11th December

Clare Mallory was a New Zealander who wrote books for children and teenagers in the 1940s and 1950s.  I came across her books fairly recently and immediately enjoyed them.  Many of them are school stories but the schools tend to be much more relaxed than their British contemporaries although they do have much in common. My favourite of Clare Mallory’s novels is Juliet Overseas.  It concerns a girl who is sent halfway around the world to attend her mother’s old school in England.  In a typical school story plot, the tone of the school is not all it might be and Juliet takes it upon herself to effect an improvement.  Of course she succeeds but reading about how she does it is entertaining and even thought-provoking.  Juliet is an engaging character, fairly self-sufficient but keenly aware that the customs of New Zealand are not those of home – as England is always referred to – and anxious not to trample on sensitivities, whilst at the same time being impatient with the unwillingness to change displayed by some of her contemporaries.

I love a Regency romance and one of my favourite writers in the genre is Julia Quinn. She’s American but she manages to hide that pretty well in her use of language and, unusually for American-penned novels of the genre, there are very few jarring notes in her writing. Her series of books about the Bridgerton family is good fun.  The characters are likeable and varied and over the series Julia builds up a great picture of their family life.  Each of the children has a book describing his or her courtship and these stories are all quite different. I like Colin’s story, Romancing Mr Bridgerton, best of all.  He’s an urbane young man, intelligent, witty and attractive but with a deep seam of insecurity.  The heroine of the piece is Penelope Featherington, old enough to be considered an irredeemable spinster but hiding an explosive secret.  It’s funny, romantic, sexy and great escapism!

Comfort Reading

The long silence from me is due to illness.  I was critically ill in the summer and have taken a long time to recuperate.  For much of that time I didn’t have the focus to read new books but I’m pretty much back now and normal reading and blogging will resume shortly.

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Like many people, I suspect, I re-read lots of old favourites whilst I was recovering.  Mostly, these were adult novels but I did turn back to Clare Mallory, a New Zealander who wrote books for children and teenagers in the 1940s and 1950s.  I came across her books fairly recently and immediately enjoyed them.  Many of them are school stories but the schools tend to be much more relaxed than their British contemporaries although they do have much in common.

My favourite of Clare Mallory’s novels is Juliet Overseas.  It concerns a girls who is sent halfway around the world to attend her mother’s old school in England.  In a typical school story plot, the tone of the school is not all it might be and Juliet takes it upon herself to effect an improvement.  Of course she succeeds but reading about how she does it is entertaining and even thought-provoking.

I also read the Merry trilogy (Merry Begins, Merry Again, Merry Marches On).  It is set in Dunedin in a fictional representation of Columba College where Clare Mallory was Headmistress.  Merry and her friends are engaging characters as are the prefects who form the other group we get to know.  There’s a strong message of loyalty and striving to do one’s best permeating the series but it’s none the worse for that.

That’s my comfort reading over now, until Christmas at least.  From this weekend I’ll be attacking my to-be-read pile so come back soon and find out about some of the brilliant new books being published for children and young people.

 

Back Beside the Sea

As I write, it is a beautiful autumn day: the sun is shining, the sky is blue and there is scarcely a breeze.  The view from my windows is glorious: the trees still have their autumn colours, there are swans swimming in the pond and I can just catch a glimpse of the cathedral.  Where am I?  In my new office in Elgin.

I’ve just recently been fortunate enough to be given the post of Senior Librarian in Moray.  I have a varied remit including, I’m pleased to say, services to young people.  It’s a great job and I’m working with friendly and helpful people.  But, best of all, I’ve moved back to Lossiemouth after an absence of over twenty years.  From my house I can see the sea and the view is wonderful!

As yet, I don’t have all my books with me which is clearly not a good thing.  Deciding which titles to bring was tough and, in the end, I went for a random selection.  I do work in a library after all!  It’s been fun, though, reading my way through the books I brought.  I’d forgotten all about some of them and they’d got hidden away in my collection.  Maybe less really is more.

What did I bring?  Well, some are books I can’t be without.  Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery, Sisterland by Linda Newbery and Nancy Calls the Tune by Dorita Fairlie Bruce for example.  I also brought some short series: the Carol books by Helen Dore Boylston and the Merry titles by Clare Mallory.  And then there are some that I’ve acquired since moving.  I love Ottoline at Sea by Chris Riddell and Big Bear, Little Brother by Carl Norac and beautifully illustrated by Kristin Oftedal.

I have others, too, some of them even for grown-ups, but to feel completely at home I’ll need all my books with me.  The day can’t come fast enough!

Book Buying on the Other Side of the World

I’m in Australia at the moment, visiting relatives.  Just now, I’m in Melbourne with cousins who know some great secondhand bookshops.  Without trying very hard I’ve bought three or four books, including Australian editions of  Anne of the Island and Dimsie Intervenes.  My cousin gave me a copy of Ethel Talbot’s Seven Little Australians, which I’ve never read.  But my real find came this morning when I bought an Australian edition of Merry Marches On by Clare Mallory.  I know I have a Girls Gone By edition in much better condition but I’ll treasure this first Australian edition.  Clare Mallory has been a recent discovery for me (thank you, Girls Gone By) and I’m so pleased to have one of her books published in her part of the world.