My Commonplace Book: September 2018

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

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


Sometimes, he wondered at the choices a man made in his life: what a chaotic road had been laid behind him of carefully made plans and rushed decisions, rapid shifts and backtracks. Where might that road have led him if any one of them had been different? Sometimes, the thought left him light-headed, as if he were looking out over an abyss, no road laid before him, all the choices yet to make and the weight of those already made pushing at his back.

Court of Wolves by Robyn Young (2018)


“These old corners with layers of history attached to them. They seem to exist in more dimensions than most places do.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not quite sure I know. I suppose I mean it exists in time as well as space. So there’s always more to it than there seems. Only you don’t quite know what.”

Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor (2008)


Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

If the advice was not heeded – and Francis was well aware that there was little likelihood of persuading the Earl of any course of action that he did not sincerely believe had been instigated by himself – it was because confrontation then, now, and always, is not only between the commander in the field and the enemy he seeks to subdue, but also between the men of action on the ground and the politicians back at home.

Golden Lads by Daphne du Maurier (1975)


‘History is a good story, in my humble opinion,’ he said at last. ‘And at best it’s a matter of interpretation of selected facts, which may not even be genuine facts. Few historians have the chance to interview their subjects first-hand. Don’t knock it, Ruth. Listen. Write. Work out what it is you’ve written later.’

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine (2018)


What was it like to trust no one? Was it wise? Or was there a small file, like a watchmaker’s file, that rasped away at the heart until, one day, in the crossing of a street, the middle of a sentence, you ceased to be human at all?

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller (2018)


‘Do please, Bella, think hard of what you are planning. You have no idea, I am sure, of what life can be like for a woman.’
‘For one who fails,’ said Cristabel. ‘I don’t mean to fail. I mean to have the world at my feet. Because I am me, not because I’m Sarum’s unwanted daughter. Just give me my chance.’

First Night by Jane Aiken Hodge (1989)


The deeds of Theseus on an Attic red-figured kylix (British Museum)

Before, when I have tried to understand my enemies, it has been to ‘plan’ against them. Why try now when it is finished, why not be content to curse? But while man is man he must look and think; if not forward, back. We are born asking why, and so we end. So the gods made us.

The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault (1962)


Tad once told me that there is only one true queen on a chessboard. I remember asking him which one it was, and he asked me what I thought in return. I hazarded that she was always the one that won the game, and he shook his head slowly.
“No, child,” he said. “A queen may lose the game at hand, but ever is she a queen.”

Perdita by Hilary Scharper (2013)


The storm-centre had moved to some distance now, but the sky was still low and dark, and in the intermittent electric flicker the mountain shapes showed a curious light olive-green, lighter than the indigo clouds beyond them. The lower meadows and slopes shone paler still, stretching ghostly and frostlike where the shower had left its evanescent hoary glimmer. Dark sky, pale mountains, phantom-grey meadows…it was like looking at the negative of the normal daylight picture, a magically inverted landscape through whose pale foreground drove the sharp ink-black furrow of the Petit Gave.

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart (1957)


Nell was not impressed by his revelation. The highborn were always up to no good, but what of it? No matter who sat on the throne at Westminster, she’d still be fretting about that leak in the roof and her daughter’s need for new shoes.

Cruel as the Grave by Sharon Penman (1998)


Pendle Hill, Lancashire

‘People think in pictures,’ I said. ‘Sometimes if you jog their memories with one picture, it helps to release others. People remember more than they think, but their memories are stored deep and you need to find a way to bring them to the surface.’

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (2018)


‘No? She wanted advice, just like you. I told her to go home and cook her husband’s dinner. Instead she went to Spain where she was murdered. People don’t want advice. They want to be told that what they want to do is right.’

Dark Summer in Bordeaux by Allan Massie (2012)


The extraordinary pleasantness of the last days of a holiday does not make a determined man want to be on holiday forever; he enjoys each second with peculiar gusto just because he is prepared to leave at an appointed time.

Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)


Favourite books read in September:

The Craftsman, Bleeding Heart Square and Harriet

Where did my reading take me in September?

England, France, Ancient Greece, Spain, Italy, Scotland, Canada

Authors read for the first time in September:

Hilary Scharper and Elizabeth Jenkins


Have you read any of these books? Which books did you enjoy in September?

17 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: September 2018

    • Helen says:

      I know what you mean about the ending of The Craftsman, but I had loved the rest of the book up to that point so it didn’t spoil it too much for me.

  1. FictionFan says:

    I like the Mary Stewart quote best this month, with Andrew Miller as a close second. I really must read some Mary Stewart sometime. I’ve got The Craftsman on my TBR but as usual I’m stacked up with review copies I must read first…

    • Helen says:

      I love the Mary Stewart quote…I think her descriptive writing is better than just about any other author I can think of. Thunder on the Right isn’t my favourite of her books, but I did enjoy it. I hope you have a chance to read The Craftsman soon!

  2. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed The Craftsman too and years ago I loved The Bull from the Sea – I wonder if I would still feel the same? I’ve got Now We Shall Be Entirely Free on my TBR – hope to read it soon.

  3. cath says:

    It’s a long time since I read a Mary Stewart novel, I remember now how much I loved her writing, though I haven’t read this one. I think you’ve given me a useful nudge. thank you. Love commonplace books, by the way. What a great way to update them.

    • Helen says:

      Mary Stewart is one of my favourite authors – I’m glad I’ve reminded you about her! I don’t think Thunder on the Right is one of her best books, but it’s still enjoyable.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    You had a wonderful month of reading! So did I. I hope to post my list today. I do love your quotes. That is one thing I just don’t have the discipline to do.

    • Helen says:

      Sometimes the quotes jump out at me as I’m reading, but other times I struggle to find one that represents the book. I do enjoy putting these posts together, though!

  5. Charlie says:

    That’s a lot of books! I like the Erskine quote, and the Mary Stewart for the description. Got to read another of hers, it’s been a while (Stormy Petrel). I’ve read quite a few of the authors but not these books.

    • Helen says:

      I love Mary Stewart – her writing is beautifully descriptive. I liked Stormy Petrel, but I prefer her earlier, more suspenseful books. Nine Coaches Waiting is my favourite.

  6. buriedinprint says:

    Choices, trust, history: many of the passages I note revolve around these themes too. The only book I’ve read is Perdita and I liked it a lot but I love the section of Canada in which it’s set (the Bruce Peninsula between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in Ontario – Niagara Escarpment territory) with all those rocks and waves. I’ve read some Mary Stewart but only her children’s books, although I keep meaning to read others My September was mostly filled with newer books, but I think I’ll enjoy more backlisted books in October. Good reading to you this month!

    • Helen says:

      I don’t seem to read many books set in Canada, so I liked that aspect of Perdita too. Mary Stewart’s adult novels are wonderful – if you’re looking for a place to start I would highly recommend either Nine Coaches Waiting or This Rough Magic. Happy reading to you this month too!

  7. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, I haven’t read any of these, but as always sounds like a good mixture of books and I am very impressed with all the travelling your reading took you on. Happy October reading! 🙂

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