I'm convinced I read differently in summer to winter and it's the arrival of some new Irene Nemirovskys that have made me realise that for reasons undefined, I store her up for the autumn.
Time to ring the changes in that case so I have two novels, The Dogs and the Wolves and Jezebel and the short stories Dimanche lined up, along with the recently translated biography The Life of Irene Nemirovsky by Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt.
I'm trying hard to keep my 'reading in progress' as varied as I can at the moment and that takes a bit of discipline. Before I knew it recently I found myself reading six books, all fiction, all by men and all tangling with each other for plot lines and characters...is it me or are men starting to write more about the domestic sphere?
You may recall I was slow to warm to Suite Francaise, but once I'd bypassed the hype and found my own way in, and all about a year after the rest of the world, I became a fan of Irene Nemirovsky for life.
Usually the women stand accused of that but I've picked up several books recently where the men seem to be getting their hands dirty with the 21st century domestic detail and all with a great deal of intensity.
Sometimes I feel sated with that 'intensity' so if anyone feels likewise and is searching for a heart-warming, beautifully written and slightly unusual book, then look no further than Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons. I can't tell you how much pleasure this gentle yet subtle book has given me this week, quite perfect for sunny day garden reading.
Jack and Sadie Rosenblum arrive in England as refugees in 1939 and attempt to assimilate according to the Helpful Information pamphlet they are given on arrival. What follows is both funny but with serious undertones as Natasha Solomons cleverly exposes the follies of the British class system through the very confused eyes of Mr Rosenblum. Poor Jack takes everything very literally and at face value and of course it's not quite a simple as that.
Making sure I keep the non-fiction flame flickering in the reading pile, I love a good story about a house, its history and its residents; lived-in social history, the class system and its mores in action, such a good structure around which to drape the memoir of a family, and I was immediately drawn to Hancox, A House and a Family by Charlotte Moore.
The house is in deepest Sussex, not far from Bodiam, and still lived in by the author who has benefited, as does Port Eliot, from Hancox being large enough for everything to have been kept, nothing need be thrown away when you've got somewhere to put it...or as in our case, even when you haven't.
Bundles of letters turn up in long-forgotten drawers, or a photo suddenly examined closely reveals names and dates, and thus a story is fleshed out. I guess not every family has the potential to be interesting no matter how many letters turn up in drawers, but a family tree with Florence Nightingale and Barbara Leigh Bodichon gracing its branches, and Darwin and Kipling as friends, has potential, and Hancox is more than fulfilling that.
In fact I actually feel as if I'm prowling around Charlotte Moore's house and rummaging around in those drawers myself, I almost keep looking over my shoulder to see if anyone's caught me.
This one is proving perfect for those long sunny evenings we're having here in Devon at the moment, sitting out until dusk and really appreciating this run up to the Longest Day, the warmest in years. It's a happy moment when we remember at 11pm that the washing is still on the line and decide to leave it there until the morning, they probably did that at Hancox too.
So that's my reading week, how about yours...and all suggestions of gentle, subtle, undisturbing reads most welcome too.