Saturday, 21 January 2012

Birthday books

It was my birthday last week and I did very well for books. From my friend Karyn I got The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster. It is described in the blurb as 'the original and definitive account of the Pendle witch trials of 1612'. The account written up by the clerk of the court, Thomas Potts, has been modernised by historian Robert Poole, making it easier for a 21st century reader to follow. I don't know very much about the Pendle witches at all. I used to live in Preston in Lancashire, not far from where it all took place, but am very ignorant about it.
The second book to unwrap was from my husband Mark, who bought me John Forster's biography of Charles Dickens. It is a beautiful book, lavishly illustrated, with extracts from the novels. The introduction is by Jane Smiley.

For my birthday treat we had a drive out to Saltburn. I love Saltburn, it's a old Victorian seaside town. Hemmed in by the cliffs it's too small to have expanded in the way towns such as Blackpool and Scarbrough have. It's a real gem.  We had our lunch in The Ship pub, where the smugglers used to drink centuries ago.
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Then we went to the Saltburn Bookshop, a second hand book shop that I haven't been into in years. I got a pretty good haul. I was determined to buy something by someone I'd never heard of, because I always go into a bookshop looking for title or authors that I recognise. I felt like being a bit more reckless! The book that fitted the bill was Tomorrow Will Come by E.M. Almedingen. The blurb says 'It is the story of a young girl's life in St Petersburg, from early childhood until her departure from Russia in 1922.' There is a quote from Storm Jameson (who, co-incidentally, was born in Whitby, the next town down the coast from Saltburn) who says that it is 'a remarkable book. The future will picture our age through books like this, and not through the official records. And this story has, as well as a rare clarity, charm and a spiritual and imaginative strength which is still rarer.'

I also picked up the second volume of The Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning. The first volume is on my TBR shelf waiting to be read. The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley. I was reading about Huxley at A Work in Progress recently, so this book leapt out at me when I saw it on the shelf. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes has been on my TBR list for a while. Mrs Keppel and her Daughter by Diana Souhami. The daughter was of course Violet Trefusis and I love reading about Bloomsbury and all the people connected with it. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West. I've never read any West, but have been meaning to for some time.
On the way to the bookshop I popped into a charity shop and picked up a book containing two Miss Read stories. I loved Miss Read when I was younger and thought it might be time to revisit her.


  1. Happy Birthday, Joanne. How lovely to get to spend the day visiting book shops in a quiet seaside town.

  2. Thanks Karyn. I did have a lovely day. There was a slight panic when we got to the bookshop and it was closed for lunch. It reopened at 2 and we had to be back at 3 to pick Billy up from school. But it opened promptly, I was very efficient in my browsing and we were back with at least 30 seconds to spare.

  3. Happy Birthday! What a wonderful day you had. It's funny that you mentioned "Fortunes of War" because I remember loving the television series based on the books that ran many years ago. I bought the book afterwards and have never read it. I think now I will pull it off the book shelf and finally read it. Love all the books you got for your birthday. Happy reading!

  4. Oh what a gorgeous day you had! I've been to Saltburn - is the pirate museum still there? I'm envious of the John Forster Dickens biog, with pictures - I'm reading it on Kindle, but no piccies. I found a High Wind in Jamaica very disturbing, but I loved the Flame Trees of Thika and Fortunes of War.

  5. Belated birthday greetings! I enjoyed the Flame Trees of Thikka and would certainly read more by Huxley.