Project 24: the books (and a few stats)

I bought my final book of 2017 a couple of weeks ago and, barring an accidental purchase in the next fortnight, I have successfully only bought 24 books for myself in 2017! It’s been difficult to restrain myself, and I’ve definitely missed going and browsing and picking up handfuls, but it’s also been nice to know that I’ve read more from my tbr pile than I’ve added to it. In 2018, I’m not doing any fixed restrictions for the books I buy, but I’m going to Try To Be Sensible. Not least because my little flat doesn’t really have room for any more books.

Anyway, here are the 24 books that made the grade this year, and why I chose them. They’re in approximate order – i.e. when I remembered to write the in the list in my diary.

1. Dearest Andrew by Vita Sackville-West
I did really enjoy this collection of letters but, tbh, the reason I bought them was that I’d gone several weeks of the new year without buying any books and I cracked.

2. Norman Douglas by H. Tomlinson
I collect Dolphin books when I come across them, as they’re beautiful little editions – and mostly authors writing about other authors, which is a genre I v much appreciate.

3. The Runaway by Claire Wong
Claire is a friend of mine – we used to go to the same church in Oxford – so I was definitely going to be buying her (very good) novel when it came out, Project 24 or no Project 24.

4. The Pleasures of Reading: a Booklovers’ Alphabet by Catherine Ross
Yes, I was doing some vanity searching for this blog, and discovered that I’d been quoted in this book – so naturally wanted a copy.

5. A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair
Rachel and I were discussing this in an episode of our podcast, and the local library didn’t have it. (I think I might be buying quite a few Dean Street Press editions when Project 24 restrictions are lifted…)

6. Sunlight in the Garden by Beverley Nichols
I’d joyously rushed through the first two books in this trilogy, and couldn’t wait to get to the third. Je ne regrette rien.

7. The Pelicans by E.M. Delafield
One of my finds of the year – can’t believe this obscure EMD title was on the shelf in a bookshop I went into. Sure, it wasn’t her best novel, but the excitement of finding it was precious!

8. Country Notes by Vita Sackville-West
On the same trip, I went a bit mad and got this one too. Book fever.

9. All the Dogs of My Life by Elizabeth von Arnim
This is the obligatory oops-I-actually-already-owned-it purchase of the year. At least the new edition was much nicer.

10. Catchwords and Claptrap by Rose Macaulay
A beautiful Hogarth Press edition of a little Macaulay work – snapped up in an antiques shop in Ludlow.

11. The ABC of Authorship by Ursula Bloom
A fun, quirky find from the 1930s, advising how to make money from writing. Memorable for suggesting rhyming couplets of household tips would ‘always have a market’.

12. Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill
I was never going to leave the sequel to Howards End is on the Landing until 2018, was I?

13. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes
A new book by the late Oliver Sacks’ partner – a beautiful ode to New York and to Sacks.

14. Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson
A newly-translated collection of Jansson stories is always an event on my calendar. These didn’t quite live up to my hopes, but still very grateful to have them available in English.

15. ABC of Cats by Beverley Nichols
My Nichols obsession continues apace – as does, apparently, my penchant for books with ‘ABC’ in the title.

16. Stephen Leacock by Margaret McMillan
I bought this as a souvenir of visiting Leacock’s house – still can’t believe I actually got to see it.

17. My Remarkable Uncle by Stephen Leacock
And one of my Canadian purchases had to be a Leacock, of course.

18. Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson
19. The Equations of Love by Ethel Wilson
A beautiful brace of novels by this Canadian author, whom I know through her Persephone book.

20. A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy
A beautiful NYRB Classics edition of a book that Sacks writes a lot about – also bought in Canada.

21. Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman
My final Canadian purchase on this list – though actually the first book I bought while in Canada.

22. David of Kings by E.F. Benson
I had to add this nice edition of a Benson novel I’d not heard of before to my teetering Benson stacks.

23. Aspects of E.M. Forster by Rose Macaulay
And another Hogarth Press Rose Macaulay book!

24. E.M. Delafield by Maurice McCullen
I didn’t know this study of EMD existed until it was mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago – so I went online and found a copy. It’s part of an American series on English authors – from which, amusingly, I bought a study of A.A. Milne that last time I did Project 24, I think.

So, there you go. Shall we have a few stats? Well, why not.

8 fiction / 16 non-fiction – a bit surprisingly, I buy more non-fiction when up against it. Perhaps I’m more willing to buy fiction speculatively, whereas when I need to know that I’ll enjoy the books, I tread the safer ground of books-about-things-I-like?

8 by men / 16 by women – hands up who’s surprised?

5 by Canadians / 3 by Americans / 1 by a Hungarian / 1 by a Finn / 14 by Brits – again, not the biggest surprise; probably more or less reflects by usual ratios, albeit with Canadians a little more represented than usual.

4 were published in 2017 – including the translated book. Not many, but still more than I was expecting.

4 authors appeared twice – Rose Macaulay, Beverley Nichols, Ethel Wilson, Vita Sackville-West.

10 read / 14 unread – quite a few only arrived on my shelves in the final three months of the year, but I do have a few I should get to sooner rather than later.

The Pelicans by E.M. Delafield

The Pelicans (1918) by E.M. Delafield was a wonderful find in a real life bookshop – one I visited with Rachel and Jenny – and one of my Project 24 books. Delafield is one of my very favourite authors, and this is about the 23rd book I’ve read by her – nothing beats finding one of them in the wild. Early warning, it might well be the worst book of hers that I’ve read, but it’s testament to her talents that I still liked it.

The Pelicans

The Pelicans starts with kindly, scatterbrained Lady Argent and her artistic son Ludovic discussing the recently orphaned young sisters Rosamund and Frances. They live near the River Wye and have had an idyllic childhood in many ways – but now they are to be taken away by a distant relative of their mother, who wishes to be called Cousin Bertha. Lady Argent thinks she is a paragon of kindness, and this is clearly the reputation that Bertha wishes to promote – and quite possibly believes herself. But Ludovic is not convinced, and the sisters are also rather daunted by the move. Her friendly approaches towards them leave them rather wary and confused – but off they go, to join Bertha’s daughter, a simpering and devoted companion, and a grumpy but affectionate husband (affectionate to the girls; he clearly loathes his wife but has determined to stay out of the way).

Delafield wrote about unpleasant women time and again, and they are very often the sort who project an appearance of capability and being the supposed centre of adoring crowds. This can sometimes be done comically, as in The Provincial Lady in Wartime, or with a rather darker overtone – Faster! Faster! or Humbug. In The Pelicans it rather falls between two stools. Even her darkest novels have amusing moments, and there are many in The Pelicans that I will come onto, but she hasn’t quite decided how to treat the character of Bertha. Ironically, by making her quite nuanced (because how many people are actually ogres in disguise?), she is less satisfying as a character – do we require more consistency in a fictional construct than we would encounter in real people?

My favourite sections came when Bertha talks to her neighbour and frenemy – no word describes it better, I’m afraid – Nina, who has a son about Rosamund’s age (there is a brief romance) and is a widow. They exchange spiky conversations where each tries to outdo the other, and subtly insult each other. It’s all so delicious, and I longed for those pages – particularly whenever Nina would use the Biblical analogy of Mary and Martha to compare them, which she does often, and which displeases Bertha immensely. Another of Nina’s traits is to remind her friend about her (Nina’s) status as a widow:

“It somehow gave me a little pang – it seemed to bring back that concert, years ago when Geoffrey and I were together.”

Bertha was too familiar with the singular power that the most unlikely incidents possessed of recalling Nina’s happier hours to accord more than a passing acknowledgement towards this tender tribute to the past.

The companion-cum-housekeeper (Miss Blandflower) was also a delight to read, with her verbal tics done beautifully:

“Here I am, last but not least,” agitatedly murmured the late-comer, while her hostess cordially embraced her, and presented Rosamund and Frances.

Miss Blandflower belonged to that numerous and mistaken class of person which supposes the art of witty conversation to lie in the frequent quotation of well-known tags and the humorously-intended mispronunciation of the more ordinary words in the English language.

These examples show you the way Delafield has with a sardonic sentence, familiar to anybody who has read any of her novels, and I could read it for hours. But this novel gives us rather more of a different sort of novel – one which sneaks into so many of her early novels: it’s about a nunnery. Frances becomes very involved in the Catholic church (Bertha is not Catholic, but has a deep interest) and this takes over – Frances goes on a retreat, and eventually decides to live there, and many of the scenes are in this new cast of characters. It doesn’t follow the well-worn path of bashing the church, thankfully, but it’s a new set of people when we haven’t really got full potential out of the original set, and they were not as interesting to read about. It got a little slow, though there were definitely highlights in the dialogue of a booming woman who lived at the nunnery (though not a nun) and considered herself rather more at home than those around her might suggest.

The main issue with The Pelicans is probably structure. It covers so much of the girls’ lives that we never quite linger at any one stage long enough – and the periods Delafield picks seem a little disjointed and unexpected, as though she’d plunged into their timeline at random. It was only her third novel; she got much better at this.

So – her humour and the way she balanced comic sentences was already there. The melodrama that popped its head up throughout her career was a little unbridled. She hadn’t quite worked out how to manipulate characters into the forms that would work best for her. But it’s always fascinating to see the development of an author, and – if this is perhaps at the bottom of my list of EMD reads – it’s pretty impressive that it’s still really rather good. Hurrah for Delafield!

The ABC of Authorship by Ursula Bloom

ABC of AuthorshipOne of the Project 24 books I mentioned the other day was The ABC of Authorship (1938) by Ursula Bloom – and, just as I couldn’t resist buying it, equally I couldn’t resist immediately reading it. For sound advice in 2017, it’s pretty useless – as a glimpse into the world of writing in the 1930s, it’s great fun.

I say ‘writing’, but I should clarify that she is chiefly concerned with only one small corner of authorship. While she does devote a chapter to novels at the end, and airily passes by poetry in a handful of sentences, this book is chiefly concerned with stories in small magazines. That alone dates it. There was a proliferation of small magazines in the early twentieth century, both regional and national, and they were happy hunting ground for the budding author. Bloom devotes a lot of The ABC of Authorship in advising how best to approach these – down to individual magazines, and whether they would prefer (say) a story about a dashing hero or a domestic scene. I imagine it was fairly useful advice in 1938 – though the editors of those magazines may have been inundated with a certain sort of story.

Let’s be clear who Bloom was and the sort of market she’s talking about. She is apparently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific author ever – and wrote (gulp) over 500. I’ve read three of them, all novels she wrote under the pseudonym Mary Essex – she had various pseudonyms, and wrote under her own name too – and they were witty and enjoyable, and pretty good examples of light middlebrow fare. Under other names, and when writing for magazines, I think she favoured writing a little to the south of middlebrow – though certainly not racy. But she is certainly well placed to talk about getting stuff out there – she seems, as far as this book shows, to have written stories and serials every day, as well as those hundreds of novels.

She kicks off with a chapter called ‘Let’s Have a Look at Yourself’ – essentially saying “are you aware that you actually have to do something?” From here, we get chapters on how to find a plot (including, amusingly, plagiarising straight from plays you see), the business side of Fleet Street, writing features (she apparently once dictated 1000 words about a European queen over the phone), writing articles, writing serials, and the vagaries of the Editorial Mind. This last is mostly about editors being real people too – but also advising that you buy all the small magazines out there, make notes as to their contents, and know when styles changed. Thus you may impress editors.

She scatters examples throughout – some that she has had published, some suggestions, and one that appears to be ripped off from Mary Cholmondeley’s Red Pottage – and they occasionally make for entertaining reading. While a lot of her advice is practicable and doubtless useful to those who bought this book in 1938, it’s hard not to smile at some of the things that she thinks make for good inspiration. Her original thoughts include writing an article on ‘Look to your future’, or a piece called ‘Don’t be Lonely’. She advises that any serial, if lagging, can be livened up with a bull that’s got loose.

My favourite gosh-haven’t-times-changed moment came when she advised that you could always make money with ‘informative verse’, adding ‘I have taken household tips from magazines and have set them into two-line verses, for which there has never been any difficulty in the way of a sale’. Imagine finding any editor in the world who’d give you good money for the examples she offers:

The perfect gent knows it’s a sin
To tuck his napkin ‘neath his chin.

A heinous friend I had, called Nelly;
She used a spoon when eating jelly!

What should you not do? I mentioned that she wasn’t racy – I perhaps didn’t go far enough. Amongst other things, she advises not writing about adultery, the Royal Family, or having lost a child.

It’s hard not to warm to Bloom in this book – I hope it’s clear that I’m smiling rather than sneering. She is so positive, so encouraging, and clearly extremely successful. I sincerely hope that lots of young writers found her advice got them on their way to writing careers. She couldn’t have known the window into the past that she’d be providing 80 years later, or how much this man in 2017 would enjoy the book.

A (shamefaced) Project 24 update

It was all going so well. I’d only bought 7 books so far all year. I was – let’s be honest – a little smug about how easy I’d found it.

Reader, I have something to confess. I’m now up 12 books… yep, halfway through my 24 book allowance. And that puts me a solid six weeks ahead of where I should be.

Let me explain – I spent a week in Shropshire (which was lovely, and very sunny, and all was great until I got a sick bug…) and on Saturday I was up in London for a little blogger/podcast meet-up. More on that very soon, but let’s just say that it involved a very good little bookshop – Walden Books in Chalk Farm. Between these things, much temptation was thrown in my path… so which books did I buy?

Project 24 may 2017

Catchwords and Claptrap by Rose Macaulay

That’s the Hogarth Essays pictured above – a little treasure I saw in the bookshop next to where we were staying in Ludlow. I do enjoy that – despite the implicit and explicit antagonisms between Macaulay and the Woolfs in the Battle of the Brows – they also published her. This essay is about slang, and a lovely little book.

The ABC of Authorship by Ursula Bloom

We visited The Aardvark Bookery, which was on the way (if memory serves) to a Victorian working farm. I couldn’t come away empty-handed – and I’d have had very full hands any other time. On this occasion, I picked up a fun 1938 guide to writing – very much a period piece, rather than useful reading advice now. Bloom was extremely prolific, and I’ve read a handful of the books she published as Mary Essex.

All the Dogs of My Life by Elizabeth von Arnim

We popped into the small, lovely town of Presteigne – which included a tiny bookshop. Nobody was there but the door was open, so Dad and I had a mosey. After a bit, somebody put his head around the door – and asked us to turn off the lights and close up when we were ready, and put money on the desk if we bought anything. “It’s an honesty bookshop – isn’t it great? This is Presteigne!” I thought I hadn’t found anything, but happened to scan the shelf of books about dogs. And here this was!

The Pelicans by E.M. Delafield

Walden Books was a real treasure trove of (fairly cheap) interwar novels – there were even quite a few Persephones there – but I hadn’t expected this. Finding The Pelicans was one of those rare moments – where I grab the book and clutch it to myself, lest anybody sneak in and get it before me. (With two book bloggers on the premises, this wasn’t impossible.) It’s not exactly unfindable online, but I’ve almost never seen E.M. Delafield novels (beyond the obvious half dozen) in the wild, as it were, and it was rather a thrill.

Country Notes by Vita Sackville-West

And I couldn’t resist this one either – same bookshop – even though I knew it was taking me to the end of June. It’s a collection of short essays by Vita Sackville-West about the countryside, in a hefty hardback, with the sort of fairly terrible photography which must have looked impressive back in the day. But a nice book to add to my VSW collection.

So, in summary, as people used to say back in 2012 – ‘sorry not sorry’. I’d do it again. But somebody make sure I’m locked in the house until the end of June, m’kay?

Project 24: Books 3 and 4

project-24

I’ve actually bought six books so far this year – making me precisely on track for the end of March – but only four of them have arrived as of yet. To keep track, books 3 and 4 are… A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair – which I bought for the latest episode of Tea or Books?, and which I really liked – and Norman Douglas by H.M. Tomlinson.

Norman Douglas

I bought this while in London, on Charing Cross Road, and it led to a little conversation with the bookseller about Norman Douglas. He, in fact, was reading a book by Norman Douglas right then. But I… well, I’ve never read a book by Norman Douglas. Or H.M. Tomlinson, come to that. And I always seem to get Norman Douglas mixed up with Norman Collins.

BUT I love the Dolphin Books series. There such lovely objects, and a really interesting range of non-fiction titles. They’re also pretty hard to stumble across, for the most part, so I couldn’t resist it when I found it. And that’s reason enough to add it to my Project 24 list, isn’t it?

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.