shelf by shelf : from O’Grady to Roberts

The weather has turned properly crisp, the sky is a brilliant blue, and my library is cosy and smells like old books. Perfect day to sit staring at them, doing a little reading, and posting another Shelf by Shelf. I must admit, as much I as I love Persephone Books, doing the Persephone shelf last time was kind of tedious. It’s nice to have an eclectic shelf this time around.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

SHELF TWENTY-ONE: 34 books, 20 unread, 14 read 41% complete

O’Grady, Rohan – Let’s Kill Uncle
I only bought this because The Bloomsbury Group reissues stuff that I tend to like. Although TBG gets lots of exposure in my corner of the book blogging world, I don’t think I have ever come across anyone else blog about this title.

O’Hara, John – Appointment in Samarra (completed)
I read this 15 years ago and I have no recollection of it whatsoever. It is one of the Modern Library’s top 100 novels of the 20th century which is why I read it. I’m kind of curious to read it again but I only gave it 6 out 10 the first time around so maybe that would be a waste of time. And I am beginning to think it may be a waste of space on my shelves.

Oliphant, Mrs – The Rector and The Doctor’s Family
Oliphant, Mrs – Hester
Oliphant, Mrs – Phoebe Junior
Active from 1849 to 1897, Mrs (Margaret) Oliphant published about 120 books. The only titles of hers that I have read are the ones reissued by Persephone. One day I will get to these.

Oliver, Edith – The Love Child

Orwell, George – Burmese Days (completed)
George Orwell is so much more than 1984 and Animal Farm. Burmese Days is one of my favorites. A novel of a very small British ex-pat community at a remote station in Burma in the waning days of the empire. Flory, our tragic hero despairs of his life in Burma but realizes that after ten years he can’t imagine living back in England. He hopes to marry the newly arrived niece of another ex-pat but then the realities of life in Burma set in and the divide between the two becomes too wide to brook. An enjoyable read despite a surfeit of tragedy. There are so many victims of circumstance it is hard not to feel sorry for them all.

Owens, Iris – After Claude (completed)
Published in 1973, After Claude is still a little shocking. Bitchy, funny, off-balance, and a little dark. Harriet goes back to New York after five years living in Paris. She crashes with one friend until that friend boots her out. Lives for another six months with Claude, the frenchman who rescues her from the  friend who just kicked her out. Then she ends up at the Chelsea Hotel where she hooks up with some sort of sex-guru cult figure. Much in the book is hilarious. But you have to be ready for more than a few jarring moments

Panter-Downes, Mollie – One Fine Day

Patchett, Ann – Bel Canto (completed)
Patchett, Ann – Run (completed)
Patchett, Ann – State of Wonder (completed)
Patchett, Ann – The Patron Saint of Liars (completed)
Patchett, Ann – Taft (completed)
As you can see, I like Ann Patchett. I think her writing is very easy and smart and her storytelling capabilities are wonderful. Seeing which of her books I have on my shelf, I realize I should have purchased that copy The Magician’s Assistant I saw at the Friends of the Library sale last week. I knew I had read it, but wasn’t sure if I owned it. I have her latest novel, Commonwealth, on my nightstand, but haven’t started it yet.

Pennell, Joseph Stanley – The History of Nora Beckham: A Museum of Home Life
I bought this one for its cover. I’ve just noticed that the cover flaps and back of the jacket are focused on JSP’s previous novel The History of Rome Hanks so I have no idea what this one might be about.

Piercy, Marge and Ira Wood – Storm Tide
Piercy, Marge – The High Cost of Living
Piercy, Marge – The Longings of Women (completed)
Although the title made for a few self-conscious Metro rides, I thoroughly enjoyed The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy. This is the fourth Piercy book I have read and I have liked all of them (this one probably the least so). They all have multiple women, usually in the Boston area, who are building their lives after some sort of male perpetrated malfeasance. They are warm, smart, realistic but ultimately uplifting, and never feel like male bashing. One of the characters in this one gives a very believable account of what it would be like to be homeless after a long marriage ends in divorce. More of you should be reading her. Try Three Women, The Third Child, Fly Away Home, or The Longings of Women.

Platonov, Andrey – The Foundation Pit

Porter, Katherine Anne – Ship of Fools (completed)
I loved this book and recommend it often. A German passenger ship in the 1930s on its way from Veracruz to Bremen. Fascinating study of characters in a time of rising racism.

Powell, Dawn – Turn, Magic Wheel
Powell, Dawn – The Bride’s House
Powell, Dawn – A Time to Be Born
Powell, Dawn – The Locusts Have No King
Powell, Dawn – The Wicked Pavilion
I bought all of these years ago because they were remainders and I liked the look of them (and their uniformity). Many have told me that they love her writing, but I still have yet to read even one of them. I almost got rid of them all during a recent book cull, but decided I should at least try one before giving up.

Powers, J.F. – Morte D’Urban

Priestley, J.B. – Angel Pavement (completed)
Priestley, J.B. – Bright Day

I  loved Angel Pavement. I bought this just because it had such a great cover and was about London. Had no idea if it would actually be enjoyable to read. It was. It painted such an interesting picture of life in a London office in the late 1920s. It could be a Persephone for boys. There is a lot of dry, subtle humor as well.

Reid, John – The Best Little Boy in the World (completed)
A wonderful, evocative, gay coming of age story published in 1973.

Renault, Mary – The Friendly Young Ladies

von Rezzori, Gregor – Memoirs of an Anti-Semite

Rhys, Jean – Quartet (completed)
I’m not sure I like Jean Rhys’ style, but I enjoyed this one enough that I wanted to keep it and read it again one day.

Richardson, Henry Handel – Maurice Guest

Roberts, Cecil – Victoria 4:30 (completed)
You can read all about my love for this novel here.


NEXT TIME: Ross to Sarton

17 thoughts on “shelf by shelf : from O’Grady to Roberts

  1. Liz Dexter November 12, 2016 / 9:53 am

    I thought Marge Piercy only wrote sci-fi – have I Become Confused? I’m a little concerned about Mrs Oliphant’s 120 books because I’m planning on reading her Chronicles of Carlingford in 2018 – this doesn’t include all 120, I trust …


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:26 pm

      Does she write sci-fi? I know she writes poetry.


      • james b chester November 21, 2016 / 10:25 am

        She was fairly well-known for it back in the day, feminist science fiction. I think there are six books in the Carlingford series. The one I read was lots of fun.


  2. sharkell November 12, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    Still loving this series. I have a lot of Ann Patchett on my shelves as well. I have only read 3 of them so far but they are such a treat to read when you do get to them.


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      I like some of them better than others but overall very enjoyable.


  3. Deb November 12, 2016 / 11:36 pm

    I went through a Dawn Powell phase about ten years ago. I think I got burnt out–which I find is easy to do if I read too much of one writer too quickly. I would say, read THE WICKED PAVILLION. If you really like it, try one of the others; if your response is more “meh” you can comfort yourself that you’ve read her best novel. (Tim Page wrote a biography of Powell, and then edited her diaries and letters. Perhaps Powell is one of those writers who is more interesting to read about than to actually read.)

    As for John O’Hara, I’d strongly recommend reading a collection of his short stories. He was an excellent short story writer–publishing over 200 in The New Yorker alone (in fact, he’s primarily responsible for developing the style and tone of what we think of as “the New Yorker short story”).


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:28 pm

      Good info on Dawn Powell.


  4. Karen K. November 14, 2016 / 4:13 am

    I do have The Magician’s Nephew on the TBR shelves (and yes, I did pick it up for $1 at the FOL sale!), still haven’t read it. I absolutely loved Bel Canto and really liked State of Wonder.

    And I actually bought After Claude, that exact edition, at the Strand bookstore in NYC. I started reading it immediately afterward, while eating lunch, but I disliked the book so much I went back and returned it! I think it’s one of those books for which the timing has to be just right. I really disliked The Dud Avocado as well, though many people love it. Or maybe I’m just becoming curmudgeonly.

    Also I think Ship of Fools might be incredibly timely right now.


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:29 pm

      I didn’t like The Dud Avocado at all.


  5. leslieo November 15, 2016 / 10:59 pm

    My fav Marge Piercy is Gone To Soldiers, epic WWII story.


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:30 pm

      I think I lost a mass market paperback of that on a vacation before I got around to reading it.


  6. Simon T November 17, 2016 / 2:39 am

    My main thought immediately is ‘please read One Fine Day soon!’ – I’m going to say that even about The Love-Child as, while I prefer TLC, I suspect you’ll prefer OFD.


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:30 pm

      I think that is good advice.


  7. Ruthiella November 17, 2016 / 1:53 pm

    Simon stole my comment: read One Fine Day. It is absolutely wonderful and I think you will like it too.

    I think I love Ann Patchett too, but I didn’t really like The Magician’s Assistant while I loved Bel Canto. I am planning on reading State of Wonder next month and that will maybe seal the deal.


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:31 pm

      In some ways I think State of Wonder is a bit of a riff on Arrowsmith. But that is probably just me.


  8. Joan November 17, 2016 / 9:40 pm

    Glad you are enjoying Margaret Oliphant. Just fyi there is a website (which I created) dedicated to Mrs Oliphant. It provides downloads of all 176 fiction works:


    • Thomas November 19, 2016 / 4:31 pm

      Good information to have.


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