Monday, 16 August 2010

Two new acquisitions

I've been a bit short of VMC acquisitions of late; in part that's been because I've not been so into reading my way through so many VMCs at the moment, but mainly that's because I've cut down on book buying generally.

But thanks to the kindness of two fellow VMC fans, I have acquired 2 new titles in the last week.

Firstly, Cate, who I know through the librarything VMC group, sent me The house of mirth by Edith Wharton - this is one of those books that I know I really ought to have read. And as such will certainly now be reading it.

Secondly, Claire, from the Paperback Reader blog, kindly parted with her copy of Ann Veronica by HG Wells - this intrigues me as although I've never read any Wells I associate him with science fiction rather than women's writing! I have started reading this so it will probably be my next VVV review.
Thank you ladies!!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The blush (Taylor) 236

More equally beautiful flowers on the cover of this collection of Elizabeth Taylor's short stories, the third one that I have read (just one more to go - A dedicated man), and a book that I would happily own in both of the green editions (I have the original green cover). And the book itself is absolutely wonderful, and probably my favourite of all of the Elizabeth Taylor short story collections - having enjoyed it so much makes up for the fact that I rattled through her novels because I enjoyed them so much and don't have any more that are new to me.

I often struggle with short stories - they need to engage my attention fast enough because otherwise they are over before they have begun. And what I find is that the very best short stories have a twist at the end - this was the case with the volume of short stories that helped me to relinquish my belief that I hated short stories, The closed door and other stories, by Dorothy Whipple - and this was the case in many of the stories in this volume. And this was recognised by another one of my blogging friends, Hayley from Desperate Reader, who described herself as being "bowled over" by it when she wrote about it (I have to admit that it was Hayley's post which led to me buying it from Amazon even though I was trying to cut down on internet purchases).

My favourite story was the title story, The blush, which had an excellent twist at the end, as long as one had been reading fairly carefully. But I also enjoyed the story Summer School, about two sisters who spent their summer holidays in very different ways, neither of whom hugely satisfied by their experiences and differently prepared to admit it. There was also a poignant story about a couple on their wedding night, staying in a hotel. She goes off and gets herself ready; he is nervous and goes and gets drunk in the bar. The twist at the end is really uncomfortable; I am sure my wedding night will not be like that!

My collection of green Elizabeth Taylor novels is growing delightfully, and I'm looking forward to doing a post to show them when I have a full set (ok, that may be some time since I have been exercising restrain in my book purchasing of late) - as I don't think I'll blog about them individually having read them over 2 years ago now.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Joanna Godden (Sheila Kaye-Smith) 115

""'She forgets her distrust of the night air in all her misery of throbbing head and heart, and flung back the casement, so that the soft marsh wind came in, with rain upon it, and her tears were mingled with the tears of night. 'Oh God!' she moaned to herself - 'why didn't you make me a man?''

My latest VMC read marked a return to more familiar Virago Modern Classic territory with a saga-style story centring around a strong female lead and dealing with issues of feminism. This was Joanna Godden (Sheila Kaye Smith) (one of those titles that sits on the shelf and confuses you as to which is the author, and which is the title).

Set in Romney, Sussex, it follows the story of Joanna, recently bereaved of her father and left the family sheep-farm. It is expected that she will marry, in order to gain a man to run the estate, but Joanna refuses to follow convention and takes on the management of the farm herself. It is no easy task for a woman, and Joanna also has a constant stream of suitors. However, she would not be able to achieve professional fulfilment in running the farm if she were to accept one, since they would take over the farm. And this dilemma is the very heart of the book.

It was made into a film in 1947, entitled The loves of Joanna Godden, made by the Ealing Studios and with music by Vaughan Williams - think it would make for a wonderful rainy Sunday afternoon film. But apparently it has a very different ending to the book.

It's just got the one rather lovely original green cover. Virago also publish her novel Susan Spray, and I shall be interested to see how that compares.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Little disturbances of man (Paley)

Simon from Stuck in a book very kindly lent me The little disturbances of man by Grace Paley and over the last week or so I've been ploughing my way through the short stories contained within it. Regular readers will know that I'm not a short story afficiondo, and whilst I quite enjoyed the other Virago volume of her short stories, Enormous changes at the last minute, I think that was mainly down to the fact that the first one opened outsid a library with a woman returning some overdue library books. This collection dealt with similar themes - men and women in relationships, generally not particularly happily - but none of the stories grabbed me in the way that Want had in the first volume. Didn't hugely like the cover image either - it's just been published once in an original green edition. Another author done and dusted for this challenge anyway.