Reading Round-up (alfresco edition)

It’s been an odd week, the awfulness of the news occasionally escaped with big doses of nostalgia and, well,  escapism.

I’ve been redecorating, and just giving in and going with my previously-restrained urge to paint every room various shades of green or white and give up all ideas of variety. I love green. My kitchen is now green, my bedroom is green and cream, and my living room has a dark green chimney breast and the rest is light green. I also love having lots of pictures (ornaments I keep to a minimum, but art on the walls feels cosy without clutter), and grouping them together in all the fancy ways Pinterest can suggest. Many of them are cheap prints in charity shop frames, or engravings cut from damaged books.


It was on one of these charity shop frame runs that I came across this collection of books, amazingly from the Daily Mail. It seems some thirteen years ago they weren’t just peddling hate and division, they were supplying children with obvious titles such as Black Beauty, but less obvious ones such as Moby Dick. I found that hard enough to wade through as an adult, and if there’s a ten year-old somewhere that really enjoyed it, I want to meet them.


From the series I bought The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I haven’t read since I was a teenager, and is on-theme of my current fascination of the French Revolution. Written just over 100 years after the revolution by Baroness Orczy, (full name Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orci, which would have made getting Starbucks fun) who was a Hungarian-born posh person, that settled in the UK as a child. Her family were short of cash, and she wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel initially as a play, which didn’t go down too well, but in book form and as the beginning of a series, it kept the family in silver tea sets. I read most of this book on Saturday, in my garden,  as even up here, it was a hot and sunny day, and in spite of sitting in the shade I ended up with a red nose.


Sunday morning was also lovely, and even when it rained it was warm, and I again spent most of the day outside, reading Holding, by Graham Norton. I picked this book up in the library out of curiosity, as I’m always suspicious of famous people’s novels as I wonder if they’d have been published if they were just anyone. In this case, I think it would have. The writing style is simple and straightforward, Norton is the anti-Will Self (I’ve just picked up his latest book so the comparison stark to me right now) but his characters are well drawn, and even when I’d twigged the key to the mystery quite early on, I didn’t ditch the book. It’s not usually my type of novel, but some of the witty lines made me laugh out loud, and it was perfect garden reading. A gentle, homely mystery populated by women people I could well be related to.


And my nostalgia has been supplied by Jan Pienkowski. You may remember him from the classic children’s books, Meg and Mog, however, I had a set of miniatures of his fairy tales a child, and dearly loved the silhouette and marbling of the illustrations. As I always need more pictures, I have found a newer collection for a couple of quid on eBay that I’m going to cut up for the plates, and turn into a little fairy tale display on the landing. Below are some examples, it’s amazing how much detail can be supplied with such simple technique, and rather like reading itself, the blank, black canvas invites our imagination to fill in the blanks.