Summer is here and the square outside has come alive again. There are people walking their dogs or enjoying the sunshine at tables outside the café opposite the office. It’s a peaceful scene, but it’s impossible to forget that far away though ever-present is this year’s ugly backdrop of the war in Ukraine, not to mention the violence and suppression of free speech in so many parts of the world. We’ve never taken ourselves too seriously at Slightly Foxed, seeing it as essentially a place where readers can relax, enjoy good writing and, we hope, have a laugh occasionally. But in these deeply worrying and isolating times, it’s the comforting sense of fellowship and connection through books that readers tell us they get from Slightly Foxed which seems especially important.
It does, at any rate, look as if foreign travel will be possible again this summer, and this issue features a number of good travel reads to pack into the suitcase, from Eric Newby’s wry and funny account of his attempt on an unclimbed peak in the Hindu Kush to the exploits of the colourful characters who ventured on secret missions into High Asia in the days of Empire, described by Peter Hopkirk in The Great Game.
In the spring we reissued Lark Rise, the first volume in Flora Thompson’s lightly fictionalized account of growing up in the last decades of the nineteenth century in the then remote Oxfordshire hamlet of Juniper Hill. Our new Slightly Foxed Edition continues Flora’s story through the two final books in the trilogy, Over to Candleford and Candleford Green (see p.13). They are, if possible, even more enjoyable than the first, for in them life broadens out for Flora – or Laura as she calls her younger self – when she pays her first visit to her father’s relatives in Candleford, the local market town, and makes particular friends with her uncle Tom, who like her is a reader and one of life’s observers. Flora’s education continues when she finds a job as assistant to the postmistress in a nearby village: Candleford Green is an enchanting picture of a young and sensitive girl growing up in this small but colourful community, and of Dorcas Lane, Flora’s redoubtable – and unforgettable – new employer.
When titles in our limited and numbered Slightly Foxed Editions sell out, we’ve been gradually making the most popular ones available again as Plain Foxed Editions – the same attractive and readable hardback format, but without the frills. This summer’s PFE is a treat, Another Self by James Lees-Milne, one of the linchpins of the early National Trust, and keeper of one of the best and most amusing diaries ever written. In this memoir he looks back with disarming candour, and perhaps a little imaginative embroidery, to the follies and misjudgements of his awkward younger self in the upper-class milieu in which he grew up. It’s perfect light holiday reading, charming and very funny.