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

Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

I’ve read a lot of Gaskell’s novels including Cranford – way back when… but I don’t remember ever seeing Mr Harrison’s Confessions which is a prequel to Cranford. As soon as I started reading it I realised that when the BBC did their fairly recent dramatisation of Cranford they sensibly used this book too.

It’s an amusing tale of what happens when a young doctor moves to the rural village of Duncombe. He is given a very warm welcome by all but especially those who have daughters to marry off, and in no time he finds himself in a tricky situation – or three, and all because he heeded Mr Morgan, his medical mentor’s advice.

It’s a very quick read at just 106 pages and I’ll be counting it on my Classics Club reading list.


One of the places which I definitely wanted to visit on our recent road trip south was Stamford. For some reason I thought that it was where the BBC filmed Cranford but I was wrong, it was Middlemarch which was filmed in Stamford. It’s about 100 miles north of London but somehow seems much further away.

It’s a lovely place actually, not very big shop-wise but it has a lot of independent shops and it’s all very quaint. I wanted to take a photo of these buildings near the town centre because the wee white one in the middle was leaning every way it possibly could – backwards, forwards and from side to side – all at the same time!

Old buildings in Stamford,Lincolnshire

There were some quite grand looking buildings in the town but somehow I’m always drawn to the wee quaint ones which ordinary people will have lived in for centuries. We tried to get into this antiques shop, the lights were on, but nobody was at home!

An antique shop in Stamford

I don’t think a town is a proper town unless it has a river running through it and this one is very scenic.

The River Welland, Stamford

Swans and all! Although I have to admit that this is as close as I like to get to swans. They might look very elegant but in my experience the males are very bad tempered. There’s a particularly nasty one at Linlithgow Loch which just lives to hiss at you.
River Welland, Stamford

During all our visits down south we had no problems with parking, we usually managed to park legally and for free and very close to the town centres. At Stamford we were about a three minute walk from the town. It’s such a change for us because all of the towns in Scotland have seem to have pay and display car parks or parking meters. The local councils just don’t understand that it really puts people off visiting their towns if they have to worry about the expense of parking tickets and feeding meters then it doesn’t make for an enjoyable experience. No wonder our high streets are dying on their feet!

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

I thought that I had already read just about everything by Gaskell but on my last visit to my local library this one was sitting on the ‘new books’ shelf, so I had to borrow it.

This is a collection of nine short stories, although two of them are long enough to be described as novellas. I think that most writers hone their skills on short stories and I quite enjoy them. Sometimes the stories stick in your mind for 20 or 30 years, but I don’t think that will be the case with any of the stories in this book.

One of the novellas is called Lois the Witch and is the story of the Salem ‘witches’. I’m wondering when the first fictionalised version went into print.

Some of them are what I would call ‘fireside tales’ which would have been brought out and dusted down from the mind of the resident family tale teller on dark winter nights. I’m sure every household had one, even in more recent times (it was my mother in our family). They certainly have a feeling of folk lore about them, but I have read quite a few Celtic folk tales in my day.

Which brings me to what I found to be the most interesting thing about the stories, which was the language used. Elizabeth Gaskell uses quite a few words which are still used north of the border in Scotland. But I had an interesting comment from Joan in Pennsylvania about the phrase ‘redd up’ which Elizabeth Gaskell used, it means to tidy up or clean up. It seems it’s used by people from all different ethnic backgrounds there, but particularly by those of Dutch/German descent. Wherever it originated from I’m happy knowing that it continues to be used and makes the language richer. In future I’m going to ‘redd up’ instead of tidy up.

Anyway, I’m glad that I read Gothic Tales but I much prefer Gaskell’s longer works. If you want to read more about her work you might like to pay Austenprose a visit as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Gaskell’s birth is being marked by people reviewing her work.