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I have a mild (OK, not that mild) interest with fashion and jewellery and over the past month I’ve had some major issues with insomnia – just one of those things but deeply annoying at the time. You may wonder why these two things are connected, so let me explain…..

One of my tactics is to not lie there feeling sorry for myself, willing myself to go to sleep etc., but to get up and do something to take my mind off the sleeplessness. Sometimes that means watching TV, sometimes reading fiction, but often dipping into what are sometimes described as coffee-table books. And these are my two most recent, all about QEII.

 

Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Dressing-the-Queen-CoverAngela Kelly is a designer and Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to the Queen, and this book takes us through the steps involved in creating the dazzling suite of outfits that the Queen wore during the Diamond Jubilee and it is totally fascinating. Fabulous pictures in full colour, covering everything from fabric to storage to packing to hats and umbrellas, shawls and accessories. It’s quite a light book, not at all academic but nice and gossipy without being indiscreet. It is entirely responsible for my new obsession of spotting the hat pin(s) whenever I see a photo of the Queen.

 

The Queen’s Diamonds by Hugh Roberts

The Queen's Diamonds, coverI still feel a little bit guilty about this. Last year the Book God and I finally (after living in London for 26 years) took the tour of Buckingham Palace, partly because it was something we’d always wanted to do and partly because of the special exhibition about the Coronation. And of course we ended up in the garden shop and of course we bought stuff, and this was my indulgence. I love love love jewellery, and this is apparently the first authorised account of the history of the diamonds in the royal collection from the time of Queen Adelaide in the 1830s to now. It is full of astonishing pictures of fabulous things. Written by the Surveyor Emeritus of the Queen’s Works of Art (what a title) and a previous Director of the Royal Collection. An expensive indulgence but a lovely thing to look at if you love bling.

 

411rrTAc5tL._SS160_I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I think people like what they like and should celebrate that, but if I did have a guilty pleasure it would be fashion. So having missed the exhibition of ballgowns at the Victoria & Albert Museum I was really keen to get a hold of the catalogue from the London Library so I could feast my eyes on the wonderful dresses.

The book is of course visually stunning but the articles and background information were just as fascinating. My favourite quote is about the peculiarities of the British couture client as experienced by John Cavanagh in the 50s and 60s:

One titled client chose a dress from his collection and requested that her own fabric be used: some eighteenth century golden-yellow Chinese embroidered wall hangings then arrived a the atelier. Another client would choose several designs and then have fabric samples sent to her home to ensure she didn’t clash with her furnishings.

Designing around heirloom jewellery was also often required, and once a designer had to match a particular shade of satin to “a set of aquamarines the size of gobstoppers”.

How the other half lived! Green with envy.

I have been very quiet on the blog recently, simply because I haven’t been reading that much, due to an increase in social activity (it’s that time of year, lots of cocktails, what can I say) and also because I have been distracted by my new toy, the iPad which I bought myself  as an early “didn’t I do well in 2010” present.

I have always been easily diverted by bright and shiny things.

So I will not reach my target of 52 books this year but will attack the same goal with renewed vigour in 2011. At least, that’s what I’m saying now.

And I will be helped by the bookish spoils received from the Book God and others this Christmas:

  • My Favourite Dress by Gity Monsef and others – a beautiful big fashion picture book, full of talented designers picking their favourite frocks, none of which I can ever afford or indeed hope to fit into…
  • 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman – absolutely gorgeous book with wonderful examples of fashion illustration from Paul Iribe in 1908 to Kareem Illya in 2005. Has made me realise that I would have liked to have been a wealthy Edwardian
  • Britten & Brulightly by Hannah Berry – a graphic novel to add to the collection “There are murder mysteries and there are murder mysteries, but this is a noir where nothing is black and white” sayeth the blurb
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, in graphic form by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young – exactly what you might think, absolutely lovely and wished for solely because I liked the illustration of the Cowardly Lion on the cover….
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King – it wouldn’t be Christmas without a new Stephen King purchase though in terms of reading I am about 5 books behind (not to mention the Dark Tower series (so let’s not and say we did))
  • Blow by Blow by Detmar Blow with Tom Sykes – the story of Isabella Blow, muse to Alexander McQueen – yet more high fashion
  • Paperboy by the lovely Christopher Fowler – won the first Green Carnation prize and looks like it will be brilliant – to be saved for the dead grey days of January
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – a ghost story “Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid”
  • Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet – I love books about books
  • The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – another one of my favourite authors. “A boy, a mysterious guardian and a haunted house with a terrible secret”.
  • Gaslight Grimoire: fantastic tales of Sherlock Holmes – Fantastic tales. Sherlock Holmes. What’s not to like?
  • A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore – shortlisted for the Orange Prize, don’tcha know. Audrey Niffenegger says its full of perfect sentences and that would be good enough for me even if I didn’t already like Lorrie Moore
  • The Existential Detective by Alice Thompson – on my wish list simply because I read about it at Lizzy’s Literary Life and it sounded right up my street
  • The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant – more fashion; “the thinking woman’s guide to our relationship with what we wear”
  • A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – WWI mystery novel
  • The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova – can it live up to The Historian? I hope so…
  • Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan – “Three strong women. Two feuding families. A singular story of enchantment…”

Not a bad haul, I have to admit. And there’s also The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble (a personal history with jigsaws) which I have already started.

Despite a TBR list that is in danger of constituting a library in its own right I haven’t stopped buying books, although I’m about to enter the pre-Christmas moratorium where the Book God and I swap our wish lists and sit on our hands until Santa has been.

And in advance of that looming date I really have been unbelievably bad on the purchasing front:

  • The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – “It’s 1928. Freddie Watson is still giving for his brother, lost in the Great War. Driving through the foothills of the French Pyrenees, his car spins off the road in a snowstorm. Freddie takes refuge in an isolated village and there…..” I have her two previous books but haven’t read them yet, and this looks like it might be fun (and is far less chunky than the others)
  • Nancy Mitford: The Biography by Harold Acton – “This intimate biography draws a witty, real-life portrait of Nancy, based on the letters she intended to use for her autobiography…….” Sparkling and irresistible, apparently, and totally part of my current obsession with all things Mitford.
  • Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger – novels of vampires, werewolves, dirigibles and afternoon tea…… Again I have the first one in this series about Alexia Tarabotti but haven’t read it, so this is a bit of a chance, I suppose (what if I hate it??).
  • Blue Eyed Boy by Joanne Harris – “Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child; timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.” Couldn’t resist it.
  • Sourland by Joyce Carol Oates – it’s a new book of short stories by the great JCO so of course I was going to get it.
  • Dreadnought by Cherie Priest – the sequel to Boneshaker which I got for Christmas (I think, may have been my birthday, too close to call) and still haven’t read. But I feel that I’m going to enjoy it when I get there.
  • Plain Kate by Erin Bow – I saw this on another blog but can’t remember whose (sorry); loved the cover and bought on impulse when in Forbidden Planet with Silvery Dude just after Hallowe’en (I bought The Unwritten 2 at the same time)
  • Decca edited by Peter Y Sussman – see Nancy above. I’m sure I’ll grow out of this at some point….
  • Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie – there was absolutely no way that once I’d got my hands on a copy I would be able to walk out of the bookshop without it. It’s important to recognise one’s limitations….
  • Tamara de Lempicka by Laura Claridge – “Born in 1899 to Russian aristocrats, Tamara de Lempicka escaped the Bolsheviks by exchanging her body for freedom, dramatically beginning a sexual career that included most of the influential men and women she painted.” Irresistible.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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