In My Mailbox, No. 4

Happy 2012! I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year? I'm trying to extricate myself from my holiday-induced lethargy in preparation for going back to work tomorrow, and I thought an In My Mailbox post, which is part of the Story Siren meme, might be the way to start doing that.

And what a bumper crop we have today :) Santa and my family were tres kind, as you're about to see:

Everyman Library's 'Pocket Poets' edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay's classic poems, which I'm thrilled to own and look forward immensely to dipping in and out of. I've come across several of her poems in random anthologies over the years ('Oh, Oh, You Will Be Sorry' was a particular teenage fave) and have always been keen to read more. And now I can!

The book that everyone has read except me is now in my possession. I'm really curious about this one, as some of the reviews for Edmund de Waal's 'The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance' have been jubilant, but some have been scathing: for instance, the Reading Matters review was a bit ambivalent, whereas Chasing Bawa loved it. An intriguing one.

This looks to be another fabulous book. The blurb is as follows: 

'Industry! Progress! Abundance!

It's 1959. The USSR is on the brink of realising its Communist Utopia. Told through the eyes of a diverse group of characters, from brilliant young scientists to scheming Party officials to everyday families, in 'Red Plenty', award-winning author Francis Spufford brings to life the moment the Soviet dream looked set to eclipse its American counterpart.'
At the moment, Russia is the country that intrigues me like no other, so I'm so excited that 'Red Plenty' was picked off my wishlist.

Continuing on the Russian theme, 'Molotov's Magic Lantern' by Rachel Polonsky is a journey through Russian history, lead by Polonsky's discovery in the 1990s that the Moscow apartment that she moved to with her family was once the home of Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's head henchman, and that his complete library, replete with Chekhov and writers he sent to the gulags, as well as the lantern of the title. This then expands out to cover Pushkin, the Decemberists and Russia under Putin, as well as other regions of Russia and her own relationship with her contradictory country. I think I sounds so interesting, and I look forward to reviewing this soon.

Back to poetry again with the poet who needs little introduction: my fave, Carol Ann Duffy! 'The Bees' is her newest, and the few I've read whilst flicking through live up to her usual standard, which is 'pretty much better than everyone else'.

'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet' was a fabulous present from my Grandad, and will be my first David Mitchell, so I am EXCITED. I don't know much about this, except that there is some cannabalism (?), so it'll be a very welcome blind-read for me.


This book, 'Tolstoy: A Russian Life' by Rosamund Bartlett, will be solemnly and formally read to my cat, so he knows where he's from and what he's been doing.

Just kidding! Uber-excited about this one - I'm on a biography-high at the moment (Claire Tomalin's 'Charles Dickens: A Life' is currently rocking my world), it's more Russia, and it's Tolstoy!! Yay for Tolstoy!! I imagine he'll turn out to be a very complicated ass like Dickens is turning out to be, but that's ok, it's not like we have to work together. :D


Another book that I kinda resisted because everyone, including the various short-listers was raving about it, but I'm ready now: a thousand reviews and prize-nods for Emma Donaghue's 'Room' can't be wrong, I'm sure :D

And last, but most certainly not least, I got 'Modern Vintage Style' by Emily Chalmers, which is a deliciously attractive book about creating a modern vintage style in your own home. This was one of the books that I'd take off the shelf and flick through whilst working at Waterstones (it was quiet, I promise) and I was so sad to leave it when I left that it went on my Amazon wishlist, along with quite a few of the other books listed here.

I do like the reading about homes and interior design (by reading, I mean looking at the pictures) as I live in a military quarter, so, you know, 'you do what you can', but luckily this book has simultaneously made me think 'maybe it would be nice to move', which is lucky as we may well this year, and 'my home ain't half bad', which is the ideal middle ground I guess...

On top of all this (yes, I'm totally spoiled), I got the books I mentioned from Nicole at Book Lush, which are *drumroll please*

Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Everything is Illuminated', which looks and sound awesome (in fact, I feel a little remiss at not having read it before now). The copy I have here is a blue background with yellow writing, in the same font as the picture, but without the bubbles, but for some reason it's not available on Amazon.

Did you know this was published when he was 25? I'm getting so old...

Did you know that Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer? They are apparently. Who knew? To be honest, I don't know much about either of them; maybe they're more of a Stateside thing. This book, 'The History of Love: A Novel' sounds really good though, so maybe if these two books pan out as hoped, I can get behind them over here and then find out everyone knows about them but me :)

This looks fab in a bitchy, Gossip Girl type of way: 'Bright Young Things' by Anna Godbersen. In fact, Cecily von Ziegesar is quoted on the back gushing about Anna's last book, and I love the F. Scott Fitzgerald reference in the title. I imagine I'll read this with glee in between two great wadges of Dickens.

And, finally, (yes, yes, spoiled), we have 'No Tomorrow' by Vivant Denon, which I know very little about, apart from that it's a classic of French literature (according to Milan Kundera), reviews are good and it's a mere slip of a book at 63 pages, which means it will also be the gooey creamy centre between two Oreo-Dickens sides.

Til next time!


  1. I love looking at pictures in the design books too! I'll be moving this year, hopefully, and I'm trying to think ahead and plan the space.

    Happy reading!

  2. Thanks Melanie! I agree, I think it's good to have a eye on things and say to yourself that maybe you'll buy them ready for when you move...as long as you move, or you can just end up with a houseful of stuff :D (I've done this!)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great haul! I absolutely ADORED Room!! I really hope you do as well!

    Xpresso Reads

  4. Thanks Giselle! I'm really looking forward to reading and reviewing 'Room', although with all these I barely know where to start! :D

  5. One thing which springs to the fore with this interesting mix of books, is just how great jacket covers are these days.

    We have certainly seen design taking centre stage as publishers seek out their readers with even more rigour.

    I have read a few from this list but I will not voice an opinion on their lasting impressions, for it would be unfair on anyone reading them for the first time.

    So enjoy the books, because you can learn so much from it both as a reader, and as a writer.

  6. Hey James!

    You're right, the covers of these books are just beautiful - that's one of the reasons I keep the design of this blog very simple, with lots of white, as I think they ornament it enough and I think they should be seen.

    Which ones have you read?? :)

  7. The ones I have read are:

    The Hare With Amber Eyes


    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

    I will be particularly interested in your opinion of these. As your judgement is one I cherish.

  8. Love all things Tolstoy. I'm currently reading War and Peace.

    Anyway, great haul. Everything looks so great.

    here's mine: http://danicapage.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-my-mailbox-10.html


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