One cannot come to Bath without thinking of Jane Austen. Two of her novels have Bath as a setting, Northanger Abbey and my favourite of all, Persuasion. Every time I return from a visit here I have to read the latter again and my copy is now on my bedside table.
Here is a post with pictures of locations for these two novels.
Anne was too much engaged with Lady Russell to be often walking herself but it so happened that one morning, about a week or ten days after the Croft’s arrival, it suited her best to leave her friend in the lower part of the town; and in walking up Milsom Street she had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral. (Persuasion)
Every creature was to be seen in the Pump Room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; people who nobody cared about and nobody wanted to see. ‘What a delightful place Bath is’ said Mrs Allen ‘and how pleasant it would be if we had any acquaintance here’ (Northanger Abbey)
After staying long enough in the Pump Room to discover that the crowd was insupportable and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the Season, Catherine and Isabella hastened away to the Crescent to breathe the fresh air of better company (Northanger Abbey)
Upon Lady Russell’s appearance soon afterwards, the whole party was collected, and all that remained was to marshal themselves and proceed into the concert room (Persuasion)
Soon words enough had passed between Anne and Captain Wentworth to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk where the possibility of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed (Persuasion)
I am already looking forward to returning next year.
There are some cities I could visit again and again. York is one and Bath is another. Both have had Random visits this year and I am already planning to return in 2015.
I have enough material for a few posts on Bath so will spread them out a bit. First up, I just want to give you all a round up of what we did . We being my sister Judith and I. I drove up to Leicester to where my sister and husband live and then the next day off we went down the Fosse way to Bath. This is a lovely road away from motorways and roaring traffic and the countryside was beautiful. I do love the English countryside so green and lush and driving along roads where the branches of the trees form an overhead canopy with dappled sunshine filtering through. Magical. Drove through the Cotswolds which always seems to slumber peacefully as you go along passing villages with wonderful names: Wappenbury, Offchurch, Idlicote, Armscote, Pillerton Hersey, Knockdown and Old Sodbury.
One village kept recurring, seemed to have moved around a bit like Brigadoon 'Loose Chippings'. Also another delightful one called 'Hidden Dip'....
OK I am being silly.
So in Bath what did we do? Well, first up we went to the Crescent, No 1 to be precises, which is open as a museum so visitors could see what it was like living in such a beautiful place. Well, it was wonderful but, and it is a big but, after Judith and I had climed down 63 steps to the kitchen and viewed same, and scullery etc and then thought of going back up 63 steps, my thoughts were for those who had to go up and down these flights each day carrying hot water, coals, trays etc. Nightmare. We were not supposed to take photos but, sneakily, I did get a few and here is the kitchen and the cellar entrance.
Then off to the Assembly Rooms for an exhibition of World War One costumes, including several from Downton Abbey, all of which seemed terribly tiny. Some of these women must be size eight. Most lowering.
Downstairs to the Fashion Museum which was fascinating and there was an area in which you could dress up in Victorian clothes. I tried one one and it was so heavy I could barely lift it up and I have to say that though a picture of me was taken I have deleted it as I looked the size of a house in it and did me no favours at all....
We also visited the Abbey and thought we might have a cuppa in the Pump Rooms but this being a Saturday in August it was heaving so we left it. Took a walk across Pulteney Bridge instead and by this time we had been on our feet for over six hours and were beginning to flag so back to our Bed and B which I will tell you about another time as it deserves more than a line.
I also have a Jane Austen themed post to write as well but that is for another day.
In an article in the Guardian this week a journalist listed all the cliches that book reviewers use on a regular basis and was pretty sneery about them all. So, just to warn you, that three of these apparently appalling cliches are going to be used in this review. The three words I should not use it seems, are:
Gripping. Page turner. Unputdownable.
Well Guardian readers look away now because I am now going to tell you that Knife Gun Poison Bomb by Martin O'Brien, the latest Inspector Jacquot book is, guess what? GRIPPING. A PAGE TURNER and UNPUTDOWNABLE. So there.
Back in 2012 I was sent The Dying Minutes by this author and I opened it up, started to read it and that was that. Read straight through and totally hooked and here is my review here.
Since then I have read all of the Jacquot books and, after reading this latest, am embarking on yet another re-read as I simply love them. Have some on my Kindle so must download some more as I am hooked again.
So what is this about? It is a multilayered, multi-charactered mystery which, as ever, all interlink and affect the outcome of the mystery/murders in a very clever way. It never seems contrived but arises naturally out of the narrative and story line.
First up, we have a Russian arms dealer who, having betrayed some seriously nasty people, is on the run heading for a new life with a new name and a new destination. On paper a really horrid bloke but somehow I found myself rooting for him. Don't ask.
Secondly, there is an attacker on the loose. Somebody who can get close to the chosen target and twist a knife into the victim's gut and then slit their throat. Not nice but this killer is on a mission and has a reason for choosing the victims. Then a wish for penitence sends the murderer to the local Catholic church for confession and forgiveness, terrifying the priest who hears the admission of sin.
And so we come to Daniel Jacquot, lovely gorgeous sexy Daniel with the crooked nose, the beautiful eyes and dressed in his customary leather jacket and jeans. Oh be still my beating heart. He and Claudine, his lover, are happy and settled and looking forward to the birth of their child, or rather children, as she is expecting twins. Rather alarmingly she is taken ill and rushed off to hospital and then to a special clinic where, to Daniel's relief, she rests and recovers. Unfortunately, there is somebody in a bed in a room on the same floor who is recovering from the latest knife attack which he survived. His bed is being guarded as it is none other than the Russian arms dealer who fell foul of the attacker and his identity has been revealed.
From several interested parties come assassins to finish him off. One to knife him, one to poison him, one to shoot him and one intent on setting off a bomb and take some other infidels along with him as well.
Thus, the scene is set, for a simply nail biting finish and I really cannot say too much as I do not wish to give any clue to the ending. Suffice it to say, it does NOT end as I thought it would and the author caught me out beautifully and left me reeling.
I wish Martin O'Brien a long and healthy life and many years of happily writing ahead of him. This is Jacquot No 8 and nothing will satisfy me except in ten years time reading No 20.
A terrific book and I am going to use a word that the Guardian cannot say is a cliche because I have yet to see this in the pages of the Heavies or even the tabloids for that matter. Knife Gun Poison Bomb is a stonkeroonie of a book. Not even sure if I have spelled that correctly but I don't care really.
If you have yet to make the acquaintance of the beguiling Inspector and his background of France and Marseilles and wine and food and sea and smells and ......well, just get on with it and read them.
I don't know about you but in the summer I don't cook much, nor do I read What I Call serious reading. Too hot to cook, well sometimes, and also difficult to concentrate when the sun is shining. I like something light to eat and steak and kidney pie loses its savour. Ditto books. Not saying that when the nights are cold I am suddenly going to work my way through the Booker list or start reading Gogol but I do tend to hunker down with books that need concentration.
And looking at my reading over the last few weeks I have been reading loads of detective stories. Re-reading the Zouroudi books set in Greece which I love and then in the last week have had three of my favourite detective series come up with the latest.
Linda Castillo-The Dead will Tell. The latest in the series featuring Kate Burkholder, chief of police in Painters Mill in Amish country. Love these books. They are well written with great story lines and there has not been a dud one amongst them. If I have one criticism it is to say that for a peace loving people, the Amish do seem to have a lot of murder and mayhem going on. It stretches credulity a tad but then I think of Midsomer Murders and the body count in that series and realise that nothing reaches the level of death and destruction there.
OK so everyone in Painters Mill knows the abandoned Hochstetler farm is haunted. A terrible murder and fire took place there over thirty years ago and when Kate Burkholder is called to the scene of an apparent suicide of an old man found hanging from the rafters in his dilapidated barn she realises that his death is a murder and a murder done particularly cruelly with the maximum amount of suffering. When a second man is found dead, also seemingly by his own hand, Kate discovers that, in common with the first murder, there is a link to the old case. And there seem to be more on the killer's list....
If you have yet to discover this series then I really recommend them. But do read them in order as there is a narrative thread dealing with Kate's personal life that runs through them all.
Single girl, 29, smouldering redhead, love life that's crashed and burned. Seeks new flame to rekindle her fire. Fun, friendship and – who knows – maybe more?
An ad placed on a dating website leads Red Westwood to meet charming and rich Bryce Laurent. He is handsome and madly in love with her, showering her with gifts and presents. When his past and his lies are revealed to her she breaks up with him and evicts him from her flat. But he is obsessed with her and he intends to destroy her, her life and her family. There seems to be no escape.
Roy Grace finds that Bryce Laurent is cunning and ruthless with a string of aliases and difficult to find. While he is dealing with this case he is also arranging his marriage to Cleo and having nightmares that his missing wife Sandy will turn up at his wedding and ruin his future.
There have been a few adverse reviews regarding this latest Grace book so I was not sure what to expect when I started it but found I became totally immersed and engaged, reading it straight through in one sitting. If I do have a criticism it is that a car accident removed an unpleasant character in the last book and the same happens in this one. Very helpful but it certainly opens up a new story line which will no doubt be explored in the next one in the series. I look forward to it.
Abbatoir Blues - Peter Robinson. The latest DCI Banks book and the first thing you have to remember when reading these is that the TV series has gone off on a totally different tack, the characterisation of Banks is also different and you have to put this out your mind, else you will get very muddled as to who does what and what is happening.
I found the last Banks book, The Children of the Revolution, very tedious and rather boring and pleased that this one is back to form. Initially investigating the theft of an extremely expensive tractor, the latest in a long line of rural crimes, it soon escalates when human blood is discovered in an abandoned hangar and it is clear a murder has taken place. Then a possible witness vanishes and goes on the run and it all starts to get very complicated.
There is one common factor in these books that really irritates after a while. The constant harping on about what music Banks is listening to, or any other character, given in detail. If someone is driving along and about to meet his death I am really not interested in knowing whether he is into rap or garage music, I really am not. And when Banks gets home and finds a CD in the post I don't really need to know it is a recording of lieder by Janet Baker. Peter Robinson does go on at length about this and I do wish somebody at his publishers would tell him to tone it down a bit.
But, apart from that, a return to form.
So three good tecs this week and I have a few more on the pile waiting to go....
Plenty of books published this year about the Great War, both fiction and non-fiction and I have been sent my share to review. There have been so many of them I have not read them all but here are two that have kept me busy over the last ten days.
The Storms of War - Kate Williams. This is the first in the de Witt chronicles I understand and I should tell you now that if this is only volume one you are in for a long read as this book has over 500 pages and took some reading. Very Downton Abbyish, it starts in the summer of 1914, that long hot idyllic time before war was declared and which is now looked back on as a halycon period before the horrors changed that time and world for ever. The elder daughter is engaged to be married and her wedding is being planned, one brother is studying in Paris and the other at Cambridge. Celia is the youngest child not quite grown up, but not quite a child and we see a lot of the story and events through her sharp eyes.
Of course the war changes everything and the story, or chronicles, tells the reader of the joys and sorrows they undergo throughout the start of the War.
An absorbing read.
The second was Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. This is the first in a new series by this author, The War at Home. Those of us who have read the Morland Saga and who love and appreciate this writer will be delighted to see this book and I have spent most of today totally engrossed. Again, we meet a family living in the country with the eldest daughter, Diana, beautiful and eager to be married; David is the eldest son eager to fight and do something worthwhile with his life (this son is at Oxford not Cambridge!) and Sally the younger daughter who loves horses and shuns the fashionable life.
The writing is, naturally, excellent and the characters drawn with the usual warmth and skill that we have come to expect from CHE. It is a shame that for the time being there are to be no more Morland stories, but when I contacted CHE about this, she said that she had been commissioned to write this series and if it did well, then she might be able to get back to the Morlands.
As this is a terrific book with the usual impeccably researched background, then you know what to do.
As per I have been really busy this week and apologies again for lack of posts. Was expecting to put my feet up when I received email from daughter 'Mum you ARE coming to Ealing this Thursday aren't you?' AAAGH had got dates mixed up and panic set in. I was visiting a friend in Peasenhall and could not get there until Thursday afternoon so other grandma stepped in while I quietly tore my hair out. Friday was the important day as Helen had to supervise a Viva and needed Florence to be taken care of (Beatrice is at nursery) so I got there late Thursday afternoon.
Horrible hot and sticky day and I have to say that a drive along the North Circular was not particularly high on my list of things to do, but hey ho it is off we go. I decided to hell with it and put on shorts, flip flops and an old t-shirt to drive in. I would normally not go out in an outfit like this, there are some things ladies of a certain age should not wear in public and shorts is one of them as far as I am concerned. Feel free to disagree.
Anyway, off I went and very glad I was dressed down. I always drive in bare feet as well so I had the minimum amount of clothing on that decorum required and spent a lot of the time stuck in traffic pouring cold water down my back to keep me cool. Getting used to the journey now and it gets easier as the route becomes more familiar.
Lovely time with the girls as always but Florence, who disliked sleeping on her own and gets scared of the dark even though she has a night light, decided to come through in the middle of the night and sleep with me. I have no problem with this, it is wonderful to wake up with her curled up next to me, but the main problem is she flings her arms and legs around and now and then clonks me on the nose. I also wake up and find, that though we are in a double bed, that I am clinging to the edge while she is spread out like a starfish. But I cherish the first hour of the day when Beatrice and Helen come through and we are all in bed together laughing and chatting.
I am home now for five days and have little to do and am going to keep it that way. Too hot to do anything energetic. Spent most of today watching the Test March and Alistair Cook has finally made a decent score. Of course this has been regarded as the Second Coming and all of us who have doubted his captaincy are being castigated and attacked on Twitter and elsewhere. I am pleased that Cook the batsman is back but Cook the captain is still with us and his captaincy is pretty poor. But of course the journalists are falling over themselves to say Yah boo sucks as they have all toed the ECB line for months. Anyway, enough of that else I will be here for hours.
Have been watching DVDs tonight as I am filled with indifference about the Commonwealth Games and the schedules are pretty drenched in that so first of all I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel which I simply loved. It was witty, funny and moving all at once and the acting of the collective group of thesps, most of whom had a tiny part, was spot on and excellent. Ralph Fiennes excelled in the main role of the Concierge and I loved every minute of it.
And then, in complete contrast, I watched The Hunger Games which I did not think might be my kind of film, but I simply loved that too in a totally different way. The way the crowds watched the 'live' show reminded me of one of my favourite films, the Truman Show, and I thought it was excellent and had me on the edge of my seat. It had a fairly open ending and I gather that there is a series of books so presume there will be another in the franchise.
While I was watching all of this I decided to catch up on my ironing. Yes I know but really it was a huge pile and it was cooler in the evening and it had to be done and yaddy yaddy ..... Well I did it all but the sweat was absolutely dripping off me by the time I had finished but I decided to get it done in one go and get the suffering out of the way for another month or so. Felt pleased when it was all done.
So an exciting time as you can see. By the way my iron is brand new, courtesy of Amazon as I had it to use and review and then keep. Fantastic iron. If my old iron was a battered Mini this one was a Mercedes. Irons amazingly well. But do you know it costs £90. Yes £90!!! I mean WHO would pay that for an iron?