The Runaway by Claire Wong

The RunawayI don’t think I’ve yet got around to mentioning the second book I bought for Project 24 (still only bought 2 books! I’m 2 in hand!) – it’s The Runaway by Claire Wong, which I bought because Claire is a friend of mine from church. I think she’s the first friend I’ve had whose had a novel published – as opposed to friends I’ve made after reading their novels – and it’s super exciting. And, thankfully, it’s also really good!

It does feel weird writing a review of a book by a friend, but I’ll try to pretend I don’t know Claire while I write this… I’m even going to follow my usual reviewing style of using the author’s surname when referring to them. And that will feel so odd. Sorry, Claire – you’re Wong from now on!

The runaway of The Runaway is 17-year-old Rhiannon, who leaves her aunt (and guardian) Diana after the last in a long line of fights. She doesn’t go terribly far – into the thick Dyrys Wood, next to the small Welsh village she grew up in – but it is enough to make her unfindable by the search parties that come looking. She finds a shelter, learns some rudimentary skills, and manages to set up her own solitary life there. Solitary except for a rather fantastic hawk, called Lleu, that is.

It tries to move again, and achieves only a pathetic little shuffle. If its wing is broken, it won’t be able to hunt. It will probably starve. Hawks take care of their young, but that’s as far as the altruism goes.

“No one’s coming to help you,” I say, and the words come out sounding sadder and more sympathetic than I had expected. I find that I don’t like looking at it, so I decide to go and search for those tin cans by the path instead.

Meanwhile, back in the village there are appeals to find her – but life also goes on. The friendships and tensions of village life continue – there is a host of recognisable and well-realised characters, from pent-up Callum to shy Nia to Tom, trying to balance being everybody’s friend while also being the local policeman. My favourite – surely everyone’s favourite? – is Maebh, a sort of surrogate grandmother to the whole village, who retains all the stories that have happened there. She is something of an oracle, and weaves memory and fiction in the tales she tells – using the storytelling form as a way of reminding the village of its past, and trying to set the right path for its future.

I love novels which incorporate storytelling (Angela Young’s Speaking of Love is another great example), and Wong handles it deftly; the atmosphere of fairy tale and parable seeps throughout the whole novel, while also remaining (paradoxically) firmly on solid ground. As with fairy tale, it matters less why Rhiannon has run away, and more about what happens next. And part of what happens next is the arrival of Adam and Grace – whose father was from the village – looking to better understand their past. Needless to say, it ties pertinently in with the current situation.

One of the reasons I really liked The Runaway is because of what it says about small communities. Too often these are treated as places to escape – claustrophobic, nosey, and repressive to creativity. It’s ironic that a novel where somebody literally escapes this community doesn’t suggestion that small-town life is an evil. Nor is it a rose-tinted view either. Instead, Wong shows us that this sort of village can be supportive even while it is constraining – both a blessing and a curse. More to the point, it feels like a real place – with real limitations and real advantages. (Wong also manages to write a 17 year old who isn’t maddeningly annoying and isn’t unrealistically good – very impressive!)

This is a really enjoyable, thoughtful, and touching novel that also has spark and humour – it feels like a modern fairy tale in the best possible way.

 

Project 24: Book 1

It’s taken five weeks, but I’ve bought my first book of 2017! In case you’ve missed this project, I’m only buying 24 books throughout the year. It wouldn’t be a challenge for everybody, but I’m sure quite a few of you appreciate what a big deal this is for a bibliophile who loves browsing and buying almost as much as reading.

And the first book which persuaded me to use up one of my allocated spaces? I found it in an Oxfam shop in Thame, having not heard about it before: Dearest Andrew: Letters From Vita Sackville-West to Andrew Reiber 1951-1962.

Dearest Andrew

It’s not particularly rare or anything – copies are available online for less than a pound – but it felt exciting to find a book about an author I love that I never knew existed. I love collections of letters, particularly a correspondence between two people (though, in this instance, only the letters from VSW survive) – and, to be frank, it was getting to the point where I really needed to buy something. I’m still ahead of myself – 1.5 books in hand!

The only review I’ve found of this collection is quite negative, I have subsequently discovered, but… well, I’ll make up my own mind one day before too long! I do know that the more I read by Vita Sackville-West, the more interesting a writer I find her.

Project 24: did I read the books I bought in 2010?

project-24

Just under a week in, how is Project 24 going? Well, here are a couple of salient facts:

Number of books bought: 0.
Number of dreams about buying books: 1.

Yep, last night in my dream I bought four books – none of which actually exist (they were such wished-for gems as Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Slightly Foxed memoir, and books by A.A. Milne which he didn’t write), but this is what happened last time. I think it’s the limitation – it means I get all guilty, then wake up and remember that I haven’t, in fact, done the Wicked Thing. For my first couple years of being vegetarian, I used to dream I was eating meat all the tiiime.

Anyway, I thought it would be instructive (to me) to look back at the books I bought last time I did Project 24, and see whether or not I’ve read them. That was back in 2010, and I managed to only buy 24 books for myself – you can see all the books I bought, with pictures and explanations, in this round-up post.

Here are the 24, and how I’ve got on with them… the ordering is just the order I had the round-up, rather than the order I bought them in.

  1. The Love-Child by Edith Olivier
  2. The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield
  3. As It Was by Helen Thomas
  4. World Without End by Helen Thomas

As I explain in that round-up post, I actually already owned copies of these books before 2010. I wasn’t expecting to buy duplicates, but these were all beautiful editions I couldn’t resist. And so, yes, I’d already read all of these. Total read so far: 4/4.

5. Roof Off! by Richmal Crompton
6. No One Now Will Know by E.M. Delafield
7. Susan and Joanna by Elizabeth Cambridge
8. Mrs Christopher by Elizabeth Myers
9. & 10. Letters vol. I and II by Katherine Mansfield

These were all books by favourite author that were too good to resist; ones that don’t come up very often. And… oh dear, I’ve not read any of them yet. I did start Susan and Joanna recently, but wasn’t in the mood, so will need to start again. How have I read none of the others? Pass. That’s a bit embarrassing. Total read so far: 4/10.

11. The Heirs of Jane Austen by Rachel Mathers
12. Miss Elizabeth Bennet by A.A. Milne

These two were always available on abebooks, but quite expensive. With the quantity of books I was buying going down drastically, I could afford them in 2010 – and, indeed, read them both pretty quickly, and loved them. Total read so far: 6/12.

13. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
14. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
15. Travelling Light by Tove Jansson

Summer Will Show was a purchase in Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris, because I couldn’t leave without a souvenir, could I? I did read it… though sadly wasn’t a big fan of it. And The Little Stranger… well, this one’s a bit embarrassing – I have read it, but the only reason I bought it was because I accidentally tore the copy I’d borrowed from a friend, and felt I had to replace it. I kept the torn copy and called that my Project 24 purchase. And Travelling Light was a new translation of a favourite author, so I couldn’t leave that one behind. Total read so far: 9/15.

16. A Brief Experiment With Time by J.W. Dunne
17. Strange Glory by L.H. Myers
18. The Music at Long Verney by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I bought these three in 2010 because I thought they’d be useful for my DPhil. Well, my DPhil was all done and dusted by 2014, and I’ve still only read one of these: Strange Glory. Which was definitely strange, and not at all useful for my DPhil – I don’t think it got a mention. Fingers crossed the other two wouldn’t have been useful… Total read so far: 10/18.

19. More Talk of Jane Austen – Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
20. Are They The Same At Home? – Beverley Nichols
21. Jane Austen – Sylvia Townsend Warner
22. Personal Pleasures – Rose Macaulay
23. A Compton-Burnett Compendium – Violet Powell
24. I. Compton-Burnett – Pamela Hansford Johnson

And my list was rounded out with books about authors! This was an unexpected concentration for 2010, but has proved pretty productive in the have-I-actually-read-them stakes. The answer is yes for four of them: I still haven’t managed to read the Beverley Nichols or A Compton-Burnett Compendium, but really liked all the others.

Total read: 14/24.

So, there you go! Even when I restricted myself to 24 books in a year, I’ve only managed to read 14 of them six years later. But I guess it’s over half? (Perhaps I should make an aim of finishing the other 10 during my second run of Project 24…)

Project 24: The Books

My New Blogging Resolution certainly won’t happen before the New Year, as we’re off out of internet connection for the next few days. I’m setting up posts to appear over the next few days, but I won’t be able to respond to comments just yet.

Well, I shan’t be doing a Project 25 – Project 24 has been fun, and very challenging, but I’m going to be back to splurging in the New Year. I’m not sure how many more of my own books I’ve read because of this exercise, but I do know it’s more than the number I’ve bought for myself, for the first time in at least ten years.

It doesn’t feel quite concluded until I’ve given you a final run-down of the 24 books which found their way into my home this year. Being honest, a fair few came from publishers or as gifts, especially on my birthday, but they weren’t under the Project 24 banner. As Rachel mentioned the other day, perhaps they are a little eccentric. They’re certainly not 24 of the latest books to hit bookshops. In fact, only four of them were new (rather than secondhand) and none of those were originally published this year.

I’ve grouped them vaguely according to the reason I got them – here’s what I got:

The Ones I Already Owned

I didn’t think I’d be buying duplicates in Project 24, but I was wrong – I couldn’t resist these beautiful, unusual or old editions of much-loved books.

The Love Child – Edith Olivier
The Provincial Lady Goes Further – E.M. Delafield
As It Was – Helen Thomas
World Without End – Helen Thomas



The Ones Too Good To Leave

These were either so rare, unusually cheap, or special that I couldn’t ignore them, once I’d stumbled across them – either in real life or through abebooks alerts.

Roofs Off! – Richmal Crompton
No One Now Will Know – E.M. Delafield
Susan and Joanna – Elizabeth Cambridge
Mrs. Christopher – Elizabeth Myers
Letters vol. I and II – Katherine Mansfield





The Ones I’ve Wanted For Ages

These are books I’ve had my eye on for years, but could never justify the expense. With my limited buying, suddenly they became affordable.

The Heirs of Jane Austen – Rachel Mathers
Miss Elizabeth Bennet – A.A. Milne



The Souvenir

I couldn’t go to Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop in Paris and not come back with a good book in my hand, now, could I?

Summer Will Show – Sylvia Townsend Warner

The One I Accidentally Damaged

After I borrowed and accidentally tore a book borrowed from a fool, I bought a replacement – and kept the damaged one myself. Luckily it’s a novel I (mostly) loved and wanted to keep.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

The One I’d Been Waiting to be Published

Only one Project 24 book was published this year, and that was actually a translation of an earlier story collection.

Travelling Light – Tove Jansson

The Ones For My Studies

Although these are all quite fun reads, they did come into Project 24 because of their potential usefulness for my DPhil.

A Brief Experiment With Time – J.W. Dunne
Strange Glory – L.H. Myers
The Music at Long Verney – Sylvia Townsend Warner



The Ones About Authors

I didn’t expect this, but it seems that when the buying is restricted, my eyes wander to the non-fiction shelves. I bought quite a few books about authors. None of them are literary biography, but rather literary non-fiction of the reader’s-companion variety.

More Talk of Jane Austen – Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
Are They The Same At Home? – Beverley Nichols
Jane Austen – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Personal Pleasures – Rose Macaulay
A Compton-Burnett Compendium – Violet Powell
I. Compton-Burnett – Pamela Hansford Johnson







That’s All, Folks.

No, I’m not giving up blogging – although wouldn’t it be fun to pretend to, just to get the messages of praise? (Or, alternatively, a terrifying silence!)

No – we have come to an end, but it is not the end of my blogging fun – it is the end of Project 24. In fact, it came to an end back on the 2nd December, and it has taken me a while to take photos and alert you to my final purchases of 2010.

I suspected, when I went to London to meet up with some friends from an email book discussion group, that I might well buy one or two or maybe three books. It seemed a fitting way to end Project 24 – by buying books in the company of friends who have never discouraged book buying; always supported the need to own duplicates of favourite titles (I can feel DP’s hackles raise at that ‘need’!); bombard me daily with recommendations, etc. etc. Quite a few of the group had to cancel, because it was the day of snow and ice and trains being cancelled left, right, and centre – but five managed to make it, and not one of them stopped me buying these books.


First two were found at a nearby Oxfam – the first two volumes of Katherine Mansfield’s letters. I’ve hankered after these, but they’re so expensive online. If I wanted them new from Amazon, they’d be £76 each – and even secondhand I’d be looking about £15-£30. In Oxfam I found them for only £4 each! And for those who will point out that I’m swiping money from a charity, I *did* volunteer at Oxfam for a couple of years once… so we’re probably even.

Of course, now I want the other three volumes… but it wasn’t one of those which rounded off Project 24.


Instead, in the incredibly well-stocked bookshop Slightly Foxed, a must-visit shop for any bibliophile and my first time there – I bought Mrs. Christopher by Elizabeth Myers. My favourite read from 2006 was the letters of Elizabeth Myers, picked up by chance at Sherbourne’s book fair. Since then I’ve only read one of her novels, and would be interested to read more, but that’s not the main reason I chose this novel. What sealed the deal was the fact that this is, in librarian terminology, an ‘association copy’…


In case you can’t read that, it says ‘With love, to Nora Nicholson from Elizabeth and Littleton Powys, who are most grateful to her for her splendid efforts to turn the novel into a play. May the Lord be with her. Oct. 1949’.

I must write properly about Myers’ letters someday – they reveal a beautiful-hearted woman who died far too soon, and it is a joy to have this connection with her. A fitting and lovely way to end Project 24.

Snowballing…

Project 24 – #18, #19, #20, #21…

Oh dear, blog readers, you see before you a humble and mournful man. Am I to come this far and fall at the final hurdle? Project 24 has not been easy… it involves repressing all that part of me which screams joyfully, waving my hands around, whenever I see secondhand books… to come before shelves of lovely, musty, well-loved hardbacks from the 1920s and 1930s, it goes against everything in my nature to be circumspect and sensible.

My better side was trampled in the dust the other day, when I scooped up three books at my favourite shop in Oxford, Arcadia. It’s mostly gifty, cardy, wrapping-papery but also has a back room of secondhand books, specialising in Penguin paperbacks. In said shop, I bought…


I’m going to have to work hard to defend these, aren’t I?

-Personal Pleasures
by Rose Macaulay looks like great fun – a bit like Modern Delight (see here) or presumably J.B. Priestley’s Delight, which I haven’t actually read. It has many short chapters on things with please Macaulay – from ‘Departure of Visitors’ to ‘Turtles in Hyde Park’; ‘Hot Bath’ to ‘Improving the Dictionary’. I think it’s going to be fun… it’s readily available, and I could have left it there and bought it later… but… but…

-As It Was & World Without End by Helen Thomas – these autobiographical books by poet Edward Thomas’ wife appear on my 50 Books list, but I have only got them in a modern reprint called Under Storm’s Wing. When I spotted these loved old editions, I couldn’t leave them there – do go and see what I wrote about them then, including the stunning final paragraph of World Without End where Helen bids farewell to her husband for the last time as he heads to war, easily the most moving writing I have read outside the Bible. Oh, I’m going to go ahead and put the paragraph here too. A thick mist hung everywhere, and there was no sound except, far away in the valley, a train shunting. I stood at the gate watching him go; he turned back to wave until the mist and the hill hid him. I heard his old call coming up to me: ‘Coo-ee!’ he called. ‘Coo-ee!’ I answered, keeping my voice strong to call again. Again through the muffled air came his ‘Coo-ee’. And again went my answer like an echo. ‘Coo-ee’ came fainter next time with the hill between us, but my ‘Coo-ee’ went out of my lungs strong to pierce to him as he strode away from me. ‘Coo-ee!’ So faint now, it might be only my own call flung back from the thick air and muffling snow. I put my hands up to my mouth to make a trumpet, but no sound came. Panic seized me, and I ran through the mist and the snow to the top of the hill, and stood there a moment dumbly, with straining eyes and ears. There was nothing but the mist and the snow and the silence of death.

Then with leaden feet which stumbled in a sudden darkness that overwhelmed me I groped my way back to the empty house.
I’ll give you a moment to recover… There we go.
But these three books are not the only ones I have bought. On Bank Holiday Monday my housemate Mel and I decided to visit Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds, because (a) it looked pretty, and (b) it has a funny name. Little did we know that they had a fete on…


Against my better judgement, I sidled up to the book stall… and saw (and grabbed) Susan and Joanna by Elizabeth Cambridge. She wrote the wonderful Persephone book Hostages to Fortune, and I’ve been trying to track down Susan and Joanna for a while (since a TLS review of it has featured in several of my essays) but can only find one copy for sale online, and it’s a fortune. Just one English pound to me – how could I say no?


But I won’t be buying any books for a month or two… honest, I won’t… will I?

Malvern is a town of plenty

First things first – this afternoon I spent ages going back and replying to comments from the last month’s worth of blog posts (give or take a few of the most recent) – I do mean to do this much more frequently, but somehow get behind… so if you asked a question and are awaiting the answer, or just fancied some sort of feedback, then it should be there now! Right… onto tonight’s post.


Confession time… Last weekend was a fun-packed reunion of some folk from my Masters course, and we had a high old time. All sorts took place, but today we’re talking about Malvern. Long-term readers of SiaB might just about remember a trip I took there two years ago (from which I have unceremoniously nabbed photos, since I didn’t take my camera at the weekend). It’s one of my favourite places – a spa town in Worcestershire, close(ish) to where I grew up, with pretty parks and – most importantly – a fantastic secondhand bookshop. Very reasonable prices, and an excellent selection, The Malvern Bookshop is definitely worth seeking out.


This might be sounding alarm bells… and rightly so, because… I bought a book. Sorry, no, make that two books. Ok! Stop interrogating me! I bought three books!

Ahem. That’s six weeks of my allowance. Which takes me up to halfway through September. *Sigh* It’s going to be a lean, lean August… leeeean, lean, lean.

But enough self-pity. You’re only really interested in which books I’ve bought, aren’t you?

Jane Austen by Sylvia Townsend Warner
I know very little about the ‘Writers and Their Work’ series (although this website is fairly informative) but this is its second appearance on Project 24 – earlier I bought Pamela Hansford Johnson’s Ivy Compton-Burnett. This was another irresistible combination of authors…

Are They The Same At Home? by Beverley Nichols
I still haven’t read anything by Mr. Nichols, despite accruing quite a few, but this collection of portraits of notables, originally published in Sketch in 1926. To be honest, I haven’t heard of most people featured, but mentions of E.F. Benson, Margaret Kennedy… it all looked too fun to ignore.

The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield
Look away now, Colin… Yes, I do have a copy of this… but not one with A.P. Watt’s illustrations! Plus this is my favourite of the series, and it will be nice to have it separate from the others… oh, I have no excuses, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave it there…


Oh, and we went to The Theatre of Small Convenience – and enjoyed an 8 minute puppet show in rhyme about a turtle evading being baked in a pie. Possibly aimed at children… but we loved it, and it’s charmingly done. Plus, four out of the five of us were vegetarian, so we cheered on our cause!

Stranger and stranger…

One of the fun side-effects of Project 24 (although not as frequent as I’d hoped it would be) has been reading books which have lain neglected on my bookshelves for quite a while. And one of those was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, lent to me by lovely Curzon a long, long time ago… (and which has now become #14 on Project 24, because I accidentally tore some pages, and bought Curzon a replacement copy, keeping the original… oops! Not my usual style, promise.) It seemed the perfect sort of thing to take away with me on holiday, staying in rambling old houses converted into Youth Hostels. I read most of it in Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel, which looks like this:


So – atmosphere: check.

Everyone in the blogosphere seemed to be reading The Little Stranger around the time I was on holiday last year. I, on the other hand, was reading things by Ivy Compton-Burnett, Elizabeth Taylor, Janni Visman… well, better late than never. Still, there must be one or two people who are later than me in reading The Little Stranger, so I won’t assume universal knowledge…

Waters, who made her name with Victorian novels (including the only I’d previously read: Affinity) has been moving steadily nearer the present, and The Little Stranger is set just after World War Two. All except the first scene, which is much earlier – the protagonist is a little boy being snuck into Hundreds Hall by his mother, who is a servant there. He loves the house, and wants to take a souvenir – hacking a plaster acorn from a corridor. From little acorns…

Next we see, the little boy has become Dr. Faraday and is heading out to Hundreds Hall because the (now sole) servant Betty is complaining of illness. Turns out she just wants to get away from the house for a bit – because she senses things are wrong. Quite how they’re wrong, she doesn’t specify; but something is wrong. But this incident leads Faraday to an increasingly close intimacy with the family – plain, unmarried Caroline; her brother Roderick who is recovering from a nasty war injury, and their dignified mother, simply Mrs. Ayres. Faraday is excited about being able to visit a house he has admired since childhood, and Hundreds Hall is certainly a powerful presence in the novel. Its former glory, and its current decay, are realised wonderfully by Waters. It’s something of a truism to say that ‘the house is itself a character’, but you have to take your hat off to Waters’ ability to invest Hundreds Hall with this power without it becoming a caricature of Gothic literature. The house remains comfort and terror; mystery and simplicity; homely and unhomely.

For soon Betty’s claims that something’s wrong seem to be true. A party is held (Mrs. Ayres’ is trying to set up Caroline with a neighbouring bachelor) where a young girl is savaged by Caroline’s usually docile dog. At the same time, Roderick is experiencing ghostly goings-on in his bedroom…

I’m not going to spoil the ensuing events, but suffice it to say there appears to be a ‘little stranger’ creating all sort of havoc for the Ayres family. Since The Little Stranger is narrated by Faraday, we often aren’t ‘present’ for the events, but Waters does a simply brilliant job of relaying them later (usually a big no-no for writers) without losing the tension. And this is quite a scary book. I’ve not read many scary books since my Point Horror phase, and perhaps a slightly creepy old Youth Hostel wasn’t the best place to read this novel… I was a little scared to close my eyes.

Waters has suggested that The Little Stranger is primarily about class issues – as Faraday rises from the servant’s son to a family friend, and can’t get over some of his lingering resentment; similarly, the grounds of Hundreds Hall are being sold off to modern estates. Waters has even said that the ghost story element was a later addition. I’m glad she did, because novels which centre around class issues can be very tiresome if not done well, especially if they’re retrospective. I prefer contemporary novels (‘contemporary’ is such a frustrating phrase… I mean contemporary-to-the-period-described, rather than contemporary-meaning-modern) which don’t feel the need to hammer home how awful middle-class pretensions were, or throw their hands up in horror at the idea of servants. Waters doesn’t fall into this trap, but I fear she’d have been nearer to it had the ghost-story element not crossed her mind.

For the most part, The Little Stranger was brilliant. You know me and long books, but I read this in two or three days; got up early to finish it, etc. etc. Waters’ writing is pacy and compelling without sacrificing style, and I am really keen to read more by her. True, there was a little bit of a drag between p.100 and p.200, but only a little – and the second half of the novel flew by.

And then… the ending. Which I obviously don’t want to discuss in detail. Close your eyes and sing la-la-la if you don’t want even the remotest spoilers, but… I was disappointed and confused in about equal measure. And I shan’t say more than that. I just wish Waters had given the novel a different sort of ending – if she had, then A Little Stranger could have been one of my favourite novels of the year, possibly the favourite. As it is, it might make top ten, but only just. Possibly very clever and cunning, but… disappointing.

More or less everyone seems to have reviewed this, so I suggest you do what I did and search for it in Fyrefly’s incredibly useful Blog Search Engine. But I will point you to this excellent discussion on Shelf Love: be warned, it is spoilerific.

Books to get Stuck into:

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier: Curzon reminded me how appropriate this would be as a companion read, and it’s the book I *always* recommend to people when they ask for reading ideas. And it’s Simon S’s favourite novel! No review on Siab yet… but see Simon S’s enthusiasm here.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson: my favourite American writer is definitely the Gothic side of horror, and rarely has the power of the house been drawn so chillingly or convincingly.

A new Tove Jansson!

Right on the heels of Project 24’s #12 comes, in orthodox numerical ordering, #13. But this certainly isn’t unlucky for me – I’m very excited about it. Someone send Silvester Mazzarella a box of chocolates and a hundred red roses for translating Travelling Light (and also a balloon shaped like a kitten for having such a brilliant name).

I think I’ve mentioned before that Tove Jansson is the only author (until Edward Carey picks up his pen again… c’mon, Eddie boy!) whose books I eagerly await. Or rather, since she is dead, I await the translations. Since all my favourite authors have completed their output, by virtue of completing their lives, this is quite an unfamiliar feeling for me…

So, yes, I did get rather over-excited. And I bought two copies – one for me; one for you. Pop your name in the comments for a chance to win my second copy. And, because it’s always fun to have more than just a name, tell me which author’s books you most eagerly wait to be published.

If you’ve missed out on Tove Jansson’s earlier output, you can see my thoughts on four of her other books here. Travelling Light is a collection of short stories, and although (confusingly) there is a section in A Winter Book called ‘Travelling Light’, only one story appears in both collection (to add to the confusion, that story is called ‘Travelling Light’). Jansson’s prose is always beautiful and evocative without being remotely sentimental. She’s up there amongst my favourite writers, and I can’t wait to start this collection…

So, have a go and try to win this copy! I’m feeling generous, so the competition is open to anyone, wherever you are in the world.

Haworth provides

Project 24 – #12

Thank you, little lovely bookshop in Haworth, the name of which entirely escapes me – you have provided no.12 in Project 24! Susan cunningly spotted the number in the sidebar had gone up – and in fact it’s gone up again. More to follow soon… and my impressive self control diminished.

The book in question is one Our Vicar’s Wife won’t be asking to borrow: A Compton-Burnett Compendium by Violet Powell, the same lady behind a biography of E.M. Delafield. And the second ICB-related book in Project 24, fact fans.


It sounds a bit like an omnibus or a compendium, doesn’t it, but actually it seems to be one of those nearly-scholarly-mostly-appreciative books which are difficult to categorise but a delight to read. (In fact, watch out for a review of another one soon.) It has sections with admirably ICB-esque titles: ‘Tyranny Breeds Contempt’; ‘Parents and Possessors’; ‘Resurrections has its Difficulties’. I presume they’re quotations or something – there’s a lot of ICB I haven’t read. But I’ll definitely enjoy dipping in and out of this, and it can also be a nice souvenir of Bronte-land – although what Charlotte and co would have made of Ivy, I can’t begin to imagine.