Here are the books I read in January:
1. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Ever since I read Brideshead Revisited, I’ve been picking up Evelyn Waugh books at second hand bookstores and used book sales. Of course, the funny thing about Brideshead Revisited is that it’s nothing like any of Waugh’s other (fairly extensive) work. But English satire is still my thing, thus another Waugh book is added to the ‘read’ list.
2. The Pumpkin Murders by Judith Alguire (Rudley Mysteries #2)
This one was published by Signature Editions, where I work. I really enjoyed the first Rudley Mystery, and this one is good fun too. They never have a whole ton to do with the actual murders occurring, but are all about the goofy and endearing guests of the Pleasant Inn. Great quick reads, filled with wit and charm.
3. Angloman by Mark Shainblum & Gabriel Morrissette
Another title from Signature Editions’ back catalogue, this is a satiric graphic novel of Québec superheroes, based around language politics of the 90s (when it was written). Very clever and fun, although obviously full of Québec references, which might go over some people’s heads.
4. The Exiles of Faloo by Barry Pain
I smooth read this book for Distributed Proofreaders (yep, that’s a thing). You can find all sorts of fascinating things on that site. It was about some Englishmen who had done bad things and run away from Britain to a small (fictitious) island called Faloo, where they founded a gentlemen’s club, invested money with the local King, and eventually got in a lot of trouble (they were bad men, after all).
5. The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders
This hefty tome was absolutely fascinating, heavily researched, and a joy to read. I learned an enormous amount, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone interested in how Victorians lived their day-to-day lives.
6. Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison
An autobiography by Lady Astor’s (very very rich lady in turn-of-the-century England; see: Downton Abbey) ladies’ maid. Really interesting and entertaining, especially because she and Lady Astor are both such characters. She was clearly quite a privileged maid, so her perspective is very different from that of a lower servant, but if anything, that makes this book even more interesting, because it shows that a servant could have quite a rewarding and enjoyable time if they were an upper servant in a good position.
7. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England by Daniel Pool
This book looks at life in 19th century England from a literary perspective, specifically explaining things that you might read in Dickens or Trollope or Austen. I found this take a bit irritating, as it seemed to leave things out, and especially because I hadn’t read every book that he references (about 35 in total), and there are spoilers throughout! He does touch on lots of things that I genuinely have wondered about—I know now the rankings of duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron go in that order—but the format and the writing aren’t spectacular. It’s probably a good reference book, but not a totally satisfying sit-down read.
8. Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Harvie & H.C.G. Matthew
I picked this up thinking that it would be a good overview of the century, and it is an overview, but a challenging one, full of people, places, movements, etc. unexplained for lack of space. This was taken from a much larger encyclopedia, and it shows. My conclusion: now I know what I don’t know about 19th century Britain.
Conclusions for the month:
- I figured out where all the female non-fiction writers are. They’re writing about the British home. (Private sphere! Makes sense!)
- Nobody is as good as Judith Flanders, but I’ll keep trying to prove this point wrong.
- As soon as I read Evelyn Waugh books (except for Brideshead), I forget them.
- Maybe light-hearted mysteries are fun. Worth reading more to determine veracity.
- If I continue reading at this pace, I will read 96 books this year! This seems unlikely. Time shall tell!