My Commonplace Book: January 2018

A selection of words and pictures to represent January’s reading:

commonplace book
a book into which notable extracts from other works are copied for personal use.


It dawned on me then that I stood at the junction of two cultures which were still struggling to come to terms with each other two hundred years on. Australia – and I – were only young and trying to work ourselves out. We were making progress, but then making mistakes, because we didn’t have centuries of wisdom and the experience of age to guide us.

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley (2017)


“‘Tis you who are kind, Phibae. In truth, you know me so little, and yet you have done this. I have seen so much that is wicked this past year, but when there are people such as you…the compassion you show – truly, it humbles.”

“No, my lady.” Phibae glanced up. “‘Tis only how people should be.”

Traitor by David Hingley (2018)


Mermaids, by Jean Francis Aubertin (circa 1920)

We fill their minds even when we are far away. They fancy they see us even when they do not. They tell one another stories about us.
The stories are of men who, walking on the shore, hear sweet voices far away, see a soft white back turned to them, and – heedless of looming clouds and creaking winds – forget their children’s hands and the click of their wives’ needles, all for the sake of the half-seen face behind a tumble of gale-tossed greenish hair.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (2018)


“My dear Miss Gregory,” said Syme gently, “there are many kinds of sincerity and insincerity. When you say ‘thank you’ for the salt, do you mean what you say? No. When you say ‘the world is round,’ do you mean what you say? No. It is true, but you don’t mean it. Now, sometimes a man like your brother really finds a thing he does mean. It may be only a half-truth, quarter-truth, tenth-truth; but then he says more than he means – from sheer force of meaning it.”

The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton (1908)


“Oh, yes, slums,” said Adelaide.

Agatha Yates groaned. “Please don’t call them that. They’re Courts, or Mews, or Alleys. It’s like calling people ‘the poor’ instead of by their names. That’s the whole point of our method – dealing with people individually. And it’s working.”

Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (1946)


“Vasya,” he said again, low and – almost ragged, into her ear. “Perhaps I am not so wise as you would have me, for all my years in this world. I do not know what you should choose. Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.”

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (2017)


James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch by William Wissing

“Not necessarily. I think that learning is essential for everyone – rich, poor, male, female – because it’s only through books that most people can discover the world, and be shaken out of all their prejudices and complacencies and forced to think for themselves. And of course, people who form their own opinions are not always welcome to those who govern them – or to the churches.” His face became suddenly serious. “I believe in tolerance above all, and freedom. I don’t want anyone, whether priest or parson or presbyter, telling me how to think or where to worship. My beliefs are my own business…”

A Falling Star by Pamela Belle (1990)


Perhaps sometimes we allow life to suppress us, let our pride be eroded. Perhaps it is a state of our own consciousness, not truly driven by circumstances at all, simply a gradual shifting of the sands as life’s sorrows swell and break over us. Then something changes – the meeting of a kindred spirit, the potency of mutual trust – and the tender graces of self-belief once more visit themselves upon us and we are as complete as ever we may be.

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (2018)


He paused a moment; his soul was full of an agreeable feeling and of a lively disposition to express it. His sister, to his spiritual vision, was always like the lunar disk when only a part of it is lighted. The shadow on this bright surface seemed to him to expand and to contract; but whatever its proportions, he always appreciated the moonlight.

The Europeans by Henry James (1878)


The Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada.

The Alhambra was lovely, that much was true: it had been the scene of many atrocities, yet the serene pillars and elegant towers, oblivious to all the blood spilled, soared away from it into the night, indifferent to the sufferings of mere men. These buildings would outlive us all, I thought.

Court of Lions by Jane Johnson (2017)


Favourite books read in January:
The Girl in the Tower, Britannia Mews, A Falling Star

Where did my reading take me in January?
Spain, Australia, Thailand, Russia, USA, England

Authors read for the first time in January:
Laura Carlin, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Henry James, David Hingley


Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading in January?

12 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: January 2018

  1. cirtnecce says:

    Lovely selection! The Man who was Thursday remains one of the most unique reads in my mind. I am still making up my mind about The Europeans to be specific and Henry James in particular! I started Britannia Mews after your and Jane’s review and I can see why you both praised it so much!

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed Britannia Mews, so I’m pleased you like it too. My review of The Europeans should be up soon. It’s the first Henry James book I’ve read as he has never really appealed to me before. I didn’t love it, but I think I liked it enough to want to read more!

  2. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, I haven’t read any of these book but I have put Court of Lions by Jane Johnson on to my wish list 🙂 In January, I read The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman and The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland, and three non-fictions. I wish you more happy reading in February!

  3. Carmen says:

    Great quotes, as usual. I loved the ones from The Pearl Sister, The Mermaid…, Britannia Mews, A Fallen Star, and Court of Lions. My favorite among those was the one from A Fallen Star; well said, and well chosen too. 😉

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