Category Archives: England

Elizabeth Jenkins : Dr. Gully’s Story

Elizabeth Jenkins was probably best known for her 1958 biography of Elizabeth the First, Elizabeth the Great, in which the New York Times said she achieved ‘ a psychological dimension to her portrait that other historians had scanted,’ but I, like most of us, missed it. I only came upon Elizabeth Jenkins through a review of The Tortoise and the Hare on Jacqui’s blog. She gives high praise to this novel which she likens to a modern take on Jane Austen. But I would add, a Jane Austen  who does not shrink from intimate details of life and marriage and with a wonderful sensibility for the workings of deceit and manipulation. Continue reading Elizabeth Jenkins : Dr. Gully’s Story

The Act of Roger Murgatroyd – Gilbert Adair

At this time of year, I find myself compiling long lists of aspirational reading (and the odd self-help book). I have twenty books on my list and another three I have started and put down. The recurring fear that I have permanently damaged my capacity to read by spending too much time on screens arises again. Was it only a few years ago when January was my month for reading a book a day? Perhaps it has something to do with the arrival of a highly entertaining grandson into our lives, so we spend more time playing, or perhaps it is the book fatigue that comes after a life spent lost in a book. Continue reading The Act of Roger Murgatroyd – Gilbert Adair

Simon Brett – English Crime

This week I have taken a break from literary reading and dived into the world of crime via the writing of Simon Brett. In case you’ve never heard of him you will be reassured to know he has first class degree in English from Oxford and has worked as a TV producer and writer for the BBC. He wrote sitcoms like After Henry and Smelling of Roses. He has written plays for stage and radio and has even written a four-part radio series about a middle-aged Nigel Molesworth. (I’d love to hear this one.) Continue reading Simon Brett – English Crime

Angus Wilson – Anglo Saxon Attitudes

The epigraph to Angus Wilson’s book is taken from Alice Through the Looking Glass

‘What curious attitudes he goes into!’

‘Not at all,’ said the King. ‘ He’s an Anglo-Saxon Messenger – and those are Anglo-Saxon attitudes. He only does them when he’s happy.’

And what a curious world this book reveals. As well as a pre-first World War (possible) archeological hoax dating back to Anglo Saxon times, Wilson’s subject is post second World War life in Britain on many social levels, with characters ranging from academics to working class petty criminals. It is largely concerned with how to live. Or rather, how to live a good life according to one’s ethics, and also, how to be happy. Continue reading Angus Wilson – Anglo Saxon Attitudes

M. John Harrison – The Sunken Land Begins to Rise again




….Meanwhile there was coming and going on the stairs, especially at night. Voices were raised. Two in the morning, someone dropped a heavy object on the landing, while downstairs someone else leaned on the bell-push or shouted indistinctly from the street. Next door’s sash window, its frame warped by years of river fog, slid up with a long grunting sound. Next day Shaw might glimpse a figure making its way quickly across the landing to the communal bathroom, which it occupied for longer than a normal person; afterwards there was a smell in there. (p 9-10) Continue reading M. John Harrison – The Sunken Land Begins to Rise again

J L Carr – A Month in the Country


Last week we wrote about two elderly Swedish men, working together, trying to do a job in between drinks and reminiscences of life.

This week we have another novella with two men working side by side on projects for which they are well qualified. The difference is these two men are young, in their twenties, and both suffering trauma following their involvement in World War 1. Continue reading J L Carr – A Month in the Country