Reading My Own Damn Books – in March

I decided to join in the Reading My Own Books Challenge at Estella’s Revenge in the hope that it would make me concentrate on my books rather than books from the library. It sort of worked, although I did request some books from the library because other bloggers had loved them. Anyway, in March I read eleven books and of those eight were my own. They were:

1. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
2. Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne
3. The Edge of the Cloud by K.M.Peyton
4. Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater
5. Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim
6. Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
7. Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings
8. The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens

I had been aiming to read at least six of my own books so I’m very happy with eight although I didn’t manage to read Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston as I had planned, that one will be carried forward to be read in April. I’m hoping to read at least six of my own books in April, I’ll definitely be reading Oblamov by Goncharov because I got that one in the Classics Club Spin.

I have a horrible feeling that I actually bought more than eight books in March though, so the TBR pile is still increasing!

Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim

Introduction to Sally cover

Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim was published in 1926, but of course von Arnim was being coy about it as it only has that

To begin with I thought this was going to be a sort of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady rewrite but it turned out to be quite different.

Mr Pinner is a shopkeeper and is married to a very pretty woman and they live in London. After ten years of marriage they still have no children which is a huge sadness to Mr Pinner in particular, that coupled with the fact that Mrs Pinner is argumentative leads him to think that given his time again he wouldn’t have married her. Eventually Mrs Pinner does get pregnant and has a little girl who turns out to be even prettier than her mother. Mr Pinner wants to call her Salvation as he feels she has saved their marriage as Mrs Pinner is now too taken up with her baby to quarrel about anything. They compromise and call her Salvatia, but of course that is shortened to Sally, much to her parents’ annoyance.

As Sally grows up she attracts too much attention from men, they come into the shop just to catch a glimpse of her, it’s good for business but Mr Pinner can’t stand all these men lusting after his daughter and they end up trying to hide her from them. When Sally is sixteen her mother dies and so Sally has to help in the shop, the business turnover doubles overnight but Mr Pinner can’t take the strain of looking after Sally on his own. The Pinners are a God fearing family and it grieves Mr Pinner that even the local doctor and vicar are lusting after his daughter. – These married gentlemen – what could it be but sin they had in their minds? They wished to sin with Sally, to sin the sin of sins, with his Sally, his spotless lamb, a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

Mr Pinner decides to move out of London for Sally’s sake. He finds a shop in a teeny village which is owned by a man who wants to move to London and they exchange premises. The village of Woodle seems ideal to Mr Pinner, but he doesn’t realise that it is close to Cambridge and when term time begins it has students going through it. When one particular ogling student Jocelyn Luke sets eyes on Sally he’s so overcome by her beauty that he mentions to her father that he wants to marry her. Mr Pinner can hardly believe his luck and in no time he has married Sally off to him. He’s keen to pass the responsibility of looking after Sally on to a husband.

Too late Mr Luke realises that although Sally looks like a dream, she sounds absolutely dreadful. He tries to improve her speech but Sally is unable to pronounce an ‘h’. In fact she seems not to realise that there is such a letter in the alphabet and she has no interest in improving herself. Usband – as she calls Mr Luke seems always to be angry with her, except at night time when he is too busy – Oh Sally-ing! as Sally calls it.

I began by thinking that this book was just a bit too daft but in the end I really enjoyed it. It’s all a bit of a hoot as the very innocent Sally continues to wow all the males she comes into contact with, without even trying, and despite her obvious ‘common’ background.

It is of course all very wrapped up in snobbery and the differences between working class people and the various other types, up to ‘the pick of the basket’ as Sally’s parents had described the aristocracy.

There’s an article from The Independent here in which they seem to think that Elizabeth von Arnim has been unknown to readers for years, but we know differently don’t we?!

One other thing I want to mention – this book has a rubber stamp inside it saying: Josiah Parkes & Sons Ltd

The book was published in 1926 and I couldn’t help wondering what the company actually did, so I Googled them and came up with this.

They made keys and locks amongst other things and I love the old photos of the workforce and their surroundings. Real social history going back to the time when to work for a company was like being part of a big family with a library for the workers and no doubt lots of clubs for them all to socialise in. Mind you standing on those cobbles all day must have been hard on the feet!

I read this one for Reading My Own Damn Books and the Classics Club and also The Women’s Classic Literature Event.

Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater

Crossriggs cover

Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater was first published in 1908 and it’s one of those books which I’ve been meaning to get around to reading for years. I’m quite intrigued by the thought of two people writing a book, and I wonder how they actually went about it. I must admit that I had no idea that these Scottish sisters had been so famous in their day. They travelled to the US amongst other places and were friends with writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter de la Mare, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Virginia Woolf. The sisters were the progeny of a Scottish Free Presbyterian Church minister.They lived in Lochearnhead until their father’s death when they moved to Prestonpans, a small town close to Edinburgh.

Crossriggs is a small town which is not far from Edinburgh by train. The Hope family live there. Alexandra Hope is a young woman who runs her elderly father’s very poverty stricken household. Mr Hope is a vegetarian/fruitarian who would nowadays be described as being a vegan. He’s a peace loving man who doesn’t want to cause anything any harm, but although he is regarded as being very clever he is forever having crazy ideas about new ways of growing things and it usually ends up in failure and loss of money, which is just what they can’t afford.

When the recently widowed elder daughter Matilda comes back from Canada with her five children it falls to Alex to slave at various jobs to try to earn money to feed them all. It never seems to occur to Matilda that her young sister is taking on all of the responsibility for the family.

Alex is a great character, what we in Scotland call ‘a nippy sweetie’. She’s very ‘pass remarkable’ and often has a sarcastic but witty thing to say about her neighbours and their appearance. However one of her neighbours is a well respected academic/writer and it’s obvious that Alex is in love with him, but he is married so he’s completely off limits of course.

Alex is unwilling to just settle for what she regards as an inferior sort of man and so turns down marriage proposals, to Matilda’s disgust.

This book has lots of echoes of various books in it. It’s similar to Jane Austen’s Emma in parts. Alex is like Jo from Jo’s Boys, but this is an essentially Scottish book, moral and spiritual but not to a sickly degree.

I also found it similar to O. Douglas’s (also the daughter of a Wee Free minister) books although hers are perhaps a bit more light hearted and more preachy, or maybe just a bit less well regarded or dare I say it popular. The elements are the same though: A young woman looking after a load of children who are not her own, a lack of money, annoying neighbours and relatives and romance.

R.L. Stevenson said that there is a difference between the Scottish and English psyche. In England they ask you – What is your name?

But in Scotland they ask – What is the chief end of man?

This is the difference between Scottish and English literature anyway. It’s probably because straightforward story telling was regarded as being frivolous, but if it had a moral and a sound feeling for what was right and wrong, then it was worthwhile.

I read Crossriggs for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge, it’s my fifth one this year, and also for the Women’s Classics Literature Event and for Reading My Own Damn Books. Three down with one stone!

I was interested to see that the book is dedicated to:

Kate Douglas Wiggin and Norah Archibald Smith
two sisters,

from two sisters,
Mary and Jane Findlater.

It’s a good read.