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Shuffling the immediate TBR

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Actually, calling it a TBR is a bit of a misnomer – I have no *physical* TBR in that all of my books are muddled together, read or unread. This is not always helpful when trying to decide what to read, or indeed find a specific book… A case in point being “Point Counter Point” by Aldous Huxley which I knew I had and couldn’t find till yesterday when I realised I had moved my Japanese books to the front of a double stacked shelf and some unread books (including the Huxley) to the back of the same shelf, out of sight….

This set me looking at the shelves downstairs where I keep kind of current books and I had a bit of a revamp. I’m *supposedly* in the middle of two self-imposed reading challenges (Proust and The Forsyte Saga) but I’ve come to a grinding halt, so I brought them downstairs. I took a lot of books away to stash in a spare room and now the current shelves look like this:

revised tbr

Note the Galsworthys and the Prousts displayed prominently! Next to the Galsworthys on the top right hand side is a little pile of poetry books. I need to read more poetry but I’m failing, basically. I’m considering setting myself another little challenge with verse (will I never learn?) If I go ahead, an explanatory post will follow…. Meanwhile, I shall try to decide which one of these books I’ll read next!

Alas, no donations to the charity shop this weekend (life got in the way of more weeding out) – but I did find two little treasures in the Samaritans Book Cave:

zweig x 2

Two lovely Pushkin Press collections of Stefan Zweig short stories – *who* would want to give these away?? Nevertheless, they did and so they came home with me. I’ve read one story from each so far, and they’re utterly brilliant.  Zweig’s a deceptive author – what seems simple ends up packing such a punch. I’m going to ration them so as to appreciate them better by reading one when the mood takes me. But in the meantime – off to rummage in the TBR! 🙂

Reading The Forsyte Saga – Indian Summer of a Forstye

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My one reading challenge for 2015 is to read the whole of the Forstye Saga – in three fat Penguin Modern Classics volumes! I have got slightly behind the other bloggers who are reading along too, but I have made it into the second, slightly short, part in the form of an interlude – “Indian Summer of a Forsyte”.

indian summer

Originally published on its own in 1918, “Indian Summer” is now usually attached to the end of the first story, “A Man of Property”. It takes a look at the life of Old Jolyon Forsyte sometime after the cataclysmic events at the end of the first book. Old Jolyon is now living in the country at Robin Hill, the house built for Soames by Philip Gosinney, his wife’s lover. Jolyon is joined by his son, young Jolyon and his family, and the menage live happily in the beautiful surroundings.

Old Jolyon has abandoned all of his city life, and happily dotes on his grandchildren, revelling in the beauties of nature and walking through the landscape accompanied by his faithful dog, Balthasar. Into this idyll comes Irene Forstye – still brooding over the loss of Gosinney, she cannot stop herself visiting Robin Hill and remembering. Her beauty entrances Old Jolyon and his Indian Summer begins. While the family is away, he spends time in London wining and dining Irene in London, and hosting dinners for her at the house. It’s a totally innocent flirtation but gives Jolyon a second lease of life, allowing him to enjoy her company and socialise once more. As the real summer develops, hot and hazy, Jolyon’s Indian Summer continues, although there are warning signs that he is putting to much strain upon his frail old body… As the date for the return of the family approaches, he becomes apprehensive about how they will view his friendship and decides to at least take some action to help Irene in future.

Once again, I was instantly drawn into the world of the Forstyes via Galsworthy’s wonderful prose. Although short, this novella has so much packed into it: the rift between Soames and Irene; Gosinney’s death and legacy; Old Jolyon’s touching relationship with his grandchildren; and Irene’s efforts to help ‘fallen women’. The atmosphere of a hot English summer in the countryside is brilliantly conjured up by Galsworthy’s vivid writing, so much so that I almost felt I was there too.

I also felt that Irene was allowed to develop a little more as a character in this story: we see her as a person in her own right, struggling to cope in a society that views her as a kind of fallen woman herself, and I’m glad Galsworthy is allowing her to become more of a real woman. Her friendship with Jolyon is handled deftly and delicately, allowed to develop over the summer, and it’s lovely to see her bring a little light and happiness into his life.

Needless to say, there is sadness to come, and the end does rather bring a tear to the eye. But I loved this little Forsyte novella, and I’m greatly looking forward to the next book in the series!

Several other bloggers are reading along with the Forstye saga including Ali, Liz and Bridget – check out their blogs for more posts!

The offending articles…

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Ok, final thoughts on the tatty books – I promise not to moan any more after this! And here they are in all their glory:

They don’t look quite so bad from a distance, do they? I have made the decision to keep the third volume of the Forstyes as it *was* cheap and the main issue was the lying and the inaccuracy:

The description!

The description!

That’s how they described it (you can see the dirt on the cover even in my bad photo). And this is the page block:

But it will do to read – and HeavenAli has come up with the great idea of the Forsyte Sage for a 2015 read so we will be doing this, and she’s going to put together a post – hopefully more will join in!

Meanwhile, my book nerves have been soothed by the arrival of a brand new pristine volume from Persephone – their new Classic version of “The Home-Maker” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher:

Doesn’t it look lovely? And it sounds great too! Apart from that, I have been restrained this weekend, only bringing home a Tatyana Tolstoya from the Samaritans:

Having finished up reading “Look Who’s Back” (an incredible book in more ways than one – I shall review it in November for German Reading Month), I’m now limbering up for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week – “The Feast” awaits me!

Irked Again!

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I know I’m not the only one in the book blogosphere who’s got an issue with the misdescription of second-hand books by online sellers – but I seem to have had a run of real back luck recently…

640px-Gertrude_Stein_1935-01-04

The first problem came with a Gertrude Stein – I’d found a reasonably priced (though not *that* cheap) copy of one of her books I’d been after for a while on a big Online Auction Site and jumped at it. It was an ex-library book so I expected wear, stamps etc and was prepared for that. What I *wasn’t* prepared for was extensive foxing on the block and inner pages plus very dirty pages. That kind of thing *should* be described and it wasn’t. So I was irked and sent it back for a refund.

My Beverley book was not quite this nice....

My Beverley book was not quite this nice….

Next up was a Beverley Nichols – “No Place Like Home”. I blame Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book for this because he found a copy and mentioned it on his site and I hadn’t got a copy so searched online eagerly. I found one that was a little old and fragile, and again the Online Auction Site seller mentioned the fragility of the dustjacket and the oldness of the book. But neither picture nor description revealed even heavier foxing than the Stein – I was not impressed. However, as it was a first edition, I accepted a part refund after a bit of grumbling and decided to live with the foxing.

If only the Nabakovs had arrived in this lovely condition........

If only the Nabokovs had arrived in this lovely condition……..

I thought things might improve with my next attempt at online purchase: as I was having a bit of a Nabokov binge, I decided to pick up a couple of titles I don’t have (well, four actually) and had a bit of a browse on an Awe-inspiring bookselling website. Four titles popped into my basket and I waited eagerly – I’ve bought from this site a lot over the years, and although I’ve had a few stinkers, mostly their books are ok (and very cheap as they include postage). Alas, when they arrived there was again more dirt, foxing and even torn covers – plus one edition was paperback and not hardback as described. I grumbled and got another 50% refund, but confess to getting Pretty Fed Up by now.

I'm particularly keen on this era of Penguins

I’m particularly keen on this era of Penguins

Readers of the Ramblings will know I’ve been muttering about The Forsyte Saga, and at the suggestion of OH I sent off for penny copies of each of the three large volumes from various resellers on a certain Big River retailer. They turned up today – *sigh*. I have found a trend recently on Big River – a particular seller, who sends out tat described as “very good” and has a Worldly name, has now started trading under a variety of other names. So I had inadvertently ordered one of my Forstyes from them (as normally I avoid them like the plague) and the sticker on the back says “Very Good” and the book has – you’ve guessed it! – heavy foxing!!! I haven’t decided what to do yet, as the Big River really don’t care, and the three books are a sort of matching set of a particular era of Penguins.

I don’t expect a second-hand book to be pristine – that’s why it’s second-hand and I’m not paying a lot for it – but I expect it to be clean and accurately described. Frankly, this is enough to put me off the Big River and the Online Auction for a long time – and I can’t even switch safely to Abe as a lot of resellers on the other two places list here as well.

Anyone have any suggestions of safe places to buy online??? :s

In which I become somewhat irked…

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…despite some wonderful book bargains in town!

I suppose I should start with the positive which is the *big* book bargain; I have had my eye on this title for a while because it combines several things that interest me (Russia! Shostakovich! Leningrad! Modern History!) But it’s a big chunky hardback and not cheap so I was considering putting it on my Christmas list until I just happened to stumble into The Works at the weekend…

And there it was! “Leningrad: Siege and Symphony” by Brian Moynahan for £5.99 instead of £25. Well, would you have resisted?? I didn’t….

I didn’t go into many of the charity shops yesterday, and those I did also irked me, for reasons I’ll get to! But “Crack On!” (yes, the shop really *is* called that) had a basket of 10p and 20p books outside, including this rather fragile old classic version of “Le Grand Meulnes”.

This happens to be a book I read a while back, but I think I didn’t really get – having disposed of my Penguin version a while ago, I decided that this 20p bargain would do for a revisit to see if I get more out of it second time round! And the cover, despite the damage, is very pretty.

Other arrivals have a German theme, which ties in well with the fact that November is German Literature Month – I may even be able to participate! The first was from an online swap site:

I’ve read quite a lot about Herta Muller, particularly on Stu’s site, so I’m looking forward to reading her work. And lastly, a library book:

I’ve had this on reserve for months, so it’s arrived at an opportune time! I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with reading it – but I think that might be the point…

As for what irked me – well, “The Forsyte Saga”, to be blunt – or lack of it. I’ve been circling this for a long time, thinking I should read it, and there was a copy of the first volume in the house owing to Elder or Middle Child studying it at university. Alas, in the Summer Purge it went to one of the charity shops and it shouldn’t have because I now really want to read it. I trotted round the charity shops that might have a copy and none of them did (grrrrr.) I even went into Waterstones, thinking I might splurge out on a new book (as I’ve had issues with online sellers recently and have received some real tatty stinkers with bad foxing).

And thereby hangs another irksome tale. My local Waterstones has moved its adult fiction section to upstairs and slimmed it down dramatically. Quite how do they expect to compete with online sellers if they don’t stock a wide range of books and they’re tucked away upstairs?? Yes, they could order it for me, but that doesn’t let me browse through it, compare editions, see which typeface suits me best…. I’m obviously in need of a visit to Foyles!

I had a moan about this to OH, who sensibly pointed out that I could get a penny copy online. I don’t have to be encouraged much, do I? So penny copies of all three Forsyte volumes are on their way to me now…! 🙂 Grump over!

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