Sunday, 20 January 2013

Maeve Binchy and Lorna Lewis

January's biting cold, damp, flurries of snow and 'resolute' bloggings about economy, diets and the like make me want to snuggle somewhere in peace and quiet with really escapist fiction. I've been out walking to the post office and bank already this weekend, but seem to be lacking a suitable hat. I have woolly ones that I can just pull on and wonder during each cold spell whether I shouldn't go and afford myself something smarter. Not that there's a milliner near me - I'd need to try a large department store.

I have two books on the go, which isn't many for me. One vintage, the other modern. I like a bit of contrast.

I've escaped into Maeve Binchy's last novel A Week in Winter. Not that I've finished it yet. However, first impressions are very positive. I was sorry to hear of her death last year and was delighted to find that she'd finished this novel. She seemed such a nice lady in all the positive senses of the word and this book is ahead of her usual high standard. We're back in small-town Ireland and one of life's survivors is using a lifetime's savings to buy and open a small hotel. Stone House was the former home of three spinster sisters and the sale allows Chicky redemption and to give back small kindnesses that had been so willingly offered to her. So far, a novel of friendship, family and kindness. Small things, yes, but they are the very best and most valuable of small things.

Vintage reading this week is from the reading room, so can't photograph or take it home. Which is a pity as the reading room is arctic. However, The Silver Bandbox is an enjoyable read that happens to be one of those 1950s 'career books for girls'. Lorna Lewis, an author I can recommend, did some good work in the 1950s and 1960s encouraging girls to consider jobs in hotels, management, factories and millinery in this last. Fanny Lea's adventures with 'flamingo-pink' cotton for the customers and 'tinned salmon' cotton for the workroom are enjoyable and from an era where all smart women wore hats for day-wear, not simply for weddings, if the wedding were especially smart. It's all about working hard, paying your dues and being rewarded by your employer, if you've put in the work to deserve it. There's something rather reassuring about that.

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