Saturday, 17 April 2010

Book worm: March 2010

In each monthly 'Book worm', I review all the books I have read the previous month, no matter how varied! I am looking forward to discovering what takes my attention in a year. Bit late with this post, and it will be split over two days as the printed word really caught my attention in March!

Every so often I do a grand second-hand bookshop trawl, looking for authors and editions that please me. The following was the result.

The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier.
My Uncle Silas, by H.E. Bates.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden.
Mandy annual, 1982.


The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier.
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1973.
First published by Victor Gollancz 1969.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit I had never come across Daphne du Maurier’s books before, but someone in blog-land (forgive me, I cannot remember who) mentioned them a while ago and since then it has been ticking in my brain that I had to read something from this author. So I pounced on this book, and scurried home to read with the same enthusiasm I had as a child with an Enid Blyton from the library.

The House on the Strand tells us about Richard Young, the publisher bored of his life with lively American wife Vita, and his two step-sons. He goes to Cornwall to stay in the house of his scientist friend, and experiments with a drug his friend is developing, a drug that takes him back as an unseen wanderer six-hundred years into the history of the house and the surrounding area. The dramas played out over the chilly fields of historic Cornwall embrace Richard, and draw him like a moth to a flame, for how can you fall in love with a time so long dead?

Oh I loved this book. The dualities of the two dramas enfold and overlap one another, and yet the historic tale is very much life as it was, and the modern world is very contemporary for its time. Both stories are equally compelling, and all the characters ring true. There is a love of language, a vividness of description, which makes me long to up sticks and move to Cornwall, to research bygone times, and, worrying, to stride around in a late 60s lounge-suit. I didn’t want it to end.

But sadly it did, abruptly, and I had to check I hadn’t missed a page. I won’t spoil it but it is a very enigmatic ending, and it’s left to the reader to summarise what had happened to the protagonist. I would have preferred a more definite clue as it feels very veiled, but this the beauty of it.

I am thrilled there are lots more books by Daphne du Maurier for me to discover!

My Uncle Silas, by H.E. Bates.
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1958.
First published by Jonathan Cape, 1939

The reason I picked up this book was two-fold. One - I recognised the cover illustration as being by the great illustrator Edward Ardizzone, and two – it tickled me in a way that good friend C would understand. I also had never read anything by H.E. Bates before, and decided that now was as good a time as any to begin.

Reading this book is like the equivalent of sitting with your back to a tree in a meadow, warm sun dappling through the branches, bird song in the air, and a cool glass of lemonade by your side. For some reason you are wearing a wide-brimmed hat but ignore that for now. It is a real comfort read, and even better is split into bite-size short stories, all about the rapscallion Uncle Silas.

Uncle Silas is a scoundrel, a bounder, a rascal in every way – and yet he is charming, with humorous tales that span nearly a century, from the ‘hungry forties’ in the nineteenth century to 1930. He is coaxed to tell his stories to his small great-nephew, and weaves fact and fantasy together in order to beguile and delight the youngster (and us). Although I found this book in a children’s section, I am not convinced it is a child’s book – some of Silas’ tales concern love and courtship, with hints of forbidden romps behind helpful haystacks. But they all delightfully describe the countryside of days past, and the many ways an elderly gentleman can still cause mischief in his twilight years.


Part two to come tomorrow, and a warm welcome to new followers! I am so excited to see you. Virtual hugs!


Anonymous said...

Jayne I do so like your reviewing style. I was grateful to be reminded of The House on the Strand which I first read 30 years ago and enjoyed very much. Might read it again as we are planning a trip to Cornwall.

I'm sure that My Uncle Silas was serialised for radio years ago and translated to audio very well. I agree that it is not a children's book.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Wow you made some great finds at that book shop! Thanks for the recommendations, they both sound wonderful. Daphne Dumarir (sp?) has always been one of my favorites. I need to revisit her novels.

Unknown said...

Oooo I love hearing about new books!!! Keep them coming!!!

Fran Hill said...

Du Maurier wrote short stories, too, one of them being 'The Birds' which Hitchcock made into a film. You must read the short stories, too.

Talli Roland said...

I haven't read these books, although I probably should!

Happy Saturday. Looking forward to part 2!

Unknown said...

You make me want to trawl through charity shops for hidden gems, but I'm so sold on these two books I don't think I could settle for anything less.
Your description of the HE Bates book in particular:
Reading this book is like the equivalent of sitting with your back to a tree in a meadow, warm sun dappling through the branches, bird song in the air, and a cool glass of lemonade by your side.
Give me my lemonade I'm away out to read!

Kit Courteney said...

Ooooooh, Jayne!

I've never read a Daphne du Maurier but I LOVE the cover and I love the write up! I am SO getting this book!

(Jealous about the Mandy annual.)

Linda said...


I love Daphne du Maurier and am currently reading her biography and her books in order (bit sad I know!)I'm not up to The House on the Strand but am fascinated by your review and can't wait to get to it now. Loved, My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman's Creek, The King's General and of course my all time fav Rebecca, but have found all of her books compelling even if the subject matter isn't one I would normally pick to read about. Have just finished reading Justine Picardie's "Daphne" which is excellent. Although a work of fiction it concentrates on the time when Daphne was writing her book on Bramwell Bronte so ties the Brontes' in as well as a strand which follows a modern day researcher tracing back Daphne to that time. An excellent read which I couldn't put down and can't recommend enough for anyone interested in her and her books.


Rose said...

I adore Rebecca by Daphne DM but for some reason have never read more- I think I don't want them not to be so good- I was so in love with Maxim- I still am really- so entranced, he's like Mr Rochester, mysterious but beguiling- actually thinking about it he is Mr Rochester and she is Jane Eyre- and I've never seen that before!

Jayne said...

Hello Christine. Thank you for telling me it works for you! I am trying not to spoiler the books for anyone else, but at the same time give them a fair hearing. I now have two more Du Maurier books waiting for me on my bookshelf – one is all about the mysteries of Cornwall. I picked it up when I was there over my birthday last year as I was interested in what the mysteries would be, without realising I’d enjoy the author elsewhere first! I bet the shop put My Uncle Silas in the children’s section because of the cover illustration...


Hi Karen. I am very particular about what editions I buy – I collect covers that please me, or like to get editions as near as possible to when they were originally released. It was a very successful book hunting day!


Hi Jen. Glad you liked them! Every month, they’ll be here. Or at least they should be if I get my reviews up in time!


Hi Fran. Oh that’s interesting, thank you for letting me know. I actually haven’t seen The Birds... actually the only Hitchcock’s I have seen are Psycho and Vertigo. I have so many things to rectify this year... so many things to look forward to discovering!

Jayne said...

Hi Talli. There are so many books out there I feel I should have read by now – this year I am trying to readdress the balance, and it has been wonderful discovering new authors to read. A happy Tuesday to you!


Hello Elaine. I am so glad you liked these reviews! Trawling through charity shops is my favourite thing in the world – in fact make that a charity bookshop which also sells china tea cups and it’s likely I’ll move in. Do look out for these two books, I think you will really like them. :)


Hi Kit. I urge you to read a Daphne Du Maurier! Actually I am a bit scared her next book won’t match up, but at least I know I have the wonderful Rebecca ahead of me somewhere. The Mandy annual review will now have to be tagged onto April as I didn’t get the cover scanned in time. Funnily enough I have quite a few Mandy annuals. I think you can guess why!

Jayne said...

Hi Linda. No – not sad at all! I can quite see myself doing something similar. It is so great to think I have these books ahead of me! I already have two of her books waiting on my bookshop – Rule Britannia (which I think is the last novel she wrote) and a non-fiction book, Vanishing Cornwall. Can’t wait to discover them, and of course one day there is Rebecca... I believe books come to you, not the other way around (unless I force the issue) so one day I will find Manderlay again (oh couldn’t resist!). Thank you for your recommendation of ‘Daphne’ – very interesting, will seek that out.


Hello Rose. I feel a bit like that – I have another two books by Du Maurier waiting to go but am scared I won’t like them as much... I should just plunge in. I can’t wait to read Rebecca though – the film was fantastic. I like your comparison... yes I’d agree, he definitely is like Mr Rochester!

Eni said...

Talking of being reminded of an Enid Blyton book in a library, I am glad to inform you that I have published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (
Stephen Isabirye