New on my Kindle: Gladys and Hilda


Mamzelle: A Story of the War of 1812

Some wonderful YA fiction is new to mine. In my day, we might have been short of books on vampires, but everything I know about History I gleaned from Young Adult Historical Romances, and it is amazing how much these stories by Gladys Malvern have stuck with me.


Dear Wife: A Story of the American Revolution

Gladys Malvern is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but I rate her very highly indeed. The huge advantage with Kindle is you can try out the first chapter or so for free too, so do give her a try. Her romances are well-researched and cover periods of American History I certainly didn’t study at school. They also fall into the “lovely reads” category. I’m hoping her ballet stories and more of the historicals will appear if these prove popular. And of course there’s her biblical retellings too.


The Foreigner: A Story of Ruth

Then I also spotted Hilda Lewis‘ children’s historical The Gentle Falcon. I must have been about nine years old when I first read this one from the library and am very happy now to be able to read it again.


The Gentle Falcon


Oh, to be in England – Mollie Panter-Downes


Spring with An English Poet – 1938 by Mollie Panter-Downes

from The New Yorker – April 30th, 1938

(inspired to share by StuckinaBook’s blog on London War Notes 1939-1945)

Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there,

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the elm-tree bole is blocked from view

By a notice telling him what to do

When vapours steal through the primrose wood

And the gas-proof room turns out no good,

While the chaffinch chokes on the orchard bough

In England – now!


The Chaffinch from A Second Book of British Birds (1954) by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald and illustrated by Allen W Seaby. Poster available to purchase here

New England Style


Many a long, long year ago,
Nantucket skippers had a plan
Of finding out, though “lying low,”
How near New York their schooners ran.

They greased the lead before it fell,
And then, by sounding through the night,
Knowing the soil that stuck, so well,
They always guessed their reckoning right.

A skipper gray, whose eyes were dim,
Could tell, by tasting, just the spot,
And so below he’d “dowse the glim”–
After, of course, his “something hot.”

Snug in his berth, at eight o’clock,
This ancient skipper might be found;
No matter how his craft would rock,
He slept–for skippers’ naps are sound!

The watch on deck would now and then
Run down and wake him, with the lead;
He’d up, and taste, and tell the men
How many miles they went ahead.

One night, ’twas Jonathan Marden’s watch,
A curious wag–the peddler’s son–
And so he mused (the wanton wretch),
“To-night I’ll have a grain of fun.

“We’re all a set of stupid fools
To think the skipper knows by tasting
What ground he’s on–Nantucket schools
Don’t teach such stuff, with all their basting!”

And so he took the well-greased lead
And rubbed it o’er a box of earth
That stood on deck–a parsnip-bed–
And then he sought the skipper’s berth.

“Where are we now, sir? Please to taste.”
The skipper yawned, put out his tongue,
Then ope’d his eyes in wondrous haste,
And then upon the floor he sprung!

The skipper stormed and tore his hair,
Thrust on his boots, and roared to Marden,
“Nantucket’s sunk, and here we are
Right over old Marm Hackett’s garden!”

 The Alarmed Skipper by James Thomas Fields


Photographs of New England from Joel Meyerowitz’s beautiful book A Summer’s Day (1985)


What to read when you’re not reading Louisa May Alcott

little-women-threadsLittle Women, Good Wives, An Old-Fashioned Girl, Little Men, Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom are all huge favourites of mine, along with pretty nearly every other book Louisa May Alcott wrote for girls. I read Little Women and sequels first at about eight years old and then at least once a year every year thereafter and am still not sure what the appeal is exactly – certainly the large family of girls, the troublesome boys, their tribulations and efforts to be good, their love affairs (count me as a fan of Fritz, I was never in love with Laurie) and the struggles with making their way independently in the larger world. Of Alcott’s heroines, I have always loved Polly, Rose, Meg and Beth the best (in that order as well) – not I know the most popular of choices, but I did so want To Be Good and could emphathise all too well with Meg’s domestic struggles (that jam that wouldn’t set!), and they’re still my favourites even though I recognise now that Jo, Laurie and Amy were perhaps really where the author’s interests fell. I also love the fervently held Christian beliefs and the really good cry Alcott nearly always gives us – it isn’t that I’m a bible thumping evangelist, but these books make me want to try to be a kinder, nicer person. Hmmm I’d better keep reading as have a very long way to go to Beth-like saintliness!

RoseinbloomStill one can’t read Alcott all the time, so here are my suggestions for when you’re looking for something similar, but different.

Rainbow-ValleyLet’s see – looking for a good cry? Don’t forget L M Montgomery – Rainbow Valley gets me going. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single one of her books that doesn’t bring a tear to my eye. But, there’s nothing as harrowing (and satisfying for my money) as The Proper Place by O Douglas. Douglas’ stories are mainly set between the two wars and have wonderful characters and settings (skim through any tiresome Scottish dialect – understanding every word isn’t necessary, and you soon get in the swing of it), and Penny Plain, Priorsford and The Proper Place should come with several daintily embroidered hankies attached.

PennyplainThen there’s one of my favourite English Victorian novels written for young women, The Daisy Chain by Charlotte Yonge. Or, there’s the Australian Victorian classic, Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner. I have known people so upset by the death in this book they couldn’t finish it. Not me. Mind you, be warned: I remember telling poor Miranda at about 4 years old how much she’d love the film of Ring of Bright Water (I’d completely forgotten just how traumatic that story is, and I had a lot of comforting to do after we’d sat down to watch it, not helped by the fact that I suddenly remembered it was based on a true story though of course I kept mum about that bit at least) – not sure if she’s quite forgiven me Even To This Day – so better add not to read if you’re especially likely to confuse fiction with fact (all the nicest people do it to some degree) or are in an especially fragile state.

SevenLittleAustraliansOn a jollier note, do you love the domestic aspects of Alcott? Then girls’ stories with plenty of keeping house, recovering invalids, making gifts on a shoestring and jam-making details are for you. Plus we’re bosom buddies! This is a category I’m something of a enthusiast about (so much nicer to be reading about successful home cleaning/renovation and housekeeping all accomplished with nothing more than a few pennies and plenty of elbow grease than actually attempting to do them oneself!) Start with Katharine at Feather Ghyll by Anne Bradley and Sally’s Family and The Girls of Friars Rise by Gwendoline Courtney if you haven’t read them already. I have The Sugar and Spice Girls by Mollie Chappell waiting for me at Miranda’s and apparently it’s very much of the same ilk so should be just my cup of tea.

Sugar and Spice GirlsImage and great reviews of other Mollie Chappell books (and books generally) from here

Finally for a very light-hearted American time travel return to Little Women don’t miss The Time Garden by Edward Eager. It’s funny and engaging and really very clever indeed! Also a book that never fails to make me smile and hence the perfect antidote to any of the too sad ones mentioned earlier.

The-Time-Garden-2Image from here