Old Favorites, Revisited

Hey, everyone.  I’ve been staring at this blank page for a day and a half, waiting for inspiration to strike.   I did finally have a thought, though – old favorites.

I’m sick of my laptop, my work, this house, my days in general, and I’m some combination of disagreeable and bored, I suppose.  I’m now taking this pandemic on by trying to think of it as just today, because the thought of this locked-down life dragging on for another month or three or six feels … untenable, honestly.

I’m rolling my eyes at myself, just typing that.  Anyway. You know what I’ve been doing?  Combing my bookshelves and re-reading actual books, all old favorites.  I don’t want any surprises, or anything that seems remotely like real, modern life pre-COVID.  And I’ve stuck with books I’ve read so many times I could probably quote bits of them from memory.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve re-read L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia, the series is a hoot, 1930s village life in England where nothing (much) happens, I’ll probably go back and read another one or two.  I’ve re-read my favorite two books of Mary Stewart’s beloved Merlin trilogy, The Crystal Cave (Merlin’s boyhood) and The Hollow Hills (the birth of Arthur), a familiar tale re-told quite wonderfully from Merlin’s perspective.  Now I’ve moved on (or, I guess, backward in history) to Alexander the Great’s boyhood in Mary Renault’s Fire from Heaven.

You know what’s on my bookshelf that I’m not re-reading right now?  David Benioff’s City of Thieves, about the Siege of Leningrad, which I read years ago; I kept it because it’s so beautifully written, equal parts astonishing and appalling.  Who knows, maybe a fresh read would remind me of how good I really have it, tucked up in my nice, warm house with plenty of food and bored out of my mind.  Probably not, though.  If I start feeling adventurous maybe I’ll crack open Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year that’s still sitting here unread on my bedside table.

So, what are you up to?  Did you get any fragrances for Valentine’s Day?  What are you reading?  Any old favorites, or something new?


  • Patty says:

    Now I need to go read City of Thieves. I’ve had it forever and never quite gotten to reading it. It moves up to the next to read, once I finish this book I like, but it is a slog to get through. For no reason I can explain other than my old age attention span is in full, very short bloom.

  • Sarah says:

    Hi March,
    Little late to the game here but thought I’d comment anyway. You always get me thinking.
    Re-reading “Oh Pioneers” by Willa Cather. Actual have reread a number of her books including “Death Comes for the Archbishop”, “Song of the Lark” and “My Antonia”. “Intruder in the Dust” by Faulkner-one of his more uplifting novels. “Middlemarch” by George Eliot to keep my receptive vocabulary up to snuff (also great book). “Moby Dick” Melville, see above. “All Souls Trilogy” D.Harkness and “And the Ladies of the Club” HHSantmyer to escape.
    Perfume Ormonde Jane Woman, 754 MFK and Limone di Sicilia Profumi di Firenze.
    Thanks for all the book recommendations – looking forward to getting my hands on many of them.

  • ElizaC says:

    Love, love, love Mapp and Lucia. The TV series with Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne is also wonderful. As a young teen, I spent two summers with my Aunt and Uncle. He was an English professor and I had a blast reading the Mary Stewart books along with a series based on the Welsh Mabinogion (can’t remember the author).

    • March says:

      I love the TV series! I think there are two, actually; can’t remember the actors’ names though. Oooh, that Welsh one sounds pretty great too!

  • Neva says:

    I understand you, in times when things change constantly and quickly, we need something familiar, pleasant to turn to. Rereading books is not new to me, only I haven’t done it in a while. I’m rewatching the first episodes of the 60-ies British tv series The Avengers with Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman.
    The only new perfume is what I have bought myself recently: Masque Milano L’Attesa, a nice iris fragrance with a fresh opening.

    • March says:

      I love Masque Milano as a line, although I haven’t tried that one in particular. And I bought myself a subscription to Britbox which is all sorts of British TV, which has been fun. Familiar, but also new (to me) seems like the sweet spot for those shows.

  • Melanie says:

    Hi March, its a funny old world just now. I try really hard to find the positives (of which there are so many) and yet everything feels tired. I have just finished Boys Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton – a good read. Next book on the pile is The Survivors by Jane Harper.
    Perfumes -recently treated myself to Salted Green Mango by Strangers Perfumerie. So good for these hot days we are having. Take care x

  • carole says:

    I loved the pictures of your books. I’m home today because of freezing rain. And like you-so tired of pandemic life. I can’t complain-there are so few cases here, and I didn’t miss one paycheque. But I’m tired of the the pettiness of people. At least the local yoga studio is still open, and when we are on the mats you can take your mask off. So nice to see actual faces!

    If you like L. M. Montgomery’s work, check out the Mistress Pat books, and Jane of Lantern Hill. There are two Pat books, and only one Jane book. I love them so much. The super interesting thing about her work is this: she really suffered from depression for most of her life. I wonder if she noticed so much about nature as a way of keeping sane. And she wrote about the soldiers who returned from the Great Wars as having PTSD-she didn’t identify it as PTSD, but describes all the symptoms accurately. And finally…she also wrote a little known book called, I think, Notes from the Blythes. It described Anne’s life after the wars, and Anne says something like…I’m glad we never knew the Walter who would have been after the wars, because he would have been so changed. I can get the book from our local library and give you the exact title and stuff if you’d like to know it. It’s not a depressing read and if you like Montgomery’s work it can be neat to read some of her lesser known works.

    As for perfume I’m looking for old friends-so right back to Eau D’hadrian, which I have been wearing for decades. I don’t find it changed in the slightest. Eau de Guerlain, Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat, Arpege are all bringing me comfort. Would love to trip and fall and find vintage Je Reviews Parfum.

    • March says:

      I’ve read Anne several times (and some of the other ones in the series) but had no idea there were so many others, and now I’m investigating, thanks!

  • SpringPansy says:

    Hi March,
    I often reread old favorites and ALL of Mary Stewart’s books (I think that’s the Mary you meant re the Merlin trilogy) are among those. She’s a delightful writer. I always read, but especially when I’m stressed. I know it’s an escape but at least it’s not unhealthy.

    I’ve been reading my way through the Ann Cleeves series (I especially like stories set in other countries/landscapes). I’m also in the middle of the very enjoyable and thought-provoking Brothers K by David James Duncan. Next on the list is The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I almost only get books from the library so my Kindle has come in very handy during the library closure due to COVID.

    Today I am wearing SL De Profundis. I don’t find it sad or funereal, but rather like new spring growth. I am very hopeful that your sense of smell will return again!

    Thanks for all the new book ideas here!

    • March says:

      AUGH I can’t believe I typed Mary Renault twice and didn’t catch it, thanks, fixed! I REALLY wish someone would make a miniseries out of those Merlin books, I’ve always thought they’d be perfect for that. And I’m adding various books to my list; the library’s now allowing us to order in advance and pick our books up outside. Thank you for all the ideas!

  • Ariel says:

    I’m missing old clothes, items that have long disappeared from my closet. Mostly grey hoodies or sweaters, items that had to go as they were mostly holes. But I can think of so many good times when I think of them. Last night, I remembered a summer tango festival, during which I wore a bathing suit under a sheer striped dress (another missed item). I’d dance and dance and dance in the park, then jump into Lake Washington to swim and cool off. And then I would dance some more, dripping and delighted because so many other dancers were also soaked. I’ll know this awfulness is really over when I can embrace a stranger and dance for twelve minutes at a time.

    I’m thinking of watching the newest “Little Women” film. It was my favorite book in childhood, and knowing what’s going to happen (but acted with new faces) sounds just about right. Also, I haven’t watched all the Miss Fisher murder mysteries yet 🙂

    My book choices are a bit heavier: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (gorgeous writing, painful topics) and some books on pediatric eating disorders.

    Privée by Ormond Jayne is the sample scent of the day. So far it’s fine on me, not offensive but nothing magical. I’m jonesing for some good oud, but that’s not in the budget these days.

    Wishing you all the coziest adventures and delicious drinks!

  • Musette says:

    and.. omg. meant to say Mapp & Lucia!! yesh! Fell in love with them back in the late 70s (omg. Jurassic Era) – need to revisit.


  • Dina C. says:

    I can relate to wanting to revisit old favorites. I’m rewatching “Scrubs” right now because it’s like an old friend. And I’ve been reading mysteries which are new but set in the 30s and have that Agatha Christie vibe. Again, non- threatening and cozy. My scents are all old favorites, too. Today it’s Gucci No.3 parfum.

  • Maya says:

    Well, February is my least favorite month of the year. It’s when I get down and cranky and tell people to avoid me or tread carefully. LOL. I do have hope because March is spring to me and the weather starts changing. I haven’t been reading much lately but I absolutely love the Merlin trilogy especially The Crystal Cave. I also love the original dark blue cover of the paperback with Merlin under the moon with Stonehenge in the background.
    My newest perfume is L de Lolita Lempika. I have been wearing it on and off for the last several weeks and know that this is a fragrance I will not get tired of or bored with. It’s up there with my favorites.

  • rosarita says:

    I’ve gone through periods of re-reading familiar books and have enjoyed it. Right now I’m reading all the James Herriot books because I’m enjoying All Creatures Great and Small on Masterpiece. March, have you read Blue Castles by LM Montgomery? I re-read it every winter, it’s one of the few adult novels she wrote and it’s really lovely and very funny.
    So sorry about your sense of smell.

  • Cinnamon says:

    I am not so much sick of work as I am sick of working — I am weary from not having had a proper break — and right now I don’t think taking two weeks off to be at home not earning makes any sense. So onward without any motivation. Not healthy. In the past I’ve revisited loved books over and over. Not doing that right now. I’m 16 (of at least 24) books into a police procedural set in Devon, where I live. Her endings are almost always surprising, which I need right now. In between, as they come out, I’m reading latest books in series I follow. The newest James Oswald should drop on to my doorstep end of this week. And I’m binge-watching Spiral. Just about to start series 7.

    • March says:

      I am SO sick of working, for exactly the same reason — I haven’t had a real vacation in months, because what’s the point? I’d love to fall in love with some new series, what’s the name of the Devon police procedural?

      • Cinnamon says:

        Isn’t it mad? I realised I haven’t set foot in a restaurant in more than a year for sit-down eating (takeaway yes). A year!!! It’s the Wesley Peterson series (author is Kate Ellis). They are formulaic but that seems to work for me.

  • Portia says:

    Heya March,
    Hang in there beautiful.
    No new frags for V Day.
    Wading through a book. Normal People by Sally Rooney. I love the idea, the author writes modern interaction and inability to perfectly but the characters are all generally unlikable people who I would steer clear of in real life. So many people LOVE it that I’m hoping for a payoff but can’t pick it up to get there.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      Ha! I felt the same way about Normal People. And I have a general aversion to those types of books, no matter how well written. If I can’t find it in myself to care about certain characters or what happens to them, I’m probably not interested.

  • Tara C says:

    Whenever I am down and out and need a laugh, I re-read The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love.

    As for telling yourself you’re being silly about complaining about being shut up in your nice warm house full of food, it’s not silly. Boats are safe in a harbor but that’s not what boats are meant for. We are meant to live our lives and despite the situation not being as dire as a war, it is still a huge loss to not be able to fully live our lives.

    • March says:

      What a wonderful, thoughtful reply. Yes, I’m tired of being in the harbor, although I’d rather have a boat than not. But that only gets one so far, mentally.

  • KimB says:

    Rereading just like you are. Jane Austen who is good anytime. Charlaine Harris who is funny and quirky with a touch of paranormal so it doesn’t totally feel real. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series which takes place in the 70’s so doesn’t feel recent. For something new I have ventured into Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec and the Guido Bernetti series by Donna Leon set in Venice. Theses last two are so different culturally that I feel like I’ve traveled but without missing the travel because the writing is so good.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, those sound like exactly the sort of books I’d like, for the reasons you cite — I love that view of another city’s (or country’s) culture. I think I may have read one of the Gamache books … must investigate further.

  • Musette says:

    LOL! well you KNOW I’m so on-edge (for no particular reason, just free-floating anxiety) that I’m doing that very same thing. Just re-read Heyer’s ‘The Reluctant Widow’ because I so love the character Francis Cheviot. Now I’m reading (for the umpteenth time) her mystery ‘No Wind of Blame’ with that absolutely cackle-inducing passage about the Georgian Prince and the dog. omg. Heyer. I do love her so.
    I started to read the new(est?er?) Thomas Perry ‘A Small Town’ but it sounded so preposterous and, as much as I love him I don’t trust him to give me the HEA I so desperately need at this particular time. So that goes back to the library, unloved and unread.
    Based on the stunning visuals of PBS’s ‘Sanditon’ I was going to reread Miss Austen’s fragment – then I remembered I didn’t like it the last 3 times I read it – it was 11 chapters of a rough draft and ought to have stayed unpublished. So I left it, still on my shelves. However, I do recommend the PBS show. There are new characters therein (I particularly love Lord Babington) and….. well… um.. the Sidney Parker character is particularly fabulous to look at.

    ps. It’s snowing like a lima bean – still. And I’ve got freight backed up because of the East Coast storms….. but my house is warm, Shirley and Carmen are throwing their voices at some of my favorite tunes….it’s an okay time, even though it is weird.

  • Pam says:

    Hi, March. I get ya. I’m also so tired of the pandemic but then, who isn’t. During the first few months, I read everything in sight. But suddenly, I didn’t want to read at all. Now I’m returning to books, but only things that are calming.
    As for scents, I’ve been cleaning and rearranging my perfume storage area which leads to discovery of forgotten frags, so it’s like having new perfumes!
    And hey, we’re gonna get through this!

    • March says:

      That’s a great thing about rearranging the perfumes — you always find or rediscover something. I can still barely smell anything (I do try periodically) and I miss it so.