Waterstone’s book purchases

I rarely buy new books which I’m slightly ashamed of, but so many of my favourite authors are out of print so secondhand bookshops are much better hunting grounds for me. But we had a trip over the border to Chester during our recent stay in north Wales and I found myself wandering into Waterstone’s.

A ‘dump bin’ at the end of an aisle drew my attention and I couldn’t resist raking through the books in it, it felt like a surprise Christmas to me!

I ended up buying five gorgeous books all for either £3 or £1 as the prices had been cut and cut again. I’m just glad that the people of Chester turned up their noses at them!

HOME by Orla Kiely – complete eye candy if you’re interested in home decor and design.

Tile Envy edited by Deborah Osburn – a book of the most gorgeous and unusual ceramic tile designs.

tile envy

Bandstands of Britain by Paul Rabbitts – I love bandstands, especially the Victorian and Edwardian ones and it’s so sad that many of them have been demolished when they should have been conserved as things of style and beauty.


Ride a Cock Horse and Other Nursery Rhymes, illustrated by Mervyn Peake – one to add to my collection of children’s illustrated books.


The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson – this is from the Contraband Pocket Crime Collection, it’s a pig in a poke for me but I have high hopes of it.

The Paper Cell

It is just as well that I don’t live near Chester otherwise I imagine my book buying would really get out of control!

Maurice by E.M. Forster

Maurice cover

Maurice by E.M. Forster was written way back in 1913 and 1914 but it wasn’t actually published until 1971, the year after the author died. The reason for that is the subject matter as no publisher would have dared to publish it when it was written. The blurb on the back says: Maurice is perhaps E.M. Forster’s most poignant exploration of a theme evident in nearly all of his novels, the eternal struggle between passion and convention.

The book begins with Maurice just about to leave his prep school which is set in England in the Edwardian period. As Maurice grows up and goes to Cambridge he realises that he’s attracted to other males and specifically an older student Clive Durham. On the surface Clive is a bit of a maverick, but it only goes so far and having spoken to Maurice about ‘the Greeks’ and having a bit of a crush on each other Clive subsequently pulls away from any physical relationship and seems to grow out of his homosexual tendencies – or just conforms to what is expected of him.

Poor Maurice is bereft, he doesn’t really have any other friends and when he does eventually ‘share’ with a man it’s with a servant that he meets at a country house weekend. Almost immediately Maurice is appalled at the danger that he has put himself in, leaving himself open to blackmail by someone from a lower class. Presumably he thought that as his new friend isn’t a ‘gentleman’ he can’t be trusted.

Visits to a doctor ensue with Maurice hoping for some sort of cure, but the doctor ends up advising him to go and live in France or Italy where they don’t have a law against homosexuality.

This is a good read and I can only think that the people on various places on the internet who complain that Forster should have been brave and published it when he wrote it back in 1913-14 have no idea what life was like for homosexual men back then and don’t know what happened to Oscar Wilde.

Lamb House in Rye, East Sussex, England

Lamb House, Rye, East Sussex

Since I realised that the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson were set in Rye in East Sussex I’ve wanted to visit the place, especially as Rye was the location for the TV dramatisations. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as it’s a lovely place albeit one that has more than its fair share of tourists but that’s to be expected I suppose although I was surprised that there were so many German visitors around, I wonder why, is it the Mapp and Lucia aspect? Or maybe it’s Henry James. Both authors lived in Lamb House which used to be the home of the mayor of the town many years ago. It’s difficult to get a good photo of some of the buildings as the streets are so narrow.

The staircase in Lamb House is nice but nothing out of the ordinary really.
Staircase, Lamb House, Rye,

The study below is on the right hand side as you enter the front door. The cabinets are full of Henry James and E.F. Benson books, I had no idea that Benson had written so many.

Lamb House, Rye

Lamb House, Rye

The drawing room below is on the left hand side as you go through the front door and is bigger. There’s a drawing by Beatrix Potter on the wall.

Lamb House, Beatrix Potter

There’s also a framed L.P. of Land of Hope and Glory whose words were written by Arthur Benson, E.F.’s brother.

Lamb House, Rye

Henry James had always admired the house but never thought it would come on the market so when it did he snapped it up and lived there happily for decades. When Henry James died his family agreed to lease the house to E.F. Benson so between the two the house has hosted lots of visits from other writers over the years, but now it belongs to the National Trust and is a popular tourist destination.

The dining room is at the back of the house with doors which lead out to the garden.

Lamb House, dining room, Rye

A lot of entertaining must have gone on in these rooms over the years.
Rye, Lamb House, Henry James,

Only one bedroom is open to the public and it’s quite sparse, but I do love the corner fireplaces in Lamb House.

Lamb House, Rye,

It isn’t a particularly large house and not all of the rooms are open to the public, but I can see why those men both wanted to live in it as it would be a comfortable home and the garden is beautiful, but I’ll leave those photos for another day.

Of course E.F. Benson did end up being Mayor of Rye, for three terms I believe so he must really have thrown himself into the whole community. I don’t think he will ever have had to look far for his characters!

The Classics Club Spin # 21 – result

The Tempest cover

The result of the Classics Club Spin number 21 is number 5 and for me that means I’ll be reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It’s a play which seems to have been in the news a lot over the last year or so for various reasons.

By coincidence I had begun to read it this morning anyway, it isn’t going to take me long so I’ll be reading a few more from my Classics Club list by the 31st of October which is when I’ll have my review of The Tempest on here. Have you already read it and if so, what did you think of it?

Family and Friends by Anita Brookner

Family and Friends cover

Family and Friends by Anita Brookner was published in 1985 and it’s a slim volume at only 187 pages – but my god – what a slog I found it to be.

For me this book reads more like a collection of notes and jottings about a family, which has never been worked up into a satisfying read. The whole thing is written in a curiously detached style which makes it impossible for me to to care about any of the characters who are all fairly unlikeable, not that that is really the problem.

The family of the title belongs to Sofka the widow of a successful businessman. She has two sons and two daughters and the book is about them, but as they are all quite remote from each other, it’s just an account of what they did – at the beginning we’re looking at a photograph, and it felt like we never got away from a photo, it’s flat and static. There’s absolutely no dialogue.

It is exactly what my mother used to do when she was alive. She went into great detail telling you all about people that you didn’t know, would never meet and never wanted to meet. I think she did it to fill a void, she didn’t like any breaks in conversation and a companionable silence was alien to her. I suspect that if anyone other than Anita Brookner had submitted this book to a publisher it wouldn’t have got far, but those magical words ‘Winner of the Booker Prize’ go a long way.

However, I seem to be in the minority with this one as many others seem to have loved it, or maybe they were dazzled by the author’s name. I’m not the only one who thought this was a dud though.

The Classics Club Spin number 21

Classics Club Spin

Yes it’s that time again – Classics Club Spin and this one is number 21. If you’re taking part you have to list twenty books from your Classics Club list which still have to be read before September the 23rd 2019 which is when the number will be chosen. Whichever number is chosen in the spin is the book to be read before 31st of October 2019.

My list is:

1. Montaigne essays
2. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
3. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
4. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
5. The Tempest by Shakespeare
6. Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
7. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
8. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
9. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
10. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
11. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
12. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
13. Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
14. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
15. Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley
16. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
17. The Trial by Franz Kafka
18. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
19. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
20. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison

This is just about all of the books still unread on my second list of 50 classics, but I’m really bad at putting my reviews on the Classics Club review page, so I must get around to sorting that out. I hope the spin number is 10 The Black Arrow, or maybe An Infamous Army as people seem to love it so, or Summer Half as it’ll be light-hearted.

Are any of these ones a favourite of yours?

Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Wales

Inside Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in Wales is very similar in feel to Sir Walter Scott’s library at his home in Abbotsford. Although that one is quite a bit older than Gladstone’s they both have a Gothic atmosphere.

The lower part is the Reading Room and that is where most of the non-theology books are shelved.

reading room lower floor

As you can imagine, with so many old books there’s that lovely scent that comes with them. Apparently the glue and leather of old bindings gives off a smell similar to vanilla as it ages, whatever it is it’s a pity they can’t bottle it.

Gladstone's cabinet and Reading Room windows

To get upstairs you have to go up a teeny weeny spiral staircase.
reading room lower stairs

The roof bones or trees if you prefer must have got damp at some point as in parts they are white with water damage. Not surprising given the building is over 100 years old. It costs £2,500 a week to keep the place standing so it’s no wonder that the costs are fairly steep for the accommodation.

Gladstone's Library, reading room ceiling supports

areading room book shelves
I’m well used to handling old books and being in amongst a lot of them, but it’s always a treat to be in their company.

And I was surprised to see a wee Mauchline (wood) covered book on the shelves, I think nowadays people usually put them in display cases, it was decorated with a fern design, very Victorian.
Gladstone's Library reading room Katrina

So there you have it – Gladstone’s Library, just over the Border into Wales, not far from Chester, and they seem to have a lot of events going on, although I suspect they’re mainly of the religious variety.

Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales

Gladstone's Library stitch

Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in north Wales was actually built after William Ewart Gladstone’s death, it was planned by his children to house their father’s collection of books which had been living in what was called locally the ‘tin tab’ which was one of those corrugated iron structures which were built by little mission churches all over Britain about 100 years ago. The ‘tab’ was of course short for tabernacle. Below is a photo of it, although this seems quite a bit larger than the tin tabs that I remember seeing years ago.

original Gladstone's Library 1

After Gladstone’s death £9,000 was raised by a public appeal to build a more solid permanent home for the books and it was enough to build the rather grand looking building at Hawarden. It’s the only residential library in the world I believe. There are 26 bedrooms as well as conference rooms. This is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial Library and it’s an apt memorial to the four times Prime Minister.

Theology seems to have been Gladstone’s main interest, but he was ahead of the times really and collected books on religions other than Christianity. However there are also lots of books on Shakespeare, politics, poultry keeping, fruit growing …. all sorts of books.

I seemed to be one of the few residents who was actually interested in looking at the books and one evening I had the entire place all to myself. I must admit that it was quite a thrill to be given my own key to the place for after hours use.

Reading Room Key, Gladstone's Library

If you are thinking about going to this place as a resident don’t expect luxury accommodation, it’s pretty spartan but the food is good, no waitress service though, just grab a tray as you would in a canteen.

As you can see below, the view from our bedroom window was of the dead centre of town!
Gladstone's Library bedroom 2

The outer doors are very Victorian in that Gothic way.
Corridor at Gladstone's Library

In the drawing room which is called the Gladstone Room there are some shelves of modern books which you can take to read in your bedroom.
Gladstone Library, drawing  Room

You can also do a jigsaw puzzle if you’re so inclined.
Gladstone Room
It must be cosy in the winter when the fire is lit.
Gladstone Room

I’ll show you photos of the actual Reading Room/Library tomorrow.

Yet more books

This bookcase is known as ‘your Dad’s’ bookcase as it belonged to Jack’s parents. The books are a mixture of old ones I bought and some from the previous generations, some are school prizes from as far back as 1905.

Katrina's Books

There are a lot of old favourites here.

Katrina's Books

My Folio books

Folio Books

Well, a couple of Gore Vidal books sneaked onto this shelf which is in a bookcase which originally stood in an Edinburgh solicitors office. Mainly though it houses Folio books, which are a gorgeous indulgence.

Folio Books