My Commonplace Book: February 2020

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

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


There were no houses across the way from Miss Beulah’s, only a wall of pines. It was a dark, romantic view, and somehow sad. It made her think of the poor little match girl who froze to death, and the other little girl whose cruel stepmother dressed her in newspapers and sent her out in the storm to find strawberries. Snow always made Miss Beulah think of things like that, pretty, childish things with death and tears in the background. Miss Beulah had the imagination of her century and she had read too many books when she was young.

Blood Upon the Snow by Hilda Lawrence (1944)


Wivenhoe Park by John Constable, 1816

Now his brother looked up. ‘Is the suggestion disagreeable to you?’

John thought for a moment before he replied. ‘What is not necessary is not always agreeable.’

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd (2020)


This position was first recorded in the 1340s and by 1471 the description of the role of master of the henchmen was

…to learn them to ride cleanly and surely, to draw them also to jousts, to learn them wear their harness (armour), to have all courtesy in words, deeds, and degrees…to teach them sundry languages and other learnings virtuous, to harping, to pipe, sing, dance, and with other honest and temperate behaving and patience…to have his respects unto their demeaning, how mannerly they eat and drink, and to their communication.

Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador by Sarah-Beth Watkins (2020)


‘You did not see the need for change because the world you lived in suited you best. And we are all blinded by dogmatics and have become too afraid to trust our own thoughts. We have all been manipulated by the acceptance of tradition, our minds already tainted by the time we learn to speak. It is not our parents’ fault, nor our grandparents’; who as a babe has the knowledge and strength to take on every human that existed before them?’

Requiem for a Knave by Laura Carlin (2020)


Belle Bilton, Countess of Clancarty

“Do you love to read, Flo, as I do?” he said. “I cannot get your sister to lift a book.” He waved his hand in the direction of the Corinthian’s library, the quietest room in the club.

“Oh, Isabel is not for literary pursuits, Mr Weston. She prefers to live her story.”

Weston laughed. “What a superb notion! And so superbly put.”

Becoming Belle by Nuala O’Connor (2018)


The storm comes in like a finger snap. That’s how they’ll speak in the months and years after, when it stops being only an ache behind their eyes and a crushing at the base of their throats. When it finally fits into stories. Even then, it doesn’t tell how it actually was. There are ways words fall down: they give shape too easily, carelessly. And there was no grace, no ease to what Maren saw.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (2020)


‘I’m at the Club. I can be with you in about a quarter of an hour, if that suits you.’

‘Very well indeed, sir. Come along.’

Johnny rang off, and Sally asked, ‘What on earth do you suppose he wants?’

‘I can’t imagine. If this were a detective story, he’d be bumped off before he could tell us. It’s a classic situation’.

Answer in the Negative by Henrietta Hamilton (1959)


Giardini Iblei, Ragusa

We climbed to the top of the city, where the formal gardens, the Giardini Iblei, were laid out: green, shady and quiet. We entered through an avenue of huge old palm trees throwing deep shade across the hot, bright path. Starlings sang in the trees; cats stretched in patches of sunlight. The gardens were flanked by churches; one even stood inside its boundary – an arched door painted green and a saint standing up high beside its tower, one hand raised in benediction, baking in the glare.

The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas (2020)


“I see the past as it actually was,” Maeve said. She was looking at the trees.

“But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.”

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (2019)


“In case this turns out to be a high-powered mystery, which I don’t suppose for a moment that it will, remember that an elderly unmarried woman who knits and gardens is streets ahead of any detective sergeant. She can tell you what might have happened and what ought to have happened and even what actually did happen! And she can tell you why it happened!”

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950)


We make decisions based on what’s best for the realm, not to appease our feelings. The same is true for us. You want to speak of love for eighteen years, but it has never been about love, only promise and property, power and position, and after eighteen years the promise has been unfulfilled, the property has not been possessed, our power is less than it should be, and our position is fragile without an heir.

Thus, do not speak to me of love. I am a king.

The Great Matter Monologues by Thomas Crockett (2020)


Imprisonment of Charles of Orleans in the Tower of London

My mother sought and found solace in reading what wise men and poets had written to direct us to a path in the impenetrable forest which life is. It is an image which was familiar to me when I was a child. My mother said once: Life is a long awaiting of God’s peace. And I know that my father considered himself to be one who had irretrievably lost his way in the forest of long awaiting. We too seek a path in the wilderness, ma mie. Perhaps we shall wander inaccessible to each other, each in a different place. But shouldn’t we try to find each other? Trust and sharing of views, these could bring us together.’

In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse (1949)


‘I understand better than you know, sister,’ said Diana, turning her grip into a hug as Molly’s tears began again. ‘We are women. We lose all that we love. We give everything, we give life, and all around us it is being taken away. I know. It was ever thus. It will ever be thus.’

Killing Beauties by Pete Langman (2020)


Favourite books read in February:

A Murder is Announced, In a Dark Wood Wandering and The Dutch House.

New authors read in February:

Sarah-Beth Watkins, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Henrietta Hamilton, Nuala O’Connor, Thomas Crockett, Pete Langman, Hella S Haasse and Ann Patchett.

Countries visited in my February reading:

USA, England, Indonesia, Switzerland, Norway, Italy and France.


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

6 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: February 2020

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    I enjoyed The Dutch House. I always enjoy Ann Patchett. You had a rich month of reading. I look forward to your upcoming reviews.

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    Years ago I read the Agatha Christie book and, more recently, Ann Patchett’s book as that one was a Christmas gift. I went through it so voraciously that I’ll have to reread it! During January and February I immersed myself in Russian stories, such as “The Revolution of Marina M” by Janet Fitch and its sequel, “Russka” by Rutherford, reread Boris Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago,” among others, as well as some Russian poetry. It was winter, so I buried myself in long books.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, long books are perfect for the cold winter months, aren’t they? I read Russka years ago and enjoyed it, and I have read Dr Zhivago too, although I didn’t like that one as much.

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