Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for March, 2022.
The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy – Sally Jay Gorce is a pink-haired American dilettante, exploring Paris on her rich uncle’s dime, breaking hearts and dabbling in being a stage actress. This story of a gaggle of American expats in the 1950s was supposed to be charming and funny, but I found it vaguely depressing. It may be that I took a hiatus from the book while traveling in Costa Rica (I don’t travel with hardcover books anymore) but it was heavy going for me.
The Fairy Tale Girl, by Susan Branch – The first volume of Susan Branch’s trilogy of memoirs focuses mostly on her marriage to her first husband, Cliff. I love Branch’s artwork and her life story is fascinating, but I’d have liked more about her California girlhood and less about the parade of red flags in her marriage. I know the point of the book was that she was young, naive, and didn’t value herself highly enough, but it made me sad.
Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams, by Susan Branch – The second volume of Branch’s memoirs begins when she has finally escaped her toxic marriage and flown across the country, on a whim, to Martha’s Vineyard. She buys a small, derelict cottage and builds a new life for herself. A lovely read.
The Robin: A Biography, by Stephen Moss – I just love Stephen Moss’s bird writing! In this, the first volume of a new series in which Moss turns his keen eye on one bird per book, the reader follows the English robin through an entire year in the life. It’s a mix of nature writing, social history, and total delight.
The Armourer’s House, by Rosemary Sutcliff – I couldn’t resist this pretty hardcover from new publisher Manderley Press, and the story was a joy. A young girl is sent to London to live with relations in Tudor times, where she finds fun and adventure with her cousins – perfect. There’s no one like Rosemary Sutcliff for fascinating historical detail, too.
Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte – A re-read for me (review coming soon for The Classics Club), I loved this novel just as much as the first time I read it. Bronte, a governess herself, exposes the upper classes with a clear-eyed glare. Anne is my favorite Bronte sister, and while I still love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall best, Agnes Grey is a triumph, of course.
English Climate: Wartime Stories, by Sylvia Townsend Warner – As with any volume of short stories, I liked some of these better than others. (From Above was by far my favorite, but I also enjoyed a story of a thrifty couple gleefully plotting their course of destruction in the event of an invasion by German troops.) Overall a really fun read.
Hons and Rebels, by Jessica Mitford – It’s been a very long time I’ve been meaning to read Jessica Mitford’s take on her famous family and oddball upbringing, and it didn’t disappoint. “Decca” was the most left-wing of the sisters, famous for eloping with Winston Churchill’s nephew to go fight in the Spanish Civil War. I loved her wry voice and her clear view of her famous family.
Before Lunch (Barsetshire #8), by Angela Thirkell – I really enjoyed this installment in Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire series. Before Lunch follows Jack Middleton and his wife, Catherine (I know!) as they welcome Jack’s widowed sister, Lilian Stonor, and her two adult stepchildren, Denis and Daphne. Denis is sensitive and musical and a little too delicate for Jack’s sensibilities, while Daphne is just a bit too hearty (yes, Jack is a bit of a Goldilocks). Naturally, romance and hijinks ensue. This one was a lot of fun, as with all Thirkells you never doubt that things will come right in the end, and there was no dated language – wins all around.
I felt like March was a bit of a wash, but nine books is respectable! And all really enjoyable – especially toward the latter end of the month, but I don’t think I could choose a highlight. If I started saying things like “any Thirkell is good fun” or “a visit to Tudor Britain can’t be bad” or “you have to love Jessica Mitford” I’ll just run through the entire month in books. So I’ll leave it there. I have plans for lots of garden reading in April, so here’s hoping that works out – both reading about gardens and reading in the garden.
What were your bookish highlights of March?