Classics Club Spin #21: My List

I was just thinking that it had been a long time since the last Classics Club Spin and then one was announced yesterday! I feel that I’ve read very few classics so far this year (apart from classic crime), so I’m hoping that this spin will motivate me to start making some progress with my Classics Club list again.

If you’re not sure what a Classics Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #21:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday 23rd September the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 31st October.

And here is my list:

1. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
2. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
3. Castle Dor by Daphne du Maurier
4. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
5. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
6. I Will Repay by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
7. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
8. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
9. Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari
10. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
11. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
12. The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
13. In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse
14. Claudius the God by Robert Graves
15. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
16. Germinal by Emile Zola
17. The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtsson
18. The Black Sheep by Honoré de Balzac
19. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
20. Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton

Which of these do you think I should be hoping for on Monday?

Classics Club Spin #20: The Result

The result of the latest Classics Club Spin has been 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 today (Monday) represents the book I have to read before 31st May 2019. The number that has been selected is…

19

And this means the book I need to read is…

The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter

I don’t know much about this book but had added it to my list because it had been recommended to me a few times and sounded similar to Sir Walter Scott’s books, which I enjoy. It was published in 1810 and is the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. I’m hoping it will be more fun than my last spin result, Dombey and Son, which I still haven’t managed to finish!

Have you read this book? If you participated in the spin, are you happy with your result?

The Classics Club Spin #20: My list

I shouldn’t really be taking part in the latest Classics Club Spin as I still haven’t managed to finish my book from Spin #19, which was Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I did start to read it, but the time just wasn’t right and I got distracted by other books. I will go back to it eventually, but for now I’m going to put it aside and let the Spin choose a different classic for me to read.

If you’re not sure what a Classics Spin is, here’s a reminder:

The rules for Spin #20:

* List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
* Number them from 1 to 20.
* On Monday 22nd April the Classics Club will announce a number.
* This is the book you need to read by 31st May.

And here is my list:

1. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
2. Claudius the God by Robert Graves
3. Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner
4. The Black Sheep by Honoré de Balzac
5. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
6. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
7. Castle Dor by Daphne du Maurier
8. In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse
9. I Will Repay by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
10. Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
11. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
12. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
13. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
14. Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton
15. The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
16. Germinal by Emile Zola
17. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
18. The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtsson
19. The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter
20. High Rising by Angela Thirkell

Have you read any of the books on my list? Which numbers should I be hoping for on Monday?

The Walter Scott Prize 2019 Shortlist

Following last month’s announcement of the 2019 longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the shortlist was revealed yesterday. As you probably know by now, I am currently working my way through all of the shortlisted titles for this prize since it began in 2010 (you can see my progress here). There are six books on this year’s list and here they are:

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A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey

Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in rural south eastern Australia. Together with Willie, their lanky navigator, they embark upon the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive.

A Long Way from Home is Peter Carey’s late style masterpiece; a thrilling high speed story that starts in one way, then takes you to another place altogether. Set in the 1950s in the embers of the British Empire, painting a picture of Queen and subject, black, white and those in-between, this brilliantly vivid novel illustrates how the possession of an ancient culture spirals through history – and the love made and hurt caused along the way.

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After The Party by Cressida Connolly

It is the summer of 1938 and Phyllis Forrester has returned to England after years abroad. Moving into her sister’s grand country house, she soon finds herself entangled in a new world of idealistic beliefs and seemingly innocent friendships. Fevered talk of another war infiltrates their small, privileged circle, giving way to a thrilling solution: a great and charismatic leader, who will restore England to its former glory.

At a party hosted by her new friends, Phyllis lets down her guard for a single moment, with devastating consequences. Years later, Phyllis, alone and embittered, recounts the dramatic events which led to her imprisonment and changed the course of her life forever.

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The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey (See my review here)

15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t?

Moving back in time towards the moment of Thomas Newman’s death, the story is related by Reve – an extraordinary creation, a patient shepherd to his wayward flock, and a man with secrets of his own to keep. Through his eyes, and his indelible voice, Harvey creates a medieval world entirely tangible in its immediacy.

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Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller (See my review here)

One rain-swept February night in 1809, an unconscious man is carried into a house in Somerset. He is Captain John Lacroix, home from Britain’s disastrous campaign against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.

Gradually Lacroix recovers his health, but not his peace of mind – he cannot talk about the war or face the memory of what happened in a village on the gruelling retreat to Corunna. After the command comes to return to his regiment, he sets out instead for the Hebrides, with the vague intent of reviving his musical interests and collecting local folksongs. Lacroix sails north incognito, unaware that he has far worse to fear than being dragged back to the army: a vicious English corporal and a Spanish officer are on his trail, with orders to kill. The haven he finds on a remote island with a family of free-thinkers and the sister he falls for are not safe, at all.

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Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.

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The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Walker, a young Canadian recently demobilised after war and his active service in the Normandy landings and subsequent European operations. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unable to face a return to his family home in rural Nova Scotia, he goes in search of freedom, change, anonymity and repair. We follow Walker through a sequence of poems as he moves through post-war American cities of New York, Los Angles and San Francisco.

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What do you think?

I’m pleased I’ve already read two of the books from this year’s shortlist – it gives me a chance of actually reading the other four before the winner is announced in June. I enjoyed the Andrew Miller and would be happy to see it win and although The Western Wind wasn’t really my sort of book I think it will be a strong contender too. I’m looking forward to reading Warlight but I’m not sure about the other three, especially The Long Take which is written in verse. I’m a bit nervous about reading that one!

Have you read any of these books? Which one do you think deserves to win the prize?

The Walter Scott Prize 2019 Longlist – and the Academy Recommends

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I have been slowly (very slowly) working through all of the books shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction since the prize began in 2010. I am always looking for quality historical fiction and I find that the books nominated for this particular prize are of a consistently high standard. You can see the progress I’ve made with this here – and I know there are other bloggers working on similar projects too.

The longlist for the 2019 prize has been announced today and includes lots of intriguing titles. I’m not planning on trying to read the entire longlist – I’m waiting until the shortlist is announced – but I would still like to read as many of these as I can.

Here are the twelve books on this year’s longlist:

Little by Edward Carey (Gallic Books)
A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey (Faber)
After The Party by Cressida Connolly (Viking)
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail)
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape)
Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry (riverrun)
Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller (Sceptre)
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (Jonathan Cape)
The Wanderers by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury)
The Long Take by Robin Robertson (Picador)
All The Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (Maclehose Press)
Tombland by C J Sansom (Mantle)

The only one of these I’ve read so far is Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, which I enjoyed, but I have Tombland and The Western Wind on my TBR and was already interested in reading Washington Black as well. I also have a copy of The Horseman, which is the first book in Tim Pears’ West Country Trilogy; I will need to read that one before I can read The Wanderers.

Have you read any of the books on this year’s longlist? Which ones do you think deserve to be shortlisted?

Academy Recommends

In addition, the Walter Scott Prize Academy has also announced its annual list of twenty recommended historical fiction novels published in the last year (these books are separate from the longlist and have not been nominated for the prize).

Love Is Blind by William Boyd (Viking)
The Prince Of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark (Fairlight Books)
The Making Of Martin Sparrow by Peter Cochrane (Viking Australia)
So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres (Harvill Secker)
All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison (Bloomsbury)
The Hundred Wells Of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah (Cassava Republic)
Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth (Pushkin Press)
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly (Unbound)
The Black Earth by Philip Kazan (Allison & Busby)
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)
Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo (Doubleday)
As The Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray (Saraband)
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubaga Makumbi (Oneworld)
The Angel’s Mark by S J Perry (Corvus)
A View Of The Empire At Sunset by Caryl Phillips (Vintage)
Painter To The King by Amy Sackville (Granta)
A Treachery Of Spies by Manda Scott (Bantam Press)
The Tristan Chord by Glenn Skwerer (Unbound)
Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson (Corsair)
The Madonna Of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (Faber)

Again, I have read one of these books and enjoyed it – The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. I’ve heard of a few of the others, but most of them are new to me. I have a lot of investigating to do!

You can find out more about the books and the Academy here. What do you think of their choices?

New plans for the New Year

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2019 – that means in October my blog will be ten years old! I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on that later in the year and finding some way to mark the occasion. For now though, like many other book bloggers, I wanted to use my first post of the year to look at my reading and blogging plans for the next twelve months.

Challenges and events

I prefer to have as much freedom in my reading choices as possible, so I’m not signing up for any year-long reading challenges this year, with the exception of the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted at Passages to the Past. I read a lot of historical fiction anyway so that one is not really a challenge for me, but I still like to take part as it helps me to connect with other like-minded readers and to keep a list of my historical fiction reads in one place.

I do enjoy participating in shorter events hosted by other bloggers such as 20 Books of Summer, the R.I.P. event and Nonfiction November so I will join in with some of those in 2019. I’ll also keep working through my Classics Club list and participating in any associated Classics Club events.

Blogging plans

The same as last year, really. I will continue with my Commonplace Book posts at the end of every month and my Historical Musings posts in the middle of the month, as well as participating in Six Degrees of Separation and Top Ten Tuesday now and then.

Personal projects

My Walter Scott Prize Project has been neglected recently, so I would like to make some progress on that in 2019. I also want to devote more time to re-reading old favourites – I say that at the beginning of every year and never manage to do it. Sadly, I only re-read one book in 2018, but I’m determined to improve on that number in 2019 so have started off my year’s reading with a re-read of Cashelmara by Susan Howatch. I also want to make progress with some of the series I’m in the middle of reading and find time for some of those long-anticipated books I’ve been putting off reading for years because I wanted to have ‘something to look forward to’.

Most of all, I just want to enjoy the books I read in 2019.

What plans do you have for the year ahead?

My favourite books of 2018

I know 2018 is not quite over yet, but with only two days remaining I think it’s safe to post my books of the year list now. I’ve enjoyed putting this post together, looking back over my reading year and picking out some favourites. As usual, it’s a long list, which is a good thing as it shows I must have read a lot of great books this year! I think I’ve included a good mixture of old and new books here, as well as a range of genres. Robin Hobb’s three Tawny Man novels were my absolute favourites of the year, so I have put them at the top, but the rest are listed at random.

Here they are – my books of 2018:

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Fool’s Errand (2001), The Golden Fool (2002) and Fool’s Fate (2003) by Robin Hobb

From my reviews: “It was wonderful to be reacquainted with Fitz and the other Farseer characters again…I had to keep going until I’d reached the end of the trilogy. I cared too deeply about the characters to abandon them while I read other books.”

Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (1946)

From my review: “Of course, the most important character of all is Britannia Mews itself, a street which seems to cast a spell over those who live there, pulling them back every time they might think about leaving. I loved reading about the changing nature of the street over the years and the people who inhabited it at various times in its history…This was a wonderful choice of book to celebrate Margery Sharp’s birthday this year.”

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018)

From my review: “I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort must have gone into the writing of this novel! I’ve never read anything like it before and I hardly know how to describe it. It has all the elements of a classic murder mystery – but there’s a clue in the title: the same murder happens not just once but seven times.”

The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby (1924)

From my review: “I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while and I’m pleased to say that I loved it even more than I hoped I would…The Crowded Street is a wonderful book in so many ways and a great choice for both the Classics Club and the Persephone Readathon!”

Penmarric by Susan Howatch (1971) – re-read

From my review: “Penmarric is a dark novel – as I’ve said, none of the characters experience much happiness in their lives and none of them are easy to like – but the plot is completely gripping, even when you’re reading the book for the second time. There are some lovely descriptions of Cornwall too; this is one of those books where the setting is as important as the characters and the plot.”

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1956)

From my review: “I loved Rose’s narrative voice; not all authors can write convincingly from the perspective of a child, but Rebecca West certainly does. She really captures the way children think and feel, the things that matter to them and the way they look at the world…With such strong, believable characters and such lovely writing, this was a wonderful read.”

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (2018)

From my review: “Dear Mrs Bird was an absolute joy to read from start to finish! I loved Emmy from the beginning and her friendly, enthusiastic narrative voice pulled me straight into her world…there’s drama, there’s tension and there’s heartbreak, but there’s never too much of any of these things and the book never loses its charm and its warmth.”

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)

From my review: “I loved Circe; it’s a beautifully written novel and ideal for readers like myself who only have a basic knowledge of the Greek myths. I felt a stronger connection with Circe herself than I did with Patroclus in The Song of Achilles and for that reason this is my favourite of the two books.”

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy (1950)

From my review: “I loved following the lives of the Siddals, their guests and their servants…With over twenty characters all playing important roles in the novel, some authors would have struggled to make each man, woman and child different and memorable, but Margaret Kennedy succeeds and the result is a really enjoyable and absorbing read.”

The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens (1955)

From my review: “For a novel with so many unlikeable characters, I found this a surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining read. Louise’s story is obviously a very sad one at times, but Monica Dickens writes with enough humour and lightness that it never becomes completely depressing…I wish Monica Dickens had written more books about these characters, but I enjoyed this one enough to know that I will be investigating the rest of her novels anyway!”

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer (1940)

From my review: “Thoroughly entertaining and fun to read…I won’t say too much more about the plot, but you can expect a wonderful blend of comedy, action and mystery as Richard and Pen stumble from one farcical situation to another.”

Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy (1871)

From my review: “I loved Desperate Remedies! It starts off slowly, but it quickly develops into an intriguing and entertaining page-turner with plenty of twists and surprises…This isn’t one of my absolute favourite Hardy novels – I think some of his later ones are better – but it’s still a great read.”

The Girl in the Tower (2017) and The Winter of the Witch (2019) by Katherine Arden

From my review: “Katherine Arden’s books are a wonderful mixture of history, folklore and fairytales with an atmospheric and wintry Russian setting… I loved The Girl in the Tower.” My review of The Winter of the Witch will follow in January.

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (1944)

From my review: “It was a pleasure to read a good old-fashioned historical fiction novel with elegant prose and strong characterisation, no present tense, no experimental writing and no multiple time periods! It’s a book which completely immerses the reader in the Tudor period and the lives of Elizabeth and the historical figures who surround her, so that you reach the end feeling that you’ve read something fresh and worthwhile.”

Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien (2018)

From my review: “Alliances are formed and broken, friends become enemies then friends again in an instant; it’s a dangerous time, but a fascinating one to read about…I loved Queen of the North; I think it’s my favourite of the five Anne O’Brien novels I’ve read so far.”

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins (1880)

From my review: “Jezebel’s Daughter is a great read – it’s suspenseful and exciting and, because it’s a relatively short novel, it’s faster paced than some of his others as well. With a story involving poisonings, stolen jewels, unexplained illnesses, mysterious scientific experiments, morgues, asylums and plenty of plotting and scheming, there’s always something happening…”

Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks (1976)

From my review: “As someone who loves the work of all three Brontë sisters, I have been interested in reading Dark Quartet for a long time…Lynne Reid Banks doesn’t explore the Brontës’ novels in much depth, but I think she does a good job of showing how the sisters’ work was influenced by people, places and events from their personal lives… I really enjoyed reading it.”

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull (1934)

From my review: “It’s not really a whodunnit so there’s no puzzle to solve or clues to decipher, but that doesn’t matter at all – the fun is in wondering whether the crime described in the novel will succeed and, if so, whether the culprit will be caught…But the plot is only part of what makes this book so enjoyable; Edward’s narrative voice is wonderful too and transforms what could have been a very dark novel into a very funny one.”

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And I want to give these books a special mention too:

A Falling Star by Pamela Belle (1990)
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (2015)
The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope (1876)
House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (2018)
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola (2018)
Lamentation by CJ Sansom (2014)
Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1991)
The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (2018)
Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)
Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham (1944)
The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (2018)

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Have you read any of these? Which books have you enjoyed reading in 2018?