Category Archives: Classics

Bromley House Library

After finishing The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, I idly typed into my search engine of choice, ‘secret library Nottingham’ and was surprised by actually finding one. Bromley House Library is smack bang in the centre of town, its unassuming doorway sandwiched between a charity shop and a newsagent.  It was very much like finding the Book Cemetery in Barcelona á la The Shadow of the Wind.

Arriving for my tour – which can be taken every Wednesday at 2:30pm for the excellent price of £2 – this is the scene that first greets the visitor, from there I knew it was going to be a book lovers dream to wander around in.  I later found out that that staircase is only supported at top and bottom so only one person can ascend or descend at a time.

This magnificent old building, built in 1752 has held the library since 1822, the library was in fact established earlier, in 1816 and has now amassed around 40,000 books, including local author (with a truly awesome last name) Alan Sillitoe’s own personal library (not pictured to due to my shaky hands phone camera work that rendered most of my photos a shocking mess) and the oldest book is Dante’s Opera held, dating from 1578.

Due to Bromley House being a grade II listed building, a lot of original features are still to be seen dotted around the place which makes the feeling of history and the real library reading experience feel more real.  I fell in love with this place as soon as I entered and wandering around the building I saw so much, more of which in an upcoming post.




Posted by on 15/08/2017 in Architecture, Classics, History, Travel


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What to Read Next? The Eternal Question


Poorly taken photo of a couple of my bookshelves.

I knew that eventually this day would come but it was always over the horizon and never a real worry, yet now that the day has finally arrived and I’ve reached total paralysis on choosing a book.  Now to delegate the hard work to you thoughtful and knowledgable people, your suggestions from this fine mass of literature for my next read will be much appreciated.  To make it more interesting, I will select an entry at random and the writer of said comment will get the grand old prize of a pleased nod from moi AND a sense of enormous well-being for your efforts.

  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
  • The Bridge over the Drina – Ivo Andrić
  • 11.22.63 – Stephen King
  • The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  • Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages – R.W. Southern
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Poor Folk – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Fortunes of the Rougons – Émile Zola
  • The Crystal World – J. G. Ballard
  • The Luzhin Defence – Vladimir Nabakov
  •  How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup – J. L. Carr
  • The Gravedigger – Peter Grandbois
  • The Jewel in the Crown – Paul Scott
  • The Coup – John Updike
  • Maps for Lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam
  • Literature and Evil – George Bataille



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Penguin Great Ideas

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.

WP_20160612_001It turns out I have managed to acquire seven of the one hundred great ideas that Penguin is selling at the cheap price of £4.99 without once realising their connection.  Two things strike me as faintly absurd, firstly that I would own seven books in a set but owing to the vast distance between the corners of my amassed collection and a poor memory, that I wouldn’t have made the connection earlier.

Secondly the price which is a steal, it enables people to pick up a bite sized portion of a new author to see what all the fuss is about and it also brings the reader loads of fascinating essays at a ridiculously decent price as well.  Who would not wish to dabble in such studies that have changed the way we view the world and in a good few instances how we actually live.

From tumultuous periods of history to thoughtful essays, the books empower the mind and allow us to read the key thoughts that defined past generations.  These are of course extracts from other books so why pick these up when you can pick these plus more in a book?  Well partly it is the need to know what texts these authors are famous for and also to gauge whose style I get on with so I can chart my reading to take the path of least resistance. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 12/06/2016 in Classics, Essays, Philosophy, Politics, Science


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Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Dickens, yo!In what may be Dickens’s best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations.” In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.

Glancing about for my next read, I came across Great Expectations and I had to read it owing to the fact that there was a French teacher called Miss Havisham at school and that is as good a reason as any when the choice before me is so great.

The start is a brilliant set piece, a graveyard scene, an escaped convict and a boy alone on the foggy marshes.  It’s one of those openings that doesn’t just grab you in and keep you hooked from the off but is one of those memorable set pieces that will stay fixed in your memory for years.

It’s not far into the book when the word farinaceous (consisting of or containing starch) pops up thus reinforcing how good this book is.  Add in some trademark Dickens character names like Mr Wopsle and Pumblechook and a story that progresses smoothly to make this one of the higher echelon of  British classics in my opinion.

Pip’s voice is wonderfully written, it feels accurate and full of regret.  Most importantly it feels human and his thoughts, humbleness and understanding of key life events show a maturity of writing that comes through his natural growth of character throughout the book.  As far as narrators go Pip is one of my favourites.

Dickens has a great eye for human affectations, traits and emotional states, he really is a master and brings his characters to life, their often tragic ways and flaws, their hopes and beliefs.  What intrigued me is whilst plenty of characters have depths hidden which the reader is not aware of to begin with, others keep their singular attitudes and ways as anchors around the story, to perhaps ground the characters on their journeys towards redemption or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 26/03/2016 in Classics, Fiction


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To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

WoolfWhistleEvery summer, the Ramsay’s visit their summer home on the beautiful Isle of Skye, surrounded by the excitement and chatter of family and friends, mirroring Virginia Woolf’s own joyful holidays of her youth. But as time passes, and in its wake the First World War, the transience of life becomes ever more apparent through the vignette of the thoughts and observations of the novel’s disparate cast.

Focusing on the idiosyncrasies and insecurities which we all recognise in ourselves, this book by turns witty and dark with an ever-present feeling of familiarity.  Woolf’s layered exploration of the relationships between people and places and the effects time has on both is as deft as it can be frustrating at times.

Played out over a decade in which WWI cruelly intervenes, this poignant depiction of life,  explores themes of loss, class and social structure and the question of perception on the connections we make and what they mean to us.

The language is the key to the readers enjoyment (or otherwise), it is wonderfully written with long, rhythmic sentences, plenty of commas and swirling prose containing tangents that comes back on themselves time and again like the waves breaking below the Ramsay’s holiday home.

On the flip side, I found it easy to get somewhat disoriented if I didn’t concentrate, the lengthy sentences and abrupt change of character can render certain passages confusing if one is not constantly focussed.  Of course if you do choose to lose yourself in the language, your patience will be infinitely rewarded by the richness of the prose.

It felt like I had spent an age reading through Woolf’s words but it was fitting, as this is one of those books that demands time and expects to be digested slowly for its richly descriptive paragraphs and multifaceted outlook on a number of factors. Life, death, feminism, psychology, place in society and so forth are all spoken about in subtle allusions rooted in literature and the thoughts of the time. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 26/01/2016 in Classics


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The Social Contract – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Amazon‘Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains’

These are the famous opening words of a treatise which, from the French Revolutionary Terror of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, has been interpreted as a blueprint for totalitarianism.  But in The Social Contract Rousseau (1712-78) was at pains to stress the connection between liberty and law, freedom and justice.  Arguing that the ruler is the people’s agent, not its master, he claimed that laws derived from the people’s General Will.  Yet in preaching subservience to the impersonal state he came close to defining freedom as the recognition of necessity.

I’m no expert but from previous brief sojourns into the world of social political writing –  in the form of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke – Rousseau diverges from both of his English counterparts on the subject with his own model on the titular social contract.

As a classic work of political philosophy that still has merit for the reader today, I found this treatise to be a fascinating and complex work, both making a lot of sense but also coming across with a lot of naivety as well, perhaps the latter is due to hindsight or just that now we have a better understanding of global history.

Unsurprisingly for a French writer, this is a book based squarely in the corner of Republicanism and what the ideal state would be like with the freedom for all within a social and legislative structure.  The collectivism of the general will above the individual needs and desires would see every person participate in chosen law and civic organisation which would ultimately make them free. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 12/01/2016 in Classics, History, Philosophy, Politics


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New Year of Positive Cheer

Happy New Year one and all, I hope you all had an enjoyable eve of it.

Unlike other years, I’ve refused to look at the end of year stats round-up that WP kindly provides, partly because I don’t want this post to become a vehicle of a self-critical nature and partly because although I feel my standard of writing has been raised, my overall post total is down on last year and as a result so are my page views.  I know it isn’t all about views but there is a certain manic joy at exceeding x number of visitors and views and I do like to think that this year I will stop those diminishing returns and become better at blogging.

To avoid self flagellating too much, I have decided to become more focussed when on the laptop and write posts in two hours or less, that way I can devote more time to reading other blogs, although when I do that, it takes me on average around four hours to get around all my usual haunts.  Saving time with that will mean more quality reading can be done for writing content and that is my round about way of justifying an excuse for spending the morning of New Year’s Eve scouring bookshops for more fascinating stories and ideas.

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I managed to find a blend of new and second-hand books, balancing an atheist with a theologian as well as mixing up the different cultures, prize winners and genres which will hopefully interest you.  Previously I have attempted to turn back to my book roots only to be distracted by other things but this time I am hoping the wind will blow back more towards the books with other posts to break them up rather than – as has been of late – the other way around.

My current read is none of these by the way but as I still have hundreds of books to review, I will keep you guessing over what the next one will be, a clue of which is it doesn’t include ducks…at all.


Posted by on 02/01/2016 in Blogging, Classics, Fiction, Philosophy


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