A selection of words and pictures to represent May’s reading:
a book into which notable extracts from other works are copied for personal use.
‘I am come on a painful errand. I am sorry not to find you looking better.’
‘So you have said. But if it is painful, shall we not do best to get it over with? Hard things are best said quickly.’
The Adventurers by Jane Aiken Hodge (1965)
Then all at once she turned to me, her face pale, her eyes strangely alight. She said, ‘Is it possible to love someone so much, that it gives one a pleasure, an unaccountable pleasure to hurt them? To hurt them by jealousy I mean, and to hurt oneself at the same time. Pleasure and pain, an equal mingling of pleasure and pain, just as an experiment, a rare sensation?’
But this tantalising clue unfortunately does not lead to finding a full version of the tale that the king lived for three full years after Flodden. It is like a bookmark stuck between the leaves of a legend, imprinted with some of the words but not enough detail. Where was James supposed to be for those three years – on the road to Jerusalem perhaps, or in the dungeon of Home Castle? And how did he finally die?
And so the barge drives onwards, through the river din, for the river is wakening, quickening, as they pass. Sounds carried over the water: church bells, waterman’s oaths, paddles and thrumming steam-engines, children playing and the ever-present sound of the water-birds that fly overhead. Onwards drives the barge. Past quays and boatyards, warehouses and landing stages, houses and spires. Past ramshackle old public houses that teeter down to the water. Onwards drives the barge. Amid mail boats and passenger boats, paddle and screw steamers, rowing boats and skiffs, steam-yachts, steam-ferries and tugs. Watercraft of every size negotiating the beneficient, polluted, bottomless, shallow, fast-rushing, mud-slickened, under-towed Thames.
We exchanged glances, he and I, and I guessed that we were thinking along the same lines: that both of us took orders from people who preferred not to know precisely how their wishes were carried out, especially beforehand; that sometimes they preferred to hint at their desires to us rather than speak them plainly; and that in a manner of speaking we were their left hands, which operated in the dark, so their right hands might be seen to be spotlessly clean by the unforgiving light of day.
The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor (2019)
A dog is a great promoter of friendly intercourse. Our interest and liking for Bob had quite broken down the natural stiffness of the good servant. As we went up to the bedroom floors, our guide was talking quite garrulously as she gave us accounts of Bob’s wonderful sagacity. The ball had been left at the foot of the stairs. As we passed him, Bob gave us a look of deep disgust and stalked down in a dignified fashion to retrieve it. As we turned to the right I saw him slowly coming up again with it in his mouth, his gait that of an extremely old man forced by unthinking persons to exert himself unduly.
The mourner banquets on memory; making that which seems the poison of life, its ailment. During the hours of regret we recall the images of departed joys; and in weeping over each tender remembrance, tears so softly shed embalm the wounds of grief.
My waking moments were bitter with remorse at the way in which I had abused my freedom when I had had it. One takes liberty for granted, and until it’s gone one doesn’t realise that one has been imprisoning oneself all the time.
The Way to the Lantern by Audrey Erskine Lindop (1961)
Favourite books read in May:
The Way to the Lantern, The King’s Evil, Dumb Witness and Things in Jars. Yes, four favourites this month!
New authors read in May:
Keith J. Coleman, Jess Kidd, Jane Porter, Audrey Erskine Lindop
Countries visited in May:
Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, France
Have you read any of these books? Which books did you enjoy in May?