How has your week been? Full of books and a bit of relaxation, I hope. Mine has been busy. The kids are back in school and life is back to chaos and alarms going off at 5:15 a.m. Why on earth do schools think it is a good idea to start at 7:15 in the morning? I can't think straight at that hour and we expect our kids to be awake and learning then. I don't think days should start before 9:00.
Can you tell I am not a morning person?
I am, as you know, a book person and I have been reading a couple of good books lately. Right now I am reading a Persephone book. It is A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes. I am about halfway done with it and am enjoying it thoroughly. It provides such an evocative picture of life during that time period. Hughes went on to write two other books about her life. I knew this was a family I would enjoy when I read this passage at the very beginning of the book.
We were rich too in another way, richer, so far as I can observe, than the average children of to-day. Our parents had accumulated a large number of books, which we were allowed to browse in as much as we liked. Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Lamb, George Eliot, Tennyson, Bryon, Coleridge, Disraeli, these were not 'taught' at school, or set as holiday tasks, but became part of our lives. The elder ones discussed them at table, and quoted from them, till the Micawbers and Becky Sharp and Lamb appeared to my childish mind as some former friends of my mother's, whom I recognized with delight later on when I read the books for myself.
The Persephone books are so beautiful with their dove-grey covers, gorgeous end papers, and matching bookmarks. They are a pleasure to read. I do find it interesting though. I never used to really care about what my books looked like. I didn't want them to be falling apart but other than that I just was interested in the words, the story. Most of my shelves are filled with a hodge-podge of books that I have collected over the years. I have different editions within one series and it never occurred to me to be bothered by it. Then I came across Persephone books and book blogs and suddenly there was this whole world where books looked pretty as well as contained fascinating stories. And don't even get me started on Instagram which is filled with carefully curated shelves of beautiful books. They are gorgeous but I think I still don't really care what my books look like. In fact, sometimes I prefer my ratty old editions. I know with the Persephone books I end up being so careful with them because I don't want to damage them. I grabbed a different book while I ate my lunch because I didn't want to get food on it. The old hodge-podge of books can all be thrown in my bag, taken to the beach, read with a bar of chocolate by my side. They are lived with, not protected. I still think my Persephone books are gorgeous and I will still buy them but I am afraid they are not quite "me" as much as all my other books are. I am not sure what that says about me but there you have it. Do you love gorgeous editions or will any decent copy do?
After that little digression let's return to the other book I just finished. I read The Six--The Lives of the Mitford Sisters* by Laura Thompson. I always feel as if I know a lot about the Mitford Sisters and as if I have read all their books. That isn't true, I just have heard a lot about them and have been slowly collecting their books. I saw this book and thought it was time for me to actually learn a bit about their lives. I am not sure this book was the best place to start even though I found it very interesting. Thompson assumes you are familiar with the sisters and their various books. I had some very basic knowledge but frequently found myself a little confused about who was being discussed and I would have appreciated a bit more of an overview of their lives. Thompson also tended to jump back and forth through time. You would be reading along and it would be 1938 and the next thing you knew she would be discussing an event in 1952. She did her best to weave in the lives of all six sister. That must have been quite a challenge. In the process, I felt like I got a little about all of them but that a lot was glossed over.
That being said, I found the book fascinating. The sisters were talented, charming, baffling, beautiful, idiosyncratic, and frequently enigmas. I finished the book and set it aside with the conviction that I am not sure I would have liked them but that, at the same time, I now wanted to read more about them. Maybe that is part of their unending fascination. I have Mary S. Lovell's biography of them on my shelves and I have been thinking about buying the collection of their letters since it has been recommended by several people.
*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for review consideration. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the way in which my review was written. If I hate it I will tell you.