Friday, 12 February 2016

Five in January

I read five books in January.

Bit of a lazy old nostalgia fest this month.

The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge
I loved Elizabeth Goudge when I was younger and reread her books many times. About three years ago I reread my favourites, the Damerosehay trilogy The Bird in the Tree, The Herb of Grace and The Heart of the Family, and they stood the test of time for me. This one did too, mostly – I was eager to reach the bits I remembered: the wonderful house inherited by the main character, Mary; the description of the ‘little things’; and the evocation of a countryside and way of life that, in the 1930s, was being mourned as slipping into the past. But I’m not sure that it stands a general test of time – would it appeal to many folk reading it now for the first time? Hmm. I'd like to think so though.

The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
Miss Brown – we’re told her first name is Dolores but she’s never thus referred to thereafter – has to leave her seaside home which she’s run as a boarding house as it’s been taken over by the military in the early days of WW2. By a circuitous chain of events she ends up housekeeping in a castle owned by an author who lives there with his two nephews. As before, I still liked my favourite bits. But what my younger self didn’t picked up on was this: Miss Brown aged forty-four is considered well past her sell-by date and Mrs Heather, in her seventies – well, it’s a miracle she’s still alive. 

Maybe it's a mistake to go back to reread old favourites – what do you think? 

And here's another one.

Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter
I read this as a child, probably from school library. Couldn’t resist this second-hand copy. It has not stood the test of time from a literary point of view – far-fetched, plot holes a mile wide – but I enjoyed it anyway for old times' sake and for the reminder of Pollyanna’s in/famous Glad Game (looking for the silver lining in every cloud). Even though I’m not likely to play it all the time …
E-books are handy but you don’t get this with them, a reminder of a previous owner – or lovely endpapers.
Or this, which was tucked inside – perhaps from a different owner. I like her priorities.

Caddy’s World by Hilary McKay
Love these (children’s) books about the bohemian Casson family and was thrilled to see the author at the Edinburgh Book Festival last year, where I bought this one. It’s the sixth to be published (following Saffy’s Angel, Indigo’s Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After and Forever Rose) but it’s not chronological – it goes back to when the youngest, Rose, was born early and had to be in hospital for several weeks. A treat, as usual.

And for something completely different –

The Lewis Man by Peter May
An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer. A man with no memory.
I really enjoyed Entry Island and don’t know why I haven’t read more PM since. This was terrific, although I was cross with myself to realise halfway through that it was the second in the trilogy – look forward to catching up with the characters in the first and third soon.


  1. Another interesting selection, Kate. Pollyanna was one of the first film I ever saw and loved but I've never read the book - and I'm sometimes annoyingly optimistic (according to more pessimist husband!). Still haven't read Peter may but definitely will at some point. Used to have a collection of writings by Elizabeth Goudge which I enjoyed but can't remember any of it now.

  2. Thanks, Rosemary. Not annoying, just very good at playing Pollyanna's game!