Bats In The Belfry

Another corker from E.C.R. Lorac, this time in the shadowy back streets of London where a body is found entombed in the wall of the Belfry, a gloomy house occupied by a sculptor – plaster of paris has never been so sinister.

The plot revolves around Bruce Attleton, a once successful author now suffering with writers block and his wife Sybilla, a glittering actress. The opening scene introduces the central characters in the story, as they gather in the Attleton’s drawing room following the funeral of Bruce’s young cousin Anthony Fell. As the whisky flows the conversation turns to the macabre and they discuss how best to dispose of a body, a conversation they’ll reflect on when Bruce goes missing. . .

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Between The Woods And The Water

Its Easter 1934 and 19 year old Patrick Leigh Fermor is standing on a bridge looking over the Danube at the old town of Esztergom. Picking up at exactly the point where we left him in A Time Of Gifts, the first volume of his travels, this second volume follows him across the Great Hungarian Plain, Transylvania and Rumania on his way by foot to Constantinople.

Observation and conversation are his charm as he meticulously transcribes words phonetically into his notebook; finding connections between people, their culture and their language. The tribes of Europe, Dacians and Goths, Gepids and Lombards, the Huns and the Mongols, Magyars and Kabars; bears and wildcats, foxes and golden orioles, shepherds and woodsmen, innkeepers and rabbi’s; everyone and everything is fascinating to him. Friends he’s made along the way give him introductions to their friends so that he passes from travelling rough to Count to Baron and back again; sleeping in barns with animals or manor houses with libraries, he’s always open for conversation and game for anything.

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Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Our narrator is sitting in Joe Bell’s bar reminiscing about the brownstone he lived in years back and Holly Golightly, the girl who lived in the apartment downstairs. Neither of them have seen her for years, in fact they haven’t seen each other for years but there’s a rumour she’s been seen in Africa so it’s time to meet up.

She had a cat and played guitar, she was flirtatious and kooky and when she danced she floated around ‘light as a scarf’. She ran messages for the mob every Thursday and held raucous parties filled with martini laughter and attended by New York’s glitterati, she suffered from ‘the mean reds’, not the blues worse than that, more like panic attacks and was always on the look out for somewhere safe to live, so that she could buy some furniture and give the cat a name. A place that made her feel safe like the inside of Tiffany’s with its quietness and kind men in their nice suits.

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Twenty year old Stephen Wraysford arrives in France in 1910. As an orphan Stephen grew up in care but has an education provided by his well meaning guardian and now he’s been sent by the textile company he works for in England to observe the new manufacturing process used in a factory in Amiens, owned by Rene Azaire. Behind the large, bourgeois home of the Azaire’s, where Stephen is going to stay, the river Somme breaks into small picturesque canals where fisherman sit and blackbirds sing overhead. In his pockets he has a leather notebook, his rail ticket and a knife.

Stephen’s passionate, life changing affair with Isabelle, Madame Azaire, is the focus of this first part, and when he writes about her in his journal written in a private code, ‘pulse’ is the word he uses for her. This is a section that glitters with life, the sounds and the newness, even the demonstrations at the factory for more pay are lives being lived with hope for social progression.

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TBR Challenge 2023

The TBR challenge is 10 years old, thank you RoofBeamReader!

It’s a simple challenge to read 12 books that you’ve owned for a year at least, in any order over the coming year. Last year I read A Time of Gifts the first part of Paddy Leigh Fermor’s memoir of travelling across Europe in the 1930’s and loved it so much I bought the second part straight away so that’s the newest copy on my list. Birdsong though, has been sitting on my shelf for years and has even appeared on a TBR challenge list before and still not been read, that’s why it’s here at number 1!

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