July Books

Sep. 2nd, 2012 08:45 pm
slemslempike: (books: slemslempike)
[personal profile] slemslempike
A Lady of Quality - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Guides of the Chalet School - Jane Berry
The Holiday - Stevie Smith
They Both Liked Dogs - Elinor M Brent-Dyer
A Long Way from Verona - Jane Gardam
A Circling Star - Mara Kay
Miss Lonelyhearts and A Cool Million - Nathaniel West
Miss Owen-Owen is at Home - Margaret Forster
Convent on Styx - Gladys Mitchell
O Caledonia - Elspeth Barker
Blame Hitler - Julian Rathbone (actually in July)
Ten Way Street - Susan Scarlett (Noel Streatfeild)
Scenes from Provincial Life - William Cooper
The Middle of the Sandwich - Tim Kennemore
Wall of Words - Tim Kennemore

I FINALLY finished Lady of Quality after reading it on my phone for months. Clorinda is a beautiful and wild woman who tames men, but grows up to marry a wonderful man and have children, but is slightly haunted by a man from her past. She accidentally murders him and bricks up the body in her cellar. Her plain but very good sister, who worships Clorinda, thinks she did it deliberately, but still keeps her secret and prevents people from finding the body.

I thought I'd better catch up on the CS fill-ins I missed out on when they were published before they start being silly prices, and Guides of the Chalet School was worth the effort. I liked seeing more of Deira again, and of course enjoyed the "cock for us" sentence.

The Holiday is told all in first person and reported speech from Celia, who has many male cousins, and is working in sort of war ministry. Really lovely writing.

They Both Liked Dogs was peculiar. I learned a lot about how EBD would like me to take care of any dogs I might have, and how being scared of loud and rough sounding dogs is apparently a moral failing. There were also Poor Men who tried to break in to the house, because that's what Poor Men do.

I really liked the family in A Long Way from Verona. It was set around the secnd world war, and has a really intense passage where a posh boy takes her to a slum area to show her life, and then it is bombed. I've just finished reading Bilgewater, and in both books there are scenes where the main character goes to stay with posher people, hates them and tries to leave. I want to read more of her books.

A Circling Star is great. A girl in Russia grows up with her parents' employer, who then sends her to ballet school. She becomes an actress and a dancer, takes some time out to become a circus bareback rider, and probably manages to avoid becoming a mistress. I really liked it - especially at the end where her childhood sweetheart asks her to redo a play that was messed up, and she says no because they've both grown up and she wants to do different things, not just repeat herself.

I got Miss Lonelyhearts and A Cool Million from my grandparents' house, after having seen a mention of Miss Lonelyhearts in an article really. I really thought they were going to be funnier. Much more dark than comedy, especially with the punitive gang rapes in both. (Which are part of the dark not the comedy, at least.)

I was at the huge booksale on George Street with [livejournal.com profile] katlinel a year or so ago when she bought Miss Owen-Owen is at Home, and now I have borrowed it from her. Miss Owen-Owen is the new headmistress of a grammar school, and has lots of plans for it including holding sex seminars for the older girls, and not including being nice to anyone or making friends. She finds out that the LEA is going to go entirely comprehensive and she will lose her job. She attempts to buy a school to start her own, but no-one will come. She is beaten, but unbowed.

Convent on Styx is one of the Greyladies books, and one I'd thought looked interesting but not enough to buy. So I borrowed this from [livejournal.com profile] katlinel, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but made the right choice. There is a murder, and some nasty letters, happening in a convent, which need to be solved. So someone does.

I picked up O Caledonia at the charity bookstalls we have at work. Janet is a somewhat awkward child cursed with both better looking and better liked younger siblings, and deeply unsympathetic parents. The parents open a boys' school in the castle they live in, and the boys torment Janet when she's playing rugby with them. A dreadful family comes to stay and Janet engineers it so that the most objectionable boy runs into some harmful plants and is taken ill. Then she dies. I was sceptical about it at first, but I thought it was excellent by the end.

I left Blame Hitler off my list last month. It is a story about a middle aged man who is on a family holiday in France. He wants to go to Spain to relive some battles, and ends up doing this on his own, getting into an argument about bull-fighting with a protester, taking her to the event, then while he is (he thinks mutually enjoyably) groping her, he is attacked by her co-conspirators and robbed. Then he gets drunk and hallucinates, losing a few days, and ends up back with his family in time. We get frequent updates of the state of his bowel movements throughout.

I really enjoyed Ten Way Street until the end, when it gets too ludicrous. Beverley is an orphan who has been trained as a nanny, and gets a job looking after the difficult children of a famous actress. She has to manage the actresses moods a lot in order to get anything done. She falls in love with the actress's beau, and when the actress discovers this she tries to kill Beverley, but she is thwarted, and the only thing that happens is that a French maid gets fired. Actress just is going to get more attention from a doctor. Beverley then decides that she'll have to postpone her marriage in order to stay and look after the traumatised children, and her fiance throws a strop (despite claiming to love the chldren too) and breaks up with her unless she abandons the children. Eventually they just get a new nanny and all is "right".

I had forgotten Scenes from Provincial Life so thoroughly that I had to go and look up on amazon what on earth it might be. It was a perfectly good book though! Apparently it's a bit of a precursor to Lucky Jim. The main character is a teacher at a grammar school, but mostly he spends his time trying to convince his girlfriend to have sex with him, or trying to get out of being with her at all. He shares a cottage at the weekend with a friend who mostly keeps trying to control his 17 year old boyfriend, who claims he is going to run off and join the merchant navy.

I lent The Fortunate Few to someone, and while getting it from the shelf decided it was a perfect time to reread the others I own. Fortunate Few and the collection of short stories are weirder and more stylized. In The Middle of the Sandwich Helen moves to be with her aunt while her mum is in hospital, from London to a small village and a tiny school. I really like seeing her grow to like Jess and being there. Joanne is the bully, who heaps lots of little humiliations and barbs onto Helen, with there nothing for Helen to do but try to shut down and ignore her. And when the confrontation comes it's a very realistic school-based event, not a brilliant revolution. Wall of Words is about a family of four girls over a summer. I like Anna's dreadful cutesy nature and her thirst for success, and Kim's gradual realisations about her father.

Date: 2012-09-02 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whatho.livejournal.com
POOR MISS OWEN-OWEN. That sounds quietly fabulous actually. Is she thwarted at every turn? That's quite a rare thing to do to a protagonist, I think.

I am sad that the sandwich one is not about a literal sandwich though.

Date: 2012-09-02 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Not at every turn. But almost every turn. She knows people don't like her, and she's sort of proud of that, and she can't understand why people mind that they don't like her, instead of realising that while she isn't likeable, her ideas are brilliant. And only one person does, and even he won't help her at the end.

Oh. It's still a good book. Have you read The Giant Jam Sandwich?

Date: 2012-09-02 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whatho.livejournal.com
I think I might be in love with Miss Owen-Owen.

I haven't read The Giant Jam Sandwich, but it sounds like my sort of book.

Date: 2012-09-02 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Interestingly, she is also genuinely quite unsympathetic and unlikeable, so it's not just about people being rubbish and not liking her.


It's a bit disappointing as it's not really used for food, but still.

Date: 2012-09-03 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gair.livejournal.com
Ha, A Long Way From Verona is one of [livejournal.com profile] gerald's and my heart books, also I teach it, it is genius. The teachers! <3 <3 <3

Date: 2012-09-03 10:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Yes, the teachers! And oh, the teacher. :(:(:(

Date: 2012-09-03 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antisoppist.livejournal.com
I love A Long Way from Verona and Bilgewater, and Wall of Words with its wonderful portrayal of sisterly love-hate is one of my favourite children's books ever and my daughter loved it too. Annoyingly I can't find The Middle of the Sandwich to lend to her. The other Tim Kennemore I've got is Changing Times, where the heroine time travels to other bits of her life and discovers that getting pregnant and forcing your boyfriend to marry you rather than going to university would be a really bad idea and that the boyfriend will turn into a controlling patriarchal bastard.

How can you review A Circling Star without mentioning the bit where the seniors whip the younger ones with the whalebone out of their corsets? I had to buy a copy to find out whether my ten year-old self had been imagining it.

Date: 2012-09-03 11:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Oh yes! The older girls were quite horrible. I had momentarily forgotten the whalebone whipping.

I don't think I've read Changing Times, which is brilliant, because it's a whole new Tim Kennemore to me. Even if I have read it it was ages ago and I've forgotten, and I certainly don't own it. I've ordered it, though, and am greatly looking forward to reading it.

Date: 2012-09-03 10:55 am (UTC)
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (boz4pm Blackadder Cunning Plan)
From: [identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
Lady of Quality sounds fabulous, heh.

Have you read any Dornford Yates?

Date: 2012-09-03 11:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
I have not. Do you recommend that I do?

It was quite brilliant in places, especially when she is a tantrum throwing child who dresses up as a man. It's a freebie from Amazon for the kindle.

Date: 2012-09-03 12:06 pm (UTC)
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (ish icons Curiosity Cures Boredom)
From: [identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
Someone, who knows my taste in pre-war lit humour (Barbara Pym, Benson's Mapp and Lucia, &c), recced the non-crime Dornford Yates novels to me (mostly Berry stories). So I looked at a bibliography and noticed he'd written a fantasy/crime/humour novel and couldn't resist buying it, heh (fished in!). It occurred to me that, of my flist, you and electricwitch would be most likely to have read the non-crime Yates and I'm always interested in other people's opinions so I asked. I expect the Berry stories are available as free ebooks from somewhere if I've intrigued you, although I'm not sure they'd be your cuppa.

I think Lady of Quality just went on my To Read list. :-)


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