Furrowed Middlebrow

By Alison September 4, 2023 4 Comments 5 Min Read

I’ve been feeling all of a fluster lately. Out of sorts. A bit demented. I have in fact been walking about muttering about lost items I have christened with ridiculous names: the dooberry bit (the remote control), the ring-a-ding-ding (my phone) and my giggedy-gigs (my glasses). I am not proud of this, but if you are going to know me, you may as well know me in all my ludicrous glory, mais oui?

(NB: It should also be noted that Finley is not proud either, he is in fact ASHAMED, not least when he was sad to inform me that I was in fact muddling around the house with two pairs of giggedy-gigs on my head).

So yes. I am Alison. And I am sorry.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, flustered. Flustered is what I am. Life is all upside down and silly and stressful and when things are borderline terrible with all manner of the sad and the challenging surrounding me, I tend to retreat into a sort of hibernation during which I don’t want anyone poking at me, because my mind has decided I have got enough to deal with, let alone having to manage social niceties during a period of demented vexation. I can’t manage social niceties at the best of times, let alone when I am a woman on the verge.

(And honestly, if you know me and you are reading this thinking ah but she’s so good at social niceties, let it be known that while conducting them or indeed finding myself having to indulge in small talk, it is highly likely that I will be masking one of two emotions: either paralysing shyness that has me believing that everything I have said is round the bend and people know, OR such utter boredom that I have started to say ridiculous things just to entertain myself, thus having people believe I am a 24/7 hoot!)

Blooming heck I’m all over the place today! Anyhow (I nearly said “anyhoo” there and would not have blamed you if you had then decided we couldn’t be friends anymore), yes, anyhow, I sat down here this evening to tell you that I have been filling my head with the kind of nonsense that is filling my head with sorry nonsense, (for want of a better turn of phrase). Crime dramas and horror films. Books full of badly written murder and mayhem. Sub-reddits full of lies. I’m so very stressed that I stay awake long into the night, filling my head with dubious proof that there is so very much to worry about.

And it is ridiculous and I know it and like so much opium I find myself addicted regardless, scrolling and turning pages and clicking yes to the next episode and unable to look away and hating myself for it all, for who knew I would have such eternal capacity for the feeding of the darkness in my soul? Who knew, pray tell, there was any darkness at all, having long been convinced that my insides are papered in polka dots?

So there I was, wide awake this morning at four-thirty, which is frankly something of a God-forsaken time to have a person’s eye’s pop open, because its unreasonably early and creeping downstairs before the sun has popped her hat on, discombobulates the cat and results in a long day of him mistaking himself for the tiny kitten he once was and trying to climb into my cleavage and screeching in exhaustion when I refuse to try to work with a cat on my chest.

Anyhoo… It struck me that I need to cool my engines so to speak, and take myself back to the time when such material would have been anathema, not catnip to the menopausal lady. And so, to finally get to a long dragged out point, I am declaring a season full of nice books.

That is going to be my rule: NICE books only.

Enough already with pulp fiction and Channel 5! Nice books, in fact a whole back catalogue of nice books, namely those from Furrowed Middlebrow, by Dean Street Press  – books that remind me that there is all the drama we need in the slings and arrows of gentle domesticity. That there is comfort in the descriptions oft to be found of tumbledown cottages and gossipy villages, and camaraderie in women undone by the collapsing walls of society in wartime as values shift and the pieces of a life well-lived must be glued back together.

I have, of course, read many of the Dean Street Press catalogue, indeed in the past few years, we enjoyed a few of them together in our little Brocante Bookclub soirees, but this Autumn I want to use them as an antidote to the swirling, rising chaos in my head and invite them to soothe all that feels turbulent, prickly and stupefying. To find in them comfort within myself I am wasting far too much time seeking to appease with meaningless media.

This is I suppose a return to self. For I have long thought of self as an entity on a rubber band that stretches away from us, until we feel the strain and yank it back, standing still as we experience its outraged reverberation and then suddenly settling once again into the peace of authenticity: more aware the older we get, that authenticity, like a naughty teenager, is ripe for peer pressure and liable to go a-wandering.

While other people buy new pencil-cases in September, I have for many years now been choosing bookish friends – taking them as my companions for a season and devouring every word they wrote in their lifetimes, so my Furrowed Middlebrow Challenge is merely an extension of that: a whole gang of bookish friends I shall gather up to keep me company as the evenings start to draw in.

I will be sharing my thoughts and tracking my progress in the BrocanteHub and there will be a dedicated page right here on BrocanteHome so that you too, can spend Autumn on a deliciously old-fashioned literary adventure, this Autumn.

I do hope you will join me, It would be so lovely to enjoy these wonderful books together. If that is, that “anyhoo” hasn’t had you running for the hills!

Ps: I will be reading alphabetically starting with Alice: thus taking out any dithering about what to read next.


  1. annette.canales97@gmail.com says:

    I belong to a book club and love it. Those ladies are a life line for me. We are currently reading Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes. Too early to give an opinion, but so far so good. Can’t wait for a “deliciously old-fashioned literary adventure”! Sounds perfect for this Autumn.

  2. Lynne Jacobs says:

    Oooh, I am always up for reading categories of books, and indeed I have read many of your suggested boo
    ks throughout the years. I am always grateful for your recommendations. Count me in!

  3. Kaitlin says:

    Oh I feel this post so deeply! Thank you Alison. xo

  4. Koma Murray says:

    Add me to the list, Alison! Demented, discombobulated woman on way to calm and tranquil. Alice it is!

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