Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times which is hosted by Judith, Reader in the Wilderness is supposed to be on a Friday – I’m late – or early whichever way you want to take it!

The books I’ve chosen to highlight this week are all as yet unread by me and are from a small bookcase in our guest bedroom. I’m not sure if any guests would want to read these ones, but it also houses a lot of Patricia Wentworth books so it’s an eclectic mix.

Everyman's Castle cover

I’m interested in houses, homes and architecture in general and when I saw this book called Everyman’s Castle with a dream of an art deco house on the cover, Crittal windows and all, I had to buy it. This book must have been donated to an Oxfam bookshop almost as soon as it was published, it cost me all of £2.99 although the publisher’s price was £20. Despite pouncing on it in the shop – it has remained unread by me for the last five years. The author is Philippa Lewis and it looks like it contains a lot of social history as well as references to different sorts of homes, actual and fictional. I really must get around to reading it.

The Pursuit of Paradise cover

The Pursuit of Paradise by Jane Brown is subtitled A Social History of Gardens and Gardening. This is a fairly hefty tome which could be why I haven’t got around to reading it, but flicking through now I can see why I bought it. It’s an interesting collection of all things gardening related, featuring just about every type of garden you can think of and including a ‘military garden’ which is a type that I’ve never heard of before. Apart from that there are lots of illustrations such as a plan of the gardens of the 1951 Festival of Britain, some colour plates of art works and gardens, and lots of history.

Women Who Read Are Dangerous cover

Lastly Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Karen Joy Fowler (author of The Jane Austen Book Club) is according to the New York Times Book Review…. A Treasure Trove of Visual Riches. The blurb says: Artists through the ages have been fascinated by the challenge of capturing in their work the intimacy and tranquility of reading. There was a time however when female literacy was a controversial idea, and it took many centuries before women were entirely free to chose what they read, whether for instruction or pleasure.

This is a lovely book full of paintings, drawings and photographs of women reading, including artworks from Vermeer, Manet, Whistler, Hopper, Fragonard, Larsson and many more, each accompanied by a short article on the image and the artist.

I’m really enjoying doing these posts as they’re re-acquainting me with books that I expected to read soon after buying them, but never did. Already I’ve read a few of the ones that I highlighted in previous ‘Insane’ blogposts. Thanks Judith.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club cover

We were having a look at the books for sale at the library and Jack spotted The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, he said the author was meant to be good so I bought it – for all of 30p, it’s a paperback. I usually avoid Jane Austen spin-off things as I’ve been burned before by them – I should have stuck to my guns. I’ll be giving this one just two stars on Goodreads, it just wasn’t my cup of tea at all.

The book group consists of mainly middle-aged women, two are mother and daughter, most of them have been friends for a long time, since schooldays in some cases. One is getting on in years, one has just been abandoned by her husband of 30 odd years, the youngest is a lesbian and there’s a newcomer, a man called Grigg. He’s newly redundant, has moved to the area as it’s a cheaper place to live, he’s really into science fiction and has never read anything by Jane Austen before. They’ve never had a man in the book group before.

One of the women is a matchmaker, another makes thoughtless cutting remarks to others … you get the idea I’m sure.

Jane Austen was supremely self-deprecating when she said:
‘Three or four families in a country village are the very thing to work on.’ It takes a lot more than that to write a great book. There are three or four families involved in the book group, but none of the characters is interesting or even likeable.

It’s a mystery to me why this book was a best seller but I suppose the title has an awful lot to do with that, rather than the contents. I imagine that the people who have disliked it most are the ones who love Jane Austen’s books.

I’m quite annoyed with myself for choosing this one as my first book of the year, but I often do read a book as soon as I buy it, ignoring the many that are waiting patiently on my bookshelves. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.

You might be able to see on the cover that the author Alice Sebold said of this book: ‘If I could eat this novel, I would’ – each to their own! Really if I could afford to I would send Sebold a sort of Red Cross parcel of good books, but I suppose it is just as well we are all different.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it?