Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #8 Before Lunch + #7 The Brandons Wrap-Up

I know it was tough to participate this month with the holidays and read The Brandons. Thanks, then for the comments by

  • Christine of All the Vintage Ladies
  • Liz Dexter of Adventures in Reading
  • Penelope Gough (a real trooper!)
  • Historical Fiction Is Fiction
  • Yvonne of A Darn Good Read

The next book in the series is Before Lunch, which I will be reviewing on Monday, January 31, 2022. I hope some more people will jump on board for this one.

And here’s our little badge.

My List for Classics Club Spin #28

The Classics Club has announced another spin. How do the spins work? I pick 20 books from my Classics Club list and number them. On October 17, the club picks a number, and that’s the book I will read before December 12, the deadline for this spin. So, here is my list for this spin. This time, I haven’t picked any of the difficult books on my list:

  1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  2. The Mayor’s Wife by Anna Katherine Green
  3. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  5. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  6. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  7. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  8. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  9. Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
  10. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  11. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  12. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  13. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  14. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  15. Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  16. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  17. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  18. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof

If I Gave the Award

Having reviewed the last book from the 2020 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction shortlist, it’s now time for my feature where I decide whether the judges got it right. Frankly, 2020 was an odd year, with several books that, while interesting, really didn’t do it for me. In fact, quite a few of them cultivated distance between the reader and the work.

As I often do, I’ll start with the books I liked least. One is The Parisian by Isabella Hammad. This novel covers the beginning of the fight for Arab nationalism and the First World War, so it should have been interesting. However, Hammad writes it from the point of view of a man who distances himself from the action by the persona he invents for himself.

Another distancing book was The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey, which was the winner for 2020. It is about the relationship between the artist Edward Hopper and his wife Jo. It is slow moving and mostly a character study about a self-absorbed man who seemed to live his life in the interior of his own mind. I felt that although Jo was depicted as jealous and demanding, she was upset about something understandable—her career coming so much secondary to his and in fact his disdain of her work.

To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek is a little more experimental than the other nominees. It is about a 14th century journey from the Cotswolds to Calais, and it is written only in words in use at the time. It also reflects, in tone and plot, its medieval inspirations. However, Meek doesn’t do much with his characters, so I had difficulty becoming involved in the novel.

The Redeemed by Tim Pears was the third book in his West Country Trilogy, and it is set during the last years and the aftermath of World War I about a man who has to make his own way after becoming homeless as a boy. Having spent three books with these characters, I found the conclusion of the trilogy anti-climactic. I actually thought the first book was best.

Joseph O’Connor has written a novel about 30 years in the life of Bram Stoker, with Shadowplay. I found this novel involving and interesting. It’s about Stoker’s work with the Lyceum Theatre and his relationship with two famous actors, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. It even has just a bit of a supernatural influence.

Although it took me a while to get into A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland, I found it absolutely heart-rending by the end. It is based on the life of a native Anglican missionary to South Africa, about a man whose upbringing sets him apart from his own people as well as his English white patrons. This novel is my choice for the 2020 award.