My Commonplace Book: January 2019

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

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


“You think you’re very clever, Carlton,” she said. “And so you are, my dear, as a rule. But it’s not very clever to underestimate one’s opponent. That’s one of the most elementary of tactical errors, isn’t it?”

Rogues’ Holiday by Maxwell March (1935)



Success in Egypt was an abstract for which others could easily take credit, leaving the real person responsible for some actions or monuments unknowable for generations, lost to cultural memory, making Hatshepsut’s name more unpronounceable as the generations crept by. Doing everything right ensured Hatshepsut’s lost legacy.

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney (2018)


She thought – was this religion? – a snare to make one fall into the hands of one’s enemies? Were holy things always to be abused, and words of love and worship turned into a death-trap? Should one man’s belief be set up against another’s, and men kill each other for not holding the same ideas, it would mean wars without end throughout the world, for it was the glory of men’s minds to hold different thoughts, and the only thing by which they could be judged was their actions, right or wrong.

Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin (1948)


ABC Railway Guide

“Words, mademoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas.”

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (1936)


The sand itself, in contrast with the surrounding sea, seemed the home of weird noises, compounded of the ceaseless lapping of the ripples on the edge of it, the eerie cries of unseen gulls, and the intermittent wail of the distant lighthouse. It was an uncanny feeling, alone on this lost corner of the earth, which belonged neither to the realm of the sea or of the land.

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton (1930)


‘We all think, Leo, but none of us know. Matters of the heart are like the river. They bend this way and then that way, and sometimes there are rocks around the corner. Sometimes. But sometimes not. You never know.’

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve (2018)


Sometimes during a great emotional crisis the mind rallies. The gentlest spirit sometimes revives as though it had received from some unsuspected depth a new lease of courage and endurance.
It is at such times that hitherto helpless, unsophisticated souls goaded by circumstances so terrible as to be almost outside their comprehension make an unexpected stand, receiving from their reserves a small measure of that exhilaration in the face of danger normally possessed only by their stronger brethren.

The Devil and Her Son by Maxwell March (1936)


There is no principle worth having that does not exact a price. We must recognise the cost of our principles and take responsibility for that cost. We must not deny the consequences of our own actions.

Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss (2014)


Radcot Bridge

What we see on a map is only the half of it. A river no more begins at its source than a story begins with the first page.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (2018)


Here lay the tragedy. Western man is so constituted that he cannot abide contentment. It is the unforgivable sin. He must forever strive towards some unseen goal, whether it be material comfort, a greater and purer God, or some weapon that will make him master of the universe. As he becomes more conscious he becomes more restless, more grasping, forever finding fault with the warm dust from which he sprang and to which he must return, forever desirous of improving and so enslaving his fellow-men.

The Breaking Point by Daphne du Maurier (1959)


Favourite books read in January:

The ABC Murders, Once Upon a River

Where did my reading take me in January?

England, Ancient Egypt, Italy, Greece

Authors read for the first time in January:

Kara Cooney, Sarah Moss, Miles Burton, Alex Reeve


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

My Commonplace Book: December 2018

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

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


My heart pounding, I look only at Hogarth. I know he must understand. His own training in art was unconventional, limited, yet he persevered to become the best. And he has not devoted his talent to celebrating the wealthy; he paints servants, soldiers, the people of the London streets.

“Would it be enough for you, Mr Hogarth?” I say. “To be shut up in the same room, day after day, painting flowers for silk dresses or for teacups and plates, and not telling the story of the world with your brush?”

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau (2018)


He shook his head slowly. ‘I am not the person I was born. Neither are you. I know no one who is. Truly, Fitz, all we ever know are facets of one another. Perhaps we feel as if we know one another well when we know several facets of that person. Father, son, brother, friend, lover, husband…a man can be all of those things, yet no one person knows him in all those roles.’

Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb (2003)


I have often found that the best way to persuade anyone to do something they suspect is to explain that they really need not do it.

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay (1936)


I was alarmed. Up until then I had thought it was all quite simple. If you were nice-looking men wanted to marry you, and if you were not you saw it for yourself in the mirror and decided to do something else.

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1956)


But my husband does not believe in redemption: Elias thinks that people are moulded like jelly by their choices and, once set, they can never be anything else.

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton (2019)


Plaque commemorating the Battle of Worcester

She turned away, stared out across the land. ‘Violence never changes anyone’s mind, just drives their convictions deeper. And it’s such a waste, when all that power could be used to build something, not knock it down.’

Spirit of the Highway by Deborah Swift (2015)


She was equally definite about the arrangements for the festival. The strengths of the Victorians were three, she remarked, and she spoke as one who knew: Common Sense, Knowing One’s Own Mind, and Thrift. The first thing to remember was that nothing, nothing whatever, which was valuable, or entertaining, or nutritious, in the widest possible sense of the words, must ever be wasted.

Campion at Christmas by Margery Allingham (2018)


A man held his soul in his hand like a pearl, and if he were to drop that pearl in the ocean he would never get it back.

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (2017)


View to the east from Zennor Head

John William had set himself like an arrow on this one thing, leaving no space for anything else, and leaving no space for it to fail to happen either. She had never thought in that way herself, about wanting things. She had only thought that you had what you had, and that was all. Now she realized that she was far behind him, and that it was no longer just because of the few months between them. But there was danger in wanting anything that much, and showing that you wanted it.

Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore (1993)


“Well, dreams take time to come true and even then, they’re not always in the places we expect to find them. I suppose we have to be patient and concentrate on what we have today.”

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley (2018)


“Let me tell you, Magyar. A woman is a woman, and a face is a face, and after a while the face isn’t pretty or plain anymore, it is this woman’s face, and you love her.”

Rakóssy by Cecelia Holland (1967)


Favourite books read in December:

Fool’s Fate, The Fountain Overflows and Blackberry and Wild Rose

Where did my reading take me in December?

England, France, Scotland, Spain, Hungary, Robin Hobb’s fictional Six Duchies and Out Islands.

Authors read for the first time in December:

Mavis Doriel Hay and Sonia Velton


Happy New Year – and happy reading in 2019!

My Commonplace Book: November 2018

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

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


We know what causes the plants to grow and multiply, so to feed the planet and ourselves. We know how to harness the hidden forces of the world to pump water from the mines, to send engines down tracks, to speed our massive ships to the far ends of the Earth. We know what fixes the stars in their heavens.

But the engine which powers all these transitions, the mighty organ that is the Mind of man, remains an essential mystery to us.

Savage Magic by Lloyd Shepherd (2014)


“The spell for finding books,” she whispered, closing her eyes before pronouncing the incantation. “Abracadabra, Alakazam, Angela Thirkell and Omar Khayyam.”

I had never seen my sister so excited.

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley (2018)


Illustrated page by Ernest Clegg.

She shook her head and mopped up a drop of paint with a damp cloth. “Not yet. But at least my lack of forward planning isn’t worrying me quite so much now.”

“That’s good,” he said. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my life, it’s that worrying over your future can be a waste of energy.”

The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr (2018)


She loved the way a photograph could tell an entire story and preserve it in a single moment. She hoped she’d be able to take more pictures inspired by her heart and not just by her head, and, if she could manage to get out and about and grasp something of the mysterious quality of the ordinary people, she’d be happy.

Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies (2017)


But above all, there were books. Books were my consolation. For if I could not walk into the bright, blowing world I could, at least, read of it; books, I was told, contained it all.

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher (2018)


Agatha Christie never described it, nor did any other mystery writer I can think of: that moment when the detective works it out and the truth makes itself known. Why did Poirot never twirl his moustache? Why didn’t Lord Peter Wimsey dance in the air? I would have.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (2018)


Jan Willem Pieneman’s ‘The Battle of Waterloo’ (1824).

Some of the senior officers were looking grave; here and there a rigid, meaningless smile was pinned to a mother’s white face, or a girl stood with a fallen mouth, and blank eyes fixed on a scarlet uniform. A queer, almost greedy emotion shone in many countenances. Life had become suddenly an urgent business, racing towards disaster, and the craving for excitement, the breathless moment compound of fear, and grief, and exaltation, when the mind sharpened and the senses were stretched as taut as the strings of a violin, surged up under the veneer of good manners, and shone behind the dread in shocked young eyes.

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer (1937)


“Yes — by my every hope of Heaven!” I cried passionately.

She continued to survey me with that quiet smile of mocking scorn.

“I have heard it said,” quoth she, “that the greatest liars are ever those that are readiest to take oath.”

Bardelys the Magificent by Rafael Sabatini (1906)


Although plenty of young Italians were filled with excitement, they were the minority. ‘The news of war’ noted Mussolini’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, in his diary, ‘does not arouse much enthusiasm. I am sad, very sad. The adventure begins. May God help Italy.’

The Desert War by James Holland (2018)


Prospero, Ariel and sleeping Miranda from a painting by William Hamilton

Is the island magic? Felix asks himself. The island is many things, but among them is something he hasn’t mentioned: the island is a theatre. Prospero is a director. He’s putting on a play, within which there’s another play. If his magic holds and his play is successful, he’ll get his heart’s desire. But if he fails…

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (2016)


You seek a false comfort when you demand that I define myself for you with words. Words do not contain or define any person. A heart can, if it is willing.

The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb (2002)


To be entirely engrossed with today, with meals and motor-cars and work and play, is a short-sighted selfishness. Have time to remember the child you were, give him a deep thought now and then, be sensitive to all you can of the past, and it will reward you with bright shoots of everlastingness. To live in the present moment is easy, any animal does it: to live in eternity is really to live.

The Trap by Dan Billany (1950)


Favourite books read in November:

The Golden Fool and The Sentence is Death

Where did my reading take me in November?

England, North Africa, India, France, Canada, Belgium – and Robin Hobb’s fictional Six Duchies.

Authors read for the first time in November:

Deborah Carr, Lloyd Shepherd, Dan Billany and James Holland


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

My Commonplace Book: October 2018

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

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


In the same way, I suppose, that the perfect crime is extremely rare, so is the perfect solution. In real life, we are never able to dot every i, cross every t, or tease out every last strand of what we think of as the evidence.
Real life is messy, and it’s probably best to keep that in mind. We must learn never to expect too much.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley (2016)


Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favoured memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and polished for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (2018)


Princess Milica (Militza) of Montenegro

Militza laughed. Stana did not. ‘We do not have a choice,’ her sister conceded quietly.

‘A life without choice,’ Stana stared at her sister and slowly shook her head, ‘is no life at all.’

The Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones (2018)


“My dear nephew, you know absolutely nothing about women. Counting by years, I grant you they grow old. Counting by sensations, they remain young to the end of their days.”

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins (1880)


There are my books, for instance. Many of the most charming I have bought in France and brought through the customs with difficulty. I might not be able to get them again, for these things, little masterpieces though they are in their own way, are gossamer trifles that appeal not to the many-headed and, naturally neglected by the multitude, drift away down the breeze of time. I have never met a best-seller yet that I have managed to finish. It is not surprising. One’s taste is, I hope, superior to the average.

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull (1934)


Family life was a difficult affair with a father who had repudiated two of his six wives, beheaded two others, and bastardised both his daughters.

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (1944)


Portrait of William Lilly, aged 45, now housed in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford

It seemed that civil war was inevitable, but would it come in a year, months or days? It would be bloody and terrible, but how bloody we had no idea, for war is only ever an abstract, an imagined nightmare until one is actually in the midst of it. Even then there is disbelief as all one’s higher senses are eclipsed by the grinding and most immediate need to survive.

The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner (2018)


You might just as well try to see a man through a brick wall as try to see him through a mass of preconceived ideas.

Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham (1944)


“It has a wonderful sound. A brave new world. There isn’t anything really like that, is there?”

“You don’t believe in it?”

“Do you?”

“There is always a brave new world,” said Poirot, “but only, you know, for very special people. The lucky ones. The ones who carry the making of that world within themselves.”

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie (1969)


She had been an attractive girl. But that ‘had been’ was not a conventional gesture to the fact of death. It was an honest admission that without life the most beautiful body is an object of no interest. We are not bodies, thought Nigel, we are lives. And oddly, there came to him at that moment a new and firm conviction of the nature of love.

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin (1944)


Illustration by Ivan Bilibin from the Russian fairy tale ‘Morozko’.

“There are not,” said the Bear. “There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (2019)


Fuel and food being fought over, tanks and aircraft being built, and at the front end, lines of men facing each others’ shells and guns, trying to justify what it was all for. The world had gone mad, and there didn’t seem to be a single corner left where people weren’t dying.

Tapestry of War by Jane MacKenzie (2018)


They say love is not love, that alters when it alteration finds. Much as it pains me to tell you that your English poets are wrong, how can this be true? Love must change if its object changes. You don’t stand under a tree in winter when the branches are black and admire its green leaves and its shade.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry (2018)


In 1632, the Puritan lawyer William Prynne wondered why people could not observe Christmas without ‘drinking, roaring, healthing, dicing, carding, masques and staging plays, which better become the sacrifices of Bacchus than the incarnation of our most blessed Saviour’.

A Tudor Christmas by Alison Weir (2018)


Favourite books read in October:

Jezebel’s Daughter, Young Bess, Earth and High Heaven, The Murder of My Aunt and The Winter of the Witch

Where did my reading take me in October?

England, Germany, Canada, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Scotland

Authors read for the first time in October:

Gwethalyn Graham, Richard Hull, Imogen Edwards-Jones, Tobsha Learner


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

My Commonplace Book: September 2018

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

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


Sometimes, he wondered at the choices a man made in his life: what a chaotic road had been laid behind him of carefully made plans and rushed decisions, rapid shifts and backtracks. Where might that road have led him if any one of them had been different? Sometimes, the thought left him light-headed, as if he were looking out over an abyss, no road laid before him, all the choices yet to make and the weight of those already made pushing at his back.

Court of Wolves by Robyn Young (2018)


“These old corners with layers of history attached to them. They seem to exist in more dimensions than most places do.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not quite sure I know. I suppose I mean it exists in time as well as space. So there’s always more to it than there seems. Only you don’t quite know what.”

Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor (2008)


Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

If the advice was not heeded – and Francis was well aware that there was little likelihood of persuading the Earl of any course of action that he did not sincerely believe had been instigated by himself – it was because confrontation then, now, and always, is not only between the commander in the field and the enemy he seeks to subdue, but also between the men of action on the ground and the politicians back at home.

Golden Lads by Daphne du Maurier (1975)


‘History is a good story, in my humble opinion,’ he said at last. ‘And at best it’s a matter of interpretation of selected facts, which may not even be genuine facts. Few historians have the chance to interview their subjects first-hand. Don’t knock it, Ruth. Listen. Write. Work out what it is you’ve written later.’

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine (2018)


What was it like to trust no one? Was it wise? Or was there a small file, like a watchmaker’s file, that rasped away at the heart until, one day, in the crossing of a street, the middle of a sentence, you ceased to be human at all?

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller (2018)


‘Do please, Bella, think hard of what you are planning. You have no idea, I am sure, of what life can be like for a woman.’
‘For one who fails,’ said Cristabel. ‘I don’t mean to fail. I mean to have the world at my feet. Because I am me, not because I’m Sarum’s unwanted daughter. Just give me my chance.’

First Night by Jane Aiken Hodge (1989)


The deeds of Theseus on an Attic red-figured kylix (British Museum)

Before, when I have tried to understand my enemies, it has been to ‘plan’ against them. Why try now when it is finished, why not be content to curse? But while man is man he must look and think; if not forward, back. We are born asking why, and so we end. So the gods made us.

The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault (1962)


Tad once told me that there is only one true queen on a chessboard. I remember asking him which one it was, and he asked me what I thought in return. I hazarded that she was always the one that won the game, and he shook his head slowly.
“No, child,” he said. “A queen may lose the game at hand, but ever is she a queen.”

Perdita by Hilary Scharper (2013)


The storm-centre had moved to some distance now, but the sky was still low and dark, and in the intermittent electric flicker the mountain shapes showed a curious light olive-green, lighter than the indigo clouds beyond them. The lower meadows and slopes shone paler still, stretching ghostly and frostlike where the shower had left its evanescent hoary glimmer. Dark sky, pale mountains, phantom-grey meadows…it was like looking at the negative of the normal daylight picture, a magically inverted landscape through whose pale foreground drove the sharp ink-black furrow of the Petit Gave.

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart (1957)


Nell was not impressed by his revelation. The highborn were always up to no good, but what of it? No matter who sat on the throne at Westminster, she’d still be fretting about that leak in the roof and her daughter’s need for new shoes.

Cruel as the Grave by Sharon Penman (1998)


Pendle Hill, Lancashire

‘People think in pictures,’ I said. ‘Sometimes if you jog their memories with one picture, it helps to release others. People remember more than they think, but their memories are stored deep and you need to find a way to bring them to the surface.’

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (2018)


‘No? She wanted advice, just like you. I told her to go home and cook her husband’s dinner. Instead she went to Spain where she was murdered. People don’t want advice. They want to be told that what they want to do is right.’

Dark Summer in Bordeaux by Allan Massie (2012)


The extraordinary pleasantness of the last days of a holiday does not make a determined man want to be on holiday forever; he enjoys each second with peculiar gusto just because he is prepared to leave at an appointed time.

Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)


Favourite books read in September:

The Craftsman, Bleeding Heart Square and Harriet

Where did my reading take me in September?

England, France, Ancient Greece, Spain, Italy, Scotland, Canada

Authors read for the first time in September:

Hilary Scharper and Elizabeth Jenkins


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

My Commonplace Book: August 2018

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

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


Yet even without deliberately attempting to cut and discard pieces of a story, years after giving a full and just accounting of an event, a man may discover himself a liar. Such lies happen not by intent, but purely by virtue of the facts he was not privy to at the time he wrote, or by being ignorant of the significance of trivial events. No one is pleased to discover himself in such a strait, but any man who claims never to have experienced it is but stacking one lie on top of another.

Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb (2001)


Branwell Brontë’s portrait of Anne, Emily and Charlotte.

‘That’s just what I feel. What is profoundly personal cannot be exposed without -‘ Emily stopped.

‘Without what?’

‘Betraying it.’

‘Well! But what about our work?’

‘That’s fiction. It’s the stuff of your experience, perhaps, but not the stuff of your souls.’ She spoke quite matter-of-factly and without any special emphasis; yet Anne and Charlotte were silenced.

Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks (1976)


Two steps. Two steps were all it took. An ocean; a universe. A gulf separating innocence from almost certain damnation. And yet innocence can be a burden and above all rarely profitable. Innocence affords private satisfaction; money and power simple recompense.

The Lady Agnès Mystery by Andrea Japp (2006)


“The trouble is,” said Laura, “walking in Venice becomes compulsive once you start. Just over the next bridge, you say, and then the next one beckons.”

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (1971)


Achilles’ surrender of Briseis to Agamemnon

Would you really have married the man who’d killed your brothers?

Well, first of all, I wouldn’t have been given a choice. But yes, probably. Yes. I was a slave, and a slave will do anything, anything at all, to stop being a thing and become a person again.

I just don’t know how you could do that.

Well, no, of course you don’t. You’ve never been a slave.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018)


‘Germany will declare war on France tomorrow, if she hasn’t already done so. As for us, we shall be in by Tuesday at the latest!’

‘How can you be so sure?’ Paul demanded. ‘Grenfell rang two days ago and said it depended upon half-a-dozen unknown factors, any of which might result in us standing aside.’

Franz said, ‘My dear boy, the politicians are the clowns who provide the curtain raiser, an entirely different cast act the play!’

Post of Honour by R.F. Delderfield (1966)


‘In my work I never calculate on persons, as apart from what I see them do. A person more or less is of no account in state affairs – it is what he promotes and what he does that I have to reckon with. I see your recent actions and your future intentions, and I hold them to be invidious. So I am not interested in emotional recollections of the kind of person you are, or seemed to be. I only work on what I see you doing.’

That Lady by Kate O’Brien (1946)


Coat of arms of Henry VII, founder of the House of Tudor

A man who carries the blood of Lancaster in his veins and has the Welsh dragon at his heel is a constant threat to York. The time may not be yet, Harri, but when the time comes, it is to you that the followers of the dragon will look for leadership. I look towards the crown for you – a Tudor crown.’

The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson (2018)


‘But you see,’ she said, ‘we are not either of them. However much we care for other people, we cannot become them. People can only do as much as they are. It may be more than we could do, it may be less, but very often it will be different. Sometimes that is very hard to bear, as I know you know.’

Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1991)


Title page of The Lamentation of a Sinner by Catherine Parr

She looked round the gallery. ‘This is my favourite place in this palace. Where I can walk undisturbed, and rest my eyes on its treasures.’

‘There is much beauty here.’

‘The clocks remind me that however frantically courtiers plot and plan beyond these doors, time ticks by regardless.’ She looked at me directly with her hazel eyes. ‘Taking us to our judgement.’

Lamentation by CJ Sansom (2014)


What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them! Yet my town acquaintances look upon it as imprisonment, and I don’t know what besides, and would rend the air with their shrieks if condemned to such a life. Sometimes I feel as if I were blest above all my fellows in being able to find my happiness so easily.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (1898)


A serious note crept into Elizabeth’s voice. ‘There is much to be said for a lack of ambition. I would not be sorry should you think less of advancement and more of the content to be had in small things.’

‘No more would I, should we be allowed that luxury.’

She ignored the implication, sought to counter it. ‘Surely we should be able to find much to take pleasure in within our own bounds.’ There was a sound of scuffling from above their heads, followed by a shriek and a succession of giggles. ‘Family for one. Our children healthy and happy and full of life.’

By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea (2018)


Favourite books read in August:

Fool’s Errand, Dark Quartet, Lamentation and Marking Time.

Where did my reading take me in August?

England, France, Italy, Crete, Ireland, Israel, Ancient Greece, Spain, Germany, Scotland

Authors read for the first time in August:

Lynne Reid Banks, Andrea Japp, Pat Barker, Kate O’Brien, Margaret Skea


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

My Commonplace Book: July 2018

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

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


She was sure that only those who had never had freedom understood its true worth, a treasure to be guarded at all times and never to be lost again.

Claudine’s Daughter by Rosalind Laker (1979)


If we do not alter with the times, the times yet alter us. We may stand perfectly still, but our surroundings shift round and we are not in the same relationship to them for long; just as a chameleon, matching perfectly the greenness of a leaf, should know that the leaf will one day fade.

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor (1951)


Suspected witches kneeling before King James

‘But the Devil is not so cunning as he believes. He has left certain marks on the bodies of those whom he has claimed as his own. He most commonly shows favour towards a particular type of woman. Sometimes she is poor. Often she is unmarried. She may also be skilled in the art of healing.’

Despite the cool of the old stone church, Frances felt her body prickle with a rising heat.

The King’s Witch by Tracy Borman (2018)


‘Now, do listen, Deb! Seven hundred pounds for the bays and a new barouche! Well, I can’t think where the money is to come from. It seems a monstrous price.’

‘We might let the bays go, and hire a pair of job horses,’ suggested Miss Grantham dubiously.

‘I can’t and I won’t live in Squalor!’ declared her aunt tearfully.

Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer (1941)


The chief pleasure connected with asking an opinion lies in not adopting it.

Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy (1871)


Portrait of René Descartes

He ran his hand along a shelf, but was not checking for dust. ‘One book is not enough. Never enough. What one needs is a library. A library is an investment in the future, Helena.’

The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd (2016)


‘Have you noticed what is left, at the end of the day, as it were, after all these ancient civilizations have been and gone, disappeared into the mists of time?’

Mrs Wilkinson smiled vacantly as she held her wine glass to her lips.

‘I’ll tell you,’ he said, smiling disarmingly. ‘The beautiful things that people have made, and, occasionally, if they are lucky, the things that they have said. That is all that remains. Not fame, nor fortune or notoriety: these things pass…we take very seriously the gift of art and literature, as these are the things that will be left after all our empires are gone.’

My Beautiful Imperial by Rhiannon Lewis (2017)


It is a great prophet, is the sea: one need only sit upon the shore for a time to know that the answers to all mysteries are contained within the chanting of the waves. But we have lived apart from the sea for so long that we no longer speak its language. And so we look upon it like deafened men towards a singer, trying to understand what has been lost to us.

Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach (2018)


‘Well now, suppose you got out the Meccano and made a pretty elaborate crane. Then suppose you took it to pieces again and handed just those bits to your boys and told them to make a crane. Each boy would produce something different, and each would have a few bits over, which they’d just have to use up anyhow. We’ve been given just such an assortment of bits – but we don’t even know whether they should make up into a crane or a windmill or a bridge. For instance, why am I here? Why did your precious Chief Constable get me down? What am I supposed to be investigating?’

Appleby’s End by Michael Innes (1945)


Whitby Abbey

“You’re the daughters of a prince, Edwin’s closest marriageable kin,” said Breguswid. “Peace-Weavers, they call them. Brides who gather broken threads and weave them together to mend the hurt men cause.”

The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay (2015)


While it was certainly true that country folk could still be a little credulous, being far removed as they were from great seats of learning, Sarah understood that when there was a dearth of knowledge and education, people – no matter their origins – were inclined to believe just about anything communicated to them with sufficient confidence and authority. However, Sarah also knew from personal experience that when all hope was lost, when all else had failed, people were willing to try almost anything to save those that they loved.

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (2018)


“Every group of people have their own stories that they create to make sense of their world. Therefore, in folk stories, in fairy tales, we see the reflection of humankind: its strengths, flaws, hopes, fears. They tell us what it takes to survive. That, Miss Hart, is why the stories are important, and why they must be protected.”

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola (2018)


Favourite book read in July:

Desperate Remedies

Where did my reading take me in July?

England, the Netherlands, Wales, Chile, Scotland, Iceland

Authors read for the first time in July:

Elizabeth Taylor, Guinevere Glasfurd, Rhiannon Lewis, Tim Leach, Tracy Borman, Ambrose Parry, Jill Dalladay


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