For some reason, despite quite a lot of reading time, I haven’t managed to finish more than one short book so far in 2017. What’s going on? Well, for now, here’s a Shiny New Books review of Evenfield (1942) by Rachel Ferguson – one of the new Furrowed Middlebrow reprints. It’s quite an extraordinary novel – in terms of what it’s trying to do and be. Below is the intro to my review, and you can read the whole thing here.
The launch of the Furrowed Middlebrow series from Dean Street Press, under the editorial eye of blogger and middlebrow expert Scott of Furrowed Middlebrow, is an occasion for much rejoicing. His knowledge of neglected writers from the twentieth century is second to none, and I very excited to see which names he picks for the ongoing series. But there was one name in the first tranche that particularly thrilled me: Rachel Ferguson.
Ferguson is known now, if at all, as the author of The Brontës Went to Woolworths and Alas, Poor Lady, which have been reprinted over the years, but the rest of her novels have remained neglected. Dean Street Press have now brought back A Harp in Lowndes Square, A Footman for the Peacock, and Evenfield, written between 1936 and 1942. The last and latest of these is the novel I’ve read for Shiny New Books, and it is a bizarre, enticing curio that could have come from no other pen.
It’s no secret that I’m madly in love with Slightly Foxed Editions, and covet having the whole library on my shelves one day. So far I have this lovely bundle of them…
The one I’m going to talk today is not a reprint, though; it’s Terms and Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – a history of girls’ boarding schools from 1939-1979. It’s basically the perfect stocking filler for the bookish person in your life, and I’ve already given one copy to a friend who was thrilled with it. I wrote about Terms and Conditions in more length in Shiny New Books – you can read the whole review here. And please do – this book is a real treat.
Did you know that the author of The Little Prince wrote about dangerous flights in South America? Well – now you do! My review of Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is over at Shiny New Books, and the beginning of it is here:
If the name Antoine de Saint-Exupéry means anything to you, it probably only means one thing: The Little Prince. It was this contrast between legacy and his 1931 novel Night Flight that intrigued me to pick up a copy when Alma Classics printed it with a new translation by David Carter – and what an intriguing little book it is.
A nice issue of Shiny New Books is coming out later this week, and I’ve still got a couple reviews I’ve not sent you towards. So you’ll get a couple in quick succession – tiding me over while my wrist recovers (which also accounts for how few reviews I have in Issue 13, sadly). Firstly, here’s a very strange, somehow also very good, book from 1978: The Men’s Club by Leonard Michaels. The whole review is here, and here’s the beginning of it:
There have been quite a few reprints, in recent years, from the interwar period and thereabouts. We are familiar with Golden Age detective fiction coming back into print, or the likes of Persephone, Virago Modern Classics, and others looking to the 1920s and 1930s for forgotten gems. Less often do reprints emerge from the 1970s – and so it was intriguing that Daunt Books have looked to Leonard Michaels and The Men’s Clubfor their latest offering (originally published in 1978 according to the inner flap, and 1981 according to Wikipedia – who knows?).
I’m still playing catch-up with Shiny New Books reviews – and so onto my review of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Definitely my most coveted books of 2016 are these reprints. And the book was excellent too, of course! The full review is here, and below is the opening of it…
It might seem strange to include a novel in the reprints section that is only 13 years old – but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has recently had all of her books to date reprinted by 4th Estate with beautiful African prints for the covers, and it seemed like an excellent opportunity to acquaint myself with her first novel: Purple Hibiscus.
Everybody else got on the Adichie train years ago, but I only encountered her earlier in 2016 while reading Americanah. While her most recent novel is more ambitious and broader in scope than Purple Hibiscus, there are many of the same hallmarks in her debut – perhaps primarily the confident, sensitive storytelling.
I heard about But What if We’re Wrong? on a popular culture podcast I love called The Cooler – because they had an interview with Chuck Klosterman. I loved the idea of it, and it’s just the sort of quirky non-fiction title I pick up every now and then. So, what are you waiting for? Why not read my thoughts about it over at Shiny New Books? Spoilers: it includes some controversial opinions about the American Constitution.
How many non-fiction books do you come across which combine literature, music, television, sports, science, and aliens? Not that many, I’m going to wager – but, then, I could be wrong – as Klosterman’s book is continually reasserting. There are many kinds of wrongness, of course, but the focus of this book is clear in the subtitle: ‘thinking about the present as if it were the past’. How will the early 21st century be remembered in decades and centuries to come?
I’ve read quite a few war memoirs, but I’ve not read one quite like Sword of Bone before – this is the first of my reviews at Shiny New Books’ latest edition that I’ll be pointing you towards. Here’s the opening of my review; you can read the rest here.
They’ve done it again! Slightly Foxed have brought out yet another fascinating, entertaining, and well-written memoir – and another one that I would never have heard of without their curated collection in Slightly Foxed Editions. This time, it’s the memoir of a billeting officer during the Second World War – with the added interest that it was originally published in 1942 when, of course, the war was far from over.
LIFE. It’s so busy right now. And that’s why I don’t seem to be reading or reviewing very much. But I have one more Shiny New Books review to point you towards – and it turned out to be an unexpectedly personal one, since it was about the area in which I grew up (albeit a lot earlier). Read the whole review here; this is the opening to entice you:
Brensham Village, the latest volume from the Slightly Foxed Editions series that I love so dearly, is a sort of sequel to Portrait of Elmbury, also published by Slightly Foxed – indeed, it is apparently the middle of a trilogy. I have yet to readPortrait of Elmbury, so let me put your mind at ease from the outset: this is a straightforward delight that requires no familiarity with the first memoir. First published in 1946, it must have been a wonderful antidote to years of war – and is equally welcome today.
Another book from Shiny New Books Issue 10 – Delta Wedding (1945) by Eudora Welty. Truth be told, I came away not knowing quite what to make of it. I certainly prefer her novel The Optimist’s Daughter, but I think Delta Wedding is a tour de force of a different variety.
Delta Wedding might win the award for the most beautiful book I’ve read for this issue of Shiny New Books – as an object, I mean, though the term can also apply to the writing. Along with the other new reprints from Apollo (an imprint of Head of Zeus), the paper quality, choice of image, and interesting directional lines on the cover, come together to make a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Luckily the inside of the book lives up to the exterior.
You know that I love an NYRB Classic, and lament how often their beautiful editions aren’t available this side of the pond – so it was lovely to get a review copy of More Was Lost by Eleanor Perenyi. It’s a poignant, warm, captivating memoir. But read the introduction last. Promise me you’ll read the introduction later.
If you’re anything like me, you might be unfamiliar with the political dynamics of Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the years leading up to the Second World War. They form the backdrop to this involving and poignant memoir that manages to combine the personal and the global in an extraordinary way: More Was Lost, published in 1946 and now clothed in the loveliness of a NYRB Classics edition.