World Book Day

One of the biggest losses for me on moving to senior school was World Book Day. Dressing up as your favourite character on a school day is a license to free your imagination and strip away your social inhibitions. Granted, as a pre-teen I had very few social inhibitions; I was a free-spirited tomboy who… Continue reading World Book Day


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

I was introduced properly to Charles Dickens when I was twelve in a classroom directly beneath the sports hall cum theatre and which shared a corridor with two of my three favourite places in the school: the tiny one-room library and the stationery cupboard. One of the original Arthur Rackham illustrations for A Christmas Carol… Continue reading It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Doom and gloom in 1960s London

trafalgar square black and white

Youth by J.M.Coetzee Where to begin with J.M. Coetzee’s Youth. Rarely have I felt such conflicting feelings about a book. Gloomy would be one way to describe it; cerebral another. Intelligent, insightful and virtuosic? Definitely. Pretentious? I only found out after finishing that Youthis the second instalment of the South African author’s fictionalised memoir, making it Scenes from… Continue reading Doom and gloom in 1960s London

I’m off to the bookshop


The vast majority of my disposable income is swiftly swapped for paperbacks and old classics in my local bookshops. I buy more books than I do pints of milk, most of them secondhand these days (the books not the milk...). That way, I can spend a tenner not on just one crisp and shelf-new paperback,… Continue reading I’m off to the bookshop

Visiting post-war France with William Maxwell

paris window

To say that very little happens in William Maxwell's The Château would be to over-estimate its drama. But that doesn't matter. Maxwell's book is principally concerned with the characters, sculpted slowly and deliberately over hundreds of pages. The writer does not make any concessions for the patience of the reader and though I might have… Continue reading Visiting post-war France with William Maxwell

The more things change…

smokey self-portrait

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. For a long time I didn't really understand this quote, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and meaning the more things change, the more things stay the same. Honestly, I still don't think I do, but it has a ring of truth? credence? awareness? about it, particularly when… Continue reading The more things change…

Reading Recommendations


I am ending the year in the same way as it began: by the fire with a book. There is no question that I have done more reading than anything else this year. I have always been a voracious reader, greedy for fantasy escapism early on, then historical fiction and more recently finding a home… Continue reading Reading Recommendations