books, Classics, crime, Recommendsday, Thriller

Recommendsday: Books with Amazing Houses

So yesterday I took advantage of the last of my post-nightshift days off to go on a family jolly to Blenheim Palace.  It’s less than an hour from home, but surprisingly I’d never been before – perhaps because it’s not National Trust or English Heritage so you have to pay.  It was fabulous – and I got my day ticket converted into a year pass (which doesn’t cost any extra to do) so I can go back again and see some of the bits we didn’t have time for on Tuesday.  Any how, after a day out at a country house, it got me thinking about books which feature amazing houses.  So here’s a few for you for Recommendsday.

Blenheim Palace
OK the sky wasn’t as blue as I was hoping, but at least we didn’t get rained on…

I know it’s totally the obvious choice, but I had to start with Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  It’s not my favourite Waugh (that’s Vile Bodies) but I know I may be in the minority on that.  I had a massive Waugh kick a couple of years ago and read a whole load of his novels back to back and for the most part they still really work.  Brideshead tells of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmains and their upper class and crazy world.  The house is at the centre of it all as a character in and of itself.  Well worth reading if you haven’t already.  I definitely need to watch one or other of the TV/film versions soon.  And read Vile Bodies too.

Next, if you haven’t read any Roderick Alleyn books (and why not?) the first in the series, A Man Lay Dead, is set around a weekend party at a country house where one of the guests ends up dead.  Again, it’s not my favourite of the Alleyns (that’s Artists in Crime) but it’s a really good start to the series and a really good example of a country house murder mystery.

It feels like a while since I mentioned Rebecca on here, which is strange since the Du Maurier classic is one of my mum’s favourite books and I have a lovely Virago hardback copy which sits on my downstairs keeper shelf.  It’s creepy and gothic and has one of the most famous opening lines in literature in “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again”.  If you haven’t read it, why not and if you have go and reread it.  You won’t regret it*.

Finally, if you want something funny, try PG Wodehouse’s Blandings series.  The first one is Something Fresh, where you meet Lord Emsworth, his son Freddie and his secretary The Efficient Baxter and get a taste for the sort of high jinx that ensue.  I think I like them better than the Jeeves and Wooster books, but again I think I’m in the minority there.

I could go on – I haven’t even mentioned I Capture the Castle, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre or The Secret Garden..

All recommendations for more books with amazing houses gratefully received, in the meantime

Happy reading!

*Even if, spoiler alert, you never trust a housekeeper again.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Queen Lucia

This week’s BotW is the first in the Mapp and Lucia series by E F Benson – which doesn’t actually feature Miss Mapp – just Lucia!  I’ve read Mapp and Lucia – which is the the fourth boo in the series and have come back to the start.  I have Miss Mapp waiting on the Kindle in the interests of fairness!


 In Queen Lucia, we meet the residents of Riseholme and their snobbish leader.  Emmeline Lucas – Lucia – always wants to have the upper hand, and employs all sorts of underhand methods to dominate the neighbourhood.  She and her husband drop snippets of Italian into conversation to make people think they’re fluent (they’re not), and she practices her piano duets in secret so she can “sight-read” them when Georgie comes over.  Georgie is her best friend (if she can be said to have one when life is a constant competition for superiority), balding and greying and desperate to hide it, he has his faults, but in this book at least is a slightly more sympathetic character than Lucia.

But for all that Lucia is awful, this is such a fun book.  The townspeople’s snobbery leads them into trouble at every turn.  If you watched the 2014 TV adaptation you’ll recognise some of the plots here.  Snigger as the Riseholmians embrace yoga. Chuckle as they compete to be best friends with the visiting opera singer. Cringe as Lucia’s (lack of) proficiency in Italian comes under scrutiny.  And then thank goodness that your group of friends are nothing like this.  And if your group of friends are like this, then maybe consider finding some new ones – constantly trying to one-up everyone else must be exhausting!

Queen Lucia is available for free on Kindle and although it’s not free on Kobo it is available in a variety of file formats for free from Project Gutenberg.  There’s also a variety of omnibuses (omnibii?) at differing price points (depending on if you want the cover that ties in with the TV series) and DVD releases of both the most recent and the 1980s TV series.  Enjoy!