My Commonplace Book: October 2018

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

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


In the same way, I suppose, that the perfect crime is extremely rare, so is the perfect solution. In real life, we are never able to dot every i, cross every t, or tease out every last strand of what we think of as the evidence.
Real life is messy, and it’s probably best to keep that in mind. We must learn never to expect too much.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley (2016)


Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favoured memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and polished for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (2018)


Princess Milica (Militza) of Montenegro

Militza laughed. Stana did not. ‘We do not have a choice,’ her sister conceded quietly.

‘A life without choice,’ Stana stared at her sister and slowly shook her head, ‘is no life at all.’

The Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones (2018)


“My dear nephew, you know absolutely nothing about women. Counting by years, I grant you they grow old. Counting by sensations, they remain young to the end of their days.”

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins (1880)


There are my books, for instance. Many of the most charming I have bought in France and brought through the customs with difficulty. I might not be able to get them again, for these things, little masterpieces though they are in their own way, are gossamer trifles that appeal not to the many-headed and, naturally neglected by the multitude, drift away down the breeze of time. I have never met a best-seller yet that I have managed to finish. It is not surprising. One’s taste is, I hope, superior to the average.

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull (1934)


Family life was a difficult affair with a father who had repudiated two of his six wives, beheaded two others, and bastardised both his daughters.

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (1944)


Portrait of William Lilly, aged 45, now housed in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford

It seemed that civil war was inevitable, but would it come in a year, months or days? It would be bloody and terrible, but how bloody we had no idea, for war is only ever an abstract, an imagined nightmare until one is actually in the midst of it. Even then there is disbelief as all one’s higher senses are eclipsed by the grinding and most immediate need to survive.

The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner (2018)


You might just as well try to see a man through a brick wall as try to see him through a mass of preconceived ideas.

Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham (1944)


“It has a wonderful sound. A brave new world. There isn’t anything really like that, is there?”

“You don’t believe in it?”

“Do you?”

“There is always a brave new world,” said Poirot, “but only, you know, for very special people. The lucky ones. The ones who carry the making of that world within themselves.”

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie (1969)


She had been an attractive girl. But that ‘had been’ was not a conventional gesture to the fact of death. It was an honest admission that without life the most beautiful body is an object of no interest. We are not bodies, thought Nigel, we are lives. And oddly, there came to him at that moment a new and firm conviction of the nature of love.

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin (1944)


Illustration by Ivan Bilibin from the Russian fairy tale ‘Morozko’.

“There are not,” said the Bear. “There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (2019)


Fuel and food being fought over, tanks and aircraft being built, and at the front end, lines of men facing each others’ shells and guns, trying to justify what it was all for. The world had gone mad, and there didn’t seem to be a single corner left where people weren’t dying.

Tapestry of War by Jane MacKenzie (2018)


They say love is not love, that alters when it alteration finds. Much as it pains me to tell you that your English poets are wrong, how can this be true? Love must change if its object changes. You don’t stand under a tree in winter when the branches are black and admire its green leaves and its shade.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry (2018)


In 1632, the Puritan lawyer William Prynne wondered why people could not observe Christmas without ‘drinking, roaring, healthing, dicing, carding, masques and staging plays, which better become the sacrifices of Bacchus than the incarnation of our most blessed Saviour’.

A Tudor Christmas by Alison Weir (2018)


Favourite books read in October:

Jezebel’s Daughter, Young Bess, Earth and High Heaven, The Murder of My Aunt and The Winter of the Witch

Where did my reading take me in October?

England, Germany, Canada, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Scotland

Authors read for the first time in October:

Gwethalyn Graham, Richard Hull, Imogen Edwards-Jones, Tobsha Learner


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

14 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: October 2018

  1. FictionFan says:

    Haha – I love that quote from The Murder of My Aunt! What a great book that was. Of the ones I haven’t read, the Kate Morton and Edmund Crispin quotes stand out for me.

  2. Jane says:

    The Murder of My Aunt is great and Poirot, always so wise! but the Kate Morton is so true. What a great set of quotes and wide range of reading, brilliant!

    • Helen says:

      I loved The Winter of the Witch! I think it’s the best of the three books in the trilogy. Melmoth was good too, but I didn’t like it as much as The Essex Serpent.

  3. Carmen says:

    I liked the quotes of The Clockmaker’s Daughter and Melmoth. I’m reading The Silent Companions at this moment; I had planned to finish it in time for the end of the R.I.P. XIII Challenge but it could not be. Happy reading, Helen! 🙂

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