Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….There was a line-up at the luggage counter, and they took their places at the end of it. To Mrs. Hamilton, who was quick to sense atmosphere, the big room had an air of excitement gone stale, anticipation soured by reality.
….Journey’s end, she thought. She felt stale and sour herself, and the feeling reminded her of Virginia; Virginia at Christmas time, the year she was eight. For weeks and weeks the child had dreamed of Christmas, and then on Christmas morning she had awakened and found that Christmas was only another day. There were presents, of course, but they weren’t, they never could be, as big and exciting and mysterious as the packages they came in. In the afternoon Virginia had wept, rocking herself back and forth in misery.
….“I want my Christmas back again. I want my Christmas!” Mrs Hamilton knew now that what Virginia had wanted back were the wild and wonderful hopes, the boxes unopened, the ribbons still in bows.

~ Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

* * * * *

From Churchill’s tribute in the House to Neville Chamberlain, on his death…

….At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with the shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….Emily Gaunt was coming down the stairs to her bedroom, fresh from her bath. Emily Gaunt was a pleasant person, well-proportioned, and, for a housemaid, unusually fair to see. Her eyes, like her hair, were a very dark brown, and there was a certain refinement in her features. Her hair was hanging about her shoulders and her face – usually pale – was rosy from her bath. In the absence of a dressing-gown or kimono, she wore an old coat of Cook’s over her night-gown. Cook was skinny and Emily was plump, so that Cook’s coat was far from meeting where it ought to have met. There was a great deal of Emily’s neck and Emily’s night-gown to be seen.
….Stephen, so far, had taken little notice of Emily, except that one evening he had smiled at her for some reason and she had smiled at him; but at this moment, in the special circumstances of this lovely evening, she seemed in his eyes surprisingly desirable. In the half-light from the dining-room it was easy to forget that she was a servant. She was merely a warm young female creature, plump and comely, and scantily clad.
….And there was no one else in the house.

~ The House by the River by A.P. Herbert

* * * * *

….She turned back into the room, and going to her writing-table laid Mrs. Fairford’s note before her, and began to study it minutely. She had read in the “Boudoir Chat” of one of the Sunday papers that the smartest women were using the new pigeon-blood notepaper with white ink; and rather against her mother’s advice she had ordered a large supply, with her monogram in silver. It was a disappointment, therefore, to find that Mrs. Fairford wrote on the old-fashioned white sheet, without even a monogram—simply her address and telephone number. It gave Undine rather a poor opinion of Mrs. Fairford’s social standing, and for a moment she thought with considerable satisfaction of answering the note on her pigeon-blood paper. Then she remembered Mrs. Heeny’s emphatic commendation of Mrs. Fairford, and her pen wavered. What if white paper were really newer than pigeon blood? It might be more stylish, anyhow. Well, she didn’t care if Mrs. Fairford didn’t like red paper—SHE did! And she wasn’t going to truckle to any woman who lived in a small house down beyond Park Avenue…

~ The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

* * * * *

….The sea was no longer oil-smooth. Little waves were forming on the tops of the swell, making patterns of white as they broke. I knew I hadn’t much time. I cupped my hands round my mouth and shouted: “Mary Deare! Ahoy! Is there anybody on board?” A gull shifted his stance uneasily on one of the ventilators, watching me with a beady eye. There was no answer, no sound except the door to the after deck-house slatting back and forth, regular as a metronome, and the bump of the lifeboat against the port side. It was obvious that she was deserted. All the evidence of abandonment was there on the deck – the empty falls, the stray pieces of clothing, a loaf lying in the scuppers, a hunk of cheese trampled into the deck, a half-open suitcase spilling nylons and cigarettes, a pair of sea boots; they had left her in a hurry and at night.
….But why?
….A sense of unease held me for a moment – a deserted ship with all its secrets, all its death-in-life stillness – I felt like an intruder and glanced quickly back towards Sea Witch. She was no bigger than a toy now in the leaden immensity of sea and sky, and the wind was beginning to moan through the empty ship – hurry! hurry!

~ The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

35 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. I like the excerpt from Millar and I think I’d like to delve into the Churchill book as well. A.P. Herbert I’ve been meaning to try for years (Holy Deadlock) but haven’t gotten down to. And I know my mom has quite a few Hammond Innes on her shelves of which I only read Solomon’s Seal and that too ages ago

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most of them turned out to be goodies. Churchill of course, though I’m glad to have finally finished it – feel as if I’ve been reading it for ever. I enjoyed the Millar more than the Herbert – his writing is good but the plot got swamped in description. The Hammond Innes was very enjoyable – nothing like a sea adventure, so long as it’s happening to someone else! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. They all tempt me, from poor, disappointed Virginia and the mystery of the Mary Deare to Emily, who I don’t see having a happy ending. And as for she of the red paper and white ink, what on earth was she thinking?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, the red paper and white ink reminded me of trying to write on coloured Christmas cards with those awful glitter pens! Poor Emily! Poor Virginia! Poor Mary Deare! They all had their troubles… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always liked Millar’s ability to weave atmosphere and build psychological suspense, FictionFan. So that one definitely tempts me. But, then, so does the Churchill. He was right there for so many important events, and his writing style is informative without being pedantic or too tedious. I’ll be especially interested in what you think of the way he discusses that part of history.

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    • Finally finished Churchill – I feel as if I’ve been reading it for years! Only volumes 3 to 6 to go! 😉 He really is excellent at bringing history to life though. The Millar was good too, though I preferred the other one of hers I’ve read – The Listening Walls. Definitely an author I’d like to explore further though!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love when you can find a little passage like that, that is almost a short story in itself. It paints an entire picture and creates a couple of characters in so few words. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like a particularly interesting batch, FF. Because Churchill had a front row seat in history, he writes with particular intensity and knowledge. I fear for poor Emily in her nightie, and I’m intrigued at the idea of getting Christmas back. I’m anxious to read your thoughts on some of these.

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    • Poor Emily! I fear your fears may be justified! I love the Millar quote about Christmas – it’s almost like a tiny short story in its own right! Churchill is fab, but I’m glad to have finally finished it – I feel as if I’ve been reading it for ever! Only another four volumes to go… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Churchill could write a grocery list and make it sound fascinating.

    Uh, oh… things don’t look good for Emily! (and what? housemaids can’t be fair to see??)

    I’ve only heard the name Undine one other place and that was a novel, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Churchill has such a wonderful way with words – just as much in writing as in his speeches!
      Poor Emily! Haha, I’m glad you picked up on that – I got really annoyed when he talked about her that way just because she was a servant.
      I think Wharton invented the name, so maybe the other novel was referencing this one. I certainly wouldn’t call my daughter after the horrid Undine in this book anyway!


  6. Goodness, Margaret Millar has nailed Christmas perfectly in that quote! A long time ago I went on an Edith Wharton binge, this was one of them and I wouldn’t mind reading her again. (Forget glitter pens, you both needed pens with silver ink!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it a great little passage from Millar? I love when I find an extract that almost works as a tiny short story all by itself! I don’t seem to be attuned to the same frequency as Wharton. I’d like to love her, but I always end up feeling her books don’t quite meet my expectations. Haha, I’ve decided to stick with black pen, white paper – my handwriting is illegible enough without me trying to go all fancy! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love that little excerpt from Millar – it’s almost like a tiny little short story all on its own! I’ve only read a couple of her books but she’s well wroth checking out.

      Ha! I assume it’s kind of dark red, though happily I’ve never seen real pigeon’s blood! Yuck!

      Liked by 1 person

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