New Acquisitions

newbooks

Remember when I talked smugly about how easy I found it to get rid of my books when I moved back to my mum’s? Remember that I said I was going to be sticking to a one in-one out rule from now on? Well. I think we all knew how that was really going to turn out.

A few weeks ago I went to a wonderful study day at the V&A on the subject of the pre war artist Eric Ravilious. The talks were fascinating, and I left feeling so much more knowledgeable about pre war British art and the circle surrounding Ravilious. I love Ravilious’ paintings, which are so effervescent and yet so intriguingly subversive. At first they seem so cheerful, so colourful, so 1930s…and yet on closer inspection, the inclusion of often incongruous elements amidst his pastoral landscapes makes you stop and think again about the true message he is trying to relay. His paintings convey the sense of uncertainty of the period in which he was living, and the more I learn about him, the more intrigued and admiring I become. I couldn’t resist, therefore, picking up another beautifully illustrated edition of his paintings by James Russell from the V&A shop. This volume focuses on his travels across the UK and France in search of suitable painting locations, and every page is a delight! If you’re after a special Christmas present, this would be a great one to put on your list.

During the talks on Ravilious, James Russell discussed how Ravilious and his artist friends, such as John Piper and Edward Bawden, were products of the 1930s boom in the domestic tourist industry, taking great pleasure in exploring the country widely in order to find picturesque painting spots. Cars had become plentiful and much more affordable for ordinary people, and the road network had expanded accordingly. With this increased accessibility to the countryside came an enthusiasm for exploring and appreciating the British landscape. The production of a range of books and travel guides on the country for the intrepid tourist fuelled this interest amongst ordinary folk, and one of the most famous of these was H V Morton’s book, In Search of England, which documented the author’s road trip through the highways and byways of England. Listening to the talk, I imagined Ravilious sitting on a little stool on the edge of the South Downs, painting the scenery with a copy of one of these guides in his pocket. I have no idea whether he read In Search of England, but I was intrigued to see what H V Morton had to say about an England that must have changed beyond recognition in the last 90 or so years, so I duly ordered myself a copy.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but just from the gorgeous dustjacket, I know I’m in for a treat!

books

All this absorption in the 1930s has made me hanker for a bit of Nancy Mitford, and when I spotted a lovely old Penguin paperback of Pigeon Pie, a Mitford I’ve never read, I couldn’t resist. The literature of the 1930s is such a fascinating mix; the sort of domestic cosy fiction of Persephone, high modernism of the Virginia Woolf type, and the Bright Young Things, sharp tongued wit of the aristocratic writers like Mitford and Waugh all echo such different sides of a decade that is criminally overlooked. While some were busy touring the countryside, others were living it up in the Cafe de Paris, and it’s good to explore more than one side of the story! As soon as I break up for the Christmas holidays, I am looking forward to curling up and enjoying a Mitford-fest; I have Christmas Pudding to get stuck into, too!

Another book I am looking forward to curling up with over Christmas is Wilkie Collins’ Armadale. I love a bit of Victorian sensation fiction, but it’s incredibly hard to find in second hand book shops for some reason, unless you want a copy of East Lynne, which is ten a penny! I had a sensation fiction fest a couple of years ago, but haven’t touched any since, so I was delighted when I spotted a copy of Armadale on the £1 shelf at my favourite book shop. Many people say its villainess, Lydia Gwilt, is Collins’ finest character, so I’m intrigued to read all about her!

Last but not least on my pile is Wives and Stunners, a biography of the women behind the pre Raphaelite movement, by Henrietta Garnett, grandniece of Virginia Woolf. I acquired this after seeing the Pre Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate, which I mainly enjoyed for the incredible Burne-Jones paintings. The more I learn about the pre-Raphaelites, the more fascinated I become by their complicated, rather dramatic lives. However, I don’t know much about the wives and muses of the men behind the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, and I think this book will serve as a very good place to start. If I don’t have too much marking to do over the Christmas holidays, hopefully I’ll have time to immerse myself in this as well!

36 comments

  1. Rachel, Love your ‘In Search of England’ cover. I have two coverless copies, (eighth and twenty six editions) acquired twelve months apart at different bring-and-buy’s and what was for me a serendipity moment was when I saw that the name on one of the flyleaves was the grandfather of a family that my family vacationed with every summer at Geneva Park, Muskoka. Seasons Greeting Everyone!

  2. I love Eric Ravilious and have many postcards of his work. I saw a glorious book in Alfriston bookshop Much Ado and never bought it. Now I am sorry. Our second hand shops are really disappointing but they do have loads of H V Morton. Have you ever seen The Silent Traveller in London written by Chiang Yee. These books are wonderful. Chiang Yee (Chinese: 蒋彝, Pinyin: Jiǎng Yí, Wade-Giles: Chiang Yee) (May 19, 1903 – October 26, 1977), self-styled as “The Silent Traveller”, was a Chinese poet, author, painter and calligrapher. Do look out for them. I picked up a few in second hand shops.

  3. Hi Rachel, the Morton caught my eye as I am reading all his books (but I’m a bit behind on the reviews, oops!). He’s got this very readable but unusual style that is half reporting and half wild exaggeration which is entertaining and moving by turns. I’ll be interested to see what you make of him.🙂

  4. What lovely books Rachel! I have several Mortons on my tbr but alas none with dustjackets – yours looks lovely! I thin Alex is spot on with her assessment of him, and I do find his books very enjoyable. I have the same Mitford on my shelf too – maybe the Christmas break would be a good time to read her!

    1. Thanks Kaggsy! It is a gorgeous copy, isn’t it? I can’t believe so many people have his book knocking around – I feel like I’ve been missing out! Oh you must read the Mitford – I can’t wait!

  5. Wow, there are some lovely finds here. I love Armadale – Lydia Gwilt doesn’t turn up until about 200 pages in but when she does appear the book really takes off. She’s one of the great creations of Victorian fiction – beautiful, devious, clever and manipulative but always touchingly human. No matter what dubious things she gets up to you always secrectly find yourself rooting for her. Also anything to do with the pre-Raphaelites gets my vote, as does anything to do with Ravilious. Lovely finds all! You have some real treats in store.

  6. Thank you for your lovely posts – I always learn so much – writers I am not familiar with and now painters! I had not heard of Ravilious, but see that I will have to make up for my lack of education about him. Thanks so much. Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!

    1. Thanks Lori, what a lovely thing to say! I’m so delighted that I have introduced you to Ravilious – I am sure you will love him. Thank you – the same to you!🙂

  7. I’ve just finished reading Christmas Pudding so look forward to reading your thoughts on it. Enjoy the last two weeks of term.

  8. Oh I love the look of the Nancy Mitford; I have been meaning to buy Pigeon Pie for ages, but I have only really found it on the Internet and that lacks the romance of actually buying it from a bookshop. Like you, I too am longing for the Christmas holidays and hoping I will get many opportunities to disappear into a good book, although I fear marking might play a large part of my time away from school!

    1. I bought mine from the internet! So you can too! Oh tell me about it – I have so much marking on my desk…I think ignoring it will make it go away!! I hope you will get some time for you over Christmas to immerse yourself in a lovely book.

  9. What wondrous finds, Rachel. You know, I didn’t know of Ravilious until you first started writing about him and incorporated him onto your blog as your banner. I’ve been entranced ever since. The Mitford sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

    1. I’m so pleased to hear I’ve made a Ravilious fan out of you, Penny – isn’t he marvellous? Yes it does – I wish I had time to read it immediately but alas…marking beckons!!

  10. I knew that would be coming back to bite you. I have made and broken that same resolution at least a hundred times. But book lovers wouldn’t be book lovers if there weren’t always one or two books on their radar that they just ‘had’ to have.

  11. I love your comments here about 1930s literature. Thinking about its range of authors makes it obvious that yes, it is a criminally overlooked decade. Now I think I’ll have to try to quickly order a used copy of Christmas Pudding in time to read it over the holidays.

    1. Thanks! I think really it’s a very untapped period in history. There’s a lot to dig out yet! I hope you can get a copy in time – it will be lovely to curl up with on a cold night in front of the fire!

  12. Oooh I know what Santa is bringing me – The Complete Works of Nancy Mitford all in one book. Hello summer reading. I can not wait. I am very very excited.

  13. I am really looking forward to finding out how you get on with Christmas Pudding, Rachel. If you end up really enjoying it I will chalk up my lukewarm experience to simply not being in the right mood for it. You have some lovely books to get cosy with over the holidays!
    Oh, and an order went in the other day for ‘Loving’…you are nothing but trouble and I have no idea why I even read your blog.

    1. I hope I will enjoy it Darlene – I trust your judgement entirely though!🙂 Oh brilliant – you won’t regret it! You know you love it really…what price is reading pleasure?!?🙂

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