Sunday, 23 August 2009

At last ...

... it's arrived! My local independent bookshop has managed to get a copy of L M Montgomery's adult novel The Blue Castle. I've only been waiting 5 years! I first heard about this novel on the chicklit forums where it has quite a following. I'm going to take it to Brighton with me next week and I hope to read it on the beach.

Nightingale Wood is a sweet fairy tale about thwarted love with a cast of female lead characters, Viola, named by her Shakespearean father, Hetty, bookish and rebellious, Madge whose whole life revolves around her dog and Tina, my favourite, who married her father's chauffeur. Set in the late 1930's there are lots of references to Lyons Corner House and Woolworths but Gibbons never lets us forget the horrors of wartime England and the rise of Communism.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Nightingale Wood

I fully understand J K Rowling's fondness for writing in a cafe. While I have no ambition (or talent) to write I do love to read in a cafe. On Saturday while one daughter was at her gymnastics class and the other one was looking at technical gizmos in the Apple shop with my husband I spent some time reading Nightingale Wood outside a cafe in the sunshine with an iced coffee.

Villette got difficult towards the end. So much of the dialogue was in French I had to keep turning to the notes at the end of the book for a translation and began to feel that I was back on my degree course. I'm done with academia so it was quite a relief to finish it.

Comic novels must surely be among the most difficult to do well and the early twentieth century boasts some of the finest female writers of the genre. Thank goodness for Stella Gibbons, E M Delafield and Nancy Mitford.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Stella Dorothea Gibbons

I've read about two-thirds of the beautifully written Villette. The sombre tone of this autobiographical novel is hardly surprising as it was written after Charlotte had lost both Emily and Anne. Lucy Snowe has something of the resilience of Jane Eyre, but a more melancholy, reflective nature and I'm intrigued as to how this will end.

I'm going to read Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons next and I'm hoping for an enjoyable novel with nothing nasty in the woodshed! In Sunday's You magazine there was an interesting piece on the origins of The Lady magazine. Apparently Stella Gibbons wrote Cold Comfort Farm while working in the editorial department in the early 1930's. There was also a nice long article on Persephone Books.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


And my pormanteau, with my few clothes and the little pocket-book enclasping the remnant of my fifteen pounds, where were they?
Poor Lucy Snowe. Newly arrived alone in Villette (Bronte's fictional name for Brussels) and facing that eternal traveller's nightmare. Lost luggage. As she watches each bag and box being unloaded from the stage-coach she searches in vain for the piece of green ribbon she'd tied to her bag.

I usually prefer to read long Victorian novels in the autumn and winter months, but I've been thinking about the Bronte sisters since I saw their painting in the National Portrait Gallery last month and you have to go with the flow. I do like the spirit of Lucy Snowe. On her first day teaching at Madame Beck's school for girls she pushes a troublesome student into a cupboard, locks the door, pockets the key and calmly continues with the lesson ...