Tea or Books? #3: re-reading vs. new books, and D.E. Stevenson vs. Dorothy Whipple


Tea or Books logoA little later than we planned (which is probably a good indication of how unreliable we’re going to be… but I hope not!) here is episode 3 of Tea or Books? with lovely Rachel of Book Snob.

In this episode, we discuss re-reading vs. reading books that we’ve not read before (which I’ve described, more pithily, as ‘new books’ – but, knowing me and Rachel, they’re unlikely actually to be new) and then we pit D.E. Stevenson against Dorothy Whipple. That bit might get us into trouble, but we are ready and willing to get suggestions…

Listen above, or download/subscribe through iTunes (here, or search in iTunes store), and let us know what you think. You can even add ratings and reviews on iTunes, donchaknow.


The books we mention are:

Put Out More Flags – Evelyn Waugh
Emma – Jane Austen
Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
Provincial Lady series – E.M. Delafield
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Cheerful Weather for the Weather – Julia Strachey
One Fine Day – Mollie Panter-Downes
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Sweet Valley High
The Baby-sitters Club
The L-Shaped Room – Lynne Reid Banks
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Villette – Charlotte Bronte
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Between the Acts – Virginia Woolf
The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Miss Buncle’s Book – D.E. Stevenson
Mrs Tim of the Regiment – D.E. Stevenson
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Someone at a Distance – Dorothy Whipple
They Knew Mr Knight – Dorothy Whipple
Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple
High Wages – Dorothy Whipple
The Closed Door – Dorothy Whipple
Every Good Deed – Dorothy Whipple
They Were Sisters – Dorothy Whipple
The Priory
 – Dorothy Whipple
Because of the Lockwoods – Dorothy Whipple
Random Commentary – Dorothy Whipple
The Other Day – Dorothy Whipple
Young Anne – Dorothy Whipple

35 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #3: re-reading vs. new books, and D.E. Stevenson vs. Dorothy Whipple

  • July 13, 2015 at 1:49 am

    As you know I am a huge fan of DE Stevenson, but I don’t disagree that they are twee and simplistic. And Miss Buncle is the most complex and best written of the 30 or so novels she wrote.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Maybe I should just go back with lowered expectations! (And, oo, you listen! I wondered.)

  • July 13, 2015 at 2:00 am

    As with many things I am a bit of a contrarian when it comes to Whipple. I think her short stories in The Closed Door are my favorite Whipples. On the other hand Someone at a Distance is my least favorite.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      I think we talked about this, didn’t we? And failed to convince either of us. Horses for courses!

  • July 13, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Can you tell I am commenting as I am listening? Simon, I don’t think I would be doing you, me, or DE Stevenson a disservice if I told you you can skip ever reading her again. If you didn’t find the groove of her in Miss Buncle you are unlikely to find anything redeeming about her other work. She is my low brow, guilty pleasure. I will say that she does talk ,about faith at least briefly, in many of her novels.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Talk of faith might be enough to make me revisit her, with those lowered expectations!

  • July 13, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Hi Simon. I’m halfway through episode 3 and still enjoying the podcast series. I especially love how Rachel opens up about how certain books have impacted her personal life. Also love the shout out to SVH and BSC – no, not great literature but the countless hours of reading pleasure were priceless! Especially the BSC – personal preference.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks Lindsey, so glad you’re enjoying it! I never read BSC, and I daresay it’s too late now, but at least we are the sort of podcasters unashamed to acknowledge our dodgy reading pasts ;)

  • July 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Another lovely discussion. You two talk so naturally together.

    On re-reading – I don’t do much of it – maybe one or two books a year, usually sparked by joining in a readalong or revisiting a book I read as a child or teenager. I loved revisiting LOTR last time (my 4th read, coming after the films), but won’t now re-read it again.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Aw, thanks Annabel! We have such fun doing it, once the odd nerves die down for each episode.

  • July 13, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I’ve always re-read books I love – and often more than once a year. To some extent I think Simon is right, and there’s safety and comfort in re-reading – it’s like meeting up with old friends. But if a book is that good it’s worth reading again (and again, and again…) I usually find something to consider that I haven’t noticed or fully appreciated before, and as I get older my interpretation of events/actions has changed, as has my view some characters has changed (Mr Rochester, alas, is no longer one of my great romantic heroes).

    I’ve always read ‘new’ books as well – I think you can do both – and I’ve made a lot of wonderful discoveries in recent years (thanks to recommendations from you two and other bloggers with similar tastes). But when I say ‘new’ I mean new to me, not contemporary fiction.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I definitely think I would get a lot from doing more re-reading – but the enticement of the unknown always persuades me. Having said that, I always seem to have re-read a good 10 or so titles each year, which I guess isn’t a bad percentage (about 10%).

  • July 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I think I’d disagree about your comments about the types of people who do a lot of re-reading. Of course, you are only speaking about people you know, but I do a lot of reading (three or four books a week) and I read all kinds of books. I do re-read, maybe a book a month. I do agree that it’s difficult to balance reading new books with old favorites, or re-investigating a book that you may or may not have liked when you were younger.

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      That sounds about the same percentage of re-reading I do, Kay, and I agree it’s about finding the right balance. I think the (few) people I know who more or less only re-read probably only read 10 or so books a year.

  • July 13, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I love the podcasts, both of you seem natural broadcasters. Your comments on re reads bought back a memory of me at 7, running in from school to find my mother with her feet up on the sofa, book in hand; she had spent the day reading Pride and Prejudice (not for the first time) and having finished it started it again immediately. Love that! I mostly re read if I am not feeling 100% or suffering from readers block, and then I range from childhood favourites to Miss Read or Agatha Christie
    Sadly my knowledge of Whipple and Stevenson is woeful, but I shall have fun improving it.
    Sarah Young

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks, Sarah, that’s so kind! It definitely helps that we can just have a chat with each other, and mostly forget that people will be listening :)

      Agatha Christie is PERFECT for not feeling well… but I don’t know if I’ve re-read any of her, because I’d know whodunnit. And do enjoy Whipple and Stevenson! We picked rather niche authors for this episode. More famous ones next time, promise!

  • July 14, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Simon,
    Thanks to you and Rachel for another fun podcast episode! Regarding D.E. Stevenson, I think her best books are the Mrs. Tim books (there are five total) and Listening Valley. I found Miss Buncle’s Book disappointing (I think all the high praise beforehand brought my expectations way up) but enjoyed the sequels for comfort reads. They (all DES books) are good for sick days or when suffering from readers block. Thanks to Rachel for getting me to re-read Jane Eyre… I had shunned it for years because of Mr. Rochester, but am finding I can enjoy it even without liking him. :-)

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      I didn’t know, or had forgotten, that there were so many Mrs Tim books – I’ll definitely have to hunt out some more! Thanks :) And thanks for mentioning reader’s block – which I can use as further evidence (to my disbelieving brother) that other people believe it exists too.

      • July 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        You’re welcome :)

    • July 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Yes, I love Listening Valley! Miss Buncle was wonderful, too, but in a different way. I put Listening Valley on par with some of L.M. Montgomery’s books like The Blue Castle and Rilla of Ingleside. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is my second favorite of D.E. Stevenson.

      • July 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm

        I love the Blue Castle! You’re right, they both have a certain magical feeling about them. I was happy to see that Listening Valley is one of the recent DES reprints by Sourcebooks.

      • July 17, 2015 at 8:23 am

        Oh dear, lots of books I haven’t read, there! Anne of Green Gables is the only LMM I’ve read, and that was only a few weeks ago.

  • July 15, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Can’t wait to listen to this one because am acquainted with both authors and have read a couple of titles from each. That always adds an extra layer to my enjoyment of a bookish podcast!

    Is Anna Karenina going to become the “Rebecca” book that gets mentioned in every podcast a la Simon Savidge and the Readers? : )

    • July 17, 2015 at 8:25 am

      When I tell people IRL that we did these authors, I have to explain that most of our blog readers will know who they are, even though nobody else did!

      I’m angling for the Provincial Lady to be the one we mention every episode! I’ll have to try harder.

  • July 15, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I am looking forward to listening to this podcast later on tonight. I make no bones about loving DES – have loved her since the 1970s when I first borrowed her books from our public library. I now have most of her books (via 2nd hand book shops, library sales et al). She is the mistress of light romance and I find the incidental social history fascinating, but above all I can enter a different world and escape from the 21 century. I put Neville Shute in this category too…

    On another subject, there is a very interesting story about E M Delafield in Martin Edward’s superb book “The golden age of murder”.

    Congratulations to you and Rachel, you have a great rapport and share a wonderful sense of fun.

    I have enjoyed the earlier podcasts.


    • July 17, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Sue! We do have great fun recording them.
      I haven’t read any Nevil Shute, but have heard such good things about him that I must try. He’s not at all the author I thought he was, it seems.

      And thanks for the mention of EMD being in The Golden Age of Murder; it tipped me over the edge into buying a copy. I’m intrigued, as I didn’t think she had any connection with that circle…

  • July 15, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Another fine podcast! I enjoyed your discussion on re reading, and have found that I have had to try it quite often recently for two reading groups. My discovery has been that I can have quite a different response to the second read, although my advanced age and the sometimes considerable interval between the readings may have something to do with this! Otherwise, I feel overwhelmed by the many books I haven’t tried and often tempted by the new “shiny ” ones.
    Loving your series

    • July 17, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Aw, thanks Ana! Do let us know if there are any topics you’d like to hear us discuss.

      And it does seem like we all feel that tension between re-reads and new books – so difficult to choose!

    • July 17, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Thanks so much Emma!

  • July 18, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Simon–you should have read more than 2 books by D E STEVENSON.I listen to your podcasts to educate myself.

    • July 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      Which would you recommend?

  • July 19, 2015 at 4:15 pm


    But i would say that i am “perplexed “at her huge popularity and there are “better” writers out there as you would probably agree.So i have mixed feelings about her.

  • July 29, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve just caught up with eps 2 and 3.
    I had a “YES! EXACTLY!!” moment when Rachel explained that for some people the choice of short over long books is because when reading a long book we’re looking at the pile of To Be Read books thinking about how many short ones we could be getting through in the same time as this one long one.

    As for DE Stevenson, I was very very disappointed that you were judging based on so little experience with her work. I’m not a full-on Dessie, but I have read 6 of her works published by the micro publisher Greyladies, based here in Scotland. And it is that Scottish connection which makes her of particular interest to me. Several of those 6 had never been published before and were found by a descendant. So some of them you can tell weren’t quite up to scratch, but it’s fine if you know what you’re getting into and they’re a nice diversion. Some, however, are republished and are worth reading. “Peter West” deals with adult themes, some of which were ignored in its day – like alcoholism and domestic abuse. “The English Air” was published in 1940 and deals with an English family in 1938 taking in a cousin born to an English mother and Nazi father in Germany. He’s a young adult and tries to adjust what he’s been told about Britain in Germany, with what he’s witnessing. I find books set during WWII but published before it ends particularly interesting, so we as readers have knowledge of the whole war that the author does not – including the realities of the horrors Germany was committing which DES would not have been fully aware of in 1940.

    When Rachel was waxing rhapsodically about “depiction of family life.. the beauty you find in everydayness of life…there is magic and beauty in doing those things and there’s so much meaning in family life and the love you have for people around you” – I thought she was talking about DES. So while on this description I’m happy to try Dorothy Whipple for the first time, if you both keep trying more DES and come back to this discussion again.

    I’ve not read Miss Buncle. Out of the 6 I’ve read, I’d recommend The English Air, Peter West, and Emily Denistoun. I would advise against The Fair Miss Fortune unless you want a very fluffy light quick read. Jean Erskine’s Secret and also Portrait of Saskia I enjoyed but wouldn’t put at the top of the list.

    Finally, I definitely sympathise with the excitement of a Find in a used bookstore. And the jealous, fearful possessiveness that overcomes us, followed by the exultant excitement that no one else can understand when the book is legally in our possession.

    Enjoying the podcast, looking forward to more.
    Also, I love spoilers and plot synopses. I’d love it if you could give synopses (with spoiler warnings for sensitive people) so I can more enjoy your discussion of books I’ve not read.

    • July 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Lovely comment, Fenella, thank you!
      The background to DES is that I had wrongly thought that Rachel was a superfan, and would be able to fill me in with lots of knowledge and suggestions. So that was definitely my fault – and your suggestions are much welcomed!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: