Reading the 20th Century discussion

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Archive > What books are you reading now? (2017-19)

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message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
Are you reading a good book at the moment - or a not-so-good one? Or have you just finished a book you'd like to discuss with others?

This is a thread to talk about our current reads - both 20th-century books and those which fall outside the period.


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
I am currently reading Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister Six Minutes in May How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister by Nicholas Shakespeare which I am really enjoying.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Current reads: Village Diary by Miss Read

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Swann's Way by Proust


message 4: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
Are you enjoying Proust, Lady C? I read all of In Search of Lost Time (in English!) with a small group a couple of years ago. I really loved it, even though some sections were hard work such as the very long dinner parties (not in book 1). I think Swann's Way was one of the best books.


message 5: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
I'm currently trying to finish Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation by Anne Sebba.

Les Parisiennes How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s by Anne Sebba

It has taken me a while to read this because it is a large library hardback so I can't carry it around, but I'm finding it very interesting. It does jump about a bit at times and there is less about everyday life in occupied Paris than I was expecting, but a lot about the lives of individuals.

There is a long account of the experiences of the Parisian women incarcerated in Ravensbrück concentration camp, which is very powerful and horrifying.


message 6: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 319 comments I'm currently reading a YA novel, but just finished Queen of the Air about Lillian Lietzel, a late 19th-early 20th century circus performer. It was really interesting. I know nothing about the early circus (really any circus, but through some grad work I know a bit about later) and enjoyed learning about European and American circuses and the slight intersection with vaudeville.


message 7: by Nigeyb (last edited Oct 22, 2017 06:37AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 9361 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I have That Old Black Magic on my TBR list and I think Nigeyb is actually reading it now? "



Yes indeed Susan.

I am currently reading That Old Black Magic and loving it. It's published on 8 March 2018 however I got a review copy from NetGalley (after a tip off from Susan - thanks again!)

I have read all but one of the noir-esque Cathi Unsworth's novels and I have enjoyed them all.




Here's Cathi, discussing an obscure musical track, which is related to That Old Black Magic...

'The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle' by Jake Thackray.

I got into Jake a few years back, when there was a fantastic, in-depth BBC documentary about him called “Jake on the Box”, followed by a compilation of him playing his songs live. He had been on the telly a lot when I was a child, but I was too young to have taken him in in those far off days before I had teeth. In middle age, this dark, brooding Yorkshireman appeared as a revelation.

He was possessed of very Gallic looks, and was very keen on the guitar style of Django Reinhardt and the satirical songs of Georges Brassens, which inspired him to adapt his extremely droll wit and spectacular worldplay to writing his own canon of songs about surreal goings-on in Northern towns.

All of them are wonderful but this strikes a particular chord with me at the moment, as I have been writing a lot about magical circles and little old ladies who may not be quite what they appear for my next novel, which is based on two true, witchcraft-related cases during World War II and will be called 'That Old Black Magic'. Jake’s devillish damsels could easily have been among their number, though as hard as I have tried, I have not come up with lines anywhere near as superb as Jake’s here:

“But they don’t waste time with a ouija board or a seance now and again, no/ None of your wittering, twittering, petty poltergeists for them/No, Elizabeth Jones and Lily O’Grady/ And three or four more married ladies/Prefer to be tickled by the whiskery chins of bogey men.”

Now imagine singing that in a droll Yorkshire way while playing guitar as good as Django and looking as cool as Alain Delon in Le Samourai. That’s my definition of a genius.”


http://velvet-sheep.com/song-for-ewe/...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3T8l...
Jake Thackray - The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle (live)


message 8: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4870 comments Mod
I'm currently reading The Bostonians, very interesting on the early feminist/suffragette movement - and James is actually funny!

Also working my way through Louise Penny's Three Pines series: just starting #3.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Judy wrote: "Are you enjoying Proust, Lady C? I read all of In Search of Lost Time (in English!) with a small group a couple of years ago. I really loved it, even though some sections were hard work such as the..."

Very much, Judy. Am loving the descriptions and memories of his childhood. But I have put him aside for a bit to catch up on some challenge books. Will pick him up again soon.


message 10: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
I loved the bit about him watching his magic lantern - latest technology then of course.


message 11: by Haaze (last edited Oct 22, 2017 10:06AM) (new)

Haaze | 146 comments I just started reading George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. It is more mesmerizing than I ever expected - the first couple of paragraphs pulled me straight in. Lovely!!!

"A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide the black ships–laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal–are borne along to the town of St. Ogg’s, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river-brink, tingeing the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun. Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures, and the patches of dark earth made ready for the seed of broad-leaved green crops, or touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown corn. There is a remnant still of last year’s golden clusters of beehive-ricks rising at intervals beyond the hedgerows; and everywhere the hedgerows are studded with trees; the distant ships seem to be lifting their masts and stretching their red-brown sails close among the branches of the spreading ash. Just by the red-roofed town the tributary Ripple flows with a lively current into the Floss. How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice, as to the voice of one who is deaf and loving. I remember those large dipping willows. I remember the stone bridge."

*deep sigh*




message 12: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4870 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Are you enjoying Proust, Lady C? I read all of In Search of Lost Time (in English!) with a small group a couple of years ago. I really loved it

I'm also mid-Proust: next up is The Guermantes Way (book 3) when I can fit it in...


message 13: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Judy wrote: "Are you enjoying Proust, Lady C? I read all of In Search of Lost Time (in English!) with a small group a couple of years ago. I really loved it

I'm also mid-Proust: next up is The Gue..."


Hmm, next year I think I will become a Proustian and earn my badge!


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
I loved Proust when I finally got around to him. I always read them at night and, when I finally finished, I felt really bereft!


message 15: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Susan wrote: "I loved Proust when I finally got around to him. I always read them at night and, when I finally finished, I felt really bereft!"

Then it is time to start over from the beginning..... ;-)


message 16: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Roman Clodia wrote: "Judy wrote: "Are you enjoying Proust, Lady C? I read all of In Search of Lost Time (in English!) with a small group a couple of years ago. I really loved it

I'm also mid-Proust: next up is The Gue..."


Hahaha! I am also mid-Proust: I finished The Guermantes Way earlier this month. I am sad to say that I find Proust's style mostly boring so I don't know if I will ever finish.

Currently I am reading George Eliot's Adam Bede via audiobook narrated by Wanda McCaddon; she is an excellent narrator & though Eliot isn't my favorite Victorian author, I am enjoying this.

I am also reading on my Kindle a classic sci fi/fantasy book called A Voyage to Arcturus. Not sure what I think about this yet - it is more of a philosophical book using this other world as parable than traditional sci fi alien planet.

And for another group's BoTM, I am reading Lawrence's The Rainbow. I am not a Lawrence fan.

I typically read several books at once but usually a more varied selection - this is too many classics at once! So I am just about to start W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden: Or the British Agent as a 'palate cleanser'.


message 17: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 25 comments I recently finished Child of All Nations by Irmgard Keun (though I read the German version so not sure about the translation.) It's a fictionalized version of Keun's love affair and travels with Joseph Roth in that time shortly before the war when she, Roth, Zweig, etc. were nomads/refugees from political developments. It's a little odd in that it's told from the perspective of a young girl (their daughter in the book but IRL they had no children) but I thought it was very evocative of the drama of those times.


message 18: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Leslie wrote: "I typically read several books at once but usually a more varied selection - this is too many classics at once! So I am just about to start W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden: Or the British Agent as a 'palate cleanser'. ."

Oh, that is high on my TBR list - probably my next Maugham thanks to Nigey's recommendation! BYT just read Cakes and Ale which was a lovely experience and made me appreciate Somerset Maugham in a new way. So much to explore in his works.


message 19: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Haaze wrote: "Leslie wrote: "I typically read several books at once but usually a more varied selection - this is too many classics at once! So I am just about to start W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden: Or the Bri..."

I adored Cakes and Ale!!


message 20: by Haaze (last edited Oct 22, 2017 03:42PM) (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Leslie wrote: "I adored Cakes and Ale!! "

It had such dreamlike qualities as reached through space and time. I never realized that so many people adore that specific novel (for good reasons)....


message 21: by nyx (new)

nyx I am currently enjoying The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is certainly an interesting exploration of the times of the Soviet Union and the events surrounding that. I love glimpses into country history.


message 22: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Svalberd wrote: "I am currently enjoying The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is certainly an interesting exploration of the times of the Soviet Union and the events surroundin..."

That is high on my TBR list for obvious reasons. Ha ha! I hope to tackle the Gulag Archipelago trilogy one of these years as well. The First Circle must definitely be a sobering view of the society of the Soviet Union at the time.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
Talking of the Gulag Archipelago trilogy, which I keep meaning to read (new edition being released in the UK, although the second book is not listed as being available on kindle so far), I came across this new novel, which I thought looked interesting: The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution The House of Government A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

It is fairly huge, at over 1000 pages, but it is on my never ending TBR list.

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction

The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman’s Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine’s gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin’s purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children’s loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.


Completed in 1931, the House of Government, later known as the House on the Embankment, was located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it combined 505 furnished apartments with public spaces that included everything from a movie theater and a library to a tennis court and a shooting range. Slezkine tells the chilling story of how the building’s residents lived in their apartments and ruled the Soviet state until some eight hundred of them were evicted from the House and led, one by one, to prison or their deaths.


Drawing on letters, diaries, and interviews, and featuring hundreds of rare photographs, The House of Government weaves together biography, literary criticism, architectural history, and fascinating new theories of revolutions, millennial prophecies, and reigns of terror. The result is an unforgettable human saga of a building that, like the Soviet Union itself, became a haunted house, forever disturbed by the ghosts of the disappeared.


message 24: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Susan wrote: "Talking of the Gulag Archipelago trilogy, which I keep meaning to read (new edition being released in the UK, although the second book is not listed as being available on kindle so far), I came acr..."

Such a great recommendation, Susan. I was unaware of its existence, but this is definitely a tome one easily can get lost in. Fascinating! Thank you for bringing it forward as this is a topic I'm very interested in.

Here is the book review from NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/bo...


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
Good to hear you are interested, Haaze. Let me know if you get to it.


message 26: by Haaze (last edited Oct 23, 2017 10:30AM) (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Like climbing Mount Everest....
Anytime!!! ; -)


https://fthmb.tqn.com/ebvw2OCUMPtOEc0...


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
Ha ha, I know what you mean ;)


message 28: by Pages (new)

Pages | 112 comments Embarrassed to admit, I’ve been ‘reading’ Anna Karenina for (cough) a while now. It’s beautifully written, a great story and ticks all the boxes but I hit a wall. I know the ending and basically everything about it that has scuppered me finishing it. We talked about it at school and I supposed I was spoiled in that way.
I’m still planning to finish it- one day.


message 29: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9361 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "I am currently reading That Old Black Magic and loving it. It's published on 8 March 2018 however I got a review copy from NetGalley (after a tip off from Susan - thanks again!)"

Finished it now. Splendid it is too.

Click here to read my review


message 30: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
Farrah, I love Anna Karenina, but definitely a book that can take a long time to read. I'm sure you will get to the end.


message 31: by Pages (new)

Pages | 112 comments That’s nice to hear, Judy. :) I never remove it from my ‘currently reading’ so I can feel its disapproving gaze every time I add another current book to the shelf.


message 32: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Judy wrote: "Farrah, I love Anna Karenina, but definitely a book that can take a long time to read. I'm sure you will get to the end."

Me too- though I think I enjoyed the parallel story- Levin and Kitty more than the main one where I ended up feeling for Anna's husband by the middle of it all.


message 33: by Pages (new)

Pages | 112 comments Lady Clementina- yes, that’s true. I also like the Lenin and Kitty story. I like how it yo yos back and forth.


message 34: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 16 comments I am currently mid-way in Saturday by Ian McEwan. It’s about one day in the life of a brain surgeon. Here is The Guardian’s review. Can’t believe it took me this long to find this book!


https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...


message 35: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
There was recently a very good drama of one of Ian McEwan's novels The Child in Time

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-ra...


message 36: by CQM (new)

CQM I'm currently in the closing stages of Flash for Freedom by George MacDonald Fraser and I've got Nigel Balchin's The Fall of the Sparrow lined up for afterwards. Also been flicking through the oddly fascinating Enquire Within Upon Everything the 122nd edition of "this most famous book of domestic reference". This 532 page marvel contains everything you will ever need to know to get through life including the rules of cricket and how to subtly get rid of the weekend guest who is overstaying their welcome.


message 37: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
CQM, I remember being obsessed by The Fall Of The Sparrow as a teenager, but for some reason it now seems to have fallen out of favour and to be far more obscure than some other titles by Nigel Balchin. I will be very interested to hear what you think of it.


message 38: by Haaze (last edited Oct 28, 2017 03:09PM) (new)

Haaze | 146 comments Still slowly lumbering through George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (A two month project in terms of pace). Such exquisite writing!!!!!! It is like eating a wonderful meal in which every bite is a piece of art filled with delicate scents, flavors and textures that brings one into a state of culinary rapture.


message 39: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Haaze wrote: "Still slowly lumbering through George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (A two month project in terms of pace). Such exquisite writing!!!!!! It is like eating a wonderful meal..."

I just read it in serial with another group here- it is excellent- as is her Middlemarch.


message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
CQM, I was introduced to Nigel Balchin by Nigeyb and loved Darkness Falls from the Air Darkness Falls from the Air by Nigel Balchin . Must read more by him.


message 41: by CQM (new)

CQM Susan wrote: "CQM, I was introduced to Nigel Balchin by Nigeyb and loved Darkness Falls from the Air Darkness Falls from the Air by Nigel Balchin. Must read more by him."

I must confess it was Nigey that convinced me to read Balchin, hed been on my to read list for some time but never quite reached the top of that list until Nigeys glowing review. Since then I've polished off a few of Balchin's books and enjoyed them all. Small Back Room was right up there with Darkness Falls from the Air probably only A Way Through the Wood has disappointed slightly but even that had it's moments.
Judy your praise for The Fall of the Sparrow gives me high hopes!


message 42: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4529 comments Mod
CQM wrote: "Judy your praise for The Fall of the Sparrow gives me high hopes!..."

Well, it's around 40 years since I read it, CQM, but it certainly made a strong impression at the time!


message 43: by CQM (new)

CQM Judy wrote: "CQM wrote: "Judy your praise for The Fall of the Sparrow gives me high hopes!..."

Well, it's around 40 years since I read it, CQM, but it certainly made a strong impression at the time!"


Well if its half as good as Darkness Falls from the Air im in for a treat.


message 44: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9361 comments Mod
I am also v curious to discover your reaction CQM. I must get back to Nigel Balchin.


message 45: by CQM (new)

CQM Nigeyb wrote: "I am also v curious to discover your reaction CQM. I must get back to Nigel Balchin."

Well a couple of chapters in and its coming along very nicely. Ignoring everything else Balchin is always eminently readable.


message 46: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
Have just finished The Loved One The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

StartedThe Master Key The Master Key (Pushkin Vertigo) by Masako Togawa

I really like the Pushkin Vertigo series


message 47: by CQM (new)

CQM Susan wrote: "Have just finished The Loved One The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

StartedThe Master Key The Master Key (Pushkin Vertigo) by Masako Togawa

I really like the Pushkin Vertigo series"


Look forward to hearing your opinion on The Loved One, its a firm favourite with me.


message 48: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
My review is here, if you are interested, CQM: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 49: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9361 comments Mod
I only saw your rating Susan - very encouraging.


I'll read your review once I've read the book myself.


message 50: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9826 comments Mod
I think you'll love it, Nigeyb.


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