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October: Books for Autumn Reading

vee_new
3 months ago
last modified: 3 months ago

I've just finished an unusual book Medieval Women by Ann Baer, previously published as 'Down the Common'. Baer follows the imaginary life of Marion a peasant woman living in Kent, S E England. The chapter headings give a month-to-month look at how her small, inward looking community of serfs survived their very basic lives of hard physical labour, often near starvation, frequent death of babies and children and what we might consider the utter sameness of the population who never left their area, had no ambitions, accepted floods, illness and crop-failure as some sort of Divine intervention.

It made me consider how all/most of us who's roots are /were in Europe, would have come from a very similar background all those hundred of years ago. Our ancestors surely were a tough lot!

Comments (98)

  • ginny12
    3 months ago

    Vee, What a horribly sad story and not unique I'm sorry to say. Such a tragedy.

    vee_new thanked ginny12
  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    I'm enjoying A Sound Among The Trees by Susan Meissner. She has the knack of getting you right into the story from the first chapter.


    As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

    When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

    With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

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  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    I'm reading a Golden Ager by Ellen Wilkerson called The Division Bell. It's set in Parliament and is a sort of locked room mystery with lots of Members of P. and a sultry pretty girl involved.

  • annpanagain
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    My D brought me a paperback of Chestnut St. by Maeve Binchy. I had read it in hardcover but was pleased to find there was an extra story which got me involved as usual!

    She drew such strong pictures of her characters.

    I didn't like Before She Was Helen and have stopped reading it, not my kind of mystery and have requested a couple of Anthony Trollope novels after watching the DVD of Dr. Thorne. I particularly liked the feisty American "Oil of Lebanon" heiress. I thought this was fuel but it turns out, from an online Trollope site, that it was an ointment.

  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Carolyn, re The Division Bell I looked up Ellen Wilkinson and found she was one of the early women MP's. From a Northern 'pulled up by their boot-straps' family she first joined the communist party then entered Parliament as a socialist, so she should have had all the background knowledge of the 'workings' of that institution! I'm surprised more murders aren't committed there.

  • annpanagain
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    There would have been a lot of character assassinations though!

    OT, would a Victorian gentleman wear a tall stovetop style hat while riding in the country?

    I noticed this in the beginning of the Dr. Thorne DVD. The rest of the costumes seemed accurate.

    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Annpan, I suppose he would have worn the stovepipe hat if he was just 'going about his business' riding around and presumably not moving at any speed.

    Back in the day over here before Tony Blair banished hunting, usually the hunt 'Master' wore a top hat (though not a stovepipe) which was attached by a length of cord to the coat collar so he didn't loose it when galloping across fields or over six-barred gates.

  • ginny12
    3 months ago

    I am very interested in family history and have spent a lot of time doing my own. Despite privacy concerns, I finally did my DNA with Ancestry. No big surprises, I'm glad to say. Some haven't been so lucky. Bill Griffeth wrote a book a few years ago called Stranger in My Genes about learning that his father was not his biological father and what came of that discovery.

    Now he has written a sequel which I just finished, Strangers No More. It continues the story. Many people contacted him after reading his first book or hearing him speak. He tells their stories--all names changed and they are quite variable except for the great shock all of them experienced. He also tells the stories of his sisters--now his half-sisters--and I don't know why. He reveals their private lives and secrets for no apparent reason.

    Finally, he works up the courage to contact relatives via his biological father who is dead. It all turns out well.

    Both books were interesting but I have a real problem with his blaming his mother--who knows if she was forced into sex?--and confronting this 90+ year old woman in a nursing home, for Pete's sake. Also for revealing his sisters' private lives, even tho they are deceased. They do have children and grandchildren.

  • annpanagain
    3 months ago

    There is something about hats on TV that irks me. Characters either not wearing bonnets when outdoors or wearing unnecessary hats indoors! Father Brown's Mrs. Murphy and Pearl in Last of the Summer Wine for example.

    I grew up with women who wore hats at the proper occasion and I still do that. I have around forty as I never throw mine out! I longed to wear a felt brimmed school hat but they were very expensive so my mother opted for the alternative Sussex martlet-badged beret.

    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    I haven't worn a hat since my DD's wedding . . . I don't count the woolly things we put on in the winter.

    I hated wearing my school hat in brown velour, with elastic under the chin and the school badge sewn to the front. Everyone wanted panamas for the Summer term but the nuns probably thought they were too racy.

    I have just noticed on our screen-saver (changed by John every few days/weeks) a photo dating back nearly 150 years to when the original Severn railway bridge was opened. It shows a group of workers and the architects, surveyors etc and ALL the men are wearing hats. Of course no ladies or even 'women' were present . . .




  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    Vee, much of your information about Ellen Wilkinson was in Martin Edwards' introduction to The Division Bell Mystery. He has written intros to many of the Golden Age books I've been reading.

    I am now about to start The Last Bookshop in London written in 2021 by Madeline Martin. Not sure who recommended it, and there have been so many books about bookstores lately that they all seem to run together. I love bookstores and I've enjoyed all the books about them that I've read. We lost our best local independent bookstore a number of years ago. I still mourn its passing.

    vee_new thanked Carolyn Newlen
  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Carolyn.......interested in what you think of TLB in L.

  • msmeow
    3 months ago

    I haven't posted in a while, but I have been reading. :)

    I read French Braid by Anne Tyler. I thought it was okay. The story of several generations of a very uncommunicative family.

    I also read Echo Park by Michael Connelly. I am working my way through the Harry Bosch series.

    Now I am reading A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner. Yoyobon's review upthread sounded interesting! I'm not very far into it but so far enjoying it a lot.

    Donna

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago

    Donna, I've enjoyed many of Susan Meissner's novels , particularly A Fall Of Marigolds and Secret Of A Charmed Life.

  • sheri_z6
    3 months ago

    Ginny, thanks for the mention of the Bill Griffeth books. I've read the first and have the second on my wish list for Christmas. I want to read it even though what you mentioned about his half-sisters sounds a bit concerning. Maybe he was trying to make the book longer? For better or worse, DNA testing has made available information that past generations could never have imagined being revealed -- I have a friend who discovered an older, FULL sibling the family knew nothing about, and there is no one left to answer their questions as their parents took that secret to the grave. To say everyone was shocked would be an understatement. But as a genealogist, I find DNA connections endlessly fascinating and sometimes helpful in my own research.


    I also finished Anne Tyler's French Braid and though it was enjoyable (it's been ages since I'd read anything by her and her writing is very soothing) it didn't really grab me. I am glad I read it, though, just to revisit the author.


    I'm now half way through Trust by Hernan Diaz, and it's also not grabbing me. It's the story of a (fictional) legendary Wall Street banker and financier who made bazillions of dollars before, during, and after the stock market crash of 1929. It's told from four points of view, first by a novelist writing about this man, then as an autobiography by the man himself, third as a story told by a woman who worked for the family, and the last section from the POV of his wife. So far, I just don't find it at all compelling, but perhaps the two sections narrated by the women will surprise me.

    vee_new thanked sheri_z6
  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    Yoyobon, I finished The Last Bookshop in London and thought it sadly in need of an old fashioned editor. I normally just read for the story, but in this book there were some sentences that badly needed their words reduced or changed about. As well, in one case (this was set at the onset of WWII) a character used one of my pet hate terms "reach out to" instead of just saying call or contact or get in touch with. Admittedly not my best moment, but the young man I dealt with at the funeral home when my husband died said he would "reach out to" any number of people during our conversation. I really, really wanted to smack him. Unctious young pipsqueak.


    Anyway, the setting and bomb devastation were well done and I enjoyed the story, but it was a bit Cinderella-ish.

    vee_new thanked Carolyn Newlen
  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Carolyn, I never realised that 'reach out' meant anything other than to offer help/show an interest in someone's welfare or problems so looked it up and found in American business speak it also includes phoning or sending someone a message.

    I learn something new every day!

  • annpanagain
    3 months ago

    That goes for me too! Thanks, Vee, I do like to keep up...

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago

    Carolyn.......thanks for your perspective ! I stopped reading that book about 3/4 of the way through because she focused more on the blood, guts and devastation of London rather than on a bookshop story as the title suggested. Too much sadness and loss is just.....too much.


    On the topic of phrases writers use.....while reading the book about Marjorie Post ( which I really enjoyed ) it amused me that the writer used the word " decamped " frequently . When an odd word like that is used once it's interesting. After using it again and again it because downright annoying !

  • ginny12
    3 months ago

    "Reach out" is one of those language plagues that seem to appear more and more often now. I hear or read it constantly. I got a nice email from someone yesterday telling me how he 'reached out' to someone with a question of interest to us both (genealogy).

    Another which was used endlessly a few years ago is 'beg the question'. It was not only over-used, it was misused as 'beg the question' has a completely different meaning from what they thought they were saying.

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago

    The actual meaning is quite different. To 'beg the question' means to talk about a question as though it were true, even though it might not be. This is almost the opposite of the commonly understood 'beg that the question be asked' meaning in that it means 'cause the question not be asked'.

    In more contemporary language we might call begging the question as a circular argument or a self-fulfilling prophesy. For example, someone might argue that:
    The soul is immortal.
    Being immortal it lives forever.
    Things that live forever cannot die.
    Therefore the soul cannot die, that is, it is immortal.

    The above argument begs the question, that is, it assumes it to be true as part of its case for it being true.

    The expression was coined as a rather over-literal translation of the Latin phrase 'petitio principii'. The Latin version was itself a translation of Greek text 'en archei aiteisthai' taken from Aristotle's Prior Analytics. The phrase was known in English by at least 1581, at which date it was recorded by William Clarke:

  • msmeow
    3 months ago

    Ugh..."reaching out"...

    I'm nearly done with A Sound Among the Trees. Thank you Bon for mentioning it! I'm finding it very hard to put down.

    Donna

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago

    Doesn't the song "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond have that phrase in it ?

    "reaching out......" Who knows the lyrics ?!


  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    Hands, touching hands
    Reaching out, touching me, touching you

    Sweet Caroline
    Good times never seemed so good
    I've been inclined
    To believe they never would

    I think he has in mind a different kind of reaching out, and I'm glad because for some reason I really like that song!

  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    I have never been able to 'hear' the words of pop songs further than the first line! It must go back to childhood when at home we were not allowed to listen to pop music when it came on the radio. And when exiled to boarding school the nuns would have had hissy-fits if their ears were filled with anything other than plainchant or sacred music . . . nor were there radios or TV's on which to listen. Even those tiny transistor radios had yet to be readily available and, if found, would have been confiscated never to be seen again . . .

    On refection I think prisoners had a life with more freedom than we did.

  • annpanagain
    3 months ago

    To think that I envied children who went to boarding school! It seemed a wonderful existence from books. We might have gone to one if my father had taken up the job in Persia that he was offered after the war but he opted to come back to England and could only get low paying work as he had defective eyesight.

    However we had a freedom to roam around our seaside town and my parents enjoyed all kinds of music. Both had been tutored and played several instruments before the war.

    We children were taken to the afternoon showings at the pictures from an early age although a lot of the adult behaviour was over our innocent heads!

    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    annpan music was appreciated in our home but nothing 'modern'. My father had a good voice and when the D'Oyly Carte Co came to our local theatre he took part with other young men and women in the G and S chorus. We were also taken to plays, classical concerts, ballet etc. We even went Up-to-Town (is that expression still used for trips to London?) from school to the Royal Festival Hall or exhibitions at the Royal Academy.

    Re boarding school. It wasn't all that it was cracked up to be! No midnight feats or pillow-fights in the Dorm. Just endless telling-offs by the nuns (some quite justified) very indifferent food and utter boredom. Apart from the usual lessons and homework there was almost nothing to do. Our spare time was spent herded into common rooms or empty classrooms, always supervised, where we would just sit about and bicker. Of course we could always do our needlework (much encouraged) and some of us read books ie the set text books for English lessons. Many of the Irish nuns regarded novels with deep suspicion and the small library full of ancient improving reads or bound copies of Dickens was only open for about 20 minutes on a Saturday.

    We were taken out for a Sunday morning walk in the usual crocodile around suburban streets, otherwise we didn't get much fresh-air.

    I can appreciate it is difficult to give girls the same freedom as our brothers would have had but we were hardly prepared for life!

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Just got Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen from our library and ordered a copy of A Cup Of Silver Linings by Karen Hawkins.

  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    I just got Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver as a download from the library. I have already started The Bullet That Missed, also an electronic book and the new Thursday Murder Club one. They are not my favorites but are still enjoyable reads.

  • yoyobon_gw
    3 months ago

    Donna.....I just finished A Sound Among The Trees and really enjoyed it so much. And I think I learned many things about those events in the Civil War, which left me with questions meant for historians.

  • sheri_z6
    3 months ago

    I just finished Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher and thought it was terrific. She has a way with twisty fairy tales, and I've enjoyed what I've read by her. I will be looking for more.


    I also finished Trust by Hernan Diaz and thought it was interesting, but it just didn't grab me. It had a very slow start, and finally got much, much better after the half-way point. There seemed to be one major plot point left unresolved at the end, and that bothered me - or perhaps I missed something? I read this for my book group, which has now been postponed for a few weeks and I suspect a good discussion might make me like the book more than I currently do.


    Two library books arrived at the same time, The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill and Written in Red by Anne Bishop. I'm looking forward to both.

  • Winter
    3 months ago

    Sheri...I read The Woman in the Library a while ago and it's a good read. I think you'll enjoy it. It moves right along and has a surprise ending. I liked the author so well that I'm looking to read other books by her.

  • sheri_z6
    3 months ago

    Winter, I started it last night and was immediately pulled in. I was also very taken with the structure of it ... I'm hoping to get another good chunk read today.

  • Rosefolly
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    I got bored with The Woman in the Library, so about halfway through I skipped to read the surprise ending and satisfy my curiosity. There are mysteries I enjoy, but it is not my genre of choice and I do tend to get impatient with ones that others like. Probably not the book's fault.

    As for Nettle and Bone, I pretty much like anything by T. Kingfisher. I am glad she is a prolific writer since I am always looking forward to the next novel she writes.

    I finished Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik, the conclusion to the Scholomance Trilogy. It is set in a school for magic, so you could consider it a darker version of the Happy Potter books, but it is nothing like them. At the end I was left with that feeling of completion that comes from reading a thoroughly satisfying novel (or set of novels).

  • sheri_z6
    3 months ago

    Rosefolly, do you have a favorite T. Kingfisher to recommend? I've enjoyed A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking and I have The Twisted Ones in my TBR pile.


    I finished The Woman in the Library in one big gulp yesterday. I really enjoyed it. I'm still not quite sure what to think about the very end.


    I've started Written In Red by Anne Bishop, a fantasy novel with a main character who has visions of the future. She is driven to hide among the fantasy world's "Others" in order to escape captivity among her fellow humans. The Others, who outnumber humans in this world by a considerable margin, include shape shifters, werewolves, and vampires, none of whom are particularly friendly (and definitely not sparkly) and all of whom look at humans as meals. So far, so good.


  • annpanagain
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    I have been reading some P.D. James books which are murder mysteries but have a lot of description of the characters, location, clothes and the food they eat! TMI, so I skip a lot.

    The library sent me The Division Bell Mystery and Framley Parsonage. I wanted Dr. Thorne but the librarian couldn't find a copy. I knew there were several in the State catalogue and politely pointed out where they were. She got back and said she had typed in Dr instead of Doctor so has now sent a request but I had also typed Dr and found them. Strange are the workings of the catalogue computers!

    I have renewed my loan of the DVD for reference when the book arrives.

  • Rosefolly
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Sheri, The Twisted Ones is one of Kingfisher's ventures into the horror realm, as are What Moves the Dead and The Hollow Places. I do not like them quite as well as I do her other books, since horror is not my thing. Still they are well done and I do read them.

    If you liked The Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking you might also like Minor Mage, another story with a child protagonist. A third with a child hero is Summer in Orcus, which features Baba Yaga. The plots are interesting so all three of these books can be read with pleasure by adults.

    An early novel called The Seventh Bride was the first of her novels that I read. I still like it. It has a teenaged protagonist (though older than the baker and the mage). I suppose you could call it YA, but that actually did not cross my mind when I read it the first time. It is a fairy tale reinterpretation of "Bluebeard". Another fairy tale-inspired book she wrote, also enjoyable, is Bryony and Roses, a reworking of "Beauty and the Beast" quite unlike others I have read.

    After that she moved on to other things. My favorites are the ones set in the world of the White Rat. These would include the duology The Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine; Paladin's Grace, Paladin's Strength, and Paladin's Hope; and Swordheart, which was the first book to introduce this world. I have a feeling she might be done with this particular world, but who can say? What ever she does next, I expect it to be intriguing and original.

  • Carolyn Newlen
    3 months ago

    I started Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead last night. I really enjoyed her early books but tired of her ecology stories and stopped reading her books. This one, though, very loosely tells a very modern version of David Copperfield and is hilarious in places while being a serious book on Child Services and the lack of. The setting is the mountains of West Virginia and all that suggests. I'm just loving it. The downloaded version has over 1,000 pages, but I do have the font upped a bit.

  • vee_new
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Just finished Confusion the third in the Cazalet novels by Elizabeth Jane Howard. By now I can remember most of the characters especially as EJH concentrates on the female members of the family and how they deal with the huge change in circumstances brought on by WW11. I have ordered the next book from the library.

  • msmeow
    3 months ago

    I read The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian. I like his writing style and I really like that his books are all very diffferent. That said, this book was gruesome and dark. It’s set in 1964; a movie star and her new husband take a group of friends on a safari in the Serengeti and it’s no spoiler to say nearly everyone was killed (he tells you that in the prologue).

    Now I’ve started The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. I really need something gentler after the Bohjalian book.

    Donna

  • yoyobon_gw
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Donna...i really enjoyed Marjorie and learned so much about her. There is a lot of info on the internet about her life......I like to see photos of these people.....and her Mar-A-Lago development. Amazing.

  • sheri_z6
    2 months ago

    Rosefolly, thank you so much for the book list. I have read The Seventh Bride, and liked it a lot. I will look for the other YAs and The Clockwork Boys.


    I'm 2/3rds through Written in Red and I'm still not sure if I like it or not. I want to like it, and I will finish it, but overall it feels rather plodding. IMO, there's far too much emphasis on which building in the compound the very child-like, though not stupid, heroine (I think of her almost like Eleven from Stranger Things) is currently in and where she's going next. I'm hoping it improves.

  • vee_new
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    i just read in the BBC listings that Demon Copperhead is to be on BBC radio for the next three weeks (Mon-Fri). i must try and listen, but 1045-11pm is rather late and I'll have it on when I'm in bed, so may well fall asleep!

  • msmeow
    2 months ago

    Bon, referring to Marjorie Post, is it THE Mar A Lago? Or is that a common name in south Florida?

  • Carolyn Newlen
    2 months ago

    I have finished Demon Copperhead and gave it five stars on Goodreads. I hope you don't fall asleep, Vee, although being from Kentucky, which is on the opiate drug trail, I might have more special interest than some.

    vee_new thanked Carolyn Newlen
  • Kath
    2 months ago

    I read The Tilt by Australian crime writer Chris Hammer. I have enjoyed his previous books (Scrublands, Silver, Treasure & Dirt) but thought this was the best by quite a bit. Very Australian settings and interesting characters, my only complaint is in the earlier books he gave the characters really odd names (Mandalay Blonde, for instance), which I found drew me out of the story a bit.

    I also read Breakfast at Tiffany's, which came in a volume with three other stories. BAT was interesting, and I have been told the movie is very different, which must be true if Audrey Hepburn played Holly, I think. The second story had such a very odd ending that I didn't bother with the others.

    I've now moved on to Essex Dogs by Dan Jones, who has previously written non-fiction, mainly medieval history. I'm only a little way in, and not sure if I'm going to like it or not.

    I have a copy of Demon Copperhead, and it looks like I should get on to that next.

  • yoyobon_gw
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    msmeow.......there is only one Mar-a-Lago and she had it built for herself when Palm Beach Florida was first becoming a winter destination for the wealthy northerners. Flagler built his railroad line and opened it up for travel. The first hotel was The Breakers, also a Flagler creation. The name Mar-a-Lago means "between the ocean and the lake" which is how the compound ( it consists of many unusual 'cottages') is situated.


    Here's a very interesting article :

    https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/lifestyle/2021/01/19/building-mar-lago-marjorie-merriweather-posts-palm-beach-showplace/4215478001/

  • msmeow
    2 months ago

    Thank you, Bon!

  • Carolyn Newlen
    2 months ago

    My daughter has loaned me her copy of the new Ian Rankin book, and I just bought this year's James Lee Burke. What a delightful dilemma. (I'm so glad the powers that be decided to spell dilemma with two m's. Life is too complicated to have to say dilemma and write dilemna.)

  • ginny12
    2 months ago

    Yippee! Two books I have been waiting awhile for have come into the library and I picked them up today. Ann Cleeves' latest Vera, set on Lindisfarne, The Rising Tide, and Richard Osman's The Bullet That Missed. I am looking forward to a very enjoyable week of reading.