Margaret Steggles, a romantically-minded young woman who, after finding a ration book belonging to one Hebe Niland, becomes entangled with the family who live at Westwood, primarily among them Gerard Challis, a middle-aged playwright at work on what he believes is his masterpiece. Then there’s his daughter, Hebe; her husband, Alex; and their three children. A variety of other characters round out the cast, including Margaret’s cheerful old school friend Hilda, who never takes anything seriously; and Dick, a friend of Mar…

Review: Hindoo Holiday, by JR Ackerley

Pages: 302 Original date of publication: 1932 My edition: 2000 (NYRB Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Joseph Fox Books, Philadelphia, January 2012
Hindoo Holiday is an account of the time that the author, JR Ackerley, spent in india working as a secretary to the Maharajah of Chhatapur (jokingly changed to Chhokrapur, apparently meaning “City of the Boys,” for this book). The Maharajah is an eccentric old man who enjoys riddling conversations and the company of boy actors.
The setting is the British Raj, when Indian rulers had a fair amount of autonomy—but in the wake of peace, there was very little that the Maharajahs could actually do. So, in possession of vast amounts of wealth, according to the introduction to this book, these rulers spent their money on untold luxury. It was amidst this environment that this book is set, and the Maharajah Sahib of Chhokrapur is one of these.
The diary covers roughly six months in 1923 and 1924; apparently, the Maharajah, a great…

Review: Some Everyday Folk and Dawn, by Miles Franklin

Pages: 347 Original date of publication: 1909 My edition: 1986 (Virago Modern Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, June 2012
Some Everyday Folk and Dawn is set during a monumental time in Australian history: women have just achieved suffrage, and the defining moment of this novel is the first election in which they have the ability to vote. The women’s suffrage movement in Australia, like its counterparts in the US and Britain, had its roots in the 19th century, but it seems as though it was met with a lot less resistance. This novel deals with the ways in which the town of Noonoon, in New South Wales (the Everyday Folk of the title), deal with this change, as two candidates come to town: one who puts himself forward as the “women’s candidate” and the other for the men.
On a more immediate novel, the books is set around a boarding house in Noonoon run by Grandma Clay, a fierce, energetic, and talkative woman who lives with her granddaughter Dawn and grandson …

Happy Blogiversary!

It's come to my attention that today is the 5th anniversary of my keeping this blog! 678 book reviews, 1195 blog posts,  3579 comments, 125420 page views, and I'm still going strong. This blog has seen me through several moves (from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then to Philadelphia) and several jobs, some of them with the same company. 2012 was a great year, and I hope that things continue to go well in 2013. If anybody is reading this, have a happy new year, and happy blogging to you, too!

The A to Z Challenge

Authors: A Braddon, ME: Aurora Floyd C Dunant, Sarah: Blood and Beauty Epstein, Jennifer Coy: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment Fisher, Dorothy Canfield: The Home-Maker Gordon, Lucie Duff: Letters From Egypt Hamilton, Patrick: Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky I Jesse, F Tennyson: Moonraker Kahneman, Daniel: Thinking, Fast and Slow Le Faye, Deirdre: Jane Austen's Letters Mackail, Denis: Greenery Street Newmark, Elle: The Sandalwood Tree O Parker, Dorothy: The Portable Dorothy Parker Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur and Daphne Du Maurier: Castle Dor Raybourn, Deanna: A Spear of Summer Grass Sayers, Dorothy: Busman's Honeymoon Thirkell, Angela: Trooper to the Southern Cross U V Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth X Y Z

Titles: Anne of Avonlea, by LM Montgomery Bonk, by Mary Roach Celia's House, by DE Stevenson The Doll and Other Stories, by Daphne Du Maurier E A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald A Half Forgotten Song, by Katherine Webb I&…

2013 Reading

January:
1. The Portable Dorothy Parker
2. The Village, by Marghanita Laski
3. Thank Heaven Fasting, by EM Delafield
4. Trooper to the Southern Cross, by Angela Thirkell
5. Loitering With Intent, by Muriel Spark
6. The Sugar House, by Antonia White
7. Greenery Street, by Denis Mackail
8. Castle Dor, by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and Daphne Du Maurier
9. Old New York, by Edith Wharton

February:
1. The Sandalwood Tree, by Elle Newmark
2. Aurora Floyd, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
3. Moonraker, by F Tennyson Jesse
4. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach
5. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
6. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
7. Personality Type, by Lenore Thomson

March:
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
2. Quartet in Autumn, by Barbara Pym
3. The Montana Stories, by Katherine Mansfield
4. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, by Patrick Hamilton
5. Blood and Beauty, by Sarah Dunant
6. The Persephone Book of Short Stories
7. The Gods of Heavenly Pu…