It’s St. Andrew’s Day – Scotland’s patron saint, but we don’t really do anything to celebrate it, no flag or kilt waving. But I thought it would be nice to read and ‘flag up’ a Scottish book for the occassion. Here it is!
September was first published in 1990 and is a sort of loose sequel to The Shell Seekers in that Noel Keeling appears in it as a minor character and there are references to the wider Keeling family in it.
Although I really enjoyed The Shell Seekers I have to say that I loved September, it’s a real comfort read and I can see myself going back to this one from time to time over the years.
It’s set mainly in Scotland in a fictitious place called Relkirkshire which is described as being north of Fife, which is where I happen to be sitting at the moment, so I imagined the setting as being Perthshire, the descriptions certainly sound like that lovely county which is a wee bit north of here.
The book begins in May and finishes in September and in the middle of it Rosamunde Pilcher takes us off on a summer holiday to Spain to get a wee bit of summer sunshine and escape from the rain in Scotland, just as lots of people do in real life. She did the same thing in The Shell Seekers only in that one she took us off to Portugal.
It’s a family saga involving lots of the families within the Balmerino estate and the wider neighbourhood from the laird and his wife to the Indian family running the local shop and there’s even an evil mad-woman whom Pilcher has given the surname of Carstairs, which happens to be the name of the State mental hospital in Scotland.
I’m not going to say any more about the story because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone as I definitely recommend it as a book to immerse yourself in when you are in need of a bit of rest and recuperation. It’s one of those books that you really don’t want to come to an end.
I didn’t see much Scottishness in The Shell Seekers but with September Rosamunde Pilcher definitely proves herself to be a Scottish writer. She even understands the standing which the Episcopal Church has within Scotland and its relationship with the Church of Scotland, and I can assure you that there are plenty of Scots who are completely clueless about that.
Duncan just got the keys to his flat yesterday, he’s one of the few first time buyers to be able to get a mortgage at the moment, so we just got one son moved out of Dundee a few months ago and now we’re busy moving Duncan into Dundee. It isn’t my favourite place in the world, it seems so remote and far away from what I think of as civilisation, but it’s as close to St Andrews as any normal person can buy a place nowadays and his drive to work won’t be so long now.
It’s going to be really weird having no ‘children’ in the house, after 24 years my husband and I are going to be on our own again. Tonight we had them all around the dinner table though and they’re going to be with us over Christmas and New Year as usual.
So for the next few days I’m going to be running around furniture shops because despite the fact that our house is overflowing with antique furniture, mainly inherited, he wants his place to be new and modern – what a pain!
I just had enough time yesterday to get a quick look at The Guardian G2 section and read this article on Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder
I watched the tv series as a youngster and although the whole frontier thing really attracted me I seem to remember that I was driven round the bend by the whiney youngest girl. Was her name Amy? As the youngest of 3 girls and with 2 older brothers as well, I was nothing like her at all and she seemed to me to be really spoiled so I don’t think that I ever read any of the books. Did I miss something and are they worth reading as an adult?
This is the second Rebus book by Ian Rankin which I’ve read and I’m sure I’ll be reading quite a few more of them. To be truthful, my heart did sink just a wee bit at the beginning because for a minute it seemed a bit purple prose-ish but he soon settled down into a more relaxed style.
I don’t want to say too much about the storyline because I know that quite a few people are reading Let it Bleed. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness) and her Ken have been enjoying it. Suffice to say that Rebus is the passenger in a police car on the Forth Road Bridge on a freezing winter night. He and his colleague are chasing a Ford Cortina which might have the Lord Provost’s daughter in its boot. The Ford is heading for Fife and they are determined to stop it from reaching there because they want the ‘collar’.
But that’s just the beginning and big business and politics play their parts in this book too.
I get completely engrossed in good books and at one point Rebus was doing a helluva amount of hard drinking and I actually found myself thinking – Thank God I’ve got a bottle of Irn Bru in the pantry – which is a well known Scottish fizzy drink, famous as a hangover cure!
I can’t think of anything particularly ‘Scottish’ which would have to be explained to anyone, but I have heard some English people prononunce the Irish name Siobhan (Rebus’s sidekick) as – See o ban- when of course it should be Shivon.
I hope that you’re reading this, Joan Kyler of Pennsylvania, whose name always comes with a soundtrack in my head – (65-0-0-0) because you might like to see if you can borrow this one from your library, especially as it features that ‘scary bridge’ which you drove over some years ago.
I think Ian Rankin is particularly good at conveying just how cold it feels in the east of Scotland during the winter. It’s the wind chill that gets you and as he says sandblasts you, so it’s always a lot colder than the thermometer says.
This is one of my favourite Irn Bru adverts. Have a look if you want a laugh.
Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogies are probably better known as Fortunes of War as that is what the BBC serialisation was named. The first three books were published separately between 1960 and 1965 as :
1. The Great Fortune
2. The Spoilt City
3. Friends and Heroes
and later published in one big volume as The Balkan Trilogy.
As you can see an audio version is available.
The sequel is The Levant Trilogy which was published in three volumes between 1977 and 1980 as:
1. The Danger Tree
2. The Battle Lost and Won
3. The Sum of Things.
If you’re at all interested in World War II you’ll love these books. I read them all in 2008, just before I started blogging and I don’t even have any notes on them but I thoroughly enjoyed the books and they’re written so well I was finished them in no time at all, which was the only disappointing thing really.The writer Anthony Burgess said that they were, “The finest record of the war produced by a British writer.”
Can’t say fairer than that can you?
I remember that I loved watching the BBC serialisation but for some reason it’s never been re-shown, unless I’ve just missed it somehow. It starred a very young Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. I think it was only the second thing that I’d ever seen Emma Thompson in, the first programme was by the BBC again and it was called Tutti Frutti. It was ages ago now and again it doesn’t seem to have been re-shown. But at last, it’s out in DVD.
It was set in Scotland and also had Robbie Coltrane and Richard Wilson in it. I remember it was very funny and is just the sort of thing that they should have on now in these dark and gloomy days. Emma Thompson was able to do a very good Scottish accent. Her mother is the Scottish actress Phyllida Law.
I think I might just put the DVDs on my Christmas list, if my husband’s looking for any ideas!
Gallus or gallous is what my mother was always warning me that I must not be. Which is a shame because it seemed to me that it was the gallus people who had all the fun in life.
A gallus person is cheeky, self-confident, a wee bit of a devil and as far as my mother was concerned ‘common’. Bubble gum chewing and red nail varnish wearing, if they happened to be female, and distinctly ‘fast’.
They were described as being gallus because it is a corruption of the word gallows, which is where they were destined to be hanging from if they weren’t careful.
This book was first published in 1983 and I think it's supposed to be set around then so I don't suppose it can really be called vintage crime, but it does read like it. Michael Innes had his first crime fiction book published in 1936 so he had a very long writing career, as well as an academic one too. His crime fiction is a bit like that of Dorothy Sayers in that they aren’t just light fiction and they do have allusions to more literary books along the way, and to art in general.
In Appleby and Honeybath – as it says on the cover – two masterminds of detection fiction-together for the first time. They have both been invited to – yes, you guessed it – a country house weekend! The now retired Sir John Appleby has been asked along with his wife Judith because she is a distant relative of the owners. Charles Honeybath has been commissioned to paint the portrait of the house owner, Terence Grinton.
Whilst Honeybath is wandering around the house looking for inspiration for a setting for the portrait he comes across a dead body in the library – as you do! Honestly, this book is like a game of Cluedo in fiction, there’s even a character called Mrs Mustard. But somehow that all seems to add to the charm of the whole thing and I ended up enjoying it.
It’s perfect bedtime reading or if like me you are feeling a bit under the weather. It’s a very quick read at only 155 pages.
It’s only when you have what feels like a hot roll of barbed wire lodged in your throat that you realise just how often you have to swallow, otherwise you never have to think about it. And that’s how I’ve been for about 5 or 6 days now. I think it’s only the third time in my life that I’ve almost completely lost my voice.
I haven’t been able to get on with my garden work due to having this horrible throat infection because I just don’t have the energy required for digging up the old crazy paving path which is the next thing on the gardening agenda, and I don’t want to make myself any worse than I already am.
So I don’t have any before and after photographs to show you, but I did take one of some cyclamen in an old upside-down chimney pot, there are some old lobelias there too, I know I should have chucked them out but if there are some flowers still going I can’t bear to uproot them.
This chimney pot design has 6 ‘pockets’ around it which are supposed to stop your chimney from drawing smoke down into your house, but when you use them as planters they are handy for putting crocus bulbs in for some early spring colour or any plant with a nice trailing habit in the summer.
Amanda at The Zen Leaf has decided to read a classic book each week, which I think is a great idea, and as I decided that I’m not going to do any challenges in 2011 I’m going to be doing something similar.
This is a list of 52 books which I’ve compiled from various book cases and piles in our house, it’s a mixture of books which I’ve bought and inherited and this is just scratching at the surface of the unread books here. They aren’t all classics but most of them are pretty old, some are quite obscure I think. I’m hoping to read and review one a week which I should manage quite easily even although I don’t skim read.
I’m planning to have a sprinkling of seasoning in between in the shape of vintage crime, books recommended to me, any others from my book piles that shout READ ME, and newer books via the library.
Hannie Richards by Hilary Bailey An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge The Overlanders by Dora Birtles
Any Human Heart by William Boyd The Power House by John Buchan
Heroes by Thomas Carlyle Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov Basil by Wilkie Collins
Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe Poor Folk by Dostoevsky The Gambler by Dostoevsky Uncle Bernac by Arthur Conan Doyle The King’s General by Daphne Du Maurier Castle D’Or by Daphne Du Maurier
Hungry Hill by Daphne Du Maurier Julius by Daphne Du Maurier
Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas The Popular Girl by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Swan Song by John Galsworthy
End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
The Naulahka by R. Kipling and W. Balestier Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
The Deer Park by Norman Mailer
Shadows of Empire by Allan Massie The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford The Blessing by Nancy Mitford Coming Home by Rosemary Pilcher Harriet Dark by Barbara Rees
The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott
The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark The Amateur Emigrant by R.L.Stevenson
The Silverado Squatters by R.L.Stevenson A Dedicated Man by Elizabeth Taylor
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy The Claverings by Anthony Trollope
Virgin Soil by Ivan Turgenev Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Nana by Emile Zola Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
Well, I make that 52.
I’ve just finished reading Anthony Trollope’s The Belton Estate which I’ll be reviewing at The Classics Circuit on December 10. I’m about to start on Rosamunde Pilcher’s September and after that it’s the biggy, yes – War and Peace. I may be some time!
This book was first published in 1987 so I’m really late in getting around to reading it. I know it was amazingly popular when it first came out but I was surprised when I looked at the BBC Top 100 book list that this one is number 50 on it. It’s for that reason that I thought I would read it and the fact that Rosamunde Pilcher has lived in nearby Dundee since her marriage to a Scottish soldier in 1946 and brought up her family there. So I suppose she can be regarded as a Scottish writer.
The Shell Seekers is set all over the place though with Edinburgh just being mentioned a few times. The main action takes place in the English Cotswalds and Cornwall and the story is a family saga which encompasses three generations of the Stern/Keeling family.
Laurence Stern is an artist who marries Sophie, the daughter of a friend. The huge age gap between the couple doesn’t seem to be a problem and their only child, Penelope enjoys a Bohemian lifestyle with her parents, living in London, Cornwall and France until the outbreak of World War II. After hearing about what was going on in Germany from some refugees Penelope decides to join the WRENs the next day but it isn’t exactly the sort of war work which she had been hoping to do as she’s a glorified servant, waiting at tables and she regrets joining up. It’s just the beginning of her troubles.
In later years with three grown up children Penelope discovers that her father’s paintings have become fashionable again and are fetching eye-watering sums of money at auctions. Unfortunately two of Penelope’s children have turned out to be a lot like their snobby, avaricious father and they are determined to persuade her to sell The Shell Seekers which is a large painting which was given to Penelope by her father and she is one of the three children portrayed in it.
I enjoyed the book, it’s an old fashioned family saga I suppose and as most of us have experience of growing up within a family and the same sorts of situations come up all the time, just because of the multiple personalities involved, it all has a sort of recognisable feel about it but it has the advantage that it doesn’t put your blood pressure up, as it would in real life!
Admittedly we don’t all have expensive paintings hanging on our walls but you know what I mean, there aren’t all that many families around who don’t have someone in it who feels hard done by, and of course they are usually the very ones who are the most selfish and self-centred. It all makes for a very cosy experience, now I’m looking forward to starting Rosamunde Pilcher’s September soon. I’m not sure if it is regarded as a sequel but it certainly has one of the characters in it.
I had intended to review this book around about St Andrew’s Day (Nov 30) – but I decided to read September for that date as that book is actually set in Scotland.
At last the film Tamara Drewe – see below – reached our local cinema so we went out to the flicks this evening, we hadn’t been for ages, not since we saw The Station in fact.
I loved the Posy Simmonds series which was first published in The Guardian newspaper years ago but is now published as the graphic novel Tamara Drewe.
I really enjoyed the film. It’s set in Dorset (Thomas Hardy country) and there is some lovely scenery. Nicholas Hardiment is a successful writer of crime fiction, but he and his wife Beth have opened their house up to putative writers and whilst Nicholas is busy being a pompous eejit his wife is doing all the hard work of baking and cooking and keeping their lovely farmhouse in order.
All is not well, because Nicholas can’t stop having little dalliances which results in a very public bust up, with much effing from the very well cast guests. Actually the whole thing was well cast, even the local schoolgirls who are so bored out of their minds from having to live in such a backwater that they take any opportunity to cause a bit of mayhem.
So when Tamara Drewe moves back into the farmhouse next door and takes up with Ben who is the drummer in a famous band the girls just have to do a bit of meddling.
Well it made me laugh anyway, I’d recommend it to anyone.