I'm just now finishing up books I bought in London this past Christmas. The dog days of summer aren't upon us just yet, but it's hot enough that I've been hiding indoors with this pile of books.
I finally read the second half of Frances Hodgson Burnett'sThe Making of a Marchioness. The two halves were originally published as separate books anyway, so the 7-month gap didn't bother me too much. The tone of the second half is very different: if the first section is a kind of Cinderella story, the second is much more like The Turn of the Screw. I'm not entirely sure what to think of it all, though I did enjoy reading the book immensely.
Another beautiful Persephone book I'd bought in London and just now read is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson. It's a perfect Cinderella story, a lovely fairy take about a woman who's never before had a chance to shine, and what happens to her when she does. Plus it's written in tremendously hip and funny language.
Last and now on my all-time favorites list is The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy's novel about an American girl in Paris. Sally Jay is my perfect heroine--kooky but not tragic like Holly Golightly, funny and sarcastic, worldly but naive. I imagine scores of girls read this book and think she's exactly like they are. I'll admit, I certainly did. And then, underneath all that, there is this perfectly structured piece story that never even tries to let on how brilliant it is; it just sits back there quietly being a genius of plot and pacing, and if you never even notice it, it's not at all bothered. If it were up to me, this novel would immediately become part of the canon and get taught in all modern literature classes.
Now that I've got those off my to-be-read shelf, the only London books left are a Christian Dior guide to style (less of a reading book and more of a reference book), some selected Henry James, and some poetry by Keats and by... someone else. Whom I've forgotten.