Incoming Books and Their Sources (4)

I didn’t think I acquired lots of books this month, but surprise, surprise, it’s still quite a chunky pile!

Zoe seems quite smitten with my latest pile of books in the TBR trolley. Some of the others mentioned are in e-book format.

Yorkshire-inspired reading

Bella Ellis: The Vanished Bride and The Diabolical Bones. Bella Ellis is the pen name for Rowan Coleman – a series of murdery mysteries featuring the Bronte sisters – I had never heard of this series before, but it was a must after visiting the Parsonage. – discovered in the charming Wave of Nostalgia shop on Haworth Main Street, with its theme of ‘strong women’. The third volume has just come out: Rowan Coleman was at the shop recently to sign the book, but I thought I should start at the beginning. I’ve already devoured the first one and could of course imagine every room in the house and the surrounding landscape.

E.C.R. Lorac: These Names Make Clues – a present from the lovely Janet Emson, when we met at Sculpture Park, already done and dusted, short review to follow.

Margaret Kennedy: The Feast This one was actually inspired by a review from Jacqui, but it fits in well with an idea I had for a crime novel featuring disparate guests arriving for various reasons at a Buddhist retreat centre in Yorkshire (which might bear some coincidental similarities to the Christian retreat centre I stayed at).

Inspired by other readers

Shirley Hazzard: The Evening of the Holiday American author Lily King said in a recent article on LitHub that ‘one of the greatest loves of my life has been the short novel The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard. I have kept a copy of it on the desk where I write for more than twenty-five years. I reach for it when I am stuck, scared, or bored, when I am at loose ends or bound up tight. I raise it like a sacred text, let it fall open where it will.’ It doesn’t take much to persuade me to pick up a Shirley Hazzard book, since I identify strongly with her wandering lifestyle and cross-cultural observations, but this ringing endorsement activated my trigger-happy finger instantly (I found a second-hand copy of it).

Abir Mukherjee: A Necessary Evil I read the first in this wonderful series set in Raj-era India for the Virtual Crime Book Club and then found another (out of order) at the library). Then other books came along and jostled for priority, but a recent review of Mukherjee’s latest by Mary Picken made me want to go back to it and attempt a bit of a chronological order (which is more important in historical fiction than in other crime series), so I borrowed this second one in the series from the library. Short review to follow soon, but highly recommended.

Annamarie Jagose: In Translation You can blame Lisa Hill from ANZ Lit Lovers blog once again for this hard-to-find book. A translator of Japanese literature, a love triangle and a potential fraud: could this book be any more me than that?? It is out of print (dates from 1994), but I managed to find it second-hand.

Inspired by Twitter

Alberto Prunetti: Down and Out in England and Italy An obvious reference to Orwell’s account of precarious work in Paris and London, I became aware of this book thanks to tweets by Tanya Shadrick and the Working Class Festival. The gig economy is so prevalent nowadays, so a very timely read.

Cristina A. Bejan: Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania. I’ve been following Cristina for a while on Twitter, she is a poet and an academic of Romanian origin, now living in the US. When I saw that her research into the interwar period in Romania (which some see as the ‘golden age of intellectuals and literature’) had been published, I instantly asked her to send me a copy, which she kindly signed for me. It features the world of Mihail Sebastian and his ‘friends’ – need I say more?

Joanna Cannon: A Tidy Ending. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was possibly one of the first books I downloaded from Netgalley back in 2015/16, but I didn’t get to read it until this year (and quite enjoyed it). I also like following the exploits of Joanna and her lovely, goofy German Shepherd Lewis on Twitter, so when I heard she has a new book out and read the blurb, I wanted to read it. I hope it’s not going to be mediocre psychological thriller territory – there have been far too many of those in recent years, they’ve all blended into mush in my mind.

Polly Atkin: Recovering Dorothy I met Polly on a poetry writing retreat in Wales a few years ago and have been following her work ever since. She has been very busy despite lockdown and other issues, and she has recently published not only a new collection of poetry but also a book examining Dorothy Wordsworth’s legacy (despite struggling with poor health and looking after her brother).

Inspired by literary festivals

Natasha Brown and Claudia Rankine discussing their work with Alex Clark.

Claudia Rankine: Just Us

Natasha Brown: Assembly

Although I felt pretty run-down and ill over the weekend (thank you, older son, for coming all the way from Durham to give me and your brother your tonsillitis and other flu bugs), I attended some of the sessions of the Cambridge Literary Festival (Winter Edition) – luckily, they are all recorded and available to watch until the 28th of November, so I still have time to catch up. I was particularly struck by the mutual admiration and thoughtfulness of the session featuring Natasha Brown and Claudia Rankine, so I ordered their books at once (I have several other Rankine books, but not her latest, and have heard excellent things about Brown’s debut novel).

Fatima Manji: Hidden Heritage

I expected to like the panel above, but what is lovely with these all-access festivals is that you stumble across unexpected delights, such as Fatima Manji describing how she researched the origin of various objects in British museums or forgotten papers in archives, to show the long history of Britain’s fascination with the ‘Orient’. I found out that Queen Victoria spoke and wrote Urdu, that Elizabeth I was corresponding with the women in the Ottoman Sultan’s harem in Topkapi Palace, that coffee houses were bemoaned as dens of iniquity by the ale-houses (for being Turkish temptresses) and so much more.

Publisher initiatives

Olga Tokarczuk: The Books of Jacob, transl. Jennifer Croft I’ve wanted this book ever since I heard the author and translator mention it at the Hay Festival in 2018, just after they won the Man Booker International Prize for Flights. In the meantime, many of the bloggers I love have been looking forward to it, and I hope we will exchange views on it even if we don’t do a readalong. I couldn’t quite afford the limited edition of it though, but the Fitzcarraldo newsletter mentioned that they had copies signed by the author at Foyles, so… it was a no-brainer.

Josep Maria Esquirol: The Intimate Resistance, transl, Douglas Suttle Thank you, Fum d’Estampa Press, for keeping me on their mailing list, although I still haven’t reviewed any of the three books they have sent me. I am very interested in this one, however, because it is a work of philosophy, which has now become an area of vivacious debate between my older son and me. He will no doubt have a very long reading list over the holidays, but maybe he will read this one too, and we can compare notes.

Willem Frederick Hermans: The Darkroom of Damocles, Beyond Sleep and An Untouched House, transl. David Colmer. I receive the Pushkin Press newsletter; when they mentioned that they are publishing a new book by Hermans, and would therefore be reducing prices on his three previous books in virtual format, I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss to read work by one of the most respected Dutch writers of the 20th century. Maybe I should have stuck to just one, to see if I liked his style, but as you can see, I don’t do things by halves!


Christine Mangan: Palace of the Drowned. Such serendipity, aka random pick, typically occurs in a library. While picking up my reservations, I saw this recently-published novel by Christine Mangan on display. Although I hadn’t read her previous one, Tangerine, I had hear good things about it, and the blurb for this one: ageing novelist, Venice setting in the 1960s, an over-eager young admirer… yes, it might sound a bit like Death in Venice or The Talented Mr Ripley, but it’s just the sort of thing I cannot resist.

What do all these different sources prove (other than that I am very easily led astray when it comes to books?)

  1. Publisher newsletters or special offers still work a treat
  2. Recommendations from other readers and bloggers are my default option
  3. If I know and like people on Twitter, I will follow their work with interest
  4. I nearly always buy books by friends
  5. Festivals sell books
  6. I love reading books set in a specific location, especially if I know it personally or want to visit that location
  7. Libraries are the best!

20 thoughts on “Incoming Books and Their Sources (4)”

  1. I love these posts, and am delighted that you took up the Pushkin Hermans offer. One of those tussles with Buddenbrooks to be my favourite novel of all time, don’t you know?

    Mukherjee’s series is terrific. Not sure why I haven’t finished reading it … saving for a rainy day, of course. No that can’t be true, I live in Scotland. 😂

    Haworth was a favoured day-trip destination growing up, so am intrigued by the Bella Ellis ….

    1. Oh, I had no idea Hermans was such a favourite of yours, looking forward to reading them even more. I have to laugh about the saving for a rainy day, because that is what I do with series/authors that I know I will like. Or else I keep them for ‘best’, like one might with certain clothes or cutlery or dinner sets. And yes, after seeing Haworth, the Bronte detector sisters was a slam dunk!

  2. Some great books have arrived this month I see. I’ve a couple of those, including The Diabolical Bones and A Tidy Ending. I hope you enjoyed These Names Make Clues 🙂

  3. I enjoyed the first Mukherjee book too and have the next three in the series but had completely forgotten about them until I saw your mention. I do this too often – buy a book with great enthusiasm and then forget I even have it.

    I read Tangerine this summer. Thought it was very poor sorry and I wouldn’t want to read the author again

  4. Well, Bella Ellis turns out to be represented in our local (Yorkshire) library, so I’d better give her a go. I’d be willing to try any of the others too, apart from Joanna Cannon, as Goat and Sheep was one book I simply didn’t enjoy, for reasons which now escape me.

  5. “I didn’t think I acquired lots of books this month…” An understatement, what with nearly a dozen physical books and who knows how many virtual ones! The Bella Ellis series caught my eye, with the pun on Ellis Bell, Emily’s pen name. Will look out for these though I’ve yet to visit the Parsonage.

  6. Yes, indeed, Marina Sofia! Libraries are the best! I couldn’t agree more. I really like your selections. It was especially nice to see the Mukherjee – what a great series! – and I very much hope you enjoyed the Lorac. Her work seems to have been rediscovered lately, and I think that, overall, it’s excellent work. I think it’s always good when an author gets a second chance, so to speak, with new generations.

  7. Lovely selection! The Feast is just wonderful – hope you enjoy it! And well done on getting Jacob – I must admit I have put off acquiring a copy as I don’t want to put myself under pressure with it sitting there and looking at me…

  8. A very interesting and diverse selection, Marina, and I’m glad my review of The Feast has prompted you to take the plunge. It’s a lot of fun and very cleverly constructed, so a lovely treat to look forward as well as being useful for your work!

  9. Well now you’ve done it! Today is my library mobile bus day so down I went and we ordered many of the Lorac, Mukherjee and Bella Ellis. I already own the Feast so should read it soon, and bought The Books of Jacob recently. Oh yes, also found the first Hermans on ebook! Such bounty. Can’t wait to start….something… one of them at least.
    I could not get along with Tangerine either. Should have been good but somehow missed.
    It’s really unusual for my library service to have so many of the titles and authors I’m looking for.
    Oh yes, and of course, I read the same article about Hazzard. Recently finished Greene on Capri and then found in my bookshelf the Letters between Flaubert and Sand edited by Steegmuller ( and another?)
    Thank you!

    1. Oh I wasn’t expecting quite such a bounty either – I can see you are a person after my own heart, succumbing just as easily to reading temptation! 😂😂
      I just finished Palace of the Drowned to night and… she is rather verbose and tries a little too hard to convey menace and atmosphere, but she ain’t no Patricia Highsmith!

Do share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.