I'm reading Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard, which is the second book in her Cazalet quartet, about an upper-middle-class family just before and during the war. I just read the first one, and they are hugely readable, although rather depressing, as lots of the characters are very likeable and terrible things happen to them. The one who is really breaking my heart is Miss Milliment, the very ugly old governess, who loves literature and art and who has a sense of humour, but is so poor that she can't afford a wireless and has nothing at all to do in the evenings because she has no friends and her eyes are going which means that she can't read easily anymore. She sometimes talks to herself just so she can hear her own first name, because as her family are dead no one has called her by it for years. I've read similar things about old single women in the more formal past, and just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I rather hate the modern practice of automatically calling older people by their first names all the time because lots of them don't like it and find it intrusive and over-familiar, especially in nursing homes where they are relatively powerless. But this alternative seems much worse, and was much worse for old single women who were often poor and often lonely. Anyway! The book is great, and often very funny despite the sad bits, although if some of the characters don't end up more or less happy by the end of the quartet I will be very miserable.
I'm also reading Robert Winder's Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain, which is absolutely fascinating and which should be made compulsory reading for everyone from Michael McDowell to the equally revolting bigots in charge of most tabloid newspapers. I've been reading it for weeks because I keep stopping and starting it, but it really is very good. And I'm also rereading Dorita Fairlie Bruce's magnificently titled That Boarding School Girl, which is often unintentionally hilarious and quite often intentionally funny.