Alice Thomas Ellis’s “More Home Life”

It has been raining a lot, so I  indulged myself by staying home  and rereading  Alice Thomas Ellis’s Home Life Two, or More Home Life. The “Home Life” columns were written for the Spectator in the 1980s, and then collected and published in four volumes.  Ellis, who was nominated for the Booker Prize for her novel  The 27th Kingdom, is an equally witty essayist.  Her columns range in subject from meditations on domestic life to the burlesque of being mistaken for a prostitute in a bar to freezing on vacation in Wales because nobody understands the boiler.

Some of these essays strike a “chord” with me (literally).    In “Too Many Love Songs,” she admits she doesn’t care for most music.  She says outrageously, “I don’t know which I hate more, Mozart or the Rolling Stones…”  (I do like the Rolling Stones, but I agree about Mozart.). But when her favorite shows on Radio 4 are repeated, she listens to the music on Radio 2.

…as I washed the dishes I was struck by the fact that every single song was about love.  For me, on a scale of one to ten, romance comes about eighth, after chess but before politics and football.  I scarcely ever give it a thought.  My mind is usually taken up with what to cook for lunch, or why I’ve got an overdraft when I’ve hardly bought anything, or who’s going to feed the boa constrictor while its master is away on holiday, or where the daughter is, or why the mat from outside the bathroom is draped up the steps to the barn.  Perhaps these topics are not suitable to be set to music, but surely someone could think of something to sing about as well as love.

I agree with Ellis!  The rock songs I grew up with were always about love, not to mention the Frank Sinatra songs my mother listened to.  And since real life generally consists of other activities, it’s no wonder that women read romance novels.

Many of you will cackle over Ellis’s essay, “Over-booked.”  When she reads a confusing article in the newspaper about the British book trade’s schemes to compete with shops like Marks & Spencer, she has trouble deciphering the meaning.  She quotes an almost unintelligible paragraph:  the book trade needs to”reallocate resources”and “market the product better overall and so that  we strive to produce a product which is going to be popular and of the highest quality.”

Ellis informs us that 50,000 books were published last year.  She wries facetiously, “If only these multiple titles could be reduced to, say, 100 standard lines–ideally to ONE BOOK written jointly by a committee of tried and tested best-selling authors…”

Home Life is so much fun to read.  Unfortunately these books are out-of-print.

12 thoughts on “Alice Thomas Ellis’s “More Home Life””

  1. I could kick myself. I hunted down all four of Ellis’s books, read them, laughed over them, and gave all but More Home Life away. Am I stupid or what?! At her best, she’s laugh out loud funny. I will read that one again.

    1. I do love her! I can’t find all four of my Home Life books, either. It’s good reading for a rainy day, because she also deals with bad weather!

    1. Oh, I do love The Summerhouse Trilogy. I read that after seeing the movie with Jeanne Moreau. I don’t hear much about Ellis online, but I do think her writing is stunning.

        1. I really enjoyed the movie. It introduced me to her books!

          On Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 11:41 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


  2. ” “I don’t know which I hate more, Mozart or the Rolling Stones…” (I do like the Rolling Stones, but I agree about Mozart.)”…as did Philip Larkin and – as a result – Lucky Jim.
    The Marriage of Figaro?
    The Magic Flute?
    The Jupiter Symphony?
    Piano Concerto No.21…
    There are a good many worth trying.

    1. Natch, I know some classical music. But I’m really not musical–I have a tin ear. I went to the opera faithfully for years but am sad to tell you that I just don’t quite “hear” it. I can’t carry a tune and don’t recognize most songs. So embarrassing.

  3. Is she also the one who published the book about how her granddaughter should be reading Jane Austen? Either way, I have enjoyed her Summer House books: she’s wickedly clever!

      1. Yes, that’s it! Coincidentally, I just came across it today in my booklog from the late ’90s (while looking for something else). It’s funny.

        1. I will have to read that Faye Weldon book. It’s completely possible that I have it here!

          On Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 11:52 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


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