The 1951 Club

the 1951 club

I’ve read and blogged about quite a few books that were published in 1951 in recent years, so if you’re interested in my thoughts on them click on the titles.

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau

Cork on the Water by Macdonald Hastings

The Catherine Wheel by Patricia Wentworth

The Duke’s Daughter by Angela Thirkell

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

School for Love by Olivia Manning

Of course 1951 was an important year in Britain as we had The Festival of Britain which went on for most of the year – or at least until the general election when Churchill became PM again and he saw the whole thing as being Socialist so he shut it all down – spoilsport!

But apparently the Festival was a life-saver for the people who had by then been suffering under austerity for years and years what with the war and even worse rationing post-war. It cheered people up no end to see the bright colours and modern designs, and was a great opportunity for artists, designers and makers.

Before I started blogging I read and enjoyed Festival at Farbridge by J.B. Priestley which was published in 1951 and has local events featuring the festival.

I blogged about the festival some years ago and if you’re interested you can see that post here.

Christmas Books

Christmas books

Above is a photograph of the books that I was lucky enough to get at Christmas.

Glasgow Interiors by Helen Kendrick is a book which I had actually just borrowed from the library and I had been thinking how nice it would be to actually own a copy of it, so I was thrilled when I got it as a present.

The Fringes of Edinburgh by John Geddie is an old travel guide from 1941, it has lots of drawings and painted illustrations in it. I suppose we are living on the fringes of Edinburgh but this book mentions lots of places I have never been to, I hope to go and visit some of them.

The Water Babies has 24 plates in colour by Harry G Theaker. I have a thing for lovely childrens books and illustrations so when I saw this in a secondhand bookshop not long before Christmas I asked Jack to get it for me and give it to me on the big day. I do believe in getting what you want and not leaving it up to luck! If you’re interested you can see some of the illustrations here. I think it was published around 1930.

Lost Empires by J.B. Priestley. I like Priestley’s writing but I haven’t read anything of his for ages, this one was first published in 1965.

The last two are from the British Library Crime Classics series – Quick Curtain by Alan Melville and Resorting to Murder which is a collection of short stories. I’ve already read Quick Curtain and enjoyed it, but I bought another couple of books in this series at the weekend – no, there’s no chance of me ever catching up with my TBR pile!

Moffat and no books

We stopped off at Moffat on our way down to the Lake District, it’s a pretty area and it has a second-hand bookshop. The author D.E. Stevenson lived there and is buried in the town. We parked the car in the High Street and within three seconds of getting out of the car we got into conversation with a local. This is something which would never happen in Fife – it taking a lang spoon and all that. Anyway, after the usual weather observations – well we are British – which included the info that we had come from Kirkcaldy, the chap said that he had been to Kirkcaldy once and it had been shut! Queue laughter!

However, I felt like tracking him down to tell him that Moffat was shut – as indeed it was! Apparently Wednesday is half day closing, but a lot of the shops hadn’t bothered opening up at all, including the bookshop. What a disappointment.

Moffat Book shop door

But as you can see from the notices on the door, there’s quite a lot going on in the wee town. Well they have a murder evening and a quiz night anyway.

In fact we should have taken this as a bad omen because there were hardly any bookshops in the Lake District, it would seem that hill-walking and outdoor pursuits don’t go hand in hand with reading books.

There was a big bookshop in Whitehaven, which is quite off the tourist beaten track but although there were loads of books I only found one which I wanted to buy, and it wasn’t one I even knew about, but it was a D.E. Stevenson as it happens, called The Musgroves. I think that it isn’t one of her amusing ones though, it looks like a slushy romance, but it may just be that it has a terrible cover.

Apart from a book for one of my sons which I bought at Grasmere, that was it bookwise. Absolutely pitiful as I usually come home with an armful of treasures. When we got home I did manage to buy an old copy of J.B. Priestley’s Faraway, which I found in Kirkcaldy High Street of all places. The wee tobacconist at the east end has loads of books at the back of the shop, it was a complete revelation to us as we thought that he only had the few which he has in the window.

I don’t know why I’m complaining because I have hundreds of books at home, waiting to be read and I’ve just picked up Raven Black by Ann Cleeves and Losing Ground by Catherine Aird. I’ve also requested a couple of books by Joyce Dennys – Henrietta’s War and Henrietta Sees It Through. I haven’t read anything by any of those authors before, they’re all blogger recommendations.

Meanwhile my reading rate has slowed right down, I’ve been reading Georgette Heyer’s Duplicate Death for about a week now, that’s what happens when you go away.

Death at the Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh

Death at the Dolphin

This book is titled Killer Dolphin in the US and was first published in 1967, I bought it in a second-hand bookshop in Worcester and it cost me all of £1 – not bad when you consider that the original 1967 price was 18s. 0d. Remember, there were 20 shillings in each pound sterling.

Anyway, I haven’t read anything by Ngaio Marsh for years, so long that I couldn’t even tell you what I have read, but I seem to remember that they were just a teeny wee bit racist in language, always a bit off putting even when books were written in the 1930s. However by 1967 her language seemed to have improved and I must say that I really did enjoy this one, despite it having quite a modern setting, the 1930s are really my favourite vintage crime era.

Peregrine Jay is a young playwright living in London and having a reasonably successful career but when he sees a derelict theatre languishing unloved near his flat, he is determined to bring it back to life. The Dolphin Theatre is his dream project and with the help of Mr Conducis, a rich businessman, the theatre reopens. Then there’s a murder which is investigated by Inspector Alleyn of Scotland Yard and his sidekick ‘Bre’r’ Fox. The whole theatre company is under suspicion.

If you like reading books with a theatre company setting then you’ll probably enjoy this one. Other books with a theatrical setting which I’ve enjoyed are :

The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

School for Love cover

This is one of the books which I pulled out from that scary mountain of books on the left-hand side of the door at Voltaire and Rousseau, it was absolutely pristine (still is) and cost me all of £1. I bought it because of the Peter Pan connotations and Beryl Bainbridge had just been in the news because of her recent death, I hadn’t read anything by her for years. It was first published in 1989.

It’s set in Liverpool in 1950 and Stella has decided not to stay on at school. Her Uncle Vernon manages to get her a job as assistant stage manager at a local theatre. This involves being a general dogs-body to the company of actors and eventually getting small acting parts herself.

Stella’s character is an unusual combination of naivety and cheek, she gets on well in the theatre but has a crush on Meredith, the director who has converted to Catholicism, apparently because he’s after redemption. Which is just what we all said when Tony Blair did the same thing!

During rehearsals for Peter Pan disaster strikes and Meredith has to find someone else to play the dual part of Mr Darling and Captain Hook. The well known actor P.L.O’Hara rides to the rescue on his motorbike.

There’s quite a lot of tragedy one way or another in this book but it’s never depressing, partly I think because Beryl Bainbridge is so matter of fact about it.

Whilst reading it I thought to myself that it was quite similar to J.B. Priestley’s The Good Companions and I had planned to say that if you enjoyed that one you would probably like this. Then I read the back blurbs and The Sunday Times said:

Imagine Priestley’s The Good Companions as written by Gogol and you will have some idea of the mixture of waggish humour and sordid pathos in Bainbridge’s novel.

The book was made into a film starring Alan Rickman.

So there you have it, if you haven’t read anything by Bainbridge before, you might want to check her out to see if she’s your cup of tea.