Back to School Reading List

     The summer holidays are over and I am back in Paris, where there is an autumnal chill in the air. I had my first batch of beginning-of-term meetings yesterday and met some of my new students. Despite the early hour and the slight peevishness that comes from having had to go without breakfast, I couldn’t help feeling a little thrill of excitement as I found myself once more in the Latin Quarter, with students milling noisily about and school bells shrilling every hour.

     Back in my flat, however, my spirits were swiftly dampened by the amount of housework that needed doing after two months away. This morning I decided that the best way to combat a case of September blues was to draw up a new reading programme. Big surprise, this ended in my visiting the Abebooks website and in my ordering a couple of new titles. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

1)  The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer (1890).

This is my biggest reading project this month (literally – it’s more than 800 pages long, not counting the introduction, explanatory notes, and appendices!). I mentioned it in my review of Wildfire at Midnight, but even before then, I wanted to read Frazer’s study of ritual and magic in ancient cultures because of the influence it had on D. H. Lawrence and other Modernist writers.

2)  Miss Hargreaves, by Frank Baker (1940).

After reading The Golden Bough, I think I’ll be in need of a little light entertainment! Miss Hargreaves is one of the books I ordered this morning and it sounds like great fun! Here is the summary of the book, as found on the Bloomsbury Publishers website:

“When, on the spur of the moment, Norman Huntley and his friend Henry invent an eighty-three year-old woman called Miss Hargreaves, they are inspired to post a letter to their new fictional friend. It is only meant to be a silly, harmless game – until Miss Hargreaves arrives on their doorstep, complete with her cockatoo, her harp and – last but not least – her bath. She is, to Norman’s utter disbelief, exactly as he had imagined her: enchanting, eccentric, and endlessly astounding. He hadn’t imagined, however, how much havoc an imaginary octogenarian could wreak in his sleepy Buckinghamshire home town, Cornford.

Norman has some explaining to do, but how will he begin to explain to his friends, family and girlfriend where Miss Hargreaves came from when he hasn’t the faintest clue himself? Will his once-ordinary, once-peaceful life ever be the same again? And what’s more, does he want it to?”

3)  Saturday Night at the Greyhound, by John Hampson (1931).

I ordered this one during the summer, as part of my continuing foray into pre-war literature, but haven’t yet got around to reading it. It was a bestseller during the 1930s and was one of the titles John Lehmann convinced Leonard Woolf to publish at the Hogarth Press. Its title is wonderfully evocative and I fervently hope the story – centred around the working-class patrons who frequent the Greyhound pub on the Derbyshire moors – is as good.

4)  Purposes of Love, by Mary Renault (1939).

This is the second book I ordered on Abebooks today. I read Mary Renault’s 1943 novel The Friendly Young Ladies a few years ago and enjoyed it very much, so I thought I’d see what else she wrote. She is best known for her novels set in Ancient Greece, involving such historical figures as Socrates and Alexander the Great, but that didn’t inspire me much, so I opted for the very first novel she published, even though I don’t really know what it’s about.

5)  Anecdotes of Destiny, by Isak Dinesen (1958).

“Babette’s Feast” is one of my favourite movies and I have long wanted to read the short story by Karen Blixen on which it is based. A few weeks ago my parents most obligingly gave it to me for my birthday. The edition contains several other stories which will enable me to get a taste of Karen Blixen’s writing. I am really looking forward to reading it, all the more so as I recently watched “Out of Africa” with my mother, which rekindled my interest in Karen Blixen’s life and writing. 

© Florence Berlioz 2011


About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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2 Responses to Back to School Reading List

  1. Anbolyn says:

    What an amazing list! I am jealous of your fall reading. I don’t have much lined up for fall except for a lumbering stroll through Bleak House.

  2. Oh, I LOVED Bleak House! Honestly, it’s one of my favourite Dickens! I admit one does lumber a little through the early passages on the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case (all that mud! who could not lumber?!) and perhaps also the episode of the man who believes in spontaneous combustion (and demonstrates his theories so convincingly), but the rest is wonderful. I do hope you end up liking it, even a little!

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