A marshland of uncertainties: YA over 60 years .

 reading passion


Wrapped in Different Coloured Banners & Musing Mondays

reading passion

I had been planning to re-blog some reading related posts from an a-z  a few years ago.  so the random question from Musing Monday this week has resulted in this.  Some of my childhood books. All these would have been read during the 1950s when I was between child and what is called YA today. These are only the historical favourites, I read many other genres.  They are a mixture of those written for youngsters and those such as Buck, Weyman or Hornblower written for adults.  I ranged between the two quite happily.

I wonder now which was the first historical novel I ever read, The Children of the New Forest? The Eagle of the Ninth? The Silver Sword or maybe A Moor of Spain? They all meld into one period of my life. These would have been those I could read to myself. What of those which were  read to me, how young was I when someone first read Gulliver’s Travels to me, I seem to have memories of that tale stretching way back. Or Treasure Island? I remember listening to The Black Arrow on the small radio set high on the walls of the fourth form at my primary school, I would have been ten years then.

 Many books I considered historical when a child of course were no such thing. I had assumed it because they were written in the past, whereas in reality they had been contemporary to the author. Kipling wrote of a time and place that was a reality to him in the same way as Austen did. The Black Arrow by R.L.Stevenson was certainly an historical novel as it was written in 1813 and set in the time of the War of the Roses, an exciting blood thirsty time if ever there was:) but a book written in 1813 does seem to a child to be historical already. 

Lines blur often in reading:)                                  

That we were listening to the Black Arrow at Primary School, seems to indicate the powers to be considered it more historical than romance! There is more line blurring there.

I like my historical tales to inform me, the action is important but action on it’s own is never enough. Romance? well that never has been my thing. No, historical must fill me with a feeling I have walked the dusty/smelly streets, know the why? what and how? of a time long passed.Know that people were the same as us just wrapped in different coloured banners. Historical must cause a heart pounding fear/pleasure/excitement as I read. Historical must leave me battered by  the experience.

A Moor of Spain by Richard Parker set in the time of Christopher Columbus and written in 1953, this was mDSCF0786y first introduction to the Inquisition and showed me a startling fact of history. The Moors had at one time a great deal of control over Spain, I never  knew. It led me to explore a little more of Spain’s history as well as that of North Africa. The beauty of books ? those diverse side paths they can lead you down.

 The Children of the New Forest also served up to us on the school radio, set this time during the English Civil War but printed in 1847. From that one I discovered much; that the Civil War was not just about plumed hats and round helmets, that Cromwellian were not always the enemy. Learnt in fact that history is many sided. It was an interesting discovery and one which appealed to my sense of fair play. Look at both sides of an argument/dispute/is a lesson well learnt.

 I mustn’t forget The Eagle of the Ninth, that wonderful adventure in Roman Britain written by R.Sutcliffe and published in 1954.The Romans, beloved of our primary school teachers. Such misty times, especially in the 50s, much more is known now of life around Hadrian’s Wall and of the remains of Roman rule. Because of this book I developed an interest in ‘really long ago times’ and I have followed with interest the discoveries being unearthed from the ground. Marvelling as I do, how history refuses sometimes to remain buried.

 The Silver Sword also, is deemed historical, being published 10 years after the Second World War, but how far from the period being written about does an historical novel need to be set – The Silver Sword never felt like an historical story to me, the Second World War and it’s horrors were everyday fare, as more was discovered of the atrocities of war, in the years following, when children on still played on bomb sites, it felt like everyday life. – this was a contemporary story for me. On that criteria as soon as any book is published it becomes after all historical.

Lines blurring again.

One of my favourite historical authors was Stanley Weyman, and on a recent re-read 60 years later I found he stood up reasonable well.  Again with this sense of blurring, was he romance or historical adventure or. . .   

I read him for the adventure and history, be it Elizabethan history or 16th & 17th century French. The romance part was barely there for me. There was much to learn from his pages of the grander sweep of history than was ever found in the dry history of school text books.

I read Gone with the Wind very early, because it was one of my mother’s favourite books. Scarcely veiled rape scenes passed me by on the first reading but my entire view of the American Civil War was first introduced and then fixed by this book. Scarlett was my kind of girl, she did – whatever she had to – from spoilt brat to woman in control. With forces of such universal power against her – I say, didn’t she do well?

The descriptions of hospitals full of the wounded the burning of Atlanta , birthing dying –  Life as I hadn’t experienced – the romance was neither here nor there for me. Not the lovey dovey stupidity of Ashley or the looser attitude of Brett – why didn’t the one move on and the other give her a good hiding. No, but the romance (old fashioned definition here) of the whole the grand sweep of history – great.

Another firm favourite were the Hornblower books. Set during the Napoleonic wars and set, what’s more on the sea. Discovered by me because they were my father’s favourite books (he of the navy) action, history and life in olden times, what’s not to enjoy.  The descriptions of life at sea, of the storms, battles, life below decks so good I was seasick reading them:(

I latched onto Pearl S Buck for years – staple reading for me from the mid 50s onward. Not only set in days of yore but in such a different culture it was almost shocking. China was a closed book to most of us westerners, but within those closed covers lay a magical land of mystery, I knew that. Pearl Buck delivered.She delivered well. My only regret, that not more of them have been turned into audio books.

 History is never just the history of one country, every nation interlinked to others in strange and divers ways. Reading these grand sweeping global extravagances shows how one tiny event on a small rocky island can be influenced by and influence many greater worlds.


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What would you say is the best children’s book you’ve ever read?

That is so difficult  – it was so long ago, so many thousands of books past.  When is childhood defined. What age are we discussing. As a very small child I liked the Orlando books, about a ginger cat and his family, complete with pictures in lurid colour! I was very small then, I could just spell out the words.  I have some still upstairs.

Later ? well I suppose a great book is one that is remembered over 60+ years, re-read a few times and still in the bookcase.  so I would have to include The Wind in the Willows, the Jungle Books, Aesops Fables, The Just So Stories, The Borrowers, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

Early teenage books? Teenagers hadn’t really been invented then! again so many and mixed by then with adult books but The Silver Sword, A Moor in Spain, The Children of New Forest and the Eagle of the Ninth.  Aall written for children.

Mid teens It was all adult books , Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, Harper Lee.  I was into detective and science fiction, 1984, Brave New World and stuff like that. Late teens I guess The Group, One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest and Catch 22 would be among the top contenders.

I’ll stop here because it was mainly books written for adults I was reading from about 13 onward.

Curling up on sofa or plum tree. . .

lifetime passionMany many moons ago and I do mean many. When I was a child, curling up on the sofa , even the armchair, I was small enough back then, feet tucked under me with a book was my undying bliss. Sometimes I stretched out but mostly I curled up.

In the summer I often climbed a plum tree at the bottom of the garden and curled up with a cushion in the crook of its branches.

Oblivious to extraneous noise or disturbance I would travel anywhere in time and space. Even dragging my book reluctantly to the table (not on Sunday, the Sunday Roast meal was for conversation and discussions with the family.

I wasn’t the odd one out by any means my parents could also, and did, cut themselves of from others when they sank into a book. It was from their nature and nurture I learnt my reading habits. Maybe I was slightly worse, I wasn’t running a home, going out to earn the family crust and school wasn’t anyway important to me after the first two terms. Apart from, of course, their library!

Back then pocket money was minimal and if more funds were needed one had to work for them. So time away from my books was a necessity so that I had enough money to buy some more. Public libraries helped to fill the gap (I was eventually a member of three) the school library had some but I soon read my way through them, and as I got a little older my parents collection, extensive in the extreme helped a great deal. Then there was my own burgeoning collection ripe for re-reads.

It was and still is an addiction hard to control.

Curling up on sofa or plum tree, a nibble or two would go down well. Rich Tea or Digestive biscuits were good, a glass of milk very satisfactory and a couple of times a year when we visited the West End and I was allowed to spend saved up pocket money on it – a Jaffa orange.

I did mention it was many moons ago (back during austerity and rationing.)

An Orange was a treat.

I would cradle it in my hands all the way home. Wait until I had a quiet time (no chores) to read and curl up with my orange, unwrap the purple paper that covered it peel and separate the succulent segments and read. There are orange juice stains still on those children’s books of mine.

Happy Days:)

Decide which book as the mood takes me-’tis all I can do:musing mondays


I lost last week somewhere.

Looked under cushions – in drawers – even checked the garage. Nope, not a sign of last week  anywhere.  So apologies once again, my silver moments become more silver by the day. I blame the sunshine – so rare it addles one’s brain:)

Reading now, well last week I was finishing books and sorting out my writing so starting this week with a clean plate. Do I go with a challenge read? or a just for the fun of it read? or some more research?

It’s sunny again today I cannot decide.

The books I have on my read any day soon list are

Have a nice Doomsday by Nicholas Guyat
The Emerald Planet by Davis Beerling

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London by Julia Stuart

Book Groups:
Dark Winter by David Mark
ABC murders by Agatha Christie(a re-read)

So I have them next to my chair and will decide as the mood takes me. ‘Tis all I can do:) I will report next week:)

Now the question of the week. Favourite childhood book?  I cannot really answer this it with one book it so depends on what age one is talking about.

When I was very young (4/5’ish) I liked the tales of Orlando the marmalade cat (I re-read them last year and they still hold good.

Later when I could read for myself I think, Beautiful Joe and Black Beauty were probably my comfort food reads (I would cry over them whenever I was in bed ill. They haven’t really stood the time for me in my cynical old age I do find them a trifle mawkish now)

Then when I was about ten I discovered the Jungle Books (Rudyard Kipling) and they have remained a favourite over the decades.

Those Old Shades (Georgette Heyer) when I was 12/13ish still a comfort food read (for when I feel ill or fatigued, I like the wit and the lack of sentimentality) all her regency books are.

Then when I was 15/16 I first read The Fellowship of the Rings – just a couple of years after it was first published. I was hooked and I have read it at least every 1/2 years since, I possess many versions of it. Hardback,(3 Vols) paperback, leather bound with bible paper pages cassette, video, DVD, audio books.

My favourite book of all time.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 + a random question of the week

Time flies when you are having fun


lifetime passionThe back end of 2014 and the beginning of this year I was busy sorting my way through all the reading challenges there were, too many- far too many.

When we built this abode we made it a chalet bungalow and the roof space is for books. It runs the width of the downstairs and houses thousands of books – lovely. I inherited many from parents and grandparents they are not all mine . I have to confess quite a lot are and no I haven’t read them all.

When I lost the power to read I didn’t loose the urge to buy new books.  Three years in the life of book buying addict is a long time and a great many books:)

I needed to find the books waiting to be read that would suit the challenges – I also needed to establish some order in the bookshelves. Overflowing, they needed to be re-arranged.It was going to be a fairly length period of time, I knew that. What I forgotten to put into the equation was just how much time I would lose saying hallo to old friends.

Some of them forgotten over time and some half remembered and far too many reminding me how long ago I bought them.
Works such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was 50+ years old for goodness sake how could I have read it half a century ago!

It is not possible
Was I an infant in arms.
Unfortunately not.
Grown and cutting edge, moi,back then.

To kill a Mockingbird even further back in my reading life!

Stop. Stop the clocks.

I despair sometimes at the rapid passage of time. If time flies when you are having fun maybe I should prolong my life and therefore ability to read more by being miserable and bored – wait a minute that wouldn’t work – ah well

With chair nearby I couldn’t resist dipping in and out of my friends up there under the rafters, wandering further and further back in time. Watching the prices on the dust jackets and covers grow increasingly smaller; paperbacks wandered back from £8 to 1/6 (one shilling & sixpence old money) Looking at the covers also gave little snapshots of social life and times. Fascinating exercise but which didn’t help my search for the books for the challenges.

The cold drove me back downstairs clutching a few dozen books. Maybe when the sun comes out to play again I will venture back among the dust motes to re-read a few more.