What I Did on My Holidays
Or, rather, what I read on my holidays. I really enjoyed Kate Ellis’s PLAYING WITH BONES, one of her Joe Plantagenet series, let in a lightly fictionalised York. There is an element of the supernatural in these and it was satisfyingly creepy! And as we were in northern France I took with me Adrian Magson’s DEATH ON THE MARAIS, set in Picardy, which turned out to be a thoroughly good read.
We visited Tunbridge Wells first and I picked up a copy of Richard Cobb’s STILL LIFE in Hall’s, one of my favourite second-hand book-shops. Richard Cobb is best known as a historian of modern France, but this is an account of his childhood in Tunbridge Wells between the wars and is a fascinating piece of social history. I read it when it first came out twenty years ago and enjoyed it all over again.
The other books I’ve been revisiting are Molly Hughes’s four autobiographical books, beginning with A LONDON CHILD OF THE 1870S and ending with A LONDON FAMILY BETWEEN THE WARS. They are hugely enjoyable, a window on a world very different from today, and though I really wouldn’t want to have been a woman then, I couldn’t help feeling a bit envious – mostly perhaps of the writer’s optimism and high spirits.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget CRANFORD, and the Father Brown stories, re-readings both. Chesterton’s stories are certainly ingenious puzzles, but at their best they are much more than that. ‘The Queer Feet’ and ‘The Strange Crime of John Boulnois’ are among my favourites.
A Coda: I got home to find an email from Ra Page at Comma Press telling me that LITMUS (the short story collection that I blogged about a while ago) had got a rave review from THE INDEPENDENT (‘Works brilliantly… ingenious… unfailingly interesting’) and had been chosen as a BOOK OF THE WEEK. The NEW SCIENTIST liked it too: ‘Exquisite… delectable.’ Wow!