My Commonplace Book: April 2020

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

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


If he complains to me again, I will ask him this: is Oenone less of a hero than Menelaus? He loses his wife so he stirs up an army to bring her back to him, costing countless lives and creating countless widows, orphans and slaves. Oenone loses her husband and she raises their son. Which of those is the more heroic act?

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (2019)


‘Those darling byegone times, Mr Carker,’ said Cleopatra, ‘with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture, and their romantic vengeances, and their picturesque assaults and sieges, and everything that makes life truly charming! How dreadfully we have degenerated!’

‘Yes, we have fallen off deplorably,” said Mr Carker.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (1848)


Ravens at the Tower of London

Nevertheless I felt a strange affinity with these charismatic birds. I was beginning to believe we were fellow misfits in a world where all other minds were fixed on an opposing course.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson (2020)


There is no wound of which human soul is capable which time cannot heal, given courage at the outset. If that were not so, life could not be lived. Time buries all that time has brought. Some things it may not bury as deeply as others. But at least it puts them out of constant sight, and so brings surcease of painful recollection.

The Minion by Rafael Sabatini (1930)


Maud Franklin – Arrangement in White and Black, James McNeill Whistler, 1876

Pulling away, he gave his spirits a restorative shake, like a dog fresh from a river. The blue yachting jacket was straightened, the boater angled just so atop the black curls, the eyeglass slotted in. Then he tried out a couple of his favourites from the lines he’d prepared.

‘As music is the poetry of sound,’ he said, ‘so painting is the poetry of sight.’

The meaning here seemed a touch obscure. The poetry of sight? Maud wrinkled her nose; she gave him an ambiguous nod.

‘Art should be independent of all claptrap.’

Mrs Whistler by Matthew Plampin (2018)


‘Experience is the word’ he said quietly. ‘I hadn’t expected anything like this. There doesn’t seem to be much relationship between music and the ordinary world, does there?’

‘That’s a question which requires several days to answer,’ Delia laughed, ‘and I’ve only got about two minutes to get to the box office and back.’

Murder to Music by Margaret Newman (1959)


They say that only fools struggle against fate. But I don’t think it’s foolish at all. After all, you don’t know how things will come out afterward until they have, so why settle for them ahead of time?

A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley (1988)


With regard to religion, finally, it may be briefly said that she believed in God in much the same way as she believed in Australia. For she had no doubts whatever as to the existence of either; and she went to church on Sunday in much the same spirit as she would look at a kangaroo in the zoological gardens; for kangaroos came from Australia.

Queen Lucia by EF Benson (1920)


A 19th-century engraving imagining Shakespeare’s family life.

Every life has its kernel, its hub, its epicentre, from which everything flows out, to which everything returns.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)


‘Not in the slightest,’ Hakesby said. ‘It is perfectly natural to wish to – to remember those places where we have been happy. Old buildings contain the history of those who used to live in them.’

The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor (2020)


What hardships does one undertake when one loves? thought Bianca. Love demands equal parts of joy and sorrow. Love is a balance between the two, but sometimes one weighs more than the other.

The Lost Boys of London by Mary Lawrence (2020)


Favourite book read in April:

A Vision of Light, Murder to Music and The Last Protector

New authors read in April:

Matthew Plampin, Natalie Haynes, EF Benson, Margaret Newman, Maggie O’Farrell

Countries visited in my April reading:

England, Scotland, Italy, Ancient Greece


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

16 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: April 2020

    • Helen says:

      Well, I didn’t like it as much as you did, I’m afraid, but the writing impressed me and I’m sure I’ll read more of her books.

      • Davida Chazan says:

        Well, it is darker than most of her books, and the only one that is completely historical fiction. A few of her others have dual historical and contemporary timelines. I’ve reviewed them all here.

  1. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    I’ve read somewhat mixed reviews of Hamnet, but I like the premis, and anything related to Shakespeare, so I’m thinking of reading it soon.

  2. Karen K. says:

    The Queen Lucia quote made me laugh out loud — Mapp & Lucia are a joy and a treasure, I may reread them pretty soon if I get through more of my TBR stacks! (And I loved the TV version, the first one with Nigel Hawthorne).

    I have read Dombey and Son but it’s not my favorite Dickens. Love the photo of the ravens, I always forget how huge they are! It was a surprise when I visited the tower, I had no idea. I always imagined them the size of crows.

    • Helen says:

      That was my first Mapp and Lucia book and I thought it was a really fun, entertaining read. I haven’t seen the TV version, but I’m glad to hear it’s good too. And yes, the ravens are much bigger than you would think!

  3. FictionFan says:

    Since I didn’t immediately recognise the Dickens quote, clearly I need to re-read Dombey and Son very soon! I think my favourite this month is Murder to Music, but that might be because your review made it sound so tempting…

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    You got around quite a bit in April. I have read only one Maggie O’Farrell book, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. I loved it and have always meant to read more.
    Question: How do you record the sentences you quote for your Commonplace Book? Keep notes, highlight, or what? I admire this practice but have never found an efficient way to do it.

    • Helen says:

      I read a lot of books on my Kindle these days, so it’s easy to highlight favourite passages. Otherwise, I just make a note when I come across a quote I like.

  5. Yvonne says:

    I haven’t read Mrs. Whistler, but did enjoy Plampin’s The Street Philosopher. I’m looking forward to The Last Protector. It’s one of the books I have on hold at the library. Could be a while before I get it!

  6. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, I haven’t read any of these, but, as you know, I have The Lady of the Ravens on my TBR pile and I hope to get to it relatively soon. I also really like the sound of Dombey and Sons. Happy reading in May! 🙂

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