The Haunted Bookshop and Elsewhere in The Athens of the Midwest

On a visit to Iowa City, we worried about The Haunted Bookshop, a used bookshop named after Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop, a novel set in a bookshop of the same name. The website said it was open only by appointment.

Had the pandemic killed the bookstore?

Read about it at

Weekend Reading: In Which I Recommend Books

I hope you’re ready to read  “real” books this weekend, because you will get text neck if you don’t get off the phone. You only need the phone to call Uber and you know it. Meanwhile, books are bursting out of mahogany bookcases or bricks-and-boards shelves at your house.

Here are three recommendations for perfect weekend reading.

Read the rest of the post at Thornfield Hall Redux. Here is the link:  

New Post at Thornfield Hall Redux: “2020-2021: Why I Can’t Get My Head Around it”

Life used to be perfect.  We did not know it. We quote Joni Mitchell:  “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”  What I mean to say is, our  lives were at the normal end of the “perfection” spectrum.  We lived contentedly in modest dwellings. In our leisure, we read or went to movies. Sometimes we took a walk.  Occasionally we saw a ball game (peer pressure).  Some of our peers aspired to a suburban house with a three-car garage, but we never understood the appeal of the three-car garage.  Then we met a man who drove straight from his heated garage to a heated underground garage downtown every morning.  He boasted, “I never wear a coat.”

I couldn’t get my head around it.  

Here is the link to the rest of the post at Thornfield Hall Redux.

New Post at Thornfield Hall Redux: Jane Eyre Meets the Sensation Novel: Mrs. Henry Wood’s ‘Anne Hereford’

Charlotte Bronte’s Gothic classic, Jane Eyre, has much in common with Mrs. Henry Wood’s neglected novel Anne Hereford (1868) has much in common with Jane Eyre.  The parallels between the characters are fascinating.

You can read the post here.

New Post at Thornfield Hall Redux: Real Estate Is Not Proust’s Madeleine

In Hilma Wolitzer’s short story, “Sundays,” the narrator must coax her depressed husband Howard out of bed every Sunday morning.  To cheer him up, they drive after breakfast from Queens to the suburbs to tour model homes.  But they would never dream of moving to the suburbs.

I love the Paulie and Howard stories, and I know the feeling of looking down on the suburbs.  Nonetheless, I am enthralled by real estate. “I would love to live there,” I exclaim as I pass a Victorian house with a wraparound porch, or a Mid-Century Modern Home from the ’60s.  Even if the house is for sale, it is just a fantasy. I’m hooked on real estate ads in print and online. though I have no intention of moving.

Here is the link to the post at Thornfield Hall Redux:

Colette’s “Break of Day” and “Letters from Colette”


During a horrendous illness, I turned to Colette, the lyrical French writer best-known for the autobiographical Claudine books. She ghostwrote the series at the bidding of her rakish first husband, Willy, who ran what Colette called a “factory” of  ghostwriters. Two of her other books kept me alive while I was sick, her meditative novel Break of Day, written in her fifties, and Letters from Colette, edited by Robert Phelps.

Here is the link to the post:

A Twentieth-Century Classic: Elizabeth Bowen’s “Friends and Relations”

My reading has been so eclectic this fall that I have fallen behind in my reviews.

One of my favorite reads this fall is Elizabeth Bowen’s stunning Friends and Relations, a twentieth-century masterpiece, and for that reason I was reluctant to “review” it. I felt should reread all of her novels and a biography or two before I put pen to paper. But my job as a blogger, thank goodness, is to appreciate or grumble, so I hope you enjoy this reviewette.

Here is the link to the post at Thornfield Hall Redux:

Nobody Bought My Viragos! And a Look at ‘The Caravaners’ by Elizabeth von Arnim

We went to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale on Half-Price Day. Surely we would find one or two books, we thought. And yet… we did not. 

One happy note:  I found at least 10 Viragos.  Oh, how wonderful, I thought.  Someone will love these.   Then I realized they were my books.  I HAD  DONATED THEM.  I hastily arranged them attractively at the front of the table, so somebody might find them.   

And speaking of Viragos, I will end with a “review” of a favorite Virago, The Caravaners.

Here is the link to this post at Thornfield Hall Redux:

New Post at Thornfield Hall Redux: The Planned Parenthood Book Sale Goes Modern

Founded in 1961 in Des Moines, The Planned Parenthood Book Sale is a melee of collectors, common readers, and book scouts who jostle between church-supper tables to compete for obscure Mrs. Oliphants and omnibus editions of Bess Streeter Aldrich. But there has been a shift from old books to newish best-sellers. Is it worth attending for a reader like me?

You can read the rest of this post at Thornfield Hall Redux. Here is the link:

My New Favorite Book: J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “The Rose and the Key”

I’ve loved Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas for decades, so you you will not be surprised to learn that my new favorite book is Le Fanu’s little-read The Rose and the Key. Mind you, I do not claim it is a great novel.  Parts are brilliant, parts are draggy and dull. And yet I loved it from the beginning, with its ornate description of “a summer sunset, over a broad heath.” Maud, the impulsive heroine, and her good-humored elderly cousin, Miss Max, are enjoying a sketching tour.

Here is the link to the new post at Thornfield Hall Redux .