My Commonplace Book: April 2018

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

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


There are no friends at Whitehall. Only allies and enemies. Among the great, power ebbs and flows according to their conjuctions and oppositions. And the rest of us are tossed about in the current, helpless to direct our course, let alone navigate our way to safety.

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor (2018)


Alexander frowned. ‘I am sure you exist, John, for I can see you here praying to God. But say this: a man may wake up one day and feel happy, and wake up the next and feel as if he cannot go on, though his life remains exactly the same. Or, to take another example: two men may lose their sight. One man quickly adjusts to it and continues to lead a useful life, the other falls into despair. What does that tell us? That the mind is all! If we can control the mind, it does not matter the circumstance.’

The Pharmacist’s Wife by Vanessa Tait (2018)


“Circe” from Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus, 1474 edition

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and thousand cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves. That word, nymph, paced out the length and breadth of our futures. In our language, it means not just goddess, but bride.

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)


The universe about you is charged with opposing forces – angels and devils, good and evil, light and darkness – you can call them what you will, and as you think of things and people, you invite into them one or the other. Think evil things of a man, and you’ve done your poor best to make a devil of him.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge (1949)


I do believe I begin to grasp the nature of miracles! For would it be a miracle, if there was any reason for it? Miracles have nothing to do with reason. Miracles contradict reason, they strike clean across mere human deserts, and deliver and save where they will. If they made sense, they would not be miracles.

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (1977)


If the sixty years seemed full of brilliance and adventure to a few at the top, to most they were a succession of wayward dangers; of the three galloping evils, pillage, plague and taxes; of fierce and tragic conflicts, bizarre fates, capricious money, sorcery, betrayals, insurrections, murder, madness and the downfall of princes; of dwindling labor for the fields, of cleared land reverting to waste; and always the recurring black shadow of pestilence carrying its message of guilt and sin and the hostility of God.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W Tuchman (1978)


London in the 16th Century

I usually like being by the river. I like the noise: the bellowing between ship and dock, the raucous squabbling of gulls, the shoving and shouting, the creak and groan of ropes and the slap of palms as bargains are struck. The quays reek of the scent of fish and salt air, and the refuse stranded on the beaches at low tide. Beggars pick over the debris in the mud, or snatch at scraps around the stalls. Tall ships and sturdy cogs jostle at the quays, sailed in from who knows where, destined for somewhere far from here. They set sail across the wide seas, the seas I have never seen, ploughing through the waves, bucking and rearing like horses in the wind…

The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne (2018)


“Patience is the capacity to endure all that is necessary in attaining a desired end. The patient man is master of his fate. The submissive man has handed his fate over to somebody else. Patience implies liberty and superiority. Impatience nearly always involves a loss of liberty. It causes people to commit themselves, to burn their boats, to put it out of their power to alter or modify their course. Patience never forsakes the ultimate goal because the road is hard. There can be no patience without an object.”

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy (1950)


There were men who would take the sword and with it conquer the world for their countrymen or themselves. Such men were a nuisance always, and in a world of high-explosive they were a calamity. But always History – a sentimental jade – would give them a little glory: that amid an ocean of tears and blood.

The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes (1942)


Flag of Grenada

As we drew closer to Grenada, her forest summits became more sharply defined and green patches began a glimmeration among the inky blues. The distant mountains of the interior were veiled in grey mist, whiles to the west – as the afternoon gathered in – the sun melted the sky into the sea, turning them both pale-pale lemon.

Sugar Money by Jane Harris (2017)


Of the four only Letty used the library for her own pleasure and possible edification. She had always been an unashamed reader of novels, but if she hoped to find one which reflected her own sort of life she had come to realize that the position of an unmarried, unattached, ageing woman is of no interest whatever to the writer of modern fiction.

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym (1977)


Favourite books read in April:

Circe and The Feast

Where did my reading take me in April?

England, Scotland, Wales, Ancient Greece, France, the Amazon, Grenada and Martinique

Authors read for the first time in April:

Vanessa Tait and Barbara W. Tuchman


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

13 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: April 2018

  1. piningforthewest says:

    I’ve only read the Pym but I have had A Distant Mirror for years, I should get around to reading it soon – I hope.

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed A Distant Mirror, although it took me more than a month to read it, alongside other books. I’ll be putting my review together soon.

  2. Judy Krueger says:

    You have a great list from April. And you traveled the world. I truly enjoyed reading your quotes this month. My April reading list will be posted today. Happy reading in May.

  3. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, while I haven’t read any of these, there are some great quotes here, and how wonderful that your reading has taken you to so many places around the world. Happy reading in May!

    • Helen says:

      Thank you. One of my goals for the year was to read more books set in other countries, so I’m pleased to have visited so much of the world in my April reading!

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