Thursday 15 June 2023

I have been reading...

It's quite warm here in the UK at the moment. When I say 'quite warm' I mean 25 to 27C - high 70s Fahrenheit - kind of warm, not Aussie, Middle-Eastern, Saharan heat... those people would laugh at us saying we're too hot and where's the rain now please? That said, it did get much hotter than this last July, 35 to 40C... and that 'is' hot for the UK. I'm just really hoping it doesn't do that again this year but the signs are not good and we've already had warnings of Saharan waves of heat wafting our way this summer. Ugh. 

My solution to it all is to get the garden work done in the early morning and then spend the day quietly with lots of refeshment and lots of books. It's not a bad plan...

So, I finished three books over the last few days.

How to Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day.

I'm not actually sure what this was doing on my Kindle (please don't judge. :-D). Day co-presents the Sky Arts Book Club on Sky Arts so I'm familiar with her from that, so that could be why I grabbed it, possibly it was just cheap and I was intrigued. Anyway, this is very autobiographical and the author talks a lot about how her failures actually taught her more than her successes. Failure at friendships, failure at marriage, failure to be able to conceive, failure at sport and so on. I found it interesting in that I'm always curious about other people, how they live their lives (I think that means I'm nosy...), the decisions they make, their relationship to the people around them. I suspect Elizabeth Day is a delightful person - she seems to be on TV - but I did find this a bit hard-going in places as it is  bit relentless as regards her feelings of inadequacy, but it was always very readable. 


Next, The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti.

It might seem mad but we haven't always known that Everest existed. The Tibetans knew it was there of course, or some of them did, but none of them had any idea of climbing it until a load of mad Europeans turned up fresh from climbing in The Alps and looking for something else to get their teeth into. But the first attempt didn't happen until 1921, the Tibetans in the shape of the Dalai Lama kept us out until then despite some questionable machinations from the British in India. This book tells us all about it and quite interesting it is too, lots of history, politics, and information about the main people in alpine climbing in those days. Everyone knows about George Mallory but there were others who were just as fascinating whose names have been lost in the mists of time. My only complaint is that although all the politics was quite interesting it took a while to get around to really talking about the mountain, which is why I was reading it in the first place. But overall... a good read and what about that gorgeous cover?

Lastly, something fictional, The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge. This was first published in 1940, the author being a contemporary of authors such as D.E. Stevenson, Molly Clavering, Dorothy Whipple, Angela Thirkell etc.

So the story is set in 1938 (a date like that always makes me shudder) in a beautiful old house in Hampshire, Damerosehay. It's owned by Lucilla Eliot, widow, 78 year old grandmother and head of the family in every way. Mother to six adult children, she has living with her three small grandchildren whose parents have split up. Their mother, Nadine, (Lucilla's daughter-in-law) has started an affair with David who is the beloved adult grandson of Lucilla. David is on his way to visit and try to explain to Lucilla who will not be happy as she's never liked Nadine. And how will the children react too? The relationships are slightly complicated in this novel but I quickly got a handle on who was who and how they connected to the others. The house is absolutely centre stage, its history, the beauty of it and its wonderful gardens which are haunted. Goudge was fantastic at atmosphere, I'm not sure which part of the Hampshire coast it's supposed to be but it absolutely jumps off the page at you. I found it ever so slightly hard going with 'quite' so much description I must admit, I was more interested in the family dynamics and in that I wasn't disappointed. Every character was different with their own quirks, Lucilla and her elderly maid, Ellen, were brilliant, the single daughter who lived in, Margaret, only alive when gardening, didn't get a lot of air-time but her situation was rather poignant and I liked her, Hilary the bachelor vicar son was delightful and likewise the three small kiddies, all different with distinct personalities. I won't talk about the ending, only to say these were different times and long discussions could definitely be had. Overall, I liked this a lot and as it's part one of a trilogy I will read on. 

So now I'm not reading anything at all and am at that tricky 'choose a new book' or rather 'books' stage. I'm in a mountainy mood and fancy more reading about Everest, so I have this that I might start.

Or this:


We'll see. But as for fiction, I've no idea. I'm mood reading this summer and it's rather nice.


CLM said...

It is so long since I have read this but she is wonderful at depicting families and intergenerational relationships. Last year I went to Wells as a sort of Goudge pilgrimage but it is the series that begins with A City of Bells that is based on her time there, I think, not this one. When I read my book about Goudge later this summer, I will know for sure!

Cath said...

Constance: Yes, I remember a Miranda Mills YT video where she talked about Wells being the setting for Goudge's A City of Bells. (When you told people you were going to Wells did they think you said 'Wales'? I've had that conversation several times...) Green Dolphin Country is the only other book I've read by her, back in my 20s or 30s I think. I liked it but found all the 'nun' stuff a touch tedious. Look forward to hearing about your book about Goudge.

Margot Kinberg said...

I know the feeling of being between books, so to speak, Cath. No matter how big my TBR is, I sometimes am torn deciding what to read next. I'm sorry to hear The Hunt For Mount Everest wasn't what you'd hoped it would be. The topic is so interesting, and I'd have liked to learn more about it. Hope your next read is a good one!

Lark said...

You always find such interesting books to read...and such a fun variety, too. I've got lists of the books I hope to read this summer, so not much room for mood reading at the moment, but I do think allowing room for mood reading is the best way to go. Hope you find a fun mountain book to read next. :D

thecuecard said...

I love gardening and books as well, so your days there seem wonderful. Today we are having smoke due to the wildfires up north so I do not plan to go out. But I like your Everest books .... I have read The Moth and the Mountain which you mention. I don't want to give anything away -- but after you finish -- here is my review of it:

TracyK said...

I used to read a lot of self help books but no more. I do have one I want to get into, Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy). The theme of How to Fail sounds good, but not very appealing.

I told Glen you were reading about Mount Everest and he told me about the Lukla Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal which is tiny and can handle four airplanes and is used for bring supplies into that area? He has been viewing airliner videos on youtube and ran into videos of that airport. He asked me to send him information about The Hunt for Mount Everest so I will include a link to this post.

Your review of The Bird in the Tree has convinced me to try Elizabeth Goudge, even though of course I don't need a new author to read. I assume her books are a nice length though so that is good.

I just remembered that I recently received Wait for Me! by Deborah Mitford and have already started reading it, although I will fit chapters in between 20 books of summer books. I think you recommended and I enjoyed the first two or three chapters.

Sam said...

Sounds as if you have a good plan for the immediate days ahead, Cath; I hope it doesn't get too much warmer for you folks.

I've not seen Elizabeth Grudge mentioned very often, but she sounds like someone I should learn more about. Somehow, 1938 doesn't sound nearly as far back in the past as it used to to me. Quieter, simpler time but smack dab on the cusp of WWII. If they had known what was fast approaching, they would have been terrified.

Fanda Classiclit said...

Yes, The Hunt of Mount Everest has a gorgeous cover, but I don't think I'm that interested to read it. The Bird in the Tree, though, is something I'd love to read. Is the bird only a metaphor, by the way? Or do we get to find birds in the story? :D

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I'm with you in not particularly enjoying these ever increasing spells of excessive heat. We haven't even had the storms to offset it slightly. Plenty of thunder, but not a single spot of rain. Friends and relatives in other parts of the UK, who have had several downpours, are totally amazed and I'm sure they don't believe me!

Unlike yourself though, I seem to read less in these conditions, as I find it more difficult to concentrate, even if I do manage to find a slightly shady spot to sit in. I am really going to have to get myself organised into a new routine ready for when Dave retires next May, or time is going to slip by quickly and totally wasted!!

I don't believe I have ever read any Elizabeth Goudge books and if I have, it would be many moons ago now. 'The Bird In The Tree' sounds intriguing, as it is set in Hampshire, a part of the country I know quite well, as it is Dave's home ground. As it is the first in a trilogy of Damerosehay books, I wonder if you are considering it worth while reading the other two parts?

Like yourself, I do like to know on where my fictional reading place names might actually be based. Apparently, this is set in Milford-on-Sea, somewhere we revisited only last year, although I had no idea about this house..

Have a good weekend and Happy Reading! :)

Cath said...

Margot: I'm pretty sure that my real problem as regards choosing a new book to read is that I have so many books to choose from! I'm so spoilt for choice that I have no idea *what* to choose when it comes to it.

The Everest topic is indeed very interesting. I read a lot of mountain books a couple of years ago but not much about Everest, so the plan is to read on and discover more.

Cath said...

Lark: I like variety and mood reading and those two don't go with choosing a list of summer books in June and sticking to it. I've managed it in previous years but decided against it this year in favour of just picking up what I fancy. That said, I do have a small pile of books on my shelf that I do want to get to this summer.

Cath said...

Thecuecard: Yes, I have to say my days are quite nice with hobbies like gardening and reading and I'm lucky to be retired and able to indulge those things.

So sorry to hear that you're affected by the smoke from the wildfires in Canada. That must be pretty awful.

Thanks for the link to your review of The Moth and the Mountain, I'll certainly check that out when I've read the book. I'll also check your blog out later as well. Thanks so much for dropping in to comment!

Cath said...

Tracy: I've read a few self-help books this year, not because I necessarily need 'help' but really just out of interest to hear what people have to say which I always (usually) find interesting.

Tell Glen I'll look on YT for vids of the Nepalese airport. It rings a bell so maybe I've seen something in a doc. The Hunt for Mount Everest was not a bad book at all but I wanted a bit more about the actual mountain. I shall read on as there are 'plenty' of books to choose from.

Yes, the Goudge book was short... 250 pages or so... it took me just a few days to read it.

I'm glad you're enjoying Wait for Me! I liked the more gentle 'family' perspective on the lives of the sisters.

Cath said...

Sam: Thanks for your good wishes re the summer heat. As I said, our heat doesn't compare to what you have to go through in Texas for instance, I know it can be brutal there in the summer.

It was the fact that 1938 was right on the cusp of WW2 that made me shudder. David, the main male character, did have some inkling of what was coming and was worried. It'll be interesting to find out in the next book whether or not he survived the war as at 25 he was bang on fighting age.

Cath said...

Fanda: I think The Bird in the Tree would be a book you would enjoy. Yes, there is a bird, a blue bird, but it's up to the reader to decide whether or not it's real. The story behind it is fascinating.

Cath said...

Yvonne: My fear is that it's only June and that we could get a spell in July where it's like last year when we had several atrocious days of 35C and over. P spent those in hospital and I don't want a repeat of that. We did have a few showers, I think it was at the weekend, but not enough to help the garden much.

Dave retires next May does he? I know from experience that that'll require a bit of adjustment on your side but it can be done. Good luck!

I really appreciate your telling me that Milford on Sea is where the book is set in Hampshire. I see it's close to Lymington which we have been to but I can't say I'd heard of Milford on Sea at all. We like Hampshire though, and have been down that way several times but not recently. Now I feel like we should get ourselves over there pronto!

Enjoy your weekend, it's supposed to get a bit cooler, let's hope they're right.

Cassie said...

And not to be super cliche and British by talking about the weather - people also don't realise that houses here are built to keep the heat *in*, so it's dropped to like 19 outside and it's raining, but it's still 26 in my living room!

I am intrigued by How To Fail - I'll have to look that one up