Rounding Off

Well now, hasn’t that been a year to make you stop and think. The Teen and I have been through some upheavals: family health, new job for me, new house in a city for both of us, the loss of our much-mourned family pet, entering final year of A Levels for her. We are both now taking some serious breathing space (although the mountain of coursework in her room suggests my break may be more relaxing than hers) before 2016 lands.

This year, Christmas is being hosted by me as we finally live in a house big enough to fit us, my parents, my sister, brother in law and the two small things. We have a dining room! This is the first time in my adult life I’ve had one of these, and it’s a constant battle to stop it becoming a dumping ground. *clears post and papers on a daily basis*

Looking back through my reading diary, I can pinpoint exactly when I started catching the train: the number of books I get through a month suddenly shoots up as I find myself with at least an hour and a half each day with time on my hands and the reality of train travel in England to escape.

So this, patient readers of this long abandoned blog, is my list of Things Wot I Have Read in 2015.

January: Lucia in London, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, London Train, The Bleeding Heart, Waterlog, The Bucket, a biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, Field Notes from a Hidden City.

February: Badgerlands, Wind in the Willows, My Family & Other Disasters, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, An Accidental Jubilee, Have His Carcass, Blessings in Disguise, This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart.

March: H is for Hawk, Britain AD, Ordeal by Innocence, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Death Must Advertise, The Morville Hours, Gingerbread, Mrs. Hemingway.

April: Home Fires, The Taste of Apple Seeds, Clothes Music Boys, The Crow Road, How to be Alone, Lady Susan, Turn of the Screw, The First Wives Club, Bad Blood.

May: Hope and Glory, The Gravity of Birds, Murder on the Links, The Thing Around Your Neck, Murder in the Mews, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Town in Bloom, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, Somewhere Towards the End, Elizabeth is Missing, The Secret History.

June: A Slip of the Keyboard, Howards End is on the Landing, Are We Nearly There Yet, The Tiger in the Smoke, In Pursuit of Love, Anything Goes, Love in a Cold Climate, The Best Man to Die, Don’t Tell Alfred, Unkindness of Ravens, Like Water for Chocolate, The Veiled One, McCarthy’s Bar, The Last Cigarette.

July: In the Blue House, Diary of a Nobody, The Invisible Woman, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Perfect, A Steep Approach to Garbadale, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Moving Finger, The Ghost Road, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey, The Gallery of Vanished Husbands, Taken at the Flood, The Years, The Shock of the Fall, The Monogram Murders, Trouble for Lucia, A Murder of Quality.

August: Death Comes to Pemberley, Toast, Ladder of Years, The Second Life of Sally Mottram, The Castle of Adventure, Tales from the City, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life, Yes Please, Do No Harm, Unfinished Business, Waiting for Jeffrey, Instructions for a Heatwave, The Thoughts & Happenings of Wilfrid Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals, The Reluctant Bride.

September: Stoner, Notes from an Exhibition, The Man Who Rained, Etta & Otto & Russell & James, A Glass of Blessings, Complete Sherlock Holmes short stories, And When Did You Last See Your Father, What a Carve Up, Appointment with Death, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Pause Between Acts, Pale Horse Pale Rider, The Oxford Murders, Thou Shell of Death.

October: Prodigal Summer, Some Tame Gazelle, Heartbreak, The Voyage Out, To Love & Be Wise, Excellent Women, After Me Comes the Flood, A Shilling for Candles, The Singing Sands, It Could Happen to You, F Scott Fitzgerald Selected Short Stories, All the Pretty Horses.

November: The Rector’s Daughter, Quartet in Autumn, Unnatural Death, Gaudy Night, Forgotten Paths, Mystery in White, Wuthering Heights, Angels and Insects, James Lees-Milne diaries 1942-54.

December: The Miniaturist, The Bloody Chamber, Marianne, The Thirteenth Tale, Flight Behaviour, Station Eleven, Civil to Strangers, The Lovers of Pound Hill.

In all, a total of 134, or 2 and a half a week; June, July, August and September saw the papery floodgates open and I could feel myself absorbing words like water on a hot day. Am also pleased to note that my taste for genteel crime novels, preferably set in the 1930 or thereabouts, continues unabated (they are the best to read in the bath). This is also the year I discovered and inhaled any Barbara Pym I could lay my hands on – she is unparalleled in skewering, with pin point accuracy, the painful truths that underpin our lives in the briefest of sentences, whilst doing so with humour and compassion. All those in italics are the ones that I would gladly pick up to reread again and again.

And then there are these. Books so breathtakingly excellent that I loved them to the point of sitting there for long minutes after I’d read the last word, unable to let the book go, but was also seized with a blinding envy that I can’t/don’t write as well as the authors do. Elizabeth is Missing (yes, the hype was worth it), Stoner, After Me Comes the Flood, Ella & Otto & Russell & James, Station Eleven. More than once I found myself deep breathing on a train, trying desperately not to cry (and failing in the case of Stoner which broke my heart), and trying to remind myself that these were all fictional characters.

As if their being fictional should matter. A truly great writer will transcend that barrier between paper and person, and help the reader access a depth of emotion they never previously thought to acknowledge.

Over Christmas I have Lila, The Haunting of Hill House, Middlemarch (for some reason, I have borrowed 2 copies from the library) and A Spool of Blue Thread to read. Happy days.

I wish you all a book-filled, loving Christmas. May your stocking be full of paperbacks of the bestest kind.


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