2016: 74.-77.  British Book Backlog

 I spent a marvelous three and a half weeks at my family’s place in Maine, enojoying the weather, the lobster, the free babysitting, the water, the way life should be.  And because I abdicated my children to my parents (and because of an irritating wound that is slowing me down a bit), I read so many books.  AND, thank to the annual 4th of July Bath Maine book sale, I BOUGHT so many books.  Like 150 for $100.  Again, the way life should be.  But as a result (and as a result of dragging my laptop up North and never opening it!) I am so so, far behing on this blog. So expect a few massive posts until I pull my head underwater.

I’m starting with four book that are all generally under the rubric of genteel Bristish subjects.  One is one of my favorite books of all time, one is non-fiction, one a mystery, one a gentle romance.  All are worth your time, especially if you seek escapist fiction.  (If the 1920’s and 30’s in England don’t work escapism for you, then you are out of luck, I guess.).  So without further adieu…


Wimsey-Vane.  On the 8th of October, as St. Cross Church, Oxford, Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, second son of the late Gerald Mortimer Bredon Wimsey, 15th Duke of Denver, to Harriet Deborah Vane, only daughter of the late Henry Vane, M.D. of Great Pagford, Herts.

74. Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy Sayers

This is the last Peter Wimsey novel written by Dorothy Sayers (there is a reasonably respectable series of continuing novels written by Jill Patton Walsh).  And it is one of my favorite books.  in fact, I bought it at the booksale, even though I’m pretty sure I have at least two other copies, merely because I wanted to read it right away.  Although, I did notice some period appropriate anti-Semitism this time, which really bummed me out, especially cause I just recommended to a good friend with no warning.  But unpleasantness aside, this is a love story with a bit of murder thrown in - in other words, it’s the one where Peter and Harriet finally get married.  Read at least Gaudy Night first, so you will be as invested in the relationship as you can, and then just delight in their honeymoon, interrupted by  murder.  Love story, real realtionship issues to figure out, a decent murder, and delightful Peter and Harriet.  

"Blank.  There is no entry in my mother’s engagement book for 31 March 1920, the day I was born."

75. Wait for Me! Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire

Another Mitford girl book, this a memoir by the youngest daughter, Debo, who later became the Duchess of Devonshire.  It was a very charming (and pretty disarming) memoir, even if you aren’t steeped in Mitfordania, and it captures an interesting chunk of English history (albeit from a pretty elevated view).  The beginning, giving Debo’s viewpoint growing up as the youngest Mitford, and explaining her relationships with the whole brood is a total delight - so fascinating to hear things from her point of view and to hear her describe her realtionship with her tumultuos sisters.  Next we turn to the relationships with various famous people - including the Kennedy family, as the oldest Kennedy sister, Kick, was married to her husband’s brother (i.e. they were sisters-in-law).  Kick was widowed during the war, and died young herself in a terrible plane crash, but Debo remained close to the family - attending JFK’s inauguration and funeral.  Finally she writes about her and her husband sweated to keep Chatsworth, one of the grandest homes in England a growing proposition.  It is now one of the most popular tourist sites in the country - but still owned by the family, and much of that can be placed at Debo’s feet.

So, a charming work, with at least three threads I found fascinating (even if I yawned a bit at the description of all the other homes these people owned), and Debo herself has a quite charming authorial voice.  Highly recommend (and thank to my friend Nora for recommending it to me!!)

A curlew, winging its way across Southern Scotland, would see the little town of Beilford as a handful of gray pebbles cast down on the banks of the river Beil.

76. The Baker’s Daughter, D.E. Stevenson

The latest Stevenson reprint, the story is about Sue Pringle, a sweet by simple Scottish lass who falls in love with her employer, the painter John Darnay.  She is his housekeeper, and would do anything for him.  Alas, he has a scheming wife, Sue’s family worries about her reputation - will true love ever blossom?

So, duh it does (and respectably, too, if you don’t count a divorce as unrespectable).  This is not my favorite Stevenson - a little too Oh Mr Rochester - and Sue doesn’t have the backbone of Jane Eyre.  It was a breezy read, but just a little too romantic fiction-y for me, without the comic elements of Miss Buncle’s Book.  For Stevenson fans, or people who want to read romances in a trade paperback cover. 

"It was a little over seven on a summer morning, and William Potticary was taking his accustomed way over the short down grass of the cliff-top."

77. A Shilling for Candles, Josephine Tey

Another Tey, this one concerning an actress, found drowned after her morning swim.  It quickly turns out to be murder, and Inspector Alan Grant is on the case. The characters are delightful, there is a budding romance, a suspicious young man, the acting scene, etc.  And a victim you actually feel sorry for, which is a nice change in detective fiction.  The solution to the crime is a bit out of left field (not a main suspect), but if you like Golden Age Mystery fiction you can’t help but enjoy this one.

So, as I said, four breezy British reads. Pick up a cuppa and enjoy!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017