Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken

Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken was published in 1999 and it’s part of her Dido Twite series, coming after The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but I don’t think it’s really necessary to read this series in strict order.

Dido had been about to sail for the Port of London when the ship’s captain had been ordered to find Lord Herodsfoot and pick him up too. So they had to sail to the island of Aratu also known as the Island of Pearl Snakes. As they approach the island all of the cockroaches abandon ship as they’re the snakes’ favourite food.and they can smell them on the island.

Lord Herodsfoot has already left the island, bound for New Guinea and Australia, he’s searching for a game called Fish, Prawn, King Crab – it’s what he does.

As they try to track him down they get involved with all sorts of witchcraft, gods and natives who abandon girl babies. It’s a good read.

The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken – 20 Books of Summer 2023

The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken is The Complete Armitage Family Stories. I must admit that I had never read any of this series, nor even heard of them, but what a delight they are. Joan Aiken had such a wild imagination and a great sense of humour, these stories  although aimed at younger readers, like all well written books are entertaining for all ages. I got the impression that writing these stories was the author’s happy place, and that she must have been very attached to the characters. It turns out that the family was based on her own family, she told the stories to her younger brother and the children  featured in the stories were based on their older brother and sister who were away at school.

They were written and published from 1958 with the last ones being published in 2008, four years after her death. They feature the children of the Armitage family, Mark and Harriet, and they came about because when she was on honeymoon Mrs Armitage found a wishing stone (one with a hole in it) and wished for a big house in the country and two children with cheerful and energetic natures who will never mope or sulk or get bored – and it would be nice if they had a fairy godmother.

As it happens they have  a lot more than that, including a pet unicorn, griffins, a friendly ghost, there’s an enchanted garden and the neighbourhood is populated by elderly fairy ladies – don’t call them witches!

On the back of the book Philip Pullman said ‘She was a literary treasure.’ I think he was correct.






Emma Watson by Joan Aiken

When Jane Austen abandoned writing her novel called The Watsons she did so after just five chapters, and in Emma Watson Joan Aiken finishes off the task, or that’s what I thought, but in reality this book contains no writing from Jane Austen at all. Joan Aiken just takes up the tale from where Austen left off, it’s not exactly a success in my opinion.

I suppose it depends what you’re looking for, I expected the book to be written in Jane Austen’s style but it really wasn’t, and as it went on it became more like something written by Georgette Heyer, with less of her style and wit. Otherwise it was quite entertaining, and maybe I’m being unfair, it might just be too difficult to get into the Austen mode, but it did seem to me that really no effort was put into it. There’s nothing of Austen – it’s all Aiken, goes into topics which Austen would not have and, although I like Aiken’s writing in general, this was a disappointment.

The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken

The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken was first published in 1981 and it’s the fourth book in her ‘Wolves’ series.

This one begins with Dido Twite on board H.M.S. Thrush, a British man-o’-war which has a new Captain. Reading the logbook Captain Hughes discovers that Dido is on her way back to England, sailing from Nantucket after having been instrumental in uncovering a Hanoverian plot against His Majesty King James III. Captain Hughes can hardly believe it and he’s less than happy about Dido being onboard, he orders her to stay in her own quarters. Dido’s unimpressed.

Just before casting off Captain Hughes receives instructions to sail to Roman America – New Cumbria where the queen apparently needs help from her oldest ally – England. Someone has stolen her lake. On reaching their destination it’s obvious that that isn’t the only thing that has been stolen, most of the girls have disappeared too!

This book is part of Aiken’s ‘Wolves’ series’ and comes after Nightbirds in Nantucket, but it can be read as a standalone book. It’s an enjoyable read, described as a mixture of history, legend, fantasy, humour and adventure.

New to Me Books – from Edinburgh

We visited Edinburgh today, dodging Princes Street as there are no secondhand bookshops there, we headed for Stockbridge where there are a few charity bookshops. I bought:

Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken

Elsie Piddock by Eleanor Farjeon

My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin

Little Plum by Rumer Godden

The Little White House by Elizabeth Goudge

The Stolen Sister by Joan Lingard

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

Quite a few of these ones are aimed at children or young adults. Have you read any of them?

What I’m Reading

Unusually for me I have no books that I can write about, this is what happens when you get stuck into the knitting season instead of reading – and when you choose to read Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant. This one has been waiting for me to pick it up for years. It’s a Virago and has quite small print and 495 pages, but I only have 80 to go and I’m very much enjoying it. Just in case you don’t know, the Scottish surname Marjoribanks is pronounced Marchbanks. This one has been on my Classics Club list since I joined years and years ago, and I’m now on my second list of classics.

I have still been buying books, unsurprisingly and have recently added these ones to the piles:

Recently Purchased Books

The Rendezvous and other stories by Daphne du Maurier
The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith (about the Charge of the Light Brigade)
The Double Image by Helen MacInnes
The African Queen by C.S. Forester (I could act the film myself, but if it’s on TV I find myself watching it again).
Midwinter Nightingale by Joan Aiken
Scotland’s Hidden History by Ian Armit (featuring standing stones and more)

From that place that I’m not supposed to be visiting – the library, I have:

Rosie Scenes from a vanished life by Rose Tremain
The Marches by Rory Stewart
They are both blogpal recommendations, and lastly
Le Testament Francais by Andrei Makine

That last one will count towards the Reading Europe Challenge. Have you read any of these books?

The 1965 Club

1965 club

Ages ago I decided to take part in The 1965 Club which is being hosted by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, but I got mixed up with the dates and read a book a month too early, so if you are interested you can read my thoughts on what should have been my first read of the week The Looking-Glass War by John le Carre.

Previous books from 1965 that I’ve read are:

Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken

The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith

Ninth Life by Elizabeth Ferrars

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

I’ve just finished reading The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff and I’ll blog about that one tomorrow.

New to me books

A couple of weekends ago we went to a book charity sale in the Scottish Borders and inevitably I came back with quite a few more books for my ever groaning bookcases, in fact within the last three weeks I’ve managed to squeeze four more into the house!

I have to say that there were loads of modern paperbacks for sale but the books that came home with me were the type that most people would dodge. They’re all fairly old and this time they’re mainly for children. In truth a few of them I bought just for the book cover or illustrations – as good a reason as any I think you’ll agree.

Books Again

So I bought:

We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea by Arthur Ransome.

Riders and Raiders by M.E. Atkinson (the author was recommended by a friend.)

The Golden Book of Children’s Verse – this book was published by Blackie and Son, the Glasgow based publisher who was a client of Charles Rennie Mackintosh who designed Blackie’s family home Hill House in Helensburgh, but also designed a lot of the Blackie book covers, including this one.

Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne – it’s another Blackie book.

Two Joans at the Abbey by Elsie J. Oxenham. This seems to be an adventure tale which was first published in 1945. Chosen because of the title – well why not!

Breakfast with the Nikolides by Rumer Godden. I’ve been buying her books when I see them over the years. This is one of her Indian ones.

Mortimer’s Bread Bin by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

And lastly

Just What I Like which is another Blackie publication. It’s an annual sized book and has an inscription dated 1932 and I think the illustrations are lovely – so of their time. I suspect I’m turning into a Blackie book collector. Inadvertently of course!


I was really surprised to see the evidence in this 1932 book that apostrophes were also misused back then. Bus’s indeed!

Book Illustration

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken

Night Birds on Nantucket cover

I’m making my way through this Joan Aiken series featuring Dido Twite. This was the first of the series that I picked up at a secondhand bookshop, an original Puffin book which cost all of 25p when it was published in 1966, but as it comes third in the series I had to find and read the first two before getting around to this one.

I was attracted to the book because of the back cover blurb:

Here is a new adventure for Dido Twite (the enchanting heroine of Black Hearts in Battersea), waking from a long sleep to foil Miss Slighcarp, the wicked governess, in her plan to assassinate King James III by long-distance gun – and her greatest ally is a pink whale called Rosie.

Who could resist that craziness?!

Dido has been rescued from the sea by a whaling ship and slept for ten months, being fed on whale oil and molasses while she slept. When she wakes up the sailors have just caught a whale and are dealing with it (not a pleasant description) and Dido is sorry to hear that they can’t take her back to England immediately, they’re going in the opposite direction. The ship’s captain has a daughter on the ship, Dutiful Penitence is about the same age as Dido but is pining away after the death of her mother on board. Dido succeeds in making Pen take an interest in life again and together they get mixed up in another Hanoverian plot to kill King James III.

The long distance gun is so powerful it will blow Nantucket back as far as Atlantic City – a horrific thought apparently!

It’s a daft but fun read.