Tuesday, December 27, 2016


While in other ways 2016 was an absolutely terrible year—here's hoping 2017 doesn't turn out as badly as seems likely—a look back at all the books I read this year, and my difficulty in selecting only 12 of my favorite books of the year, suggests that it was a very good year for me on the bookish side—and this is really true in more ways than one.

Firstly, as a reader, the fact that I had to force myself to eliminate no fewer than nine other books that I really loved obviously means that I was lucky enough to find books that really spoke to me this year. I had to make a rule that I would only include each author once, which required that ELIZABETH ELIOT’s Alice (1950) and RACHEL FERGUSON’s A Harp in Lowndes Square (1936) be removed from the list. This was also the year that I properly discovered NGAIO MARSH’s late mysteries, having foolishly avoided them before, but there just wasn’t room for either Dead Water (1963) of Clutch of Constables (1969) on my list, and even JOSEPHINE BELL’s delightful Death at Half-Term (1939), which I read while we were travelling and enjoyed very much, had to be dropped.

Other terrible deletions from the list include my intro to the Thrush Green series by MISS READ/DORA SAINT, Battles at Thrush Green (1975), GWENDOLINE COURTNEY’s The Girls of Friar’s Rise (1952), my favorite ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER Chalet School book so far, The Chalet School Reunion (1963), and my return to reading MURIEL SPARK with Loitering with Intent (1981). (I loved the Spark, by the way, though in the rush of getting ready for our trip I never got round to writing about it.)

The second reason it was a good year for me is that I actually had the opportunity to play a role in bringing three of the books on my list back into print this year, in both cases for the first time since the 1940s. I’ve already written tiresomely often about the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint from Dean Street Press (see links to them in the left column, including my announcement from last week of the new titles we'll be doing in March 2017), but the opportunity came about and developed so quickly that, looking back at the list of books I read this year, I found it hard to believe that I'd only discovered two of the FM books and one additional Dean Street mystery in the early months of this year. Things happen quickly! And happily, as I announced last week, we'll also be reprinting another of the books from this year's list.

But to counteract, for just a moment, all this regret and all the adoration I’m about the express below, I can’t help mentioning one book I don’t regret not including here at all (which I also never got round to writing about, and it would have been an uncharacteristically harsh post if I had). I ordinarily love GLADYS MITCHELL unconditionally, but I’m afraid the love is now at least somewhat conditional—to retain my love, she simply must do better than The Longer Bodies (1930), her absolutely dreadful third novel. The daftness of Mitchell’s mysteries is usually a joy for me, but here it went over the top, and the perky, flapperish, dimwitted characters (indistinguishable from one another) and even more dimwitted plot were pure irritation and no joy. Fortunately, much much better work was to come.

But now, back to the adoration. This year, I’m going to present my top 12 in reverse order. The “ranking” is unscientific, but based on the strength of the feelings each book evokes in retrospect. Here goes:

I seem to have been even more focused this year on World War II—pre-, mid-, and post-—than usual (which is saying something!). Although it’s not the most polished of the novels on my list, this is one of the most astonishingly detailed portrayals of the immediate postwar years in England that could be imagined. As Rose Macaulay did with bombed-out ruins in The World My Wilderness, which I discussed recently (and which was a re-read, so it’s not eligible for this list), in Peace, Perfect Peace Josephine Kamm seems to have set out to carefully document the mundane day-to-day details of postwar life. It’s endlessly interesting.

Another flawed but fascinating novel, and I was thrilled to have a chance to read it, as it came from my Hopeless Wish List. Tracing the relationships and experiences of a group of women translators at the Ministry of Foreign Intelligence, it’s particularly entertaining for anyone who works or has worked in an office environment, with the cameraderie and pettiness that such places can inspire. But imagine that office environment in the midst of the Blitz! Funny, a bit bitchy, and, like Kamm, marvelously detailed, it’s an almost unique portrayal of women office workers in World War II.

In some ways, this novel might have enabled the whole Furrowed Middlebrow publishing venture. I had already read and loved Peck’s first mystery, The Warrielaw Jewel, and when I finished this one I couldn’t resist emailing Rupert at Dean Street and suggesting both books for their Golden Age mystery series. The rest, as they say, is history! Both mysteries are in print from Dean Street, and of course Peck’s wartime novel Bewildering Cares was one of the first batch of Furrowed Middlebrow titles (and was #1 on my 2014 Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen).

This one is still in print and available from Greyladies! I can’t say it better than I did in my original review: “For me, what sets The Winter Is Past apart from other portrayals of the earliest days of the war, is that while it has all the hallmarks of a cozy, comforting bit of escapism (and indeed it is very, very entertaining and addictive, so it could really be read as such), Streatfeild's characters are undoubtedly real living breathing human beings, not idealized figures with only minor problems easily resolved at the end. Their flaws are shown and wrestled with, and reading about how they come to terms with them and with one another, one must come to terms with their failings too, and then forgive them and like them anyway.”

The first title on this list not related in any way to WWII! A wonderful intro to Young’s work for me, the tale of a 40-ish spinster with “too much dignity, a troubled relationship with the truth, and a tendency to speak her mind a bit too eloquently.” Miss Mole is a wonderfully complex, damaged character, which makes it even more inexplicable that none of Young’s novels seem to be in print on either side of the Atlantic (though happily most are fairly readily available in green Virago editions from the 1980s).

Released in October as one of the inaugural Furrowed Middlebrow titles, and recently discussed in Gillian Tindall’s article about Ferguson in the Times Literary Supplement, I go back and forth between this novel and A Footman for the Peacock as my favorite Ferguson. Both a satirical warning against nostalgia and a marvelous bit of nostalgia in its own right, it’s funny, highly literary, and a complete education in Edwardian pop culture all in one spot.

6) AUSTIN LEE, Miss Hogg and the Brontë Murders (1956)

I meant to find a way to work in a short review of the two delightful Miss Hogg mysteries reprinted by Greyladies in the past year, but with the trip preparations and the trip itself, they sort of got lost in the shuffle. Despite the fact that they are written by a man (I know, shocking, right?), I fell in love with both this one and the earlier Sheep’s Clothing (1955), which introduces the redoubtable Miss Hogg, spinster heroine of nine mysteries. But having just been to Haworth myself, I had to choose this one, set in and around Brontë country, as my favorite. Both are still in print from Greyladies, who reportedly will eventually reprint all nine Miss Hogg mysteries. I for one am very impatiently awaiting the other seven!

We’re back to the war with this one, but in what delightful style! I dared to compare this one to blogger favorite Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton (which, for those of you who don’t subscribe to the Persephone Post, will finally become a Persephone reprint next year—exciting news indeed). In some ways, I like Cavan’s novel better than Tutton’s—there’s a similar focus on charming, perky young girls in an eccentric family, with a similarly dark undercurrent (in this case the imminent approach of war) and the inevitable romantic touches, but I think Moon might actually be more fun. It’s definitely on my radar to be an FM reprint if possible (though sadly Cavan’s other work doesn’t seem to be of equal quality), but its rather jumbo size (just under 400 pages!) would make it a costly reprint. Clearly, I will have to re-read it (and Tutton’s novel as well, of course, for comparison) to assess the situation.

In limiting myself to including one title per author on this list, I set myself the challenge of deciding between Elizabeth Eliot’s giddy debut, Alice, and her fifth and final novel, Cecil (Henry and Mrs Martell would both be close behind as well). Ultimately, though, the more subtle, mature work had to make the cut (though it’s the one that makes her subsequent silence as an author that much more sad). In Cecil, Eliot sets herself the challenge of presenting the dysfunctional relationship between Lady Guthrie and her son through the eyes of an in-law who only sees them infrequently. There’s an almost Jamesian subtlety about the narrator’s (and therefore the reader’s) limited perceptions and knowledge about these characters, which reminds one that we can never know for sure all the motivations of those around us.

I admit that I probably overuse the term “hilarious” on this blog—it’s an easy go-to term for any book that has regularly made me laugh. But in this case it definitely applies. I’ve long been a fan of Anderson’s rollicking memoirs—I wrote about two of her other titles here and here—but this one just might be my favorite of them all. Detailing the granting of a young Verity’s long-cherished wish to accompany her sister Rhalou to boarding-school, and the difficulties she has in adapting to the new environment, Daughters of Divinity is must-read material for fans of school stories and anyone who likes giggling deliriously while one’s family members, spouse, or fellow train-riders look on with unease.

I’m in the minority here, but I found this final novel from the divine Stella Gibbons—written around 1980 but not published until this year—to be one of the best she ever wrote—eloquent, heartbreaking, and impossible to put down. Many other readers have found it hard to engage with the emotionally disengaged heroine, but perhaps I have a bit more in common with Juliet than I’d like to admit. If you’re up for something a bit more challenging, empathy-wise, but with all the wisdom and wit that Gibbons had developed over a lifetime of writing, give this one a try.

It was tough to make a call about my favorite new read of the year. There are so many different kinds of books on this list, so there’s no way to objectively choose a favorite. But this only novel by Ursula Orange’s sister-in-law, recommended to me by Monica Tindall’s niece, Gillian Tindall, ultimately won out. A powerful portrait of a terrible mother and a precise dissection of exactly how she became that way, it’s as compellingly written as a mystery novel and will make your identifications and sympathies shift so frequently as to get tied in knots. And, as I mentioned in my pre-Christmas post, Dean Street Press and Furrowed Middlebrow will be reprinting Tindall's novel next March, along with the three best novels of Ursula Orange!

And that’s that. Wow. It really was an extraordinarily successful year of reading. I’d better get busy with my bookshopping and interlibrary loans to make 2017 just as satisfying!

Now, what were your favorite reads of 2016?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Coming soon: new Furrowed Middlebrow titles for March 2017 (and merry Christmas!)

First and foremost, as this will be my last post before Christmas, I want to offer my wishes that all of you have marvelous festivities to celebrate the holiday. And by festivities, of course, I mean anything from huge family gatherings to wild orgiastic parties to quiet evenings with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate—as long as it makes you happy, that’s what I wish for you. And while this is my last post before Christmas, it is not my last post of the year. A little Christmas miracle of my own: I have already prepared my Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen for this year, and it will go up in timely fashion before New Year's, so I'll save my wishes about 2017 sucking less than 2016 has for that post...

My way of contributing to the holiday spirit (though admittedly a rather self-indulgent way) is to announce the second batch of Furrowed Middlebrow titles from Dean Street Press, which will be released in early March 2017. (I was originally planning to reverse these last two posts, but we had a near miss yesterday on some of the news getting "leaked," and I'm told by Dean Street some of the titles will be appearing on Amazon and other sites soon for pre-order, so I am pushing the announcement forward by a week or so.)

I actually had the astonishing experience this week of receiving an email out of the blue in which the writer said he'd heard rumors we were planning to reprint a certain book, which as it happens I have heard of but never actually read. I was sorry to disappoint him, but strangely pleased that I am actually involved in something that could inspire inaccurate rumors. Now I know how celebrities feel! But today I can put those rumors to rest, at least in regard to our next batch of titles.

Before I drag this out too long, I have to say one other thing. We have reluctantly decided that our previous plans of releasing three or even four batches of books per year was just a bit too ambitious. Putting the books together properly—carefully proofed, with good introductions, nice cover designs, and appropriate marketing—takes a bit of doing and it’s more realistic for us to release two batches per year. This means that, although it seems a terribly long time away, our third batch of titles is now set for September of 2017. Ugh. Sorry about that. On the other hand, we originally intended to do 6 or 8 titles per batch, but we stretched that to 9 in the first batch and will stretch it even further, to 11 titles (!), in batch 2. So ultimately we might end up doing almost the same number of titles per year as we had planned.

Okay, on to the meat of the post:

One rather nice thing that happened when I did those annoying multiple posts last time to announce the first titles (I'm not dragging it out that way this time, you'll be happy to learn) was that I got lots of comments and/or emails about what authors you hoped we would be doing. This was especially gratifying because one author got mentioned more than any other, and although it was a bit of a bummer that she wasn’t, in fact, part of batch 1, I now get the pleasure of announcing the she is part of batch 2.

Portrait of Ursula Orange as a child
(courtesy of Gillian Tindall)

Yes, our first three new titles are by Ursula Orange. We'll be reprinting Begin Again (1936), Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1941), and Company in the Evening (1944)—my three favorites of the ones I’ve read. (The links are to my original reviews of the books.) This will be, as far as I know, the first reprinting of any of Orange's work since its initial publication, which makes it even more exciting for me.

Some of you might have suspected that this was in the works when I mentioned meeting Orange’s daughter, author Gillian Tindall, while we were in London. That's where we snapped a photo (so-so at best) of the portrait of Ursula as a child, which hangs on Gillian's wall. If you look closely, you can see Andy reflected with his camera and, over his shoulder, Gillian standing behind him, which if not great photography nevertheless very pleasantly reminds me of our evening together.

And I wonder if you also suspected, then, that we would likewise be reprinting the one lovely novel by Gillian’s aunt (Orange's sister-in-law), Monica Tindall? The Late Mrs Prioleau (1946) will be our fourth new title. You may recall Gillian had recommended the novel to me, and I loved it so much that I'll be revisiting it next week for my Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen for 2016.

As it happens, we've already reprinted my #1 title from 2014's Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen—Winifred Peck's wonderful Bewildering Cares. And we have the Tindall (and perhaps one or two others) from the 2016 list. So what about 2015?


Elizabeth Fair

I’m happy to announce that we’ll also be releasing all six of Elizabeth Fair’s cheerful, witty comedies of village and small town life, including my 2015 #1 fave, A Winter Away (1957). I raved enthusiastically about all of them here. The other five novels are Bramton Wick (1952), Landscape in Sunlight (1953), The Native Heath (1954), Seaview House (1955), and The Mingham Air (1960). Only recently I was drafting the cover blurbs for these books, and as I thumbed through them to remind myself of characters and situations, I very nearly got sucked into re-reading all of them. I find them irresistible.

And finally, alongside these two authors being reintroduced to audiences for the first time in half a century or so, we have a single title by a quite well known author, albeit one more well known for her children's fiction than her grownup novels. 

I reviewed E. Nesbit's final novel, The Lark (1922), back in 2014 (see here) and was absolutely charmed by it. I was excited earlier this year when Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book shared his pleasure in the book, and then shortly after Harriet Devine wrote enthusiastically about it. But it has remained peskily difficult for most readers to locate copies of the book, apart from one low-quality e-book version available in a jumbo Nesbit collection. So I'm very pleased that we'll be making available a lovely edition of our own come March.

And that's that. But what have we left out this time that you hope to see us reprint in the future? Please do feel free to let me know!

Have a lovely Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

VERILY ANDERSON, Daughters of Divinity (1960)

I've been a fan of Verily Anderson's humorous and sometimes poignant memoirs ever since coming across a mention (I think it was in Philip Ziegler's wonderful London at War) of her first, Spam Tomorrow (1956), which covers her sometimes scary but more often hilarious experiences in wartime, including meeting her husband Donald. I've gradually been piecing together a collection of the other five, and just managed to add two of the rarest volumes to my collection—Our Square (1957), which chronicles Verily's family life in London after the war, with her increasing brood of offspring, and Daughters of Divinity (1960), which irresistibly traces her time at boarding school (and deserves to be a highlight of my Grownup School Story List). (The three other volumes, for those unfamiliar with them, are Beware of Children (1958), about Verily and Donald's experiences setting up a holiday camp for children, The Flo Affair (1963), which I discussed a bit here, and Scrambled Egg for Christmas (1970), which I discussed here.

Although I know it won't be long before I dip into Our Square, I couldn't resist starting with Daughters of Divinity, which I've been curious about for years. And it actually lived up to my expectations—it's now fighting it out with Spam Tomorrow as my absolute favorite of Anderson's books.

As the book opens, Verily's older sister Rhalou is already off at Normanhurst, a high class boarding-school whose eccentric headmistress is a cousin of Verily's mother. Verily herself is still at home, but spends most of her time pretending to be at St. Judith's, a rigorous boarding-school of her own imagining. The vividness of her fantasies is a bit restricted, however, by the lack of any other girls except her younger sister Lorema, who is beginning to grow a bit restive and to yearn for other sorts of games:

Besides being the gym mistress at St Judith's, I was also, at times, the head girl, and to appease Lorema for being the other three hundred and fifty-nine girls, she had lately been appointed all the other prefects. But I foresaw other concessions might have to be made if the school were to continue to run on its normally smooth lines.

But in the opening scene, a visit from eccentric Cousin Daisy and her husband Cousin Cecil (whose inappropriate use of "bloody" and "bastard" are tracked enthusiastically by the Normanhurst girls) results in plans for Verily to join Rhalou at Normanhurst. (One imagines that Lorema must have viewed Verily's departure with mixed feelings—sadness at missing her sister, but surely also some relief at no longer having to constitute the entire student body of St. Judith's!)

Of course, Verily has difficulties in adjusting to school life (what would be the fun of her tale otherwise?). One of the most hilarious passages of the book comes as Verily is familiarizing herself with the school's voluminous rules—specifically the instructions concerning fire safety:

The first was entitled "In Case of Fire" and was phrased in such an alarming manner that my anger soon turned to terror. At the first sound from a double electric fire-bell (sited on each landing) we were to leap out of bed and dip our bath-towels in our water-jugs and place them over our mouths. (N.B. More deaths had been caused in fires by asphyxiation from smoke than from actual burns.) Wearing dressing-gowns and slippers and carrying our eiderdowns (N.B. More deaths had been caused in fires from pneumonia than from burns and asphyxiation together), we were to form a chain and move in a speedy but orderly manner to the nearest staircase (provided the nearest staircase was not in flames). But the rules gave the impression that we should be most unlikely to find a staircase anywhere that was not in flames. In fact they implied that there was little hope of our survival anyway whatever we did. Obeying the rules would merely help to prolong what would anyhow be a slow and agonizing death.

Verily's bad marks begin to mount immediately, and she never really fits in with the enthusiastically horsey crowd of popular girls ("Just think what it would be like not to hunt! Life honestly wouldn't be worth living.") She is forever getting into trouble and being punished, which at first terrifies her until she discovers she doesn't really mind the occasional public humiliation very much and begins to take it for granted. Eventually, however, for the good of her house (echoes of hundreds of school stories there!), she decides, at the suggestion of one of the horsey girls, that perhaps her trivial bad behavior is all because she doesn't have the outlet for her frustrations and repressions that most of the girls possess in the dangers and excitements of the hunt. Whereupon she challenges herself to do the most outrageous things possible so that she will no longer be tempted (or have time, from the look of it!) to commit trivial misdemeanours. The scene in which she finds herself crawling terrified across the school's glass dome is in itself worth the price of admission—it's also an echo of a whole slew of school stories, though I would be surprised if any of those have the same outcome…

The other passage that particularly made me giggle takes place when Verily, ill with the flu, is placed into a bath chair to be taken to the sanitorium (inexplicably, at this school, a half mile away from the school proper). The mule pulling the bath chair clearly knows the way, but it's Verity's fate to create chaos out of order:

The basic rule with bath chair steering, I remembered, was that to go right, one pulled the rod over to the left. For the moment both mule and I only wanted to go straight on, but when we came to a fork in the drive where we had to turn left uphill towards the stables, I gave the mule a helping hand by pulling the rod over to the right.

For some extraordinary reason the rod on this bath chair was not the same as on my grandmother's. On this one, if one pulled to the right, then right the bath chair went. Moreover any auxiliary steering seemed to have a strangely stimulating effect on the mule, which broke into a sudden run, something between a trot and a canter, leaving the surprised garden boy behind.

Imposing as the springs were, they had obviously not been designed to cope with the rough grass and branches over which we now galloped and I was tossed about the seat as though in a ship in rough seas.

When I was flung helplessly into a corner of the bath chair, I guessed that we had reached a bank where the ground sloped steeply away to the right. I clung tightly on to the handle, fearing that if I let go the bath chair would surely turn over. The mule romped on till I knew, from our shuddering halt, we could only have entered a derelict game larder at the bottom of the hill, removing part of its roof as we did so. I was able to slide back into the middle of the seat.

This was a really delightful, rollicking good time throughout, and should be of particular interest to all fans of school stories and anyone who enjoys tales of childhood misfits who make good. I have a feeling Verily Anderson belongs on my list of authors I wish I could have tea with—though I might find it difficult to swallow cucumber sandwiches in between my guffaws at her self-deprecating hilarity.

By the way, in addition to her six memoirs and a series of Brownies stories, Anderson published three children's books centered around the York family—Vanload to Venice (1961), Nine Times Never (1962), and The Yorks in London (1964). These seem to be even more challenging to track down than her memoirs, but if they contain even a fraction of the humor and high spirits of the memoirs, I am definitely intrigued by them. Have any of you ever caught sight of any of these rare creatures?

Monday, December 5, 2016

A perfectly good exc-, er, reason for book splurges

This post is really for my fellow book fetishists. I know you’re out there.

I felt that my post about my UK book shopping, which I wanted to get posted before you had all forgotten that I even made the trip and which I therefore didn’t take a lot of time to put together, was a big negligent in really letting you get up close and personal with the books I acquired—especially the fair number of them with enticing cover art. So I wanted to share some of the cover scans once I finally had time to get them together.

But then I thought of another good reason for a new post about the books—and also an extremely cogent reason why compulsive book shopping is, in fact, not an indulgence but a sheer necessity for my research. Because the books I accumulated while pillaging Oxfam shops actually led me to unearth several potential new authors for my Overwhelming List. So I thought I would share those with you while also sharing some of the best book jackets.

As you already know from previous ravings about them, I particularly love when dustjackets contain lists of other books or authors released by the same publisher. These lists have led me to dozens of new authors, often ones that are congenial to me since the publisher has obviously felt they were of interest to readers of the book in my hand.

Faber & Faber is a favorite publisher of mine because they always seem to lavish the backs of their books with lists of other titles. Winifred Peck was a Faber author, and so, it turns out, was Eilís Dillon, so the back of her Sent to His Account made for a fun half hour or so for me. It contained a few women already on my list—Lucy Boston, Phyllis Bottome, Louise Collis (found, I believe, because she was on the back of Winifred Peck’s books)—and also Antonia Ridge, who always pains me because her books sound enticing (especially Family Album, which has been recommended to me here) but she was actually Dutch so she doesn’t fit my list.

But other names jumped out at me. Victoria Lincoln was, I found, American, but what of ANGELA JEANS? And MARIGOLD ARMITAGE (what a wonderful name!)? I’ve added both of those to my list to research further. And then I also looked into the initial-heavy names, sometimes a signifier of women writers. Alas, however, C. A. Alington is really Cyril Argentine Alington (another impressive name) and although G. R. Levy turned out to be Gertrude Rachel Levy, The Violet Crown is actually a memoir and her other work seems to be scholarly. I have assumed so far that folks like David Stacton and Showell Styles, whose names are unfamiliar, really are men, but you never know!

Some of the girls’ books led me only to authors I already knew. From Mollie Chappell’s Cat With No Fiddle (which I was happy to find, as I’ve read two of her other books), I knew the name Carol Rivett sounded familiar, but had to search my database to discover she’s really Edith Caroline Rivett, who also wrote mysteries under the name ECR Lorac. I wonder if some of those boys’ stories are also by women using male pseudonyms, but haven’t had a chance to explore deeply yet.

Elisabeth Smedley’s The Jays gave me two more possibilities. Among the many initials here, there is one set I didn’t know about. Has anyone come across C. R. MANSELL before? 

Inscription from my copy of The Jays

I also didn’t recognize ELSPETH PROCTER, and I hope no one tells me that she’s absolutely stupendous and her book is incredibly valuable, because I passed up a copy at the York Oxfam shop! Interestingly, I double-checked the one man listed here and he really is a man, but elsewhere he did use a female pseudonym, Linda Peters.

The back flap of Dorita Fairlie Bruce’s The Best House in the School gave me two more possibilities. What of JOYCE BEVINS WEBB and D. KATHERINE BRERETON? Has anyone come across either of them before?

The cover of Winifred Norling’s The Leader of the Rebels (one of the books kindly given to me by Gil when we were in Cambridge) didn’t give me any new authors, but it reminded me of one very strange chapter in the history of girls’ school stories. According to Sue Sims and Hilary Clare in their marvelous Encyclopaedia of Girls’ School Stories, Margaret Lisle is a pseudonym for—of all people—prolific thriller author John Creasey! He only wrote two school stories, which Sims and Clare describe as "intensely tedious", but one can’t help but wonder what on earth prompted him to try his hand in this arena.

Award plate from Looking After Thomas

While I’m talking about children’s authors, there were three more whose names I jotted down in that York Oxfam shop. Natalie Barkas? Pamela Mansbridge? Heather Prime? Do these ring any bells with any of you?

And then there was Mary Bosanquet, who doesn’t seem to fit my list as she’s just a bit too late with her first novel (1962), but who may have to go on my TBR list anyway. The novel (which Andy did a good job of photographing in lieu of my actually purchasing it) sounds interesting, but I’m far more intrigued by the memoir mentioned on the back—Journey Into a Picture is described as her “discovery of Italy under wartime conditions.” Hmmm…

I mentioned Joy Packer’s unremarkable novel The Man in the Mews when I posted about what I read on vacation. Sadly, as I mentioned, Packer herself turned out to be South African, and while the back flap does have a list of other authors published by the Book Club, they are mostly the usual suspects. 

D. L. Murray was a new name, but he’s David Leslie Murray, and F. L. Green is Frederick Laurence Green, author of Odd Man Out, which was made into a film by Carol Reed and which was reprinted last year by Valancourt Books. Oh, well.

From my upgraded copy of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence came the name Janet Lim, who is actually, it turns out, Singaporean, but whose memoir, Sold for Silver, sounds quite gripping. You can read a bit about her life here.

I was happy that the reprint of Anthony Gilbert/Lucy Beatrice Malleson’s The Spinster’s Secret I picked up had a short intro that mentioned an array of other mystery writers planned for the same series, but alas it bore no fruit. Josephine Bell, Pamela Branch, Nancy Spain, and Christianna Brand were all already on my list, and the others—Ina Bouman, Sarah Dreher, Katherine V. Forrest, Miles Franklin, Hilda Lawrence, Marion Mainwaring, and Sara Shulman were all either too late or of another nationality. Woe is me.

And last but not least, there’s the book I found that’s actually by an author who belong on my list. DOROTHY VERNON WHITE’s Frank Burnet even has a very handy author bio that makes clear White belongs, which I greatly appreciated:

Dorothy Vernon White was born in 1877, the daughter of Horace Smith, police magistrate for Westminster and a minor poet. Later, her family moved to Beckenham, Kent where at the age of twenty-two she began taking Bible classes for poor boys. A lively, independent character, she also ran a week-day club and a cricket team, becoming 'famed as a demon over-arm bowler in an era of lobs and long skirts'. Her short stories appeared in periodicals such as the Academy and Outlook and in 1907 her first novel, Miss Mona, caught the attention of the novelist William Hale White ('Mark Rutherford'). She already admired his writing and, although he was seventy-five and she thirty, their first meeting was the start of an intense relationship leading to marriage in 1911. Dorothy published two more novels, Frank Burnet (1909) and Isabel (1911), but after Hale White's death in 1913 she virtually ceased to write apart from editing his journals and letters and the remarkable Groombridge Diary (1924), her account of their life together. She continued to teach and, in the 1930s, published three books for children. She died at Sherbourne in Dorset in 1967, at the age of ninety.

I can’t help but wonder what makes her memoir remarkable, but if I become a fan I’ll probably be tracking it down to find out.

Well, that’s it for the potential new authors. But I still have some more photos to share, so if you're interested keep scrolling!

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