Midsummer Night in the Workhouse by Diana Athill

This is a book I borrowed from the library, purely because it’s a Persephone really although I vaguely recognised the name of Diana Athill. It turned out to be a collection of twelve short stories, the third one of which, called The Return won her first prize of £500 in an Observer competition in 1958, an awful lot of money in those days.

The stories are about relationships between men and women and although they were written 50 odd years ago it’s striking how the women are just like women nowadays except they sometimes wear long evening gloves. Their attitudes to the men in their lives seemed very modern, to me anyway the stories didn’t seem dated but I suppose that might say more about me than the stories.

They’re mainly written from the woman’s point of view and are at times funny and always observant about ‘types’. It’s so easy for each generation to think that they are the ones to have really discovered sex but these stories prove that it was all going on even before the 1960s, which is always put forth as the time when everything changed in society and morals went to hell in a handcart.

Anyway the book was an enjoyable read which has made me want to seek out Athill’s memoirs. She was born in 1917 and after graduating from Oxford she became a literary editor and helped Andre Deutsch set up his publishing company. She worked closely with lots of authors: Jean Rhys, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Brian Moore and Simone de Beauvoir, to mention a few, not a bad bunch!

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?