Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Gift List for the Anglophile

The last couple of months have felt like an early Christmas for me. Part of this was due to being in London in October and having the opportunity to shop at Hatchard's Bookshop. I had the books sent home and opening the package was so much fun! Since then I have purchased some other sparkling and delightful books (the ones that bring a smile to your face) and I began to perceive a common theme:  they are all set in England. So I thought that a list of these books, which are all available for purchase, would be helpful for anyone trying to find a gift for their Anglophile friend or any other literary person on their holiday list. They include new books, beautiful reprints of old books, and lovely editions of some of my favorites. Books are wonderful gifts to receive for Christmas. There's nothing like gazing at a tall stack of them during the day after all the presents have been opened. It is so satisfying to think about the many hours of pleasure they will give in the months to come. Take a look at this list and you may find the perfect gift for someone who loves books that are set in England!

I have to admit to being initially attracted to An English Room because of the great photo of Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover. However, upon looking through it at Hatchard's and discovering that it is about some very interesting and celebrated English men and women telling us about the English room that makes them feel most at home, I knew I had to have it. Benedict Cumberbatch chose the library at the Garrick Club in London as his perfect English room. It is an oasis of quiet for him and his favorite place to read scripts. The library contains beautifully bound editions of scripts which are a pleasure for an actor to read. The actress Harriet Walter chose her home in London which she describes as a haven. The wallpaper along the stairs features climbing trees, but underneath it are the housewarming writings of her friends whom she invited to bless the house shortly after acquiring it. And Felicity Kendall chose the Gielgud Theatre in London, where she has performed most often and which has always brought her luck. Thirty-three of England's most well-known figures tell their stories. They all share a love of England and the distinctive English quality of their favorite personal space. Their narratives are fascinating to read and the photography by Derry Moore is beautiful!

Here is another book about the sacredness of one's personal space. The subject is Agatha Christie and her love of houses. I was lucky enough to hear Hilary Macaskill speak about this book, as well as the one below, at UCLA. Agatha Chrisite was passionate about her homes and her passion found its way into her books. This book explores the links between Chritie's beloved country home in Devon, Greenway, and her works. She considered Greenway "the loveliest house in the world." Many of the settings in her books were based in Devon. It is interesting to learn how passionate she was about the many homes she owned throughout her life, down to the smallest detail. There is a photo of Christie painting the fireplace in her bedroom at Greenway. Seeing how "hands-on" she was about the decoration of her house gives us a glimpse into the more personal side of the writer. Anyone who reads this book will want to visit Agatha Christie's home next time they are in England. Greenway is now a National Trust property and is open to the public.

Like Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier was passionate and particular about the way her homes looked. Anyone who loves her books knows that she was supremely talented in evoking a sense of place -- landscapes as well as houses. She was especially drawn to Cornwall where she lived as a young woman and wrote her first book. Hilary Macaskill explores the homes and landscapes of Daphne Du Maurier's life and how they affected her work.

With the premiere of Season Four coming up in January, any fan of Downton Abbey would love to receive this as a gift!

Laura Knight Portraits

When I was in London in October, I went to a fabulous exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of  portraits by the English artist Laura Knight. She was one of the leading British painters of the twentieth century and the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy of the Arts, London. During her long career, she remained committed to depicting modern life and was fascinated with the human figure. Although her career coincided with modernism, she painted in a figurative, realistic style. She is greatly respected as an important chronicler of the times. The paintings in the exhibition were beautiful and many of her best portraits are included in the book. I love the one on the cover. This book would be a great choice for the art lover on your list.

Lucia On Holiday

This sequel to the Mapp and Lucia books takes the two legendary rivals Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas (known as Lucia) to Italy for a new adventure. After a little research, I learned that this is the second sequel by Guy Fraser-Sampson. I am looking forward to reading this one and hope it captures  the wit and spirit of the original books.

Mapp & Lucia

And, of course, here is the original! I am a big fan of these books and am currently re-reading the one above. As Nancy Mitford said about these comic masterpieces, "These magic books are as fresh as paint. The characters are real and therefore timeless." I love this new edition by Vintage Classics.

Any fan of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group would be happy to add this book to their collection. In the summer of 1923, Virginia Woolf's nephews Quentin and Julian Bell began a family newspaper called The Charleston Bulletin. Quentin asked his aunt Virginia to contribute and from 1923 to 1927 they wrote about the escapades of family members, household servants, and various members of the Bloomsbury Group. The stories are illustrated with Quentin Bell's art work. 

Highland Fling was Nancy Mitford's first published book and, as Julian Fellowes writes in the introduction, it has many of the characteristics that would mature into her more famous books -- The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Set in an old Scottish castle and featuring bright young things, hunting expeditions and ghost-sightings, this book sounds very Mitford-like. It has just been reprinted along with Christmas Porridge and Pigeon Pie (see below). Any fan of Nancy Mitford would be thrilled to receive these early novels which have been out of print for a long time.

Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie

Two sparkling comedies from early in the career of Nancy Mitford, published in another new edition from Vintage Books

Some Tame Gazelle

I couldn't resist this lovely edition by Virago Modern Classics of one of my favorite Barbara Pym books!

Elizabeth Taylor is an English writer with whom many people are unfamiliar. She wrote 12 novels and many short stories between 1943 and her death in 1973. She is one of those excellent women writers  who have been rediscovered. I haven't read anything by her though I have read several articles praising her work. I was excited to find this copy of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont  (remember the film of the same name starring Joan Plowright?) and can't wait to finally read her work. Go here to learn more about her.

Another sequel to a much-loved series of comic novels, this book is written as an homage to P.G. Wodehouse. With the permission of the Wodehouse estate, Sebastian Faulks brings Wodehouse's famous characters back to life. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone who loves P.G. Wodehouse. Go here to read a very funny review of this book.

After reading Wild Strawberries (go here to read more), I wanted to find another book by Angela Birkell. Originally published in 1933, High Rising was the first of her brilliantly satirical comedies set in the fictional county of Barsetshire. Don't you love the cover? 

Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the PBS television show Masterpiece, has written a memoir about her 25 years at the helm of this outstanding television show. I have been watching Masterpiece Theatre forever (it has been renamed Masterpiece) and I am looking forward to learning about so many aspects of the history of this show, during the years before Eaton took over as well as after. For example, the book tells the story of how the early producers convinced Alistair Cooke to be the host (it wasn't easy) and Mobil Oil to be the sponsor (another difficult task). Now the show is hosted by the excellent Laura Linney and sponsored by Ralph Lauren. Here is one very surprising piece of recent history:  Eaton originally passed on Downton Abbey. She thought that the project sounded a lot like a combination of Edith Wharton's Buccaneers, which Masterpiece had already done, and the new remake of Upstairs Downstairs which they were about to do with the BBC. Good thing she thought twice about her decision! Any Anglophile would love to read Making Masterpiece and learn more about the show that turned so many of the best English novels into great television.


  1. Outstanding post. Thank you so much for sharing the same.

  2. Oh dear...An English Room looks too tempting so that's me off to a book selling website. And you are going to love Mrs Palfrey, I promise you! It's also a great read for anglophiles - full of London scenery.

  3. The Downton Abbey book is on my list!! Can't wait for the season to start.

  4. Oh I will take them all please. I am so behind in my reading.....and writing. Enjoy the week! Bonnie

  5. I just saw an interview with Rebecca Eaton, was it with Charlie Rose?, and found her to be quite fascinating, with enough tidbits in the interview to entice me to read the book. I'll be interested in how you find "Making Masterpiece", Sunday, as well as the impressive cache of all things British you have here.
    This post, as all of yours, is like a rich tapestry. May I say here how much I admire that vase in the first photo?

  6. They all look wonderful, but I think I'll be buying An English Room and the Laura Knight Portraits books for sure - wonderful gifts.

  7. Yet again will have me pinning madly! All great suggestions...I look forward to getting tucked into a few of them. Many thanks! xx

  8. This is a wonderful list. I love all of the books, especially the Mapp and Lucia novels. How charming. I've been getting a bit burned out on blog holiday gift guides this year because they are all about stuff and things and spending lots of money, so this post is so wonderfully refreshing. Thank you!!

  9. A superb list of British books,Sunday you appreciate so much of our country that is taken for grantage by us Brits.I have ordered an English Room for a friend's Christmas gift (had not heard about it before,thank you) maybe she will let me borrow it!!
    What a beautiful vase my eye was drawn to it immediately in the photo,the colours remind me of Monet.

  10. I so agree about receiving books for Christmas! Of course, I love your list. I have Lucia on Holiday but haven't read it yet--found it on a "free" shelf! I didn't know about the Jeeves book--excited to see that. I plan to read Christmas Pudding soon. And yes, that edition of High Rising is lovely--and I like that it's introduced by Alexander McCall Smith.