40% off all books in stock - today only Use the code 2016mar40 at the checkout for a 40% discount on our book prices on Monday 28th March only. There is no minimum purchase and no limit to how often you can use the code on the day so browse our site and enjoy!
The small print: valid until midnight on Monday 28th March. Postage is extra. Because of the sizeable discount we cannot subsidize postage so large orders from outside the UK might require increased shipping costs. We will contact you to explain if there are any additional costs once your order has gone through, or you can email us before placing an order. You will be able to cancel the order if you're unhappy with the extra shipping.
Miss Miles: A Tale of Yorkshie Life Sixty Years Ago by Mary Taylor is by no means a great work of literature but boy is it written with some passion. Much vaunted as the friend of Charlotte Brontë, Mary Taylor is to my mind much closer either to Maria Edgeworth or to writers who come much later. Didacticism comes before story or character and yet... I really did rather enjoy this tale.
Different summaries of this book variously claim it is the story of three or four women. I think it is the story of five women. The Miss Miles of the title is Sarah born into a working class dissenting household whose family run a grocers so they are somewhat insulated against the shocks of the ups and downs of the fortunes of the mills. Their neighbours are often out of work so Sarah sees real poverty but is not quite of the poverty herself. We spend much of the book with Sarah and indeed the first 100 pages are a bit of a slog through the Yorkshire dialect (and I say that as a northerner who's lived in Yorkshire 20 years) but as she grows and her milieu broadens the dialect barrier becomes much less of a problem. Sarah want to know what makes up a lady - why are they special, what to they do all day, how do they get their money? When she hears, 'nothing' she won't believe it, and this obsession with ladies, social security, education, and the ability to get on and do things, form the heart of the book.
Sarah wants to go to school and the cheapest of the local establishments is run by Miss Bell. We then go back a few years to discover how Miss Bell came to teaching and how she formed a close friendship with a girl called Dora whose present situation is dire. I won't explain why but the education and social security thing is at the bottom of the problem. So there we have three of the women.
The fourth is Amelia whose family is nouveau riche through owning a mill. Her education has been greater than her older sisters as money became more plentiful for them at the right time. The end result has not been a success. Not that there is anything wrong with her education but the values it has given her, and her appetite for work, are the despair of her relations. When the mill hits hard times we learn how her education has helped, or otherwise, Amelia and her family.
There is a fifth lady at the periphery of this tale: Miss Everard. Once of the 'great house' she now lives in its lodge and is much under the sway of the mill owning family. An elderly lady, she has been unfit for spinsterhood and her inability to tackle her business affairs is an ongoing theme of the book. She blossoms rather charmingly at the end of the novel, showing it is never too late to adapt to new ideas.
Keeping these threads going is no mean task but Mary Taylor is equal to it and, once I'd got my eye in with the dialogue, I never flagged. Sarah is a wonderful character being very 'Yorkshire': 'upright and downright'. There is a scene where she is the guest in a room full of those above her social class and yet she gives as good as she gets - something one wishes Jane Eyre might do from time to time. There are no governess mice in this novel. Dora similarly, though brought up to be middle class, has something of the mill hand's chippiness in her soul.
"Maria", said the girl, "if people knew that women in the churchyards were alive - those in the coffins, I mean - and were waiting for us to dig them up, do you think anyone would do it?...
"Well of course they would."
"No they would not! They would say ladies did not want to get up - that they had all they wanted, and that men did not like them to get out of their graves."
That to me sounds much more like the 1890s when it was published, the decade of the New Woman (I have been cataloguing a lot of books on the New Woman and it is much on my mind), not the early Victorian years she shared with the long dead Brontës. Like Anne Brontë I think Mary Taylor, though not such an accomplished novelist as Emily and Charlotte, has much to say that's still well worth reading, and again like Anne, I think association with Charlotte has done her no favours. This is not Jane Eyre and the Gothic elements of darkness that it does share with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are more like the threats in Northanger Abbey - real, and related to cold hard cash and moral laxity. It is closer to Austen and Edgeworth and the early nineteenth century, or to the early modernism of the late nineteenth century. Read it in this vein and not as a Brontë-lite and there is much to be got out of it. I commend it to you.
Text notes: Miss Miles is out-of-print. You can order an expensive print-on-demand version from OUP or find second hand copies (which can also be expensive). Joan Bellamy wrote a biography of Mary Taylor called More Precious then Rubies (2002) about a life that was certainly unfettered by the usual feminine constraints of the nineteenth century. I occasionally have a copy of this in stock.
I love libraries. Believe it or not, despite living in a bookshop, it is my idea of a fun day out. It is not at all the busman's holiday that you'd think it might be. Just over a month ago with Mr J. and Rachel of Bewitched by Stitch I went to The John Rylands Library in Manchester. It is the most glorious building, mostly on open access and with a changing series of exhibitions. It also has a very reasonably priced cafe full of excellent home cooking.
It is very Victorian with Gothic blending into Arts and Crafts. It was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands and apparently Mrs R had charge of the interior furnishings and, incredibly in such a grand building, the little reading spaces in the main library have the most homely feel as a result. Well, I could cheerfully move in at any rate!
The details throughout were delightful: the varied roof bosses, the huge number of matching oak chairs with delicate carved top rails picking out features of the building and little brass castors to two legs so you can move your chair without disturbing other readers. I loved too the green glass on the lights and the oak panelling - all this and books too!
The small print: valid until midnight on Saturday 5th December. Postage is extra. Because of the sizeable discount we cannot subsidize postage so large orders from outside the UK might require increased shipping costs. We will contact you to explain if there are any additional costs once your order has gone through, or you can email us before placing an order. You will be able to cancel the order if you're unhappy with the extra shipping.
We have several hundred books newly in on the representations of women in literature, art and politics between 1850 and 1930, particularly focused on The New Woman. (Pictured Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists by Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerrish Nunn.)
Good sources of present inspiration include some of the less well known book prizes. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016 will announce its short list next Thursday, 26th November. The prize is chaired by journalist Mark Tully and the judging panel also includes Dennis Walder, Emeritus Professor of Literature at the Open University.
The majority of the books are available in the UK and also in North America, New Zealand, Australia, etc. I think most were originally written in English and one is in translation.
Another prize list worth looking from the last month is The Warwick Prize for Writing. This biennial prize is for writing in any form. Past nominations have included scientific research, novels, poems, e-books and plays. Works can be nominated by any student or staff member at Worwick University, or submitted by publishers. this years theme is "Instinct". The 2015 judging panel is chaired by Warwick alumna and author A. L. Kennedy and also included actress Fiona Shaw. Again, one is in translation, for those who love translated literature.
For Thursday 12th November only we're having a 40% sale. See below for your discount code and further details and then browse our site.
Use the code 2015nov40 at the checkout for a 40% discount on our book prices on Thursday 12th November only. There is no minimum purchase and no limit to how often you can use the code on the day so browse our site and enjoy!
Please feel free to pass the discount code onto friends or to your students.
The small print: valid until midnight on Thursday 12th November. Postage is extra. Because of the sizeable discount we cannot subsidize postage so large orders from outside the UK might require increased shipping costs. We will contact you to explain if there are any additional costs once your order has gone through, or you can email us before placing an order. You will be able to cancel the order if you're unhappy with the extra shipping.
The amazing experience that is the York Book Fair is due to open at 12 noon tomorrow (Friday 18th September). There are three floors of stands: over 200 booksellers and thousands and thousands of rare, unusual, collectable and just plain readable books. Not to be missed!
You can download a free ticket here: admission is otherwise £2 on the door. The fair is open 12-7pm on Friday and 10-5pm on Saturday at the Knavesmire Suite, York Racecourse, YO23 1EX. There is a free shuttle bus from outside York railway station. There is some parking available at/near the racecourse. There is a cafe and a bar at the venue.
Three Ibooknet members are exhibiting and I caught some pictures of their stands as they were busy setting up today:
Heather and Jeff of Peakirk Books are on the mezzanine floor and already their beautiful children's books catch the eye.
Stephen Foster on the ground floor has an eclectic range of books and also a large bowl of humbugs on his stand so if your blood sugar is flagging as you browse all those stalls you know who to visit!
And my own stock (literary criticism, literary biographies, fiction, poetry and philosophy mainly) is safely shelved on the first floor:
We hope to see you there! In the meantime some close ups of my stock - click to enlarge:
Yes, that's a signed Dorothy Whipple - my favourite book on my stand! You never know it might still be available after the fair.
And here's the rest of the volumes in situ...
If you come to the fair do come and say hello!
A version of this blog post was first posted onto the Ibooknet blog.