Classics Club Spin # 30

classics club spin

It’s Classics Club spin time again, I nearly missed it as I have just got home from a week away on the Orkney Isles where we were supposed to have the internet in our rented holiday cottage but it was soooo slow as to be unusable. Anyway, a week away from the internet now and again is no bad thing really.

1. Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott
2. Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
3. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
4. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
5. The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
6. The MacDermotts of Ballycloran by Anthony Trollope
7. Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope
8. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
9. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
10. Good Daughters by Mary Hocking
11. We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea by Arthur Ransome
12. Beyond the Black Stump by Nevil Shute
13. Anne of Geierstein by Sir Walter Scott
14. Annals of the Parish by John Galt
15. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
16. The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
17. The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy
18. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
19. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
20. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe

Are you taking part in the spin this time around?

At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig

At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig was first published in 2010.

Andrew Greig had formed a friendship with the poet Norman MacCaig while Greig himself was an aspiring poet and over the years MacCaig became something of a father figure to him. So when on his last visit the ill MacCaig said to him ‘I should like you to fish for me at the Loch of the Green Corrie. Only it’s not called that. But if you go to Lochinver and ask for a man called Norman MacAskill, if he likes you he may tell you where it is. If you catch trout I shall be delighted. And if you fail, then looking down from a place in which I do not believe, I’ll be most amused.’

I really enjoyed this one which is a mixture of the author’s thoughts on his past life and failed marriage, poetry, geography, geology, fishing and friendship. Andrew Greig first got in touch with the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig when MacCaig had a poem printed in The Scotsman, so began a long friendship with MacCaig introducing Greig to the other well-known Scottish poets of the times, a lot of whisky was consummed.

Some of the blurb on the back says:
‘If you have a desire to luxuriate in the most beautiful use of the English language borne along by the love of one gifted poet for a recognized master of melancholy, then this is the book for you. It most certainly is the book for me’ Billy Connolly.

The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin

The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin was published in 2021. William McIlvanney died in 2015, this book features the character DC Laidlaw in his first case. The earlier books earned McIlvanney the title ‘father of Tartan Noir’, but this book was unfinished on his death so Ian Rankin completed it.

The setting is of course Glasgow, it’s 1972 and gang warfare is a way of life for some people. When the body of a tame lawyer with links to a gang is discovered in a lane behind a pub in a rival gang’s area it looks like a simple case to solve as far as DI Milligan is concerned and he has already decided the outcome of the case. The young Laidlaw is starting off his career as he continued it, being a thorn in the flesh of whomever happens to be his boss. The investigation takes place over six days.

I believe that the manuscript was discovered by McIlvanney’s wife after he had died and it was only half completed, so Rankin wrote on from midway. I read the original Laidlaw books way back in the 1970s when they were first published but haven’t read them since then. I enjoyed the atmosphere of 1970s Glasgow, I was a teenager back then and Glasgow was my destination a couple of times every week, but I wasn’t completely grabbed by the plot of this book and it’s very male-heavy character wise, but I suppose that is very true to the times, the females are wives or girlfriends. Thank goodness nowadays we can have Siobhans!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

I had to wait well over a year for White Teeth by Zadie Smith to get to me via the library, and by the time it did I couldn’t remember why I had been so keen to read it. It was only when I was almost finished the book that I realised that it was a James Tait Black Memorial Prize winner (2000). This is a personal project of mine – to read everything that has won that prize, I’m never going to manage that because I think some of the older books are just about unobtainable, but I’ll read as many as I can.

The main characters are Englishman Archie Jones and Samad, a Bangladeshi who has migrated to London with Alsana his wife via an arranged marriage. Archie and Samad had been friends while serving in the army during World War 2 and had continued with their friendship when Samad had moved to London. Archie’s second wife is a Jamaican and they have a daughter together, and Samad and his wife have twin boys. Religion and its influence on the families play a part in the story and as Samad ages he becomes more interested in his Muslim religion, he’s convinced that he should send one of his twin sons back to Bangladesh where he won’t be tainted by western ways, but which twin should he send away? Alsana has no idea that he plans to deprive her of one of her sons, when she discovers what he has done – after the fact – she has what I regard as a very mild way of dealing with it in that she refuses to speak directly to Samad ever again!

There’s a lot to this book, in fact as I always seem to be saying, it could have been doing with being a wee bit shorter, but basically it’s about people who feel that they’re essentially rootless. Those who have moved to the west from the east are never able to feel completely at home again. Especially the colour of their skin points them out as being different and they aren’t totally accepted by the so-called natives. However they wouldn’t be at home in their places of origin as things move on and change and they’re tainted by the west.

That all makes it sound quite heavy going but it really isn’t, there’s quite a bit of humour involved as well as some likeable if flawed characters.

Jack also read White Teeth and you can read his much more detailed review here.

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell

 The Thistle and the Grail cover

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell was first published in 1939 and it’s the eighth book in her Barsetshire series.

Mr Middleton is slightly annoyed because Mrs Stoner who is his brother’s widow is going to be spending the summer months in the White House which has been lying empty, the garden adjoins his own and it seems a bit close for comfort to him. It’s really Mrs Stoner’s adult step-children that he’s not too keen on, particularly the boy Denis who always seems to be ill.

But that’s the least of his worries as there’s a rumour that a local plot of land called Pooker’s Piece is going to be built on. It’s owned by a man who is a ‘Loyd George Lord’ which means that he bought his title from that Prime Minister and is no gentleman. Everyone in the neighbourhood is up in arms about it and Mr Middleton along with Lord Bond set up a meeting, which is a great way of meeting up with people elsewhere in the county.

There’s romance of course but not quite as expected, and as ever there are bits and pieces in the book which are very reminiscent of classics. Thirkell admitted doing that, maybe we could call it her homage to them.

Anyway, there’s a lot of fun in this one with the servants more or less ruling the roost and generally being more snooty than ‘their betters’ as often happened, but the butler meets his match!

The next book in the series is Cheerfulness Breaks In and that one is on my 20 Books of Summer list so I’ll be reading it soonish.

My garden in Fife

I took the photos below a couple of weeks ago so my garden is looking much lusher now.

I have two apple trees in my garden and they both blossomed well, I live in hope of a crop of some sort.

apple Blossom, my garden

apple Blossom, my garden

The clematis alpina below is actually far daintier than it looks in the photos.

clematis alpina, my garden

clematis alpina, , my garden

Sorbus fruticosa, viburnum and various heathers are growing into each other in the photo below, at some point I’ll have to prune them I suppose, but I hate doing it.

garden shrubs, my garden

And if you don’t believe that I hate cutting back growth the proof is below, I really need to prune back the red leaved shrub (mind gone blank!) so that the beautiful yellow flowers of the Kerria japonica aren’t so obscured.

shrubs, my garden

The primulas below have been really good this year, if you look closely at the photo you’ll see strawberry leaves in amongst them. I dig them out every year as I never get any strawberries from them, they just keep throwing out baby plants and taking up good planting space, they’re a pain in the neck really and when I heard one of the presenters on the BBC RHS Chelsea Flower Show programme recommend planting strawberries in amongst other plants I didn’t half roll my eyes!

Yellow and red primulas

If you’re interested in the Chelsea Flower Show you might like the You Tube video below. I must admit that I watched all of the programmes this week.

The Wool-Pack by Cynthia Harnett

 The Big Music cover

The Wool-Pack by Cynthia Harnett was first published in 1951 and it won the Carnegie Medal which I think it definitely deserved.

The setting is the English Cotswolds in the late 1400s. It’s a very rural area and sheep and wool are the mainstay of the local economy. Nicholas is in his teens and he’s the son of a successful wool merchant, but he mucks in with the other boys helping out with the sheep. When some men from Lombardy make their way to his family home to do some business with his father Nicholas is worried. He had seen the men earlier and there is something he doesn’t like about them. But his father pays no attention to Nicholas. He is convinced that he can make a good deal with the Lombards.

This is a really good read which is aimed at older children I suppose, but is well worth reading whatever your age. There’s a lot of history in it but it never feels like a history lesson and the author also illustrated the book which adds interest. Her drawings are charming with details of the fashions of the day, weaving looms, dyeing cloth, spinning and all sorts. The author had studied at the Chelsea School of Art, she wrote six books of historical fiction and I will definitely look out for the others.

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

 The Sixteen Trees of the Somme cover

Edvard is a young man living on his family farm in rural Norway, growing potatoes and farming sheep. He has been brought up by Sverre, his grandfather, as Edvard’s parents had died when he was only four years old. It’s all a bit of a mystery, Edvard can hardly remember his parents, but he knows that on the day they died he disappeared for four days and then turned up in a doctor’s surgery.

Edvard’s grandfather Sverre had been in World War 2 as had been his brother Einar, but they had chosen to fight on opposite sides, and the brothers had been completely estranged. When Sverre dies the local funeral director says that his coffin is all organised and has been waiting for him for years. It’s a very special coffin, art deco in design made using flame birch wood and had been sent to Sverre years before. Edvard knows that Einar had been in Shetland during the war and decides to go there to find out more about him. Eventually Edvard makes his way to the World War 1 battlefields and cemeteries as obviously the author did as he describes it all so well.

This was a great read which also involves a couple of young women, one in Norway and one on Shetland, so there’s a bit of romance of a sort, but mainly it’s a mystery, very well written, and it was translated from Norwegian by Paul Russell Garrett, he made a great job of it.

20 Books of Summer

I’m going to be joining in with 20 Books of Summer again which is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. In the past I’ve been quite successful with this one and usually complete the list, for me it’s a good way of concentrating on books that I actually own over June, July and August.

More Books

1. Daughter of Earth by Agnes Smedley
2. The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. Tomorrow Will Be Better by Betty Smith
4. Keeping Up Appearances by Rose Macaulay
5. Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes
6. Are They the Same at Home? by Beverley Nichols
7. The Tontine Bell by Elisabeth Kyle
8. The Market Square by Miss Read
9. Revenge by Eric Brown
10. The Monarch of the Glen by Compton Mackenzie
11. Sheiks and Adders by Michael Innes
12. End of Term by Antonia Forest
13. Three Twins at the Crater School by Chaz Brenchley
14. Scarweather by Anthony Rolls
15. The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797
16. Gemma Alone by Noel Streatfeild
17. Visitors From England by Elisabeth Kyle
18. The Unjust Skies by R.F. Delderfield
19. Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell
20. Northbridge Rectory by Angela Thirkell

Are you going to be joining in with 20 Books of Summer this year?

The Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy

 The Lion of Justice cover

The Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy is the second book in the author’s Norman Trilogy, but I haven’t read the first one, I don’t think that was a problem though. It was first published in 1975. She wrote under several pseudonyms including Victoria Holt.

I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with this one when I began to read it as the writing style seemed quite chunky when compared with more modern writers of historical fiction. There’s a lot of very obvious info-dumping, however I got used to the style and ended up enjoying it although I would only give it three stars.

Scottish princesses Edith and her sister Mary have been placed in a nunnery after the death of their mother Queen of Scotland. The nunnery is run by their aunt Christina who is determined that they will take the veil. The girls aren’t enamoured with that idea though and hope that they will be able to get married in the future, this incenses Aunt Christina the mother superior and she becomes more and more violent, especially towards Edith. So when some men from the royal court visit them they see their chance to escape. Edith hangs on for a son of the Conqueror. Henry is the youngest of that dead king’s sons, and is third in line to the throne. As you can imagine Edith is quite happy to change her name to Matilda as Henry asks her to. She’s of Saxon blood and the Norman Henry’s idea is that if he does become king marrying a Saxon will make him popular with the common people. But Henry is a philanderer and already has multiple illegitimate children, that’s all such a heart-ache for the young Matilda over the years.

Henry spends a lot of time in Normandy and when he’s not there he’s often in Wales with Nesta, his favourite other woman of long standing. Actually that part reminded me so much of another heir to the throne!

Anyway, I don’t think I will rush to read the other books in this trilogy but it was fairly entertaining.