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Tackling Tolstoy

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The figure of Tolstoy towers over Russian literature; as well as producing his massive tomes “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”, his moral and spiritual influence on the country was huge. I read AK in 2013, and “War and Peace” is still on my radar. However, the size is a little intimidating and I most likely won’t get to it any time soon. So I was really pleased when OH came up with a collection of shorter works as a Christmas gift; he bought it mainly because of the title story “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, which he’d heard of somewhere. However, I thought I would read through it one story at a time, and the first in the book is “Family Happiness”.

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The story is narrated, perhaps unusually for Tolstoy, by a young girl of 17, Masha. As the book opens, she has been left an orphan by the death of her mother. She and her sister Sonya, plus their old nurse Katya, are living in the country and waiting for family friend Sergey to visit. Masha has know the latter all her life as her father’s best friend (although younger than him) and someone the family could rely on. And indeed Sergey comes to sort out the family’s affairs and keep an eye on them, whilst taking care of his own business at his nearby estate where he lives with his mother.

As Masha starts to mature, inevitably Sergey’s interest in her changes, and Masha herself begins to see the family friend in a new light. Inevitably she falls in love with him – or is it just a young girl’s infatuation? The courtship is a long and hesitant one, as Sergey expresses doubts as to Masha’s real love for him, thinking she will soon grow bored with him. However, the two marry and start their married life living in Sergey’s family home. Initially, things are all happy and lovely, but it isn’t long until, as Sergey predicted, Masha becomes restless, unsatisfied with country living. A trip to the society of St. Petersburg awakens her interest in the finer things in life, which inevitable has a detrimental effect on the marriage…

“Family Happiness” was published in 1859 and I was fascinated to see in it early hints of themes which would come to the fore in “Anna Karenina”. The age difference in the marriage of the two protagonists, the love of society and the flirting and shallowness developed by Masha, and the inevitable disintegration of the marriage, reminded me very much of the union of Anna and Karenin. However, by using the female perspective to narrate, the viewpoint is somewhat different as we follow Masha’s changing views and emotions during the changes in her life.

I did, however, at times feel that Masha was not there so much as a character in her own right; more that she was there to represent much that Tolstoy felt was wrong in womanhood and that there was a didactic purpose behind the writing. Interestingly, the age gap between Sergey and Masha is very similar to that between Tolstoy and his long-suffering wife Sonya, although the marriage between the two took place after FH was published – a case of life imitating art, perhaps!

I enjoyed reading the story very much, particularly for the quality of the writing/translation – a passage like this, for example:

We went up to him, and truly it was a night such as I have never seen since. The full moon stood over the house behind us so that it could not be seen; and half the shadow of the room of the columns and the verandah awning, lay slanting en raccourci on the sandy path and the circular lawn. All the rest was light, and bathed in silver dew and moonlight. The broad flowery path, all bright and cold, with shadows of the dahlias and their sticks lying slanting on one edge, and its rough gravel glistening, ran into the mist in the distance. Behind the trees there gleamed the roof of the conservatory, and below the ravine roses the gathering mist. The lilac bushes, already beginning to lose their leaves, were bright all over in every twig. The flowers, all drenched with dew, could be distinguished from one another. In the avenues the light and shade were so mingled that they seemed not trees and little paths between, but transparent, quivering, and trembling houses. To the right of the house all was black, indistinct, and weird. All the more brilliant rising up out of this darkness was the fantastically-shaped top of the poplar, which seemed as though, for some strange inexplicable cause, it had halted near the houses, in the dazzling brightness above it, instead of flying far, far away into the distant dark-blue sky.

Frustratingly enough, my very nice Wordsworth edition doesn’t state anywhere who the translation, which is very naughty as I always like to credit the person who’s done such wonderful work so I can read a book from another language. So thank you, unnamed translator!

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However, it was hard not to view this story with the knowledge of Tolstoy’s life informing it. The book ends with passion of any kind having burnt out and the two partners in the marriage settling into a kind of companionship for the rest of their days. Was this Tolstoy’s view of marriage? If so, he should have been more honest with his own teenage bride, who we know was treated despicably from the very start of their union. And I felt much more strongly in this work the didactic tone of Tolstoy; the women in his books *do* seem to suffer and bearing in mind his sexual appetites and behaviour, I’m going to have to try to read more of his works by putting what I know of him to the back of my mind and reading them objectively. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see where Tolstoy goes with the rest of the stories in this collection, particularly the title work which is very highly regarded.

Getting Past Gatsby

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F. Scott Fitzgerald was in the news at the end of last year owing to the discovery of a batch of “lost” stories which are apparently due to be published this year. He was an astonishingly prolific writer, producing stories for magazines on a regular basis, but it’s very much for “The Great Gatsby” that he’s remembered. I first read the book in my teens, after having been seduced by the Mia Farrow/Robert Redford film, and I’ve returned to it several times. And as you can see, I already own several copies…

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However, I dipped back into GG recently courtesy of this beautiful review copy of the new Alma Evergreen edition and I’ve really been enjoying re-engaging with the story.

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Like most of their Evergreens, this has a gorgeous cover, and comes with excellent supporting material on the author’s life and work, as well as a section on film adaptations of his books, plus some photos. It was reading about Fitzgerald’s other works that made me wonder why I’ve got so stuck on Gatsby and never managed to move onto any of his other novels (I have read some of his short stories). I have a huge shelf of his works, many volumes of which I’ve owned since my teens, so there’s absolutely no reason not to pick up another Fitzgerald and get reading. But I found myself wondering if it’s because Gatsby is such a perfect book that I’ve found myself unable to get past it and immerse myself in his other works.

The trouble is, when an author has written a book that’s regarded as iconic, there’s a danger that everything else they wrote will be judged against it. “Gatsby” stands so high in the pantheon of American literature that a reader might think there’s no need to read anything else written by Fitzgerald, and that’s a great shame.

I do, however, have an awful lot of Fitzgeralds on my shelves which are begging to be read:

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And I had forgotten that I own one of the beautiful editions produced by Alma that’s available in their Fitzgerald Collection:

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So there is no excuse for me not to read more Fitzgerald in 2017! However, in the meantime I shall continue to enjoy my Alma Evergreen edition of Gatsby, with its tale of the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby and his great love for Daisy Buchanan, and I thought I would share a few favourite quotes with you.

I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

*****

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

*****

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

So much for good intentions…

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There is a reason I don’t sign up for TBR-only reads or book-buying bans – and that’s amply illustrated by the results of a post-Christmas hop up to London to meet up with my dear friend J… We weren’t able to get together in December owing to a variety of circumstances, and so a plan to hit London in January, taking in bookshops and sales, was hatched. I was vaguely worried that the weather would stymie things, but it behaved for the day and we had a lovely time!

At a pit-stop in Foyles, J presented me with my birthday and Christmas gifts which she’d been reluctant to trust to the postal service, and I can understand why…

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What a beautiful selection of Beverley and Beverley-related books she gifted me! “Women…” does have a dustjacket but apparently this has been temporarily mislaid… “Cry Havoc” is very special as you can see:

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As well as being a first edition, it’s also signed, so I am now the proud possessor of three signed Beverleys, thanks to the great kindness of others! A perfect accompaniment to the Foyles Cafe lovely tea. I was quite restrained in the shop itself, only purchasing a birthday present for somebody else – J was not so restrained, but I think she outdid me on the purchasing stakes all day!

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J also presented me with this copy of Calvino’s “Castle of Crossed Destinies” so I can check if it’s the same as the one I have, and if it is I can pass it on to someone who might be keen to start exploring his work!

The next bookish stop was Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, one of the last of the old guard. I already had a heavy rucksack so was trying to be a little careful, but I couldn’t resist these:

any-amount-of-bksThe William Maxwell was from the £1 bins outside, and the other two from the paperback shelves. I’ve wanted the Kis title for a long time and I love the cover. The Delafield is a beautiful Virago I don’t have so couldn’t be resisted of course. And I think the nice man at the counter gave me a bit of a discount!

Henry Pordes next door have a lot less paperbacks and Viragos than they used to, though there were a number of tempting titles. However, I resisted more here, and just came out with something I need for a project:

pordes-pmp23I don’t come across the Penguin Modern Poets books that often in second-hand stores, so I do tend to grab them when I see them. I daresay I could chase them down online, but it’s nice to support the actual bookshops.

The Bloomsbury Oxfam was busier than I’d seen it for a long time when we arrived there, and here I had one of the most pleasing finds of the day:

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Having been gifted a beautiful chunky biography of Thea Astley by Trish, my lovely Virago Secret Santa, I’ve been keen to track down some of her fiction. Surprisingly, none of the new bookshops had anything (and we tried Waterstones too). However, this title (one I’d heard of) was nestling on the shelves in the Oxfam just waiting for me!

Final bookish stop of the day was the lovely LRB bookshop, a place I rarely get out of without something and today was no exception:

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The Debray is a title I’ve often mused about and as it was in the 50% off sale I pounced! And the Berger title is one I hadn’t come across before but it sounded fabulous and looks beautiful inside with all sorts of words and illustrations, so I finished the day as I started it – with books!

We *did* do other things apart from bookmania, including taking in the kikki.k shop and Paperchase at Covent Garden, the Cass art shop (where J got quite carried away) plus lunch at Gaby’s deli (yum!) and two visits to the Foyles cafe (the LRB teashop was full and J had developed a passion for the Foyles crushed ginger and lemon tea).

So a perfect day out, and evidence that I can’t stop buying books when the moment is right, and that there’s absolutely no point in trying…

Murder in Wartime

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The Dead Shall Be Raised & The Murder of a Quack by George Bellairs

… in which I happily return to British Library Crime Classics! :)) And reading them certainly is becoming something of a compulsion. One of my favourite discoveries of 2016 was the author George Bellairs, via his wonderful book “Death of a Busybody”, and I was just shocked that I’d never come across him before. Fortunately, BLCC have produced another Bellairs volume, this time containing two short works featuring his regular detective, Littlejohn, and these were just as much fun as the first book.

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Interestingly, both stories are set during the Second World War. The first “The Dead Shall Be Raised” takes place at Christmas 1940, when Littlejohn is travelling to visit the northern town of Hatterworth where his wife is recuperating from a bombing raid on their London home. The opening chapter, where the detective travels through the blackout deep into the country, is wonderfully evocative and a little creepy; and things become more sinister when the Home Guard, doing manoeuvres on the nearly Milestone Moor, unearth a dead body. This transpires to be a corpse which has lain undiscovered for 23 years since the last years of the First World War; the body is that of someone who was suspect of murdering his friend and then making off into the night, and so what was thought to have been a single murder is now a double one.

Fortunately, the local superintendent, Haworth, has already clicked with Littlejohn, and so the two men set out to solve the cold case. Along the way they’ll have to dig into the past, interviewing those survivors still in the area including a mill manager made good, a formidable old lady, a slippery thief and all the locals who remember the event. One of my favourite kinds of murder story is when a crime from the past proves to have long tentacles and comes to light decades later to be investigated by one of our regular sleuths. It’s a trope Christie used well, and often, and Bellairs puts it to great use here; the contrast between the two wars is never overplayed, but is there as a subtle presence, and there is a sense of retribution and justice being done when the story reaches its satisfying end.

The second story “The Murder of a Quack” is set in a Norfolk village, where the local homeopath (or ‘bonesetter’ as he’s often termed) Nathaniel Wall is found murdered in rather unusual circumstances. The man was popular locally, often succeeding where the local doctor failed; the latter has become something of an enemy and is the obvious suspect for Wall’s murder – though things are never going to be that straightforward. Complications arise with spurious alibis, a local girl who was unofficial ward of Wall being engage to a fairly unpleasant type who claims to be an author but whose actual occupation is vague, and the local eccentric Daft Dick. Rather wonderfully, we’re reintroduced to the entertaining Detective-Sergeant Cromwell, who appeared in the first Bellairs book I read and who excels in speeding off round the country and sleuthing. Here he does just that, as this crime also proves to have long tentacles reaching back to the past, and Cromwell not only finds plenty of useful information, but also has much of his future life organised almost in parenthesis – which is great fun!

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In fact, fun is a word I’d apply to reading George Bellairs. There is a serious side to the crimes in both books, and a strong sense of morality, with Littlejohn representing the forces of good and quite determined to track down his villain as well as putting paid to any unpleasant characters he happens to come across. And Bellairs can create a wonderful sense of darkness and atmosphere – his descriptions of Milestone Moor (rather chillingly based on Saddleworth Moor of later notoriety) are powerful and memorable.

The vast, cold moor was a rare place for holding secrets. A silence seemed to brood over it, punctuated now and then by the cries of birds or the shouts of the Home Guard, still manoeuvring vigorously. Even the presence of so many men over the wide expanse seemed powerless to dispel the loneliness. The elemental seemed to hang over the scene. The creeping fingers of the powers of destruction worked unseen, twisting and stunting the vegetation, tearing down the boundaries erected by man, shattering his habitation and sliding relentlessly over fields he had cultivated, dragging them back to the wilderness.

Nevertheless, Bellairs balances the darkness with a healthy dose of humour, and his books really are a delight to read. There’s usually a caricatured local plod who speaks with a country accent and bumbles about a bit; however, the local bobby is usually treated fairly and allowed plenty of the glory, and certainly in the second of the stories here, the village man (who has the wonderful name of Mellalieu), is crucial to the successful conclusion of the investigation. Although he sometimes paints his characters with a broad brush, Bellairs never loses his sympathy with them, his empathy, and his understanding of human nature.

If I had to make any criticism it would be that Bellairs sometimes rushes his story; the novels are short and would benefit occasionally from a little more expansion of a particular character or plot element. But this is a minor quibble and the book cracks along at an exciting pace making it one of those unputdownable reads. Littlejohn is an engaging detective; an ordinary man with no quirks or peculiarities like Holmes or Poirot, he nevertheless has enough charisma to keep the reader gripped and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of his adventures. Let’s hope there are more Bellairs titles to come from the lovely BLCC series!

Entertaining essays and more from an independent publisher

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Picking up the theme from my post about the Bulgakov Collection, another independent publisher I follow with interest is Michael Walmer. Based in Australia, Mike has a history in publishing (having worked for the legendary Marion Boyars) and he specialises in bringing back into print neglected works over a wide rage of genres and time periods. I’ve read several books from his imprint and a fascinating lot they are – I was particularly taken with Stella Benson, whom I might not have read had it not been for his promotion of her.

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I wanted to focus on one particular strand of books Mike publishes, and that’s his Belles Lettres series. Comprising so far four volumes, it really is an interesting collection, and the titles to date are:

Letters to a Friend by Winifred Holtby
Letters of Lord Byron
Letters to the Sphinx by Oscar Wilde
The Sins of Society by Ouida

I own three of the books (as you can see from the picture!) and I’ve read one in full so far in the form of the Wilde, and you can read my thoughts here. It was a lovely book, and I spent some time over the Christmas break dipping into the others.

The Holtby volume is fascinating; she’s an author I know of course from her novels published by Virago, and I have a number of these on my shelf. Best known for “South Riding”, Holtby died tragically young but left behind quite a legacy and these letters are to her lifelong friend Jean McWilliam. Holtby and McWilliam met towards the end of WW1 in a WAAC camp, and the letters range from 1920 to 1935, the year of Winifred’s death. This a lovely, varied book, and the letters make fascinating reading, featuring poems and fragments of poems, thoughts on books, little drawings and the like. What also makes the book stand out is the picture it paints of the lives of women in the 1920s and 1930s, and even if you have no particular interest in or knowledge of Holtby, I can still highly recommend it as an excellent read.

Ouida is an author who’s been on the periphery of my vision for decades – possibly since I read “Literary Women” back in the 1980s, or maybe from my first reading of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” where she’s mentioned as being vaguely scandalous. I knew she wrote fiction but I wasn’t aware she wrote essays, and this lovely little collection Mike has issued was a surprising treat and great to dip into. Dating from the late 1800s, Ouida’s essays range over subjects like the vulgarity of her modern world and the stupidity of politics (nothing changes, then…) I was particularly taken with the piece entitled “Gardens” where she bemoans the trend of regimented gardens, designed in straight lines and all neat and tidy, with no individuality. I was also with her when she expressed her views on cut flowers – I can’t bear seeing flowers massacred for the sake of home decoration, and would rather have them growing wild than hothoused, cut and wired and then wilting after a day.

In the great world, and in the rich world, flowers are wasted with painful prodigality. The thousands and tens of thousands of flowers which die to decorate a single ball or reception are a sad sight to those who love them. ‘The rooms look well tonight,’ is the utmost that is ever said after all this waste of blossom and fragrance. It is waste, because scarcely a glance is bestowed on them, and the myriad of roses which cover the walls do not effectively make more impression on the eye than the original silk or satin wall-hanging which they momentarily replace… the ballroom in the morning is as melancholy a parable of the brevity of pleasure as any moralist could desire.

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Finally, I’ve had an unexpected pleasure in the form of another non-fiction book from Mike Walmer. Not a part of the Belles Lettres series, “The Spring of Joy” by Mary Webb is subtitled “A Little Book of Healing”. Webb, of course, is best known as the author of such books as “Precious Bane”, and that’s a book that divides readers, particularly in the LibraryThing Virago group! As the book features large chunks of dialect, it tends to be something of a Marmite experience, and it was roundly satirised by Stella Gibbons in “Cold Comfort Farm”. I read the latter and loved it, but I never felt able to read Webb, so taking on a non-fiction book by her was a bit of a leap. However, I needn’t have worried; Webb’s book collects together a series of essays on aspects of nature to bring Joy, Laughter and Beauty. Nowadays, the idea of nature as a balm for the soul is not new, but I wonder how prevalent that was in Webb’s day? Nevertheless, her writing is lyrical and lovely, and I really enjoyed her thoughts on the natural world.

Insects are the artists of fragrance; they have a genius for it; there seems to be some affinity between the tenuity of their being and this most refined of the sense-impressions. Ghostly calls summon them to their banquets… Moths call each other by scent; so do bees; and probably the smallest ephemera follow the same law. These calls and answers cross the world continually like a web of fine threads, most of them too slight for our comprehension.

I’ve spent some happy times over recent weeks with all these books, and if you have an interest in essays, letters and nature writing these could well be volumes you would enjoy too. Michael Walmer’s catalogue is full of interesting books and so I’d encourage you to search out his website (there’s a link on my sidebar) and have a browse, especially if you’re bored with insubstantial modern writing! I must admit I often find the older books are the best!

A spirited polemic

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The Sack of Bath by Adam Fergusson

One of the joys of a trip to London is a visit to the very lovely Persephone shop; however, that visit always creates its own problem in the form of making the decision as to which Persephone title(s) to buy! I last dropped in there in November, when I met up with some lovely ladies from the LibraryThing Virago Group and before travelling I spent a little time going through the books on their site to come up with a shortlist. And a book which intrigued me, and which I ended up getting, was “The Sack of Bath” by Adam Fergusson.

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On the surface of it, you might ask why a publisher which specialises in 20th century women’s fiction would bring out a book which looks at the wholesale destruction of a particular kind of architecture in that city. However, the city of Bath is a special one, and if for nothing else literary is remembered for its connection with Jane Austen. But as Fergusson’s book makes clear, the city had a rich cultural heritage, as well as an architectural one, and this short book is a passionate polemic aimed at those who were trying to destroy its individual character.

First published in 1973, “The Sack of Bath” was an attempt to bring the attention of the wider public (and indeed the world) to the fact that the authorities in Bath were undertaking a large-scale, wide-ranging demolition programme, bringing down buildings that although not Grade 1 listed, had immense historical significance. Much of the city itself had been built and developed in the Georgian style, and although the well-known and well-to-do streets were being preserved, the artisan dwellings and less prominent areas were being declared unfit and flattened to make way for large, incongruous Brutalist developments. The 1970s saw much of this kind of redevelopment, but in a city like Bath the new buildings sat very uncomfortably next to the old.

Beautiful endpaper design by John Piper

Beautiful endpaper design by John Piper

More to the point, the blind demolition of whole areas was altering the whole character of the city, which was losing its homogenous Georgian whole; and as Fergusson makes plain, much of this was development for development’s sake as it would have been just as cost-effective to upgrade the existing dwellings, therefore providing plenty of housing which was in the same style as the rest of Bath.

Fergusson is a strong and fierce champion of those who sprang up and formed local groups, trying to stop the destruction. And he makes a special case for the city being retained in its original form, pointing out that nothing is really irreparable, and that if you live in somewhere as special as Bath you have to take the consequences…

The point is that a damp house may have a damp course inserted; that an unfit house may be made fit; that those who live in and enjoy the beauties of an eighteenth-century town should not expect the amenities of Harlow New Town or Hemel Hempstead; and that if they want them that is where they must go and live.

Much of the problem seems to stem from the local authorities at the time having no real expertise or overview, and relying on a series of experts who really didn’t know what they were doing. And I have to say that Bath was not alone in having such changes made to it; I can recall the small town I lived in having its centre torn out and turned into a modern shopping centre, and the pictures of before and after are striking. However, this needs to be put in context; the post-WW2 years had seen a Britain that had been heavily bombarded with large areas destroyed or made difficult to live in. The country was striding into a brave new modern future, and the new kinds of architecture were part of that. I should declare here that I actually had something of a fondness for Brutalist structures and it’s ironic that so many of them are now being wiped out and replaced with modern buildings that look to me even more faceless and ugly.

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But that’s by the by; “The Sack of Bath” set out to do a specific job, and it certainly did that, bringing the fight for Bath’s heritage to national attention (and as an unexpected result making other parts of the country more aware of what was happening and inclined to take action to save buildings and areas). Bath itself was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, though that in itself is not without problems and a quick look at the city’s Wikipedia page reveals that controversy about developments is still rumbling on.

The book itself is a short and fascinating read, capturing a moment in time when a call to action was made. It’s liberally illustrated with a large number of photographs, most notably several by Lord Snowdon, and these are an essential and integral part of the book, speaking just as eloquently as Fergusson’s prose. Although the book is slim and can be read in one sitting, it does make you think deeply about the bureaucracy and red tape in the country, the people we put in charge of making decisions and plans on our behalf, and also the constant trends in building and architecture. I do feel that there is a place for Brutalist architecture and but what’s quite certain is that Bath was not it!

Exploring the rather wonderful Bulgakov Collection!

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It’s no secret here on the Ramblings that I’m a huge fan of small publishers and there are several whose books I love to read and write about on a regular basis. One of my favourites is Alma Classics, who are always bringing out delicious editions of excellent books (particularly the Russians I’m so fond of) in new translations and with extra material. The publisher has rather wonderfully become something of a champion of the work of Mikhail Bulgakov, producing absolutely lovely versions of his works, and I was very excited to hear that Alma has put together collections themed by author or genre which you can get at very reduced prices! Of course, the Bulgakov Complete Fiction Collection was the one that appealed to me, and it really is a great selection of books:

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As you can see there is a wonderful array of titles featured, and the covers are stunning. Alma were kind enough to provide a copy of “The Fatal Eggs” for me to read in the translation by Roger Cockrell (who’s rendered several of the versions here) and I loved getting reacquainted with it! The last time I read the book, I commented on what a strong presence in the book was the city of Moscow:

Moscow was the adopted city of Bulgakov’s heart, and this is very clear from all his fictions. IN FE he captures brilliantly the effect of the events on the populace, utilising all the modern trappings of the city, from newspapers to neon signs. FE is funny, pithy, thought-provoking and unforgettable – highly recommended.

I felt the same again reading this wonderful book, and it really is a treat, painting a vivid picture of the Soviet Union in times of change, with science coming to the fore and the media out of control (somewhat familiar, that last thing….) But all of Bulgakov’s writings are worth reading, and the Alma Collection is a great way to get hold of them, and includes his most famous title, “The Master and Margarita”. The price is pretty good too – although the banner I’ve put in above says £50, when I last looked at the Alma website the price had been slashed so check this out to see if you can snag a real Bulgakov bargain.

The Collections also feature children’s classics, opera, gothic and horror titles, as well as one which appeals to me very strongly – The Complete F. Scott Fitzgerald Collection in absolutely gorgeous covers. It’s so tempting – if only I wasn’t supposed to be buying too many books at the moment… 🙂

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