Jamaica Inn

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Read 20/07/2021-03/08/2021

Rating 5 stars

Jamaica Inn is almost as famous a novel as author Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s the novel that established du Maurier’s reputation and the author drew on the Cornish landscape and history she knew so well. Set at a similar time to the last book I read, Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, it concerns coastal life in a very different landscape to rural Shropshire, but captures the same flaws in human nature as are found in Webb’s book. Continue reading

Precious Bane

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Read 29/06/2021-21/07/2021

Rating 5 stars

For my third summer read, I headed to Shropshire with Mary Webb’s novel Precious Bane. There’s an excellent preface in the Virago Modern Classic edition that I bought from Well-Read Books in Wigtown. Written by Michelene Wandor, it gives a feminist context for the book, describing a little of Webb’s life alongside the history that surrounds her character Prue Sarn’s 19th century existence. Although set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Wandor tells us that “national events appear to be outside the concern of the isolated, rural and largely illiterate community” and “the backdrop to Prue’s story is the three centuries of intense and virulent witch-hunting all over Europe.” Continue reading

Frankenstein Unbound

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Read 10/06/2021-28/06/2021

Rating 4 stars

My second read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss. I’ve known Aldiss’s name in relation to science fiction for a while but never read anything by him. I picked this novel up in Bookmark, a second hand bookshop in Falmouth, drawn by its cover art.

It is simultaneously, as with most science fiction, a reflection on concerns about the contemporaneous era, and a projection of where current science might lead. It is also a meditation on Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Continue reading

Cornish Short Stories: A collection of contemporary Cornish writing

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Read 01/06/2021-09/06/2021

Rating 4 stars

My first read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, is a collection of contemporary short stories by Cornish writers. It arose from a Falmouth literature event called Telltales, where the book’s editors, Emma Timpany and Felicity Notley, met Nicola Guy, an editor with The History Press, and an anthology was born (http://www.cornishshortstories.org.uk/). Continue reading

The Life of Rebecca Jones

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Read 28/03/2021-30/03/2021

Rating 5 stars

Angharad Price’s novel The Life of Rebecca Jones is a fictionalised memoir born of family documents and photographs, some of which appear in the text. It’s a clever and affecting book that paints a picture of farming life in the Maesglasau valley in Merioneth across the 20th century. Written in Welsh, the original novel has the title O! Tyn y Gorchudd, which can be translated as O! Pull Aside the Veil. I read Lloyd Jones’s excellent translation into English. Continue reading

The Owl Service

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First read 1982/3

Re-read 21/03/2021- 27/03/2021

Rating 3 stars

Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is set in a Welsh valley not far from Aberystwyth. The valley contains an ancient, mysterious power. Teenagers Alison, Gwyn and Roger somehow unlock that power and have to deal with the consequences. Continue reading

A Glastonbury Romance

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Read 01/03/2021-14/03/2021

Rating 4 stars

A Glastonbury Romance is an incredible piece of literature. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. It rambles and gets bogged down in verbiage at times, but it also soars. I was utterly absorbed and entertained by it. The story examines the nature and meaning of life on Earth through the peccadilloes of its characters and John Cowper Powys’s commentary on various philosophical ideas, from religion to politics via environmentalism. I think it portrays human nature honestly, for the most part, but also reveals that Powys at best didn’t understand women, and at worst was a chauvinist. Continue reading