My Commonplace Book: June 2019

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

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


No one picks a friend for us; we come together by choice. We are not tied together through ceremony or the responsibility to create a son; we tie ourselves together through moments. The spark when we first meet. Laughter and tears shared. Secrets packed away to be treasured, hoarded and protected. The wonder that someone can be so different from you and yet still understand your heart in a way no one else ever will.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (2019)


Malaya, with its mix of Malays, Chinese and Indians, is full of spirits: a looking-glass world governed by unsettling rules. The European werewolf is a man who, when the moon is full, turns his skin inside out and becomes a beast. He then leaves the village and goes into the forest to kill. But for the natives here, the weretiger is not a man, but a beast who, when he chooses, puts on a human skin and comes from the jungle into the village to prey on humans. It’s almost exactly the reverse situation, and in some ways more disturbing.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019)


Garibaldi during the siege of Rome

Let us seek Knowledge; – the rest may come and go as it happens.

Knowledge is hard to seek, and harder yet to adhere to.

Knowledge is painful often; and yet when we know we are happy.

Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough (1849)


A sliver of light showed below, spilling across the uneven flagstones by the church door. Moonrakers, I thought. Who else would be so stealthy? I knew too that they hid their contraband in churches, using the supposed piety of the priest as cover for their criminality. I waited to see who it would be, whether I would recognise any of my father’s associates or even my father or brothers themselves.

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick (2019)


Mr. Satterthwaite thought: “What an extraordinary thing a voice is. The things it says – and the things it leaves unsaid and means!’

The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie (1930)


“I only bid you have a care,” Jeffreys smiled; and his smile was more terrible than his frown. “Truth never wants a subterfuge; it always loves to appear naked; it needs no enamel nor any covering.”

The Historical Nights’ Entertainment by Rafael Sabatini (1917)


A scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

We all accept that the people who designed our cars knew about engines, suspension and steering, otherwise who would race off at 60 miles an hour in one? But academics tell their students the pleasure of history is that opinions are always changing, new theories floated. Unlike science, there are no inconvenient ‘facts’.

Decoding the Bayeux Tapestry by Arthur C. Wright (2019)


‘In the seventeenth century no one would ever have said of something that it was “just a story” as we moderns do. At that time people recognized that stories could tap into dimensions that were beyond the ordinary, beyond the human even. They knew that only through stories was it possible to enter the most inward mysteries of our existence where nothing that is really important can be proven to exist – like love, or loyalty, or even the faculty that makes us turn around when we feel the gaze of a stranger or an animal. Only through stories can invisible or inarticulate or silent beings speak to us; it is they who allow the past to reach out to us.’

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh (2019)


He was a real person, the same as you and I. He had experiences that shaped him, dreams that inspired him and fears that drove him. More than anything else, it is a fact that King Richard III was a man of his times and should be judged as such.

Richard III: Fact and Fiction by Matthew Lewis (2019)


‘Speak up, my lady!’ bellowed the Lord Chief Justice.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

The words of the proverb came to her suddenly, like a balm to her tormented soul. These men might direct her words, but her heart was her own to command.

The Devil’s Slave by Tracy Borman (2019)


Grace Darling at the Forfarshire by Thomas Musgrave Joy

He sees the surprise in my eyes. “Yes. The best. Look at these people – strangers – in our home, in our clothes, eating our food. Look at how they comfort and help each other. Look how much you care for Mrs Dawson and her children, all of whom you’d never even heard of until a few hours ago. There will always be someone willing to save us, Grace. Even a stranger whose name we don’t know. That is the very best of humanity. That is what puts my mind at ease on a day like today.”

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor (2018)


Cromwell, sitting at the wheel, felt his skin crawl. In the Metropolitan Police Choir, of which he was an enthusiastic if indifferent baritone member, they were just polishing up a new piece called The Listeners, a poem by Walter de la Mare:

But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men…

A Knife for Harry Dodd by George Bellairs (1953)


Never before have I realised how isolated one can feel in a throng of people. Everyone around me was singing and praying, unaware of what is happening. They have no idea there’s a devil in their midst. I’m the only one.

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver (2019)


Favourite books read in June:

The Island of Sea Women and The Devil’s Slave

New authors read in June:

Yangzse Choo, Arthur Hugh Clough, Matthew Lewis, George Bellairs, Michelle Paver, Arthur C. Wright, Hazel Gaynor

Countries visited in my June reading:

Malaya, Italy, South Korea, England, France, USA, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, India

Progress made with 20 Books of Summer:

7/20 books read but only 4/20 reviewed.


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

12 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: June 2019

  1. FictionFan says:

    I loved The Night Tiger and enjoyed Wakenhyrst – they’re the only two I’ve read. Of the others, the Bellairs quote stands out because I loved that poem so much at school and still quote bits from it on a regular basis…

    Looks like you had another great month!

    • Helen says:

      I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Night Tiger! Wakenhyrst was good too. Now I just need to find time to catch up with my reviews…

  2. BookerTalk says:

    I’m curious about the process of a commonplace book Do you keep it in hard copy or just electronically ? Do yiu use it for your reading only or other things in your life.

    • Helen says:

      I only keep a commonplace book here on my blog, as a way to record favourite passages from my reading every month. I do like the idea of a hard copy, though!

  3. Judy Krueger says:

    Your Night Tiger quote made me want to read the book! Can’t wait for your review. I also loved the quote from Gun Island. We both read 13 books. That’s pretty good right?

    • Helen says:

      My review of The Night Tiger should be up soon. It was a fascinating book! Yes, I’m pleased to have read 13 books in June. It was my best month so far this year.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’ve not (yet) read any of these books. A couple were already on my reading list (‘The Island of Sea Women’ and ‘Gun Island’) but I am tempted to add a few more. I will need to live another sixty years to read all of the books I want to. 😉

    • Helen says:

      The Island of Sea Women is great – I hope you enjoy it. And I can sympathise with the growing reading list. If only there was more time to read!

    • Helen says:

      I usually get off to a very slow start with my 20 Books of Summer, so I’m pleased that I’m doing better this year. I will still be surprised if I manage to read all twenty, though!

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