My Commonplace Book: April 2021

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.


This business of making your own life may sound dreary – especially if you have a dated mind and still think of yourself as belonging to the Weaker Sex. But it really isn’t. You can have a grand time doing it. You can – within the limitations imposed on most of us, whether we live singly or in herds – live pretty much as you please.

Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hillis (1936)


Fodor accepted that Alma might be both truthful and dishonest, gifted and fraudulent. He rarely dealt with snow-white, morally upright individuals, but rather with people who were damaged and divided. It was well known that when mediums found their powers fading, they would compensate, invent, create illusions to please their admirers or protect themselves. Psychics were natural transgressors, crossing all kinds of boundaries, from waking to trance, from the earthly to the spirit world. Their weaknesses – moral, physical, emotional – were the fissures through which the phantoms came.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale (2020)


Eleanor Cross

‘I have helped heal soldiers wounded in battle. I’ve heard of many atrocities following sieges and all because one group or another thinks their right to this country is greater than another’s claim. In truth, Olwen, some leaders simply profit from war whilst others suffer. This cannot be God’s will.’ Glancing up she noted tears in his eyes and bowed her head.

She pondered his words as they walked on. He was right. So many wasted lives because they all sought God’s Kingdom on earth.

The Damask Rose by Carol McGrath (2021)


‘All of history is fiction,’ Jasper said, dipping a cloth in oil and polishing the barrel of his rifle. ‘I’ve said this to you before. Everyone is a liar whether they know it or not. Bias, you know? You might describe life here as untenable and dismal, and I’d say there’s a thrill in fighting, and who’s to say which one of us is right? Or – I might say Dash is a jolly good fellow, and the wife of a soldier he shot might call him a monster. There are no simple answers.’

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal (2021)


He dropped his gaze to the pond’s rippling surface. Her voice had deepened a shade, he thought. Her lips were fuller too. He had not set eyes on her since the glimpse outside the chapel. Now her reflection shimmered, dissolving then magically restoring itself. But nothing would dissolve the nature of its owner, he reminded himself. No amount of sugar would sweeten Lady Lucy’s sourness.

John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (2012)


“King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London” by Paul Delaroche

If British royal children disappeared today, the media frenzy would be intolerable. There were no newspapers in the fifteenth century. The most we have is a scattering of private correspondence, for example the Paston and Cely letters. We have official documents that shed virtually no light on murky events like murder. We have chronicles, ‘histories’ both official and unofficial, often compiled by churchmen, miles from the action and written years afterwards.

There was no police force, no structure to investigate the boys’ disappearance. There was no forensic science, so that even had the boys’ bodies been found, the cause of death could not definitely have been ascertained, still less who was guilty of the murder.

The Killer of the Princes in the Tower by MJ Trow (2021)


I have never been much of one for letters, but I will admit a fondness for the scents that often attend them. I have twice visited a house boasting a library, the first time as a welcome guest, the second as a victorious invader with a carbine in my hand and a sabre at my hip. Both times I was struck by the peculiarly unique smell, and Moseley’s bookshop was the same way.

The Protector by SJ Deas (2015)


There were consequences, almost always, for what you did or failed to do in life. He believed that. Fate could play a role, and chance, but your choices and decisions mattered. Mattered to someone else, too.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (2013)


“And his beard’s quite real,” I put in.

Ma soeur,” said Poirot, “a murderer of the first class never wears a false beard!”

“How do you know the murderer is of the first class?” I asked rebelliously.

“Because if he were not, the whole truth would be plain to me at this instant – and it is not.”

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie (1936)


“Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian

Asterion. A distant light in an infinity of darkness. A raging fire if you came too close. A guide that would lead my family on the path to immortality. A divine vengeance upon us all. I did not know then what he would become. But my mother held him and nursed him and named him and he knew us both. He was not yet the Minotaur. He was just a baby. He was my brother.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (2021)


He smiled, and his charm briefly enveloped me like a warm cloud of nothingness. I watched his tall figure receding down the passage, with the dog pattering after him.

Only a fool would rely on the goodwill of Charles Stuart. But the dog did, and so did I. A little kindness makes fools of us all.

The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor (2021)


‘Elizabeth Woodville is out of favour,’ said Mark, ‘and has long been banished to a nunnery. They say she was intriguing with the Pretender before Stoke.’

‘And is it possible?’

He shrugged. ‘Anything is possible in this day and age,’ he said. ‘John will tell you. Tis hard to find an honest man in the Government of the country.’

The Rich Earth by Pamela Oldfield (1980)



“What mystery novels need are – some might call me old-fashioned – a great detective, a mansion, a shady cast of residents, bloody murders, impossible crimes and never-before-seen tricks played by the murderer. Call it my castle in the sky, but I’m happy as long as I can enjoy such a world. But always in an intellectual manner.”

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji (1987)


Trish had been brought up to believe that nothing was impossible. Any kind of achievement, she had been taught, was the result of determination, willpower, commitment – the adults in her life used different words but all said the same thing. Any kind of failure, in whatever sphere it might show itself, had its roots in the mind. It was hard for her to accept that there were some physical obstacles which could never be surmounted.

The Hardie Inheritance by Anne Melville (1990)


Favourite books read in April:

The Royal Secret and The Hardie Inheritance

Authors read for the first time in April:

MJ Trow, Marjorie Hillis, Lawrence Norfolk, Jennifer Saint, Yukito Ayatsuji and Pamela Oldfield

Places visited in my April reading:

England, China, USA, Iraq, Ancient Greece, Japan


Have you read any of these? What have you been reading in April?

6 thoughts on “My Commonplace Book: April 2021

  1. Paige Bennett says:

    I have a question Is the Killer of the Princes in the Tower fiction or non fiction? I can not tell for sure. I know tis is a true event but is the a novel based on the murder ?

  2. jessicabookworm says:

    Lots read in April for you Helen! None of which I have read I’m afraid. As for my own reading I finished three (almost four) books – my pick of the month going to The History of the British Isles in 100 Places by Neil Oliver. Take care and happy reading in May! 🙂

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