Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! (and post-holiday excursion)

A slightly belated Happy New Year wish to all of you!  

Andy and I are just back from our post-holiday trip to Seattle and Victoria. We had a great time in Seattle, and some friends showed us around some of the major sights, but Victoria was probably the high point for me. So, before I get back to my book obsessions, I thought I'd share just a little about the trip. I know that a lot of people (myself included) find other people's tourist snapshots a little tedious, so I will only share a few. (And rest assured that below those are some pics about a little book shopping I did in Victoria.)

First and foremost, while in Victoria we splurged a little and stayed at the famous Fairmont Empress hotel:

I was intrigued by the shrubbery out front, which (I think?) is meant to be suggestive of elephants:

But of course, the main attraction of the Empress is the afternoon tea.  This was, believe it or not, our first experience of a proper English high tea:

Oh, to have a few more (or a few dozen, perhaps) of those lovely scones, in particular, to enjoy today:

We've discovered that there are a couple of places in San Francisco that also serve tea (how traditional it is remains to be seen).

One other lovely spot not far from our hotel was the grounds of the historic St. Ann's Academy:

We didn't have a chance to go into the former girls' school and convent, now used as government offices, but I figured it was good for me to get at least a bit of a feel for life in a girls' school, especially now that I've started added lots more authors to my list who specialize in girls' school stories! The grounds also feature signboards with lots of intriguing photos of the sisters who ran the school and some of the girls who attended.

And then, from there, we ventured to a couple of bookstores. Ground zero for me was a shop recommended by a friend of this blog (thank you, Susan!), Russell's Books:

In particular, there's a downstairs devoted to antiquarian books, and naturally I was sucked right down those stairs for a closer look.  I think I actually exercised admirable self control, only leaving with two new additions to my library, but I got Andy to take pictures of a couple of other interesting covers with authors who were new to me.

My first find was a surprisingly inexpensive copy of Pamela Frankau's 1957 novel The Bridge:

This was the novel Frankau wrote immediately after my favorite of her works (and one of my favorite novels period) A Wreath for the Enemy (1954), and it was reportedly her favorite among her works. So I'm excited to possess a copy now and have a chance to read it. For my fellow book fetishists out there, here are the back cover advertisements:

the front flap review:

and the back flap featuring a picture of Frankau:

My other find was sort of an impulse purchase of a book by an author I'd never heard of. Winifred Duke seems to have been a crime writer of sorts, as the back cover (of course I'll show it to you below) lists reviews from other Duke titles which mention mysterious situations and surprise endings. The present title, however, which I finished reading on the flight back last night and will review soon, is more of a psychological drama than a thriller. At any rate, the mention of Duke's frequent use of Scottish settings made me feel it was a safe assumption that she was British, and the book's first paragraph, about four elderly spinster sisters, finished off what little resistance I had to picking up the book:

Here are the reviews of other Duke titles from the back cover:

The front flap description of the novel (complete with a typo in the year, which should read 1889, not 1899):

And the back flap, sadly lacking an author photo, but including references to other writers published by Robert Hale, many of which I've also never heard of:

And there were a couple of other titles that tempted me but which I didn't feel I knew quite enough about to splurge on.  That's where Andy jumped in and was able to snap photos for further research later.  For example, is anyone familiar with Anne Crone?:

Clearly, judging from his blurb, Lord Dunsany was impressed by Crone at least.  And the back of the book included a nice bio:

And another book also caught my eye:

Tyrrell also turns out to have been a British novelist, so I will be adding her to my list in future updates.  But the back flap, advertising other titles, also provides new names:

More research to be done!

So now, back to work tomorrow, and back to more serious blogging.  I have several reviews to be writing, and a bunch more updates to post. Hope you all had a lovely holiday season, relaxing and enjoying family, friends, or alone time, according to your inclinations.

On to 2014!


  1. How nice to 'see' you and what good book finds. Some of the older English novels seem easier to find over there!

    A pedant writes: the meal you enjoyed was 'tea' and not 'high tea'. High tea is not eaten so much nowadays, though it lingers on in the north of England and in Scotland, I believe. It's a combination of tea and supper and includes/ included for example, boiled eggs, cold ham, tinned salmon, cheese, as well as bread and cake. On special occasions, perhaps tinned fruit or jelly. After that lot, you didn't need anything else in the evening but a cup of cocoa before bed. I'm trying and failing to think of a literary example.

    1. Oh, thanks for sharing this--as a fellow pedant, I am really happy to know! I realize that the Empress did indeed refer to it simply as "afternoon tea" and somehow I made it "high" myself. And a quick Google search would have revealed pages like, which specifically comments on how Americans commonly get the terminology wrong. I'm so thrilled to have proven myself a stereotypical American, believe me... :-) But I'm glad to know the difference now, and at any rate it was all quite delicious! We're planning to go to one of the tearooms in San Francisco soon to see what it's like.

  2. Oh good. Callmemadam set things straight, so I didn't have to bite my tongue to refrain from having to do so. Thank you, CMM.

    I'm so glad you and Andy enjoyed Victoria and Russell Books. Staying at the Empress! Well, that's impressive. I don't think I've even set foot in it, though I've often walked by.

    Such intriguing books. Read long and prosper.

    1. What can I say, Susan. I guess you can take Scott out of the States, but you can't take the States out of Scott! Though if I could only manage to move to London for a few years, I'll bet I would pick up a lot more of this type of knowledge... I have corrected my misstatement above--I do hate making folks bite their tongues! :-)

      I did mean to mention in this post that I also took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some poutine while in Canada. A rather different experience from afternoon tea, but a uniquely Canadian one!


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