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#1947 Club – Some of my previous reviews

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As we draw closer to the end of our week of reading books from 1947, I thought I would share some older reviews of books I’ve read from that year. It certainly was a bumper year for publishing and there are some great titles – so here are a few I’ve read in the past!

One Fine Day by  Mollie Panter-Downes

One fine day

Oddly enough, I picked up my copy of this wonderful novel in the Bloomsbury Oxfam shop during a LibraryThing Virago group get-together – and it was Simon who pointed it out! It’s a wonderfully written book that captures post-War England quite brilliantly and I absolutely loved it, coming to the conclusion that I couldn’t praise it enough. You can read my full review here.

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

706_largeThis rather clever and interesting book was written by a master of word games and member of the OuLiPo group. Basically it tells the same story in a huge number of styles and it’s very entertaining. Read what I thought about it here!

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

blank

A lovely Persephone and a fabulous thriller which I read in a borrowed copy from the library. Set in America in the middle of the war, it tells of an ordinary housewife who falls into the grip of blackmailers and thugs and it’s a fabulous, unputdownable read – highly recommend, and read my review here!

Of Love and Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross

of-love-and-hunger

A great read, this, looking at life on the eve of WW2 from the point of view of a man trying to make a living by selling vacuum cleaners. Shades, perhaps, of Orwell, and a vivid picture of a seedy seaside setting. JMR was a wonderful writer, and this is an essential read from 1947 – my review here!

So there are a few of the books I’ve read in the past from this bumper year in publishing. Don’t forget to leave links to your posts so I can add them to the 1947 Club page, and let’s see how many more books we can get in before the end of the week! 🙂

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So. I popped into the library yesterday to collect a book…

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This one in fact:

carey

I’ve enjoying reading and listening to John Carey’s thoughts for a while and I dealt with the book itch by reserving it from the library. Trouble is, it came in a couple of weeks ago and I forgot about it… Luckily (or unluckily) Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book mentioned it as he’d got a copy for Christmas and this reminded me and so I went to pick it up – which was a mistake, as it turned out, because the library sale section (old and unwanted books) had been revamped and I also came out with these:

library

I think I can hardly be blamed, though! The Orwell is a hardback of some uncollected pieces which will match my boxed hardback complete works thingy. The Persephone (a Persephone!) is the same collection of Dorothy Whipple short stories that captivated my friend J. in the Bloomsbury Oxfam. And the third book is a selection of Julian Maclaren-Ross’s letters (why does my library want to get rid of his books??) All for £3.40….. Not that I need any books after Christmas…

And then there was this in the Oxfam:

leeI read “Cider with Rosie” at school when we studied it in my Grammar School days. I loved it on first reading and hated it after we’d analysed it to death. But I’m intrigued by his Spanish Civil War days and so I figured maybe I should revisit and see what I make of it all those years late…. And £1.99 is not a bad price.

However, I got home to find a lovely review book from Michael Walmer:

charteris

And there is the Willa Cather from Heaven-Ali’s lovely giveaway:

my antonia

Well, I can’t deny that Mount TBR is out of control – it’s the floorboards I fear for most at the moment….. :s

Recent Reads: Of Love and Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross

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Julian Maclaren-Ross is another writer who’s been on the radar for a while – and for the life of me, I can’t remember from where! It could be from my reading of Anthony Powell last year, as the character X. Trapnel is apparently based on him. Or it could be because he’s often mentioned in connection with Patrick Hamilton who’s lurking on Mount TBR. Or maybe it was because my favourite character in “The Fortunes of War”, Yakimov, is also apparently based on him. It could be because his name is often linked with Patrick Hamilton. Whatever – I picked it up and flung myself into it recently and I’m very glad I did!

of-love-and-hunger
“Of Love and Hunger” is set in the late 1930s and tells the story of Richard Fanshawe, trying to scrape a living selling vacuum cleaners in a small seaside town in the vicinity of Brighton. It’s not an easy life – nobody wants to part with money, there are rival firms and the world is in an unstable state of mind, tottering ever closer to war. And this is not a career Fanshawe would have chosen – he’s and educated man, having spent time posted abroad and intending once to be a writer. The group of salesmen is joined by a newcomer, Roper, and his arrival signals a change in Fanshawe’s life. For Roper fails almost straight away and is sacked, going off to sign on for a term of 3 months on ship. Before he leaves, he asks Fanshawe to look after his wife, Sukie – which is so obviously a mistake and is going to set off alarm bells in every reader’s head! Needless to say, Fanshawe and Sukie eventually start an affair – against the backdrop of the rainy seafront, greasy spoon cafes, seedy digs and Woolworth’s’. It’s obvious that, as my offspring would say, “end well this will not”!

For Fanshawe is a troubled man. As the book progresses, we gradually learn more of his past: his life in the east, his past love-life and home life, and how he’s ended up in the situation he’s in. Sukie is also a complex woman, seemingly unsure of what she wants, mercurial, changeable. As D.J. Taylor puts it so well in his excellent introduction, Sukie could pass as Pamela Widmerpool’s “temperamental younger sister” and she’s a hard woman to fathom. In many ways more sophisticated than Fanshawe, she’s also more politically experienced and engaged, and provides much of the novel’s commentary on the situation they find themselves in. As the affair, and the novel, grind ever closer to the end, the signs of war become stronger and seems ironically that the only ‘escape’ for many of the characters from poverty and attempting to scrape a living will be to join the fighting.

“But in a way it was true what Gibbs said. There were a lot of young men in the world like me. You see ’em in the vacuum-cleaner schools, selling secondhand cars, Great Portland Street, silk stockings from door to door. Young man, public school education, can drive car, go anywhere, do anything. Living on hope. Something’ll turn up. Luck’s bound to change. And nothing’d turn up except the war. Perhaps Sukie was right and the system was wrong. Perhaps we did need a revolution. Needed something, anyway.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect of JMR, but this was *such* an excellent read! Maclaren-Ross has a very individual style – sometimes his sentences are short, almost staccato, and this has quite an impressionistic effect, painting a word picture very effectively. He captures quite brilliantly the atmosphere of the seedy seaside town, the boarding houses, the rain and the gloom, the everyday desperation of the characters. The gradual revealing of Fanshawe’s background, in his memory flashbacks throughout the book, cleverly builds up the man’s past till we find out what really made him like he is. Taylor, in his introduction, makes the comparisons that occurred to me – George Orwell and Graham Greene – and certainly there is the same ‘feel’ to OLAH as there is to the writing of those two greats. However, JMR can stand on his own as a strong and distinctive story-teller.

jmr

Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book reviewed OLAH in excellent form here, and there was much discussion about a possible genre of “Men Writing in the 1940s. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is that I want to read more JMR!

Bookish Karma….

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….or, what goes around comes around!

In bookish terms, I guess I mean that the Cull is paying off – Youngest Child and I took about 16 books into the charity shops today (we couldn’t carry any more – it was just too hot) and there are boxes and piles more to go. I am actually finding it something of a relief to be looking candidly at my shelves and saying to a book, “No, I loved you and read you one, but I shan’t ever need to read you again”. Paring down to the essentials is cathartic, that’s for sure. (It’s not only books that are going, btw – general clutter is going too, which is lovely).

However, I haven’t embargoed the obtaining of books; I’m just being strict with myself and only buying volumes (or accepting as review copies) things I really do want to read and hope to read quite soon. Thus it was that three books came home with me today (so the ratio is still good!) and these are they:

Quite wonderful finds, and all charity shop bargains. The Forster (a Hesperus!!) was in the Samaritans Book Cave, where we were donating – in beautiful condition and only £1.50! The Michael Arlen was from the Oxfam at £2.49, and again is in great nick and will go with my lovely Capuchin edition of The Green Hat!

The final book was unexpected: we were in the library picking up text books for Youngest Child to absorb over the summer, and trying to avoid the loud noise of the multi-cultural festival which was going on (though the bagpipes were wonderful, if a little incongruous in a library) – anyway, I had a quick look at the books for sale and there was the Maclaren-Ross collection of Selected Stories for 40p! Library sales are the best….

And Youngest Child was happy as she found a proof copy of one of her favourite authors/novels in the RSPCA for 95p! So obviously we had good Book Karma today because we donated – we’ll just have to keep giving! 🙂

(Forgot to mention the lovely review copy that arrived today from Hesperus – thank you! – now isn’t that an appealing looking set of spines?!)

Life imitating Art

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I *do* love it when life and books synchronise unexpectedly!

I have been trying very hard not to amass new books recently, and have been doing quite well. However, there are times when you just can’t resist and I was particularly pleased to stumble across this in the local Oxfam bookshop:

As I’ve been reading about MacLaren-Ross’s fictional version in Anthony Powell’s “Books do Furnish a Room“, this was an ideal find!

And on further shopping news, I was absolutely unable to resist this lovely jute bag from M&S – for obvious reasons!!

No more shopping allowed till Christmas…..

(ETA:)

Just to add to the strangeness, I rummaged on the shelves for a book to read this morning, having staggered to the end of “The Old Ways” in a state of disgruntlement (more about that to follow), and pulled out Joseph’s Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” which I picked up a little while back:

Secret Agent cover image

Turns out it’s his birthday today – so many happy returns Joseph Conrad!!

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