My Commonplace Book: January 2017

Looking back at January’s reading – in words and pictures.

My Commonplace Book

commonplace book
a notebook in which quotations, poems, remarks, etc, that catch the owner’s attention are entered

Collins English Dictionary



Cardinal Richelieu

But there’s no harm in learning about history from a novelist, especially those details that historians find unworthy to relate, assuming they even know them.

The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas (1865)


Mark had prided himself on his library. It was a mixed collection of books. Books which he had inherited both from his father and from his patron; books which he had bought because he was interested in them or, if not in them, in the authors to whom he wished to lend his patronage; books which he had ordered in beautifully bound editions, partly because they looked well on his shelves, lending a noble colour to his rooms, partly because no man of culture should ever be without them; old editions, new editions, expensive books, cheap books, a library in which everybody, whatever his taste, could be sure of finding something to suit him.

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne (1922)


Without thought, I laughed when laughter was required, or I was gentle or fiery or amiable or seductive or roguish or voluptuous or childlike, as the man wished me.  But which of these different women was truly Jane Shore?  A diamond has many facets, I told myself, and all are beautiful: I was a diamond, save that I was not hard and had no cutting-edges.

The Merry Mistress by Philip Lindsay (1952)



Bannik – the bathhouse spirit

“A prophecy then, sea-maiden.”

“Why do you call me that?” she whispered.

The bannik drifted up to the bench beside her. His beard was the curling steam. “Because you have your great-grandfather’s eyes. Now hear me. You will ride to where earth meets sky. You will be born three times: once of illusions, once of flesh, and once of spirit. You will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, weep for a nightingale, and die by your own choosing.”

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (2017)


One man can no more see into the mind of another than he can see inside a stone…

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet (2015)


The gardens at Wolf Hall proved a delight, a tangled land of enchantment full of overblown roses and secret paths.  Beneath the trees of the orchard I could see a harassed looking goose girl trying to round up her flock.  She was flapping as much as they.  Over in the stable yard, I could hear the chink of harness and the murmur of voices.  The air was full of scent and heat, and I wandered at will, lost in the pleasure of it.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick (2016)



“Do people see him? Does he haunt the tower?”

“Poor Goldsworthy?” Mr Ratcliffe shook his head. “Not as far as I know. No, it’s his music that people hear. Or they say they do. Fragments of melody, just a few notes.” He waved his pipe in the direction of the cathedral. “It’s as if the anthem was broken into many pieces in the fall. And all the notes it contained were thrown up into the air. They are still there. Looking for each other. Trying to come together again.”

Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor (2016)


Then, while he watched and pondered, a strange transformation took place.  The light turned to bluish over the whole mountain, with the lower slopes darkening to violet.  Something deeper than his usual aloofness rose in him – not quite excitement, still less fear, but a sharp intensity of expectation.  He said: “You’re quite right, Barnard, this affair grows more and more remarkable.”

Lost Horizon by James Hilton (1933)


She had scraps for a dog, milk for a cat, bread for a child, a wage for an old woman; she had a roof and a fire and a door to shut or open. She was beginning to be beloved, and she was already essential.

The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp (1933)



Pembroke Castle

During our journey some of the churches and abbeys we rode past had amazed me, but I had never laid eyes on anything to compare with the huge and fearsome edifice that was Pembroke Castle.

Viewed across an expanse of rippling water, it crouched like some gigantic monster on a steep rocky promontory, its mighty lime-washed towers and battlements appearing to grow out of the pale rock beneath, as if it was rooted in the earth itself.  It looked like a man-made white mountain, indestructible, impregnable.

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson (2016)


It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy – that’s the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)


Edmund coughed and filled his wife’s glass, then his own. “Aren’t you pleased, Bessie?”

“It’s not that I’m not pleased. I’m sure it’s a great compliment
to you that you should be asked to investigate such an important

“But, my love?” He pulled at his cravat.

“Well, it’s just that it’s such a very awful case. I can’t help but
think that simply by being involved with it, your name will be

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (2016)


Favourite books this month: The Red Sphinx, His Bloody Project, The Red House Mystery, Lost Horizon and East of Eden

January has been a great month for me where reading is concerned!  I would usually just pick out one or two books as favourites, but this month I had trouble narrowing it down to five.  I hope February will be even better.

14 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: January 2017

  1. jessicabookworm says:

    Great to see you have so many ‘favourites’ from January, that really is a sign of a really good month of reading. I am looking forward to reading The First of the Tudors and I have heard wonderful things about The Bear and the Nightingale. Happy reading in February 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it’s always good if you have trouble narrowing down your favourites. 🙂 I should be posting my thoughts on The Bear and the Nightingale and First of the Tudors soon. I enjoyed both of them.

  2. Judy Krueger says:

    Isn’t that great when so many great novels fill a month? My favorite quote in this post is the one from The Merry Mistress. I have read and enjoyed Lost Horizon and East of Eden. I look forward to your reviews of them.

    • Helen says:

      A commonplace book is similar to a scrapbook – a collection of interesting quotations, pictures and facts. The idea is really to write by hand in a notebook, but mine is an online version.

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