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.