Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Books of 2017 Part 3

The Innocent Traveler by Ethel Wilson (1980) Saga of several generations of a Victorian family who eventually emigrate to Canada. Mostly focuses on the free spirited Topaz, the old-maid, eccentric aunt.

The Friendly Young Ladies by Mary Renault (1944) A young girl runs away from home in search of her disgraced older sister.

The Golden Door by A. A. Gill (2011) Essays about America by a brit. One essay, depicting a cruel experiment performed by Thomas Edison (who was a monster, by the way) really put me off the whole book. Don't read this if you love elephants. Or skip that essay. Much thoughtful material though.

In Spite of all Terror by Hester Burton (1968) A children's book about the rescue from Dunkirk in early WW II.

The Proper Place by O. Douglas (1929) An aristocratic family faces reduced financial circumstances, sells the family estate and settle in a small fishing village in Scotland.

The Brandons by Angela Thirkell (1939) I've read so many Thirkell novels that their plots are starting to run together. This is one of her typical comedy of manners.

The Country Life Cookery Book by Ambrose Heath (1937) Vintage British cookbook. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I intend to.

The Sun in Scorpio by Margery Sharp (1965) This was one of my favorites of the year. A family living on Malta must return to England because of WW I. This book follows the misadventures of the family's younger daughter who can't thrive in the dreary northern climate.

Frost in May by Antonia White (1933) Young Nanda Gray, whose family recently converted to Catholicism, is sent to a select Catholic boarding school for girls. I believe this novel is autobiographical and there is much in it that will resonate with those of us who had a Catholic education.

The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857) Brilliant and readable biography. Gaskell knew Bronte personally.

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell (1940) One of Thirkell's recurring themes is people falling in love with the wrong person. But everything's always sorted out in the end.

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope (1880) The last of the Palliser novels. Not even being the Duke of Omnium will protect you from young adult children who behave like dumbasses.

The Day of Small Things by O. Douglas (1930) Continuation of the story from The Proper Place, mentioned above.

Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (1946) Satisfying novel that repudiates social conventions and also explores the consequences (not all bad, eventually) of a terrible decision, made in one's youth. Was made into a move, called The Forbidden Street. Anyone seen it?

Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell (1941) Oh dear, the War has come to Barsetshire. I thought this one was better than her average.

My Sister Eileen by Ruth McKenney (1938) The funny adventures and misadventures of two American girls.

Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner (1999) Memoir of a young girl growing up in Lewiston, NY, a small village just north of Niagara Falls. I loved this because Catherine herself is a precocious and amazing character, but also because I recognized so many local landmarks and names and also the overpowering sense of danger and attraction that comes from being close to Niagara Falls. I will be reading the second book soon, about Gildiner's teenage years in Amherst, NY which is the actual town where I grew up.

A Woman's Walks by Lady Colin Campbell (1903) Travel essays. I have to be honest and say, these were ho-hum to me.

Mama Makes up her Mind by Bailey White (1993) Essays about an eccentric southern family. Funny at first, but a bit tiresome by the end.

The Silver Thorn by Hugh Walpole (1928) I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. This was my first Walpole, but I think I'll be reading more of him.

Forever Chic by Tish Jett (2013) A book about fashion and beauty for the over-40 crowd.

Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp (1944) Cluny has been raised by her plumber uncle, since the death of her mother. The fact that she "looks like she's somebody" leads her into some unusual escapades. Was also a movie! Margery Sharp really raked in the movie deals, didn't she?

Northbridge Rectory by Angela Thirkell (1942) A small English village continues to grapple with life during wartime. This might be my favorite Thirkell to date.

& Sons by David Gilbert (2013) A group of sons is summoned by their father, after his closest friend dies. I had a hard time liking this one, partly because the narrator isn't very likable.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey (1930) Takes place on a single blustery day in March, in which the bride is somewhat ambivalent. Was made into a movie, but I haven't seen it yet.

Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose (2017) Inspired by Mrs. Dalloway; chronicles a single day in Johannesburg, in which Nelson Mandela dies and a woman plans a birthday party for her mother. Uncomfortable reading for an American in the Trump era. We're bad enough, but see what happens to unarmed POC here. (I'm not sure if this one is available in the US yet. I got mine from Amazon UK)

The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp (1937) How amusing that the final book of the year turned out to be the best! Julia Packett is perhaps no better than she should be, but she shows true moral courage in trying to prevent her daughter from marrying a bounder. (I haven't yet seen the film version - Julia Misbehaves. If you've seen it, let me know if it's good!)


  1. I like the little tag line on the cover of The Nutmeg Tree - "Julia tried hard to be a lady - but the men wouldn't let her". Sounds like a fun read!

  2. How fascinating to be able to read a book that takes place near or in the town where you grew up. I like Anne Tyler novels more because they usually take place in Baltimore, where I grew up, although not in the section of town that I recall she writes about. Thank you for the selections in your comment in the other post!

  3. This time period when these books are published has become one of my favorite. You do pick the most delightfully obscure titles and writers.