My Commonplace Book: March 2018

A selection of words and pictures to represent Marchโ€™s reading:

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


And she wondered then what it would feel like to make a poem from words, as you might make a stitching needle from a sheep’s bone, or a vest from woven wool, or a rope bound so strong from slender horse hair that it could swing a man through the air across a cliff face. To tie one word to another and one line to the next and with it let one person enter the mind and heart of another – would that not be a fine thing to do?

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (2018)


“She may not have the lifestyle she could have had, but she’s happy – and free. And the two go together: You can’t be happy unless you are free, and you can’t be free until you’re truly happy – which means being true to yourself first and foremost.”

The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn (2015)


13th-century depiction by Matthew Paris of the Earl of Pembroke’s coat of arms

He raised his head to her. “Because how else do you steer a ship through a storm – especially a ship that’s already battered and leaking, with no certainty of safe harbour? If I abandon the helm and wring my hands in panic with the rest of the crew, then we go down…and fast.”

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick (2006)


“It seems as if all the men in your family have been kindhearted, Alma. There aren’t many people like them in this world of ours.”

“There are a lot of good people, Irina, but they keep quiet about it. It’s the bad ones who make a lot of noise, and that’s why they get noticed…”

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (2015)


Why should life be lived as a crushing tedium and unrewarded toil? Why should the haves live in splendour and the have-nots in squalor? Although I did not envy the highwayman his vices – neither drinking, gambling nor whoring were my game – I did envy his freedom. But here I was now, on the open road, as free as any highwayman.

Ill Will by Michael Stewart (2018)


His early life, he thought, was like the slow flip of photographs: the images were too sparse and sporadic to make any sense together, but each was so vivid that whenever one flickered to his mind, he was startled by its intensity. How could certain visions like these remain so luminous, and yet he had no recollection at all of what had come before or after?

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (2015)


With the rest of Auburn and the thousands of villages like us I have found something out, and there is a rock under my feet. Physical fear, recantations under torture, are weapons of the enemy. They are not truths. If we are not free tomorrow, we shall not be happy tomorrow. There will be no living in false content. That in all the world is certain.

The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham (1941)


Parliamentarian propaganda depicting Prince Rupert and his dog, Boy, pillaging Birmingham

Then James realised that the prince had made no complaint about the fact that he too was branded with infamy. What was it like to be a man of twenty-three, called to lead tens of thousands of men onto the battlefields of a country not his own, and to have every aspect of his life, character and high ideals dragged in the dirt for more than twelve burdensome months?

The Winter Prince by Cheryl Sawyer (2007)


It was Nigel’s experience that in each of his cases there was a moment when the drama took on a third dimension and became fully alive for him, as when on the stage the entrance of a character, the delivery of a key line, or it may be only a single consummate gesture, a moment of stillness or a change in the lighting, grips the spectator so that he is no longer a spectator but a participant deeply involved with the tragedy enacted before him.

The Dreadful Hollow by Nicholas Blake (1953)


“Surely we should be standing up to bullying?”

“I’m sorry.”

She rose as anger surged through her. “So, you’re just going to give in?”

“I have no choice.”

“Then how will we ever change people’s attitudes?”

The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies (2018)


“It is really remarkable,” he said, “how quickly this sort of thing becomes all in the day’s work. But I wonder, would the interest last? Suddenly into one’s life comes a romantic and dangerous episode, and one is excited, keyed-up, acknowledging fear, anger – all sorts of relatively unfamiliar emotions. But – do you know? – I believe I should get a little bored if it went on for long.”

The Secret Vanguard by Michael Innes (1940)


“There are enough letters,” I said. “But Mrs Bird won’t answer most of them. Some people are in a real pickle, but she says they’re just Unpleasantnesses.”

“She would,” said Mr Collins. “I have to say, it’s all Greek to me. That’s why I stick to fiction. Making things up is somewhat easier than sorting out real life.”

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (2018)


Jebel Akhdar mountain, Oman

Gradually she became aware of the hugeness of the Earth, and its incomprehensible age. She learned, finally, how small she truly was, how fleeting. It was beautiful, and not at all disheartening. Quite the opposite – she finally felt that she knew who she was, and she knew her place, and she felt totally at peace with both. She felt she could go anywhere and do anything; she felt the world turning, peacefully, resolutely, unendingly. The silence was like a magic spell; it seemed to promise infinite time in which to do all the things she wanted to do.

The English Girl by Katherine Webb (2016)


We are all fuel. We are born, and we burn, some of us more quickly than others. There are different kinds of combustion. But not to burn, never to catch fire at all, that would be the sad life, wouldn’t it?

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (2016)


Favourite books read in March:

The Scarlet Lion, Dear Mrs Bird, Church of Marvels, The Sapphire Widow

Where did my reading take me in March?

Iceland, Algeria, USA, England, Scotland, Oman, Sri Lanka

Authors read for the first time in March:

Sally Magnusson, Isabel Allende, Michael Stewart, Leslie Parry, Cheryl Sawyer, Graham Swift, AJ Pearce


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

11 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: March 2018

  1. Carmen says:

    Great quotes, as always. I like several this month: The Snow Globe, The Scarlet Lion, Church of Marvel, The Winter Prince, The Dreadful Hollow, The English Girl, and Mothering Sunday. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Helen says:

      I love reading books by my favourite authors, but it’s always good to discover new ones too. And yes, I’m behind with reviews at the moment but should start to catch up soon!

  2. FictionFan says:

    I love the Sally Magnusson quote – really think I’m going to have to read that one. And the Margery Allingham quote doesn’t sound like Margery Allingham at all! Looking forward to your review of that one – I’m intrigued…

    • Helen says:

      The Oaken Heart is Allingham’s memoir of life in her village during the war. My review should be coming soon, although I’m very behind at the moment!

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