September's books were:
- Thrones, Dominations by Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy Sayers
- I Leap Over the Wall by Monica Baldwin
- Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham - reread
- The Autumn Castle by Kim Wilkins
- The Scent of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
- Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham - reread
- The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham - reread
- Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
- A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
- The Towers of Trebizond by Rose McCaulay
- Witchfire at Lammas by Robert Neill
- Old School by Tobias Wolff
- Scar Night by Alan Campbell
- The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham - reread
Dorothy Sayers never finished her last Wimsey novel, Thrones, Dominations but, not only did Jill Paton Walsh do an excellent job in completing it, she went on to write a sequel. Here, with the threat of war ever in the background, we have a portrait of two marriages, that of theatrical angel Lawrence Harwell and his wife Rosamund, constantly in the public eye and noted for their open adoration of each other, and that of Harriet and Peter, newly wed and full of careful consideration for each other's sensibilities. The first ends in disaster and murder, whereas Harriet and Peter, for whom love is something never to be worn on a sleeve, reach an understanding of the abiding depths of their passion.
During the later days of World War II, Monica Baldwin, niece to Sir Stanley Baldwin and cousin of novelists Denis McPhail and Angela Thirkell, left the convent where she had spent 28 years and set about trying to earn her living and contribute to the war effort. She documented the resulting struggle in I Leap Over the Wall. Convent life left her reluctant to resign herself to teaching in a girls' school, the only thing she was really qualified to do, but her efforts as a land girl were doomed by poor health and despite her determination she spent months moving between relatives and friends, fitting in nowhere, while life around her moved at a pace which left her baffled. Don't imagine that this is the sort of book Monica Dickens would have written, full of cheerful disaster and making do – Baldwin is carefully rational about her choices to enter, and then to leave, the convent, and much of the book focuses on the rationale for, and the exigencies of, monastic life.
Finally, I managed to read three books for Carl's R.I.P. III Challenge, though I only wrote about two of them: Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle and The Autumn Castle by Kim Wilkins. My third book was Witchfire at Lammas by Robert Neill, which I happened across for 99p in one of those bins outside a bookseller's. Neill's best-known work was Mist Over Pendle, written in 1951 and one of those books that mothers pass on to their daughters to read (though my best friend's mother passed it on to him). I remember getting it out of the library when I was about 13, and "discovering" the Lancashire Witches. There's a wonderful picture of Pendle Hill over at Juxtabook, with a list of the witches who were hanged. Witchfire at Lammas returns to the same territory in 1715, the year of the first Jacobite rising in Scotland, when supporters of the Old Pretender were canvassing on his behalf south of the border. Neill's portrait of a rural society riven by suspicion of witchcraft rings true, I think, although it's gentler than I expected, perhaps slightly too much so (but I was grateful for a relaxing, rather than harrowing, read). I'd like to know more about this writer, but have been unable to find any information about him, although I know his books span two centuries or so of English history, and include a wonderful Regency novel called The Shocking Miss Anstey, a spiced-up Heyer-style romance.
The next post will be on October's reading – soon, I hope, but a week of London meetings may intervene, even though I'd rather be writing about books.