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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My reading experiences are almost exclusively fictional. Ok the odd bit off non-fiction creeps in but it is very much the exception.


I commented that I was reading a short extract from James Lees-Milne diaries and interesting it was. The book was about historic houses and there owners and was mostly set in the 1940's Lees-Milne new many of them personally (he had known the then Duchess of Devonshire since she was a baby) he contasts how much had changed since previous visits in the 30's. One moment it was Bertie Wooster and the next the war had started and the stately homes of England were in decline and things were never to be the same. Anyway I've ordered the diaries covering the 40's and those people at Amazon say they have dispatched.

The book I turned to next was A Wiltshire Diary by Francis Kilvert. Kilvert was a 19th century son of clergyman and was himself a curate and vicar. Kilvert wrote some verse but is best known for his diaries. These are hard to get hold of now (except for the 130 page extract I have). They are gossipy, full of stories about his parishioners and an interesting slice of life in the 1870's. I'd like to read more. Now curiously I've heard of Kilvert! He was a vicar on the Wales/Herefordshire border and regularly visited Hay-On-Wye (there is a pub/hotel there called Kilvert's). Note toself look for second hand copy next time I go there.

I was driving between offices this morning and listened to Radio 4's book of the week which was Dear Mr Bigelow: A Translatlanic Friendship by Frances Woodsford. The description on Amazon says;

"Dear Mr Bigelow" is an enchanting collection of weekly letters written between 1949 and 1961 from an unmarried woman working at the Public Baths in Bournemouth, to a wealthy American widower in New York. Frances Woodsford and Paul Bigelow never met, yet their epistolary friendship was her lifeline. We follow Frances' trials with her ghastly boss Mr Bond; the hilarious weekly Civil Defence Classes as the Cold War advances; her attempts to shake off an unwanted suitor, and life at home with her mother and her charming ne'er-do-well brother. Sparked with comic genius, the letters provide a unique insight into post-war England and the growth of an extraordinary friendship.

Frances had eighty or more correspondents, but Mr Bigelow was particularly special and received over seven hundred letters from Frances during the twelve years that they wrote to one another, until his death in 1961.

In 2006, Frances's letters to Mr Bigelow came to light and were returned to her. Alas Mr Bigelow's letters are no more.

I enjoyed the programme, alas the book is in hardback only so I've stuck it on pre-order.

1 comment:

Dorothea said...

James Lees Milne is one fascinating man.