Pull a pile of books off the shelf and open them on Christmas Eve, abandon Bleak House for the twentieth time (feel sure its moment will come when I least expect or plan it) rifle through the others and end up choosing something I hadn't even thought of.
So this year I thought I might start revving up the reading a little earlier, bit like warming up the car engine in the olden days, and to my surprise I might just have hit the road and be on my way.
I have succumbed to an unexpected but massive bout of Murdoch-itis...Iris, not Rupert or any other, and after all these years of trying and remaining steadfastly immune, suddenly I am awash with it. Expect Much More Murdoch in 2015, but meanwhile I have read The Italian Girl and Under the Net and wondered what on earth has been putting me off. In fact I think I know...might it be something about the academy seizing on Iris Murdoch, analysing her to the bone, and throwing around words like 'philosophical' and ' Nietzsche', and me thinking much as I enjoy a challenge, maybe I wouldn't enjoy that one.
I'd have done better to listen to Iris Murdoch herself and read her Paris Review interview sooner...
What effect would you like your books to have?
I’d like people to enjoy reading them. A readable novel is a gift to humanity. It provides an innocent occupation. Any novel takes people away from their troubles and the television set; it may even stir them to reflect about human life, characters, morals. So I would like people to be able to read the stuff. I’d like it to be understood too; though some of the novels are not all that easy, I’d like them to be understood, and not grossly misunderstood. But literature is to be enjoyed, to be grasped by enjoyment.
How would you describe your ideal reader?
Those who like a jolly good yarn are welcome and worthy readers. I suppose the ideal reader is someone who likes a jolly good yarn and enjoys thinking about the book as well, thinking about the moral issues.
So I have thrown out all the commentaries and am indulging in the 'innocent occupation' of reading (though will not be dragged too far from the TV, there will be Downton after all) and these really are 'jolly good yarns'. I am ambushed by that thrill of anticipation at so many unread books waiting, have moved onto The Bell and then will be choosing between The Black Prince and The Sea, The Sea ...which one do you reckon?
...and I know Father Christmas is bringing me some more Murdoch, in that way that you do when you order them yourself and hand over for wrapping...why mess about.
The next surprise was the arrival of a copy of The Flemish House by Georges Simenon. Inspector Maigret passed me by at the age of seven back in 1960 when the TV series began, and for some reason I have never read the books, but I started this one and realised I could suddenly and very happily read more. I've lost the press release, which isn't helpful, but I think Penguin might gradually be re-issuing all of these and it was obvious that, though the books are stand-alone, I really needed to start at the beginning with Pietr the Latvian. I need to sort out the mac and the pipe and the cool personality traits for msyelf from the off, so have bought a Kindle omnibus edition of the first four in the series to see if I enjoy them enough to think about reading the other seventy (!). There was also something interesting (in the now lost press release) about the cover photography for these new editions; a Magnum photographer whose work uncannily reflects the books and their themes, and The Flemish House certainly exudes the right atmosphere.
Finally, but not in any way lesser...a little wallow in Monica Edwards now that I have accumulated three of the Punchbowl Farm books from Girls Gone By,Black Hunting Whip, Frenchman's Secret and Spirit of Punchbowl Farm.
I can see that this is not going to be an easy return to old favourites just because of availability of the books...even the GGB editions are fetching £30-£40 each if out of print, luckily these three still available. I read some of Black Hunting Whip just to be sure Monica Edwards might work again after about fifty-four years or so and I wasn't disappointed.
So that's me sorted with Murdoch, Maigret and Monica...any thoughts on the three Ms??
And how about your Christmas reading. It's probably the ninth time I've asked you all, for the last nine Christmases I have been writing this, but we always love to know...
I know that, whether by choice or design, not everyone has company on Christmas day, or hordes of people round, or places to go, so I always post something for those of you who might happen to stop by, and I have saved this picture (The Polar Bear scrimshaw in Stromness Museum) especially for today...
It says what I would want for everyone over Christmas ...well not exactly to be hugged by a Polar Bear, but you know what I mean... to feel warm and safe and wanted, so here's wishing you all a gentle peaceful day.
Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke, And Christmas blocks are burning; Their ovens they with bak't meats choke, And all their spits are turning. Without the door let sorrow lie, And if, for cold, it hap to die, We'll bury't in a Christmas pye And evermore be merry.
Wither's Juvenilia, 1622
I am still browsing Old English Household Life by Gertrude Jekyll and came across that little rhyme on the subject of firesides. I'm something of an expert on firedogs various now, taking note when I may have walked past before, and we came across this one on a Christmas visit to Buckland Abbey this week... I may as well share the Tithe Barn tree too (sorry, blurry iTouch pic) There is something majestic and haunting about this 15th century monastic space, more about Buckland Abbey soon.
If you have ever built a chimney as we have...well Bookhound has, I watched and said reassuring things like "Of course it won't fall down," when a steel girder was unexpectedly required 'that minute', but you will know there is an art to it. They can be stubborn creatures, the 'draw' up a chimney flue is not a foregone conclusion, whilst a room filled with smoke often is, and I didn't know that a reliable method of loosening the soot was to fire a shotgun up a chimney (maybe don't try that at home) .
Gertrude Jekyll has much else to impart about the social importance of the fireplace and interesting to note their presence in just about every ancient building we see, the Neolithics on Orkney had it sorted too..
'There is little wonder that the much-valued fireplaces, useful in purpose, rich in intimate associations, and elevated to real centres for home and family ties, should have evoked the familiar sayings and home-made village ditties made in praise of them.
And to say we have been in praise of ours for several months right now would be an understatement. Even in the mild climes we seem to have been living in recently, lighting our three woodburners is the pinnacle of satisfaction each afternoon. Bookhound keeps the Tinker stocked with logs and leaves him to it and the Tinker has swiftly mastered the woodburner rather than the central heating thermostat. The whole wood collecting thing is an ongoing saga which Bookhound loves; the chestnut and ash was cut and stored several years ago, and our wood for 2015 and beyond (dv) is just coming in from the latest logging expeditions. We see the smoke curling out of the Tinker's chimney and know that he will be as warm as toast.
We must have burned every variety of wood since we bought our first stove, a Canadian Fisher 'Grandma Bear' in 1980, and thus can vouch for this little ditty too...
Beech-wood fires burn bright and clear If the logs are kept a year; Store your beech for Christmastide With new-cut holly laid beside; Chestnut's only good, they say, If for years 'tis stored away; Birch and fir-wood burn too fast Blaze too bright and do not last; Flames from larch will shoot up high, Dangerously the sparks will fly; But ash-wood green and ash-wood brown Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown.
Oaken logs, if dry and old, Keep away the winter's cold; Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke; Elm-wood burns like churchyard mould, E'en the very flames are cold; It is by the Irish said; Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, Apple-wood will scent the room, Pear-wood smells like flowers in bloom; But ash-wood wet and ash-wood dry A King may warm his slippers by.
I would have to add...
Eucalyptus creates a hum And expect your flue to be blocked with gum.
It was a mistake...what on earth were we thinking. Days of scraping thick black treacle out of the flue though we did all have crystal clear sinuses.
I light the little fire in my Book Room, Bookhound lights the bigger one in what was our big sitting room but is now his very big 'study', and we all hibernate off into our corners to 'play.' Gathering in front of one or the other for the occasional beverage and a natter. We will all have a Yule Log too.
I'm not quite sure how this will differ from an ordinary log but it will be designated 'Yule', though I had no idea of the traditions behind it.
Plenty of superstitions... an ill omen if a bare footed or squinting person crossed the threshold while the Yule Log was burning, and if a barefooted person with a squint stumbled in who knows what hell and damnation might descend. According to Gertrude the log should be lit with a brand 'carefully preserved from the Christmas fire of the previous year' ...we have failed.
And fireside accoutrements were also of great importance. Shovels, tongs, trivets, bellows, brand tongs for picking up fragments of fuel blown into flame for lighting candles, spits and pot-hangers, tinder boxes and flints...there can't have been room to move, and all a far cry from my 'bucket' with Zip firelighters, matches, shovel and gloves.
And who knew about the medieval 'coeverfu.' Originally used when the bell tolled for for 'fires out' at eight or nine o'clock, the coeverfu was placed over the fire to extinguish it and from whence cometh the more familiar 'curfew.'
I had often wondered exactly how a bread or clome oven actually worked too. We have two in our old fireplaces, sadly minus their doors, and in our kitchen minus the fire, but when required for use Gertrude explains all...
' a faggot of dry brushwood went in and was lighted; by the time it had burned and the ashes were removed, the right degree for baking had been obtained.'
Very occasionally we might find a well-baked sleeping cat in ours. Firesides for you... or not??
And talking of Yule, my thanks to whoever recommended Anonymous 4 a while back. I have been listening to An English Ladymass all Summer and now have On Yoolis Night - Medieval Carols and Motets for Winter Solstice listening.
That's it... we got there, to the Solstice and beyond, the evenings will be drawing out now (sorry Australia, we are having that sun back up our way) but in the meantime we are all off to St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall today where they sometimes have this...
I am in the mood for some nice, safe, convenient snow of the right sort now, I'll bet Canada and the US are hogging the lot.
Enjoy to the accompaniment of more beautiful singing from the children at Killerton last week. Apologies for camera work, it was dark and we were halfway up the stairs, but listen out for the perfect diction and that lovely clear 'Nowell.'
Sort out a stack of books I think I might like to read over Christmas and it always includes Bleak House which I must have re-started six times and still not finished, so this year I have taken the drastic step of leaving it off the pile.
Meanwhile the 'pile' includes quite a few Kindle reads as well as some 'real' books, here are a few of my choices...
Like many of you I have had an itch to reacquaint myself with Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet family since All Change arrived. Unfortunately I sent them all to the charity shop in that purge, but I did pick up The Light Years on a Kindle Daily Deal so I may well see if the Cazalets hold the same magic they did back in 1991 when I started reading them. Interestingly, and here is the joy of that reading journal, I see I was reading a lot of Susan Howatch at that time too... Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes and a few years previously Penmarric, Cashelmara and Wheel of Fortune, yet I hear little of her these days. I wonder if a renaissance might be due.
I have been hearing good and promising things about a book due out in January. Amazingly the buzz for The Silversmith's Wife by Sophia Tobin ( a librarian by day) started for me right here in the Tamar Valley via a friend who has her finger firmly on the pulse of up-coming historical fiction. A copy has arrived ( just look at that cover) and I am going to dive in...
The year is 1792 and it's winter in Berkeley Square. As the city sleeps, the night-watchman keeps a cautious eye over the streets, and another eye in the back doors of the great and the good. Then one fateful night he comes across the body of Pierre Renard, the eponymous silversmith, lying dead, his throat cut and his valuables missing. It could be common theft, committed by one of the many villains who stalk the square, but as news of the murder spreads, it soon becomes clear that Renard had more than a few enemies, all with their own secrets to hide. At the centre of this web is Mary, the silversmith's wife. Ostensibly theirs was an excellent pairing, but behind closed doors their relationship was a dark and at times sadistic one and when we meet her, Mary is withdrawn and weak, haunted by her past and near-mad with guilt. Will she attain the redemption she seeks and what, exactly, does she need redemption for…? Rich, intricate and beautifully told, this is a story of murder, love and buried secrets.
I have also been saving my entire Lucy M Boston collection for a mid-winter festival reading feast, and though I read The Children of Green Knowe yet again earlier this year I am going to read it once more and then move onto the others... I have also found a copy of Lucy Boston's very first novel Yew Hall (£1 in another of those National Trust bookshops...good spot Bookhound) published when she was in her sixties...'so polished, so effortless, so mature. As an author she appears to have sprung out of the ground fully armed,' said the critics at the time, and having read the first few pages I couldn't agree more.
Offspringette will be here over Christmas, and on Boxing day, while Bookhound is out helping the Gamekeeper on his shoot, we will be curled up on our Green Knowe sofa... with our fire lit and our Green Knowe curtain pulled... and we will just wait for Toby, Alexander and Linnet to make their presence known.
We had such a lovely pre-Christmas visit to Killerton's late-night opening last year that we have been again this year. Last year I had been chained to my desk doing loss and bereavement work for hours on end on that particular day, and I was feeling very un-Christmassy, so Bookhound had planned Killerton as a spur of the moment cheery Rescue Trip and it most certainly worked its magic.
This year, feeling much more relaxed and in tune with life rather than the lack of it, we met the Knit Angel and the Weatherman (remember them from Port Eliot) for tea and cake and a browse around the shop, before wandering off down to the house as dusk was falling.
I love it because you rarely get the chance to see inside a National Trust property after sundown, so as we go in it looks like this... and by the time we emerge... Unbeknown to us, we arrived just as the children from a local primary school were about to sing some carols so mixed in with the enchantments of the house decor was this most beautiful singing..
We stood on the stairs and listened, and how can you not recall all those frazzled years of children's school carol services and nativity plays, and the way that somehow, even with three children, you never seemed to get the same part twice. I must have made a complete wardrobe of nativity attire in my time, from wise man cloak with stencilled gold stars, to the ubiquitous tea towelled shepherd, and probably a donkey somewhere along the way. We were spared the Mary-blue-robes because poor five year-old Offspringette, off with mumps (in the days before MMR) was unceremoniously replaced, an act of betrayal for which she never quite forgave the Head Mystery, as she thought the Head Mistress was called.
Anyway, the children were wonderful and we came over all teary-eyed as we wandered around the house looking at the decorated rooms which the staff at Killerton have turned into an art from each year.. Of course 'someone' couldn't stay out of the dressing-up box... and I took a real shine to the library chair..
and could have sat in it for hours staring at the library tree opposite... Perhaps another Killerton post to come, and maybe some more singing (no dancing) but the blog is probably going to be a bit of an occasional gallimaufry from now until the 'other side' I think... some this and that... candles... firesides... Christmas cheer... that sort of thing, but no in-depth book thoughts until the New Year, apart from my traditional Christmas Reading Pile that is.
And I am thinking we should move our next A Suitable Boy discussion from December 28th to the first weekend in January...would anyone mind??
Meanwhile any nice Christmassy events down your way ??
'Silent night; a soft breeze from the desert laying a dusting of sand on the dark road, blessing the homes.'
If there is one place I might choose to be this Christmas (it's December, we can say it now) apart from being at home, which I love, it would be Orkney, to see and hear the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
Having thought the tradition of those nine lessons and carols could only have emanated from King's College, Cambridge, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that it actually has its origins at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall, thought up in 1880 (according to Wikipaedia supposedly as a means of keeping the men out of the pubs on Christmas Eve.) The original service will be recreated this year in Truro on December 17th and available to see as a webcast soon afterwards.
But of all the cathedrals I have visited St Magnus has to be one of my favourites for its warmth, because it is actually very well-heated and the sandstone somehow doubles the effect, but I also love it for its atmosphere. I can only begin to imagine how it would resound to Hark the Herald Angels Sing at the end of the service.
But never mind, it's time for another Christmas tradition, the annual poem from Carol Ann Duffy, and if you have this collection you will most certainly want to add Bethlehem. Note the way I magically placed the books outside St Magnus Cathedral in the snow.
"Bethlehem is normally a quiet little town on the edge of the desert. But tonight, as dusk falls, there is a sense of something special in the air. An inn packed with revellers, shepherds sprawled on the grass, animals in their stables: everything will be changed when a bright star bearing news arrives in the sky. Carol Ann Duffy’s evocative new poem will transport you to Bethlehem, capturing the sights, the sounds and the atmosphere of this ancient and magical place."
And transport it does...
'To the West, the whispering prayer of olive groves; incense of rosemary, cedar, pine, votive on purpling air.
Everyone there who had to be there.'
Nor will the portents of what it is to come for this baby pass you by, cocks crowing three times, blood on pale palms, even a 'donkey's slow, deliberate hooves on the stones,' with its echoes of Palm Sunday.
But for now all is joy and celebration in the town, the 'moon stoops low to gape at the world,' and the night echoes to the 'small, raw cry of a new life.'
Even the animals join in the celebrations which can only mean one thing...please scroll down for gifts where Magnus is waiting...
A tenuous connection to the Acland family of Killerton and ours did emerge in the end, and thanks to the Tinker for remembering that, many years ago (1940s) when my mum had worked for the Commercial Union Insurance Company in Exeter, she had looked after all the Acland family insurances... there I told you it was tenuous, but I feel we have done our bit to help look after this lovely house.
And as always, when I walk around places like this I keep an eye out for patterns, Killerton had plenty... and did I mention this amazing organ in the drawing room, really every home should have one, and even a little note on it saying that if you wanted to play it just ask. ...and then there was the secret cupboard in the library..
and the private chapel in the grounds, built in 1841 and wonderfully gothic... and ghostly.. So much to see, even on a dark winter's evening, and all hail to Killerton for opening in the run-up to Christmas, making this all feel like a very different National Trust property as a result, and one that we felt part of. Well worth a visit if you are heading west, hit Exeter and feel like a break, just minutes off the M5 and we will certainly be going back in the summer when we can explore the grounds in daylight.
Wandering around Killerton as darkness fell outside, and with a pianist reaching the end of a long day's playing in the drawing room to add to that magical atmosphere,
we moved through the hallway... ...past another of the many Christmas trees that graced every room, and then walked up the main staircase...
I don't always know what Bookhound thinks about when he wanders around places like this... probably worries about the number of chimneys to be swept, or how to clean the guttering, whilst me...well I just pretend I live there, and these are my stairs and someone else has to sweep them. Delightful things to look at upstairs, because as well as the costume displays...and this fabric was embroidered.. ..we came across this wonderful doll's house peopled (mousled) with little mice, and I hope if you click on these pictures they should enlarge a little...
and with the magic of Picasa and the collage feature I think I have almost managed to recreate it. The detail was perfect... you can even see Carson in the hallway and Mrs Patmore and Daisy (Downton Mice) down in the kitchens. Here's a close-up of that laundry, and of course as we wandered around the grounds searching out those Twelve Days of Christmas, we had to stop and admire the two turtle doves.
Touching base with anyone who is reading, and greetings from the far side of the turkey, the trimmings, the pudding, the homemade crackers, Christmas cake, The Snowman and the Snowdog,(adorable) Downton (gasp) and now deeply into Boxing Day which we LOVE.
Cold cuts for lunch, tea, supper...
Weather blowing a hoolie up from Cornwall...
Warnings about landslides here in Devon...
It transpires that Father Christmas does read blogs because amongst other lovely surprises I unwrapped the three books I wanted very much...
200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Muckleston
Ted and I - A Brother's Memoir (of Ted Hughes) by Gerald Hughes At the Source by Gillian Clarke All of which I am curled up with today.
The television has waned a little for now, just Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys for us this evening, but there are some great programmes coming up including a two-part dramatisation of Restless by William Boyd... anything else anyone recommends to save me poring over the Radio Times??
And sadly my trip to London this Saturday, to see the matinee performance of The Dark Earth and the Light Sky at the Almeida, now abandoned due to the absence of train track and trains and flooding. So if anyone is in London, and at a loss for something brilliant to go and see at 2.30pm please do contact me, (dovegreyreader at gmail dot com) you would be very welcome to my ticket.
So how about you... any good reads in amongst the other lovely things??
Happy Winter Solstice Day everyone, and should we glimpse the setting sun this evening this is where it will be, perfectly centrally aligned behind that little woodland.
The evenings will start to draw out for us in the Northern Hemisphere now, isn't that a lovely thought, and it is not Truman Capote's 'fruitcake weather' here at the moment because still the rain it raineth.
For the Shortest Day this has turned into the Longest Post, but you have all been so amazing with your wonderful Christmas reading suggestions, and I didn't want to lose the list, so here it is, and thank you so much. They have had me scurrying around the shelves digging out chapters from hither and yonder, and wondering where on earth our copy of The Children of Green Knowe was hiding, found it eventually and ended up reading half the book and will now have to read the rest (thank you Flossie Teacake).
So here's the list for you to cut and paste to somewhere safe (and remind me about when I say the same thing next year) along with one or two extracts that have worked their magic for me in the last few days.
A Christmas Memory ~ Truman Capote and this lovely film extract is well worth eight minutes of respite from the preparations (thank you Mary and Mary) and if watching that makes you want to seek out the story then your luck is in, it's here.
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
The person to whom she is speaking is myself....
And before I forget...Jude in Oz has temporarily mislaid her 'Post' button (Typepad are on the case Jude) but suggests...
The third last chapter of "We of the Never Never" by Aeneas Gunn has a wonderful Christmas complete with outback stockmen, Aboriginal tribespeople, a Chinese cook who makes the most humoungous Christmas pudding all set on a station in the Northern Territory at the turn of the 19thC.
And suggestions from all of you cut-and-pasted in from your comments...
The christmas chapter in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
The Mole family's Christmas ~ Russell Hoban Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas ~ Russell Hoban
A Child's Christmas in Wales ~ Dylan Thomas The Dulce Domum chapter in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows'. Alison Uttley's description of Christmas preparations and the day itself in A Country Child.
Cider With Rosie ~ Laurie Lee
The week before Christmas, when the snow seemed to lie thickest, was the moment for carol-singing; and when I think back to those nights it is to the crunch of snow and to the lights of the lanterns on it. Carol-singing in my village was a special tithe for the boys, the girls had little to do with it. Like hay-making, blackberrying, stone-clearing and wishing-people-a- happy-Easter, it was one of our seasonal perks.
By instinct we knew just when to begin it; a day too soon and we should have been unwelcome, a day too late and we should have received lean looks from people whose bounty was already exhausted. When the true moment came, exactly balanced, we recognised it and were ready.
So as soon as the wood had been stacked in the oven to dry for the morning fire, we put on our scarves and went out through the streets calling loudly between our hands, till the various boys who knew the signal ran out from their houses to join us.
One by one they came stumbling over the snow, swinging their lanterns around their heads, shouting and coughing horribly.
'Coming carol-barking then?'
We were the Church Choir, so no answer was necessary. For a year we had praised the Lord, out of key, and as a reward for this service - on top of the Outing - we now had the right to visit all the big houses, to sing our carols and collect our tribute.
A chapter in DH Lawrence's 'The White Peacock'on preparations for Christmas.
The midnight mass scene in The Children of Green Knowe ~ Lucy Boston
Pepys- Christmas Day 1661
A letter from Virginia Woolf to Clive Bell December 26th 1909, Lelant Hotel, Lelant, Cornwall
My dear Clive It is past nine o'clock and the people still sing carols beneath my window, which is open owing to the clemency of the night...there is the Godrevy lighthouse, seen as through steamy glass, and grey flat where the sea is. There is no moon or stars, but the air is soft as down...no one seems to have any wish to go to bed. They circle aimlessly. Is this going on in all the villages of England now?
Elizabeth Bowen's Home for Christmas.
Short seasonal extracts from D H Lawrence - The Rainbow and James Joyce- The Dead
Lanterns Across the Snow ~ Susan Hill
It was cold. It was absolutely still. Quiet, so quiet, she could hear the pant of her own breathing, in, out and the silky shuffle and squeak of her boots, pushing forward. She stopped. The air smelled cold. Tasted cold in her mouth. Above her head the sky was clearing and she could see a few stars pricking out between the parting clouds. There would be moonlight then, and no more snow tonight. A bone-white, frozen, beautiful world.
John Masefield' s The Box of Delights.
On Angel Wings' by Michael Morpurgo
A superb Christmas scene in TH White's "The Sword in the Stone".
Christmas Eve by Cecil Day Lewis
Jesus' Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen.
Christmas Landscape ~ Laurie Lee
Christmas scene in Return of the Native ~ Thomas Hardy
A wonderful piece by Washington Irving in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, where an American outsider observes the British way of Christmas in the early 19th century.
Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas and the poem by T.S.Eliot about the journey of the Magi.
Miss Read's No Holly for Miss Quinn.
Josteen Gaarder's Christmas Mystery - start on the 1st of December and read a chapter a day until the 25th! Bliss.
Alphonse Daudet with "The Three Low Masses".
Selma Lagerlöfs "Christ Legends and Other Stories"
The diverse Christmas Scenes as told by Laura Ingalls Wilder 'from the wile wile West'.
There are good German-language contributions, stories as by Marie-Luise Kaschnitz or Robert Walser.
Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie
More Miss Read ~ Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse.
Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly & Ivy.
I can't explain why the Dorothy L Sayers - Peter Wimsey books should fit this bill - but they do especially the books featuring Harriet Vane.
The chapter called Christmas Shopping in Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown.
The chapter about the hideous Christmas doll in Winifred Foley's A Child in the Forest
For poetry Betjeman's Christmas, Marriot Edgar's Sam and the Christmas Pudding and Wendy Cope's Christmas Life. I also really like the letters to her true love in response to all the 12 days of Christmas gifts he sent her - Norwich possibly? And, especially read by Joan Hickson, Christie's Christmas Tragedy.
Sou'West and by West of Cape Cod by Llewellyn Howland (1947). The last chapter, Holly Days, is an evocative marvel.
"The Dead" (Dubliners) by James Joyce (and the film of the same name) in the Usher Island house in Dublin (alongside the Liffey) location...The final story of the book (Dubliners)is considered one of the greatest short stories in the English language.
Christmas Eve in The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill: Susan making mince pies, the carol singers, the new hens arriving and then little Jessica (who of course is now a grown up writer herself) coming out in spots and being ill over Christmas!
I like to read a ghost story at Christmas. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. There's nothing like a good scary book while curled up in front of an open fire - with all the lights on, of course!
As I'm Downunder, I'll mention my favourite Australian Christmas book - 'Christmas at Longtime' by Hesba Brinsmead. It's set in the Blue Mountains where she was born and is based on her childhood and a Christmas Day picnic. It's full of Joy!
The Christmas poems chosen by Carol Ann Duffy for the Candlestick Press pamphlets. A Christmas present to myself!
O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" short story. Perfect.
Letter from America" by Alistair Cooke called "Christmas in Vermont".
The description of the Aubrey family's Christmas day in The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, 1956, begins something like 'We never had a better Christmas until 4 o'clock' . What happened at 4 was more of an irritation than a catastrophe,though as so often in close-knit, fraught families, it was hard for the youngsters to tell the difference and West tells the story through the eyes of one of the children. The Christmas Day up to then is beautiful though, and just in case it makes us too comfortable, it is followed by a disturbing-then-happy post-Christmas visit to relatives, which manages to convey the no-man's land atmosphere of the days-after-Christmas very well.
Please do add any more in comments and I will edit them into this post drekkly.
So the plan was that David Waller would get us off to a flying Dickensian start this week, and my thanks to David for doing that, and then I would amble around my book shelves and be thinking of lovely non-Dickensian Christmas extracts to share. It happens to me with great regularity, I read a book and think 'Oh that chapter would be perfect to read at Christmas,' I would find stacks of books.
So I have wandered around my shelves in between working, and reading books for a fiction prize, and thinking it really is time I actually wrote a Christmas card, and going to Blacker Yarn's woollen mill at Launceston to choose the wool for a big knitting project for a big birthday year in 2013 (it would have been bus pass year had the rules not changed) and knitting gauntlets when I really should be reading books for the fiction prize, and watching the Strictly semi-final, and going out Christmas shopping in Chagford and stopping for lunch at the Ring O'Bells, and getting my self-employed tax accounts submitted (thank you Bookhound - Butler, Woodsman and now Accountant) and sorting out a last-minute air mail parcel for the Kayaker in Oz because he has stopped in Queensland and suddenly has a job and an address for a while, and working some more because it would be nice to have all my loss and bereavement etc replies up to date before I log off from the day job for Christmas as it really is a tough time of year for so very many people, oh yes and putting up some decorations and walking the dog and ...and...and..
Excuses, excuses, I am sure that makes me no busier than everyone else by December 19th, but if only I had written all these Christmas literary extracts down, for I have come up with the sum total of precisely ONE...
“Now to Farmer Shiner’s, and then replenish our insides, father?” said the tranter.
“Wi’ all my heart,” said old William, shouldering his bass-viol.
Farmer Shiner’s was a queer lump of a house, standing at the corner of a lane that ran into the principal thoroughfare. The upper windows were much wider than they were high, and this feature, together with a broad bay-window where the door might have been expected, gave it by day the aspect of a human countenance turned askance, and wearing a sly and wicked leer. To-night nothing was visible but the outline of the roof upon the sky.
The front of this building was reached, and the preliminaries arranged as usual.
“Four breaths, and number thirty-two, ‘Behold the Morning Star,’” said old William. They had reached the end of the second verse, and the fiddlers were doing the up bow-stroke previously to pouring forth the opening chord of the third verse, when, without a light appearing or any signal being given, a roaring voice exclaimed —
“Shut up, woll ‘ee! Don’t make your blaring row here! A feller wi’ a headache enough to split his skull likes a quiet night!”
Slam went the window.
“Hullo, that’s a’ ugly blow for we!” said the tranter, in a keenly appreciative voice, and turning to his companions.
“Finish the carrel, all who be friends of harmony!” commanded old William; and they continued to the end.
“Four breaths, and number nineteen!” said William firmly. “Give it him well; the quire can’t be insulted in this manner!”
A light now flashed into existence, the window opened, and the farmer stood revealed as one in a terrific passion.
“Drown en!— drown en!” the tranter cried, fiddling frantically. “Play fortissimy, and drown his spaking!”
“Fortissimy!” said Michael Mail, and the music and singing waxed so loud that it was impossible to know what Mr. Shiner had said, was saying, or was about to say; but wildly flinging his arms and body about in the forms of capital Xs and Ys, he appeared to utter enough invectives to consign the whole parish to perdition.
“Very onseemly — very!” said old William, as they retired. “Never such a dreadful scene in the whole round o’ my carrel practice — never! And he a churchwarden!”
So can you help me out here, and at the double before the whole thing is over for another year... favourite Christmas literary extracts in comments. Just the book and the author will do, and I can go hunt for them once I know where to look.
And for anyone wondering...no I haven't knitted all those mice (yet) but if anyone wants to, the pattern is Dickensian Mice designed by Alan Dart - Sirdar 4132
As Christmas is now definitely heading our way, and the geese are getting fat etc I thought we should be festive and jolly this week and focus on some Christmas reading recommends, and what better way to start the week than by re-visiting that Dickens bi-centennial that we'd almost all forgotten about now. A Dickens and I seasonal reminder before the year is up, and my thanks to David Waller, author of The Magnificent Mrs Tennnant which I wrote about here, and David has waited very patiently for this piece to appear, and my sincere thanks to him for writing it.
Pickwick Papers, by David Waller
Last Christmas we stayed with my in-laws at their lovely old house on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, not too far away I imagine from dovegreyreader’s own idyllic home. Sitting by the fire, glass of sloe gin in hand, snoring dog at my feet, there was no better place to read Pickwick Papers for the first time.
Pickwick is Dickens’s first novel, the book that transformed him, a mere 24 years old when he started writing in February 1836, from a relatively obscure journalist into a colossal celebrity. After a slow start, the monthly episodes sold by the tens of thousands and Dickens became the darling of the pre-Victorian public, never to look back. It captured the imagination of his contemporaries, but does it appeal to the modern reader?
Like many people who love Dickens, I simply had never read this book, probably because by repute it is long, unrelentingly cheerful and perhaps not even a proper novel in the sense that we understand it: a structured story with a beginning, middle and an end. As I would find, Pickwick is indeed episodic, rambling and always improvised, a collage of unconnected stories and sketches, without the ingenious plotting and coherence of his mature works.
I wasn’t especially taken by the early, especially meandering chapters. But as the afternoon wore on and the sloe gin glass was replenished a couple of times, I found the story came to life with the arrival if the impish cockney servant Sam Weller, who plays Sancho Panza to Mr Pickwick’s Don Quixote. We follow the bumbling, benevolent Pickwick and his band of hapless chums as they travel the length and breadth of southern England on a series of madcap adventures.
Set in the late 1820s, the book is fascinating in part as a portrait of pre-Victorian England. This is the age of the stagecoach and so much of what we think of as typically Dickensian simply does not exist in the world of Pickwick: there are no trains, for a start, and the rapid industrialisation of the mid century and the build up of the overpopulated cities is yet to come. The chapters on the elections at Eatandswill are a classic description of rambunctious politics before the Reform Act of 1832.
Yet Pickwick is as much about a state of mind as a place: there is no evil, merely benevolence and good cheer. Whatever quandary Mr Pickwick finds himself in, whether breaking into a girl’s school at night or getting himself locked up in Fleet Prison, the world rights itself, assisted by copious quantities of Pickwick’s money, Weller’s ingenuity and generous helpings of porter, punch and other alcoholic beverages.
So Pickwick is a Christmassy book: bluff, hearty, always “the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness…” Sitting by the fire as you read it, you might doze off from time to time, but when you wake again you will soon find yourself chuckling and helping yourself to another glass of sloe gin.
As Mr. Weller concluded this moral tale, with which the fat boy appeared much affected, they all three repaired to the large kitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled, according to annual custom on Christmas Eve, observed by old Wardle's forefathers from time immemorial.
From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old lady submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but the younger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitious veneration for the custom, or imagining that the value of a salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain it, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until some of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting, when they all at once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace.
'A single grid is beckoning, each of its thirty-three clues sparking a different chapter on the art of puzzling and the secret lives of words. You'll also read about the peculiar life of clue-mongers...and the tangled tale of human wordplay, how an ancient itch to toy with letters has led us to this black and white curio we call a cryptic crossword. Just be warned: the further you travel down this winding road, the more likely you'll catch the bug...'
I love a good crossword puzzle though rarely make time for them these days, but I do enjoy a good bit of cryptic solving and it has taken me years of painstaking anguish to figure out some of the more obvious routes that the puzzle setters use. Once you spot them you might spot them again, but discovering them in the first place is the thing. Unless you know someone who knows how on earth are you supposed to find out, other than sweating blood and a whole day trying to figure it out.
Fret no more, here's the best bookish Christmas Cracker for the crossword solver in your midst, Puzzled by David Anstle. (did you see what I did there, Christmas Cracker? It would probably come under the Pun chapter)
The book begins with, quite sensibly, an unfilled crossword grid, and each chapter will take the reader through every twist and turn of the puzzling world whilst filling in the clues along the way. Reach the end and there are more crosswords to be completed with the benefit of the book under your belt and a helping hand from David Astle should you need it.
Anagrams..'Crossword makers turn to anagrams like Catholic nuns to rosaries..' says David Astle so here's one for you...
Discourteous shift is dispatched, subcontracted (10)
Easy when you know how isn't it...nigh on impossible when you don't.
Charades... right I didn't really know the proper 'crosswording' name for these, but this is about breaking the words down into syllables to make a single word answer. Here's your starter for ten...
Monk in oxygen mask (6)
Containers... these are the nesting clues.
Doctor binds a fracture (3)
And so it goes on through Hiddens, Double Meanings,Homophones, Deletions, Alterations, Codes, Puns, Spoonerisms and more. It's all very Bletchley but the mysteries are revealed, and in amongst the explaining David Astle weaves a narrative about the crossword-setters, the fiendish crosswords themselves and their history and much more.
The perfect book for anyone who loves crosswords obviously, but also for anyone who loves words and what those words can be persuaded to do.
Oh alright, one last one but beware, it's fiendish so I'll give you a pointer, it's a reversal...
One London doctor (in the nineteenth century) writes that female patients might be allowed fiction but should be carefully watched. If a novel seemed to worsen their condition, it should be taken aways and replaced by a book 'upon some practical subject; such, for instance, as beekeeping.'
I am always very grateful to Erika in Delaware who regularly snippateers on my behalf sending me an envelope of newspaper and magazine cuttings and cartoons every so often from the other side of the pond. One of these was a piece entitled Turning the Page - How women became readers by Joan Acocella, published in the The New Yorker (October 25, 2012). The New Yorker is hard to come by in the village shop, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a copy in Tavistock either, so I am always very grateful to be kept in contact with life out there, and that quote reminded me...as these things do of one of my favourite books this year.
I wrote aboutBee Journal by Sean Borodale some time ago and have been slowly walking out to Sean's hive with him on a regular basis through the year to check on the bees. Virtually that is, but with a sense that I am really there watching, because...
These poems were written at the hive wearing a veil and gloves, and the journal is an intrinsic part of the kinetic activity of keeping bees: making 'tiny, regular checks' in the turn around the central figure of the sun, and minute exploratory interventions through the round of the year. The book is full of moments of revelation - particularly of the relationship between the domestic and the wild. In attempting to record and invoke something of the complexity of the relationship between 'keeper' and 'kept' it tunes ear and speech towards the ecstasy of bees, between the known and the unknown.
Because of its genesis as a working journal, there is here an unusual intimacy and deep scrutiny of life and death in nature. The language itself is dense and clotted, the imagery thrillingly fresh, and the observing eye close, scrupulous and full of wonder.
And in that strange tennis-elbow-foot way that my reading so often joins up with itself, Roger Deakin writing in Wildwood had reminded me of a Ted Hughes' poetry collection Moortown Diary. I had somehow forgotten about it, but this is a series of poems written through the year on the farm on the northern edge of Dartmoor where Ted Hughes lived later in his life, so I am going to make that one of my year-long reads for 2013.
I was reminded that here too is a collection that had also been written very much on the hoof as Ted Hughes' notes confirm.
'In making a note about anything, if I wish to look closely I find I can move closer, and stay closer, if I phrase my observations about it in rough lines...my way of getting reasonably close to what is going on, and staying close, and of excluding everything else that might be pressing to interfere with the watching eye. In a sense the method excludes the poetic process as well..'
Ted Hughes goes on to say...
'This sort of thing had to be set down soon after the event. If I missed the moment - which meant letting a night's sleep intervene before I took up the pen - I could always see quite clearly what had been lost. By the next day the processes of 'memory', the poetic process had already started.'
When he decided to revisit those notes and leave the words as they were Ted Hughes calls their strength a 'souvenir bloom' ...
'Altering any word felt like retouching an old home movie with new bits of fake-original voice and fake-original actions.'
There is that same sense of 'souvenir bloom' to Sean Borodale's writing in Bee Journal, so if you are looking for a year-long read, a short meaningful piece every so often, then either of these would be ideal. I'd give my eye teeth to be able to capture the things that I see in this way....not that I have really tried that hard. There is an immediacy that captures and seals those moments of approach and arrival, of standing and watching, the sense of perhaps surprise, maybe pleasure, sometimes shock at what is waiting to be discovered there, and I can't tell you how much pleasure it has given me to be alongside Sean Borodale's hive... and without all the worry of being stung.
I suspect Ted Hughes might have loved Bee Journal too, here a few lines from Moortown Diary...
March morning unlike others (15 March 1974)
Blue haze. Bees hanging in air at the hive-mouth. Crawling in prone stupor of sun On the hive-lip. Snowdrops. Two buzzards. Still-wings each Magnetized to the other, Float orbits. Cattle standing warm. Lit, happy stillness.
Any more suggestions for year-long, day-to-day reads like this??
No messing, you might just want to get this on your Christmas list NOW.
In fact ...stop reading this and nip off and slap a big Post-It note on the fridge, or write it on the kitchen notice board, or wherever you need to draw someone's attention to the fact that 2013 might not be complete without the Faber and Faber Poetry Diary.
I usually spend hours looking at suitable diaries...the pictures...are they interesting enough to see me through a whole year... is it portable enough... or should I use it for the kitchen as the MAIN diary where everything gets written. In the end I have often left my selection too late and end up with a £1.49 Week to View for the kitchen and perhaps a Moleskine for my bag... or I top up the Filofax Pocket sized diary again...or whatever.
But this year I am deeply attached to my 2013 Poetry Diary already.
and a little guided tour for you..
and I always dash to the week of my birthday just to see...
Favourite poems, new poems unknown to me and all mixed in with those iconic book jackets. Sometimes I will have to figure out the significance for that particular week because I don't think any of this is down to chance...
I have decided this will be the year of the pencil entry too. I'd love to add a quote a day from whatever I have read or heard, and I have already started writing in little quotes, other favourite lines on similar themes or from the same author. On Jo Shapcott's Of Mutability page I have scribed that wonderful quote from her poem Northern Lights ... By the end of 2013 this will be a microcosm of my year in quotes.
With Advent Sunday upon us I think it is fine to say the Christmas word don't you.
Advent, as I recall is actually the start of the Church's liturgical year and the time to sing that most majestic of hymns declaring the season open, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel....I love the words and have sung it many-a time in procession wearing chorister's robes.
O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Surely another portent of the coming of Christmas is the arrival of a Carol Ann Duffy seasonal poem, and I am sitting here stroking the four that I have now that Wenceslas has arrived, whilst thinking what a blessing these are.
Each year a joyous reminder that we have a Poet Laureate who is efficiently getting on with the job in hand, and very much on her own terms.
I like that.
Wenceslas follows the same format as in previous years, a 5" square (approx) hardback book with perfect illustrations, in this case by Stuart Kolakovic.
The King's Cook is preparing a sumptuous Christmas Pie along the lines of those rather fashionable bird-within-a-bird concoctions that have become popular these days. You know, the turkey stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a pheasant, stuffed with a grouse sort of thing, a sort of carniverous roast Russian doll with gravy. This is a medieval feast of gargantuan proportions, fit for a Royal table, so let's start with a bigg'un... a Swan, stuffed with a Heron, then a Crane and room for a lot more to be jammed in besides.
'Spring in deep midwinter; a year in a pie; a Guinea-Fowl in a Pheasant; a Teal in a Fowl.
Nursed in the Teal, a Partridge, purse to a Plover; a Plover, glove to a Quail, and caught in the mitt of the Quail, a Lark - a green Olive stoppered its beak.'
True to the carol King Wenceslas espies someone out in the 'deep and crisp and even' in need of help. The chap is brought in to eat a slice of the pie, and probably can't move for about a week afterwards because I have barely touched on the ingredients (even Mrs 'Downton' Patmore would have had to roll up her sleeves and send Daisy on a mission) but the message is a simple and universal one about offering a charitable helping hand in someone's hour of need.
And yes, I know that picture is Manfred on the Jungfrau, but it has snow and a man looking a bit fed up with it.
You absolutely will want to find Wenceslas in your Christmas stocking.
Scroll down for gifts....Magnus is ready and waiting with something more to say.
I think I can guarantee that if ever you have been a stamp collector, and perhaps even if not, you will love First Class - A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps. I never cease to be amazed at the original and innovatove ideas people come up with for books, and Chris West has hit on one here that could run and run. There is a series here surely.
The next thing I can guarantee is that, if you were at any time in your life a philatelist, this book will have you running to the shelf or climbing up into the loft to find your albums, just to see if your memory serves you well and you do actually have any of the thirty-six stamps mentioned here.
I was on it in a nano-second but left wondering what all the gaps were (I suspect philatelic children)
Then of course it all kicks off...
'So who's nicked my England Winners World Cup 1966 stamp then...there's a gap there where it was... look...you can see where the stamp hinge was...'
Then the disappointment..
'Oh that's a shame. I'd always hoped that Victorian Penny Lilac might be worth a few bob...huh, thirty-three billion produced... put them all side by side and they'd reach to the moon and back or round the equator sixteen times...mine's not so special then'
Then the disagreements...
'Hmm, well, not sure why he's chosen that one... I'd have included that long 700th Anniversary of Parliament one for sure...'
Then the recollections ..
'Oh look, I had completely forgotten about that one...'
Each of the thirty-six stamp illustrations then herald a chapter that outlines some history and if within my living memory acted as a memory-jogger of the times.
Take that England 1966 one for example. Placing England's victory (of which we really do never hear the last in this country as it was such a never -to-be-repeated football one-off) within its social context of the mid-1960s.
The Kinks singing Summer of Love...
The Beatles recording Revolver and about to give us Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine..
'A totally new style seemed to have emerged out of nowhere- yellows, pinks, purples interweaving in swirls; velvet jackets, long hair, floaty dresses, boots ... A sexual revolution was taking place too...'
And Chris West goes on to elaborate how Britain teamed all this up with Victorian military outfits, granny glasses and Union Jacks as a way of holding onto tradition, whilst seeing them in a witty and ironic light as it moved forward into a new era.
Swinging London, 'disc jockeys' operating from offshore pirate radio stations..
But I had somehow completely forgotten how the summer of 1966 came to its tragic end,
'On the morning of 21 October, a slag-heap collapsed onto a school in Aberfan, a Welsh mining village, killing 116 children.'
Who ever would forget that tragedy. I was thirteen and I remember quite clearly trying to imagine what it must have been like for those children as we watched the frantic rescue attempts on our black and white television set. Those greyscale images somehow added much more to the depths of the sorrow and misery now that I look back.
Each chapter in the book dissects not only the moment of the stamp but any history related to it before placing it within the social context of the times and I think anyone, stamp enthusiast or not, would be thrilled to find this one under the tree.
But I wonder too about the whole future of stamps??
Isn't the art of letter-writing a dying one??
Wasn't it brilliant to see the Royal Mail producing the Gold Medal winners stamps and painting the home-town pillar boxes gold, but I didn't see a single one of those stamps arriving on anything here
Every time I take anything to the post office they seem to head for the machine, insert a gigantic-sized stamp which is then printed and stuck on. Gone are the days when the counter clerk would flick through that book, do some nifty mental arithmetic and make up the postage with a strip of commemoratives, or a nice selection of multi-coloured Queen's heads.
I know, I know, it is far too soon for the C*******s word but, having just had an October C*******s dinner to say Bon Voyage to the Kayaker as he heads off to Australia, the season is on my radar. The dinner was to make up for the fact he will sit in the midst of our dinner table at some stage on December 25th on a Skype screen eyeing up our huge pile of Yorkshire puddings (we have them with everything), doubtless whilst sitting on a beach himself eating snags.
We in turn will have a Kiwi guest who hosted Offspringette whilst she was in New Zealand, and actually helped decorate this bough via a Skype link ("no, that doesn't look right there") last C*******s, so no excuses, we have to do it all properly this year and let battle commence with the making of the cake during half term week. But C*******s means books as gifts too, and a succession of bobby dazzlers are arriving here from publishers (thank you one and all) that are just too good not to flag up for your attention. Besides which Strictly and the X Factor are back on our screens here in the UK which means we are on the Saturday by Saturday count down, so might as well admit it, the C*******s thing is not going to go away and if Louis doesn't win Strictly there is no justice in the land.
So whether you are hunting for presents for difficult others, or want a say in what they are buying for you, look out for a few worthy C*******s crackers here in the weeks to come.
Team Tolstoy A year-long shared read of War & Peace through the centenary year of Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy's death, starting on his birthday, September 9th 2010.
Everyone is welcome to board the troika and read along, meeting here on the 9th of every month to chat in comments about the book.
Team Tolstoy Bookmark Don't know your Bolkonskys from your Rostovs?
An aide memoire that can be niftily printed and laminated into a double-sided bookmark.
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If you think I have breached copyright rules in any way please let me know.