Friday, 28 January 2011


Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. Remus Lupin
I'm collecting these handsome new editions of the Harry Potter series for my daughters and I couldn't resist a quick re-read of my favourite Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I believe that the evil hooded Dementors and the way they operate - sucking all positive thoughts from the body - are based on J K Rowling's own experiences of post-natal depression. Evidence, if it were needed, of the sophistication of her writing and how it can appeal on many levels.

I was reading a transcript of JK's interview with Oprah and I was struck by her comment 'writing is essential for my mental health.' Now I don't write but I do believe that reading is essential for my mental health. Browsing through book blogs I suspect that the same is true for others - we don't read as a hobby, we read as an essential part of our well-being. I'd be interested in your thoughts whether you read, write, create, craft or bake.

Friday, 14 January 2011


'Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now - very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it.' Isabella, Northanger Abbey
I've been reading Susannah Carson's collection of essays on Jane Austen and some of the selected letters. I've been fascinated with all the detail about fabrics and dress-making. In a letter to Cassandra dated 1798, Austen describes a hat she is customising and her intentions to replace the black feather with a coquelicot one 'and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this winter.'

Coquelicot was one of the fashionable Regency colours - a bright orange-red like a poppy. I love the fact that Austen was interested in clothes and fashion and I've learned that persian was used to line dresses, sarsenet is a fine soft silk and cambric is a white linen. Who knew?!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Oh, Mr Knightley

I've been re-reading Emma and dipping into A Truth Universally Acknowledged, a collection of essays edited by Susannah Carson. Alain de Botton's thoughts on Austen's novels strike me as particularly perceptive:
These are books that speak to us of our own lives with a clarity we cannot match.
Thus Jane Fairfax's secret smile of delight at the new pianoforte, Frank Churchill's laughingly spelling out the word BLUNDER in the alphabet game and Mr Knightley's glorious 'if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more' speech to Emma could all be happening right now.
Happy New Year!