Aunt Dimity’s Death

dimitysequins

For my next book I choose the first in the Aunt Dimity series, Aunt Dimity’s Death. The was a reread for me, I read it the first time many years ago- I can’t even remember how many years ago now. With the exception of a few very favorite books- Wuthering Heights, Madensky Square, Pride and Prejudice, Frenchman’s Creek and Practical Magic come to mind- I have never been too much of a rereader. There are just so many good books to read for the first time. But I am rethinking the practice of rereading. If we love something, it bears immersing ourselves in it again and again I think.  But not only that, I think rereading gives us the opportunity to revisit ourselves too, to revisit the person we were the last time we read the book, and to see if it still fits and perhaps regain a little different perspective on who we were at that time, and how we’ve developed.

I just wanted to say that because it’s been on my mind in relation to reading, I don’t know that anything so lofty was afoot when I reread Aunt Dimity’s Death. The first time around, I made it through about half the series, and I was thinking of picking it back up again and thought I would reread just the first one before deciding whether to carry on. I remembered these as being very comforting and gentle mysteries where often no one even dies. There is no murder or murderer, but another kind of perplexing puzzle to be solved. This was very good for me at the time I originally read them because we had experienced a very tragic and traumatic death in my immediate family and I was much too upset to read about murder for entertainment, even in my beloved golden age mysteries.

Well, I remember liking Aunt Dimity’s Death the best of all the stories because it is almost like a fairy tale for grown-ups (and we need them too). Main character Lori Shepard, down on her luck, destitute and having lost everything dear to her, finds that she has a kind of fairy godmother in Aunt Dimity. I never like to say too much and spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it. But it’s a comfort read for sure, and I am in true need of those kinds of books just now. I also remembered thinking that Lori Shepard is not the most likable character in the world as she has got a bit of a chip on her shoulder about all her hardships. And this is quite understandable and it must be rather difficult for an author to put in that very real human response to hardship and tragedy while still keeping the character likeable, and Atherton may not have completely achieved that balance with Lori in this story. I thought that the first time and felt the same upon my rereading- she is not an easy character to fully embrace. But there is enough else to like to keep the book very enjoyable- the descriptions of houses, fancy hotels and the like, the friendship between Dimity and Lori’s mother, the mystery itself and the many other lovely characters who are kind and helpful and gently funny. So I was glad I reread it and I may have to figure out where I was in the series and take it up again. I am still deciding about that and in the meantime have many other books to look forward to reading….

The House at the End of Hope Street

hopestreetsequins
The House at the End of Hope Street

I am behind on blog posts by 4 books!  And I feel compelled to go in order since I am chronicling my reading journey this year.  So.. the next book I read was The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag.  I discovered this author last year when I read The Dress Shop of Dreams, and I have to say that that book is absolutely tops in my estimation.  I loved it.  It had so many little magical elements that I wouldn’t want to spoil for anyone, but… magical dresses.  Need I say more?  Maybe I will reread that book this year so that I can write about it here.

I thoroughly enjoyed The House at the End of Hope Street too.  This one is more about the magical power of books, and it does have a fashion element too through one of the characters with a seemingly magical wardrobe.  Clothes are important in the story and descriptions of clothes are plentiful and I always love that.

The house in question only appears to women who are absolutely desperate and at the end of their ropes.  It gives them shelter for 99 days so they can get back on track.  The house is filled with photos of all of the women who’ve ever stayed there, many of them famous authors.  Real-life tidbits about the lives of many famous female authors are very cleverly woven into the tale, and their wisdom and life lessons permeate the book.  If you love books and reading, you will love this book in particular.

There are two women staying at the house already when Alba shows up at the beginning of the novel, and the book follows all of them and also Peggy, the proprietress of the house who is older and very wise but facing troubles of her own.  One thing I loved about this book as wells at The Dress Shop of Dreams is that the older characters also have their joys and sorrows as well as their chances for love and they are rendered as full characters and not just standbys to the younger characters like in so many other stories.

One quote I loved (I am removing the male character’s name so as not to spoil any plot for anyone):

After he’s gone, Greer sits for a long time.  She rests her head on her knees and weeps- not because she loved… and not because she’s lost him.  But because she didn’t take care of herself.  She knew his nature the moment she met him, just as she knew the philandering fiancé.  She knew them and she knew herself… she knows she cannot blame these men for her messy life; they only did what she always knew they would do.  No, this was not about crushed hopes and broken dreams.  This is about trusting her own heart.  Hope doesn’t even enter into it.

I guess I related to that since I also find trusting my own heart to be a difficult thing to learn how to do.

Another thing I absolutely loved about this book, besides the stories and the characters and everything, was all the references to other books and authors and now my To Read dream list has grown even larger!

No Wind of Blame

booksandsequinsnowindofblame

The book I most recently finished reading is the mystery No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer.  I chose this one because one of the main characters, the wonderfully named Ermyntrude, is a former chorus girl.  Being a belly dancer, I always love reading about how showgirls of all kinds are portrayed in novels.  This one was quite funny because, this novel being written in the 1930s in England, Ermyntrude is portrayed as a slightly laughable, gaudy character, though Heyer also gives her a heart of absolute gold.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of Ermyntrude’s pink satin bed clothes, elaborate dressing gowns and over-the-top jewelry, though it is very obvious Heyer is poking a little fun at her loveable protagonist.

The dialog and characters are as genuinely funny and clever as in any of the Georgette Heyer novels I’ve read, to me this is what makes them such a joy.  My favorite character in this one is Ermyntrude’s daughter, the lovely Vicky Fanshawe.  Vicky is 19 and longs for a career on the stage like her mother, though this is of course considered thoroughly unsuitable for her.  Frustrated in her artistic yearnings, she lives each day as if she were on the stage, dressing for whatever role she feels like playing that moment and acting accordingly.  As someone who has never outgrown her delight in dressing up, I adored Vicky immensely.

Here she explains her thinking a bit to one of the many characters who are exasperated by her behavior:

‘Is your incredible life a series of “acts”?’ he inquired.
‘Yes.  Didn’t you know?’
‘I couldn’t believe it.  Don’t you find it a pretty rotten way of living?’
‘How silly.  Of course not!  she said scornfully.  Life seems to me a most frightfully overrated business, and practically always dull, if you stay the same person every day.  On the other hand, you can’t be dull if you’re always somebody else.’

Here is another funny scene I loved when the character Mary, another young lady at the house, goes into Vicky’s room:

Vicky was engaged in rolling her fair locks into sophisticated curls upon the top of her head.  She smiled happily at Mary, and said with disarming frankness: ‘I say, isn’t this grown-up, and rather repulsive?  I feel frightfully femme fatale.’
‘I do wish you wouldn’t pose so much!’ said Mary.  ‘Really, you’re making a complete ass of yourself.  You can’t look like a femme fatale at nineteen.’
‘With eye-black, I can,’ replied Vicky optimistically.

That’s the spirit.

A little spoiler follows in the paragraph below, though it is nothing to do with the culprit, I promise.

Vicky and her dramatics were my very favorite part of the book.  I would have loved to see Vicky get her wish to go on the stage.  Heyer instead marries her off, which I guess was a happy ending back in those days, though it’s hard to see how a girl of her spirit and independence would do in a permanent role as a proper country lady.

Anyway, the other characters are fun to read about and the mystery is a good one too.  This was one of my favorite Georgette Heyer books so far, and I look forward to visiting her fiction again.

Please let me know if you have a favorite Georgette Heyer or any thoughts about this one!  Thank you for reading.

My First Post

img_6966

This is my first post so I thought I’d start by explaining this blog a bit.

I am a belly dancer in San Francisco.  I have always loved to read and right now I find myself treasuring the comfort of books more than ever.  I wanted to create a place where I could share my love of books and indulge my love of beauty and glamour too.

My hope is to make some friends who also love to read, to discuss books and maybe beauty, fashion and art too, if there is interest.

Thank you very much for reading and please leave me a comment so I can get to know you!