I think I may have mentioned, ahem, that recently I finally passed the theory test for my driving licence. If you have ever studied the Belgian Highway Code you will know that it is phenomenonally dull and one of the reasons that it took me so long to take the test was there was always something more interesting to do with my time, even cleaning the loo. However, I cunningly motivated myself by imposing a total book-buying ban until I succeeded in passing. Amazing how this concentrated my mind!
It’s not that I am buying insane amounts of books every day, it’s more the thought that I cannot. I hasten to add.
Inevitably, the moment the ban was lifted, a splurge ensued. Faye rashly asked me what I had bought so, since I am hiding indoors from the beautiful weather because of my hay fever, let me show you.
The very day I passed the test I walked into the local charity shop and found these, 50 cents each, I mean, that is the universe basically ordering me to go on a Ruth Rendall reading spree is it not?
If you can’t read the titles they are: A Dark Adapted Eye, A Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs, Gallowglass and The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy under the name of Barbara Vine, and A Guilty Thing Surprised, The Face of Trespass and Talking to Strange Men under her own name. Although they represent a tiny proportion of her published works, I’m now thinking of a little Ruth Rendall project, reading them all in chronological order. I might write about them here if I do, though don’t hold your breath, my projects are predisposed to failure.
Then I had a little internet dalliance...
John Banville’s The Sea and J.G. Farrell’s Troubles are both to review for Shiny New Books so actually they are necessary and guilt-free purchases. But the Collected Stories of Walter de la Mare is a lovely treat.
I have loved Lucy Wood’s first two books so couldn’t really wait until this second collection of her stories came out in paperback. (I thought I had written about Weathering here but I haven’t; it is a beautiful rain-soaked story of mothers and daughters and ghosts and new beginnings.)
And I saw Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill recommended on the Twitter feed of the Secret Barrister. It’s the musical equivalent of A Poem a Day. Burton-Hill has chosen a different – and short – piece of classical music for every day of the year and written about it. It’s aimed at people who want to learn more about classical music but don’t really know where to start. I am one of those people who actually ‘knows’ quite a bit of music if you play it to me, but doesn’t actually know what any of it is called and will stare blankly at you if you start talking about Beethoven 5 or Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1. So far I’ve listened to music by Handel, Meredith Monk, Vivaldi and Germaine Tailleferre and I’d never even heard of two of them before; I actually wish that each entry was a little longer but this is after all intended as an introduction and in the age of the internet it’s easy to explore further. It’s fun and I recommend it!
Finally, when I was visiting my parents during the Easter holidays, we went to Sutton Hoo (a favourite Parry family spot: even with the (splendid) visitor’s centre it retains a slightly otherworldly air) where there is a second-hand bookshop run by a very nice man. And it was a good second-hand bookshop, being both reasonably priced and full of unusual books that you didn’t know you needed to read. I’ve always wanted to learn more about Tycho Brahe, so Kitty Ferguson’s The Nobleman and his Housedog: Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler: The Strange Partnership that Revolutionised Science looks like an accessible way to do this. And I came across a thin little hardback priced at only £1 called Madame de and written by Louise de Vilmorin; the illustrations were so charming that I felt the book had to come home with me even though I knew nothing about the writer or the book. And I will write more about this anon.