Guardian links

Today I just have a couple of bookish links from this week’s Guardian.

There’s a review by Kathryn Hughes of Frostquake: The Frozen Winter of 1962 and How Britain Emerged a Different Country by Juliet Nicolson which sounds like an interesting read to me.

I enjoyed reading author Jane Smiley’s answers in The books that made me article which you can read here. In her answer to My earliest reading memory she mentions Laura Lee Hope’s The Bobsey Twins. I loved those books as a youngster and I’ve never seen anyone else mention them.

Did you read any of Laura Lee Hope’s books?

Bookshelf Travelling – September the 12th

It’s Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times again, taken over from Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. How quickly it comes around!

Books Again

The bookcase this week is situated in our guest bedroom, there are three bookcases in there so if you’re ever visiting you’ll have plenty to choose from.

The shelf in the photo begins with a few Helen Dunmore books. I really like her writing, it’s such a shame that she is no longer with us.

I went through a W. Somerset Maugham phase when I was in my late teens and the two red volumes contain nine of his novels. Liza of Lambeth, Cakes and Ale, Theatre, The Moon and Sixpence and The Narrow Corner are in volume one. I have no recollection of Theatre or The Narrow Corner and I suspect I haven’t read those ones. Have you read them by any chance?

A.A. Milne is of course best known for Winnie the Pooh but he also wrote for adults – not that adults can’t enjoy Winnie the Pooh. His book Two People is a searingly perceptive account of a marriage between two people who come to realise they have little common ground. You can read my thoughts on it here.

Then there are a few books by various Mitfords. There’s something annoyingly fascinating about those sisters. I think that the youngest Deborah was the best of them all – but I would say that wouldn’t I – being the youngest myself.

Are you bookshelf travelling this week? Other travellers are:
A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Staircase Wit

Aberdeen book purchases – part 2

Yet More Books

The second bookshop in Aberdeen that we visited is a charity one right in the Merkat Square and as the books are all donated they sell them very cheaply. I bought:

1. The Century’s Daughter by Pat Barker
2. The Rendezvous by Daphne du Maurier
3. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
4. Beautiful Just! by Lillian Beckwith
5. Green Hand by Lillian Beckwith
6. Bruach Blend by Lillian Beckwith
7. The Spuddy by Lillian Beckwith
8. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
9. A Pack of Lies by Geraldine McCaughrean
10. Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
11. The Cockle Ebb by Isabel Cameron
12. The Herries Chronicle by Hugh Walpole This is an omnibus consisting of four books which are set in the Lake District/Cumbria area, and first published in 1939 although mine is a 1955 reprint.
Rogue Herries
Judith Paris
The Fortress

Visiting St Andrews just after Christmas I bought a lovely edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. You can see some of the illustrations here. – also from St Andrews – Young Bess by Margaret Irwin, and the postman brought me –
In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse.

That lot should keep me going for a while. Have you read any of them?

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!

More book purchases

These are the other books that I bought a couple of weekends ago at the annual book sale.

More Books

1. The Monarch of the Glen by Compton Mackenzie
2. Patrick Butler for the Defence by John Dickson Carr
3. Nella Last’s Peace – The post-war diaries of Housewife, 49
4. Sing For Your Supper by Pamela Frankau
5. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
6. The Silent Traveller in London by Chiang Yee
7. The Romanovs by Robert K. Massie
8. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Not a bad haul I think. I’ve already read Bring Up the Bodies of course, as has Jack but he spotted it at the book sale and asked me if I wanted it for our shelves, as we have Wolf Hall. I loved both those books and I can see myself re-reading them at some point in the future, so it was added to my pile.

I loved Chiang Yee’s Traveller in Edinburgh book so decided to buy the London one although it doesn’t have much in the way of illustrations, I’m putting that down to London being a lot less scenic than Edinburgh is!

I loved Robert K. Massie’s book Nicholas and Alexandra so I have high hopes for The Romanovs – The Final Chapter

I’ve enjoyed a couple of Pamela Frankau’s books, Compton Mackenzie’s and the others. I know I’ll love the Nella Last diaries, but I’ll have to get around to reading her wartime diaries soon.

Have you read any of these books?

The Country Home – an Edinburgh purchase

I was in my favourite Stockbridge, Edinburgh bookshop one day last week and for once I was feeling a wee bit disappointed because there were no ‘must buy’ books on the shelves.

Another Book Cover

Then Jack pointed out The Country Home to me. Well I couldn’t resist it – could you? I could just move into that house and garden right now.

It’s actually bound copies of The Country Home magazine: Nov-Apr 1909. It has some interesting articles and lots of photos of – homes and gardens. It cost me all of five quid – bargain.

South Bridge, Edinburgh, and Books

It’s been ages since I had a mooch around a bookshop because there wasn’t any point in doing it due to the fact that I’m not supposed to be buying books until I whittle away at my unread book piles. But today, despite the horrible rain we just felt the need to get out of the house for a while and as I have loads of books that I really want to track down I thought – Edinburgh, Perth or St Andrews?

There’s flooding around the Perth area so we thought it best to give that a miss and as the weather forecast said that the rain was going to clear up in the afternoon around the Edinburgh area – we plumped for capital punishment!

The forecast was wrong and it rained all day plus it was very windy so we were buffeted going over the Forth Road Bridge – not nice. We decided to go to the South Bridge area for a change instead of our usual Stockbridge haunts. It wasn’t very successful, we must have been in about 7 book shops and charity shops and my haul was:

Behold, Here’s Poison – Georgette Heyer.
Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer.
The Empty House – Rosamunde Pilcher.
Can You Forgive Her? – Anthony Trollope.

and my husband bought :
Ordinary Thunderstorms – William Boyd.

I’d been looking for Can You Forgive Her? because I wanted to read The Palliser series, and I thought that I’d better buy the Heyers in case I don’t see them again for ages. I really like Heyer’s detective novels because they’re very witty too, quite an unusual combination I think, and I’m on a Rosamunde Pilcher kick at the moment, this one is very short at only 182 pages, very unusual for her.

I was looking for books by Angela Thirkell, D.E. Stevenson, Janet Sandison, E.M. Delafield, Jane Duncan – all very retro but I haven’t read them before and much to my amazement they are being read now, I have to see what I’ve been missing!

Now that I’ve tried the shops and been unsuccessful I can order some on-line with an unblemished conscience because I always like to give my custom to small bookshops when I can. Plus it’s nice to have a poke around lots of books but none of the Edinburgh shops are anything like as good or crazy as Voltaire and Rousseau in Glasgow. It looks like you couldn’t possibly find anything you want amongst the piles, but I always do. Must get back there again soon.

After parking the car we had to walk past this hairdresser’s to get to the bookshops today. This place intrigues me because it’s such a throw-back to the 50s. It looks like nothing has ever been changed since then and I’ve never seen it open. What sort of hairdresser is closed on a Saturday afternoon? I know that you always think of Edinburgh for history and Glasgow for style, but I think they’ve taken this a bit far here. Who would use a place like this?

For all I know it might be a fantastic resource for the ladies of Edinburgh of a certain type. Stout tweed skirts, Fair-Isle jumpers and Lisle stockings. Not forgetting the blue rinses.

Anyone for a shampoo and set?!


When I was visiting my local library the other day I noticed that they had put up a new display of book-cover posters. In particular, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World caught my eye, very deco-ish.

Anyway I thought I would have a look around the internet to see how much the posters cost. And the answer is: Quite a lot unless they’re in the sale, which you will see if you take a look here.

Mind you, I don’t even know why I bothered looking because all of our walls are more than well covered already so we have no space for anything that might have taken my fancy.

Still it was quite a nice walk down memory lane. I’m sure that I had the nursery version of Alice in Wonderland that they have, but sadly I couldn’t find the Hansel and Gretel which I loved when I was wee and which I’ve been looking for ever since my mum gave it away.

Some bookshelves

I love looking at other peoples’ bookshelves, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I thought I would start photographing some of them. This bookcase originally belonged to my in-laws, as did some of the books but I have bought quite a few of them.

The second shelf houses what was a great find in a second-hand/used bookshop, a beautiful copy of Elizabeth’s German Garden by a lady. I just had to buy it, loved it and it led me to Elizabeth von Arnim’s other books.

I love old leather bound books, some people actually buy them by the yard/metre but that’s madness, they’re just crying out to be read. The cream coloured book on the top shelf is the first classic book which I ever bought. I must have been about 9 years old and it is Catriona by R.L.Stevenson. I bought it because the title is my name, Katrina, only with the Gaelic spelling. When I got it home I realised that it is the sequel to Kidnapped so I had to read that one first.

A lot of books like these ones were originally given as school prizes and such is the case with The Adventures of Don Quixote. It was presented to Miss Marjory Besford for gaining certificates in English, Latin, Mathematics, Science, French and Drawing – in 1909. She was my husband’s granny.

I’ve read most of the books now, but not Robinson Crusoe or Walter Scott, and my Thomas Hardy phase was a long time ago, in my teenage days, it might be time to re-visit some of them.

I admit to buying the Penelope’s Experiences books because they are so gorgeous to look at but the writing is lovely too. They’re by Kate Douglas Wiggin who is better known for writing Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has a nice cover too. It’s another of granny’s school prizes. For me, books turn a house into a home, whether they are leather bound beauties or mass-produced paperbacks. Often the oldies are much cheaper than new ones, nowadays.

Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

I requested this book from the library because I had read about it on the internet and it sounded interesting to me.

Susan Hill suffers from the same problem that I have which is that I often spend a lot of time looking for a particular book. I always think that I know exactly where it is and I’m sure I saw it only a few days ago, but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

Whilst looking for that book she discovered books that she had forgotten about and others that she didn’t even know that she owned. There were hundreds of such volumes and she decided that she needed to re-acquaint herself with her own books. To that end, she decided that for a whole year she wouldn’t buy any new books and would only read those that she already owned, unless it was a book which a publisher sent to her for reviewing purposes or something which she needed to read for research.

The whole book is very chatty, for instance early on she discusses her favourite print fonts which was exactly what my family and I had been talking about just a few days before, my favourites are Johnston (the London Underground) and Gill Sans (the BBC). Admittedly, their father did think we were being a bit strange.

Sickeningly, Susan Hill had her first novel published when she was only 18 and still at school but as a consequence she has come into contact with a lot of authors over the years; publishing is a very incestuous industry. Some people might find the anecdotes about other writers a bit much but I didn’t mind.

She does tend to be a bit snooty about books, she wouldn’t buy a Richard and Judy book club book for instance. But I can outsnoot her there as I’ve never even seen Richard and Judy so wouldn’t know what they recommend. Strangely she isn’t a fan of Jane Austen and won’t read anything by a Canadian or Australian.

She doesn’t like Folio books, they are too perfect apparently. I adore Folio books because they are perfect. But Susan Hill is a strange book reader, she TURNS DOWN PAGE CORNERS! I think she is one of those people who think that a battered book is a loved book, whereas I think it is just an abused book.

In the end, she didn’t do what I thought she was going to do. I thought she would read some of her backlog of unread books and maybe do a few re-reads and write about them. However she chose forty books which are listed at the end and these are the ones which she decided she must take with her, presumably desert island style.

I think I might stop buying books for a while, I don’t know if I’ll be able to last out a whole year without buying books. I’m sure I have more than enough unread books in my house to keep me going.

But the thing is, I love visiting bookshops and so does my husband so either I would have to accompany him to the shop, which would be the equivalent of an alcoholic sniffing around a pub – too tempting. Or I have to wait outside for him and take up tap dancing to stop me from being really bored – it could be a very long wait.

I think I would allow myself to borrow modern books from the library though because I want to read the books which have been recommended by blogbuddies. Is that cheating?

This is the first Susan Hill book which I have read for many years. I remember reading some of her books in the 1970s but in the 80s I read a magazine article which she had written about the very short life and death of her baby daughter. It was very moving and I had just suffered a miscarriage myself so I think I have unconsciously avoided her since then. I might have a look and see what else she has been writing more recently, via the library of course.

If anyone wants to know which books Susan Hill chose for her Final Forty list, let me know and I will add them to this post.