from The Guardian Books section and Visit Scotland

It’s absolutely yonks since I shared a Guardian books link. I was particularly interested in The Books of My Life bit as this week it featured Penelope Lively, a writer I’ve really enjoyed in the past. You can read it here. I was interested to read that she too has been disappointed when re-reading what had been favourite books in the past, but sometimes she falls back in love with them again. I don’t know if I could be bothered with having another go though – considering how many books I still want to read for the first time.

There’s also a section on some of the books due to be published this coming year which you can read here if you’re interested.

If you happen to be more interested in what’s going on in Scotland you might enjoy looking at the Visit Scotland site. Even if you can’t travel here you can enjoy seeing what’s going on and maybe plan a trip for the future.

My Year in Books on Goodreads 2021

If you are interested you can have a look at my 2021 books here on Goodreads. According to them I read 133 which is not bad as I had signed up to read at least 100. Actually I read a few more than that, for some reason a few didn’t make it onto Goodreads, and one I added twice by mistake. I’ve had a quick tot up of the books I read last year. I always note them down in an old school jotter (very old!) adding them in as I finish them along with notes in the margin denoting the genre.

Stats wise this year it was very uneven as I read 93 by female authors and only 40 by male authors. I have no idea how that happened as usually it’s quite ‘even Stevens’.

I read only three books in translation this year, it’s usually more than that I’m sure.

Only ten were vintage crime which is weird as I love that genre.

19 were contemporary crime.

24 of the books were for children, mainly older books that could be regarded as classics I suppose.

Only 7 of the books I read were non-fiction, I must do better this year.

I read 38 books by Scottish authors.

I read just 11 classics although I am quite strict in what I regard as a classic so that’s not too bad I think.

31 of the books were historical fiction.

Looking through the books I must have spent quite a lot of last year in 18th and 19th century Edinburgh. It must have seemed like a more comfortable place for me to be than the real world of the pandemic! I suspect I’ll be reading more historical fiction in 2022 too.

Exile for Annis by Josephine Elder

 Exile for Annis cover

With the Hogmanay celebrations being cancelled in Scotland and meeting up with people being discouraged, I needed a trip into a different world via a book, and Exile for Annis by Josephine Elder hit the spot. It was first published in 1938 and it’s the first book in the author’s Farm School series.

Annis is 14 years old and has been quite ill, her mother thinks it isn’t a good idea for her to go back to her school which is an ordinary High School that concentrates on a lot of sports. Annis loves her school, in fact she’s quite disdainful of any others, she thinks the way her school is run is perfect, but when it’s described it’s evident to the reader that the school and its pupils have fostered a rather elitist attitude as they all believe that any other schools are inferior. So when her parents decide that Annis will be sent to a school in the country Annis is horrified, she thinks it sounds awful, but she can’t wriggle out of it as her parents are going to be away from home for some time.

Annis soon learns that her prejudices were misplaced as she blossoms in the more relaxed atmosphere of the farm school and finds new friends. It’s a surprise to her that although the pupils don’t seem to be studying anything like as hard as they would if they had been at the High School they still all pass their important exams, and they also learn how to care for animals and do farm work. Despite some difficulties the experience has been a positive one as Annis has met people she would not have encountered at her old school and it has all contributed to enriching experiences for her, and for most of the people she encounters.

It was an enjoyable read. I had never come across the name Annis before but it’s explained in the book that it is a Scottish name for a girl, but I’ve certainly never heard of it before.

Happy New Year! 2022

Just a quick one to say Happy New Year! I’m almost frightened to think ahead as last year I was hopeful that we would all be in a much better situation than we are now. I’m so longing to visit family abroad and just get back to the way things used to be, I’m sure you feel the same way too. Stay safe and well.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 – the wrap-up.

I’ve completed six books in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 which is hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate.

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. This one is a cracker, a real page-turner.

3. A classic by a woman – The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison. I felt this one dragged, it is very long and wasn’t really a page-turner for me.

5. A classic by a BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would, but I will try more by the author.

5. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. This one is a heart-breaking read, but I’m glad I read it.

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author — a new book by an author whose works you have already read. A Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy This seventh book in the Forsyte Chronicles was good, just two more books to go.

9. A children’s classic – Pinocchio by Carlo/Charles Collodi. I’m glad I caught up with this children’s classic at last.

Thank you Karen for hosting this challenge.

Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart

 Rose Cottage cover

Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart was first published in 1997.

The setting is Argyll in Scotland and Sunderland, County Durham in the north-east of England. Kate Herrick is a young widow, having lost her husband who had been in the RAF during World War 2 – one of ‘the few’. Unexpectedly she has been left fairly well-off by him, but she’s working in a plant nursery in County Durham, just for something to do really, but she loves the work.

However Kate’s Granny has moved north to Scotland and has decided to stay there for good, she has asked Kate to clear up Rose Cottage which is the house that Granny had lived in. The house is on the Brandon estate where Granny had been a cook for years, and as Kate had lost both her parents as a child she had lived there with her Granny. Kate has instructions as to which furniture and household goods should be packed for Scotland, but she doesn’t expect it will take her long.

Kate’s a wee bit worried about going back to what had been her childhood home as not everyone had been friendly as she was growing up there, since her mother had been unmarried and her father a mystery. Kate had had to put up with some nastiness from strait-laced people, but she’s surprised by how welcome she has been made to feel on her return – time has changed things it seems.

This is an entertaining light read, not in the same league as the author’s earlier books but still with an element of romance, mystery and suspense in it, which she was so well known for. It was the last book that Mary Stewart had published and she was over 80 by then, she was 98 when she died.

I found it to be a bit of a strange experience reading this one as there were so many elements in it which echoed the experiences of a friend of mine from Sunderland who splits her time between Sunderland and Scotland – and she even has a pet tortoise just as one of the characters in the book has!

Although Mary Stewart is generally seen as being a Scottish author, she was actually born in the north-east of England, but moved to Scotland when she married a Scottish soldier and settled down in Edinburgh with him. I imagine she enjoyed her imaginary jaunt back in time to her roots geographical via writing this book.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope – The Classics Club and Back to the Classics Challenge

 The Way We Live Now cover

The Way We Live Know by Anthony Trollope was first published in 1875 but some aspects of the tale and the characters are so recognisable nowadays. As with most of Trollope’s books it’s a real chunkster but if you have the time – as I have – then you’ll probably find that you manage to read it fairly quickly as it’s a real page-turner.

Lady Carbury is a widow with a son and daughter who are more or less out in the world, or they would be if her son Felix had any gumption, sadly he chooses to spend his time at his club gambling and drinking, and his mother has to write history pot-boilers which are dubious factually to try to make some money to keep body and soul together for her and her daughter. Even so, Lady Carbury just can’t say no to her son when he wants money for gambling, and she gives it to him despite needing the money to pay the household bills, and having to deny her daughter a fair chance in life.

Felix needs to marry a wealthy young woman and with this in mind an invitation to Madame Melmotte’s ball is needed. The Melmottes have arrived in London only recently but they’re reputed to be fabulously wealthy, having made lots of money in France. Lady Carbury wants their daughter Marie for her son. There are rumours though that all might not be as it seems in the Melmotte household. In Paris Mr Melmotte is regarded as a swindler and his business dealings aren’t orthodox. He’s described as being purse-proud and a bully. Melmotte likes to talk about how wealthy he is and throws money around to entertain royalty, but he’s definitely up to no good.

Melmotte is so like the so-called tycoon Robert Maxwell who bought companies just to plunder their pension funds, and he also reminded me of ‘the Donald’. Human beings don’t ever change I suppose and there are only so many different types. This was a great read which I read for the Classics Club. I love Trollope’s writing so I can’t understand why it has taken me so long to get around to reading this one, I suspect that I thought it might not be good pandemic reading – but it was.

I also read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge which is hosted by Karen K at Books and Chocolate.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice, I always look forward to this day as I feel that we are at least on the way to the lovely long light summer nights that we enjoy here in Scotland, and that doesn’t half cheer me up.
You might find the video below interesting. We visited Maeshowe Chambered Cairn a few years ago when we had a holiday in Orkney, we enjoyed the islands so much we’re going again this coming summer – all going well! You can read about Maeshowe and the Winter Solstice here.

Christmas Stories – Everyman’s Pocket Classics

 Christmas Stories - Everyman's Pocket Classics cover

Christmas Stories – Everyman’s Pocket Classics is a compilation of twenty short stories by an eclectic mixture of authors beginning with Charles Dickens and The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton and ending with Richard Ford and Creche. In between are:

Nikolai Gogol (The Night Before Christmas)
Arthur Conan Doyle (The Blue Carbuncle)
Anthony Trollope (Christmas at Thompson Hall)
Leo Tolstoy (Where Love is, God is)
Anton Chekov (Vanka)
Willa Cather (The Burglar’s Christmas)
O. Henry (A Chapparal Christmas Gift)
Saki /H.H. Munro (Reginald’s Christmas Revel)
Vladimir Nabokov (Christmas)
Damon Runyon (Dancing Dan’s Christmas)
Evelyn Waugh (Bella Fleace Gave a Party)
Elizabeth Bowen (Green Holly)
John Cheever (Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor)
Truman Capote (A Christmas Memory)
John Updike ( The Carol Sing)
Muriel Spark (Christmas Fugue)
Grace Paley (The Loudest Voice)
Alice Munro (The Turkey Season)

I like to read some Christmas themed books around this time of the year to help me get into the swing of things but this isn’t the sort of book that’s going to help with that. Most of the stories have very little to do with Christmas at all, even when the word is in the title, and quite a few of them are fairly miserable. In fact I’m beginning to wonder if writing and getting a ‘Christmas’ short story published, presumably in a magazine was a sort of equivalent of the Christmas number one in the pop charts.

There were a few that were enjoyable though, particularly Saki’s Reginald’s Christmas Revel which is very short indeed but is amusing.

Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy – Classics Club spin #28 and Back to the Classics Challenge

 Maid in Waiting cover

I got Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy in the Classics Club spin number 28, it’s the seventh book in the Forsyte Saga which should really be called the Forsyte Chronicles, and it continues with some of the characters from the previous book and features the Charwell family (pronounced Cherrell). They’re not nearly as well off as the Forsytes as they’ve mainly opted to become church minsters in slum districts, joined the army or become academics.

While Herbert Cherrell, an academic was on an expedition in Bolivia he had had to shoot a muleteer, he got into that position because he had taken to flogging the muleteers for continuing to ill-treat the mules despite his complaints about it. As you can imagine they didn’t take well to being flogged. There’s a possibility that he’ll be extradited to stand trial in Bolivia and at this danger to one of their own, his very clannish family is incensed and set out to pull strings – or in the case of the women to ‘vamp’ men they think might be able to help.

Meanwhile another of them, Diana, is in trouble. Her husband who has been in a private mental hospital for some years suddenly appears back home, claiming to be fine. But he had been violent to her in the past and she’s terrified of him. Again the family comes to her aid. Mental health is quite a theme, was it hereditary or did his experiences during World War 1 turn his mind?

I really enjoyed this one which is quite topical, humans never really change. The Cherrells, some of whom seem very decent, do however have a sense of entitlement and strangely a feeling that they are being held up to higher standards than others simply because of their connections. They see having friends and relatives in high places as a bit of a disadvantage!

It ended a bit abruptly for my liking and I hope that the next one in this trilogy which is called Flowering Wilderness, features Dinny Cherrell as I became quite fond of her, she’s the young mainstay of the family.
I also read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 which is hosted by KAren K at Books and Chocolate.