Tag Archives: Frances Hodgson Burnett

A literary lift

When the time came to hand out the Christmas presents, I barely noticed that the Resident IT Consultant slipped away for a brief time. (No, he did not don a red outfit and long white beard.) He suggested that if I checked my emails, I might find a Kindle book email there. I did. And I did. Apparently this is the way. You buy and the recipient takes delivery almost instantly.

It wasn’t wrapped, though. I have to say that.

*It* was the complete works by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Apparently ‘why buy one book when you can buy them all?’ is the reigning idea. Indeed. My thanks to Amanda Craig, whose Guardian article Books to Bring Cheer caused a bit of book buying at Bookwitch Towers. Rather craftily I asked for some books for me, and then divided things up by giving the Resident IT Consultant one I wanted to read too. What’s his is mine, or some such thing.

Whereas Daughter can think up ideas by herself, for us. Everything I’ve happened to mention gets noted. Which accounts for the Tom Stoppard collection. And my craving for codewords to solve has now received a real challenge. One for every day! What I want to know is whether I will be allowed to solve the one for, say, 13th May on a later date in May?

A grown-up Eva Ibbotson and a new book by Sally Nicholls complete my book presents.

My other pile of books supported the family Christmas gathering. We had a Boxing Day worldwide party, starting in Texas and ending in Moscow. As with everything else in 2020 it was on Zoom, and I was determined to get my chins under control. Hence the lifting of the laptop with the help of literature.

It was nice. People who didn’t often see each other, even before lockdowns became widespread, were able to join in. Before the day was over there had even been an online crossword for one new recruit. Otherwise we’d all spent the day on the Hungarian Accountant’s Russian quiz. (I know. He’s moved.) It was quite a devious one, and I seem to have outwitted the Resident IT Consultant. (There was a trick question. Or two.)

Bookwitch bites #77

Vegetable pakora, perhaps. One of my very favourites. Along with those newly discovered chilli parathas we like.

I mentioned the other day how I could see myself wearing a beautiful sari. It’s funny how your mind changes, from one decade to another, thirty years on. The Resident IT Consultant came with Indian relatives, which was very thoughtful of him. It’s pretty exotic to a Swedish peasant like myself.

So, as the happy day drew near, all those years ago, The Indian Aunt suggested we might want something Indian as a wedding present. Perhaps a sari. I felt I would look odd wearing one of those round Brighton, so replied that almost anything else Indian would be absolutely lovely. It was. But you can’t wear an antique embroidered wall hanging, even in Stockport, if you change your mind.

And to be realistic about this, at my age I suspect the draughtiness of the ‘gaps’ in a sari might be a little on the chilli side.

There are books with bits of India in them. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, for instance. And more recently, Jane Eagland’s Whisper My Name. Both are about formerly ‘Indian’ girls who come to England for their education. And I can’t help but feel that whereas we do like the books for what happens once the girls get here, we would quite like some more of India.

Mr Ram Dass makes me think of Art Malik as Mr Amanjit Singh in Upstairs Downstairs. Silly of me, I know. He’s probably past climbing around on roofs.

(And it’s odd how things happen. As I was blogging merrily away on my Indian theme, I ‘got mail.’ It was from Raja Fashions, telling me when they are next in my neck of the woods. What would we wear without them?)

Super Thursday

How super is it? I’ve been considering having a good long moan about this for a while. About today, and all the books that are published on this one day. I suppose it’s rather like moaning about your family; you love them, but something is driving you demented.

Even while being ruthless about what I want to read – and let’s face it, that’s hard to be – Super Thursday has got me on my knees, and they weren’t very good knees to begin with. For weeks I’ve been muttering a prayer that ‘surely after early October there will be only a very small number of books being published for at least three months’. Please?

They started arriving in early summer with Jacqueline Wilson in the lead, and at that point I felt there was plenty of time. Just a few August and September books to read. Not too bad. Months turned to weeks and then there were days and then there was nothing.

Anyway, if I don’t end up reading a particular book, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or that I wasn’t interested. A large number of books lie waiting; either for a little love and attention a month or two late, or maybe hoping to become the surprise read next summer, or at the very least that I will love it in my retirement in the far off future.

As I didn’t start this blog just to review books, or to write exclusively about new books, I feel the time has come to have rules about how I read. On the basis that many books will have to wait for me to read while baby-sitting the great grandchildren one day, I will allow myself to read old books, and books for purely personal pleasure on a more regular basis. I just can’t decide whether to have a monthly plan, or whether to go for four of one category followed by two from another?

This way I could soon be reading I Capture the Castle and Harriet the Spy and Nesser and Theorin and all the Adrian McKintys. I have three interesting looking story collections by Chris Priestley sitting looking hopeful. Plus all the rest. Oh yes, I understand I must read The Secret Garden. Black Beauty. And one or two more.

Shorter and less frequently published books will always be appreciated.

A Sequel Princess

I’m concerned about Mrs Melchisedec. And the little Melchisedecs. But that’s about it. Sequels and prequels are all the rage, or so it seems. Hilary McKay has written a sequel to A Little Princess, called Wishing for Tomorrow, and that was a little embarrassing for your witch, as she first had to deal with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book. Classics are all very well, but I haven’t read them all.

Luckily I had the new Puffin Classic, with introduction by Adeline Yen Mah, sitting waiting. So the purple original and the pink successor came on holiday with me. I put A Little Princess ready on the coffee table, and then it disappeared. Within an hour Daughter had ‘looked at it a little’, and then disappeared with it, resurfacing four hours and no lunch later. Hilary’s story went the same way, and I had to read something else while I waited.

I loved A Little Princess. For some reason I had expected it to be grimmer, but it was really a case of being transported back to childhood. I’m not sure why I missed it during my first childhood, but I suspect Frances Hodgson Burnett is far more of a standard read in English speaking countries.

Wishing For Tomorrow

But I have to say I didn’t feel the need for a sequel after reading it. Not that I minded having a continuation, but I didn’t feel I had questions that needed answering, like Hilary obviously did. And if I myself had written a sequel, I wouldn’t have gone in the same direction as Hilary. But once I felt comfortable with what she did with the old characters, it’s a great story. It is more of a Hilary McKay story, though, using the Little Princess characters, but that’s fine. A Hilary McKay story is a Good Thing. (And, Sally Nicholls, you couldn’t borrow my copy, because I was too busy with it myself. Sorry. But thank you for getting me interested in Hilary’s writing.)

Wishing for Tomorrow is more feminist than the original story. Lavinia turns into Hermione Granger, but that’s not a bad thing. The girls ‘left behind’ grow in a variety of ways, and the adults develop, too. Thank goodness for Epping. You could almost have a sequel to this book, if you wanted.