Whilst we await the arrival of the e reader there are a few 'real' books arriving at the moment which are more than gladdening my heart after my third annual Bookerthon, nice to feel that rising excitement again at opening books I know I will love. It's a given, there can be no doubt, I can plump up the cushions and settle down to good reading without sighing and tsking and thinking I'd better go and empty the dishwasher and perhaps when I come back the book will have improved.
The first is Becoming Queen by Kate Williams published by Hutchinson.
It was Kate's book England's Mistress which gave me such a great insight into the life of Nelson's mistress Emma Hamilton and incidentally proved a very popular book with one of my reading groups (Goldfish) from which I have temporarily lapsed but keep in touch. They have a formula for rating a book and England's Mistress had scored top for the year the last I heard.
The subtitle to Becoming Queen, How a tragic and untimely death shaped the reign of Queen Victoria. The untimely death that of Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate grandchild of King George III and at the age of just twenty-two and hours after giving birth to a stillborn son. The nation grieved and then decided she would have made an ideal Queen so they grieved even more whilst frantic searches were made for an heir.
Who'd have thought that Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent, would ascend to the throne and I can barely contain the excitement with the promise of an 'absorbing dramatic tale of secrets, sexual repression and endless conflict.'
It was the sheer pleasurable readability of England's Mistress that had me page-turning like crazy as I learnt about a character I knew of, but actually little of and now I can't wait for a new insight into the life of Queen Victoria. As soon as I'm back from France it's a plunge into the nineteenth century novel for me and this book will be a perfect non-fiction addition.
Another non-fiction whispering to me, The English House The Story of a Nation at Home published by Bloomsbury.The Grenvilles of nearby Buckland Abbey feature and I glimpsed a mention of the Duke of Bedford too and a whole irresistible chapter entitled A Duke's Flight of Fancy, Endsleigh Cottage. You know all about that. The book looks highly readable and informative to the extent that it will probably have me travelling the land finding all the houses mentioned.
The other book that has me turning cartwheels and I've mentioned it almost constantly of late but perhaps not described it too well, In Tearing Haste : Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
My love for a book of letters knows no bounds and this makes a up fine trilogy. Decca, then Letters Between Six Sisters and now this one. Deborah Devonshire the last surviving Mitford sister and Patrick Leigh Fermor that travel writer extraordinaire. Diligent but different correspondents both and this collection is shaping up into the most enjoyable reading,
'There can rarely have been such contrasting styles: Debo, unashamed philistine and self-professed illiterate, darts from subject to subject, dashing off letters but hitting the nail on the head again and again without even looking, while Paddy, polyglot, widely-read prose virtuoso, replies in his characteristic fluent, polished manner.'
I've been trying to think of another book of letters published while both correspondents are still alive and I can't, can you?
Perhaps that makes this collection quite unusual?
Of course there was also rather a nice venue available for the book launch too, a fascinating interview with Deborah Devonshire here and worth mentioning the ongoing success of Counting my Chickens published by Long Barn Books which has sold upwards of 90,000 copies so my source, the horse's mouth in fact, informs me.