Reading, Reviews

Bloomsbury Books Are The Bomb

People are always saying that there is so much trash in modern literature. I disagree. Yes, there is some pretty horrible stuff out there. But I’m pretty sure that there has always been sub-par literature and readers in Dickens’s day had to sift through the junk to get to the ones we consider classics now, just like we current day readers have to really search for the good stuff.  It would be tragic to be a true Old Book Snob like the father figure in The Precious One who wouldn’t let his daughter read anything written after 1900. Who would want to miss out on The HelpTo Kill A Mockingbird, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, or worse, Harry Potter!?!?

But I have to admit…old books are my favorite.

And that’s why I am totally in love with The Bloomsbury Group. It was launched in 2009 and publishes “lost classics written by both men and women from the early twentieth century.” Thanks to The Bloomsbury Group, I discovered a new favorite author and am in the process of refreshing my bookshelves with some beautiful paperbacks.

Right now I’m in the middle of Henrietta’s War. I love the writing style and the lighthearted tone of Joyce Dennys as she writes about her experiences of being on the home front in WWII. Before you go saying, “great, another WWII book,” please know that the books actually written during the war in Britain are so very different from the ones being written now. For one thing, the worst about Nazi Germany was not yet known. For another, they did not dwell on the tragedy because life became normal even in the midst of war.

Here’s a snippet from the Author’s Note:

I never do Spring Cleaning. I know I should and every year am filled with a longing to do better and rush round the house emptying drawers and shelves on to the floor and unearthing many treasures such as my dark glasses (mourned as lost) and endless snapshots. After enjoying several holidays in retrospect I somehow lose heart and bundle everything back again.

My sentiments on Spring Cleaning exactly.

If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society as much as I did, definitely check out Mrs. Tim of The RegimentHenrietta’s War, and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. They’re perfect for light reading without feeling like your mind is going to mush.

Too bad the house goes to mush while I read these fabulous books…

Happy Summer Reading!


Lost in D.E. Stevenson

Thanks to the blog The Captive Reader, I have been completely lost in the works of D. E. Stevenson (Dorothy Emily Stevenson, 1892-1973) since Christmas. She is the perfect writer to get me through the winter months, with her light wit, cleverly rendered characters, and cozy English village settings. Stevenson clearly idolized Jane Austen–she refers to Austen in every book I’ve read so far– and took notes from Austen on how to develop unique yet familiar characters. Her works are similar to some of her contemporary British authors (Barbara Pym, Dodie Smith, P.G. Wodehouse, etc.), but they avoid the dismal endings so often chosen by mid-century authors. Stevenson is a fan of tying up books neatly at the end, which I appreciate even as I am aware that tidy endings are not considered very artistic in this day and age. Why not? I have no idea. Books don’t have to be open-ended like “real life” to be art, people. But I digress.

Mrs Tim Of The Regiment (Bloomsbury Group)Stevenson published over 40 novels between 1923-1970. Her works are becoming popular again thanks to Persephone Books‘ re-publishing three of her works since 2009. I started with Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, which is written as the diary of a woman married to a soldier in 1935. Hester (Mrs. Tim) is a very likable character, the kind you’d think would make a great friend, and the characters around her are all amusing. The book isn’t very plot driven, but more about character development. It was written at the request of one of Stevenson’s friend’s whose daughters was going to marry a British soldier. Stevenson stated that she wrote it as an autobiographical piece mixed with fictional characters and plot, so it is an interesting piece of social study at the same time that it is a light novel. I found the last third of it to be rather slow, but enjoyed it over all.

Miss Buncle's Book Miss Buncle’s Book is my favorite so far. It follows the tale of a poor spinster in a small English country village who turns to writing to make ends meet. The only problem is she has no imagination, so she writes a novel based entirely on the people of her own neighborhood. Miss Buncle’s book wreaks havoc on the peace of her neighbors when the village begins to read it. I loved this book! It is clever and flows well from beginning to end. The characters are delightful and there is a more sustainable plot in it than any of the other Stevenson books I’ve read thus far. While Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is a book I’d definitely recommend, if you’re only going to read one Stevenson, make it Miss Buncle’s Book. I think the sequel, Miss Buncle Married, is also worth a read if you enjoy Miss Buncle’s Book, though it is not as well crafted as the first book in the series.

I’m now in the midst of Mrs. Tim Gets A Job, which is enjoyable because it’s about Mrs. Tim, but it’s my least favorite Stevenson so far. However, saying it’s my least favorite Stevenson still puts it miles ahead of most of the current books I’ve picked up in the last six months. If you like “vintage” novels and need a good winter read, several of Stevenson’s books are available on Kindle or Nook. And of course, there’s always the library. Sadly, my local library doesn’t have many of Stevenson’s books and I ended up buying two of them (gasp!) on my Nook.

What have you been reading to keep sane through these cold winter months?

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