Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Dumbledore Humour #Humour #Quotes #HarryPotter

Albus Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class, Grand Sorc., Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. Of Wizards, Headmaster of Hogwarts, school of Witchcraft and Wizardry is one of the greatest wizards there is. Dumbledore could have been Minister of Magic but preferred to be at Hogwarts. He is the only one He-who-must-not-be-named is afraid of, and throughout the books guides Harry (in his own way, sometimes telling him only some things but never all) to defeat Voldemort. He is powerful, wise (‘My brain surprises even me, sometimes’), perhaps not always straightforward and of course, a central character in the Harry Potter books.

Reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the ???th time last week and this week, I realised consciously though, how little we encounter him in the first book. We first meet him in the book when he comes with Prof McGonagall and Hagrid to drop baby Harry off at the Dursleys, and then only come across his name when Harry gets his letter (or rather the one he can finally read after the many many letters that the owls bring to him),  and find out who he is (other than that he is magic, and a professor, perhaps), and then we learn a little more when Harry gets his first Famous Witches and Wizards card—which also turns out to hold an important clue to a mystery Harry, Ron, and Hermione are faced with later. After that, Dumbledore only makes brief appearances and says very little as well (some of it to help Harry with what’s coming). But what I also noticed in this read was the humorous outpourings that seem to come from Dumbledore pretty much every time we meet him in the book (except perhaps when he is present at the famous Quidditch match refereed by Severus Snape—he says nothing there at all). From downright senseless-ridiculous to very funny, Dumbledore certainly has some rather remarkable lines in this book. And here are the ones that I noticed!

When he comes to drop Harry off:

Scars can come in useful. I have one myself above my left knee which is a perfect map of the London Underground.

The welcome banquet at Hogwarts

‘Welcome! He said, ‘Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts’. Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!’

At the mirror of Erisid

Harry: What do you see when you look in the mirror?’

Dumbledore: I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks.

Harry stared. ‘One can never have enough socks, said Dumbledore. ‘And Christams has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books’.

And in the hospital wing, where Harry is recovering from his first major face-off with Vodemort

‘What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so naturally the whole school knows!’

Still at the hospital wing…

Ah! Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavoured one, and since then I’m afraid I’ve rather lost my liking for them—but I think I’ll be safe with a nice toffee, don’t you?

He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, ‘Alas! Earwax!’

Did you notice all of these when you read the book? Which one/s are your favourites? Any that I’ve missed that you can recall? Looking forward to your thoughts!  

#Review: Lucia’s Progress by E.F. Benson

Lucia’s Progress is book 5 in Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series, telling of the further adventures of Emmeline Lucas, ‘Lucia’, as she pits her wits against her arch-rival Elizabeth Mapp-Flint (now married to major Benjy) to be ‘queen’ of Tilling. As this instalment opens, Lucia is about to turn fifty and realises that while she has been doing her bit (more than her bit, in fact) in the social life of Tilling—from leading social life with her musical evenings and lessons, to reading to the inmates of the work house, delivering lectures, singing in the choir and also engaging in her own studies and music—she hasn’t made the best use of her energies. And so starts her new adventure—this time on the stock market as she makes various investments with her shrewd advisor’s help (all the while making out that he is acting on her advice) but this is sufficient to pique Tilling’s interest as all the rest begin to follow in her path, including Elizabeth Mapp-Flint who once again acts but without thinking it out, while Diva follows too but wavers. But that is only the beginning, for Mrs Mapp-Flint finds herself in a position where she just might be able to get one step ahead of Lucia. Life in Tilling moves on alongside with their Bridge parties, and the homeowners (most of them) letting out their houses in the summer for a nice change as well as some extra income. But when Lucia and Elizabeth Mapp-Flint take their ‘contest’ a step ahead by contesting against each other for Town Council, things take a more serious turn, threatening to make Tilling life bitter as well, for like it or not, without the two there isn’t much of it. How does the election turn out? And who comes out in top in Tilling this time?

This outing was once again a great deal of fun, and once again, because of Miss Mapp, rather Mrs Mapp-Flint’s mean/nasty streak, I found myself supporting Lucia though even she had moments when she took things a step too far. But still, even when she wants to lead, she doesn’t wish anyone ill or any harm, and so one finds one can cheer her on while even when Elizabeth Mapp isn’t getting the better end of things one doesn’t feel particularly sorry for her. Also Lucia (even if she does get her ideas from outside), is still quite original, while Mapp simply borrows from others in Tilling, most times merely to pull them down, or is happy to create certain impressions which she knows to be untrue right from the start. But one does feel for poor major Benjy though, as life as Elizabeth’s husband isn’t the pleasantest of things, and he manages to make a few blunders getting himself into a soup. Meanwhile Lucia and Georgie realise how much they value each other, and there are some changes in that relationship too. One of my favourite characters from the first book, Olga Bracely finds a mention too, and we know her to be still living in Riseholme.

Overall I enjoyed their antics in this one except on a couple of occasions; Lucia’s archaeological adventures were especially good fun, and how she handled the whole thing (although there was some deception in it after all) was all the more so. I don’t think Miss Mapp (I find myself thinking of her as that too, like ‘quaint Irene’) has the talent to handle things quite that way. Meanwhile with the ending–I won’t say what—the stage is set for a new set of adventures, sadly, the last one. But I still have book 3 to revisit in the middle, and while ending a series does make one a little sad, being books, one knows one can always start all over again!

Incidentally, I only noticed on this read that floods must be a fairly common occurrence in Tilling/Rye, for our residents seem to always be impacted. I don’t remember if this happens in the last book too—must keep a look out!

Have you read this one? Or others in the series? Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

My reviews of Queen Lucia and Mapp and Lucia are here and here. Also find a review of Mapp and Lucia by Jaclyn at coveredinflour here and of Queen Lucia on Lizzy’s Literary Life here.

#Review: Mapp and Lucia by Edward Frederic Benson

The fourth of the Mapp and Lucia series and the book in which the two ladies first cross swords (we are told that they have met earlier, when Miss Mapp visited and stayed a short while in Riseholme, and from where, we learn some of her contributions to Tilling society like ‘Au Reservoir’ actually came).

Anyway, the book opens in Riseholme where we find that Peppino has died and Lucia has been in mourning for nearly a year. Meanwhile preparations are on for the village fete, an idea proposed and planned by Lucia but now taken over by Daisy Quantock, who is also to play Queen Elizabeth in the tableaux, while Georgie Pillson is to be Sir Francis Drake. But Lucia is slowly becoming her old self once again, and wants as a result to be the centre of attention once again. But Daisy naturally does not want Lucia to take over, and so Lucia decides to simply go away for a while, having come upon an advertisement by Miss Mapp who wishes to let her house Mallards in Tilling for two months. She convinces Georgie to drive down to Tilling with her to look over the house, and before they know it, Tilling has captivated them, and not only has Lucia taken Mallards for the said period, Georgie has taken the smaller Mallards Cottage as well. They will return to Riseholme for fete week of course, particularly as Daisy finds that things have gotten too much for her to handle.  At Tilling, Miss Mapp thinks that she is going take Lucia under her wing and direct (or at least attempt to) social life as she always tries to do (but not quite as successfully as Lucia). But little does she realise, the imperious Lucia is no naïve lamb, and before she knows it, Lucia has more or less taken over Tilling society, participating in its social life with dinners and luncheons, the art exhibition, and bridge, even taking classes for other Tllingites. Miss Mapp tries, very hard to throw every obstacle in her path, but Lucia seems to get the better of her each time. But then Lucia seems to overstep her bounds too, and Tilling begins to get tired of being ‘directed’. Will Miss Mapp finally prevail?

I’ve been enjoying my revisits of these books by Benson very much, and picked this one up after reading Miss Mapp and then Queen Lucia (I skipped Lucia in London, but will probably read that as well). It was interesting seeing the two ladies ‘clash’ (including over the famed recipe for Lobster à la Riseholme) and Lucia getting the better of Miss Mapp in most situations. Of the two I prefer Lucia since even if she is domineering and does manipulate things a bit, she doesn’t have a downright nasty streak that Miss Mapp does. Also Miss Mapp is something of a cheat as well, not playing straight right from the start, not only with those she knows but also those she doesn’t. So, its fun when Lucia manages even to come out victorious even when Mapp has her cornered. 

In this book, we get the full flavour of life in Riseholme and Tilling—the fete and preparations for the same which are great fun, and seeing Daisy start confidently but fumble and stumble through things only to admit that Lucia alone can pull it off. At Tilling too, life seems richer in this book than was described in Miss Mapp where we mostly saw tea parties and bridge games. Now there is also an art exhibition (a Tilling Art Society) in which everyone participates, as well as (since Lucia has arrived) things like classes–from callisthenics to bridge and Dante— as well as a fete complete with tableaux, and musical evenings (po-di-mu) which she organises. The Riseholmites it appears are financially far better off than most Tillingites, so when Lucia and Georgie come in, entertainments change in terms of regular dinner/luncheon parties rather than simply teas.

Also, I felt this book also described Tilling better—‘that broad expanse of water, now lit by a gleam of sun, in front of which to the westward, the hill of Tilling rise dark against a sky already growing red against the winter sunset’—not only nature but also the streets and houses. Tilling of course is based on Rye in East Sussex while Mallards is Lamb House where Benson (and before him Henry James) lived. Both the adaptations of the Mapp and Lucia books (1985 and 2014) were filmed here as well.

Lamb House/Mallards

I enjoyed all of their clashes and adventures (with the exception of one little episode towards the end which didn’t make much sense to me—why he put it in I mean, unless it was for a certain plot development that follows). Of the characters, I do find Roseholmites much more fun than the Tillingites (especially Daisy Quantock and her fads), but this book has them both, so there was little to complain about, and at the end of the day, like us the reader, Tilling too enjoys our two ladies better when they clash, not very pleased with the calm periods before the storms recommence.

Have you read this one or any of the others in the series? Which ones, and how did you like them? Have you seen either (or both) of the adaptations? Which did you prefer? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find a lovely post on the picturesque Rye and its literary connections by Chris@ Calmgrove (here) and Lamb house (here)

Image source: Lamb House: IXIA at English Wikipedia / Public domain (here); cover image from Goodreads as always

Review: Queen Lucia by Edward Frederic Benson #Humour

Queen Lucia, the first of Edward Frederic Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books, turns a 100 this year, and so I thought I should revisit. The stories centre around Emmeline Lucas (‘Lucia’) and Miss Elizabeth Mapp who battle for social supremacy in the village of Tilling (based on Rye where Benson himself lived).

The first book, Queen Lucia, which introduces us to Lucia (the second introduces us to Miss Mapp) has a different setting—the village of Riseholme (from where Lucia moves to Tilling in book 4), where Lucia is undisputed Queen of all things social—she organises garden parties, entertainments like tableaux, plays the piano and pronounces what music is the thing to be played (the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata is a favourite), and generally directs the cultural life of the village. (Her husband Peppino/Philip, a former lawyer, has also published two volumes of poetry). Others, like her right-hand man Georgie Pillson, and neighbour Daisy Quantock (who takes up a new fad every other day) usually simply follow, for attempts at Bolshevism (seeds of which creep up in them every so often) are often crushed rather ruthlessly (but with flair) by the Queen. Others like Lady Ambermere must be kept in good humour of course, but Lucia manages to ‘direct’ her as well to fall in with her plans much of the time. But things begin to change for Lucia’s ‘perfect’ life in Riseholme when Olga Braceley, the prima donna first visits and then moves into Riseholme. Olga is a good-natured and good-hearted character who almost instantly wins Georgie Pillson’s heart (and loyalty), but her interactions with Lucia don’t quite turn out right, for while Olga doesn’t intend it, she accidentally exposes Lucia’s pretensions (her reputation as a judge of good music, or her and her husband Pepino’s ability to converse in Italian, for instance) one after another, almost taking her ‘kingdom’ from her. But her kind heart means she is more than ready to restore it as well.

This was a fun read as always, and I found myself (like Olga) feeling a touch sorry for Lucia seeing all that she had created for herself slipping from right under her feet, even though Lucia can be rather spiteful (but even so, I find her more ‘likeable’ than Miss Mapp—by comparison, only of course). Daisy Quantock with her ever changing fads (which invariably end not just in disappointment but as cons) is a fun character—always excited when she picks up a new one, and then struggling to cover her tracks (or rather, the fiasco) when the inevitable happens; she is one of the few in Riseholme who attempt to rebel, yet there is little or no spite in her. Olga Braceley is perhaps my favourite in the book—she is fun, likeable, thoroughly straight-forward, and good-natured—trying to help and be kind to all, even Lucia who she knows has been nothing but rude and spiteful. She is also rather perceptive, able to see instantly what others don’t and able to bring others happiness rather than only accolades for herself. The other characters—Lady Ambemere with her mousy companion/assistant Miss Lyall and pug, Mrs Weston and Col. Boucher, ‘Piggie’ and ‘Goosie’ Antrobus—are also fun, though some we get to see more of than others perhaps. (Benson’s The Freaks of Mayfair, by the way, had prototypes of some of these characters.)  

When I compare the two villages in these initial books, I find life at Riseholme far more interesting than at Tilling where there might be battles for social one-upmanship, card parties, and even visits by the Prince, but which are not anywhere as much fun as Daisy Quantock and her yoga ‘Guru’ holding classes or Sybil séances or her many other fads or even the tableaux that Lucia plans and holds—life seems richer here in some ways and more fun. Like Olga Bracely says at one point, ‘Oh, it’s all so delicious!’…‘I never knew before how terribly interesting little things were. It’s all wildly exciting, and there are fifty things going on just as exciting.’ 

Each connected episode is a great deal of fun, and one certainly laughs or has a smile on ones face as one watches things unfold, and even as Lucia gets more and more into trouble (mean of us perhaps), and each fad or pretension is burst. I thoroughly enjoyed my revisit, and am moving on to Mapp and Lucia (book 4) now (I just read Miss Mapp before this), to see how the meeting between the two formidable ladies plays out.

Have you read this one, or others by Benson? Which ones and How did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Three Little Pigs–with a Twist! #RoaldDahl #Poetry #Humour #DarkHumour

The Pig Carrying the Straw
Source: Leonard Leslie Brooke [Public domain] via wikimedia commons

The Three Little Pigs is of course a tale familiar to us all–the story of …er… three little pigs who go out into the wide world, in search of ‘their fortune’, and end up building houses for themselves, each with different material–straw, sticks, and brick. But two of the houses get blown down by the wolf, while the third pig manages to build a strong enough house to withstand the wolf’s strength (breath?). In some versions, the first two pigs are eaten by the wolf while in others, they escape and hide in the brick house with their brother, all three saved in the process. The story has appeared in verse form as well as prose. There are also several retellings (as I learnt from good old wikipedia (here)), including a jazz version dating back to 1953 by Al ‘Jazzbo’ Collins (here), and a parody in 1989; even a ‘reverse’ version in a book in 1992, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig where it is the wolves who build houses and the pig who does the blowing down.

The Pigs Being Sent Out into the World by Their Mother
Leonard Leslie Brooke (1862-1940) [Public domain]
via wikimedia commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_little_pigs_and_mother_sow_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661.jpg

But the version I’m writing about today, is one I came across by chance, and fairly recently too, is one in verse by Roald Dahl. And being by Dahl, the story of the pigs isn’t just the usual story we know (any of the versions), but has his own little twist at the end, very much on the lines of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ from the Alice books (at least that was what I was reminded of when reading it). [Just a small warning: This post is not spoiler-free.] This version appeared in Revolting Rhymes in 1982, which features six poems, each a parody of a fairy tale.

Dahl’s version begins with praise of pigs in general, as creatures that are ‘noble…clever…courteous‘ (Emsworth in disguise?). But as he says,

'However,
Now and then, to break this rule,
One meets a pig who is a fool.'

Something like the first of our three little pigs who made his house out of straw. Dahl’s version retains the words of the version I originally heard/read (can’t remember which) where the wolf says

'Little pig, little pig, let me come in!'
'No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!'
'Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!'
The Wolf and the Pig with the Straw House
Leonard Leslie Brooke (1862-1940) [Public domain]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Three_little_pigs_1904_straw_house.tif

And of course, the wolf does just that. But in this version, the poor little pig does not escape and ends up as the wolf’s meal, well, part of it, for even though the wolf feels bloated, he isn’t quite satisfied, moving along till he finds to his surprise another little house for pigs, this time, one made of twigs. Two little pigs now in his tummy, it is bulging, yet he ‘adore[s] indulging‘. And

So creeping quietly as a mouse,
The Wolf approached another house,
A house which also had inside
A little piggy trying to hide.
The Wolf Trying to Enter Through the Chimney in the original version of the story
Leonard Leslie Brooke via wikimedia commons
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Three_little_pigs%2C_Img013.jpg

But this house was a different challenge altogether, for while the wolf blew and blew, the house stayed ‘as good as new‘. Incidentally, the poem doesn’t actually mention that this one was made of bricks, but of course, we know that already! But here, the wolf also doesn’t try to make his way down the chimney as he does in some versions, where he ends up getting killed in the process for the pigs light a fire underneath. But he doesn’t give up either. This wolf here is rather ‘modern’ , and decides instead to go and fetch some dynamite. The piggie immediately picks up his telephone (yes, he has one of those) and calls for help–who else, but Little Red Riding Hood, who has had experience dealing with wolves before. Red Riding Hood is busy washing her hair at the moment, but promises to come when it is dry.

Little Red Riding Hood (not from Dahl’s version, of course)
via wikimedia commons
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Little_Red_Riding_Hood_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19993.jpg

The wolf is standing with ‘eyes ablaze‘, and sharp teeth ‘yellowish, like mayonnaise‘, spit ‘dripping from his jaw‘. Miss Riding Hood has arrived as promised and in a flick of her eyelids, draws a pistol and fires a shot, hitting once more ‘the vital spot‘. The wolf is dead, and the pig, peeping through the window yells, ‘Well done, Miss Riding Hood‘.

So you would think ends our little story, but that isn’t quite it, for as Dahl tells us (and the poor piglet), that ‘Young Ladies from the Upper Crust‘ aren’t to be trusted, so now when we see Miss Riding Hood, one finds that she

Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,
She has a PIGSKIN TRAVELING CASE.

So the poor piggie in this version ends up as unlucky as his brothers, not in the wolf’s stomach but unfortunately, most likely in Miss Riding Hood’s, with his skin turned into her travelling case!

And so ends our three little pigs’ tale, with Dahl’s little twist, which I definitely didn’t see coming. And one I won’t forget easily either. As I wrote earlier, it reminded me a little of the ‘Walrus and the Carpenter’, where the Walrus and the Carpenter take the oysters for a walk to give them a treat, but of course, we know where the poor oysters end up, though the Walrus does shed a few tears, while his has his meal. Miss Riding Hood too, somewhat similarly is all eager to help the pig, but at the end… Dark it may be but it was still an enjoyable version, though one feels rather sorry for the poor third pig.

Have you read this version before? What did you think of it? Any other ‘Three Little Pigs’ stories, adaptations, versions that you’ve read, heard, or seen and enjoyed? Which ones? Or do you simply prefer the ‘original’ tale? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Find the full poem here and here. It’s also on Youtube here (on a channel called Blandings Castle 🙂 )

A detailed analysis of the poem, including on rhyme and syntax, use of capitals, word-usage and such is here.

I have previously written on another Dahl poem, The Ant-Eater (here)

Shelf Control #58: Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck

Wednesday, the 4th of September, and the first shelf control post this month. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This month again I haven’t picked a specific theme as reading has generally been slow lately because of work and such. So Shelf Control, too, once again, will be random picks from my TBR pile. This week, it’s another pick from my Kindle TBR, Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck.

Bewildering Cares, subtitled ‘A Week in the Life of a Clergyman’s Wife’ is the diary of a vicar’s wife in a Manchester town in the early days of World War II. And before you begin to think of it as sounding dreary, it is something on the lines of the Dairy of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield, so a witty and fun look at life in a small town 1940 with outraged parishioners and servant troubles, a bubbling romance or two, and the diarist’s son heading off to train with his regiment.

The Author: Lady Winifred Peck was the daughter of the fourth Bishop of Manchester, and one of an interesting set of siblings, from E.V. Knox, editor of Punch to Ronald Knox, theologian and writer, and Dilly Knox a cryptographer. The author Penelope Fitzgerald (daughter of E.V. Knox) was her niece. Peck was married to a British civil servant who was awarded a knighthood in 1938. Over a 40-year period, Peck wrote 25 novels including a couple of mysteries.

I picked this one up when it was free on offer (now it is still free on Kindle Unlimited), mostly because it sounded like Provincial Lady, and I had heard some good things about it in a Goodreads group I am part of. It certainly sounds like a delightful read.

Have you read this one or any of the author’s other books? Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

As always information on the book and the author are from goodreads here, and here.

Review: The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow #BookReview #Fantasy #Humour

My thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.

This is (which I didn’t realise at first) the first in a fantasy–adventure series complete with a prophecy, magic, mages, a tyrannical king, goblins, and trolls and fairies, even a storybook ‘hero’—all the usual ingredients but with a fun twist. In the Kingdom of Lohr, we meet different groups on missions, a bunch of trolls—mercenaries on the trail of someone; the group of people there are trailing, a motley lot including a mage carrying a magic sword in secret somewhere; then a third group of Kingswatch constables on the trail of poachers in the Great Untame; and alongside a lone adolescent goblin, Griff of the title, who is travelling to the city, wanting only to make a name for himself as a minstrel in a kingdom not very friendly to those not human. Alongside, on a pig farm is a young orphan boy, Arn Propp, handsome, brave, ready to stand up for injustice, in short the perfect hero who is trying to his work well (he lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousins, who in this case (not stereotypical) actually like and appreciate him) and get along in life but who suddenly also finds himself thrown in the midst of adventure, when he goes to rescue his cousin from some thugs. The paths of these groups cross and stories collide with unusual results, especially when one event throws the entire course of things on its head, and we find ourselves with an unlikely hero who has to take on the reins.

This was a really fun read for me. A couple of other reviewers of this book have mentioned how like Pratchett this book is, and that was something that came to my mind as well—the humour, and the set-up of the story while original also reminded me a lot of Pratchett, and there were moments specifically that I found myself thinking of the city watch books in particular. I enjoyed how the author picked up the elements of a typical fantasy adventure and put his own spin on it making it a very entertaining journey. Also, it isn’t just the ‘main’ twist, but there was another along the way which took me by surprise and I’d love to see how that plays out over the course of the story. Like the discworld book it specifically made me think of, Men at Arms, this one too weaves in issues of diversity, people refusing to understand each other, even listen to each other merely because they are different, and the need to look at things from each one’s point of view before taking action (more often than not violent) recklessly (not a problem of the fantasy world alone, unfortunately). The characters were also very likeable, and I liked how the author made us see things from each one’s or each group’s pov. I am keen to see where their adventures take them next and what new twists and turns the plot takes. Great fun!  Four and a half stars!

Review: Mr Finchley Discovers His England by Victor Canning #NetGalley #Humour #MrFinchley

My thanks to NetGalley and Farrago Books for a digital review copy of this book.

First published in 1934, Mr Finchley Discovers His England is the first in a series of (I think) three books featuring Mr Finchley, a forty-five-year-old bachelor, who works as a solicitor’s clerk in London. When one of his bosses Mr Bardwell dies, and the office is taken over by his partner Mr Sprake, there comes an unexpected change in Mr Finchley’s life. For the first time since Mr Finchley was employed, he finds himself getting a three-week holiday. So of course, as holidays must usually be, he books himself into a hotel at Margate. But when he is waiting to catch his train, a man asks him to watch his Bentley, which Mr Finchley agrees to do but he falls asleep in the process. When his eyes next open, the car is being driven, away and Mr Finchley finds himself kidnapped. He is unnerved but decides to take the experience as an adventure, one he could have never had in his normal life. From here, he manages to make his escape. And with this starts a holiday completely unlike what Mr Finchley could have ever imagined. Mr Finchley traipses across the country, soaking in nature, meeting interesting people and having a series of unforeseen adventures. He falls in with tramps, artists, travellers, and gypsies, ends up taking jobs at a fair and selling petrol, being mistaken for a vagrant and a lunatic, is almost strangled, plays cricket and even takes to smuggling! His adventures change his life completely, so much so that there is likely to be a change in his everyday life too.

This was such a fun, charming read, with gentle humour and a very likeable set of characters. Something like Three Men in a Boat but without the slapstick. What I really liked about Mr Finchley as a character was how open he was to each new adventure, to each new experience, and how ready he was to enjoy every thing that came his way, irked sometimes (only initially), but never complaining or grumbling much, rather relishing every moment. The people he meets have interesting stories (unlike Mr Finchley’s own which is rather ordinary untill this adventure begins), some sad, some simply unusual, and while not all are honest and straightforward, they certainly are far from the ordinary. I also loved how away from grey London, Mr Finchley gets to really immerse himself in nature, whether it be the birds around, or the sea, or the moors, there is a certain peace about the places he spends time at which transfers itself to the reader as well. My first acquaintance with Mr Finchley and Victor Canning’s work was really delightful. Looking forward to more in the future.    

The book was published on 18 April 2019!

Shelf Control #41: Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell

Wednesday the 24th of April, and time for Shelf Control once again. Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles. If you want to join in, every Wednesday, simply pick a book from your TBR pile (or mountain, as mine is:) ), and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page and do share your links in the comments below as well, as I’d love to see your picks!

This is the final Shelf Control post in April, and I have yet another book today published in the 1930s (which is my reading theme for the month). Today’s pick is Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell. This book was first published in 1934. This is second in a series of thirty-two books that Thirkell set in the fictional county of Barshetshire, created by Antony Trollope. He wrote six Chronicles of Barsetshire.

What it’s all about: The story is centered on the Leslie family of Rushwater House, where Lady Emily reigns amidst confusion and turmoil. Mr Leslie has taken off on a cruise to the “Northern Capitals of Europe”. Agnes, the daughter of the house is home on a visit with her children. Two other sons deal with their problems and try to find their own paths. One grandson, Martin is fast growing up. There is a cousin Mary, also there on a visit. And there’s more of a cast to add to the confusion–French tenants, and a social leech, Mr Holt. Wild Strawberries takes us on an amusing journey into all their lives and interactions!

Angela Thirkell
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Angela Thirkell, was an English and Australian novelist. Daughter of John Mackail and Margaret Burne-Jones, she was a first cousin once removed to Rudyard Kipling. Her brother Denis Mackail was also a novelist, best known these days I think for Greenery Street republished by Persephone books in 2002. [Going off on a tangent here, but Mackail’s work was praised by Wodehouse in one of his books, and the one book I’ve read by him, Romance to the Rescue was really good fun, very Wodehousian.] Thirkell’s works are described as having ‘satirical exuberance’. She has written a handful of standalone books, besides the Barsetshire Chronicles. Find out more about Angela Thirkell on Wikipedia (here) and from the Angela Thirkell Society of North America here.

I read one of her Barshetshire books a couple of years ago, August Folly (1936) which was a delightful comedy of manners set around an amateur performance of Hippolytus being rehearsed in a village amidst which many f the characters fall in love or fancy themselves in love, only to be shaken back into reality and their senses eventually. Based on that reading experience, I so expect Wild Strawberries to be a fun and crazy journey as well!

Have you read this book or any of Thirkell’s other Barshetshire books? If any other/s which one/s? Did you enjoy them? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

All the information about the book and Thirkell, are as always from Wikipedia and Goodreads, and about August Folly, from my own review.