Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell revisited

I haven’t seen the TV series yet (I’ve been away from home; the recordings are waiting), but precisely because I’ve been away from home, I’ve had time to reread the 800pp door-stop boot-thumper novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004) that made Neil Gaiman mutter about Susanna Clarke taking to writing like a novice musician sitting … Continue reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell revisited

The stratagems of aristocratic survival, in Colette’s Julie de Carneilhan

This week's letter is C, and today’s author is Colette. Julie de Carneilhan was published in 1941, reprinted by Penguin in the 1950s in an English translation by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Apparently it was filmed in 1950, and in 1990. Leigh Fermor’s translation is over 60 years old now, as timeless as the novel itself, but also not modern; there’s … Continue reading The stratagems of aristocratic survival, in Colette’s Julie de Carneilhan

The loucheness of the conservative novelist: Angela Thirkell writes about camp

Here's an extract from my next book, due out in July. This bit is about how Angela Thirkell, that most proper and dictatorial enforcer of correct social behaviour in her novels from the 1930s to the 1950s, let herself go when chortling with the girls about sex.  Thirkell’s great lesbian creations of Miss Hampton and … Continue reading The loucheness of the conservative novelist: Angela Thirkell writes about camp

Policing the supernatural, with Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series

If you like the idea of a policeman who uses magic, give Ben Aaronovitch's series a try. If you loved Lindsey Davis's Falco, the Marlowe-channelling detective from Ancient Rome, but want something a bit more contemporary, Peter Grant is your man. If you like the idea of a series that references Harry Potter characters as … Continue reading Policing the supernatural, with Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series

Vintage knitting with Paton’s and Baldwins’ Woolcraft

This was one of my grandmother's knitting books. It dates from the later 1920s, and she kept it all her life, probably because she (her name was Kathleen Matthews, née Fare) was a countrywoman who made do and mended for her children, grand-children, nieces and nephews and half the village. She was certainly a fine knitter, … Continue reading Vintage knitting with Paton’s and Baldwins’ Woolcraft