Friday, 30 December 2011

Tidying up

Well, most of the Christmas cake has been eaten and the few crumbs remaining are proof of its goodness. I'm trying to ignore the rain lashing against the windows and concentrating on clearing space on the floor and on the shelves, though the two are merging together in a few areas of the house. Five Farthings will arrive from the printer very soon and I need space for the boxes and also a bit of space for the production line of postage and packing.

I'm also sorting out things like library books and trying to remember when they're due back as I'm worriedly aware that it's soon and that fines threaten. This is why one library book has concealed itself in the house and is probably waiting for me to count to one hundred before searching for it. I try and use the library regularly on the way home from work as it keeps me in the habit of reading and browsing, always nice if you need some peace after work. The range of stock is particularly good, from the main publishers to smaller people like Persephone and Fidra Books. That's why I still use libraries - I may want to read a light novel on the train, but I may not want to buy my own copy just yet. I may want to try out a new author - that's Guillaume Musso for the moment - and I can't (sadly) afford to buy every book that looks interesting. Then again, I'm lucky to have a branch library that is open later in the evening and is on the way home. I'm still furious that my local library got rid of so much of its rare stacks and that many of those books never made it into the library booksale. The time has passed since I last took out as many books as my ticket would allow - perhaps I've grown up and balanced by enthusiasm, but there is a limit as to the number of books you can comfortably carry home.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Time and Space

I like this peaceful interlude between Christmas and New Year - the online shop is still open and orders are coming in, but it's more gentle than the pre-festivities frenzy of shopping that characterises December. Now, though, the book-collectors are returning and buying their own books again. Whether they've been given a nice cheque for Christmas or their families ignored their hints and the ever-useful Amazon wishlists, the book-buying habit is very hard to break, no matter how many books you have shelved, on the floor or 'somewhere safe' ready to be read. I've spent the last day or so reviewing books, making notes for future blog posts and just enjoying reading uncritically. It's always useful to have a break from reading for business, just to regain perspective and find out if your first impression was correct or not.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Five Farthings now available for pre-order

Goodness, that's an exciting thing to write and even better to add a link to. I've just finished updating the website and testing all the links and (fingers crossed) everything will keep working. Chapter One of Five Farthings is also there for you to read, if you'd like to.... Buyers are all adored and very welcome.

Now to catch up on some blog reading and admire the craft work as well as people's reading. I'm coveting cardigangirlverity's stocking at the top of her site. It has pockets for books on the outside and (I suspect) plenty of room for small presents like clementines and chocolate coins inside.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Beautiful books

Why am I a publisher? Well, aside from wanting to run a business doing what I love, I also wanted to reprint beautiful books and, hopefully, enhance them with lovely new cover art. Monica Redlich's Five Farthings is with the printer and should be delivered to me very shortly, so I can now take advance orders via the website. It's rather exciting typing that. I'm very pleased with it and the new art that I've arranged. Tomorrow's task is to add a preview of Chapter One of Five Farthings to the website - always good to have a sample chapter.

Tonight, though, I'm having a look at twitter where I'm @MarginPublisher.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunday afternoon

There's a bit of a chill in the air and it's almost time to keep a pair of gloves in your pocket. Or, in my case, a bag as one will keep falling out and I'm not mad or desperate enough to wear odd gloves in public yet. I'm having an afternoon off from The Whicharts and Five Farthings and working my way through the weekend papers. The way that some broadsheets carry on you'd think that people didn't buy books for the rest of the year. I know that isn't true, though I do see a rise in orders now-ish and again after Christmas. I'm not sure why people seem to buy more after Christmas - perhaps they've received a nice cheque or perhaps they just weren't given the books they wanted in spite of the Amazon wishlist which is a very useful invention. As well as reading the book reviews, I'm also flicking through the themed gift lists that mushroom around this time of year. Well, it's good advertising. I think The Observer have the best so far - they've themed it round fans of television programmes and popular culture. It might help the families of Downton Abbey fans and possibly avoid the reality of the period drama fan unwrapping three copies of the same box set.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Five Farthings (again)

Getting there - really getting there with Five Farthings and the 'as yet unprogressed list' is satisfyingly short. I've emailed the artist, first and only, on the shortlist and hope that she would like to be involved.

As soon as I've finished with the morning's editing, I'll have an afternoon of packing parcels and checking the accounts. I'd rather have an afternoon with a large mug of tea and a new book, but it seems that I still have responsibilities!

Another book I haven't read yet, though it does intrigue me is Ballroom Blitz. When you do grow up reading quite a few novels set in the Second World War, the luxury hotel does loom large. I'm always interested in a 'behind the scenes' take which studies the political exiles and the staff. I suspect this will soon find its way on to the Amazon Wish List and may yet be a pre-Christmas present for me.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Netherwood (Jane Sanderson)

First things first, Five Farthings is coming on nicely and the text is complete and almost set in its final version. I'm giving myself a bit of time away from the text this weekend so that I can spot the errors on my return. I may yet change my mind (again?) and test the fonts when I do.

I found a proof copy of Jane Sanderson's Netherwood a few weeks ago and finally read it last weekend. If my opinions are worth anything, I suggest buying it when it is published on 29 September - I intend to hunt down and purchase a signed copy. I wish I hadn't waited so long to move it off my 'read it soon' shelf as it's one of those enjoyable historical novels that can simply be devoured with tea. The focus on good food and enjoying eating said home cooking also makes you wish that a batch of biscuits was baking in your oven rather than opting for the clean and practical simplicity of opening a packet. I don't cook while reading any more as I prefer my food cooked to carbonised. Nor did I want to put the book down while I baked biscuits to eat with it. When I find a really good page-turner I want to read it in one sitting. Netherwood has been published to catch the Downton Abbey wave, but that shouldn't put anyone off. It's a good page-turner of a country house and mining village novel and the story of two young female entrepreneurs is very deftly done. Set in the years before the First World War, it's a fascinating look between the life of the aristocracy shuttling between Town and Country houses on private train lines while the working poor on their sprawling estates live a hand-to-mouth existence. This isn't, quite, the country village, but industrial coal-mining town.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Monica Redlich - Five Farthings

Monica Redlich's Five Farthings is slowly coming into shape ready for the printer. Text complete and ready for the editing. As I'm doing my usual 'complete and unabridged' edition, this means checking that every full stop is where it should be or where it was in the first edition. I reread the novel constantly during this process and am (still) charmed by it. It's a wonderful story of 1930s London, pre-war and much of it I suspect obliterated in the Blitz. There don't seem to be so many London-set novels for children, even Ballet Shoes or Curtain Up only really mentioned the Underground. With any luck a sentence like that will ensure that lots of people comment to say how wrong I am and give examples. Five Farthings shows the grubbiness and charm of city life from theatres to architechture to the quiet corners only locals know.

I'll need to return to the question of 'queer' as the search for 'queer people' (unusual people) takes up much of Five Farthings. I intend to reprint an unabridged version, but need to formulate a note at the front along the lines of 'this is a complete and unabridged version of Redlich's novel. Words have not been updated or omitted'.

UPDATE: Thank you for the recommendation for Marcus Crouch. I'd forgotten about that review. I may be biased, but it strikes me as fair. All being well, the book will be ready well before Christmas. I would reply to your comment, but Blogger keeps logging me out.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Collecting Books and Magazines

More good news: the Australian site Collecting Books and Magazines mentions Margin Notes Books and The Whicharts. It's such a useful site to check cover art, authors and reprints of half-forgotten books and, much like LibraryThing, helps by encouraging half-forgotten memories of titles and authors of books to rise to the surface. I know I'm not the only reader who can remember plots of books read as a child, though not the more significant details of author or title so that I can track them down for a reread.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Heat and chills

In the first really unbearable heat of the summer in England without enough air-conditioning it's useful to have a set of chilling short stories near to hand as an antidote. A sudden rise in temperature to 32 in the last week or so all over southern England and you start to dream of chilled drinks, ice cubes and some way to get home that doesn't involve a train whose windows are sealed and no breeze. However, a really good collection of short stories, say Joanne Harris's Jigs and Reels or Roald Dahl's Someone Like You are most effective in cooling your mood and sending chills down your spine. I love a good page-turner and appreciate the pared-down craft of the short story at its best. Jigs and Reels provides entertainment to keep you agreeably chilled and amused from the feel-good 'Faith and Hope Go Shopping' to the sinister 'Waiting for Gandalf'.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Stacy Gregg's Pony Club Rivals

I had a wonderfully giggly and escapist weekend with friends and new books. I enjoy reading for plot just as much as reading for trends in the industry. Somehow, I was never really a pony book reader, I appear to have missed Stacy Gregg and her new series Pony Club Rivals and I'd recommend them for an engaging distraction from reality. The Auditions is the first in a series and it's a beautiful updating of the boarding school story set at an exclusive riding school for future champions of dressage and showjumping. Based in the US, it recruits via a series of complicated competitions and it seems that the heroine has more chances to compete for entry than anyone. A perfect beginning of misunderstandings, false accusations and no outright victory leads on to the rocky and uncertain road to the dream school complete with the emotional turmoil of teenage hormones and the knowledge that your mother, tragically killed in a riding accident naturally, was a better rider at your age. Plenty of horsey detail and enough terminology to muddle the non-rider, but there are good friendship subplots, silly tricks and scrapes to keep the story galloping (sorry) along. You even get a couple of polo matches.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Peaceful Saturday

A free afternoon browsing in London's secondhand bookshops is joyous. Quinto had just had a huge stock delivery that was worth braving their horrible staircase for. (If you haven't been in, just take each step very slowly as the height, width and depth of each tread and riser seem to be slightly different; it's an old building). A little further down and the second survivor - Any Amount of Books - had those welcome half-price in basement stars in the windows and on the shelves. Going down their staircase is easier: it's just a matter of waiting your turn. When you do manage to join the crowds in the basement, you're almost overwhelmed by the volumes of interesting and unusual that just draw you towards the shelves. A neat heap of boxes is almost ready for unpacking and display. In spite of masses of tape and polite signs saying 'Please leave' people still start to pull at them, perhaps they remember childhood Christmases, though Any Amount staff have come up with the solution: 'Please do not open these boxes - they contain cats' which raised smiles and ensured that people kept their fingers well away. There were plenty of gems on the shelves and the contents of the boxes will be available soon enough.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sometimes, just sometimes, book recommendations are worth heeding. It's often the case that you need to match the right book to the author. I'll take one modern example first: Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White - a fascinating take on Arthur Ransome's time in Russia. It also has the most beautiful endpapers of period maps. I tried The Foreshadowing after that, but couldn't quite finish it. Then again, I've never found fantasy to be a genre I could read.

The vintage example is Dorita Fairlie Bruce who has legions of fans. I wasn't one of them: her school stories left me bored and it was a real struggle to get past Chapter Three. Then, a friend lent me Triffeny and The Serendipity Shop. Just reprinted by Girls Gone By books, they are much more interesting stories of Scotland, mostly from the social history angle as they relate to established crafts (polishing stones for beads and pottery-making) finding new ways to be relevant to young craftswomen developing alternative markets just as mass tourism arrives.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Vintage Reading - St Simon Square

I found a lovely, gentle family story in the Gwendoline Courtney and Mollie Chappell style in the British Library last month and can't recommend it highly enough. I wish I knew more about the author, but St Simon Square (1952) appears to have been Frances Hamilton's only book, and a quick check on ABE shows that it had at least one reprint. Recent reading patterns show that I seem to be developing a preference for vintage family stories and I enjoyed this one of trainee librarians, dress designers, social workers and farmers. Reading it again before posting about it, it struck me that Frances Hamilton had thrown every 'type' into her text, but it worked incredibly well. The three Parker sisters dominate - the youngest brother Tim hares off to the nearby family farm at every opportunity and so is neatly sent into the margins. A widowed hardworking and generous mother comes straight out of the Marmee mould and showers her children and their friends with kindness whenever deadlines allow this respected journalist out of her office to show the importance of maternal understanding. What of her daughters? Casey - trainee librarian - is prim and almost learns to let herself go before her jealousy eats her up. I might even say consumes her, but that's too dramatic for a woman who makes a virtue out of restraint. Fran, the second sister, is allowed most of the story in her last year at school and the realisation that you need to work for the job you yearn for, academic drudgery as means to an end to be a workroom assistant in the local atelier. Finally, there's Thea, who is little more than the confident youngest, though she has a certain charm. Added to this, there's Clare, the South African exile suddenly sent to live amongst strangers and call a new place home. She's the embryonic social worker whose awakening consciousness of providing a haven for the deprived local youth is a parallel development to making her home in England even while dreaming of blue African skies.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

I've been working my way through a selection of young adult novels recently and a highlight was The Girl Who Chased the Moon, a gentle story of family secrets, muddled relationships, cake and the supernatural in an isolated corner of North Carolina. Imagine a cast of eccentrics in a house where the wallpaper changes colour and pattern to suit your mood and the importance of family history. I read this magical story in an evening and am now hunting the author's backlist as I'd never heard of Sarah Addison Allen before and am doing my best to change that. I am also determined to try hummingbird cake after reading this.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Well, now neatly overcome the various gremlins and have set up an account for The Whicharts. I hope that makes life easier for American buyers.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


I don't just read books - I'm also known to go along to authors' talks and book signings and try to hide in the back row. So, I went along to a lovely evening at the Institut francais last week to hear the converstation with Joanne Harris and Tatiana de Rosnay about being French and English and loving literature. I wasn't expecting the endearing muddle that is Joanne Harris: beautiful French accent when speaking French, but strong Barnsley accent when speaking English. She wore statement jewellery (three large yellow stones set in gold on a chain) which suited her, but the elegant white linen-like jacket clashed horribly with pale blue jeans, yellow socks and plain trainers. She was quite happy to refer to herself as a mongrel and scruffy, so I don't suppose she minds. Tatiana de Rosnay is much more French in appearance: groomed, soignee and terrifyingly elegant. She was more at ease and quicker to respond, though Joanne gave the questions more obvious consideration. It was an evening of anecdotes and memories as you cover childhood, teachers, books you were exposed to (in both languages) and when. Nothing ground-breaking, nothing unexpected. Interesting that both women retreat to the classics in both French and English and find the modern novel difficult to enjoy. I now have a list of French authors to try - this may take some time as I'm not exactly sure that I spelled some names correctly.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Novel read in a day

The late and much-missed Eva Ibbotson is one of my favourite authors, and one I reach for when I'd like something comforting, the literary equivalent of hot chocolate. Whether it's Vienna-set The Star of Kazan or Madensky Square or the Amazonian Journey to the River Sea or A Company of Swans you have the comforting familiarity of niceness triumphant. Yes, there will be restrained evil relatives, mishaps and muddles, but you're heading for a happy ending. Ibbotson herself thought her adult novels were for people recovering from flu, but I'm a great believer in reading for a happy ending as well as reading new books. Her last book, One Dog and his Boy, has just been published after her death last year and will, I suspect, be a perfect read for children at the confident reader stage looking for animal adventures longer than those of Dick King Smith or having read Dodie Smith's One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but want a certain edge and modernity, so there are circuses (with the moral debate about performing animals), care homes and neglectful parents. This is a lovely book to read or have read to you as you see trusting animals, good grandparents and dog-lovers who go to great lengths to provide good homes for their four-legged friends. I haven't seen such an interesting story about animals including their thoughts and voices without being twee or over-emoting for quite a while and really enjoyed this gentle tale of friendship developing between humans and dogs - the right companion finds you, it seems.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

I'm in Stylist!

Or rather The Whicharts is, thanks to Lucy Mangan adding it to her 'Five New Books I Cannot Wait to Read' list on p. 25 if you follow the hyperlink and p. 23 if you have the paper copy of Issue 74 (20 April 2011). I'm delighted and must write a quick email to her to thank her. The news came as a very nice shock and, yes, I have kept a paper copy for myself. Even better, if anyone clicks on on the online copy, a neatly hidden hyperlink takes them straight to my website.

In other news, I'm still having fun with Amazon. It seems that I can only be listed on the UK site, but there is a redirect from the US page - so US fans can purchase the book at a very reasonable price if they look there and then try the redirect. It's a bit convoluted, though I do post books within 2 working days.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sunshine and technology

It's a wonderful spring day and I am hunched over the computer trying to untangle an intricate piece of website design. One of those occasions where the learning curve is frustratingly vertical. However, if I cannot sell on US Amazon if I don't have a US bank account, I can make sure that my site does have copies of The Whicharts ready to airmail (and I do). It seems that last month US site visitors outnumbered the UK-based readers for the first time. That's interesting and I'm keen to see why. Possibly also hint that books are good Easter presents. Or that a holiday weekend is the perfect time to order the new books you'd been admiring.

As soon as I finish this, I intend sitting in the sun with a nice cold drink and Katie Fforde's new novel. Summer of Love looks promising and I'll say more just as soon as I finish it.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

New-to-me authors (again)

Another reason why I like the British Library - just being able to search, order and read through an author's list. I don't suppose I would even have found Music at Pendragon (Paula Harris, 1959) if I hadn't been searching ABE for books illustrated by Ruth Gervis. It's the story of a music summer school and the ambitions and adventures of a group of teenagers in Cornwall - will they rise to the heights of soloist or be jobbing second desk viola players or find their niche in a related (hitherto unthought-of) field? The Ballet Shoes illustrations are so familiar to me that it's a bit of a shock to see her distinctive style covering Dior-ish generous skirts or lanky teenage boys sprawling in armchairs. A stately home in Cornwall houses a summer school for musicians of all ages each summer - think of the Christmas dancing school in The Abbey Girls in Town without the class snobbery or the folk dancing and you're on the right track. I'd recommend this author if you like 'performing' books and stories of sunshine, teas and music that's less 'show-offy, stage school beast' than Pamela Brown's gawky children. These are confident young people, but those living in ordinary middle-class households in the London suburbs, not 'country' children at all. Far from picnic-ing all over the countryside, like the outdoors-y types in Blyton, Ransome and similar of the pre-War age of children's fiction, these post-War children go home for supper and worried mothers ask their locust-like teenagers not to invite too many friends home as there isn't enough food in the house. The period overuse of 'my children' to refer to anyone younger than you are is one of those phrases that makes me flinch, but one that's easily ignored. Madrigals, classical and pop music are all given attention and enjoyed for their own sake - I like that inclusivity, rare in girl's own books, which often have an awkward relationship with "modern" teenagers and their interest in the present, not the idealised past so beloved of the author. These are teenagers familiar with suburban railway journeys home on the last train or wandering down the South Bank after a concert at the Festival Hall. I've had to do all of my Paula Harris reading in the BL. One day there may yet be an affordable copy of Star in the Family, though Cressida and the Opera (Gilbert and Sullivan coaxes a shy schoolgirl out of her shell) is probably the more interesting of the pair.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Working and its rewards

I'm continuing to work on the typesetting of Title 2 (Monica Redlich's Five Farthings). I don't exactly have a favourite part as I enjoy all stages from shortlisting to development, then on to editing and selling. However, there's nothing like a quiet afternoon trying out fonts and spacing. Yes, wider margins will make the book a little more expensive, but it will be easier to read when (please when, not if) the customer buys it. Hopefully, the fact that they aren't required to break the spine to turn a page or be able to read the first half of a line will ensure that the book lasts too. I'm now off to my reward for the work - another chapter from the proof copy of Natasha Solomons' new book. The Novel in the Viola deserves to be even more successful than Mr Rosenblum's List. I'm in the lovely position of enjoying the reread even more than the first read - it's in an odd space with echoes of Daphne Du Maurier and Eva Ibbotson.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Title 2 (again)

Simply put: Working on it and enjoying it immensely. Between making a new version of the text, I'm experimenting with typefaces and layouts. I think perhaps editing is the best part.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Title 2

I am excited and delighted to say that my second title will be Monica Redlich's Five Farthings which will be published in late 2011.

I also hope to republish her other novel Jam Tomorrow in 2012.

In a very quick edit - thank you for the interest and I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Streatfeild online

A very quick post today, just to mention Noel Streatfeild's enduring hold as a writer for children. One blogger is holding a Streatfeild challenge - to read as many of Noel's novels as she can in a year, so good luck. A second newish website on Ballet Shoes has been set up as a support to a US college course in children's literature. It could well be a modern version of the course reader with all the useful quotes and directions for further reading that you used to be given in a paper handout. I hope for the day that one of the many children's literature academics I've emailed does actually do a contrast between The Whicharts which contemporary reviews only recommended for the broad-minded and Ballet Shoes which only goes from strength to strength as far as popular and critical values are concerned.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Possible authors

I seem to have spent more time in the British Library reading rooms than anywhere else lately. The discovery of Paula Harris and Lorna Lewis has been entertaining, but both are more suited for the collector and social history enthusiast. I don't think they have quite the wider appeal needed to shortlist them for future titles. That said, anyone interested in novels about music (just sheer enjoyment of playing - no need for precocious talent) or working in hotels or factories should read both writers.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Mention in The Guardian

Ah. The sudden and welcome spike of interest in my website can be explained: "This is not based on anything by Noel Streatfeild" wrote Peter Bradshaw in his review of Black Swan on Thursday. The full review can be found here. Reactions to his Guardian article have been mixed, but it was interesting (and unexpected) to see The Whicharts mentioned in the comments.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Vintage reading

I had fun this week avoiding the rain and reading a more romantic version of To Serve Them All My Days - in the form of a Hutchinson romance. Elizabeth Carfrae's The Dividing Line is the story of a forward-thinking headmaster who inherits enough money to purchase his old prep school and set himself up in his dream job. With a meander around wealthy relatives, new and old friends, devoted school secretaries in serviceable wool and even more devoted matrons crackling with starch, this one's actually (very silly) and enjoyably readable. There's even a madness from monomania and overwork subplot with a sleepwalking schoolboy. I'd say it's Girls Own-ish fairytale - popular stalwart of the genre. Was it even possible in the 1950s to buy a small Van Gogh by selling an old family jewel? Wishing territory, I suspect.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Tidying to normal

A smudge after Twelfth Night, but the Christmas decorations have been returned to their tissue paper, boxes and attic home for another year. The house looks ordinary and normal now, though I miss the lift that the excesses of gold, silver, purple, red and green decorations gave.

It's nice to be back to normal. For me, that means packing and printing labels. A small pile of stuffed padded envelopes is waiting to be taken to the Post Office later this evening. My 'to do' list next week now has the items 'buy more padded envelopes and sellotape' on it, always useful and an indication that things are going on steadily.

I've spent some time over Christmas and New Year tucked away in the British Library. The image that endures is the result of heavy rain and many visitors had left their umbrellas drying on top of the banks of lockers - I wish I had my camera handy for the rows of multicoloured umbrellas decorating the room in accidental flashmob modern art style. I did manage to find the information I needed in the Reading Room and treat myself to a Peyton and Byrne cake. Not sure which is better - books or cake?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year - New Reading Plans

Rather than talk about my highlights (in reading terms) of last year and there were plenty, I think I'll list my way through a stack of books I intend to read in 2011. I don't suppose it matters when they were published, but a calming gentle wander around Hatchards between Christmas and New Year has given me ideas:

1. Distant Hours - Kate Morton. Costumes, social history, houses and general nosiness. I'm sure I'll find plenty to like. This was a very welcome Christmas present and I only have one minor whinge that it's too heavy to take commuting which is when I have the most time to read.

2. Having discovered Phyrne Fisher (and the lovely fiction buyers at Hatchards are now stocking her) this year, I think I'll try more costume crime. Jacqueline Winspear can be good in parts, but there's also another striking Africa-based flapper-type called Jade del Cameron by Suzanne Arruda. Impressive blurb and cover art.

3. Death of a Radical - Rebecca Jenkins. Another crime novel, from an author I know nothing about. Always good to try something new.

4. A 'country house' novel. Or similar. These are very easy to find at the moment usually with green covers showing a garden and a door, probably a nod to those of us who read The Secret Garden too many times.

5. Finally, I'd like to read a little more non-fiction. I enjoy both Juliet Gardiner and Bettany Hughes, so their most recent books are on order at the library. After Downton and Upstairs Downstairs, it might also be useful to have a look at Keeping their Place for a glimpse behind the baize door.