Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Another Vote!

It's been a while since we've had a little poll on Stuck-in-a-Book. In the past we've discovered that you prefer Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights, Music to Art, and think that Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy are absolutely neck and neck.

So what this time?

It's a Jane Austen head-to-head. Pride and Prejudice vs. Persuasion. I know some people will have other favourites from the Austen canon, but these are the two I hear mentioned most often, and I'm intrigued as to which will come out on top.

And, to whet your appetite (or does one wet an appetite?) expect thoughts on the following over the next week or so:

- some new children's books
- Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker
- Sex Education by Janni Visman
- Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
- Dreamers by Knut Hamsun
- They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
- Parents and Children by Ivy Compton-Burnett

Get voting on Austen, and do please tell me if there are any books in that list above that you'd particularly like to hear about first - supply and demand, doncha know!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Farm Lane Quiz!

I've just spotted a really fun quiz at Farm Lane Books - click here to try it out. She's put up several covers of classics, but obscured the title and author - can you guess the classic from the cover? Good luck, I found it nigh-on impossible.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


How are twins like amnesiacs? Find out below...

Hurrah, technology works! My neutral status is the assumption that things won't work (computers, cars, biros) so it's always a pleasant surprise when they do - my posts appeared as if by magic. It's as though we weren't away, but I can promise you that we were - Col and I had a fun time in Devon and Cornwall, seeing castles and beaches and a donkey sanctuary.

I read four and a half books whilst I was away, so will be getting you updated on them before too long. I also, surprise surprise, bought a few. One which I had to leave at home in Somerset, because it was too bulky to take back on the train, was Virago's anthology of Twins and Doubles. I wish I could say more about it, but it's a few hundred miles away from me... but it looks interesting.

And whilst we're talking about twins, I've been rummaging through family albums, taking photos of photos, and I'll leave you with a picture from our childhood. It is quite bizarre, going through family photographs with Colin and Our Vicar's Wife, and often none of us were able to tell us apart. So I look at my family albums and don't know which pictures are of me... this is how twins are like amnesiacs.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Henrietta's War

I'm sure it won't have escaped your notice how excited I am about The Bloomsbury Group - not Virginia et al, but the reprints being published by Bloomsbury this year. Amongst them is my favourite novel, Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker - but they are coming out in instalments, and the first two are The Brontes Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson, and Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys. I believe the latter was suggested by Karen at Cornflower (see the links on the left; she now has a book blog and a separate domestic blog) and is the first one I've read. Not published until 7th July, I believe, but available for pre-order in quite a few places. (I also wrote about The Brontes Went To Woolworths a while ago, a book I now have in three different editions, though looking back at that review it's pretty vague and woolly, sorry.)

It's just as well that I'm using stock pictures, rather than taking a photograph of my copy of Henrietta's War, as it's pretty battered. I took it up to London, and carried it around all day, loth to be apart from it. (And what a beautiful book it is too, I love the designs of this series, so well done Sarah Morris for your design, and Penelope Beech for your illustrations - delightful.) Quite simply, Henrietta's War is wonderful, and I never wanted it to stop.

Henrietta's War was originally a series of articles in Sketch magazine during the Second World War. In the 1980s (the year I was born, actually) Joyce Dennys was doing her Spring Cleaning and came across the articles - and they were published in two collections. Henrietta's War and Henrietta Sees It Through. They take the form of letters from Henrietta to Robert, a childhood friend away at war.

It is very Provincial Lady-esque, which can only be a good thing. In the first few pages we had a Robert, a Lady B. and even advice concerning the planting of bulbs, which happens on page one of The Provincial Lady (EM Delafield, but I'm sure you knew that). They're even both set in Devon. It took me a while to cope with a Lady B. we were supposed to like, unlike Delafield's condescending Lady B. - but, of course, this hindered me little. The humour is very similar - self-deprecating, and appreciative of the ridiculous even while she is proud of England's bravery. The letters are also accompanied by Dennys' own delightful sketches - have a look at Elaine's review of Henrietta's War over at Random Jottings to see some examples (one of which I have stolen) as well as reading Elaine's wonderful thoughts, of course.

Henrietta represents the middle-class women in England, plucky and determined to carry on as normally as possible. They garden and chat and squabble - resisting the overly-zealous scrap metal collectors, and slowing down the knitting bee so as not to finish too soon, can be slotted into their daily lives. 'There's not much glamour on the home home-front.
Ours not the saucy peaked cap of our untrammelled sisters [in the ATS]. Ours rather to see that the curtains are properly drawn, and do our little bit of digging in the garden. Ours to brave the Sewing Party and painstakingly make a many-tailed bandage, and ours to fetch the groceries home in a big basket.' In the background are Henrietta's husband, Dr. Charles; friends and occasional enemies Faith, Mrs. Simpkins and Mrs. Savernack; Henrietta's children Linnet and Bill.

I think this quotation demonstrates the mixture of pluckiness and ability to laugh at oneself, which characterise both Henrietta's War and so much writing of the period:

'I was thinking to-day,' said Lady B dreamily, 'that if all we useless old women lined up on the beach, each of us with a large stone in her hand, we might do a lot of damage.'
'The only time I saw you try to throw a stone, Julia, it went over your shoulder behind you,' said Mrs. Savernack.

'Then I would have to stand with my back towards the Germans,' said Lady B comfortably.

Henrietta's War is quite simply a wonderful, witty, charming, and occasionally very moving book. It deserves to be in the company of Diary of a Provincial Lady and Mrs. Miniver as great chroniclers of the home-front - and I can only hope that Bloomsbury will reprint Henrietta Sees It Through at some point in the future.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Picnic at Hanging Rock

This does feel strange, writing my blog posts in a row on the 20th, knowing they won't appear for a few days. I say 'knowing' - I'm still living in doubt that it will come to fruitition. Hopefully Blogger will prove me wrong... in fact, if anybody is reading this, then I have been proved wrong! As you read this, Col and I will be in deepest, darkest Devon, probably eating an ice cream and reading a book. Actually, those activities rarely go hand-in-hand (pun, if there is one, intended).

My book group in Oxford recently read Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. I can't remember whether I suggested it or if it was Angela, our Antipodean member. We were certainly trying to find a classic of Australian fiction to read, having just done Tim Winton's Breath (which is quite good, though also quite a lot of content I shall euphemistically call 'dodgy'). Picnic at Hanging Rock was one which none of us had read, or seen, but which I'd heard lauded a few times.

Oh. My. I warn you that this post contains a few spoilers from the novel, especially towards the end of the post, so don't read beyond the following paragraph if you want to keep the plot unknown.

Only three of us turned up to the meeting to discuss it, and none of us liked it, I'm sorry to say. I thought it a curate's egg; good in places. At the beginning a school party goes into the Australian bush, to see the Hanging Rock (which apparently exists) - four girls wander off, as does a schoolteacher. One of them comes running back in tears, but the others have disappeared. Will they ever return? Dot dot dot.

As premises go, that's pretty promising. I had thought the picnic would occupy the whole novel, but far from it. The rest of the work details the effects of this mystery on the people involved - though not from the perspective of those lost. Again, potentially very interesting. But a big problem with the novel is its myriad styles - sometimes girls' school story, sometimes grisly detective mystery, sometimes Prince and the Pauper-esque in a rather odd storyline about the close bond between an illiterate stablehand and a rich Englishman. A bit like Enid Blyton meets John Grisham meets Mark Twain. And not in a good way. The narrative jumps all over the place, stories and characters picked up and dropped and forgotten.

My overriding issue with Picnic at Hanging Rock, however, is (and this is a huge spoiler, so look away now if you want to) that we never fin
d out what happens to the lost people. A mystery needs a conclusion, in my view of narrative. Apparently this open-endedness is credited with making the book and film a big success, but I just found it unsatisfying. Although it is better than what Joan Lindsay was *going* to put as the ending, later published as The Secret of Hanging Rock - time stands still, corsets hover in mid-air, and the girls turn into lizards. I kid you not. Completely incongruous.

One thing I did like about the novel was the way it was made to seem like fact. Quite a few people I spoke to thought it *was* based on true events - Lindsay is ambivalent in the preface, but uses footnotes and drops hints that it is true, though in fact none of it is. Obviously similar events happened - people going missing, I mean, rather than turning into lizards.

My question - why is this novel an Australian classic? I think it has some good passages, some clever lines, but overall it bears all the marks of an unedited first novel, with the author trying to cram absolutely everything in. Perhaps the film is better, and accounts for the novel's continuing success? I am willing to hear the case for the defence, and I hope somebody here can offer it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Tripping Over

One of the books which I should have included in my Top 15 last year, but somehow didn't, was Emma Smith's excellent memoir of a Cornish childhood, The Great Western Beach. I wrote about it here, complete with a jaunty picture of a little bucket. When I heard Maidens' Trip: A Wartime Adventure on the Grand Union Canal was being reprinted by Bloomsbury in the same format, I hurriedly asked for a copy, and the journey to and from London enabled me to read it.

Last time I praised David Mann's jacket design, and I can only do so again - The Great Western Beach and Maidens' Trip sell well for the content, I daresay, but there must be lots of casual browsers who picked it up on the basis of the brilliant design. And then there might be people like me who have a liking of Maidens' Trip simply for the excellent apostrophe use. It's reminiscent of some of Bob Dylan's best work. Man, I love Bob Dylan.
[I should add that I left the computer unattended for a few minutes, and it was sabotaged by Colin.]

I knew approximately nothing about the Grand Union Carrying Company and the wartime work which happened. Women were employed to 'make use of boats lying idle', and transport goods up and down the canal. Emma Smith did this in 1943, with several other girls at different points, but with authorial licence she condenses these trips into one trip, and the girls into three girls - Nanette, Charity, and Emma. Yes, Emma is Emma Smith, but an edited version. In The Great Western Beach Emma Smith had a slightly surreal narrative voice - the vocabulary of an adult, the ignorance of a child. Maidens' Trip demonstrates that she always used an unusual angle - though she always uses 'we' and 'us' to describe their experiences, there is no 'I'. Emma, like Nanette and Charity, is always referred to in the third person, even though she alone has thoughts and reflections revealed. It took me 60 pages to discover why the book was a little unnerving, and then I realised what was going on. 'We' but never 'I'.

There are too many mini-adventures in Maidens' Trip for me to describe them all, and each feels representative of a boating life. Their interaction with professional boating fraternity shows a world now lost. These families would travel up and down the canals all their lives, marrying within the fraternity, bringing up their children in the same ways, with little knowledge or care about the world away from the water. Their friendships would survive on seeing people for only a few minutes a week, passing on the canal. Still Nanette, Charity and Emma made friends - and made enemies. Though the girls have distinct characters, each also has the stubbornness needed to battle the elements, the privations, and the locks. The overriding impression is of dirt, weariness, hunger and a constant triumph that they were succeeding at all.

Just like The Great Western Beach, Emma Smith writes in a continually captivating and energetic manner in Maidens' Trip. Her experiences were unusual, but it is her writing voice which makes them fascinating. A sparse honesty pervades, and the book is without a drop of sentiment. Though perhaps not as good as The Great Western Beach, which deserves to be a classic of memoir for generations to come, Maidens' Trip is a wonderful journey into the bizarre episode in the life of a very interesting woman.

"The trouble is," said Charity, hearing, as always, only what she wanted to hear, "that no one knows a thing about canals till they come on one. People have said to me so many times: 'But what do you do?' and I can't explain. They seem to think you do nothing but lean on a tiller all day."

Perhaps we can't share the same experiences as Charity, Nanette and Emma - but Maidens' Trip is a close second best.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

I do like to be beside the seaside...

The Carbon Copy and I are off on a road trip - no, wait, that needs capital letters - a Road Trip next week. We're Youth Hostelling through Devon and Cornwall, enjoying the great outdoors and also enjoying driving when the great outdoors proves too damp. It's my first big driving expedition, and Our Vicar's Wife has prophesied death at every corner - but hopefully I'll be back to see you by the end of June.

But, if Blogger manages to overcome my natural Luddite-ness (or, potentially, Luddism), it will feel like I didn't go. I have a few book reviews to write this week, and I'm going to try and set up the blog so that it releases posts as intervals during the week. Chances are it won't work, but you never know, I might surprise myself.

So where are we going? Beer (which neither us of drink), River Dart, Okehampton, and Golant (which is Daphne du Maurier country). I have a pile of books to take with me, but no camera to show them to you. I'll give you a picture when I get back, and let you know that the first one off the pile is Parents and Children by Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Here goes on setting up the rest of the posts for this week...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Persephone 10th Birthday

A few months ago I kicked off a week of celebrating Persephone's 10th Birthday here at Stuck-in-a-Book. There was a quiz, little reviews, and the opportunity to share how we found out about Persephone. Today, rather outdoing me in terms of people and refreshments, Nicola Beauman and everyone at Persephone Books held a party at their Lamb's Conduit Street shop to belatedly celebrate the decade of Persephone. Since some of the dovegreybooks group are meeting tomorrow to see As You Like It at the Globe, we thought we'd meet a day early to help Persephone celebrate. And what fun it was.

The feminist magazine Subtext sent someone along, Charlotte, who blogged about it here, and posted her photographs of the event here. If you have a flick through the photographs, you'll see me (I'm in yellow) and everyone else enjoying the
Persephone festivities. And you might even be able to work out which books I bought in the 3-for-2 celebratory promotion (which is going on all week on the website - order and pay for two books as usual, but write ‘free book please' and the title of the third book you would like in the Additional Info box)

Yes, since there is photographic evidence, I needn't pretend that I have been the abstemious creature I'd intended to be whilst standing outside the shop. Since I didn't have a list with me, I couldn't remember which ones I didn't have. But I know I don't have the children's books, so snapped up The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart, and The Children Who Lived In A Barn by Eleanor Graham. For my third book, what better than They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple?

And the day was made complete by a serendipitous, and delightful, encounter with Mary Cadogan. She is the author of Richmal Crompton: The Women Behind William, a rather wonderful biography of one of my favourite writers. Hopefully she'll be willing to lend Nicola Beauman and/or myself two scarce Crompton novels, The Innermost Room and Anne Morrison - Mary Cadogan says they're the best ones, and ought to be back in print... so fingers crossed...

Off to see As You Like It tomorrow, which has had rather good reviews. Will let you know what I think in due course, of course. Don't forget to go and get your Persephone Books in the 3-for-2 on the website (persephonebooks.co.uk) - if you need any suggestions, you know who to ask.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Indiscretions of Archie

A brief blog today, as I still have to pack for the next week and a half...

I bought Indiscretions of Archie by PG Wodehouse in Winchester, because I liked the title and the age of the book, and you can never go wrong with Wodehouse. A quick scan of Amazon tells me that there are lots of different editions available, including one forthcoming in the brilliant Everyman series. Mine is from the 1920s, and has a wonderful mustiness to it.

Archie is an insouciant Englishman who travels to America with his new wife Lucille. He prefixes almost everything with 'jolly old', and is filled with bonhomie to bursting. His plan is to hit it off with father-in-law Daniel Brewster, hotel proprietor. Which, as you'll have guessed if you've ever read Wodehouse, doesn't go quite to plan. And then chaos ensues.

Only Wodehouse could get artist's models, snakes, pie-eating contests, dietician experts, and someone who once gave someone a sausage in the war all into the same novel. There are some wonderfully funny scenes, and everything Wodehouse touches comes out hilarious. He has a brilliant mix of hyperbole and litotes, not to mention delightful similes - 'Archie was one of those sympathetic souls in whom even strangers readily confide their most intimate troubles. He was to those in travail of spirit very much what cat-nip is to a cat.' Indiscretions of Archie isn't my favourite Wodehouse, and I discovered why after I'd finished. The novel was originally a series of short stories which Wodehouse then linked together, and it really does show. I should have guessed. His novels are usually characterised by their cohesion and crazy, but coherent, plots which all come together at the last minute. Indiscretions of Archie is much more disjointed - very funny, but rather more episodic than most of his novels are. Not the best place to start, but I always enjoy being reminded how brilliant Pelham Grenville was.

Favourite Wodehouse novels? I find them so similar that it's difficult to choose, but my first one was The Girl on the Boat, so it might be that one.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Downfall of Debo

Thank you for all your message on the post from Sunday, they're appreciated.

Now my Masters has finished (gulp) I should have more time for blogging, and maybe even sketching too. If you were wondering about my future, by the way, then so am I. I have a place to study for a doctorate, at Magdalen again, but I haven't got funding yet. So we'll see...

Right. Back to books. I wrote about Deborah Devonshire's Counting My Chickens over a year ago. Better know to most of us as Debo Mitford, I read her collection of thoughts off the back of loving the Mitford letters, and Debo could do no wrong in my eyes. Home to Roost and other peckings is more or less in the same line - some new articles and vignettes, but mostly the bits and pieces which weren't included in her earlier book. She's even wearing the same coat on the cover. But, on the whole, I found the book a little disappointing...

Alan Bennett writes the introduction, and says 'Deborah Devonshire is not someone to whom one can say "Joking apart..." Joking never is apart: with her it's of the essence even of the most serious and indeed saddest moments.' Well, sadly he is completely wrong - Home to Roost seems utterly devoid of the humour I'd come to love in Debo. Even the cover shows her snarling, in contrast to the smile on the front of Counting My Chickens. Too often the articles are simply catalogues of complaints, snarking at anti-hunting people, townfolk, American vocabulary, the government - anything any grumpy old lady might moan about. I'm sorry to sound a bit cruel, but there is no fury like a booklover scorned. Some of the essays had the sparks of humour I'd hoped for - when she is writing about tiaras, for example, and book signing. And none of the collection is unreadable - it's just the tone is consistently grumpy and demonstrating an inability to see the world from anyone else's perspective. Exactly the traits she *didn't* have, when compared to her uber-political sisters Jessica, Diana and Unity.

I'm sad that I can't write a more positive review of Home to Roost, and perhaps it was simply the wrong time for me to read it, but I suggest sticking to Counting My Chickens - or, even better, the letters Debo and her sisters wrote so entertainingly.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bisy backsun

Sorry I have been absent for so long - the final days of dissertation shall be blamed. It's due in tomorrow, and is all complete! Comes in at 10,998 words - so a couple to spare, having been dragged in from over 14,200. I always write too much... except, it seems, on this blog...

Today was very exciting for different reasons - I got baptised, at Oxford Community Church. I was able to give my testimony to the church, talking about deciding to follow Jesus and my life with Him. Terrifying to speak in front of everyone, but definitely worth it. A tiring few days...
(I love this stained glass window of Jesus' baptism, which I've taken from the website of a church in Texas)

But I will be back soon (or backsun, as Christopher Robin might say) with lots of different books recently read. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Year Two: The Sketches

Newcomers to Stuck-in-a-Book could be forgiven for not knowing that I like to add sketches to posts, since they've been so infrequent of late. When I started blogging it was one of the little things I thought would be fun, and might make my blog stand out - but somehow it require more inspiration than writing, and I'm a bit lazy... I will try to do better!

All the sketches from the first year of my blog are under Year One: The Sketches (in the left column... if you're using Internet Explorer you'll find that somewhere at the bottom of the screen...) - and this is all the sketches from the second year of blogging. Most of 'em don't make sense out of context, but if you click on any of them, they should take you to the post in question.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

100 Best Characters Since 1900

I like to keep up to date, and so I'm bringing you a top 100 list from... erm... March 2002. This will either be new to you, or a pleasant memory. Book magazine (never heard of it, have they since gone defunct?) created a list of the 100 best characters in fiction since 1900. And what a bizarre list it is. I've copied it down below.

Three of my least favourite characters get into the top five - Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield and Leopold Bloom. Actually I find Gatsby overrated rather than bad, but Ulysses and The Catcher in the Rye, whatever their merits may be, featured two of the most irritating characters I've ever come across. So I'm not in full accord with the list, as you may imagine. Some great choices on there, though - I was especially pleased to see 71 (Mary from Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and 96 (Eeyore).

This, of course, got me thinking who'd feature in my favourite fictional characters since 1900. A hundred is a bit daunting, so I've gone for a top ten. Please join me in making your top ten - or, if you're feeling ambitious, a hundred.

My top ten (which would probably change everyday):

1. Miss Hargreaves - Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (anybody remotely surprised?)
2. Eeyore - Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
3. The Provincial Lady - Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield
4. Aunt Ada Doom - Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
5. Emmeline 'Lucia' Lucas - Mapp and Lucia by EF Benson
6. The Second Mrs. de Winter - Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
7. William Brown - The William books by Richmal Crompton
8. Mrs. Dalloway - Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
9. Cassandra Mortmain - I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
10. Angel Deverell - Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

Their Top 100:

1 - Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
2 - Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
3 - Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
4 - Leopold Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
5 - Rabbit Angstrom, Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960
6 - Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902
7 - Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
8 - Molly Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
9 - Stephen Dedalus, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1916
10 - Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, 1905
11- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote, 1958
12 - Gregor Samsa, The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, 1915
13 - The Invisible Man, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
14 - Lolita, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
15 - Aureliano Buendia, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967
16 - Clarissa Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, 1925
17 - Ignatius Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
18 - George Smiley, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre, 1974
19 - Mrs. Ramsay, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, 1927
20 - Bigger Thomas, Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
21 - Nick Adams, In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway, 1925
22 - Yossarian, Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
23 - Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
24 - Scout Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
25 - Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, 1939
26 - Kurtz, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902
27 - Stevens, The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989
28 - Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino, 1957
29 -Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926
30 - Oskar Matzerath, The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass, 1959
31 - Hazel Motes, Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor, 1952
32 - Alex Portnoy, Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth, 1969
33 - Binx Bolling, The Moviegoer, Walker Percy, 1961
34 - Sebastian Flyte, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
35 - Jeeves, My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse, 1919
36 - Eugene Henderson, Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow, 1959
37 - Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust, 1913-1927
38 - Toad, The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908
39 - The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss, 1955
40 - Peter Pan, The Little White Bird, J.M. Barrie, 1902
41 - Augustus McCrae, Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry, 1985
42 - Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, 1930
43 - Judge Holden, Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, 1985
44 - Willie Stark, All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946
45 - Stephen Maturin, Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian, 1969
46 - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943
47 - Santiago, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952
48 - Jean Brodie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
49 - The Whiskey Priest, The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene, 1940
50 - Neddy Merrill, The Swimmer, John Cheever, 1964
51 - Sula Peace, Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
52 - Meursault, The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942
53 - Jake Barnes, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926
54 - Phoebe Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
55 - Janie Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
56 - Antonia Shimerda, My Antonia, Willa Cather, 1918
57 - Grendel, Grendel, John Gardner, 1971
58 - Gulley Jimson, The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary, 1944
59 - Big Brother, 1984, George Orwell, 1949
60 - Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, 1955
61 - Seymour Glass, Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger, 1953
62 - Dean Moriarty, On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
63 - Charlotte, Charlotte's Web, E.B. White, 1952
64 - T.S. Garp, The World According to Garp, John Irving, 1978
65 - Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett, 1934
66 - James Bond, Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, 1953
67 - Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, 1959
68 - Geoffrey Firmin, Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry, 1947
69 - Benjy, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
70 - Charles Kinbote, Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov, 1962
71 - Mary Katherine Blackwood, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson, 1962
72 - Charles Ryder, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
73 - Claudine, Claudine at School, Colette, 1900
74 - Florentino Ariza, Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1985
75 - George Follansbee Babbitt, Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis, 1922
76 - Christopher Tietjens, Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford, 1924-28
77 - Frankie Addams, The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers, 1946
78 - The Dog of Tears, Blindness, Jose Saramago, 1995
79 - Tarzan, Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1914
80 - Nathan Zuckerman, My Life As a Man, Philip Roth, 1979
81 - Arthur "Boo" Radley, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
82 - Henry Chinaski, Post Office, Charles Bukowski, 1971
83 - Joseph K. The Trial, Franz Kafka, 1925
84 - Yuri Zhivago, Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957
85 - Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling, 1998
86 - Hana, The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992
87 - Margaret Schlegel, Howards End, E.M. Forster, 1910
88 - Jim Dixon, Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis, 1954
89 - Maurice Bendrix, The End of the Affair, Graham Greene, 1951
90 - Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937
91 - Mr. Biswas, A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul, 1961
92 - Alden Pyle, The Quiet American, Graham Greene, 1955
93 - Kimball "Kim" O'Hara, Kim, Rudyard Kipling, 1901
94 - Newland Archer, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, 1920
95 - Clyde Griffiths, An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser, 1925
96 - Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926
97 - Quentin Compson, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
98 - Charlie Marlow, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902
99 - Celie, The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982
100 - Augie March, The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow 1953

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Persephone Post

Another brief blog entry, to point you in the direction of another blog. Quite a new one, though not an unfamiliar source - Persephone Books have started The Persephone Post. The form the blog takes is a picture - painting, photograph, reproduction - and a small explanation. Quite diverse, they've already included a vintage poster, some chairs and a Morris Traveller, somehow it's cohesive in the Persephone spirit. Go, enjoy.

I hope they don't mind, I've reproduced the poster, as I love it. It's by Frank Newbold, 1942.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Take Your Book Group To Guernsey

I very nearly kept this exciting competition all to myself...

Only kidding. But, if the competition to win the Bloomsbury Group books (now closed) weren't enough, Bloomsbury are also offering a chance to head off to Guernsey, in celebration of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Was it really a whole year ago this wonderful book entered my life? More here on what I thought of the novel, and the information from the Bloomsbury newsletter is below.

Enter our competition for your chance to take your book group to Guernsey.

One winner will be selected to travel to Guernsey with five friends from Friday October 2nd to Monday October 5th, 2009. Activities will include a joint book discussion with a US book group, an island tour, and more.

There is one Grand Prize and ten First Prizes. The Grand Prize consists of A 4-day/3-night trip for six people (including the Grand Prize Winner) to Guernsey. Ten First Prizes: One copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be awarded to each of ten first prize winners. For full details of how to enter and for terms and conditions, visit our website.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Persephone Book Group

And I am now back from my first ever Persephone Book Group! I do hope it's the first of many, because the people were lovely, the discussion was fun, and meeting Persephone fans new or old is always a delight. I *am* a little worried that my Persephone obsession was a little too forthright... will have to temper my "Oo! Oo! I know that one!" for next time...

We discussed Flush by Virginia Woolf, which I read a few years ago and re-read last week. It's all about Elizabeth Barrett and her courtship with Robert Browning, from the perspective of their dog Flush. I think it's a brilliant book - mostly because it so successfully presents a new angle, a new way of perceiving things. Lots on smell especially - I liked this, on Flush's astonishment that Mr. Barrett cannot tell Mr. Browning has been there:

'Don't you know,' Flush marvelled, 'who's been sitting in that chair? Can't you smell him?' For to Flush the whole room still reeked of Mr. Browning's presence. The air dashed past the bookcase, and eddied and curled round the heads of the five pale busts. But the heavy man sat by his daughter in entire self-absorption. He noticed nothing. He suspected nothing. Aghast at his obtuseness, Flush slipped past him out of the room.'

Critics haven't always been enamoured by the novel, perhaps because the initial concept sounds a trifle silly. But in Woolf's very able hands this is a clever, funny and very well observed book. I almost never get bothered about depictions of places in novels, but from the entirely new angle of a dog, I found descriptions of London and Italy fascinating.

The book group seemed, on the whole, to like the book a lot. Most of us didn't know much about Elizabeth Barrett Browning before we started, but didn't think that made much of a difference. Woolf's slightly odd views on class were discussed, but so too her liveliness and breaking free from Victorianism. Whilst I love Flush, I don't think it's the most representative of Persephone's books, and I'd be intrigued to see what the views are on other titles. Next time is Joanna Canaan's Princes In The Land, and after that Rachel Ferguson's Alas, Poor Lady. I've not read either of them, and sadly I'm going to miss the next one, but looking forward to July and Alas, Poor Lady.

If anybody from the book group is dropping in (since I shamelessly advertised this blog) please do say hello! I look forward to seeing you again.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


Just to warn you, over the next couple of weeks my blog posts may be a little short and sporadic, as my dissertation is due in on 15th June!

And very brief tonight... tomorrow I'm off to my first Persephone book group in Oxford, where we'll be discussing Flush by Virginia Woolf, which actually tied in nicely as a peripheral book to my dissertation. I'll hopefully write about my thoughts tomorrow, and the thoughts of the group, but why not gather some opinions here first?

Anybody read this pseudo-biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog? And what did you think? Better or worse than Woolf's other books - and how is it different?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Reading Wrecks

You guys might remember that I love, honour, and obey the wonderful Cake Wrecks website. To quote the tagline, it's where professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong. What's not to like?

But Jen, who writes the blogs, also appreciates really good cake decorating. So every Sunday she shows cakes that are excellent - probably aided by those each week which make you want to cry, they're so bad.

This Sunday it was book-themed. 'Book' seems to be synonymous with 'children's book', but that's fair enough, as sadly adults get fewer themed-cakes than children do. Though I've had Mr. Men cakes more since I turned 18 than before.

Basically, go and have a look at them. I looked through the FAQs and couldn't find anything saying not to post pictures from the website, so here is an example:

Awww. I want a birthday cake. Right now. With a Miss Hargreaves theme.
(N.B. my birthday is only, err, five months away... so I deserve a cake, right?)

Enjoy! Hope the weather is as sunny where you are as it is in Oxford. And hope you aren't going mad, like me, over the dissertation that never ends... (only two weeks left, then fun, frolic[k]ing, and a road trip to Devon!)