Monday, 12 March 2012

A few bookish thoughts

I wish I'd watched My Life in Books with a notepad and pen to hand. The two week series hosted by Anne Robinson was a delight - a few episodes not as good as others of course but that applies to everything in life. The trouble is, some of the books sounded excellent but the next morning I'd forgotten them because my brain is 58 and addled. Pam Ayres was my favourite celebrity but then I adore her so that was a no brainer. I was also extremely charmed by the actress, Fiona Shaw. (Photo from the BBC website.)

Apparently she's a well known classical actress but, being a bit of a moron, I didn't know that but knew her immediately as Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia! What really surprised me though was her rich Irish accent. I had no idea she was Irish. Anyway, she was on with Rick Stein, a well known celebrity chef here in the UK - he famously has several top-notch restaurants, specialising in fish, in my home county of Cornwall. It was sad to hear that both had endured difficult childhoods with autocratic fathers. Rick Stein was particularly moving as he talked about his father's manic depression and how he particularly picked on Rick when he was a child. You could see from Fiona Shaw's face that she completely understood. Very poignant. And it was because of her that I picked this up from the library this morning.

Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. She spoke so eloquantly about the story and its heroine, Maggie Tulliver, that I wanted to rush out and get the book immediately. I found it free for my Kindle, but am not really sure I want to read such a classic on Kindle; I think I want a real copy. So I nabbed it from the library this morning. If it appears that I love it as I go along, I'll buy my own.

I'm still umming and ahhing about what to read. I've just started The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift, which is a book about the creation and history of a beautiful garden in Shropshire.

I'm reading that with Susan from You Can Never Have Too Many Books. It's Nigel Slater's favourite book and already I can see why. If they ever did an audio version he should do it, imo.

Deborah Mitford continues to entrance in Home to Roost. She says:

The trouble with book thieves is that they don't see themselves as such. They borrow and forget with no criminal intent.

How true! She goes on:

I seldom read for pleasure but every now and then something takes my fancy and I mind so much when I've finished that, like my father, I can't bear the thought of beginning another. In an effort to keep my loved ones, I have got them penned, as it were, in my bedroom.

She then goes on to tell about the books she keeps penned up in her bedroom. Quite a few are of an agricultural bent as it's one of her main interests, especially chickens. There are books by her husband and books by her sisters. One book she talked about elsewhere in Home to Roost is obviously a big favourite - A Late Beginner, an autobiography by Priscilla Napier.

It charts the author's childhood in Egypt. I think Deborah Devonshire must've made it popular because if you search the book on AmazonUK up come Debo's books as well. Sadly the book is too expensive for me to consider buying and my library doesn't have it. Other books loved by Debo: The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy, Peter Rabbit and Ginger and Pickles by Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling's book of verse, The Oxford Book of English Verse which belonged to her sister, Unity, as a child and which, poignantly, she says is now her constant travelling companion.

Other favourites include Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island:

The brilliant Bill Bryson notices so much about this country which we take for granted but are fascinated to see described as new. It beats me why he is so fond of England and its natives - it's amazing that he stayed here after arriving on a foggy midnight in Folkestone to the typical English opposite of a welcome.

And Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader:

How does he do it? I wish I knew. There are copies of this book all over the house. They won't last long.

Debo is clearly not quite the non-reader she makes herself out to be. Home to Roost is charm itself and I'm positive it'll make my top 10 at the end of the year.

Since my last post where I couldn't decide what to read I've done a reread of The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey.

I nabbed this one off my eldest daughter... the book was delightful. I didn't remember that it was really a book of short stories or episodes in the 'life' of Helva who is a human brain who's been installed into a ship because her body was so deformed at birth. I thought this was a gorgeous read, even after 40 years, and have borrowed several more in the series, that I haven't read, from my daughter.


Chris said...

My Life in Books sounds amazing!!! I so love Fiona Shaw…she was in True Blood as well and her character was a favorite of mine. Amazing actress!! The Morville Hours sound fantastic!!!! Definitely adding that one to the old wishlist :D

Nan said...

I thought I recognized FS from somewhere and looked her up. The Last September!
Loved this posting.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've loved this series of My Life in Books too. At one point I thought Rick was going to break down!

Fiona Shaw made me want to read Mill on the Floss too. I have the free Kindle version, but would go for a library copy - if the font isn't too small that is.

Cath said...

Chris: It's been an excellent series. I wish it was longer but 10 episodes over two weeks is better than nothing. Ah yes, they mentioned True Blood which I've not seen much of. I was tickled that she would be in a vampire series. Good for her. LOL.

Funny, as I was starting The Morville Hours I was thinking that it's a book you would love. You and Nan...

Nan: Not sure what The Last September is so will go and look that up.

The Morville Hours is very *you*, Nan. :-)

Margaret: Yes, I thought Rick was going to break down too. Poor man.

Somehow or other it just doesn't seem to suit me to read classic books on my Kindle. I started Barchester Towers on mine and within a day I had ordered a proper copy. I'm wondering if my Kindle is going to be for lighter reads only. I seem to have no problem with those.

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

I am really slack at reading the classics, although they were among some of my favourites in my youth and schooldays, perhaps it was the perceived romanticism of them all.

I think that the problem I would have with reading the more 'chunkster' offerings on my kindle, is the fact that you can't actually see yourself making progress through the pages. I know there is the percentage marker on the screen, but that just isn't the same as watching the pages fly by.

Friends and family often seem to approach me to ask if I have any books they can borrow, but it never seems to work the other way around somehow. Mind you, once I have read a book, I seldom, if ever, want to read it again, so passing it on without the thought of having it returned isn't ever a problem for me.

Enjoy the rest of your week,


Cath said...

Yvonne: I'm very slack at reading the classics too. It's silly because I know I'll like or even love the book once I get into it. Witness Anthony Trollope. So I must try some George Eliot.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that they would have been able to develop a page marker by now. I wonder if it's too complicated because everyone uses a different font size and thus the pages would never be the same. But still...

I have to say that I mostly don't worry about passing books on either. There is only a very small batch of books that I reread, possibly a dozen, and those not very often. Everything else I pass on happily... or send to the charity shop. Can't keep everything.

Penny said...

What a wonderful post. Makes me want to go out and buy more books and then go to the library for more. I won't. I'll show some self-control. For now.

I have always wanted to read the Mill on the Floss and haven't. There was a very good production of it on our PBS quite a few years ago, I bought the book and there it sat. Still does. Thank you for the reminder.

My Life with Books. I do hope we get this series here.

Cath said...

Penny: I spent about six months last year, up to Christmas, not really buying a lot of books. I was lucky, a lot of what I wanted to read I found in the library's county catalogue. This year that hasn't happened. Possibly I'm searching for more obscure books, I don't know. So I've bought more. A lot more. I feel a bit guilty and then I consider that I never buy more than I can afford and in the current economic climate someone has to buy books to keep the people who sell them afloat - be they big publishing companies or small sellers on Amazon marketplace. I've also been a lot better at letting books go to charity shops and they're always very grateful. I think what I'm saying is the likes of you and I need to be a bit less hard on oursleves for indulging our love of books. :-)

I'm determined I shall read something by George Eliot this year. The last time I had one of her books in my hands I was 18 and studying for English A level. I never did take the exam or read the book - it was Middlemarch. And here I am 40 years later, at long last contemplating reading something by George Eliot. It's about time!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I've really enjoyed this series too. I think of Fiona Shaw as both Aunt Petunia and the witch from True Blood!

Cath said...

Sam: The series was just terrific wasn't it. How I wish there were more TV programmes about books. Perhaps I'll watch the whole thing on iPlayer again soon.

Susan said...

Fiona Shaw is in one of the Persuasion adaptations, too! She plays Captain Wentworth's sister. She is so good in that also. I've always liked her as an actress.

Yaay for Morville Hours, I will be emailing you tomorrow about it! It's so good, isn't it? and yes to Nigel doing an audio of it! oh that would be lovely.....

Funny, I own Mill on the Floss, and it's on my classic reading list for this year! What was Fiona saying about it, is she in a new tv (or old) adaptation of it?

You have been reading such interesting books this week, Cath.

Cath said...

Susan: I had no idea FS had been in an adaptation of Persuasion. I'm sure I've seen it as I've seen all of the Austen dramas, every version, but I don't remember her. I may just have to find out which one and see if I have it. It's quite likely, LOL.

I think I'm really going to enjoy the rest of The Morville Hours. And yes, I can so imagine Nigel's lovely voice reading it.

Fiona Shaw was not in Mill on the Floss as far as I know. It was just one of her favourite books. She was saying how much she loved the character of Maggie Tulliver. That she was impetuous in her dealings with people and life and that she (FS) loved that about her.

Thomas at My Porch said...

A few years ago Fiona Shaw was here in DC doing Antigone. Like a fool I didn't go see it. I included her on my list of actresses I would like see play Barbara Pym characters in film. And The Moreville Hours is my hubby's favorite book.

Cath said...

Thomas: How annoying but hopefully you'll get another opportunity to see her some day. Oddly enough, she popped up in a film I watching last night - the newish adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Grey with Ben Barnes and Colin Firth. It was quite good.

Your hubby has good taste!

Nan said...

The Last September is a movie version of Elizabeth Bowen's book of the same name.

Nan said...

Oh, meant to tell you I have ordered The Morville Hours from Book Depository. Thanks!!

Cath said...

Nan: Ah right... thanks for clarifying that.

I know you will adore The Morville Hours. Absolutely certain of it.