Tea or Books? #22: set in the time vs written in the time, and 84, Charing Cross Road vs Howards End is on the Landing

Tea or Books logoHistorical fiction and books-about-books are the themes for episode 22 of Tea or Books? – and we have a LOT to say on these topics. And we hope you do too! Let us know your thoughts for each category. And I hope you enjoy the little moment that I left in before the theme tune… sorry, Rachel, I couldn’t resist.

You can visit our iTunes page or download via your app of choice. WHY NOT even rate and review us, if you’re looking for a way to pass the time. And you can now even follow Rachel on Twitter, as she has joined us all on social media!

Here are the books and authors we talk about in today’s episode. (Btw, if the episodes are generally too loud or quiet, let me know and I’ll see what I can do with audio adjustments.)

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins
Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Thank Heaven Fasting by E.M. Delafield
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Mrs Harter by E.M. Delafield
Virginia Woolf
Stella Gibbons
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Zadie Smith
The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice
A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Sarah Waters
When We Were Alive by C.J. Fisher
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Middle Window by Elizabeth Goudge
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Q’s Legacy by Helen Hanff
Arthur Quiller-Couch
Letters From New York by Helene Hanff
Marilynne Robinson
T.S. Eliot
Roald Dahl
Iris Murdoch
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill
Counting My Chickens by Deborah Devonshire
Jane Austen
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill
Stet by Diana Athill
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
When I was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
The Shelf by Phyllis Rose
My Year of Reading Proust by Phyllis Rose
Browsings by Michael Dirda
The Love Child by Edith Olivier
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

11 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #22: set in the time vs written in the time, and 84, Charing Cross Road vs Howards End is on the Landing

  • July 18, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    I’m with Rachel in not liking modern books that are obsessed with trying to convince you they’re in the past when they’re so obviously not. As for your ‘vs’ – Hanff any day – her books are fab!

    • July 19, 2016 at 8:32 am

      The Delafields are expensive and rare.Saw a tatty copy of her first book “ZELLA SEES HERSELF” last week.It was £18 .From1915.

  • July 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I agree with Rachel too. I will never choose to read a book only because it is a historical novel. This being said, I immensely enjoyed Possession and, above all, The Friench Lieutenant’s Woman, because both are metafictional novels and are so cleverly done. However, we shouldn’t forget that many victorian novels were historical novels (Middlemarch, Vanity Fair, A Tale of Two Cities…), and that Walter Scott was the first historical novelist ! I think that what is damaging to the genre is the enormous output of writers who worked that seam for years because there was a lot of money to be made in it

  • July 21, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Don’t be in such a rush to write off medieval historical novels!

    One of the best books I’ve ever read was “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset. Immensely insightful, touching, engaging and enjoyable. It immerses you in day to day life of medieval Sweden and captivates you as it deals with intense human emotions, family turmoil, abiding love for parents; children and spouse, crushing disappointments, spiritual struggle and moral dilemnas.

    It’s beauty is profound and reading through Kristin’s life, watching it unfold was magical.

    The saga swept me off on a lyrical, epic journey. A novel that has etched itself on my heart and mind like no other has ever managed to before. Cannot more strongly recommend it to all your listeners and readers.

  • December 2, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I’m catching up on all your podcasts and I think this was my favorite so far! You are both so insightful, I get something out of every single episode. And I am in total agreement with Rachel about HEIOTL — I was so turned off by her smugness and self-congratulation that I could not get through it and returned it to the library. (It didn’t help that at the time I just finished my Master’s Degree and could not get a job other than as a library volunteer, I felt like an utter failure).

    And here’s a lovely anecdote about 84, Charing Cross Road: Anne Bancroft absolutely loved the book and her husband Mel Brooks (yes, the famous comedian and movie producer) bought the rights and gave it to her as a birthday gift. I think that’s just wonderful.

  • December 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I’m ploughing though your podcasts as a Christmas survival strategy…. Tote with Rach on the Howard’s End is on the Landing. I just don’t care much what Susan Hill thinks about anything. Also she was sooo rude, bordering on racist about ”colonial” writing. Unforgivable. I remember your review Rachel and agreed with it all and although I like books about books in this case the bookish theme didn’t atone for all the problems.

    Lovely episode. When leaving London to return to live in Adelaide my bookish friends gave me a copy of 84 Charing Cross Rd as a farewell gift – so this book is doubly special to me. Rachel would The French Lieutenant’s Woman fall into your category of satisfactory historic novels or is it one that stereotypes the era? In general I like contemporaneous novels most. M x

    • December 15, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Aw, glad it’s helping, Merenia!
      I remember being so surprised that anybody didn’t like HEiotL – even though I disagreed with a lot (not least on the topic of Jane Austen), I loved it so much. But there are plenty of other books about books to delight us all, aren’t there?

  • January 18, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Hi! I’m a long time fan but I’m just catching up on episodes. I greatly enjoyed your discussions on historical novels; it gave me quite a lot to think about. I share your hesitation to read novels set in the Medieval Age. However, The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis I found to be absolutely fantastic. Fun as it’s set both in the future and in the past (sounds confusing but it’s not in the novel) and is sci-fi (a genre I don’t have much experience in) with an excellent dose historical novel. I’d recommend giving it a chance if you haven’t already done so and I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts if either of you have read it.

    • January 25, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Lovely to get your comment, Olivia – I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcasts! And you do make the book sound tempting, despite my distaste for medieval settings.

      • January 25, 2017 at 12:49 am

        Well I wouldn’t want to oversell it but just thought I’d mention it as a potential choice should you ever feel like giving the medieval seeing another try :)


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