Golden Moments #6

  • A brief walk in the woods on a cold, crisp, clear day. Even in the middle of winter, the woods are beautiful. Look at that tree trunk. Isn't it incredible?
  • Celia got new glasses and decided she looks "amazing." Since she is twelve and in the depths of twelve-year-old insecurities this was so nice to hear. We all need to admit a bit more often that we are just amazing. 
  • My parents celebrated fifty years of marriage. We had a party. Since the fiftieth anniversary is the golden anniversary this definitely counts as a golden moment. 
  • I took my son, who deals with a chronic health condition, to a new doctor. The doctor was optimistic and thinks she will be able to help him. There is light at the end of the tunnel. 
  • Remember when I wrote a post about my new leather journal? Portland Leather Goods makes leather tote bags as well. They are much more than I would usually spend but I have been stalking them online for months. A couple of weeks ago my perseverance paid off and I got one for 70 percent off. It was delivered last week and I love it. It is one of those things that will just get better with age. 
  • My husband and I went out for dinner by ourselves. I am pretty sure this has made it into other Golden Moments posts but we don't go out by ourselves very often so it is guaranteed to make an ordinary weekend feel a bit special. 
  • I successfully forced multiple books on my daughter this week and, so far, she has liked them all. Though I still can't convince her to read Little Women. I'm going to die trying. 
  • My grandmother, who regularly reads my blog (Hi Grandma!) is saving a book for me. She has read all my bookish rambling and thinks it is just the type of thing I will like. It is so sweet of her and I will report back about it. 
  • The perfect cup of tea in my favorite mug which I  drank while sitting in my favorite spot on the couch, the spot I usually have to fight for. I drank it while reading a favorite book of my childhood that I hadn't read in years. The house was quiet and the book was as good as I remembered. If that isn't a golden moment then I don't know what is.  

Books I Bought In London

tower bridge london

I bought seventeen books when I was in London. Which, purely by coincidence, is the same number of books I bought last time I was in London. I don't usually look for specific books. I just wander through any bookstore I come across and buy anything that catches my eye. When I have so many books that I am starting to worry about transporting them home I try to curtail my purchases. This is hard since even though I shouldn't buy any more books I continue to wander through bookstores. And if you can wander through a bookstore without wanting to purchase more books then you are a stronger person than I am.

I bought mainly non-fiction this time--eleven are non-fiction and six are fiction. Before I left for London I asked on Twitter for bookstore recommendations. I ended up with a list it would have taken me a month to work through. Mind you, I would have been happy to stay in London for a month but instead I will just have to go back to continue my bookstore quest.

Of course I went to Persephone Books. I refuse to visit London unless  I also visit Persephone Books. It is just so wonderful. I bought three books. They are House-Bound by Winifred Peck, They Knew Mr. Knight by Dorothy Whipple, and A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair.

persephone books

perephone books

I went to Waterstones a few times. I usually try to frequent more of the small, second-hand bookstores but we were there over Christmas week and many of them were closed. Plus, Waterstones is an excellent place to duck into when you are cold and your husband needs another cup of coffee. I bought four books there during the course of the week. The Diary of a Bookseller is the only one I was specifically looking for. I read a few rave reviews about it so knew it was a book I wanted to bring home. It is also the only book I have read so far and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Marches by Rory Stewart is one my husband found for me. Actually, he found it on a whole table of books about the U.K. countryside. I could have bought them all. He insisted I also buy Jane Austen's England. I wasn't going to but he said could I please just buy it right then because otherwise we would just have to return when I changed my mind. That man knows me very well. Letters From the Suitcase is the correspondence between a couple during WWII. Obviously, I was going to have to buy it. 

skoob books

skoob books

Skoob Books was a recommendation from someone on Twitter. We bought three books there. One is my husband's-something scientific about the way our brains work, one was a Penguin mystery for my mom to go with the Penguin Tote bag I bought her, and one was for me. It is Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy. I read The Feast by Kennedy last year and enjoyed it so I was happy to find another lovely Virago by her. 

books I bought

Any Amount of Books is a wonderful bookshop on Charing Cross Road. It is small and was jammed full of people sheltering from the rain and I loved it. So, thank you to the several people on Twitter who recommended it. The basement is full of bargains. I don't have any photos because it was so busy but here are the three books I bought. I read Watching the English a few years ago and wouldn't mind re-reading it. I was also pleased to find an Ivy Compton-Burnett. I read one of her books a few years ago and somehow how never gotten around to reading another. That will be remedied now. P. G. Wodehouse-A Life in Letters was reviewed on a blog recently (I can't remember which blog) so it seemed like a fortuitous find. Besides, I grew up on Wodehouse. 

Notting Hill

Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange

Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange

Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange was another Twitter recommendation. It was wonderful. I ended up having to cull my pile of books because this was an early stop in the week and I didn't want to buy too many books right away. I still bought six so you can imagine what my initial pile was like. I was particularly pleased to find the life of Charles Dickens since I read Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen a year or so ago and thought it was very well done. 

Books I bought

I am deeply regretting all the bookstores I didn't manage to get to. A few were closed. For example, we tried to go to Heywood Hill and I was very disappointed when we arrived and it was shut for the week. And as for the rest, we just ran out of time. I'll have to go back. Maybe with an extra suitcase and definitely with my very patient husband. 

Books In Common

I worked with someone new last week and we were doing the usual get-acquainted chat. The "how old are your kids?'' and "where do you live?" type thing. Somehow we ended up talking about what we like to do in our spare time. She said she likes to read.  Of course I asked what type of books she enjoys.

She looked at me with a slightly uncertain expression and said: "You have probably never heard of her but I really like Georgette Heyer."

Yes, I know. That was my reaction too.

What is it about finding you have a similar taste in books that immediately creates a bond with someone? Is it because books are so much a part of who we are? Is it because we hold the stories, the authors, the books close to our hearts? Maybe it is because the books, the authors,  are our friends and when others like our friends it makes us happy. Maybe it is because a love of reading is not as common as it used to be so finding someone else who loves books feels like a discovery.

I can have other things in common with someone and not feel the same bond that is created by a love of books. I have worked with people who have kids the same ages as mine, who like to travel, who watch the same tv shows. All those things are nice but it is the love of books and the interest in similar authors that makes me think "We could be friends." The other things are an indication of possible compatibility. A love of Georgette Heyer is almost a guarantee.

I was so thrilled to encounter someone else who had read Heyer that I came home and pulled one of her novels off my shelves. I haven't read Venetia in a long time and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I need to take an inventory of my Heyer novels and find out which ones I need to purchase in order to complete my collection. Plus, a few of them are particularly ugly editions and I wouldn't mind replacing those. Venetia is a prime example. It has a stereotypical Regency Romance cover and we all know a Heyer novel is not just a stereotypical Regency Romance. It is witty and clever and well-researched and well, just plain fun.

Do you have a lot of people in your life with whom you can discuss books? And, of even more importance, how do you feel about Georgette Heyer?



I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St. Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on when she refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they are looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said: "Then it's there." 
Helene Hanff wrote that in 84, Charing Cross Road and it is a quote that sums up my love for London in a way I can't really quite explain. Though, to be honest, I am not sure I have been to the England of my dreams until I cross the Atlantic on a ship and take a boat-train into London, preferably while wearing a full-skirted dress, wearing a hat, and carrying matching luggage.  In actuality, I arrived in leggings and an oversized sweater with a backpack on my back and ended up wheeling my suitcase through the Underground after finding out the Heathrow Express wasn't running on Christmas Eve even though we had been sold tickets for it. And then parts of the Underground weren't running because they were working on the lines. It took us a long time to get to our hotel.

london underground

But it didn't matter because we were in London and that was enough to make me happy. The weather wasn't perfect, it was December, but it was still better than the weather at home. Our kids, who were staying with their grandparents, kept telling us about the single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures they were having which made the days in the 40s seem downright warm. Anyway, I am not sure London really knew it was winter. We walked through the parks and saw things blooming. Imagine, a winter with bits of color still around. In New England, we won't see any possibility of a bloom for months more.

rain spotted rose


winter blooms

It was a quiet week which is what we wanted. We needed a break and some time to rest instead of a vacation where we ran from place to place. There was a lot of sitting in coffee shops and wandering through bookstores. In other words, it was pretty much perfect. I'll write a separate post about my book purchases.

london park

We came home and picked up the kids. They had a good time despite the weather and the cold Celia came down with. We jumped back into everyday life with a vengeance. But we had memories of quiet and peace and time together. I immediately started planning dream trips to Edinburgh and York and London. Always, London.

london kensington

london pretty door

Because London, the London I dream of, is there. The London of literature and history and gardens. The London of crowded Undergrounds trips and quiet parks. The London of cobbled streets and modern buildings. All of it will be waiting for me when I return.

london embankment winter fair

My Favorite Books of 2017

It was -3 F (-19 C) when my daughter went out to the bus this morning. That is just plain ridiculous. And have I ever mentioned that my husband works outside? He called me at lunchtime and, in his slightly understated way, said that yes, he was a bit chilly. They have been instructed to leave their trucks running all the time. He is going to be frozen solid by the time he gets home.

I, however, have one more day at home before I go back to my regular schedule. So, right now the house is filled with the scent of the gingerbread that just came out of the oven and I am surrounded by stacks of books. In other words, life is pretty good. I have the stack of books I am currently reading, the very large stack of books I bought on my vacation in London, and the stack of favorite books from 2017. The living room is being taken over by books which is just the way I like it.

I have mixed feelings about my reading over the last year. It was a rough year in many ways and I have issues with wasting a good book on a bad day. I know that theoretically, a good book can improve a bad day but I find that it just means I don't fully appreciate the good book. Since this year was filled with a lot of not-so-great days my book choices for the year are not as spectacular as I would like. That being said, I highly recommend all these books. They stood out from the many slightly mediocre books I read over the last year. As usual, re-reads are not allowed on this list. I will link to blog posts where I talked about these books but, also as usual, I don't do well at posting straight book reviews so many of these books were never mentioned at all even though they probably deserved blog posts of their own.

I started out the year on a high. Chatterton Square by E.H. Young was a wonderful book. I have read a number of her novels and have enjoyed all of them. This book about the interaction between two families who live on the square might possibly be my favorite. The quiet character development and incisive writing is a joy to read. I loved it so much I actually wrote a blog post about it here.

Bricks and Mortar by Helen Ashton is a Persephone book so I really don't think I need to say much more about it. Many of us know and love them. It follows the lives of one family from the 1890s through the next 40 years or so. A quiet, domestic novel but so much more as well. I want to pull it off the teetering pile and reread it right now. I do mention it in a post of mini-reviews here.

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a book I could not stop thinking about and for that reason alone it deserves a place on my list. The story of the Knapp family addresses a lot about society's expectations and the role of women in and out of the home. It was a book ahead of its time and one that is definitely worth reading. I had a lot to say about it here.

Letters From Constance by Mary Hocking is a book I did not write about but I kept meaning to if that counts for anything. Constance and her childhood friend Sheila promise to keep in touch after they leave school and they do so through letters for the next forty or more years. The book only has one half of the correspondence which leaves tantalizing gaps in the reader's knowledge of events. I found it enthralling and it made me determined to read more of Hocking's novels.

Minnie's Room by Mollie Panter-Downes is another Persephone book. I absolutely adore her One Fine Day so I was very excited to read this volume of her short stories. I don't think it was quite as strong as some of her others but I loved it and will be reading it again.

Samuel Pepys--The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin was recommended by someone on Instagram after I raved about Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen. I didn't know I was interested in Pepys until I read this. What a fascinating man. I stumbled across a multi-volume set of his diaries right after reading this and was only prevented from buying it by the fact that I couldn't carry it around Boston for the rest of the day. Tomalin does a fantastic job of packing this full of fascinating and very readable information. I have her biography of Charles Dickens waiting on the shelves for me.

On Writing by William Zinsser was originally loaned to me by my dad but I enjoyed it so much I went out and bought my own copy. He makes writing seem so accessible, so doable. This book is full of sticky notes to mark passages I particularly loved which is always a sign of a good book. My post about it is here.

Books about books are some of the best kinds of books. If that is your thing then read Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. Her love of books is a joy and you will find yourself nodding in agreement, thoroughly pleased to have met someone who loves books as much as you. My review of it is here.

Nella Last in the 1950s edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson is the last volume of Nella Last's diaries. I read the previous two volumes a number of years ago and I don't know why it took me so long to get around to this volume. I love her voice and have nothing but admiration for her writing. I quote a passage from her diaries here.

The Victorian House by Judith Flanders was an impulse purchase and I am so glad I gave in to that impulse. If you have ever wanted to know what it was like to live during Victorian times then this is the book to read. Questions it never occurred to you to wonder about will be answered. I believe she also wrote a book about the Victorian City and I want to read that soon. I wrote a review of The Victorian House here. 

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff was one of the last books I read in 2017 and it ended the year on a high note. It is yet another Persephone book and it entirely lived up to my expectations. It is the very simple story of the fortnight's holiday the Stevens family takes to the seaside at Bognor every year. To be honest, not much really happens but that is the beauty of the book. He takes ordinary, everyday people and makes them and their joys and worries real. Reading this book felt a bit like peeping through a window at a bygone era but, at the same time, the Stevens family was so alive. Read this. I loved it.

The last book on my list is A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell. I read it on my Kindle so it isn't included in the photo. I know a lot of bloggers read this last year but I only recently got around to it which is surprising since accounts of life in Britain during WWII are a bit of an addiction of mine. This was very well done. I recognized some of the passages as having been quoted in other books about the time period. It was heart-wrenching and well worth reading. I might possibly need to buy a physical copy which is something I tend to do for anything I read on my Kindle and think is particularly good.

So there you have it. My top twelve books of 2017. Have you read any of these? Do any sound like books you would like to read?