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Reading Renard – Cats and Kew! @RenardPress #Saki #VirginiaWoolf

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The observant reader of the Ramblings will have noticed my love of the books issued by the indie publisher Renard Press; I’m happy to have a subscription with them which means I get a book a month, and their beautifully designed releases are a joy. I’ve written about them extensively before, as well as interviewing the man behind the press, Will Dady, for Shiny New Books. I’ve covered works they’ve published by authors such as Orwell, Washington Irving, Tolstoy, Sarah Bernhardt and Bram Stoker plus many more – I do encourage you to check out their website as there are some marvellous books to choose from.

Anyway, the most recent arrivals from Renard made an interesting pairing, and I thought I would feature them together in a post. Here they are, and don’t they look pretty??

First up is Saki’s Cats. I’ve written about Saki before; his real name was Hector Hugh Munro and he wrote prolifically before being tragically killed in WW1; despite being too old to be called up, he volunteered to fight. His personal life is shrouded in a certain amount of mystery, but he left an impressive (and usually very funny!) body of work behind and is still very highly regarded. This little collection contains exactly what it says on the cover, bringing together Saki’s wonderful writing about cats and they really are a treat.

‘Tobermory’ is probably the best known story, which skewers quite wonderfully the hypocrisies of Edwardian society. When the titular cat is taught to speak, it turns out he’s overheard all manner of conversations the speakers would rather nobody knew about; and he has no problem with telling the truth! Similarly, ‘The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat’ touches upon the lies we tell ourselves and the public image we project; ‘The Penance’ is a rather dark tale of the revenge of children; ‘The Guests’ and ‘Mrs Packletide’s Tiger’ feature the larger members of the feline family, and expose more Edwardian posturing; and ‘The Achievement of the Cat’ is a non-fictional short piece exploring how moggies have managed to make themselves aloof yet indispensable.

Most poignant of all is the opener to the volume, some selections from Saki’s letters to his sister about a pet tiger to which he was very attached, illustrated with one of his drawings. These and ‘Achievement…’ are drawn from a posthumous volume “The Square Egg” which collected together some sketches as well as a biography of the man by his sister. Although she may have glossed over some parts of his life, I really do think I’ll have to track it down. That’s by the by, though; bringing together all of Saki’s cat-related writings was a wonderful idea by Renard, and this volume comes with their usual notes and supportings information – a lovely little read!

The second arrival from Renard was a reprint of a short story they’d issued previously in the form of “Kew Gardens” by Virginia Woolf, and it’s a gorgeous edition with one of their signature design covers. “Kew…” is a story I love, and I previously made a point of reading it on site when I made a pilgrimage to the gardens themselves. The story was first published privately in 1919, then made more widely available in 1921 in the collection “Monday or Tuesday”, and it’s a beautiful, impressionistic piece of writing. During a hot July day, whilst a snail makes its way painstakingly through a flower bed, a number of groups of people float in and out of its range, thinking their thoughts, discussing their feelings and attempting to communicate. The beauty of the setting and the snail’s progress is set against human issues and the story is a wonderfully atmospheric read conjuring the summer day and the gardens vividly. Needless to say, I fell in love with Woolf’s writing all over again.

The story is supported with biographical information, and such a lovely edition will be a welcome addition to my Renard shelf! The publisher also releases contemporary works, and I was most impressed with “Women and Love” by Miriam Burke, for which I was happy to take part in a blog tour. I’m a great fan of indie publishing generally – hence why I’m happy to co-host #ReadIndies with Lizzy – and Renard are a favourite. Do give them a look – you may be tempted by some of their titles!

Reading Virginia Woolf – in Kew Gardens!

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… plus other niceness in London!

Yes, I managed to escape for another day out in the Big Smoke at the weekend – a joint visit to Kew Gardens and also the lovely bookshops of the Bloomsbury/Charing Cross Road area!

For some reason, it struck me earlier in the year that I’d never visited Kew Gardens, and I conceived of the idea of visiting this summer and also of reading Woolf’s short story of that title while I was there! I did wonder whether I’d fit the trip in before the end of the summer holidays but I did – just by the skin of my teeth!

It’s quite a long haul to Kew from East London were my train gets in, but this *did* mean I got plenty of reading time while travelling and I made serious inroad into my current read, “Lanark”. I got to Kew quite early, and it was lovely and quiet – plus the weather was warm and sunny and dry all day, which was a bonus after the changeable times we’ve had recently.

I could be a Kew Gardens bore and go on and on about how absolutely lovely the place is – like being out in the country in the middle of London; full of beautiful plants and lakes and hothouses and Japanese gardens and bamboo and Chinese houses and pagodas and – well, you get the picture. I had a really beautiful day and I’d recommend a visit to anyone in the area. I took numerous photos which are not really that interesting but here are a few:

The Palm House

Something lovely in the Palm House – I am a little Horticulturally Challenged, so I can’t tell you what…..

The Waterlily House – with wonderful reflections in the black-tinted water.

The Rock Garden

A Yarn-Bombed tree!

Part of the Japanese garden

The object of the visit! Reading my faithful old copy of Woolf in the Secluded Garden!

After several hours of happy wandering, I decided I had time to pop into a bookshop or three before making my way home. Well, why waste the opportunity? I was actually pretty good, though I did stop off at the very attractive Kew Book Shop on my way to the tube, which had a lovely ambience and helpful staff, and picked up this:


Next stop was back in central London, the Bloomsbury Oxfam shop where there’s always the chance of a bargain – and I snagged these three:

“Moscow Tales” has been on my wish list forever; the Pushkin volume sounded great; and ” A Hero of Our Time” is a US edition with an Edward Gorey cover! I’ve been gazing longingly at this series of books online for a while so to find one in amazing condition for £2 was rather exciting……. 🙂

Amazingly enough, I didn’t buy a thing at Foyles, despite spending quite a while wandering round the lovely new store (and drinking some amazing gunpowder and peppermint tea). It’s not as if there wasn’t enough temptation – I mean, just look at this lovely table of Pushkin Press titles!

However, I was happy with the books I’d found and came home footsore but satisfied! Ermmm – there was a parcel or two waiting when I arrived so I may as well ‘fess up about the other volumes which have made their way into the house lately…..

These two book club editions came from a charity shop I don’t usually get the chance to visit – and as they were 60p each I thought they were worth a punt!

Castro is from RISI – I have a fascination with Cuba and I’ve read a *lot* of Che’s books, so I figured this would be an interesting read too.

And finally……. The latest edition of the very lovely “Slightly Foxed” and another Queneau I may have purloined from eBay….  Well, I’m not planning on any visits for a while, and I shall be trying not to buy for a while – I really do need to catch up with my reading!!

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