by Charles Dickens
Published all over the place
When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father's death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world. His adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, the tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas, the pretentious Mantalinis and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummels and their daughter, the 'infant phenomenon'.
It's a long book. Even as a big stack of CDs it takes a lot of getting through, and some chapters are blatantly filler. Others, however, are pure genuis. I'm not sure I can cope with Dickens in print, but I'll try more on audio (just not Oliver Twist, having given up on that one once already).
Dancing with Mr Darcy: Stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House
selected and introduced by Sarah Waters
Published by Honno Ltd
An anthology of the winning entries in the Jane Austen Short Story Award 2009, which celebrates the bicentenary of Jane Austen's arrival in Chawton House, where she spent the most productive years of her literary life. The intention of the prize is to publish the very best short fiction inspired by Jane Austen or Chawton House.
Anthologies can be a mixed bag, but all the stories in this one were smashing: some about Jane, some about her characters, some about her homes, and some taking one of her themes and doing something rather different with it. Well worth tracking down.
The Old Dog And Duck: The Secret Meanings Of Pub Names
by Albert Jack
Published by Particular Books
This is a book for everyone who has ever wondered why pubs should be called The Cross Keys, The Dew Drop Inn or The Hope and Anchor. You'll be glad to know that there are very good - strange and memorable - reasons behind them all. After much research about (and in) pubs, Albert Jack brings together the stories behind pub names to reveal how they offer fascinating and subversive insights on our history, customs, attitudes and jokes in just the same way that nursery rhymes do. The Royal Oak, for instance, commemorates the tree that hid Charles II from Cromwell's forces after his defeat at Worcester; The Bag of Nails is a corruption of the Bacchanals, the crazed followers of Bacchus, the god of wine and drunkenness; The Cat and the Fiddle a mangling of Catherine La Fidele and a guarded gesture of support for Henry VIII's first, Catholic, wife Catherine of Aragon; plus many, many more. Here too are even more facts about everything from ghosts to drinking songs to the rules of cribbage and shove ha'penny, showing that, ultimately, the story of pub history is really the story of our own popular history.
I'm eternally curious about names, and this book didn't fail to inform me about a good few. On the other hand, there were times when I thought the author was trying too hard to be funny and political in one go, and falling rather flat. Definitely a book to drop in and out of, although I'm not enthusiastic enough to search out my own copy after returning the one I borrowed from the library.
Ravished by the Rake
by Louise Allen
Published by Mills & Boon
A VERY DANGEROUS LIAISON! Vivacious Lady Perdita Brooke prides herself on her social poise...except when faced with devastatingly dashing Alistair Lyndon. The dreamy young man Dita once knew is now a hardened rake, who clearly does not remember their passionate night together...however much it's emblazoned on her memory! Now Dita has the perfect opportunity to remind Alistair of their sizzling chemistry. But soon she is in over her head. Provoking him is supposed to be a deliciously wicked game, with her holding all the cards - until Alistair reveals the ace up his sleeve...
First in a series, that I yet again managed to read in completely the wrong order. Knowing what would happen to everyone overall failed to spoil the fun, however. A delightful pair of protagonists here, and lots of enchanting secondary characters, more of whom deserved their own books than actually got to have their stories told. A lovely link into the next book of the set at the end too.
The Baronet's Blackout Bombshell
by Raven McAllan
Published by Breathless Press
Your past has a habit of catching up with you. Bare-assed, climbing a wall, would be one of those times, naturally.
Chrissie thought her humiliation was complete when Baronet Archie called off their engagement. However, meeting him again, when she is attempting to break back into her temporary residence, takes embarrassment to new heights. Will he turn her in to her boss or do the gentlemanly thing and look the other way? Archie has never forgotten his little bombshell. Being so visibly reminded of her attributes makes him determined to atone for his past mistakes.
There is nothing quite like a war going on to remind you that life is short and there for the taking. Can Archie convince Chrissie he's here to stay, or will circumstances drive them apart once more?
This ought to have been just my thing, but somehow it didn't feel of the era. The characters weren't exactly modern archetypes dressed up in 1940s clothes, but I didn't get a full sense of what it was to live in wartime from them either. Oddly disappointing, and I can't even pinpoint why.