The weather has been lovely and bright with sunshine and blue skies here although the gritters are now around on the roads late at night due to falling temperatures, it’s amazing we’ve had no rain now for four or five days, I’m fairly sure that’s a record for this year! We drove up to Dunkeld, it’s one of my favourite wee towns, a scenic place to go for a walk and have lunch.
Then we drove a further ten miles or so north to Pitlochry, a much bigger town, it definitely feels like you’re in the Highlands there, it’s a bit touristy but for me the biggest attraction is the second-hand bookshop, situated in a building at the railway station, just a few steps away from the platform. The books are sold in aid of several local charities.
I’ve always been very lucky finding books there, but as I was going in a man was coming out, he had an armful of books and it turned out that the place was heaving with book lovers. I hoped that they had left me something to buy!
I needn’t have worried though. This is usually a good source of interesting old hardbacks for me, but those shelves didn’t have much in the way of fiction at all, but there were plenty of paperbacks, so I ended up buying:
1. The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor
2. An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
3. The Happy Prisoner by Monica Dickens
4. Neither Fiver Nor Three by Helen MacInnes
5. Friends and Lovers by Helen MacInnes
Pitlochry is well off for second-hand bookshops as there’s another one in a street off the high street, it’s called Priory Books and I was really pleased to get Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy there, a nice old hardback with its dust jacket too. I couldn’t say no to a British Library Crime Classics anthology of short stories called CRIMSON SNOW Winter Mysteries. Perfect for reading around Christmas I think.
Have you read any of these books?
The Forgotten Smile by Margaret Kennedy was first published in 1961 but it has been reprinted by Vintage.
I’ve only read one other book by Kennedy – The Ladies of Lyndon and although I liked that one I enjoyed The Forgotten Smile even more, although I found the beginning a bit strange.
Kate has been married to Douglas for donkey’s years, they are well off, live in London and their children are all grown up and have their own homes. Kate realises that she is no longer needed by them, in fact they are quite an obnoxious bunch. Despite the fact that Kate goes around walking on egg-shells to avoid their scathing comments and bad tempers they seem determined to find fault with her.
That coupled with the fact that Douglas her husband is in the throws of yet another idiotic infatuation with one of his wealthy clients makes her decide to take herself off on an Aegean cruise. As cruises go it’s a failure, badly run with terrible food, so when Kate realises that old friends and neighbours of hers are now living on one of the islands they visit, she decides to abandon the cruise and goes to stay with them on Keritha, the island they now own.
Keritha has been saved from becoming a tourist destination as its owners are determined to preserve the magic of the place and avoid spoiling it with modern things. The Greek inhabitants seem like a throw back to another ancient age.
Selwyn Potter is a young teacher who also arrives on Keritha. Kate realises that he had been a childhood acquaintance of her children who had managed to break a valuable table when he visited her house. He’s a clumsy fool and Kate is annoyed that she has to be in his company again, but eventually she understands why he is as he is and a friendship ensues.
This book is about loss, failure and tolerance of people who might seem to be different. That makes it sound a bit grim but it has moments of humour, it’s a good read, a perfect holiday or summer book. I’ll definitely be looking for more books by Margaret Kennedy.
I never did get around to signing up for Margaret Kennedy Day but I did read The Ladies of Lyndon a couple of weeks ago – so, here goes.
The Ladies of Lyndon is Margaret Kennedy’s first novel and it was first published in 1923 but my book is a Vintage Books reprint.
I enjoyed Margaret Kennedy’s writing, in some ways she is a bit of an updated Jane Austen, the surroundings are similar, a large country house and several ladies, mothers and what seem to be unlikely marriages.
Mrs Varden Cocks has one child, a very well brought up daughter called Agatha and as Mrs Cocks believes in early marriages for young women that is exactly what Agatha does. Mrs Cocks is obviously the type who wants to get her daughter ‘safely off her hands’ as quickly as possible. Agatha had previously had a bit of a thing with her cousin Gerald, but it’s the handsome and well off John Clewer that she marries, so becoming the mistress of Lyndon, the large country house.
John has a younger brother called James and he’s very much the black sheep of the family. In fact some of them would like to have him committed to an asylum. James is just different from the rest of them and he is really only interested in painting, something the members of his family just don’t understand.
As you would expect James is unconventional and his choice of wife is very much frowned on too, she’s a housemaid and very much wants to stay exactly as she is, she has no intentions of being something she isn’t, not even when she subsequently ends up being Lady Clewer.
James is far and away the most interesting character in the book but he is really only on the periphery which is a real shame. As I said, I enjoyed this but this is the first book by Margaret Kennedy that I’ve read and I’m sure her writing must have developed and improved as her writing career advanced. I’ll be reading more of her later books anyway.
Books are still coming into the house faster than I can possibly read them. Even although I don’t work nowadays I still only manage to read at most two books a week, unless I’m on a vintage crime binge and then I can read more. When you consider that most weeks my book ownership is going up by four or so books, you’ll realise that I’m never going to be in a position of having nothing at all to read.
Last week I bought:
The North Wind of Love by Compton Mackenzie
The Casino by Margaret Bonham
The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
I was under the impression that The North Wind of Love was the beginning of Mackenzie’s ‘Four Winds of Love’ series – but it isn’t.
I’ve never read anything by Margaret Kennedy but I know lots of bloggers love her books so I’m hopeful.
I’ve also never read anything by Margaret Bonham but it’s a Persephone so I think it’ll probably be good.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is pure nostalgia. All of my childhood books were given away by my mother when my back was turned, I think my Rebecca book was a cheap paperback, but I couldn’t resist this hardback from 1903. I love its cover and I’ve just realised that it’s a first edition, not that I’m bothered by such things, and it seems to be dirt cheap on the internet anyway.
Have you read any of these books?