Tuesday Miscellany

Is there anyone out there who isn’t taking part in Persephone Reading Week hosted by Verity and Claire?! I certainly am, and have plenty of wonderful worlds wrapped in dove grey endpapers available for me to choose from my pile (ahem…bookcase) of unread books this week. Yesterday was May Day Bank Holiday so I went out on a crazy limb and started a Persephone even though I haven’t finished my current read, the marvellous, intriguing and addictive The Maestro’s Voice, that I am spinning out for far longer than I would usually because I can’t bear for it to end. Review forthcoming.

After much umming and aaahing over my unread pile of Persephones yesterday, I plumped for House-Bound, which my lovely Daddy chose for me for Christmas. Mostly all of my Persephones have been bought for me by my father; he secretly loves browsing the Persephone website and chooses me books from a list of ones I don’t have so I get a surprise book every birthday and Christmas. I was initially a bit disappointed that I got this over High Wages but after devouring a third of it yesterday afternoon whilst reclining indulgently on the sofa with tea and cake, rejoicing that it was a Monday and I wasn’t at work (hoorah!), I absolutely fell in love with it, and I can’t wait to get home tonight and read more!

House-Bound is about a well to do middle aged Scottish woman, Rose Fairlaw, who lives in a large house and is struggling to find domestic help due to the war and her maids wanting to do something more useful for the war effort. While waiting in the endless queue at the domestic help agency, Rose hears the agency woman declare that millions of women run their own homes without help, and it’s about time some of these helpless middle aged women who have never lifted a finger in their lives started to do the same. Ashamed by her own uselessness and inability to even cook a meal for herself, Rose determines that she will do without help and run her own home, much to the shock and consternation of her friends and relatives. I laughed out loud when her friend Linda says that Rose and her husband will have to move into a hotel rather than do without domestic help – the ridiculousness of it all made me realise just how different our lives have become over just one or two generations. My own grandmother was farmed out at the age of 13 to go into service, and only managed to escape this drudgery, which she hated, because of the war, when she was free to go off and join the WRAF.  I can’t imagine a life like that now, but for many, it’s still in living memory, and the helplessness of Rose in the face of running a house the same size as my mother’s without a staff of maids and cook and handyman etc is both shocking and charming. Its authenticity in describing the attitudes and lifestyles of the upper middle classes in the early 20th century is something you just can’t find in modern novels that attempt to recreate the period, and as much as I disagree with the way Rose and her friends seem to think they are entitled to being waited upon by others less fortunate than themselves, I can understand that they were just the product of their time. In reality, the women who fell foul of the system and ended up having to cope in a world that no longer catered for the way they had been brought up, and left them floundering without the skills to survive daily life, were just as much victims as the women they used to employ.

There’s also plenty of interesting undertones of family unrest and the relationships between children and parents and husbands and wives…I can’t wait to delve deeper into the history of the Fairlaw family, and to discover how Rose gets on managing her house alone. I will come back with further thoughts when I’ve finished!

In other news it’s my gorgeous and much adored nephew Freddie’s first birthday today. My tiny, dark haired, dark eyed older sister has managed to give birth to two strapping golden haired, blue eyed boys, and you can see the darling Freddie below. Also, today we have our V&A WI meeting, and I am quivering with excitement as I invited the lovely Jane Brocket to speak to us, and I can’t wait to meet her!

35 comments

  1. Freddie is such a sweetie – Happy Birthday to him! I’m glad that you’re enjoying House-bound too. And Jane Brocket coming to talk to your WI – what could be a more appropriate author to hear in a week of reading domesticy novels – in fact her book the Gentle Art of Domesticity mentions the Persephone imprint and has a couple of pictures of those lovely grey jackets.

    1. Thank you! He really is the most lovely little baby, but then his brother is the best three year old too, so I am very lucky! I would LOVE to read the Gentle Art of Domesticity – Jane very kindly gave me a copy of her new quilt book which is gorgeous so I am now anxious to read the Domesticity one!

  2. I love that your “lovely Daddy” chooses your Persephones and takes joy in doing so!

    It certainly seems as if everyone is participating in Persephone Reading Week…

    Happy 1st Birthday to Freddie! Isn’t he precious?! Somehow my nephews (through the boy) are golden-haired too… Genetics, huh?

    1. I know, he’s so sweet! I haven’t induced him to read one yet but you never know!

      Thank you – he is such a gorgeous child and I love giving him cuddles and kisses! It’s strange, isn’t it? They both have their dad’s colouring, though you’d think the darker hair and eyes would win out…makes me wonder what mine will end up looking like!

  3. This sounds irresistible – and luckily I own it, so I won’t have to resist!

    My family are the opposite of yours… every year I give them a list of Persephone books I want, and every year they ignore it. Tsk.

  4. Look at those eyes! I can relate to your sister…both my daughters have my husband’s features including eye color…but they both have my love for books (he doesn’t touch them)…so I suppose it is a trade off:) Your dad is awesome…when I mention Persephone to family members I get nothing but blank looks.

    1. Aren’t they heavenly! I think both boys have definitely got my sister’s personality so she has had an input somewhere! I know, he’s fabulous – he’s an excellent present buyer, I have to say!

    1. I know, I love it! I can always guarantee I won’t run out of Persephones this way, and I don’t have to buy them myself! I think you’d really enjoy this book JoAnn – I’m loving it as I get further in. Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  5. Oh, so envious that you have Jane Brocket coming to talk to your WI tonight! Her Gentle Art of Domesticity book is my bible – love how she applies the domestic lens to everything from art to books to craft. How divine is Freddie!

    1. She was fabulous! Will blog in more detail later. I would love to read The Gentle Art of Domesticity – I went to find it in my local Waterstone’s at the weekend but they didn’t have it, and I was most disappointed. Now I’ve met the lovely Jane I want to read it even more! Thank you – he is indeed a divine little cherub of a child!

  6. What a brilliant review! I have House-Bound but haven’t read it yet. I’m now very much looking forward to when I start it. I heard Jane Brocket give a talk at a Persephone Lunch – she was superb! I’m taking part in the Persephone Reading Week myself – my choice is Mariana.

    1. Thanks! I am excited to delve deeper into the story as there is much more to it than meets the eye…Jane was fantastic and I will be blogging about her talk soon. I have had Mariana for ages and haven’t read it – I look forward to your review!

  7. Freddie has the best expression on his face!! I may be the one person not participating in the Persephone Week. I’ve just finished one (non P) book and begun another (non P book) so P. books must wait a bit. I so envy your WI (as I mentioned another time) – and what a special guest!! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

    1. Doesn’t he?! That’s his ‘why are you pointing that thing in my face?!’ expression! Oh I’m sad you’re not participating but I will be happy to read your thoughts on Persephone Books any time! It was so brilliant last night – I will be blogging about it shortly, I promise!

  8. Happy birthday to Freddie – he’s adorable! This book has been on my list for ages. I didn’t realize it was a Persephone until now, or I’d have stopped wondering why my library didn’t have it. It sounds great though! One day I shall read it!

    1. Thank you! I hope you get to read House Bound soon, it’s well worth it – an interesting and thought provoking read whilst being entertaining.

  9. All right, so I have to ask, what is a WI meeting? I’m sometimes on the wrong end of the learning curve, but I eventually catch up.🙂 House Bound was my Persephone book that I chose for Persephone Week last year and though I was enjoying it I’m sorry to say I didn’t finish it–the victim of too much going on in life and too many books and not enough time to read them all. You tempt me to pull it back out, but I am working on Someone at a Distance, so will resist. By the way–am enjoying the Whipple book very much. And that is a very handsome nephew by the way!

    1. Oh, sorry Danielle! I shouldn’t assume everyone knows! It stands for Women’s Institute. I’m not sure if it exists in the US, but it’s a very traditional British institution and pretty much solely referred to as the ‘WI’.

      Oh that’s a shame, Danielle! I would have loved to read your thoughts on House-Bound. Do you think you might pick it back up some time soon? I am so glad to hear you’re loving the Whipple – isn’t is spectacular! The first of many, I hope!

      Thank you – he is gorgeous, isn’t he?

  10. Oh Rachel, Freddie is adorable and I’m sure his brother is equally so!

    I wish that I could teleport myself to your WI meeting, it would be wonderful to meet Jane Brocket, you, enjoy lively conversation and of course…cake! Looking forward to reading more about House-Bound, this title needs to go on my next order.

    And the image of your Dad scrolling through book titles on the Persephone website….priceless *sniff*.

    1. Thank you Darlene! George is also adorable – it’s just too much sometimes!

      Oh you would have loved it last night, Darlene – I wish you could have been there! We had a wonderful time and I baked a cake that went down a treat!

      You are so sweet and funny! My dad is so cute…that’s where his grandsons get it from!

  11. What a beautiful fredder nephew Freddie is! This books sounds terrific. I am loving all of your books and my to be read list is growing by leaps and bounds!

  12. Your nephew is gorgeous! What beautiful blue eyes! I haven’t read House-Bound but it sounds wonderful. Yet another Persephone to add to my wishlist.

    1. Thank you! He is such a handsome boy – he’ll be a heartbreaker, I predict! I think you would really enjoy House-Bound so make sure it’s in your next order!

    1. Isn’t he just?! Look at us proud Aunties!

      Looking forward to your thoughts on House-Bound…I predict you will be as outraged yet charmed as me.

  13. That book sounds fantastic and reminds me of the last episodes of Upstairs Downstairs so it is an automatic add. He the idea of people moving into hotels to live always makes me laugh (also was addicted to The Grand for some time). Hotels now can’t get you out fast enough, imagine is someone wanted to live in one!

    1. You will enjoy it, I’m sure! I know – I’d hate to live in a hotel, but clearly having people wait on you night and day was impossible to live without back in the early 20th century!

  14. House-Bound wasn’t one of the novels on my list of must-buy books, but after Persephone Reading Week, it really is!

    Freddie is adorable. I have a 4 month old nephew and I’m constantly amazed to see my sister’s expressions on somebody else’s face. It’s brilliant, isn’t it?

    1. I’m glad it is now Kate!

      Thank you – he is such a gorgeous child! I love being an Aunt – it’s wonderful isn’t it?! Freddie looks just like my sister so I feel like I am experiencing what she must have been like as a baby!

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