Sunday Salon

Stocking and restocking the shelves

I love this time on a Sunday when all the chores are done and I can snatch some relaxation before getting ready for our Sunday evening ritual of a trip to the local pub followed by a pasta meal and a movie.

I can do this in the warm glow of satisfaction that I’ve achieved one of my projects for this weekend – a long overdue tidy up of my bookshelves. One thing led to another and what started as a project involving shelving in one room quickly morphed into a sort out of all bookshelves dotted around the house. The result are two very large bags waiting to be donated to a local charity. They were enjoyable reads but realistically I am never going to read them again so I’d rather they brought pleasure to someone else instead of gathering dust in my home.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I decided it would be easier if I organised the books alphabetically instead of grouping them project (all Booker winners on one shelf, classics club reads on another). Alphabetical would make it much easier to see what I have and thus avoid falling into the trap of buying the same book more than once (I’ve ended up with two copies of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and two of Frog by the Nobel Laureate Mo Yan).

The tidy up couldn’t have come too soon because I needed room for some recent purchases.



Devoted Ladies is the fifth of Molly Keane’s novels but will the first by her that I will have read. Published in 1934 this novel moves Keane out of the world of the Irish landed gentry for the first time and into the world of fashionable, chic London living. It was a bit of a shock for readers used to her previous works to discover in the early pages that the romantic interest this time would be a stormy relationship between a lesbian couple. The novel is a satire on a hedonistic 1930’s world and has apparently a rich, dark humour.

I was actually looking for a reasonably priced and good condition copy of All Passion Spent when I came across Family History. This is the novel Vita Sackville-West wrote immediately after the highly successful and lucrative All Passion Spent. According to the introduction by Victoria Glendinning. Family History did reasonably well when it was published in 1932 it wasn’t a best seller and has since been largely neglected. Glendinning comments that her own feelings about the book have changed – in her biography of Sackville-West she called it a “not very distinguished novel” reflecting the authors own confused personal life at the time but now sees Family History has more depth and complexity than first appreciated.

The Unlit Lamp by Radclyffe Hall would have been a good choice for The 1924 Club run by Stuck in a Book and KaggsysBookishRamblings in October. But I didn’t get organised in time. But who needs an excuse to read a Virago anyway? This is Radclyffe Hall’s second published novel although it was the first she actually wrote. It’s the story of Joan  Ogden a girl growing up in a stuffy town in England in the 1930s but desperate to break free and become a doctor. On her side is her governess but opposing her ambition is Joan’s mother, a gentle tyrant who knows how to wind Joan around her little finger. Which of these women will ultimately win? I’ve had a glance of the first chapter and love how quickly the battle is set between Joan and her stultifying retired middle class parents.

Any of you read these yet? Which would you suggest I read first?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

15 thoughts on “Stocking and restocking the shelves

  • Oh dearie me. I started a reorganisation of bookshelves in January this year because they were all overladen, and I still have a pile of books on the floor in two rooms waiting for me to finish my reorganisation. I do keep my fiction alphabetically – though by gender. The women in our bedroom and the men elsewhere. I’d hate not to have all my Helen Garners etc in one place because one won this award and another won another. Though I suppose my LibraryThing list would give me the overall picture.

    Anyhow, no, I haven’t read any of those, though I have collected and read a lot of Viragos. But, just to be in it, I’d go for Molly Keane.

    BTW Love your Sunday evening tradition. What film did you see that Sunday?

  • I would love to read that Molly Keane! I have one of hers planned for Ireland Month and am looking forward to it.

    • I am being incredibly dense – never making the connection between Keane and Ireland Month. Right, well that one is sorted!

  • For some reason, I never realized that Hall wrote another book which is ridiculous. I’ve read The Well of Loneliness, which if you haven’t read you should! I also made the decision to alphabetize most of my books when I moved this past September and it’s so much easier. I have a couple of sets of “forever books” that aren’t, but they’re smaller collections like Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë or the orange Penguins 😀

    I think it also helps that I keep an alphabetized list of all books on my phone so when I’m out shopping I can reference.

    • I’ve played around with Evernote as a way of keeping a more portable version of my wish list. but I’m a cheapskate and won’t pay the premium to get me the version which doesn’t rely on internet connection. I’m now playing around with using the basic notes tool on my phone.

      thanks for that reminder re The well of Loneliness which I thought I had but seems not (but now its on order!)

      • Hmm google docs lets you do an offline cache. I’m pretty sure it does.

        • I’ll have to take a look at that – may take me a while!

  • There must be something in the air – I’ve been blitzing my shelves for months. Have never read Molly Keane. On the whole, I dislike Irish novels. We all have our quirks, and that’s one of mine.

    • Some of the Irish novels can fall a bit too much into the realm of cliches. On the other hand I have been blown away by a few writers in particular – Edna O’Brian, Donal Ryan and Colm Toibin. Have you read any of those Alison?

      • No – have not read the 3 you mention. I’ve been so put off by the grim, rain-drenched suffering of Irish novels, that I tend to give them a wide berth in general. Additionally, remember I live in Africa where the majority of book imports are from the US and the UK so not many Irish novels come our way. Popular taste in South Africa tends towards crime, romance, South African themes, plus big interest in non-fiction, sport being right at No. 1, politics, wild-life, and guide books re tourism & ecology close second. Let me close off by horrifying you: In a population of 49 million, I think its just under or over 1 mill who actually buy books …. so naturally the booksellers stock books that will give them the most bang for their buck.

        • I can relate to your comment re the dearth of good fiction. I went into a pretty large bookstore in Johannesburg (I think the district was Stanford?) looking for some god African writers. Very little on offer sadly

  • I have read all of Molly Keane’s late fiction which I consider wonderful, yet I have so far not read her M. J. Farrell early fiction. I want to give it a try.

  • I’ve been looking at the Dorothy richardson Pilgrimage series from Virago

  • Isn’t sorting out your bookshelves fun? Nothing more fun than playing with your collection! I haven’t read any of the Viragos, but I did consider the Hall for the 1924 Club. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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