Monday, April 25, 2016

The TBR list grows longer (1 of 2)

Writers added to my Overwhelming List can be interesting for various reasons. I've always tended to highlight those women who wrote mysteries, for example (as I've already done this time around in two recent posts), or war fiction (as I'll be doing in a new post soon), or children's fiction, or romances, etc., etc. More recently, I've also started to highlight some of the interesting life stories of the authors, for example, or the famous familiar or other connections to authors added to my list. But I finally realized, with just the past update or two, that I needed (for my own sanity, if not for yours) to somehow earmark those writers who seem—to me at least—to have the most potential to become authors whose books I might actually track down and (hopefully) enjoy.

This time, out of nearly 400 new authors added to the list, I narrowed my list to just 26 that are going onto my interlibrary loan and/or Abe Books list. That's still enough to fill two whole posts, but hey, think how much work I've already done for you just narrowing it down that much!

First, I thought I'd mention a few of the lighter-hearted possibilities (at least to the extent I've been able to determine the tone of their books).

DOROTHY BONAVIA-HUNT, one of the authors I mentioned in my recent "mistaken identity" posts, is also one of the few authors in this update to actually have a book in print. Sourcebooks has reprinted her 1949 Jane Austen sequel Pemberley Shades, written when its author was already in her late sixties. Austen Prose had largely positive things to say about the book here

Bonavia-Hunt's second and final novel, The Relentless Tide, published two years later and only in the U.S., has gotten much less attention, to the extent that I haven't even determined its subject matter. Presumably it's not another Austen sequel or it would have gotten more attention, but one wonders where its seventy-ish author chose to go with her follow-up…

WINIFRED BOGGS is one of those authors who could really go either way in terms of readability. On the one hand, many of her titles sound rather charming and humorous, such as Sally on the Rocks (free to download from Google Books in the U.S.) and The Indignant Spinsters. On the other hands, books don't always live up to their titles, and detailed information about her books is hard to come by.

Also on the lighter side, based on what information I have, are the novels of one of the two nieces of Somerset Maugham to have been added to my list this go-round. KATE MARY BRUCE wrote sixteen novels in all, and a 1923 article from The Literary Review (kindly shared with me by Grant Hurlock) describes two of her novels thus:

Her first volume was a novel of theatrical life, telling of a beautiful actress who would sacrifice everything on the altar of a new sensation. Her new book concerns a girl who married the wrong man only to discover the right one too late.… Neither theme appeals to us as vastly original, but they say that Mrs. Bruce writes brightly, humorously, and easily, of Mayfair.

Jane Hervey in the 1960
(from the Persephone Books website)

On the humorous but nevertheless more serious side is JANE HERVEY, the addition of whom to my list is entirely to Persephone's credit, as I'd never heard of her until they reprinted her one novel, Vain Shadow (1963). They describe this book as a "unique, astute and very funny black comedy," which places it high on my TBR list, and although it was published after the end of this list's time frame, my justification for including her is that the novel actually written in the early 1950s.

Among those authors I know little about but whose work sounds intriguing, I have to include EMMELINE MORRISON and ELIZABETH MURRAY. It's entirely possible that one or both are completely forgettable, but I was seduced in the first case by several irresistible dustjackets and in the second purely by titles. Morrison's Red Poppies (1928) is described as a tale of a woman spy in WWI. A blurb from Fidelis (1932), meanwhile, reads as follows:

A romance of young love, frustrated by fate and parental authority, of the long years of separation which followed the love affair of a summer holiday in the Alps. The story of a girl who had the courage to defy the social conventions of those days, and who went into business in order to enable her to bring up and educate a son whom she should not have brought into the world.

Apparently, The Last of the Lovells (1928), Countisbury (1933), and An Open Secret (1939) are a trilogy about a young couple meeting, falling in love, and facing married life. You can just imagine how lured I am by one of Morrison's later works, A Tale Untold (1956), whose blurb reads, "Free at last from the family ties which have bound her for the past 10 years, Brenda Harrington, a spinster of thirty with a legacy of 300 pounds, sets out for the continent, with few plans but a determination to find herself romance & adventure." If Morrison lives up to her potential at all, then there's plenty of potential to be had—she wrote nearly 70 novels in all!

And re Elizabeth Murray, I don't really know how to justify my seduction at the hands of the titles of her four novels. I just very much wonder about the themes of Comedy (1927), The Partridge (1928), The Gilded Cupid (1930), and June Lightning (1932). Some sort of gut instinct at work?

Olivia Robertson in her later days as a "neo-paganist"

My inclusion of LUCY MYFANWY PRYCE here is based on little more information, really, and I don’t even really know whether her work is lighthearted or deadly serious. But a description I read of her novel Blind Lead (1928), as being about a family staying in the Welsh mountains after the children have had measles, leads me to think she tends to explore the lighter side of life, especially combined with such other intriguing titles as Parsons' Wives (1926) and Lady in the Dark: Country Dance for Four Couples (1938).

Technically, TINA SPENCER KNOTT is included on my list for her single novel, called Nemesis for Norman (1951), described as focusing on British workers in the oilfields of Venezuela. Now, that may not sound hilarious (though it could be for all I know), but by contrast her two memoirs could be quite enticing. Fools Rush In (1949) is about her and her husband's experiences buying a farm in Devon, and Keep It Clean (1958) follows their subsequent venture setting up a launderette. Could they be Verily Anderson-esque memoirs, one wonders?

I don't know if BARBARA BURKE's three novels are humorous or not, but they do sound intriguing. She was also a poet, biographer, and travel writer, and the first two of her novels—Barbara Goes to Oxford (1907) and Their Oxford Year (1909)—sound like they could (???) be grown up school stories. Have any of you who are fellow fans of that genre ever heard of (or read) these two?

The first of OLIVIA ROBERTSON's five novels, Field of the Stranger (1948), was apparently a Book Society choice, so her career must have got off to a good start. The cover blurb calls it "[a] witty novel in which the ancient charm of Irish county life contends with currents as new as existentialism." Could well be worth checking out for fans of Irish-themed titles. Robertson published four more novels over the subsequent nine years—The Golden Eye (1949), Miranda Speaks (1950), It's an Old Irish Custom (1953), and Dublin Phoenix (1957)—before shifting her focus to painting and "neo-paganism," on which latter topic she published several later books.

And finally, I'm definitely finding myself eager to sample one of the five novels by SHEILA TURNER, which seem to be humorous tales of village and farm life. She began with Over the Counter: A Year in the Village Shop (1960), which I would have taken for non-fiction if several sources hadn't noted that it was fiction. Her others are This Is Private (1962), A Farmer's Wife (1963, published in the US as Farmer Takes a Wife), The Farm at King's Standing (1964, published in the US as A Little Place Called King's Standing), and Honestly, the Country! (1965).

And that's it for this batch of lighter or humorous authors who may be worth checking out. Next time I'll mention a few other new additions who seem a bit more serious and literary—more quintessentially middlebrow.


  1. I am so taken by some of the covers. I admit that in years past I have bought music (albums, not CDs for those of you who remember 12" vinyl) particularly on by Angela Bofill, but so far, not a novel - althogh Pembrly Shades above could be a candidate. Scott, who did that jacket? It reminds me of some novels I've acquired lately! Tom

    1. No idea who did the cover, Tom, but it is enticing isn't it? So hard not to judge books by their covers.

  2. I love the covers and the descriptions. How did you ever find all these books? I thought I'd like to buy the Over the Counter... but just one used copy available and in poor condition. I'll look some more, though. I wonder if Miss Read would be considered middlebrow.

    1. I'm just always poking around for new books and authors, Nan. Yes, Over the Counter is calling to me as well. I'll have to see if I can track it down!

  3. I don't know if you see comments on old posts but I wanted to share a little of my reactions to Sheila Turner's books Over the Counter and Farmer Takes a Wife.

    I enjoyed Over the Counter. It is much like the Miss Read books. Very gentle and lightly humorous. The kind of book you could hand to an old lady like me and be sure it won't offend. :)

    The Farmer book started off like the first then took a 180 degree turn in the middle. A local man has returned from serving in India, and has brought his Indian wife home with him. I don't want to spoil the book for those who hope to read it but the book's tone gets very dark very quickly. There is overt and hostile racism that leads to violence.

    There is another subplot of yet another soldier returned home with serious mental illness and how this has terrible effects on his wife. Overall a very sobering look at life in England after the war.

    1. Thanks for the information, Melissa! Odd how much these two books seem to vary, but I'm very happy to know more about them--I'm going to add your comments to my database. Thanks for sharing!


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