The Berry Scene by Dornford Yates

The Berry Scene cover

The Berry Scene by Dornford Yates is a collection of short stories involving Berry Pleydell, his wife and cousin Daphne, the narrator is Daphne’s brother ‘Boy’. Dornford Yates was a local magistrate and his experiences in court obviously inspired him to write some hilarious court situations. The dates vary between 1914 and post World War 2 and the locations begin in England and move to France, just as Yates himself did.

A couple of the stories are about the Pleydells having good luck at auction houses, due to Daphne’s eagle eyes and also feature them getting one over a rival bidder which ends in grief for the other bidder, but relations are always smoothed over in a later story so there’s no residual nastiness.

If you like P.G. Wodehouse you’ll probably enjoy the Yates books that involve Berry, they’re similar although not quite as snooty and upper class. There are a few of his books available free from Project Gutenberg here.

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times – September the 4th

How quickly Bookshelf Travelling in Insame Times comes around. This meme was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, but I’ve taken it over for the moment.

Topshelf Books

This week’s bookshelf is in a glass doored bookcase, another one from Jack’s parents and it’s situated in our living room. Click on it to enlarge the picture. It has a variety of books in it, some really old library discards from a library I used to work in, those are the natural history books, ancient but nicely illustrated so still useful. All of the books are worth reading. The World War 1 poet Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer are great reads and my copies are published by Folio Books, as is Crime Stories from the Strand. This is a compilation of short stories featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Edgar Wallace, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Carter Dickson and several more crime writers.

The small read volume to the far right of the bookshelf is a Bradshaw’s Continental Railaway Guide, illustrated and complete with several maps. It cost all of 3/6 or 17 and a half pence in ‘new money’. It dates from the early 1900s and apart from the continental railway guides it also gives lots of information on the towns and villages in Europe – including Russia – that are worth visiting, what you can see and recommendations on where to stay. It also has lots of adverts for hotels, many of which are called The Grand Hotel. There are lots of adverts for shipping lines too. It might interest you to know that if you sailed from Liverpool to Boston first class it would cost you £12. Second class was £8 and 10 shillings. I found this lovely book when I was having a rake around in an antique/junk shop which just had a few books. When I asked the owner how much the book was she said – Just give me a couple of quid (pounds). She explained to me that so many copies of the book had been published it wasn’t worth any more than that. It felt like theft but I gave her the £2 and departed with my treasure. Michael Portillo’s TV series Great Continental Railway Journeys was already very popular at the time and as he uses these guides during his travels they’re become highly desirable, but I’m holding on to mine.

If you don’t know about the TV series you might want to have a look at the You Tube video below, you also might want to wear sunglasses as Portillo is known for his bright and clashing colours.

Will you be Bookshelf Travelling this week?

Other Bookshelf Travellers this week are :

A Son of the Rock

20 Books of Summer – the Wrap-up

20 books of summer

All too quickly we’ve come to the end of 20 Books of Summer and I haven’t quite managed to read all of my chosen books. I did actually read more than twenty books over the summer but I veered away from the list when I felt the need to read a Heyer or vintage crime or some children’s books. I haven’t quite managed to review all that I’ve read from the list, I still have to review In a Dark Wood Wandering and The Berry Scene. I enjoyed most of the books, a few didn’t quite hit the spot but it was a good summer of reading over a time when we were still locked down and not allowed to travel far from home. I’m so glad that I’m a keen reader.

1. North from Rome by Helen MacInnes
2. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
3. My Friend Flora by Jane Duncan
4. Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
5. The Citadel by A.J. Cronin
6. The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd
7. The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart
8. Madame Solario by Gladys Huntingdon
9. Autumn Quail by Naguib Mahfouz
10. Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
11. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
12. The Berry Scene by Dornford Yates
13. The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster
14. Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada
15. The Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse
16. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
17. Call for the Dead by John le Carre
18. A Murder of Quality by John le Carre
19. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
20. Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Bookshelf Travelling – August 30th

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

Classic Books

Jack took the above photo last week for his Bookshelf Travelling contribution, a wee bit of a cheat as it’s really a shelf full of my books! Anyway, I haven’t read them all but I have read and enjoyed the What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge. This shelf houses What Katy Did Next and it was a Sunday School prize to Ina Scott in 1921. I don’t think I have a copy of What Katy Did nowadays, but I remember as I child that it left a deep impression on me and I swore that if I ever had any children I would always explain things to them – rather than just saying ‘No you can’t do that’.

I also really enjoyed reading The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett, much more recently. You can read what I thought of it here. Actually I see that it wasn’t all that recently it was 2013 when I read it – how time flies.

The other two books that I want to highlight are books that I’ve never got around to reading. Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley belonged to Jack’s Granny Margery Besford and she inscribed it in October 1909 when I think she was about 15. I have not a clue what this book is about. Westward Ho! is a town in England which is famous for being the only town in the UK which has an exclamation mark! It’s a lovely copy of the book and I really should put it on my Classics Club list.

The last one I want to talk about is The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade. Again it belonged to Margery Besford but she got this one as a Sunday School Prize in 1909 from St. Gabriel’s Church, Govan – which is an area of Glasgow. At one point, in the heady days when there were quite a lot of secondhand bookshops around they all seemed to have at least one copy of this book on their shelves so it was wildly popular in its day. It’s 533 pages of very small print – I might get around to reading it it one day.

I see that there are quite a lot of books by Rudyard Kipling too. I have read all of these ones I believe, he is wildly unfashionable now, I suppose because he is wrapped up with ‘British Empire’ days, but last year I was in the St Andrews secondhand bookshop and there was an Americam tourist (not that old either) who was absolutely thrilled to discover a whole set of old Kipling volumes, he was buying them no matter what the flight weight restrictions were, so somebody is still reading them.

Have you read any of these books? Click on the photo to see it enlarged.

Other Bookshelf Travellers are:

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Books Please

Read – warbler

She Reads Novels

Stainless Steel Droppings

Staircase Wit

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

 The Talisman Ring cover

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1936. This book doesn’t feature on my 20 Books of Summer list but I really needed a book to cheer me up. The news pandemical and political is bad enough, but the days and days of constant rain just about pushed me over the edge. I knew that a Georgette Heyer book would hit the spot, accompanied by some chocolate of course. I recalled that someone recently said that The Talisman Ring was her favourite Heyer – and it was sitting unread on my Heyer shelf – such luck! I think it has become my favourite too. More than any others it seemed to be a Regency version of one of Heyer’s crime/mystery books and there was plenty of scope for snappy and witty dialogue between the male and female characters.

The elderly Lord Lavenham is dying and three of his grandchildren have gathered at Lavenham Court. Ludovic the heir to the estate is absent as he has had to skip the country after he was suspected of murdering a fellow gambler. Lord Lavenham makes Tristram promise to marry his much younger cousin Eustacie as there’s no one to look after her, her branch of the family had recently come to grief in the French Revolution, but neither of them are attracted to each other. Basil or Beau as he is nicknamed will inherit the estate in the absence of Ludovic.

Eustacie believes that she would have a more exciting life if she became a governess (maybe French governesses have an exciting life!) so when her grandfather dies she sneaks out of the Court to ride to London, having to ride through a notoriously haunted forest. Instead of meeting the Headless Horseman she bumps into a group of smugglers, one of whom turns out to be Ludovic.

Events lead them to have to put up at a nearby coaching inn and so begins an adventurous romp with Eustacie being enthusiastically aided by Sarah Thane who is staying there while her brother Sir Hugh samples as much of the liquor in the cellar as he can get his hands on.

This book has great characters and a good plot too, it was just what I needed, mind you I’m still fed up with all the rain.

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

I’ll be gathering all the Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times blogposts here for the moment. Judith at Reader in the Wilderness has had too much going on in her life recently to be able to keep up with it, so I’m stepping in to help.

More Books

The bookshelf I’m featuring this week is home to some favourite authors. I loved The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, it’s about a large and wealthy London based family, starting from Victorian times and following their lives and family feuds beyond World War 1. These books are available free from Project Gutenberg here.

I think I’ve read all of the books on this shelf apart from Veranilda by George Gissing. This book dates from 1904 and originally belonged to Jack’s Granny and has her name in it. M. Besford. I used to write my name in books but stopped doing that decades ago. I’m now wondering if I should at least write it in pencil, as I really like to see a name and date inside a book. What do you do – inscribe or leave blank and pristine? Have you read Veranilda or anything else by George Gissing.

I remember that I really enjoyed reading The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher – before I started blogging, but I’ve never read anything else by him. Have you?

A few of my Rumer Godden books are on this shelf, some are in a bookcase upstairs, possibly they wouldn’t fit on this shelf. Elizabeth Jane Howard and Penelope Lively are favourites too, then of course there’s Mrs Gaskell. I’ve been meaning to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s house for years. I see that it has opened up again but I might leave it until next year.

If you’re taking part in Bookshelf Travelling this week I’ll add a link to you, if I miss your post please send me a link.

A Son of the Rock (Jack)

Staircase Wit

Stainless Steel Droppings

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster

The Gleam in the North cover

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster is the second book in Broster’s Jacobite trilogy which begins with The Flight of the Heron. It was first published in 1927.

The story begins with Ewan Cameron’s two small boys playing by the edge of the loch that they’ve been warned not to go near. Donald the eldest is enthusiastically telling Keithie his young brother about the battle of Culloden and he shows Keithie his favourite possession – an old claymore (sword) which had been used at the battle. But Keithie is most unimpressed and throws the claymore into the loch, which prompts Donald to push his young brother into the loch after it – and it’s a very deep loch.

Keithie is rescued but the cold soaking leads to him falling seriously ill and his father’s search for help in the moors and hills of the Scottish Highlands which are being patrolled by King George’s Redcoats alerts the authorities. They’re looking for ‘rebels’ such as Ewen so that they can take them down to England to execute them.

It isn’t only the Redcoats that the Jacobites have to beware of though, there are some spies within the clans, selling their own for a handful of coins, much less than 40 pieces of silver.

This was not quite as enjoyable as The Flight of the Heron but was still a good read full of suspense and is a painless way of reading about Scottish history if you’re interested in it. Ewen inadvertently meets up with his old friend Keith Windham’s family which goes a long way to explaining Windham’s personality.

It was a time when the Highlanders were being violently suppressed, forbidden to speak Gaelic, wear the tartan or be in possession of anything resembling a weapon, and they were being transported to the colonies at the drop of a hat.

A Murder of Quality by John le Carre – 20 Books of Summer

A Murder of Quality cover

A Murder of Quality by John le Carre was first published in 1962 and it features George Smiley.

Miss Brimley is an old friend of George Smiley, she’s the editor of a magazine called Christian Voice which has a very small list of subscribers. One of them – Mrs Rode – has sent a letter to Miss Brimley which says she is sure her husband is going to kill her and that she has no one else that she can turn to for help. Miss Brimley passes the letter on to her old friend Smiley, asking him to investigate.

Stella Rode’s husband is a housemaster at a prestigious English public school called Carne, but by the time Smiley gets there the deed has been done. Carne School is the sort of place that Smiley is well used to, presumably having been to such an institution himself. It doesn’t take Smiley long to discover that there’s a lot of nastiness within the school with the schoolmasters and their wives being consumed by petty jealousies and snobbery.

The Rodes seemed to be a mismatched couple and Stella went out of her way to upset her husband, choosing to side with the local townspeople with whom she was very popular, rather than with the snooty schoolmasters and their wives. There are the usual ‘town versus gown’ tensions such as you get in places like St Andrews.

This was a very quick but enjoyable read. Apparently before John le Carre found fame as an author he had been a master at Eton and he was inspired by his experiences there when writing this book. Presumably there weren’t any actual murders at Eton, but I can imagine that there were plenty of character assassinations!

This was one of my 20 Books of Summer reads, the sixteenth. I think I might manage to read all twenty of them.

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times is a meme which was started by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

Bookshelf

It must be at least twenty – maybe even thirty years since I stumbled across Elizabeth von Arnim, not that I knew the name but I found a small copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden which didn’t even have an author’s name on it. I loved it so much that when I did discover who wrote the book I started to collect everything else that she had written.

Some of Elizabeth von Arnim’s books are available free from Project Gutenberg here.

The other books on this shelf are by Lawrence Durrell, I think I read some of his books back in the 1970s, gave them away and then bought these ones again but so far I haven’t got around to reading these ones, now I’m not even sure that I read any of them although I definitely did read books by his brother Gerald.

The Edna Ferber books I read some years ago. I enjoyed them both but particularly Show Boat and that edition is particularly stylish I think as it’s a facsimile of the original 1926 book. Some of her books are available on Project Gutenberg too. I remember I enjoyed reading Roast Beef, Medium it’s a collection of short stories. You can download them here.

Show Boat cover

The Mystery of the Moated Grange by Angela Brazil

The Mystery of the Moated Grange cover

The Mystery of the Moated Grange by Angela Brazil was published in 1942 and World War 2 does feature in it as the tale opens with the Bevan family enjoying a last hour together before Captain Bevan goes off to rejoin his regiment. Captain Bevan had had a week long leave but he had to spend so much time in London with solicitors that the time had gone so quickly. The upshot of that is that he has inherited an estate from an elderly uncle – if the uncle’s estranged son doesn’t turn up to claim it. It’s thought that the son must be dead.

Maenan Grange is a moated property in rural Herefordshire and it has just been rented out to a boarding school which has been evacuated to the safety of the countryside. The two Bevan girls are enrolled at the school while Mrs Bevan becomes a sort of custodian of the house. It’s an awkward situation for Mrs Bevan and the teachers who really don’t want the owner of the property looking over their shoulders. The older son of the family is sent to a nearby boarding school for boys.

The Bevan children are very impressed with their new home, but they know there’s some sort of mystery surrounding it as they overheard their father saying something was a gamble. The Bevan sisters, Marian and Hilda find it difficult to make friends with the schoolgirls, Marian is particularly aware of her status as the daughter of the owner of the grange, and is a bit stand-offish with the other girls for that reason.

The possibility of the grange being haunted and a hint of lost treasure make this one seem like a cross between an Angela Brazil and an Enid Blyton, but it’s an entertaining light read for pandemic times.

If you fancy having a read at an old-fashioned school story have a look here at the Angela Brazil books available free from Project Gutenberg. This book isn’t available free as it’s one of her later books. She had a very long career which began in 1899 and ended in 1946, she died in 1947.