The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski

The Victorian Chaise-Longue cover

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski was first published in 1953 but my copy is a Persephone which was published in 1999, it has a preface by P.D.James. It’s a bit of a creepy tale in parts but I enjoyed it.

Melanie is a a pampered young mother, adored by her husband Guy, she has led an easy life but she now has a health problem and fears that she might die. She has tuberculosis and her baby son is being kept away from her while she recovers, but Melanie can’t help fearing that she may not recover, but it’s 1950s London and her doctor expects her to make a full recovery.

Before she had her son she had been mooching around an antique shop looking for the perfect crib for her baby, but it was an old Victorian chaise-longue that called to her to buy it, despite it being rather large and ugly, she was drawn to the Berlin woolwork rose design upholstery although it is a bit stained.

When Melanie’s doctor allows her to leave her bedroom for a change of scene she moves to the drawing room, the chaise-longue is seen as the ideal place for her to rest, and so begins her nightmare. When she wakes up after having a nap Melanie thinks she may still be asleep. Her clothes are different and there’s a strange woman in the room, Adelaide is a cruel and nasty woman who calls her Milly. She’s still on the chaise-longue but it’s in a different room – a real Victorian room – and she still has tuberculosis, a death sentence in Victorian times, and Adelaide seems intent on hounding her to death.

This is a very quick read at just 99 pages, it’s not a comfortable read but it gives you plenty to think about. I have my suspicions about how that stain got there!

From the Guardian Review

Edward Lear

Jenny Uglow has written a book about Edward Lear – Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense. I enjoyed reading the review of it here in Saturday’s Guardian Review section, if you’re interested in Edward Lear’s work you’ll probably like it too.

Short story collections by Ruth Rendell and P.D. James have been published, ideal reading for long autumn evenings according to this article by Sarah Perry.

ruth rendell p d james

Ian Jack has written an article about a book on islands and the people who live on them. Islander: A Journey Around our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham. He visited 11 islands out of the 6,300 which comprise of Great Britain, although only 132 are inhabited all year round.

Patrick Barkham

If you want to know what it’s like to run a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s secondhand book capital – have a read at this article by Shaun Bythell.

Some Bookish Links

It has been a couple of days now since we go the news that P.D. James had died at the age of 94. The Guardian has lots of articles on her which you can read here, the most recent being the My Hero column which today is written by Val McDermid about Phyllis Dora James. I think her decision to only use her initials was a good career move as apparently men prefer to read books by men and a lot of people assumed that P.D. was a man. I don’t think women are so bothered about the gender of authors.

In fact Goodreads has come up with the fact that readers in general prefer to read books which have been written by their own gender. I think I read more books by men than women though, what about you? I’ll have to have a count of this year’s authors. You can read the Guardian article here.

It’s the time of the year when people look back and decide which books were their favourites of the year. You can read what a lot of authors have plumped for here.

The BBC are making a new version of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books, I just can’t imagine that they will be able to improve on the Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales line up and who could replace Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie? Well Anna Chancellor is playing Lucia apparently. Miranda Richardson is Mapp, Mark Gatiss is Major Benji Flint and Steve Pemberton will be playing Georgie Pillson. I’m sure I’ll be watching but I don’t think it’ll be as good somehow.

You can read more about some of the shows which are going to be shown around Christmas here.

I loved the Paddington Bear books although I was quite old when I got around to reading them, in fact it was only when I was reading them to my own kids that I discovered what fun they are. You can read an article about Paddington and the new film version which has just been released here. I think they should have special late night viewings of this film as I want to see it – but not with a whole load of kids who will probably cry and generally be a distraction. Or maybe I should just wait until it comes on TV.

If you’re into doing quizzes and Paddington Bear then you might want to have a bash at this one.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve perfected a very good hard stare of my own over the years. It’s one of the necessities of life!

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

I bought this book at the library booksale despite knowing that it had been roundly condemned by lots of bloggers, well it only cost me 80p, so I thought I would see for myself what it was like. I’ve previously read quite a few books by P.D. James and enjoyed them.

I have to say that I agree with the people who were disappointed with this one. It seems that in dealing with a historical setting James doesn’t have that important skill in writing of imparting information without it seeming to be clunky, but just part of the story. There was so much obvious info dumping and tedious repetition. I struggled on womanfully to the end, well I had to see what happened didn’t I!

Anyway, in planet Katrina, that place I live where life is more congenial than the reality, I decided when I first read Pride and Prejudice that Lydia and Wickham were going to come to a sticky end.

In my mind Wickham swiftly turns to other women after his marriage to Lydia and ends up having to fight a duel with his regiment’s colonel after he ravishes the colonel’s wife and then tries to blackmail her. The colonel is a hotshot and Wickham is a goner!

Lydia returns to where she has been happiest, that Mecca of naughtiness Brighton. She ‘entertains’ as many officers as is humanly possible, well she doesn’t want any of them feeling left out, she guzzles gin like it was water and expires in a foaming fit whilst dancing like a mad thing at the Pump Room. Her last thought is ‘La – what larks!’

Do you have an alternative future for Lydia and Wickham?

The BBC is broadcasting a dramatised version of this book at Christmas and I actually think that it could be worth watching. There probably won’t be much else on anyway, but I think that all the clunky bits in the book will be cut out, making it a lot more enjoyable, and of course there’ll be frocks and gorgeous houses. Chatsworth House and Harewood House are being used as film locations, you can read more about it here.

Library Sale Haul


Last Saturday my local library had another booksale. The last couple of sales I was really lucky to get some good history books but no such luck this time, in fact the selection of non-fiction was poor so I didn’t buy any.

I did end up buying plenty more fiction though, and honestly I need more books like a hole in the head but we can’t pass up a library booksale as we would be wondering what gems we had missed out on.

So my haul was:

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D.James. I know that a lot of people have been disappointed with this book but I like P.D. James and I thought that at a cost of 50p I’d give it a go anyway.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer. I really prefer Heyer’s murder mysteries but I’m reading her regency romances too, although I already have about half a dozen unread ones in my pile.

Problem at Pollensa Bay by Agatha Christie. This is a collection of her short stories which I think will be interesting.

Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham. This is an Albert Campion book from 1933, my favourite crime fiction era.

Death of a Valentine by M.C.Beaton. I’ve just realised that this is a Hamish Macbeth murder mystery and I’ve only tried one of those and I gave up on it fairly early on, oh well, I might give it a go anyway.

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C.Beaton. Sometimes Agatha is exactly what I want to read, daft but somehow comforting.

The Kellys of Kelvingrove by Margaret Thomson Davis. I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author before, if I ever did it was way back in the mists of time. My mother was a fan of her books though, it was the title which caught my eye as the Kelvingrove/Glasgow Uni area of Glasgow is our old stamping ground and it’s also set in the 1970s which is exactly when we were there.

The Complete Borrowers by Mary Norton.
I bought this to give to a young friend of ours. I have a hardback copy but I loce children’s classics and I don’t want to part with my own copy, hope she likes this one too.

So those should keep me busy over the coming winter along with my ever growing pile, and I bought more today in Edinburgh, but I’ll tell you about them another time.

As ever, Jack bought far fewer books. He came away with: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. and

The Infinities by John Banville. Looking at the blurb I might give these ones a go sometime too.

The Lighthouse by P.D. James

This was the last book which I read in 2011 and it was first published in 2005 and was a purchase from the library book sale, at only 50p for a hardback I just couldn’t resist it. I first read P.D.James books in the 1980s and of course lots of them have been adapted for TV but I rarely watch them because I’m not all that keen on the actor who plays Commander Adam Dalgliesh, but he was the actor that P.D. James wanted to play the part. I think she must have been doing what quite a few authors do – write themselves the perfect partner. As Dorothy L. Sayers did with Lord Peter Wimsey.

The Lighthouse is a classic detective story really, set on Combe Island which is an imaginary island off the Cornish coast. So when a murder occurs there’s a limit to the number of possible culprits. All very Agatha Christie-ish so far, but I must say that I think P.D. James’s writing is superior to Christie’s. Her descriptions are quite poetic and I have to say she is really good at ‘painting’ the scenery, which is just what I like. This is generally done through the eyes of Dalgleish as he is a poet when he is not detecting.

Combe Island has been owned by the same family for hundreds of years but in recent times it is being used as a place where the high fliers of the world can go to de-stress in an atmosphere of peace and safety. So when one of the inhabitants is found dead Dalgleish and his team consisting of Detective Inspector Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith are helicoptered in to investigate.

I enjoyed this book even if it wasn’t twisty-turny enough for my liking and although I wasn’t even trying to think about it it suddenly flashed into my head who the culprit was really early on in the book. I can’t make up my mind how I feel about that, it’s a bit of a toss up really. On one hand it’s annoying that I suspected the correct person all the way through but then in some way I feel quite chuffed that I got it right. Anyway, it’s definitely worth reading if you like detective stories.