MOONDIAL

I have just finished my book. Yay! Well, ‘finished’ with finger quotes would be more accurate. I’m at the finicky polishing stage, which makes me feel cross-eyed (and cross) at the end of the day. It’s word by word reading with a red pen. Off to my editor next Wednesday.

I didn’t have as long between finishing the final draft and starting the polishing as I like – I find it’s useful to put the whole thing away for a couple of weeks, not think about it, and do a spot of house painting or some major garden works – but in the couple of days I allowed myself, I read this little book. It was an Op Shop score, and now I’m on the prowl for more Helen Cresswell. I should be able to find some – she wrote more than 100 children’s books, and was best known for comedy… and the supernatural. So sheer serendipity… like my book, Moondial features ghostly visitors and strange happenings in a big old house.

Minty (Araminta) goes to stay with her Aunt Mary, who lives opposite a historic property, Belton House.

Even before she came to Belton, Minty Cane knew she was a witch, or something very like it. She had known since she was tiny, for instance, about the pocket of cold air on the landing of the back stairs. (Though she could not have known that a man had hanged himself there). She knew, too, that she shared her bedroom. She had woken at night to see shadowy presences gliding across the floor. She had never spoken to them, merely watched, sensing that  they were on some silent business of their own…

(Note: spoilers ahead!)

And when she first sees the elaborate sundial in the garden at Belton House, she knows it’s the key to a haunting mystery. Sundial? Moondial… Two children from the past need her help to escape from endless torment. With Tom, the 19th century kitchen boy, she defeats the forces of evil (the horribly creepy time-traveller Miss Raven) to rescue Sarah, a child from an even earlier era.

This is a beautifully written time-slip mystery, with a couple of marvellous set-pieces (the masked village children taunting poor little Sarah in the moonlight was almost too much). Dual timelines – there’s a pressing real-world, present-day situation for Minty as well – are threaded through the story to end up full circle in a satisfying but not quite neatly tied-up finale.

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MORE COMFORT READING (2)

After Plant Dreaming Deep was published in 1968, Sarton – in her late middle age – found herself not only a best-selling writer, but a kind of model or mentor for many women. Probably white, middle-class and well-educated American women, but nevertheless, what inspired her readers was the unabashed emphasis on her own life. As – primarily – a creator. As a poet and novelist (that work was always bubbling away in the background); as a woman living alone and making her own life to suit herself. I imagine a chorus of wistful sighs from women readers with husbands and children; I wish, I wish, I wish….

Sartons’s next book about her house and life in Nelson is also comfort reading, but of a different kind. In Journal of a Solitude (1973), there is still the beauty, the garden and the landscape, the old house, the flowers, the friends. But there is more honesty, and it’s comforting because of that. This is no perfect Country Style, House and Garden life. It’s often unhappy and lonely and frustrating. Perfect days of creative work and contentment and contemplation of beauty are followed by wretched times of frustration and pain. Sarton feels deeply; she loves, she feels empathy and communion and joy in company with others but she also finds it hard to tamp down her irritations and anger and often blows up in rage. I would say May Sarton sometimes just finds it hard being May Sarton (and a quick look online at her biography tells me that other people found her hard, too).

I woke in tears this morning. I wonder whether it is possible at nearly sixty to change oneself radically. Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level? If I cannot, I shall lose the person I love. There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour – put out birdseed, tidy the rooms , try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.

It seems strange, now in 2022, when the confessional, warts’n’all memoir is a flourishing genre – when writers at the top of their game like Helen Garner will publish such devastatingly honest accounts of their messy lives – to read that Sarton’s achievement in Journal of  a Solitude was a Big New Thing.
I quote from Carolyn Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life. She writes that despite the great success of Plant Dreaming Deep, Sarton was eventually dismayed as she:

…came to realize that none of the anger, passionate struggle, or despair of her life was revealed in the book. She had not intentionally concealed her pain: she had written in the old genre of female autobiography, which tends to find beauty even in pain and to transform rage into spiritual acceptance. Later, reading her idealized life in the hopeful eyes of those who saw her as an exemplar, she realized that in ignoring the rage and pain, she had unintentionally been less than honest…In her next book, Journal of a Solitude, she deliberately set out to recount the pain of the years covered by Plant Dreaming Deep. Thus the publication of Journal of a Solitude in 1973 may be acknowledged as the watershed in women’s autobiography.

I call it the watershed not because honest autobiographies had not been written before that day, but because Sarton deliberately retold the record of her anger. And above all other prohibitions, what had been forbidden to women is anger, together with the open admission of the desire for power and control over their own lives.

And a final note; what a shocker of a cover.
It is so disturbing that I had to keep turning the book over so I wouldn’t have to look.  I’m going to have to buy myself another edition!

 

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MORE COMFORT READING (1)

From Plant Dreaming Deep by Mary Sarton.
…gardening is one of the late joys, for youth is too impatient, too self-absorbed and  usually not rooted deeply enough to create a garden. Gardening is one of the rewards of middle age, when one is ready for an impersonal passion, a passion that demands patience, acute awareness of a world outside oneself, and the power to keep on growing through all the times of drought, through the cold snows, towards those moments of pure joy when all failures are forgotten and the plum tree flowers.

After a long and distinguished literary career as a novelist and poet, Belgian-American writer May Sarton (1912-1995) had, from her late middle age, a series of bestsellers with her memoirs and journals. The first of them, Plant Dreaming Deep, tells how she fell in love with a neglected 18th century house in the village of Nelson, in rural Maine. She knew she had to ‘dream the house alive’; imaginatively transform it into a home before (and along with) the work of repairing, restoring and rebuilding. She carefully and lovingly places her furniture – including cherished Belgian family heirlooms – and  rugs, her paintings, objects, books  and above all flowers around her. She creates a garden from pasture. Piece by piece a home, a setting for her personality and her art, is dreamed and loved and toiled (with a great deal of help from a large cast of skilled local artisans and handy neighbouring farmers) into existence.
Her life sounds idyllic, one of peace, beauty, and creativity. Productive solitude is punctuated by visits from friends, forays out into the wider world for speaking engagements and other work. She develops relationships with a choice few of the Nelson locals. There are the occasional flutters of drama – weather, wildlife, local tensions – but the tone is warm, wise, and wonderfully lyrical. Comforting and nourishing stuff in these incredible times.

But  – there’s always a ‘but’, and there’s always a serpent in Paradise.
In 1973, Sarton published her journal of this time. And we see her adventure in home-making and blissful creativity through different and not so rosy glasses.

To be continued…

 

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LINNETS AND VALERIANS

Comfort reading. Better for you than comfort eating!
But maybe both, together, are called for at the present time. Ukraine, climate crisis, the Morrison LNP government, covid, my sore back…let’s stop there. You get the picture.
Elizabeth Goudge is one of my top comfort authors (the others are Jane Austen and Barbara Pym) – but I realised recently that though I read most of her books when I was a teenager, I’ve only consistently re-read the Damerhosehay trilogy and The Little White Horse. Perhaps it’s because those books so perfectly and absolutely hit the spot.

In need of a comfort fix, I went to Kindle and – how lovely – found myself in Goudge territory again with Linnets and Valerians. It’s set in the early years of the 20th century, in the deepest Devon countryside, and her love of the natural world spills over in lush and lyrical description of the countryside, forest, moor and garden. Tapping into my other comfort genre (historic houses, and gardens), the old manor house with its overgrown garden – a kind of Sleeping Beauty house, left to go wild and decay – was also a delight.
Of course there are children and animals, too. Four children – bold Robert, sweet, introverted Nan, sensitive and intelligent Timothy and the robust baby of the family, Betsy –  are living with their strict grandmother while their soldier father is in Egypt. When they run away in a stolen pony cart – how marvellous!  – they end up at the home of their Uncle Ambrose, with his pet owl Hector and resident cat Andromache, in a neighbouring village.
He’s a stern but loving and very scholarly vicar and ex-schoolmaster; they are told they can stay with him, but they have to earn their keep with jobs and more importantly, dedication to their lessons. His housekeeper and cook, the one-legged Ezra, (who to some extent reprises the role of Marmaduke Scarlet in The Little White Horse) provides wonderful food, nurturing care, advice, stories and not too much supervision.
Complications and adventures and mysteries abound; there’s a sleeping-beauty house inhabited by a grieving old lady, her Black butler and monkey footman; a lost child; a sweet old lady who’s really a witch – and her terrifying witch’s cat; black magic; villainy among the villagers; and the magical protection of the bees.
Goudge’s novels always have a strong Christian spiritual element, but here’s she’s gone pantheist. The book (re-named The Runaways) apparently hit a snag with school libraries in the United States. Black and white magic, witchcraft, and above all, the appearance of the great god Pan proved difficult for them. After all, Uncle Ambrose tells Timothy that as a vicar, he can’t believe in the old Greek gods, but he – Timothy – has a choice…
And in the end, all mysteries are solved, the lost are found, the bad mend their ways. The children’s father returns to live in Devon and even brings with him the missing lord of the manor. Journeys end in lover’s meetings, as the old lyric says.
Not much realism here. And there are the usual racial, gender and class issues (Black servant Moses Glory Glory Hallelujah…) to be found in most older British children’s novels…

But what the hell, I say. I was comforted.

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GAUDY AND GLORIOUS

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ORWELL’S ROSES

‘Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening,’ wrote George Orwell in 1940.

I will read anything by the American essayist Rebecca Solnit. Her writing is lucid and intelligent and playful; often travelling in unexpected directions to connect previously unseen dots; always political; fiercely intelligent and fiercely human. In examining Orwell’s legacy as a man, a gardener, a writer and an anti-fascist, Solnit meanders not simply into his biography, but into the history of coal, the tragic life of Mexican photographer Tina Modotti, Stalin’s obsession with lemons,  the exploitative rose industry in Colombia and the legacy of colonisation in Western names for Asian and South American flowers.

I knew George Orwell only through 1984 and Animal Farm. I knew he fought in the Spanish Civil War and was wounded; that he died of TB. In photographs, he looks gaunt and serious and high-minded. I didn’t know that he loved cups of tea, old British pubs, English puddings, cosy crime novels, watching toads and hedgehogs and other wildlife, fossicking in junk shops –  and gardening.

In his cottage garden in England and his farm in Scotland, he grew not only utilitarian fruit and vegetables but flowers. He planted roses; he wrote in an article for a left wing magazine about the joy of cheap roses from Woolworths, often wrongly labelled, so you didn’t know what was actually going to bloom and the flowers were a lovely surprise. An enraged lady correspondent complained; flowers were bourgeois. But Orwell thought that they were beautiful and life-affirming. As the song says, give us bread and give us roses.
Give us toads and hedgehogs and pudding.

These seem dark days. I sometimes feel guilty about how much I love living here in the country. My joy in watching wrens in the birdbath or the hare that comes lolloping through the bushes in the back yard. My pleasure in picking basil and making pesto for dinner. Bourgeois? Or a way of pushing back at the capitalist big brother who’s always urging us to be productive so we can consume? Both? There’s probably an essay in that.

Solnit ends the book with this summing up (I have put the last line in bold type):

Orwell’s signal achievement was to name and describe as no one else had the way that totalitarianism was a threat not just to liberty and human rights but to language and consciousness… that achievement is enriched and deepened by the commitments and idealism that fueled it, the things he valued and desired, and his valuation of desire itself, and pleasure and joy, and his recognition that these can be  forces of opposition to the authoritarian state and its soul-destroying intrusions.
The work he did is everyone’s job now. It always was.

 

I’m a fast reader, and when I get excited I’m probably way too fast. I finished Orwell’s Roses at greedy speed, all the while aware that I needed to slow down, to consider what I’d just read, to think and consider. To smell the roses? A nice little lesson right there; I’m going to read it again.

 

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ONCE UPON A RIVER

When I was a young teenager, I just couldn’t get enough Gothic. They were captivating, thrilling; a perfect package of romance, mystery, suspense. I loved Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Moonstone and when I ran out of literature I plunged in to the mass market. These paperbacks always had a young woman in a floaty dress fleeing a forbidding mansion on the cover. (I haven’t actually read Hand of the Impostor, but you see what I mean). Some had more sex than others but I mainly liked the mixture of old houses, lurking danger and vaguely supernatural threats. I even wrote one of my own for a school English project in form 3; it was called Burnt House and featured a good orphan and a wicked sexy heiress who got hers in the end.

Which brings me to Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.

Sold as a mystery in the vein of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, it’s a story about stories.
The famous and best-selling author Vida Winter has spent her life inventing stories, but has kept her tragic past a secret. Old and sick, she contacts a younger woman, writer Margaret Lea, and asks her to be her biographer. Lea agrees. She travels to Vida Winter’s isolated old house…and together they untangle the horrid truth from invention. I remember  a deliciously complicated, literary and decadent modern take on Gothic and I loved it.
It came out in 2006. I seem to have missed her next novel, Bellman and Black – a ghost story – but when a friend offered to lend me Once Upon a River, published in 2018, I knew what to expect.

Which is a rambling way of saying that though it’s good to have expectations of an author –  their new book will be a bit like their previous one – the author may not oblige. Setterfield’s 2018 novel, Once Upon a River is more Dickens than du Maurier, and once I got over it, I was fine with that.

In a Thames-side inn sometime in the later nineteenth century, the locals are assembled on the night of the winter solstice, drinking and listening to stories in the snug warmth. The door opens. A badly injured stranger walks in with a dead girl in his arms. He’s patched up by nurse Rita; the little corpse is put into another room. Where, some time later, it comes to life.
Who is she? For it turns out there are three drowned girls; Amelia, the kidnapped child of a wealthy couple; Alice, the daughter of a local lad gone bad; and Ann, the little sister of the parson’s simple housekeeper.

From that dramatic start, the story meanders, branches, pools and floods, flowing around 500 pages to its end. There’s a large cast of characters and a number of strands to the story; there’s murder, prostitution, infanticide, kidnapping. There’s photography, medicine, Darwinian theories, folklore, early psychology. And there’s the river.
Once Upon a River is full of likeable, admirable characters with a few black-hearted villains, a bucolic chorus of locals, an ingenious, multi-layered plot and – is this a spoiler? – a happy ending. With the awful events unfolding in our world at present, Once Upon a River was a good weekend’s diversion.
And a note about those mass market Gothics. A few years ago I found one of my teenage favourites – Maulever Hall by Jane Aiken Hodge, and tried to re-read it. The book hadn’t changed, but I had and sadly (or not) the thrill had gone. I had thought I might re-read The Thirteenth Tale but perhaps it’s best to leave well alone.

 

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MILLIONS LIKE US

I have a long-standing fascination with Britain during WWII and the decade afterwards. I’m not sure where it began; perhaps with my parents’ memories of post-war expat life in London, or old movies like Mrs Miniver, or the novels of Barbara Pym. A bit of a niche interest for an Australian, but around fifteen years ago I began reading non-fiction for more background information. It turned out I found the social history, such as David Kynaston’s trilogy, Tales of a New Jerusalem just as riveting, dramatic and moving as the fiction.

Virginia Nicholson’s Millions Like Us is all about the women. For me, it was utterly compelling.

She uses diaries, letters, memoirs, interviews and autobiographies to chronicle the many varieties of female experience during the war. There are working class women and debutantes, vaguely bohemian girls and conservative middle class matrons, women who took on their war-time challenge with relish and others who couldn’t wait to get back into the home. Women were office workers, tram conductresses, farm labourers, foresters, factory workers, housewives, drivers, first-aiders, nurses, fire-watchers, messengers, code-breakers… Women as a group were desperately needed for the war effort, but many individual women endured a barrage of sexist prejudice and scorn from men in industry and other occupations, and of course in the military.

A number of specific stories are interwoven through the book, so that we move with a particular woman into, for instance, the navy, through the ups and downs of her career and out the other side into peacetime. Nicholson also follows family and personal lives as well as work roles; she’s interested in romantic relationships, affairs, marriages, friendships. There were some happy endings after the war’s end but for many women – widowed, bereaved, injured, exhausted –  it was not “bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover” but the beginning of a different kind of struggle.

Two of the stories have stayed in my memory. One is the young nurse,  Frances. In 1940, walking home after night of bombing, she was passing rescue workers at a bomb site when one of them called her over.
She now became aware that there was a terrible sound coming from the depths of the cater, seemingly underground; terrible screams could be heard issuing from a crevice among the debris…
The doctor, nurse and fire wardens in attendance were all too big to assist. They measured Frances’ hips and shoulders; she would fit through the gap into the hole. Stripped to her underwear so no clothing could catch on unsafe debris, she was lowered by her legs to see if it was possible to administer morphia. With a torch in her teeth, upside down, holding herself as rigid as possible, she hung in darkness and was able to locate a shockingly injured man, “crushed into a bloody mess.” They pulled her up, gave her chloroform, lowered her back down. She held the pad over what was left of the man’s face. There were other bodies, and body parts, in the cavernous hole. They pulled her out, gagging and retching, close to passing out.
“Thank you nurse. You did very well,” said the doctor. It was enough; she had played her part, and it was time to go home.
The stuff of nightmares.

The other is Frances, whose husband was part of the occupying British force in Berlin. She had a German nanny, Lotte, for her children. One day, Frances asked the young woman about her experiences before the capitulation. She showed the Englishwoman her diary.
It was horrific.
Filled with rage and malevolence against the German race, they found Lotte and repeatedly raped her, ‘not once…but time after time’.
Nicholson writes,
…the onslaught of the victorious nations was accompanied by a wave of unprecedented violence against women. It was as if the war’s calamitous endgame demanded a reassertion by men of their former ascendancy, an implacable conquest by the phallus. Over 130,000 women were raped, but women were discouraged from talking about it.
Nicholson notes that when the anonymous diary of a female journalist,  A Woman in Berlin, was published in 1947, it was controversial and condemned by some as a ‘slur on German womanhood’. But really, the idea was that  men – defeated, emasculated, impotent –  were already shamed enough. The subject of the rapes became virtually taboo.

By coincidence, shortly after I finished this book I read a news item about the Australian Lieutenant Colonel Vivien Bullwinkle, sole survivor of the Bangka Island massacre, where 22 nurses were driven into the sea and shot by Japanese soldiers. Shortly before she died, Vivian Bullwinkel revealed that she and most of the nurses were ‘violated’ – raped –  before being killed. But she was ordered by the authorities – government, military –  not to reveal the rapes. It was not politically expedient.

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I DIDN’T DO THE THING TODAY

Resonate. Now, there’s a word. I Didn’t Do the Thing Today: On Letting Go of Productivity Guilt rang so many bells for me I’m still hearing them.

Madeleine Dore begins:
While I don’t know the particular shape your days take, there are things we all stumble over as we try to navigate modern life…each of us is entangled in a culture that measures our value through productivity – how much we do, how well we do it, whom we do it for. For many of us, our days have become containers for internalised capitalism, or the pervading sense that what we do is tied to our worth.

She goes on to talk about the undercurrent of guilt, anxiety and shame many of us live with…because we didn’t do the thing today.

Oh, yes. For most of my adult life, I’ve done a good line in self-bullying. In a culture that’s become more and more about ‘self-optimisation’, I’ve tried and failed to find the the perfect routine, planner, diary, time-management technique, hack, short-cut, seminar, product. Things work a treat…and then they don’t. I’ve tried and failed to exert more willpower, more discipline, more focus and drive. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.

Dore makes the point that rather than making our lives better, this obsession with ‘doing’ leaves many of us feeling inadequate, stressed and burned out. Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being efficient, and efficient doesn’t always equate with effective. I remember my peak mothering and caring years; I’d ask friends and acquaintances how they were, and the reply was always, “busy” but it was understood that busy was actually a badge of honour. I’d nod, agree, me too. Rarely, I’d confess that I hated being busy. Always have. Humming along is good, but like most of us, I am not at my best when I am overly busy. I’d guess that my many weeks of illness as a small schoolchild – I was an URTI kid, with ‘chesty colds’ turning into pleurisy my speciality – were my body’s way of saying no. Stop. That’s enough.

The book contains a distillation of Dore’s research, reading, observations and insights, many of which have come via conversations with (mainly) creative types for her blog and podcast Extraordinary Routines. She starts with a gentle invitation to explore what works for us. To look into our contradictions, our changing wants, our limitations.

And give yourself permission to change your own mind as your days change, too.

Perhaps really I knew this anyway, but it’s good to have it hammered in to my brain: perfection doesn’t exist. Furthermore, going after it is just self-defeating and harmful.
As Dore reiterates, there are messy days, disorganised days, days when the unexpected (delightful or terrible) happens. A couple of weeks ago, a bronze-wing pigeon flew full-tilt through a large window in our house, killing itself and leaving shards and daggers of smashed glass everywhere. No one was hurt, but a half a day of disruption and effort (ring the insurer, find a glazier, organise a time, confer with the tradesman, etc etc) followed. Some nights, I don’t sleep more than a couple of hours. So the next day is unlikely to be peak writing time.

Just as no two of us are the same, neither are our days and the moments within them. Embrace them as they are, and as you are. After all, the most meaningful lives, I’ve learned, are often not the extraordinary, the perfect or problem-free ones – they’re the ordinary ones lived with creativity, curiosity, kindness and joy. Maybe that’s all we really need to do today, to find something to value within. Something to be curious about, something to love something to learn. That something might just be everything.

Dore has the grace to recognise that she’s not speaking to everyone. She acknowledges the urgent necessity to pick up tasks you cannot just put down, such as working to support a family, or caring for children or aged parents. Like so much of the self-help genre, this is aimed at people lucky enough to be able to take a step back.

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JANUARY IN REVIEW

January’s been a good month for reading. Hot weather, a holiday…

An Extra Pair of Hands
Kate Mosse
I’ve reviewed in these pages – moving and with our current aged care distasters continuing to unfold, lots to think about.
Gift

 

 

 

 

The Great Mistake
Mary Roberts Rhinehart
I’d read this before, but hadn’t remembered that it has the silliest and most complicated mystery plot ever, and I’m someone who loves an insanely complex plot. Rich people, big house, secrets from the past, an alarming death rate…
MRR was the queen of American crime writers in the early 20th century, a kind of early Agatha Christie and originator of the “had I but known...” narrative style.
My collection, S/H, re-read

 

 

His Name Was Walter
Emily Rodda
It’s not often a book makes me cry, hard-hearted old me, but this one did. I took a while to warm to the fable within the story, but when all was revealed, it was very moving.
Library

 

 

 

 

How To End A Story
Helen Garner
Gripping, addictive. Hurry up with the next volume of your diaries, please Helen.
Library

 

 

 

 

Elidor
Alan Garner
I haven’t read this since I was around ten. I don’t remember enjoying it much – if I had, I’ve had re-read it as I did The Weirdstone of Brisengamen. It is taut, sombre, frightening. Ancient otherworldly evil seeping into the urban streets of an English town…
Library, re-read

 

 

 

Monkey Grip
Helen Garner
I last read this in 1980, when I was 22.  Nora’s is a life I recognise, and remember –  share houses, the transient relationships, the drugs and drinking, the parties, the bands, the creativity, the searching, the transcendent highs and the resulting lows. Fiction, autobiography – I don’t care. The acquaintance who gave me this book said she was the same age as Garner, but her life was the polar opposite  – married, homemaker, nice house in the suburbs, three kids, mother’s club. She said she kept wondering what was going to happen. Nothing happens! Nora just churns around and around. Yes.
Gift, re-read

Atlas of the Heart
Brene Brown
I don’t think I really needed the larger format hardcover, but this is another good one from Brown. Alphabetic listing of emotional states; wise counsel backed by her extensive research. Brown’s ‘thing’ is shame and vulnerability.
New, on-line

 

 

 

The Far Side of the Dollar
Ross MacDonald
Ross MacDonald’s detective Lew Archer and his tainted adventures among sad, vicious, rich Californians are a special summer treat. I’ve re-read them to bits, but they still astonish. I have a list for my second-hand searching because there are about half a dozen still unread.
My collection, S/H, re-read

 

 

 

The Jewel Garden
Monty and Sarah Don
I just love Monty Don. He is a beautiful writer; his descriptions of plants and gardens make me swoon. In this short book, he’s also honest about  his battle with depression and his debt of love and gratitude to his amazing wife. Sarah chimes in with her perspective. He and Sarah ran a high-flying jewellery business (Princess Diana was a customer!) which came crashing down in the 1990’s. After they moved beyond the business failure, debts, struggle and despair, the couple decided to plant a symbolic and joyful Jewel Garden. Comfort reading for me.
New, online

Axiomatic
Maria Turmarkin
Skip read, couldn’t get on with it. Wrong book at the wrong time, I guess. That’s what so great about libraries – you can try things.
Library

A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman
Skip read this one too. I do like a light and fluffy read at times, but this isn’t my style. Too heartwarming!
Loan from a friend

Girl, Woman, Other
Bernardine Evaristo
Fantastic!
Book Group

 

 

 

 

 

One Day I’ll Remember This
Helen Garner
I would read anything she wrote, I think. I’ve ordered more from the library. My Year of Helen?
Library

 

 

My Garden World
Monty Don
A delight to dip into a bedtime if I need soothing. Another world! A world of plants and trees and wild creatures.  Nice and long.
New, online

 

 

 

Under Sea, Over Stone
Susan Cooper
Mmm…Expected to love re-reading this, but found my recently raised consciousness  had me noticing, in an uncomfortable way, the  small elements of racism and sexism. Couldn’t finish.
Library

 

 

 

I Didn’t Do the Thing Today
Madeleine Dore
Subtitled  “On letting go of productivity guilt”. Just what I need to be reading right now. Lots to think about, as I’m writing full time and thrashing around trying to find my rhythm.
New, online

 

 

 

And that’s January in review! 16 books. 8 non-fiction (2 of those diaries), 3 children’s novels and 5 adult novels.
What a busy bee.

 

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