Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis

Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis was first published in 2014, and it’s subtitled The Story of our cottages, country houses, terraces, flats, semis and bungalows.

This is such an interesting and informative read, but it references quite a lot of other books, mainly novels which of course I’ve taken a note of – it has bumped up my book list considerably! It also has plenty of lovely illustrations, and obviously there’s quite a lot of social history involved too.

I had always wondered why a great-uncle of Jack’s had insisted that his house was NOT a bungalow. They were the kind of house popular in colonial India amongst the Anglo Indians or ‘ex-pats’. But the early UK versions were often little more than wooden shacks, often built by soldiers after the end of WW1 when decent housing was difficult to find. Then after WW2 the prefabricated bungalows erected to try to alleviate the housing shortage tended to be despised, although they were loved by the people who actually lived in them.

I was surprised to discover that people in England were really reluctant to live in flats, so they were difficult to sell or let when builders first offered them. Eventually service flats became popular among the wealthy in London, it must have seemed like living in an hotel as meals could be sent up from the kitchen or you could go down to the restaurant, but there would have been more privacy than in an hotel. But flats have always been very popular in Scotland’s cities, they tend to be roomier than the narrow terraced housing on offer in England, but even those tiny houses ended up being split up into bed sitting rooms with kitchens being shared as the housing difficulties got worse.

It’s not all about grim housing problems though, having said that the ‘nobs’ who lived in country estates had problems of their own as new death duties took effect, and some were just abandoned and demolished but others such as Longleat took on the challenge and made a successful business out of the estate. It’s the suburban villas and semis section that I enjoyed most, and it was interesting to read that people in privately owned homes were building walls to separate themselves from newly built social (council) housing nearby.

This book has all sorts of interesting bits and pieces in it about old places such as Edinburgh and Bath as well as information about the ‘garden cities’ that became popular.

So this was a really good read, and I love the cover too. I really like those 1930s art deco homes – Crittall curved windows and all.

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.