Classics Club Spin #31: The result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin was revealed today.

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced by the Classics Club represents the book I have to read before 30th October 2022. The number that has been selected is…

2

And this means the book I need to read is…

The Fortune of the Rougons by Émile Zola

The Fortune of the Rougons is the first in Zola’s famous Rougon-Macquart series of novels. In it we learn how the two branches of the family came about, and the origins of the hereditary weaknesses passed down the generations. Murder, treachery, and greed are the keynotes, and just as the Empire was established through violence, the “fortune” of the Rougons is paid for in blood.

Set in the fictitious Provencal town of Plassans, The Fortune of the Rougons tells the story of Silvere and Miette, two idealistic young supporters of the republican resistance to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’etat of December 1851. They join the woodcutters and peasants of the Var to seize control of Plassans, and are opposed by the Bonapartist loyalists led by Silvere’s uncle, Pierre Rougon. Meanwhile, the foundations of the Rougon family and its illegitimate Macquart branch are being laid in the brutal beginnings of the Imperial regime.

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I’m happy with this as I’ve read very little by Zola and would like to read more. I originally had Germinal on my Classics Club list but found it difficult to get into, so decided to replace it with this one. It’s the first in the Rougon-Macquart series and my edition is translated by Brian Nelson.

Have you read this? If you took part in the Spin, are you pleased with your result?

Classics Club Spin #31: My list

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. This is the 31st – I can’t believe there have been so many! If you’re not sure what a CC Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #31:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Sunday 18th September the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 30th October 2022.

Here’s my list:

1. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
2. The Fortune of the Rougons by Émile Zola
3. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
4. The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins
5. Claudius the God by Robert Graves
6. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
7. Random Harvest by James Hilton
8. Farewell the Tranquil Mind by RF Delderfield
9. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
10. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
11. A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy
12. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
13. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
14. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
15. The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr by ETA Hoffmann
16. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
17. The Trumpet-Major by Thomas Hardy
18. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
19. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell
20. The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins

I only have 18 books left on my Classics Club list so have had to repeat some of them. I don’t really mind which of these I get, but is there any particular number you think I should be hoping for?

A Reader’s Delight – Jigsaw Puzzle

I don’t do jigsaw puzzles very often these days, but I do enjoy them and thought I would share with you one that I completed recently. It’s called A Reader’s Delight and the picture shows vintage children’s books from the Bodleian Library collection.

While I was working on the jigsaw, I found some of the titles of the books quite amusing and others quite sexist (but very much of their time; none of these are modern books).

For the boys we have Every Boy His Own Mechanic by Bernard E. Jones, The Boy’s Handy Book by D.C Beard and The Monster Book for Boys, while the books for girls include An Incorrigible Girl by M.H. Cornwall Legh (published by the Religious Tract Society in 1899 apparently), A Very Naughty Girl by L.T. Meade and A Wilful Girl by Helen Griffith. On the other hand, we do have The Adventure Book for Girls and Eight Girls and their Adventures…and I was particularly intrigued by Things Worth Doing and How to Do Them by L. and A.B. Beard. I’ve discovered that it’s available on Project Gutenberg – a collection of crafts and other activities aimed at girls.

There are lots of school stories here as well – Bunty of Dormitory B, The Jolliest Term on Record, The Abbey Girls Go Back to School. The ones for boys seem to concentrate on sport – Playing the Game: A Public School Story by Kent Carr, Not Cricket: A School Story by Harold Avery, For School and Country by Ralph Simmonds.

Have you read or heard of any of these books? I wonder what children would think of them today!

Classics Club Spin #30: The Result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin was revealed today.

The idea of the Spin was to list twenty books from my Classics Club list, number them 1 to 20, and the number announced by the Classics Club represents the book I have to read before 7th August. The number that has been selected is…

5

And this means the book I need to read is…

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands…

~

Of all the books on my list, this is one I hadn’t expected to come up in the spin – I have no idea why, but it was a surprise! From the blurb, this is not the sort of book I would usually choose to read, but I have enjoyed others by John Wyndham so am looking forward to this one.

Have you read The Chrysalids? If you took part in the Spin, are you happy with your result?

Classics Club Spin #30: My list

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin – the 30th, in fact! If you’re not sure what a CC Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #30:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Sunday 12th June the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 7th August 2022.

I’m already busy working through my 20 Books of Summer list, so not sure if I will actually have time to read a Spin book as well, but I can’t resist taking part anyway!

Here’s my list:

1. A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy
2. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
3. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
4. Farewell the Tranquil Mind by RF Delderfield
5. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
6. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell
7. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
8. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
9. My Theodosia by Anya Seton
10. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F Tennyson Jesse
11. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
12. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
13. The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins
14. Random Harvest by James Hilton
15. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
16. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
17. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
18. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
19. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F Tennyson Jesse
20. The Trumpet-Major by Thomas Hardy

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Which of these do you think I should be hoping for? I would love to get either Pied Piper or A Pin to See the Peepshow as both of those are on my 20 Books of Summer list, so I’ve included each of them on my Spin list twice to increase my chances! Otherwise, I don’t really mind which number comes up.

20 Books of Summer – 2022

20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, is a very simple idea: make a list of twenty books (there are also ten and fifteen book options) and read them during the summer months. However, it’s much more difficult than it sounds; I have taken part for the last five years and have never managed to complete it. I do usually read twenty books during the three month period – just not the twenty that were on my list! I should probably allow myself more flexibility and take advantage of the rule that says we can change our list halfway through.

This year’s 20 Books of Summer starts on Wednesday 1st June and finishes on Thursday 1st September. I have listed below the books I would like to read. These are a mixture of review copies from NetGalley, books from my Classics Club list, books for the Read Christie 2022 challenge (I’m planning to join in with the July and August Christies, but not the June one) and other books that have been waiting on my shelf for a long time.

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1. Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby
2. The Colour Storm by Damian Dibben
3. Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo
4. At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
5. Haven by Emma Donoghue
6. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
7. Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
8. Death in the Andamans by MM Kaye
9. Summerhills by DE Stevenson
10. Fortune by Amanda Smyth
11. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
12. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F Tennyson Jesse
13. Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
14. The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
15. Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull
16. The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon
17. Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb
18. The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
19. Something Light by Margery Sharp
20. The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

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Have you read any of these? Which should I read first? And are you taking part in 20 Books of Summer this year?

Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – 2022 Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2022 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced today! Thanks to this prize, I have discovered lots of great books and authors over the last few years and always look out for the longlists and shortlists; in fact, trying to read all of the shortlisted titles since the prize began in 2010 is a personal project of mine (you can see my progress here).

From the longlist of thirteen books, which was revealed in February, I have managed to read The Sunken Road, Mrs England, Still Life and Rose Nicolson – and still have some of the others waiting on my TBR. But have any of the books I’ve read made it onto the shortlist?

Surprisingly, there are only four titles on this year’s shortlist, rather than the usual five or six – and here they are:

Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig

Embra, winter of 1574. Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir, Jamie is held under protection in Stirling Castle. John Knox is dead. The people are unmoored and lurching under the uncertain governance of this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name.

Fowler has found himself where the scorch marks of the martyrs burned at the stake can be seen on every street, where differences in doctrine can prove fatal, where the feuds of great families pull innocents into their bloody realm. There he befriends the austere stick-wielding philosopher Tom Nicolson, son of a fishing family whose sister Rose, untutored, brilliant and exceedingly beautiful exhibits a free-thinking mind that can only bring danger upon her and her admirers. The lowly students are adept at attracting the attentions of the rich and powerful, not least Walter Scott, brave and ruthless heir to Branxholm and Buccleuch, who is set on exploiting the civil wars to further his political and dynastic ambitions. His friendship and patronage will lead Will to the to the very centre of a conspiracy that will determine who will take Scotland’s crown.

Rose Nicolson is a vivid, passionate and unforgettable novel of this most dramatic period of Scotland’s history, told by a character whose rise mirrors the conflicts he narrates, the battles between faith and reason, love and friendship, self-interest and loyalty. It confirms Andrew Greig as one of the great contemporary writers of fiction.

*

News of the Dead by James Robertson

Deep in the mountains of north-east Scotland lies Glen Conach, a place of secrets and memories, fable and history. In particular, it holds the stories of three different eras, separated by centuries yet linked by location, by an ancient manuscript and by echoes that travel across time.

In ancient Pictland, the Christian hermit Conach contemplates God and nature, performs miracles and prepares himself for sacrifice. Long after his death, legends about him are set down by an unknown hand in the Book of Conach.

Generations later, in the early nineteenth century, self-promoting antiquarian Charles Kirkliston Gibb is drawn to the Glen, and into the big house at the heart of its fragile community.

In the present day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of a ghost he thinks he has seen. Reflecting on her long life, Maja believes him, for she is haunted by ghosts of her own.

News of the Dead is a captivating exploration of refuge, retreat and the reception of strangers. It measures the space between the stories people tell of themselves – what they forget and what they invent – and the stories through which they may, or may not, be remembered.

*

Fortune by Amanda Smyth

Eddie Wade has recently returned from the US oilfields. He is determined to sink his own well and make his fortune in the 1920s Trinidad oil-rush. His sights are set on Sonny Chatterjee’s failing cocoa estate, Kushi, where the ground is so full of oil you can put a stick in the ground and see it bubble up. When a fortuitous meeting with businessman Tito Fernandez brings Eddie the investor he desperately needs, the three men enter into a partnership. A friendship between Tito and Eddie begins that will change their lives forever, not least when the oil starts gushing. But their partnership also brings Eddie into contact with Ada, Tito’s beautiful wife, and as much as they try, they cannot avoid the attraction they feel for each other.

Fortune, based on true events, catches Trinidad at a moment of historical change whose consequences reverberate down to present concerns with climate change and environmental destruction. As a story of love and ambition, its focus is on individuals so enmeshed in their desires that they blindly enter the territory of classic Greek tragedy where actions always have consequences.

*

The Magician by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín’s new novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.

The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile.

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As you can see, I’ve only read one of these four books, Rose Nicolson – and loved it, so I would be very pleased if it won! I will be trying to read the other three, but might not have time before the winner is announced at the Borders Book Festival on Friday 17th June.

Have you read any of these books or are you tempted to read them? Which one do you think will win?