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

The Odd Women by George Gissing

This book was written in 1892 and was published the following year. The Odd Women in the title are those half a million or so ‘superfluous’ females who are never going to find a husband because of the imbalance of the sexes at the time.

Monica Madden was one of them, along with her two older sisters, and they had struggled to earn a living since the early death of their parents. Monica is wearing herself away at a place of business, a sort of shop/warehouse, where she has to spend many hours on her feet, in an unhealthy atmosphere.

Miss Barfoot and Miss Nunn are two unmarried ladies who are dedicating their lives to the betterment of young women, hoping to educate them with office skills and the ability to support themselves in independent lives, with no need to rely on men to look after them. Monica takes the opportunity to leave her workplace in the hope of finding something better after she has had some training, but her heart isn’t really in it and she ends up marrying a man more than twice her age whom she hardly knows at all. Basically Monica married her stalker, Edmund Widdowson, who had become infatuated with the young girl and it wasn’t long before Monica was being suffocated by his possessive and jealous behaviour. It can only end in tears!

Free union is spoken of by other characters, in other words living together as a married couple but without the legal formalities. That subject was about 80 odd years ahead of the times in my neck of the woods anyway – where anyone contemplating that was ‘living in sin’ and would be ‘the talk of the steamie’ right up until about the 1980s!

I had read differing reviews of this book – some people really enjoying it and others finding it a bit meh. I have to say that I was on the side of those who were underwhelmed by it until about half way through, when for me anyway it began to pick up and I did end up by enjoying it. It isn’t a book which I would ever want to revisit though.

George Gissing evidently had a low opinion of women but he seems to have married women that he barely knew, his first wife was a prostitute so the relationship was unlikely to be all hearts and roses – she took to the bottle. The characters who get married in the book do so to escape from unsatisfactory situations but only end up with another set of problems. Frying pan to fire.

As I was born in the 1950s – just – I found the subject matter quite surprising because things didn’t seem to have moved on that far when I was growing up. There was still the belief that if a woman wasn’t married by the time she was 21 then she was ‘on the shelf’ and doomed to a miserable life, always living with her parents – a perpetual child until the parents grew old and then the unmarried daughter became their carer.

Mothers, including my own, actually said that there was no point in bothering about (putting effort into) daughters because they would only end up pushing a pram anyway. We could have been doing with some ambitious women as role models back then but the phrase ‘career women’ was spoken like a dirty word then. How times have changed.

Library Haul and Scones

I had another bash at baking scones today. They’re something that I just can’t get right, usually they could be used as ice hockey pucks. This afternoon’s date scones are edible but they aren’t the lovely light consistency that I’m looking for and they didn’t rise much as usual, I think Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say that they’ve been ‘overworked’ – don’t know what else it can be.

Anyway to cheer myself up I went to the library. The main library is going to be closed for a year I think, whilst it’s refurbished so I haven’t been to a library for about six weeks. One of the many empty shops in the high street has been turned into a small library for the duration, it’s better than nothing! Actually I think it’s a good idea as the original library building isn’t exactly central and there are loads of people in the town who have never darkened its door. They just may get some new readers in Kirkcaldy!

I came out with:

The Odd Women by George Gissing. I think it was Anbolyn of gudrun’s tights who read this one recently and it was recommended in the introduction to Patrick Hamilton’s Slaves of Solitude. By the way, in case you don’t know yet, Anbolyn has done another ‘flit’ actually and virtually and her new place is looking spiffing!

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard – I’ve enjoyed her previous books.

Beatrice Goes to Brighton by M.C. Beaton – which I hope is going to be a hoot. I think this is one which Jo at The Book Jotter enjoyed.

Midsummer Night in the Workhouse by Diana Athill. I know nothing about this book and I chose it simply because it’s a Persephone, so it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like.

Now why did I borrow four books when I have loads of books of my own which I should be reading?! Oh yes, it was to cheer myself up after yet another scone failure. Does anybody have a foolproof scone recipe?