My 100 Favourite Novels
A Literary Quilt

Secret Garden block THE SECRET GARDEN

My first block is based on one of my all time favourite novels, the delightful The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I have used an ivy patterned fabric for the garden wall, and made a quilted door which has a bead door handle. The door opens to reveal a bright floral Liberty print fabric which I bought on our January trip to London. I may have a rethink on this block and alter the hidden garden to include the children and the robin.
Lord of the Rings block THE LORD OF THE RINGS

My second block had to be Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I first read this at university in the early seventies, and loved it. For me, it was the perfect fantasy novel, a complete and credible 'other world' with a mythology that was not too far distant from our own. The fabric stripes represent the journey taken by the Hobbits and I've included a tree to represent the wonderful Ents. Tucked in the corner are embroidered runes. They are Anglo-Saxon and mean something like wealth, joy and aurochs.
The Go Between block THE GO BETWEEN

Completely different in style and mood, L.P. Hartley's The Go Between has been one of my favourites for years. The writing is exquisite, capturing the innocence and anxieties of childhood. The belladonna flowers and berry were templates in my Quilt Detective novel, A Patchwork of Poison, and proved very useful for this block. The letter, addressed to 'Ted' is a square of fabric with oversewn edges, folded to make an envelope, ready for the unwitting Leo to deliver.
Gormenghast block GORMENGHAST

Another fantasy novel, though again it feels very close to our own world. I love the dark humour of the book, and the wonderful larger than life characters. I thought the BBC production a few years ago was excellent. The labyrinth of the dark castle in the block shows the cook, Swelter, with his meat cleaver, then Nanny Slagg and her charge, the little prince Titus, while up on her balcony, the Lady Fuchsia surveys her domain, spied on from the rooftops by scheming Steerpike.

The Hobbit block THE HOBBIT

Tolkein's tale, The Hobbit, introduces us to the characters who continue their adventures on a grander scale in The Lord of The Rings. I've illustrated Smaug in his lair under the mountain, lying on a pile of gold, with gold stitches and beads.
The Mill on the Floss block THE MILL ON THE FLOSS

George Eliot's novel The Mill on the Floss follows the story of Maggie Tulliver and her brother Tom at Dorlcote Mill. I love her portrayal of Maggie and identify with her tempers and frustrations growing up as a girl in a world ruled by men, and admire her courage as she defends Tom.

Here I've embroidered the mill wheel on a simple rectangular shape, with couched stitches for the bridge over the mill race, and a very simple embroidered figure for Maggie.
Le Grand Meaulnes block LE GRAND MEAULNES

Alain-Fournier's enchanting Le Grand Meaulnes is exquisitely written, and tells of the young Augustin Meaulnes' hopeless infatuation with a girl he chances to see at a wedding party in a remote manor house in the countryside. His misery at losing her and his search to find her again are an expression of a youthful idealism we know is doomed. The book is all the more poignant as it mirrors Alain-Fournier's own obsession with a girl he briefly met, and the novel was written just before the outbreak of the first World War, when Alain-Fournier was killed.

The chateau is a simple rectangle with embroidered windows and shutters. Amongst the topiary trees, I've sewn small pieces of lace to give a glimpse of Yvonne, with embroidery thread for her hair.
Great Expectations block GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Charles Dickens' Great Expectations tells the story of orphan Pip's progress in life thanks to an anonymous benefactor. From the chilling encounter with escaped convict Magwitch, and the eccentric Miss Haversham and imperious Estella, Dickens weaves a wonderfully complex mystery.

The quilt block shows Miss Haversham, for ever in her bridal gown, together with a candle flame.
Precious Bane block PRECIOUS BANE

Mary Webb's Shropshire tale, Precious Bane has long been a favourite of mine. It tells of Prue Sarn, whose life is blighted by her harelip, and who doesn't believe she deserves to be loved by weaver Kester Woodseaves. Her brother Gideon is ambitious and self-centred, and ultimately his love affair ends tragically. It is Kester who rescues Prue and convinces her of his love .

The quilt block represents one of the meres that feature in the story which celebrates the Shropshire landscape.
Far from the Madding Crowd block FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

Another rural setting, this time in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. The story centres on Bathsheba Everdene and the three suitors in her life, the dashing Sergeant Troy, the dour obsessive Boldwood, and the devoted shepherd, Gabriel Oak.

The quilt block shows Shepherd Oak with his flock.
The French Lieutenant's Woman block THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN

A favourite book from the sixties. John Fowles 'The Magus' was also very popular, but FLW has stayed with me. Also, we love Lyme Regis and used to visit quite often. The Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons film was excellent.

The quilt block shows Sarah Woodruff standing on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, watching out to sea, a strong and lasting image from the book.
Our Mutual Friend block OUR MUTUAL FRIEND

Another Dickens' novel, exploring the pursuit of money and its effect on people's lives. The wonderfully drawn Lizzie Hexham is very much at the heart of the novel, with a vivid portrayal of her life on the Thames with her father, a waterman who makes a living from retrieving corpses from the river and stealing their belongings. As usual, a cast of terrific characters.

The quilt block shows Gaffer Hexham in his boat on the Thames at night.
Treasure Island block TREASURE ISLAND

I loved Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate adventure as a child. It hasn't lost any of its swashbuckling appeal over the years, and not even the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films can overshadow it. What a grerat character is Long John Silver - terrifying! My block is Captain Flint's treasure map, soon to reappear as the 'X' in an ABC quilt for my grandson, I think.


Bleak House block BLEAK HOUSE

Yet another Dickens' novel, this time berating the machinations and delays of the legal system at that time. Its intricate plots and subplots, and memorable characters like Lady Deadlock with her dark secret, and the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn, make it an absorbing read.





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