My Commonplace Book: November 2019

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

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


It had made Sarah think mournfully of the wasted potential of Mrs Simpson’s sister, Mina, her talents and intelligence unnurtured as she sought only to marry well. And this was to say nothing of the wasted potential of all those women who inhabited the realm below stairs, where she, until recently, had been confined. How many Shakespeares, how many Newtons – how many Simpsons for that matter – had we lost because they were born of a gender that was denied the chance to shine?

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry (2019)


If you take the time and the trouble to look at his life he will emerge as a man of courage and ambition, a man of self-doubt and modesty. He could be merciful or he could be ruthless, depending on the situation and whatever he felt was required. But he could equally be seen as someone who was also filled with humanity.

Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor by Phil Carradice (2019)


‘Things get difficult,” she said. ‘As one gets more money and more conventional in one’s ordinary routine, conventional people get in. Then the trouble is that the word “conventional” doesn’t mean what it used to any more. I mean, people aren’t necessarily honest or pleasant or kind just because they happen to be conventional. You get them in the house, and they play the devil with you because you’re unprepared and unarmed. You’re simple, unsuspecting, natural people. Everyone can see what you are at a glance. Their conventionality cloaks them. It’s their disguise. They beat you when it comes to it.’

The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham (1973)


An Australian goldfield c. 1855

In her entire life, Violet had not been alone for longer than a few hours. What might it be like to be alone in the bush for days, a dog one’s only companion? Yet being alone wasn’t a prerequisite for loneliness. One could be alone in a house full of people. One could find oneself alone, lying abed with a lover. One could find oneself alone in the midst of a conversation.

The Boy with Blue Trousers by Carol Jones (2019)


In my analogy, the production of a man is likened to the manufacture of a photographic print. The flash of creation (by which I mean conception in the case of the human and a timed exposure of light in the case of the photograph) determines the influence of Nature. It is then Nurture (upbringing in the case of the human, or the developing process in the case of the negative plate) which provides the detail, the finesse and the fulfilment of the final outcome. Any photographer, amateur or otherwise, will tell you the many ways in which inadequate skills in the developing room can alter or indeed ruin a perfectly good image.

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (2019)


Fiction had never been Jackson’s thing. Facts seemed challenging enough without making stuff up. What he discovered was that the great novels of the world were about three things – death, money and sex. Occasionally a whale.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson (2010)


Portrait of Elizabeth Woodville c. 1472

The subject of this present study seems recently to have become known in historical fiction as ‘the White Queen’. But of course, historical fiction is not reality. In reality, as she herself knew very well (and it worried her greatly), it was and is definitely questionable whether Elizabeth Widville should really be accepted as a genuine queen. As for her associated colour, on the basis of the flower emblem which she herself chose and adopted, it seems it would actually be more accurate to call her ‘pink’ rather than ‘white’. An additional advantage of referring to her colour as pink lies in the fact that it also highlights her having been eventually acknowledged as of royal status by both white rose and red rose kings (Edward IV and Henry VII).

Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey by John Ashdown-Hill (2019)


Perhaps, James considered, for a contented life to be possible, no man could have everything he wanted, because if he did, he would want not to have everything, or else to die. Life was not a life if there was nothing left to achieve.

The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan by Cynthia Jefferies (2018)


‘Beauty is for everyone,’ he continued. ‘It’s not just for the rich. Why should less fortunate people live in cheap and ugly places?’

‘There’s no reason!’ Andreas agreed with enthusiasm.

It was in an equal society that Nikos believed and it motivated every stroke of his pencil.

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop (2019)


(L to R) Ching-ling, Ei-ling and May-ling – the Soong sisters

‘We learn from observation that no nation can rise to distinction unless her women are educated and considered as man’s equal morally, socially, and intellectually…China’s progress must come largely through her educated women.’

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang (2019)


Favourite book read in November:

Those Who Are Loved

New authors read in November:

Phil Carradice, Carol Jones, Carolyn Kirby, John Ashdown-Hill, Cynthia Jefferies

Countries visited in my November reading:

Scotland, Wales, England, China, Australia, Greece, Turkey, Jamaica


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

9 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: November 2019

  1. Kathy says:

    I enjoyed reading The Second Sleep by Robert Harris and The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritson.
    Both of these books had very mixed reviews and I was surprised by how well I enjoyed them.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t read The Shape of Night, but I did read The Second Sleep earlier in the year and I’m afraid my review was quite mixed! I thought it was a fascinating idea and I loved the atmosphere, but I didn’t like it as much as the other Robert Harris books I’ve read.

  2. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, I haven’t read any of these, but as you know I have added Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor after reading your thoughts on it. I have also enjoyed a fair bit of non-fiction this month of Nonfiction November, including the histories of The Golden Antilles and Margaret Tudor. Happy reading in December! 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed The Boy with Blue Trousers too, although it wasn’t one of my favourite reads of the month. I’m glad you have some of these other books on your list!

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