January 2024

Erskine Childers, The Riddle of the Sands
1903 novel often cited as the 'first modern spy novel'. Atmospheric, suspenseful, and particularly enjoyable was the way in which, despite the action taking place largely at sea on a small yacht, the texture of the first-person narrative provides a detailed portrait of a young upper-class Englishman of the time.
Jocelyn Brooke, The Orchid Trilogy
Sensitive memoir organized around the author's keen interest in botany as it retells his early years in Kent. Recalls both Denton Welch and Proust (whose writing he acknowledges).
Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line Review of the Shadow-Line
Excellent short novel which constitutes Conrad's final effort to write of his early career as a ship's captain.

Life Writing
John Lehmann, I am my Brother
Instalment of writer and publisher (New Writing), John Lehmann's memoirs. This volume begins with the outbreak of WWII, and provides a rich insight into literary London during the war years.
Cyril Connolly, Previous Convictions
Rather dusty with regard to style, this collection of reviews did help me discover Gerard de Nerval and Paul Leautaud.
Gerard de Nerval, Aurelia and Sylvie
Aurelia is a fascinating account of two episodes of mental illness Nerval experienced, and of his unrequited love for a woman who married another. The list of objects in his room is simply amazing.
Paul Leautaud, The Journal of a Man of Letters
A friend of Gide and Valery, this English translations condenses the material found in Vols I and II of the original and centers on Leautaud's tempestuous relationships with women and his literary career, which he frequently is guilty of sabotaging.

Short Stories
Janet Frame, Prizes: Selected Short Stories
The Day of the Sheep
First taste of the Frame style, a child-like sensibility on display.
Miss Gibson and the Lumber-room
Very amusing. A letter written by a woman in her twenties to her old English teacher, admitting that she was "an awful liar" and that one of her essays, where students were directed to write about the contents of their home's lumber-room, was a complete fabrication.
My Father's Best Suit
A picture of material poverty that doesn't limit the capacity of the imagination. While many things are placed out of reach, this only brings the things that are within reach into sharper focus, and life remains just as rich but differs in its concerns. Something in common with Duras's Summer Rain here.