Wednesday, 30 June 2010

...and then the snow melted...

The House in Norham Gardens
Penelope Lively
Jane Nissen Books (2004)

"' is extremely dull,' said Aunt Susan tartly,
'to grow old with nothing inside your head
but your own voice.

Tedious, to put it mildly.'"

I am ashamed to admit that I am a very intolerant reader
and I am trying to teach myself to read again.
I want to break my habit of skim-reading
which has developed because I am so impatient
if the plot is lazy, characters are flat or descriptions florid

This was the perfect book to start my new reading diet.

Penelope Lively has examined the inner world
of an orphaned teenage girl living with elderly aunts
and you must read it slowly and carefully
so that you do not miss any detail
of the subtle descriptions of character and place.

The plot is feather light but you can hardly breathe
as you observe Clare comprehend the nature of love
and begin to take control of her life.

I would have been exactly the right age to read this
when it was first published in 1974
but I was probably devouring 'Gone With The Wind'
and scandalising the nuns at school.
I might have had better reading habits now
if I had stuck to slim volumes of immaculate writing.


  1. I don't think I'd ever enjoy a slim volume as much as I enjoyed Gone with the Wind.

  2. I want to hear more about nun scandalization. I really do.

  3. I'm trying to think .. in 1974 I was eleven and such a goody two shoes that my nuns would not have been scandalised ..although I do think I might have started dipping into Dad's spy thrillers..

    By the way - has Sue Gee published anything recently .. I must check that out!

  4. I am always fascinated at the different reading tempos which books seem to demand.

    It wasn't the reading matter which got to my nuns - it was the fact that I was often reading something under the desk, when I should have been doing something else.

  5. Is that Norham Gardens as in North Oxford? I had a friend who lived there, with nuns no less. I have never lived with or been educated by a nun, which may explain a lot.

    I could do with a slim volume of dancing prose. We seem to have had an interminable round of thick, worthy tomes at book club recently.

  6. I fought a playground battle about the plot of GTW. I had only read the book and she had only seen the movie. Scarlett's poor wee firstborn just gets written out of history.

  7. Yes. We too want to hear about nun scandalization !!

    Mum and Dad

  8. I was an under the desk reader too. It took me years to figure out why that bothered my math teacher.

    Will have to check out Penelope Lively. Penelope Fitzgerald is another Penelope who writes thin, breath taking books.

  9. I loved this book when I first read it - it was in a box of books given to my daughter. She didn't like it at all, strangely.
    I've always read so quickly that I favoured fat volumes, though I've never read Gone with the Wind - how did that pass me by?

  10. Exquisite review. A trip to the book store will be fun today.
    ps Computer savvy Mum and Dad! so cool.

  11. I have to admit that if the book doesn't get me in in the first few chapters these days then the book ends up on the bedside table for ages. I used to slog through a bad book, but I seem to have become more discerning in my old age....or more impatient :-)

  12. Books are a bit like that old fairy tale: "You gotta kiss a lot of frogs........."

  13. I've recently rediscovered this book and spent ages pouring over the Google Earth images of Norham Gardens trying to identify the house.Lovely review, thank you.


Thank you! I love reading your comments and even though I don't always have time to reply I am really grateful to every one who joins in the conversation.