Hurley Books has had to take a bit of a back seat whilst we launched our holiday lets business, Dreaming Of Cornwall, unfortunately the season waits for no man and suddenly we had missed the London Book Fair which I had every intention of going to this year. Anyway the stationery fair beckoned and whilst I’ve never been before, what the hell, we needed to pay some attention to the shop so I jumped onto the night train and slept my way up to London. As ever I woke up to an empty Paddington platform and struggled over to the first class lounge (it is so nice in there and open to all with a sleeper ticket.)
|The wonderful Riviera Sleeper|
|If Leonard Cohen wrote SF|
Finally caffeined up and ready to face London proper I headed off to Islington. I got onto the tube and promptly got off at the next stop. I swear I could have lifted both my feet off the floor and I wouldn’t have moved a millimetre, the crush was horrific. I waited for three more equally press ganged torture chambers to pass and then I got on the fourth, where whilst I didn’t get a seat I could at least catch a breath.
|An empty Paddington|
The stationery fair was less hand made Italian papers and more salesmen with pen pitches. However, despite the rather business business feel to the place I did find some nice pens and some even nicer handmade paper and journals. Only some of which I thought would work in Mevagissey, so watch this space and see some of the lovely stuff we have ordered coming into the shop.
I got into a lovely conversation with a chap from Charfleet Book Bindery, who recommended I visit Maison Assouline, an apparently remarkable bookshop, a not to be missed bookshop. Now I’ll be honest as I nodded my head and smiled enthusiatically, I was going to skip it and head straight to the V&A where I could drop the thirty thousand bags that the sales reps had laid me down with. Oh the weight! My shoulders and feet were killing me and for two pins I’d have just gone home. But you know the old prayer “I may only pass this way but once…”* So I decided to head off in search of this not to be missed bookshop. Could I just say, if you are in London, do go and visit, it really isn’t to be missed.
|* Seems it was more a “Be nice” motto than a “Carpe Diem” one.|
First off Maison Assouline is not a bookshop where you are likely to make a purchase unless it is one of their amazing cocktails from the large mahogany bar in the corner. The building was designed by Lutyens and from floor to ceiling the shelves are lined with folio signed art books; beyond glorious. The porter, yes porter, took my many bags from me, welcomed me and encouraged me to wander around. I nosed about a bit and found an oak spiral staircase in the corner and climber up to a small bindery on the mezzanine floor, I wandered through oak corridors and found a room stuffed with antiques to furnish my own library with;astrolabes, zebra pelts, plinths but what was really calling my attention was the very loud and interesting music coming from another room. I opened the door and realised I had walked into some sort of very private event. There were only three people in a very large book lined room listening to a pair of phenomenal loudspeakers. Again I was met with friendliness and waved in to browse the shelves but this time I just sat and listened to the rather incredible speakers. The music was loud but there was no bass reverb, no interference, if I had closed my eyes Billie Holiday could have been on the stage in front of me. Eventually refreshed, I left and asked the staff downstairs what was going on. Apparently the speakers cost £250,000.00 (yes, that’s the correct amount of zeros) and are only sold on a private word of mouth basis via private audiences, and I gatecrashed one 🙂 If you are tempted they are called YAR and whilst I’m not sure if anything is worth that much money I would say that if you would consider that an acceptable price for speakers then these were pretty decent!
|Oh to have this sort of space|
|Tucked away bindery 🙂|
|Hand built YAR Speakers. Amazing sound.|
Finally I made it to the V&A and made straight for the cloakroom where I dumped my oh too heavy bags and relaxed in the sunshine drinking a fresh lemonade. Then headed to the Underwear exhibition that turned out to be poorly curated and overpriced, that’s twice now, not impressed, but there was one little highlight. Behind one of the look don’t touch, don’t sketch, don’t photograph, don’t breathe cabinets was a picture of a chap in Jaeger longjohns with hat and parasol. Turned out to be George Bernard Shaw on the beach at Mevagissey!
|Very cute but lacking some practical elements.|
|Maybe wear this over the top?|
|An oasis of calm.|
And with a smile on my face I donned my metaphorical longjohns and headed back home.
|Hatshepsut c.1507–1458 BC|
|Djeser-Djeseru is the main building of Hatshepsut’s mortuary templecomplex at Deir el-Bahri. Designed by Senemut, her vizier, the building is an example of perfect symmetry that predates the Parthenon, and it was the first complex built on the site she chose, which would become the Valley of the Kings|
|Thutmose III out smiting his enemies|
|This early depiction of Hatshepsut shows her in female dress with a female figure.|
|In this later depiction she is in the male kilt, wearing the beard and is pretty flat chested.|
|Trade mission to Punt. These images show the first recorded transplantation of fauna.|
|The residents of Punt lived in stilt houses.|
|King Perahu and Queen Ati of Punt.|
Three Great Families and their Gardens – Caroline Rayman – BODFAS
First Bodfas of the year and I’m going to try to make everyone as they have all been so good. Arrived by the skin of my teeth again, I do hate being late and settled down to some stunning gardens.
Ho hum, that wasn’t what I got. The lecture was supposed to be about the gardens of the Astors, the Sackville Wests and the Rothchilds. What it turned out to be was a who’s who of the nineteenth and twentieth century, with the odd flower thrown in. There’s no doubting that Vita was a gardener of note but you felt very much that for the others it was just something to do with all their land. I’d have loved to hear revolutionary ideas about how they gave large parcels of land over as allottments or market gardens (obviously in the lower field where the peasants wouldn’t be noticed) but it was simply a talk about how wealthy they all were, how well connected they were, all the family in-fights and dynasties, which in itself was interesting but really it wasn’t a talk about gardens, gardeners or gardening. This quote summed it up
“No garden, however small, should contain less than two acres of rough woodland”. Lord Rothschild.
A good lecturer but on a subject that held little appeal to me with an emphasis that didn’t appeal.
The Sackville Wests
Half the World – Joe Abercrombie
Having successfully read book one in this trilogy I happily ploughed into book two but found myself back where I began. Stumbling through it and dissatisfied. I guess I really need to have my head in a certain place to enjoy Abercrombie, and at the moment I guess that I just don’t need that much snot in my life.
The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory
Not awful but not great either. Didn’t finish or might have done. Can’t remember. Forgotten I’d read this until I saw it on my Instagram feed. (that was just two weeks ago)
The Moth Catcher – Ann Cleeves
Oh dear, I think my head is in the wrong place at the moment. This was OK but relied on some whopping coincidences to get the plot to work. Also a constant repetition of how fat Vera was got tiresome.
The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness
After the frustrating Shining Girls I went back to finish the Harkness trilogy. First time I read it I was disappointed as I didn’t think it was as good as the first two books. Now part of that is down to simple expectations. I read the first two as they came out and loved them so I had been desperately waiting for the concluding book and it just didn’t feel as good. This would be my second read so it was interesting to see what was wrong with it. Having enjoyed it more the second time I think its problem lay in having too much to fit in, too many characters and too many locations. Everyone was constantly running around the place with more and more story lines being introduced and would up. It could probably done with a fourth book or better editing. Either way I’m glad I read it again as it was better than I remembered by still not as good as books on and two.
Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
Having decided that The Book of Life was better than I remembered I returned to Half a King, a book I started last year but struggled with. I picked it up but this time was hooked straight away. I couldn’t even work out what I had found difficult. Abercrombie is a pretty gritty writer but this series is aimed at a younger market and was slightly toned down from his Best Served Cold books. That said it’s not exactly lacking violence or bodily functions. Standard fantasy themes but told with spit and sawdust.
The Giant Under the Snow – John Gordon
November was all about going back because this was a book that I had loved as a child and had always wanted to re-read but couldn’t remember the title, just the book cover and a vague sense of plot. Of course there is a huge risk of disappointment in going back to a childhood favourite but not on this occasion although there were a few surprises. The first was that it was set in Norfolk where I grew up, so obviously the descriptions of the city and the countryside resonated. The second was that the main protagonist was a girl, I’d have put money on it being a boy. I’m guessing that was the tomboy in me, that or I wasn’t used to reading books were the central character was female, I mostly read adventure and fantasy stories, books about school, ballet or horses just didn’t appeal. The next surprise was that it wasn’t the right book! Or at least it was but there is another book out there very similar and I read that as well and have managed to blend them in my memory. So that’s another book to track down, only now I don’t have a book cover either. The final surprise in tracking this down is that it apparently is about to be made into a film. Go figure. Anyway, it’s very good and hasn’t dated. A very good tale based on English folklore. Along the lines of Susan Cooper or Alan Gardner
A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
Not sure why but I’ve ground to a halt with books to read, I think its just because I’m busy and don’t have the time to get into anything new. When I feel like this I like to reread old favourites, I know what I’m in for and I don’t have to concentrate. So that’s why I’ve returned to the Deborah Harkness trilogy. I love everything about it, its an academic girl, old manuscripts, magic, love, treachery and good writing and vampires in Oxford.
Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness
What can I say but more of the same only this time we travel back in time to Elizabethan England, France and Prague. Harkness is first and foremost a historian and academic so her books are full of lovely historical references and anecdotes. I spent most of my time on-line looking up paintings and artefacts and listening to beautiful music.
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes
Change of tack and I saw this on a friends bookshelf. I had dismissed this originally as it had been touted by Richard and Judy and appeared to be an American crime book. Two things that don’t appeal. Now I know they don’t appeal to my friend either so on his recommendation I gave it a go. Beukes first two books were fantasy / horror; this I would consider a cross over. It started with a very promising concept. A serial killer wanders into a house that acts as a time portal from the 1920s to modern day he wanders back and forth through time killing girls that shine out to him and leaving mementos from previous kills at the next scene. He is unchallenged until one girl escapes and she tries to track her would be killer down. And here the story starts to stutter, it really should have worked better but for some reason it just doesn’t hang right. It becomes stilted, sometimes hopelessly over-complicated, other times really interesting thing aren’t even considered. Why do the girls shine? Why can he see them? What is the house about?
Beukes is clearly moving into John Connolly territory and is going to do well with great writing and imagination. I just think this book was a stumble, I’ll definitely try something else by her.
BUY THIS BOOK NOW!
Oh this is so gorgeous and I am thrilled to be stocking it. It is such a wonderful book about the power of words, not hurting each other with them and how we can make other people feel better with the right ones. The minute I read it I was thinking of all the children that I knew that would love this, it is so positive. Available in the shop or online. This is a new author and it’s her first book so please like and share, she deserves every success.
|Collect from shop £7.99 GBP UK Postage £8.99 GBP Overseas Postage £10.99 GBP|
|Gerlach Flicke 1554|
|Coram by Hogarth 1740|
|Graham Children by Hogarth 1742|
|Garrick by Gainsborough 1770|
|Garrick by Reynolds 1760|
|Annie Miller as Helen of Troy, Rossetti, 1863|
|Lady Agnew by Singer Sargent, 1892|
|Whistler’s Mother, 1871|
|Ennui, Sickert, 1914|
|Laura Knight, 1913|
|Hilda by Spencer, 1937|
|The Clarks and Percy by Hockney, 1970|
|Dorothy Hodgkin by Maggi Hambling, 1985|
|Patrick in Italy, Hodgkin, 1993|
|The Queen by Freud, 2001|
A Year of Marvellous Ways – Sarah Winman
Very compelling and spot on descriptions of Cornish creeks and river life.
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
This took me forever to read which was surprising as it was full of tiny sections and I kept turning page after page. I think it was just that this was a very busy month for me and I just didn’t get many opportunities to pick up a book.