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Rounding up my 2022 reading! πŸ˜ŠπŸ“š

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As we approach the end of yet another year (where *does* the time go????) I face up to the difficult task of trying to sum up my best books of the year. Many admirable bloggers manage to pick out top fives or tens or whatevers of their books in an actual countdown to a single favourite book!!! I can rarely manage that, and I put this down to my grasshopper mind and the number of different types of books I read. So as usual, I’ll just do a little round up of some highlights of the year, singling out themes or types of books or those which really stuck in my mind!!

British Library Crime Classics and Women Writers

British Library Publishing have been responsible for many, many hours of happy reading this year! I’ve long been a fan of their Crime Classic reissues and the more recent range of Women Writers reprints has also been a treat. Alas, their Sci Fi classics seem to have slipped away, but I did enjoy them too! Particular favourites have been the E.C.R. Lorac and John Dickson Carr titles they’re published, but I’ve also enjoyed their anthologies!

The Year of Rereading

As a rule, I don’t reread enough and it’s my own fault; I’m so easily distracted by all the shiny new releases, newly translated works, reissued classics and the like that I barely get to the older books on my TBR, let alone re-reads. But over the last year or so, I took part in three wonderful reading events which saw me revisiting much-loved books – and the experience was wonderful!

The Narniathon kicked it off, and I adored going back to C.S. Lewis’s wonderful series; I saw so much in it as an adult, and found his writing and storytelling to be superb.

Then there was Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” which I’d meant to revisit for some time. Our 1954 Club set me off reading the first book and then of course I had no excuse to not follow quickly with the second and third. Both these sequences were pivotal reading experiences in my young life, and it was a powerful and emotional experience to get reacquainted with them.

Another vitally importance series to me was Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” books, which I first met in my late teens. I had reread the first book in the sequence, “Titus Groan“, in 2017 and adored it all over again; so, prompted by my success with LOTR (and also the Backlisted podcast episode on the books) I went back to the second one “Gormenghast“. Once again, this was a stunning reading experience which kept me entranced from start to finish!

And the end of this year saw me taking part in Annabel’s readalong of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” sequence – an outstanding series and one I’d intended to get back to for many years. I finally did and adored it – brilliant books!

I’ve also had marvellous rereads of Cocteau’s “Les Enfants Terribles” and Colette’s “Sido“; loved them both and am now even more convinced that I had good taste in books at a young age!! πŸ˜€

Club Reading Weeks

In 2022 I was happy to co-host two more of our Club Reading Weeks with Simon at Stuck in a Book! This year, we focused on 1954 and 1929 and both years had a wealth of wonderful books. Both were responsible for much rereading on my part, as well! It’s always such fun to see what books people bring to the club and share, and thanks go out to all who take part.

The next club runs from 10-16 April 2023 and the year is 1940! It looks to be another bumper one, with so many marvellous titles to choose from – we hope to see you there!

Shiny New Books

I’ve continued to provide reviews for Shiny New Books during 2022, and have shared some marvellous titles. The site is a wonderful place to discover excellent books and no doubt there will be more to come on SNB next year, so watch this space!!

Translated Literature

Literature from other countries and languages has continued to provide some of my favourite reads. Although I always take part in #WITMonth, I try to read translated books all year round; and in fact one of the strongest books I’ve read in 2022 was a random discovery in a charity shop, translated from Italian – “Pereira Maintains“. Translators are some of my favourite people as without them I wouldn’t have such a rich range of literature from which to choose!

Independent Presses and #ReadIndies

Independent publishers are some of my favourites in the world, and I’ve been so happy to continue to support them this year. A highlight was co-hosting the second #ReadIndies month with Lizzy and it was such fun, with so many amazing books to read!

My favourite indies are actually too numerous to mention, but I’ll give shout-outs to a few, including Renard Press (who I’ve been happy to support with a monthly subscription since their early days); Nightjar, who produce wonderfully spooky little chapbooks and are definitely worth your attention; Fitzcarraldo Editions, a small press with mighty heft who always bring out fascinating and genre-defying works; Notting Hill Editions, who champion the art of the essay in beautiful editions; Glagoslav, whose dedication to translations is exemplary; Michael Walmer, whose handsome editions of works from the Shetlands are fascinating… Well that’s just a few of them. I love indie presses and will continue to support them where I can!!

A few favourites…

This is the hard bit – picking favourites when there have been so many stellar reads this year! Of course I’ve highlighted my rereads above, but of new books I should pick out “Wolf Solent” by John Cowper Powys. A long, absorbing and very original read which I undertook for the 1929 club, it was quite mesmerising.

Another outstanding read was Celia Paul’s “Letters to Gwen John” which was an unforgettable exploration of two women’s lives and art. “Last Times” by one of my favourite authors, the amazing Victor Serge, accompanied me on my summer travels and was the perfect companion.

I reconnected with the writing of Robert Macfarlane via his “Landmarks” which was a beautiful read. And the bumper collection of “Letters of Basil Bunting“, curated so brilliantly by Alex Niven, was an immersive and fascinating read.

A final mention should go to Gertrude Trevelyan and her “Two Thousand Million Man-Power“, reprinted by Boiler House Press this yes – a brilliant and innovative novel, and why it’s been out of print is anyone’s guess.

I could go on – I’ve had very few duds this year – but these are just a few of the highlights. You see now why I can never pick a simple list…

*****

So those are my thoughts on my year of reading in 2022; and I’ve been lucky to encounter some marvellous books. I hope you’ve had a good reading year too – what have been your highlights, and have you read any of *my* favourites?? πŸ˜ŠπŸ“š

 

“a poetic echo awakened in me…” #sido #colette #1929Club

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Our club reading weeks often given me the excuse to revisit favourite authors; more often than not it’s Agatha Christie, who was so prolific during the 20th century; but today I’m returning to one of my most beloved authors – the wonderful French writer Colette.

As I’ve no doubt mentioned here before, I first read her in my early 20s, during a voyage of literary discovery when I came across and devoured so many of the authors who changed my way of looking at, and thinking about, the world. Colette’s reputation has probably risen and fallen over the years, at least in countries outside her native France, but she’s possibly become better known nowadays following the recent film of her life. I have a shelves full of her works, as you can see, and I was very happy to find that her “Sido” was first published in 1929… πŸ˜€

My Colette collection…

Many of Colette’s works were what would now be called autofiction, but “Sido” is actually a work of memoir, containing as it does three pieces looking back on her family – the titular work, “The Captain” and “The Savages” (my edition also contains “My Mother’s House”, first published in 1922) “Sido” is translated here by Enid McLeod, and although short is a quite beautiful and lyrical reminiscence of her past.

Colette starts by setting her mother firmly in her landscape; the house and the garden are central to Sido’s existence, her country life one that she loves, and her relationship with Paris wary. She surveys her territory, the elements that surround her and is the fixed, central point in Colette’s life. Sido battles with the elements, tends her loved ones, garden and animals, and is capable of praise or criticism, whenever it’s needed. Her daughter regards her with awe and, it’s very clear, misses her when she finally marries and leaves for the City of Light.

She knew that I should not be able to resist, any more than she could, the desire to know, and that like herself I should ferret in the earth of that flowerpot until it had given up it secret. I never thought of our resemblance, but she knew I was her own daughter and that, child though I was, I was already seeking for that sense of shock, the quickened heart-beat, and the sudden stoppage of the breath – symptoms of the private ecstasy of the treasure-seeker. A treasure is not merely something hidden under the earth, or the rocks, or the sea. The vision of gold and gems is but a blurred image. To me the important thing is to lay bear and bring to light something that no human eye before mine has gazed upon.

“The Captain” is a pen-portrait of Colette’s father, Sido’s second husband and a man who obviously adores his wife. A war-hero, he lost his leg fighting in the Second Italian War of Independence and worked as a tax collector in village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, where the family lived and Colette was born. As seen through the young girl’s eyes, he’s defined by his passion for Sido, and although the latter rules the roost around the home, The Captain is always treated with respect.

As for the savages, Colette’s brother and half-brother, her portrayal of them is tender and moving, particularly as one was no longer with them when she wrote this piece. She looks back on their childhood, their games and fights and differences and closeness. And poignantly she relates a recent meeting with the one grown brother and how he had not necessarily taken the path expected, although both siblings were still close. It’s as powerful a piece as the other two and evidence, if it were needed, of what a superb writer Colette was.

The three pieces collected here as Sido are such beautiful, evocative pieces of writing that I found myself transported back nearly 100 years while I read them, to rural France with its village life and closeness to nature. Colette herself always had a strong attachment to the animal and vegetable world (something I recognised in the first book of hers which I read, “Break of Day”); and that stayed with her even during her long life living in cities.

I’ve seen it reported that Colette idealised her past, tweaking her memories to present things as she wanted to remember them; well, that’s perhaps something we all do to an extent. Whether she did or not, “Sido” is a gorgeous, lyrical work which conjures up her past, her family and a lost way of life – totally unforgettable and a perfect re-read for the #1929Club!

On My Book Table…7 – modest ambitions!

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After the excitement of all the reading and sharing from the #1920Club I was as usual a bit uncertain as to what I wanted to read next. I went for some Golden Age crime of various sorts, but then I decided it was time to have a bit of a reshuffle of the book table to see if I could focus on books I fancied tackling in the immediate future. Plus, a few new titles have made it through the blockades so I thought I would share those too! So here we go…

First up, let’s take a look at the contents of the Book Basket. Some of these are the same as when I lastΒ  shared this on social media – the Nairn and the two Huysmans are still WIPs. However, another sneaky little Notting Hill Editions hardback has crept in, in the form of Roland Barthes’ “Mourning Diary” – yes, another addition to my growing Barthes pile! That’s a recent arrival, as is the Dickinson volume. I’ve had a skinny Faber selected volume of her poems since my teens but I’ve been hankering after a complete edition for some time now. When I saw this one available for a reasonable price I snapped it up – ideal for dipping!

Chunksters! Let’s have some big books! All of these have been hanging around waiting for me to notice them for some time now; the Mollie Panter-Downes “London War Notes” volume is a beautiful Persephone I picked up some time back when they had a special offer. It seems like it would be apt reading for these times. The Chateaubriand is a lovely review copy from NYRB (I need to catch up….) and what I’ve read so far has been fascinating. And Carlyle’s “French Revolution” jumped back into my line of sight recently when I read the marvellous Persephone Jane Carlyle book. All would be wonderful to sink into for hours…

Then we have a few random titles which happen to appeal, mostly unearthed after a recent reshuffle. The Colette is one I’ve intended to reread for ages, but somehow never get to despite it being the perfect recent read for 1920… The Bachelard is a more recent acquisition and one which my radar picked up again recently (you might understand why next week). And “I Burn Paris” had been started a couple of times; it’s a beautiful hardback Twisted Spoon edition and although the subject matter is perhaps going to be a little triggery in these pandemic times, I do want to get to it sooner rather than later.

Last but not least, some recent arrivals. Needless to say, because of Outside Circumstances, the books making their way into the Ramblings have reduced in number – no browsing in charity shops nowadays, alas. But I *am* acquiring the odd one or two! The NYRBs are review copies – thank you! – and I’m very excited about these, particularly the Malaparte. “The Yellow Sofa” was one I read about on Tony’s Book Blog and I loved the sound of it (and it’s slim…). “Paris Then and Now” is pretty pictures of the place – ’nuff said. And the Mansfield is a most lovely first edition of her “Novels and Novelists” collection of reviews which I snagged at a Very Reasonable Price online. Last, but definitely not least, “People, Places, Things” is a collection of Elizabeth Bowen’s essays. This is a scholarly publication – but why her non-fiction isn’t more widely available is a mystery to me as I love her writing.

So there you have it. Plenty of reading available for this strange lockdown world in which we find ourselves. As I write this, I’m just coming to the end of another wonderful and comforting Golden Age crime read from the British Library Crime Classics series; so where I go next is anyone’s guess… ;D

#1920Club – the ones that got away! ;D

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Phew! Well, that was an interesting and varied week of reading. Thanks *so* much to everyone who joined in – it’s been a particularly wonderful Club and I think 1920 was a great year to choose. So many unexpected books turn out to have been published in the year and it’s been fascinating reading everyone’s posts and comments!

I’m very happy with the books I read for 1920, but inevitably I ran out of time and didn’t read all I wanted to. So here is a pile of the books I have on hand and *could* have read, but which got away…

pile of books flowers james joyce colette cheri 1920 club reading

As you can see, there are some chunky books as well as slim ones, and lovely choices. I regret not getting back to either Mansfield or Colette, as I’ve been keen to revisit both. Hesse is an old favourite too, and “Wandering” was appealing right now, though may well have triggered claustrophobia…

“Ulysses” is more of a long-term goal, so I didn’t really intend to tackle that one this week, tbh. Likewise, the Lawrence might be a good place for me to try to start with his work, but it didn’t feel this was the right moment. The Fitzgerald and Carswell are books I haven’t read (though I’ve read other books by both of them and loved them). Again, not enough time…

So those are the possible reads which got away. Maybe I’ll catch up with at least one of them later on this year. However, as I said, I’m very happy with what I read as I chose some favourite authors and also managed to get back into reading Proust! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading along with Simon and myself, and do share links to any posts I’ve missed on the 1920 Club page here – I’ll try to gather up any links I’ve missed over the next few days.

As for which year we choose for our next Club in six months’ time? Watch this space…. ;D

#1920club – looking at some previous reads

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As is traditional during our Club reading weeks, I plan to take a look back at some previous reads from 1920. However, unlike before, I’m struggling to find any books from that year which I’ve actually covered on the Ramblings! (Mind you, the blog is not that well indexed…) Looking through lists from that year, I’ve identified several past reads, and here they are:

books and flowers colette hungry hears katherine mansfield bliss #1920club

Colette’s “Cheri” (seen here in two different editions, both of which include “The Last of Cheri”) is a book I read back in the day and have been determined to revisit at a number of points but always failed – I don’t know why, but because of the size of the book in which I’m currently involved, I think the same thing may happen again this time.

Katherine Mansfield’s “Bliss” is again a collection I read in my twenties; Mansfield is a marvellous author, and I loved the dramatised version of her life which I was lucky enough to receive as a gift. Another writer I should go back and re-read…

There are two volumes by Hermann Hesse in the pile – “Klingsor’s Last Summer” and “Wandering”. I read tons of Hesse in my twenties, and *presume* I read these as they’re in my collection. But alas, I can’t actually be sure! The covers are – well, very dated…

And finally in the picture is “Hungry Hearts” by Anzia Yezierska. I *know* I’ve read this collection of short stories, tales of a Polish-Jewish immigrant in turn of the 20th century New York, and I remember being very affected by them. I have a Penguin Modern Classic edition, though the book was also a Virago. I was pleased to find I still had this one in the stacks!

Not pictured, alas, is a wonderful book I’ve read and loved but don’t seem to have a copy of any more (which is a shame). I refer of course to “Queen Lucia” by E.F. Benson, the first in his magnificent Mapp and Lucia sequence. I owned and read all six books back in my twenties, and was obsessed with the wonderful Channel 4 adaptation. Alas, they’ve gone AWOL somewhere down the years – but I can recommend them to anyone, and I believe they can be got in omnibus editions at a rather reasonable price.

So – that’s some of my previous reads for 1920. Do share what you’ve read in the past or are reading now – there are some varied and wonderful books from the year and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone is discovering and enjoying! πŸ˜€

On My Book Table…6 – a bit of a shuffle!

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The world is a little bit scarier than usual at the moment, as we’re all quite aware, and so I’m trying personally to balance keeping my awareness of what’s happening at a sensible level and trying to keep myself on an even keel. Books have always been my go-to in times of stress and frankly are being a little bit of a lifeline right now. Anyway, after all the recent excitement of the #fitzcarraldofortnight, plus a number of new arrivals, I thought it was time to take stock and reorganise a little. Reading from one publisher is a lovely experience, but as I have so many other books lurking I wanted to try to clarify what I planned to pick up next. Of course, I never stick to reading plans, but it’s always fun to spend time shuffling books, as well as being very therapeutic… πŸ˜€

After spending some time digging among the stacks and moving books about, I ended up with a few piles I currently want to focus on and here’s the first:

This rather chunky pile has some of the weightier books (intellectually and literally!) that are calling right now. Some of these were in my last book table post, but some have snuck in when I wasn’t looking. There’s a lot of French writing there and both the Existentialist Cafe and Left Bank books sound excellent. Barthes is of course still hanging about in the wings even though I haven’t added him to the pile. I could go for a Barthes fortnight (or longer…) quite easily, but that might a bit brain-straining. Some of the volumes *are* reasonably slim so I might be able to slip them into my reading between bigger books – we shall see! πŸ˜€

Next up, some of the review books I have pending:

These are only *some* of the review books lurking, but if I put them all in a pile it looks scary and I panic, so I thought a modest selection would do. There are some beauties from the British Library Crime Classics and Science Fiction Classics range, as well as Camus and a classic Russian play and Frankenstein! They all sound so marvellous….

And this is the pile of recent finds or other titles I really want to read at the moment:

More French writing. The top two are books about French authors – I’ve read the start of each and they’re marvellous. The Queneau is short but essential (and another play! I’m reading more drama!!), the Hitchens and the Christiansen arrived recently, as did the beautiful Persephone (which I think I might well pick up soon). And the Makioka Sisters is there because there’s a readalong going on. I doubt I’ll get to it – I’ve failed every one so far this year, getting nowhere near either Proust or Musil. But it’s there just in case.

However, there *is* another pile of interest lurking. Coming up in April, Simon and I will be hosting the #1920club, the next in our themed weeks of reading from a particular year. I’ve been thinking ahead about which books I’d like to spend time with, and there really are some wonderful titles from 1920. I always try to read from the stacks and a quick dig revealed I had these books on the shelves:

All of them are beautiful titles, and most of them would be re-reads – which is not really what I want to do with the reading clubs. I have another new title lurking digitally which I am definitely going to overcome my aversion to e-reading and get to; but with the re-reads I shall have to be picky so that I can perhaps focus on unread books. Though it *would* be nice just to spend the week re-reading Agatha, Virginia and Colette…

And of course, just after I had finished writing this post, a lovely collection of review books popped through the door looking like this:

There are some wonderfully exciting titles there, including a new Crime Classic from the British Library; two editions from their new imprint focusing on Women Writers (which is being curated by Simon – well done, that man!); and a fascinating book on Artemisia Gentileschi with an introduction by Susan Sontag – how timely!

So there we go. The state of the books at the moment. I have just finished reading Lennie Goodings’ wonderful book about her life in the book trade and with Virago which I will eventually get to reviewing (I’m very behind…) – I highly recommend it. And I confess to being unsure as to what I’ll pick up next, although it may have to be escapism in the form of Golden Age crime. As usual, watch this space! πŸ˜€

On My Book Table… 2 – The Chunksters…

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I’m pleased to report that the Reading Chair and the Book Table have proved to be a great success chez Ramblings (well done, Mr. Kaggsy!) I have spent many a happy hour sitting comfortably with a book and a beverage; though alas, I don’t think I’ve tackled a single volume featured in my previous post about the table… That’s fairly typical of me, and I do have the excuse of the forthcoming 1930 Club which has necessitated some focus on the year in question. However, I thought I would share some images of what’s weighing down the table at the moment as possible reads – and they *are* quite chunky books!!

That’s a fairly imposing and daunting pile of books, isn’t it? Shall we take a look in more detail??

These two titles are on the book table for a good reason, i.e. the forthcoming #1930Club. I’ve mention John Dos Passos before, but not the Bunting (although of course I *have* wittered on about Basil on the Ramblings). All will become clear next week, hopefully…. πŸ˜‰

Now – these three have been sitting around on the TBR for a while. “Imaginary Cities” (from Influx Press!!) was a Christmas gift from my brother some years back; “Night Walking” came into the house when Verso were having one of their oh-so-tempting sales; and the John Muir was a purchase on a whim because I wanted it (so there!) Having just watched a repeat of a documentary on Muir (which I somehow missed first time round) I’m keen to pick it up soon. We shall see…

These two lovelies are a little slimmer, but still very appealing. The Binet was on my book table last time, and has been on the TBR for as long as the Muir, as they arrived at the same time. The Colette is a beautiful edition of an anthology of extracts from her work, called “Earthly Paradise”. Apparently it’s now out of print and not at all cheap to get hold of – who knew? Makes me even more certain I must be careful about which books I prune when I pass some on to charity shops.

A mixed bag here. Two are newly arrived at the Ramblings – “Seashaken Houses” is all about lighthouses (I love lighthouses) and I resisted it for ages in Waterstones and then gave in. The Cunard book sounded fascinating (I can’t remember where I heard about it) and as the local library didn’t have it, I was left with no choice… I’ve had the Shklovsky for ages and keep meaning to start it and don’t – story of my life, really…

More new arrivals, this time from the very lovely Notting Hill Editions. I reviewed John Berger’s book “What Time Is It” recently; it’s the final book of three published by NHE which he did with Selcuk Demirel. I was knocked out by “Time…” and so was delighted to receive the two earlier books “Cataract” and “Smoke” – such treats in store… The third book in the picture is a selection of Montaigne’s essays; I’d often thought of reading him and then Marina Sofia’s post pushed me over the edge. Thanks so much, NHE! :DD

Another three chunksters lurk on the table, again books that I’ve had around for a while. “Liberty” is about French Revolutionary women; “Romantic Outlaws” is about Mary Wollstonecroft and Mary Shelley; and “The Wives” is about spouses of Russian authors. I long to sink myself into all three at once, which is really not practical…

And finally, a couple of slim volumes which weren’t on the pile in the first image, but have managed to sneak into the house despite Mr. Kaggsy’s best efforts (ha! not really – I think he’s given up worrying about the books, realisiing he was fighting a losing battle…) “Nagasaki” is thanks to a post on the BookerTalk blog – I loved the sound of it and couldn’t resist. “Doe Lea” is VERY VERY exciting! It’s a limited edition chapbook short story by M. John Harrison (who is a big favourite here on the Ramblings as you might have noticed..); and it’s a signed copy, one of only 200. Goodness, I went into overdrive when I found out it was available. Most pleased that it arrived safely and can’t wait to read it, yet don’t want to because I want to savour it!

Well, there you are. The Book Table is groaning a little under the weight of all these mighty tomes, and of course “The Anatomy of Melancholy” seems to be in permanent residence there helping to add to the tonnage. With my fickle mind I may not actually end up reading *any* of these next; but it’s lovely to get my books out, have them on the table, flick through them and just *enjoy* having them around! The pleasures of being a bookaholic… ;D

“To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly” – sharing my love of #Colette and her books!

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There’s inevitably a bit of a buzz around the wonderful French author Colette at the moment, thanks to the recent film of her life (I’m still a bit conflicted about whether I want to see it or not). However, a lovely series of posts by Madame Bibi Lophile, who had a joyous week of reading Colette, led to me threatening to share images of my Colette collection here – yes, more gratuitous pictures of books!! I have actually done a little post on some of my Colette books before, but I thought I’d do an updated one anyway as Madame B seemed more than keen that I should do so. Ever happy to oblige, so here we go with more images from my Colette collection – be warned that this *will* be a fairly long post as I have a lot….

First up, I was going to share them in situ, but they’re sort of double shelved, and my pretty Penguins are for some reason at the back – so these are they before I took them down to photo!

And here is the whole shebang – my Colette collection, spread out on the spare bed and requiring two rows to show them all…

Gulp… Where to begin? Probably with the core of my collection, the fiction.

A good part of these consists of the pretty Penguins I first collected and read back in the early 1980s. This is when I first discovered Colette’s work, after reading about her in the “Literary Women” book. I created my own personal canon of women writers I wanted to explore, and Colette was one who absolutely consumed me. I think the Penguins came out in the 1970s and they have such lovely cover designs that I collected all I could find – as you can see, they’re most striking:

Of course, not all of her books were available in this imprint, and I’ve collected a number of other editions over the years:

The Collected Stories is falling to bits, but I read it a decade or so ago and it was a revelatory experience, really – I hadn’t revisited Colette for some years at the time and the collection was shockingly good and reminder of just what an incredible writer she was. And yes – there are another two sets of the Claudine books there. I don’t *need* them but I can’t bear to get rid of them. Some books you need to have three sets of. And there’s my Virago Colette plus some newer Penguin versions. Despite the fact I love my older books, some of them have got a bit fragile, and also the type is quite small, so having a newer, bigger Penguin to re-read is a useful thing! πŸ˜€

Shall we move on to the first Colette book I ever read? Yes, let’s – it was “Break of Day”:

This is mature Colette, contemplating a late affair and communing with nature and just being herself, and I loved it to bits. So much so that I set about reading her chronologically – well, everything I could get hold of at the time – and it was of those transformative reading experiences. I’ve revisited this one more than any other Colette book and I still love it.

Next up biographical stuff and the like:

You can’t quite see it, but there is a little Margaret Crosland paperback biography hiding away on the right. I have read most of these over the years, most recently the Judith Thurman, which I loved. Colette’s life and art were intimately bound up, and books about her are marvellous.I also have a couple of biographical oddities:

“Close to Colette” is by her third husband, Maurice Goudeket, and I haven’t read it yet – I dare say I shall cry a lot when I do… And the Time and Tide was tracked down because it has a piece about her by her stepson Bertrand de Jouvenel, with whom she had an affair when she was 52 and he was 16…. Ahem.

Then there are the rarities:

As I’ve bemoaned in the past, there is no real list of everything Colette published, and no complete edition translated into English. So I’ve had to hunt around for missing things, and these are some of them – her collections of her animal writings, for example, and a hardback of “Mitsou” plus a collection of writings in French.

Phew! If you take a look at these as well as my earlier post, you’ll see there is a *lot* of Colette at the Ramblings, for which I make no apology. I was prompted, however, after taking these down, to reshuffle the shelves a bit so the pretty ones were at the front, next to my George Perecs – and here’s what the shelf looks like now:

I like being able to see the lovely pastel Penguin spines! As for what really prompted this post, Madame B was bemoaning the lurid cover of her edition of “Cheri” (and I can understand why!). I picked up a modern Penguin not that long ago because I want to re-read it, and it has a much nicer (and more discreet) cover image:

Not one to feel embarrassed about reading on the train… πŸ˜€

And one final image – I had to share this little tray which I picked up in a charity store once, and upon which my small coffee maker normally sits:

Because of the Parisian lady and her dog, it inevitably gets referred to as my Colette tray. You see how my mind is always running on books…. (*sigh*)

#1944club – a heroine takes control of her own destiny

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Gigi by Colette
Translated by Roger Senhouse

Well, what a week it’s been so far! We’re getting to the end and today I wanted to post about one of my favourite authors, a writer I was so pleased I could re-read for the #1944Club! I’ve written fairly extensively on the Ramblings about Colette (and she’s probably trending, as they say, at the moment owing to there being a biopic in the offing); so the fact that one of her most famous works was published in 1944 was a real bonus.

Pretty but fragile Penguin edition….

“Gigi” is one of the titles that springs to the lips of those in the know when Colette’s name is mentioned; possibly because of the film starring Leslie Caron; and yet when I picked it up for a re-read I was astonished at how short it actually is. At around 50 pages in my pretty old Penguin, it would struggle to be classed as a novella, and I would almost expect to find it in my volume of her collected short stories. In fact, my Penguin has “Gigi” paired with “The Cat”, a longer work; yet reputation of the title story is large, and for a very good reason.

Gilberte, known affectionately as Gigi, is 15 going on grown-up; on the cusp of womanhood, still naive and closely protected by her mother, her Grandmother and her aunt Alicia, she is being discreetly lined up for life as a courtesan. The family is slightly on the outside of things; although they have higher class associates, they struggle financially, with Gigi’s mother singing at night to earn money. A legacy of one of Grandmother’s past liaisons is a current friendship with Gaston Lachaille, a rich man who nevertheless seems to enjoy calling on the little family of women where he can relax. Gigi calls him Uncle Tonton, and is happy to be spoiled with little treats. However, Tonton has broken up with his society girlfriend, at a point where Gigi is reaching an age to be of interest as more than a family friend. The older women seem to be considering some kind of modern version of Grandmother’s friendship with the Lachaille family; however, Gigi has ideas of her own…

As always, Colette’s writing is a pure delight. Despite its short length, “Gigi” brims with atmosphere, characters, settings and stories. Gigi herself is headstrong and engaging; Tonton a convincing besotted man . Leaving aside any morals here (when did we ever look to a Colette book for morals???), the story is beautifully told and it’s a joy seeing Gigi get her own way despite the attempts of the older women to control her.

So I might have shelled out on an expensive ‘paper lovers’ magazine just because it had some postcards of women reading, including Colette and Hepburn….

OK, OK, the morals. Tonton is 33, Gigi is 15; that age gap and her youth are problematic, although it has to be borne in mind that the story is set some considerable time in the past (which is no excuse really). However, I can’t help being reminded of how Colette married a man older than her, the libertine Willy (she was a naive looking 20, he was 34); and I wondered how much this coloured her narrative. Nevertheless, “Gigi” is beautifully written, evocative of time and place, and a fascinating look at the lives of certain women too easily dismissed. This was a time when being wife or mistress seemed the only options, unless you had money, and Gigi is intelligent enough to know which was the better choice.

“Gigi” was made into a successful stage show, and then a film; the former launched the career of Audrey Hepburn, when Colette reputedly pointed her out as the perfect actress to play her heroine. The film became a classic (though staring Caron not Hepburn) and Colette continued writing until her death. I wouldn’t say “Gigi” is necessarily the best place to start with her work; but nothing she writes is ever dull, and I’m happy to have become reacquainted with “Gigi” again for the 1944 Club!

Plans? What plans?? #WITmonth

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It’s no great secret that reading plans and I don’t get on that well together. More often than not if I make a schedule, join a challenge or even just try to think a few books ahead to what I’ll be reading next it all tends to go straight out of the window while I follow some random reading whim. However! August is Women in Translation month and I *do* always try to join in with that one – particularly as I read a lot of translated work and a lot of women’s writing!

So here is a little pile of possibles off the TBR which may attract my attention during this month. You’ll see one book which ticks the box for another August event – All Virago, All August, a little challenge by the members of the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group. This takes in Viragos, other books by Virago authors and Persephones too, and although I don’t commit to reading only those for the month I do try to enjoy at least one title. And the Triolet counts for WIT too so that would be ideal. Although a re-read of the Colette is very tempting. And I love Tsvetaeva at the moment so her diaries would be fab. And the others sound great too…

However, this is the book I’m currently reading and loving, and so as it will be the first book I finish and review in August, it will also definitely be my first WIT book!

Unfortunately, there are other volumes vying for my attention… As I was having a rummage for WIT titles I came across a few others which caught my eye:

The Spark, of course, would tie in with HeavenAli’s Reading Muriel celebration. The Baudelaire is Baudelaire and therefore needs no explanation. And the Malcolm Bradbury was mentioned on the From First Page to Last blog and I recalled I had a copy which I have now found! It’s set in a university and since I find universities and academics endlessly fascinating (probably because I never went to one…) it sounds like I really might enjoy it.

And then there are the review books lurking:

And don’t they look pretty and appealing, and I wish I could read them all in one go… Fortunately, I shall be doing some train travelling this month which may mean that I can get through a few of these titles while on the road (or the rails…). Come to think of it, Catherine the Great’s letters would count for WIT month as well, wouldn’t they??? πŸ˜€

So lots of choices again, alas. Are you planning any Women in Translation books this month, or any Viragos? Are you a planner or do you just follow your reading whims? Do tell! πŸ™‚

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