Doing sums

© C A Lovegrove

At the start of August I outlined my bookish plans for that month which, even at the time, seemed quite ambitious. How did I do, I hear you all cry. (Not.) Here’s a quick update, my original schedule now annotated in green (for those seeing text in colour.)

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

In my imagination August is always associated with books. It may be that, unless memory plays me false, I spent most school summer holidays cosied up with a classic novel; or that the relatively recent promulgation of August 9th as Book Lovers Day merely cements a traditional association.

I may also have Cathy Brown’s increasingly popular meme 20 Books of Summer (or 15, or 10) to blame. But whatever the cause, today may be a good time to take stock.

I opted to officially read 10 named books this summer. So far I’ve completed The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, Aldous Huxley’s so-so The Genius and the Goddess, Muriel Jaeger’s dytopian The Question Mark and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess from my list. I’m also simultaneously pottering through works by Nikolai Gogol, Mervyn Peake and whatever catches my attention, though I’m aware that my attention span currently compares unfavourably with a goldfish or a gnat.

Well, here I failed miserably. Of my 10 Books I read a few more pages of Gormenghast … and that’s it. 4/10.

So that hasn’t stopped me reading or dipping into other books since the beginning of June: novels by Edith Nesbit, C S Lewis, Patricia Highsmith, Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald and Georges Simenon have all featured, and been reviewed.

Austen in August

The Austen in August meme also runs throughout this month. Since I’ve read all her mainstream novels I thought I might try Catharine, or The Bower from her substantial juvenilia, begun in the early 1790s when she was around seventeen. This might be initially preferable to me trying her later incomplete fiction, namely Sanditon* and The Watsons.

Success! I did indeed read about Kitty and her bower and posted a review, and also quickly skimmed through A Brief Guide to Jane Austen which I read and reviewed nearly a decade ago.

Robertson Davies

The Canadian author Robertson Davies was born on 28th August and, following a meme once run by Lory Hess which had us reading his work in the week leading to his birthday, I shall be tackling the third title in his Salterton trilogy, A Mixture of Frailties.

I also read and very much enjoyed the Robertson Davies novel, going as far as posting a review on the anniversary of his birth in 1913.

Mevagissey in the 1960s

Finally – for now, at least – I’ve determined to follow Annabel Gaskell in reading the complete series of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence, using the #TDiRS22 tag. Though I’ve read and reviewed the first three novels, I’ve yet to tackle the last two which are set in Wales. A quick reread of the first title, Over Sea, Under Stone, will prove an ideal holiday book, set as it is in a fictional Cornish fishing village during the summer holidays.

#TDiRS22 @

And what better than kidlit reads to while away the weeks ahead?

And this too was read before the end of the month, and a delightful revisit to Trewissick it proved too! So, as well as Austen, Cooper and Davies I also read Luis Fernando Verissimo‘s Borges and the Eternal Orang-Utans and Wynne Jeudwine‘s Stage Design.

I then asked, What do you choose for summer holiday reading? Light fiction? Blockbusters? Classics? Or do you continue with your usual plans? and you kindly responded in the comments. I do hope you managed to achieve some of what you planned!

Barbican Children’s Library author map. It’s been criticised for its lack of diversity (and the inclusion of a couple of questionable authors) so let’s hope this map will be updated or expanded soon since it’s a lovely concept

* Our son was one of the key grips on the second series of Sanditon, an adaptation and continuation of Austen’s incomplete novel.

26 thoughts on “Doing sums

  1. Quite the reading list, Chris. As always, you cover a wide range. Greenwitch is my favorite of Cooper’s series, so I’ll be interested to read your review.

    I’m slowly working through Austen, with just Mansfield Park and Persuasion remaining. And, of course, still working on my Ulysses@100 books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lizzie—I tend to overface myself when it comes to books, but I’d rather that than being at a loss as to what to read next. My previous review of Greenwitch is here – – I hope with a reread I may have different things to say, or at least more nuanced observations.

      Mansfield Park and Persuasion are the novels by Austen I’m most looking forward to revisiting when I – “eventually” – get round to rereading the series. I have a vague notion of making a timeline of the stories and imagining how the various characters might interact if, when they’re younger or older, their paths might cross.

      Good luck with Ulysses – I intend to get back to Ishmael sometime but in the meantime console myself with quotes provided in tweets by @MobyDickAtSea…


      1. Re your desire to imagine all of Austen’s characters in one room, check out my review of Sybil Brinton’s early 20th Century fan-fiction novel, “Old Friends and New Fancies”, which I reviewed 2 years ago ( She does a pretty good job, although, having just re-read Mansfield Park, I’m troubled by Brinton’s resurrection of Mary Crawford’s character. Mary seems more likely to evolve into Lady Susan!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Whew. What a relief. I have at least read Ulysses. Otherwise I feel very overwhelmed by your diligence and focus.

    I have made one resolution; I will buy no books next year. I already have enough to see me out, and the Proust is still waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diligence? Focus?? Hah! More like “dilatoriness and fakery” I can assure you, Gert! No more new books for next year? For me that would be diligence and focus! As for me, I’m delaying giving Middlemarch a second chance by ploughing through Gormenghast for the first time, supplemented by Maeve Gilmore’s memoir of Peake.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the link again. Love the pic of Mevagissey you found.

    Working term-time only – I relish being able to have a good read every morning in bed, which means I read a lot more in the summer hols. I also always try to balance new/review copies with ones from my TBR for #20BooksofSummer22 – I’m up to 13, so I might make it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome – and the postcard image is great, a bit colourful though for a ‘dark’ story?!

      Morning reading in bed is a real luxury, I agree – and being retired means I can do it most mornings as well as nights! Hope it gets you up to your score. 🙂


    1. If you’re looking at me, Karen, I’m afraid I’d fail miserably at the choice of authors and genres as well as execution! But we can only hope someone would be up for the task. 🙂


  4. Very nice! I have made plans for August, though probably won’t stick to them and now they’re confounded anyway by the fact I forgot Austen, and I have tons of Robertson Davies on the TBR. Ah well – as long as I enjoy what I read, that’s all that matters!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d love to re-read The Dark is Rising series too, though I doubt I’ll be able to fit it in until later. I have very fond memories of it from my teens but suspect there’s far more in it than I spotted at the time. Your reading plans sound ambitious but fun – enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My reading plans sound ambitious? Oh dear, that sounds ominous! I definitely want to read for fun, though, and my three additional prompts this month – Austen, Cooper and Davies – were chosen because I really hoped they’d prove enjoyable experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s some lovely reading planned put for August. I’ll be looking out for your thoughts on these, particularly the Austen since I haven’t read much beyond her completed novels. Have a wonderful reading month!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read through the first “volume” of Austen’s juvenilia a few years back which was huge fun and enlightening – short, humorous pieces, playing around with romantic conventions in a satirical way and parodying theatrical and literary conventions. Wonderful stuff if you can get hold of them: Oxford World’s Classics publish them under the title Catharine and Other Writings, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Impressive ‘work’ so far, though I’m sure reading doesn’t count as work if you’re enjoying it! I liked Zevin’s first novel so will look out for this latest; and of your other titles I’ve only read the Verne, but just in translation.


    1. Sorry, Jane, another author I’m introducing you to! There are other photos of Davies looking wild and woolly, like a cross between a mad professor and Father Christmas, so do search them out!

      Liked by 1 person

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