A Taste Of A Few Books

I always mean to write book reviews.  I have good intentions.  I read my books with a pad of sticky notes by my side and mark passages with abandon.  Somehow the reviews rarely get written.  If you look back at this blog you can see that I talk about books all the time but I seldom write an actual in-depth review. .

No, that was not leading up to a book review.

What it is leading up to is a collection of some of those passages I have marked with such enthusiasm.  Hopefully, they will give you a taste of the book and satisfy my need to make use of them, all at the same time.  Sometimes I mark things because they resonate with me but sometimes it is just because I like the way they sound.  I have said before that books can be their own kind of music.

I just finished Ancestral Voices by James Lees-Milne.  It is a volume of his diaries and a lot of it was about people and places totally unfamiliar to me but interspersed were some beautiful descriptions and wonderful sentences.  He talks about arriving at the house where

The dove is cooing, the lamps are bright, the toast is thick and the tea steams.

Don't you just want to go there now?  It creates such a picture in my mind. Then there is this observation.

It is sad how many people there are whose natural goodness can only be brought to light by persistent delving beneath an unpromising surface.  so often one has not the time, or energy or circumstance for the operation, and consequently a false impression of a person may remain with one for a lifetime.

Finally, how would you like this to be said of you?

I find after ten minutes talk he is the only person to whom I can say just everything.  His advice on all topics is invariably sound.  His integrity lies deep down, his humour perpetually bubbles on the surface.

Hostages To Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge is a Persephone book and Persephone books always make me happy.  This description of marriage made me laugh.

One was told that love was enough.  Catherine began to suspect that it was a much more secondary business than she had been led to imagine.  You didn't, she decided, start marriage hand in hand, as partners, comrades or any other cheering word which her generation was given to using.  On the contrary, you started at opposite sides of a dense, dark jungle, full of tangled creepers, tree-stumps, dark water-holes, snaky places, tigerish places, and places of sheer bog through which you had to fight your way to a meeting-place.  Or not, as you felt inclined.  

Here is one more.  I really liked this book and am now feeling the urge to pick it up again and read it straight through all over again.

Afterwards they would walk from bookshop to bookshop, and they knew them all, considering the books which, one day, they would buy.  The very look and smell of them was fascinating, their clean wrappers, the exciting reds, the sombre blues and rich browns.  There was a bookshop smell, too--a smell of old settled dust, watered down in layers, printer's ink, and a taint of glue.  They would stand close together, looking in through the window.

England Was An Island Once by Elswyth Thane is her memoirs of England in the years right before the Blitz.  I read it a while ago but just the other day I found a quote I wrote down in the back of my planner.  I must have liked it and written it on the nearest available piece of paper.

There is really nothing so sad as an old happiness.  Sorrow can ease over time, can be overlaid.  But the memory of an old delight, a single sunny hour that will not come the same again, grows sharper with the passing of time.

I started rereading Mansfield Park and then set it aside because I thought it was the perfect book to read on the airplane.  I like something familiar because I find it hard to concentrate on a plane.  Besides, it sounds appropriate to read Jane Austen on my way to England.  Here is one quote I liked though. Fanny is described as being

very happy in observing all that was new, and admiring all that was pretty.  She was not often invited to join in the conversation of others, nor did she desire it. Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.

 I used to pull all my sticky notes out when I was done with a book but I think I am going to start leaving them.  It will be interesting to compare what makes an impression on me the next time I read the book.


  1. These are lovely passages! I very rarely go back and think about the lines or paragraphs that I've noted down, but I really should I think.

    1. I must admit I have seldom done it in the past. However, I am discovering that I like flipping through my books and rereading the passages I have marked. I wish I had done a better job marking things I liked over the years.

  2. I have been very, very extravagant lately with buying books, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to find a copy of England Was An Island Once. And the James Lees-Milne is making me hungry for toast and tea :)

    If I haven't mentioned it yet, I am green with envy over your trip.

    1. That's what blogs do to you. They create a constant list of books that look interesting and somehow, the next thing you know, you have purchased them.

      If I remember correctly, you lived in England for a while. I am green with envy over that!