All posts by Alice

if i were a book

July Book Haul

July has been a month of many a book, not only did I splurge at The Book People – I got an incredible amount of books for £30 – but I also bought a few extras with some birthday money.

The Book People

love collection

  • Barbara Comyns series: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths, Sisters by a River, and The Vet’s Daughter
  • Elizabeth Taylor series (not the actress): Angel, A View of the Harbour, and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
  • P. G. Woodhouse, the Blanding series
  • Collection of Penguin books on Love, raging from: Giovanni’s Room to Doomed Love by Virgil – with a little bit of Freud thrown in.

For some reason I assumed the Woodhouse would be about Bertie Wooster, alas I was mistaken. Does anyone have an opinion on the Blanding stories?

Other Acquisitions

cider with rosie

  • Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery – I LOVED this book, it will remain a lifetime favourite. I think I may be Valancy.
  • Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
  • Cold Comfort Farm by – I’ve already given up on this one, it’s not for me.
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt – I’ve read all her other two books, time to read this – not quite adored – second novel.

Lastly, my friend Calum got me this beautiful little book, it makes me happy just looking at it (and oddly relaxed).

if i were a book

What have you books have you acquired lately?

Poetry: The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

I finished Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Monday, this poem is a fitting salute to a marvellous and moving novel.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



Review: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

I appear to be going through a phase currently where I am reading a lot of books I don’t expect to like. It’s getting rather dull, repeating how shocked I am/was to enjoy ‘whatever’ novel. It’s true, but anyone who knows me well enough will know I experience happy surprises on the inside and the whole scale of negative emotion on the outside. (You’ve heard me refer to it as bitchy resting face before, I like to think of it as the natural resting pose of my facial muscles.) So not only am I repeating myself, I’m lying slightly about my outward levels of excitement.

I first heard of this Virago Modern Classic when Maggie O’Farrell spoke about Barbara Comyns at the Daunt Books Festival. When, more recently, Sanne vlogged about a set of Comyns books she bought at The Book People, I decided I needed to get them too. It was £4.99 for three books, how could I say no?!

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths is not about spoons, or Woolworths. Actually the title is a delightful expression of poverty our protagonist, Sophia, experiences through the majority of the book.

Marry in haste, repent at leisure. Sophia is twenty-one years old, carries a newt — Great Warty — around in her pocket and marries — in haste — a young artist called Charles. Swept into bohemian London of the thirties, Sophia is ill-equipped to cope. Poverty, babies (however much loved) and her husband conspire to torment her. Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with the dismal, ageing art critic, Peregrine, and learns to repent her marriage — and her affair — at leisure. But in this case virtue is more than its own reward, for repentance brings an abrupt end to a life of unpaid bills, unsold pictures and unwashed crockery …’ Synopsis from GoodReads.

Sophia was one of those magical protagonists that feel as if they once existed. She reminded me somewhat of Hadley from The Paris Wife or Mrs Hemingway, both in their marriages to poor artists and their more passive natures. She had an air of floaty-ness about her, a sing-song way of telling her story that emotionally detached from the serious problems she faced.

The best thing about Our Spoons Came From Woolworths is the discussion of poverty from the position of a woman. A woman who is poor, must work, find child care for her child, forced to have an abortion and loses a child to scarlet fever. As a novel first published in the 1950s and set in the 1930s, this is a big statement to have been making at the time. A statement that is just as important today. Sophia is not only expected to work to sustain her household – her husband Charles devoted to his art – but to look after her child as well. Charles takes a disliking to their son Sandro, and dislikes having to care for him when he wants to paint. Sophia has an affair with an older man, an art critic, an affair that fizzles out once Sophia becomes pregnant and he loses his mystery and allure. Her affair is a reaction to her stifled home life, rather than love. Abortion, affairs and poverty from the position of a struggling housewife are not what I expected from this 50s novel. I can only compare it to Revolutionary Road, which is such a different novel to this one.

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths is a novel that hands you something you didn’t realise you needed. It made for wonderful reading.