Monday, 29 December 2014
Sunday, 10 August 2014
Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Woman in the Picture by Katharine McMahon continues the great story of brave female barrister Enid Gifford from the Crimson Rooms. It does stand alone, but it is helpful if you read the latter first. “London, 1926. Evelyn Gifford is not a woman to let convention get in her way. One of Britain's first female lawyers, she has taken on the male establishment. Outside the courtroom, however, Evelyn's life is not going to plan. Following a devastating love affair, she has left the confines of her family home and has moved in with Meredith, a headstrong artist and the mother of Evelyn's beloved nephew. But now Meredith is threatening to leave for France, taking the child with her, and even Evelyn's formidable Aunt Prudence is off to India.
Thursday, 16 January 2014
Thursday, 12 September 2013
Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach was an interesting modern high-tech thriller, though the main protagonist became somewhat wearing.
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison, another thriller. Interesting enough but not a must-read. Moral of the story, don't forget to marry your other half if you're not self-supporting.
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini was as imaginative and instructive as one might expect. Well worth reading.
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver grew on me. The main protagonist is a young poor white American and there are a few long early chapters about shopping in bargain basements that could have been shortened. Finally though the heroine won me over and the way she was drawn into working for a scientific survey of over-wintering butterflies was convincing. It’s a worthy green eco book we should all read, I dare say.
Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson is an amusing easy read. Absolutely loved the Hungarian aunts who rather stole the show. Laura I did find tiresome - Joanna Trollope would definitely have told her to stiffen her upper lip. Not quite sure why it was long-listed for the Booker. Here is a review.
Sunday, 11 August 2013
To our amazement, Otto won second prize in the Best Behaved Dog class at the village flower show, despite nearly knocking over the judge at one point. Below, dog and buttercups.
I found Eva’s story fascinating, frightening and absorbing (and not very much about cyling – in fact I’d have thought the terrain and climate hardly lends itself to the pastime) I was struck by the bravery and naivety of the ladies in 1923 and it’s interesting to realise that people could and did travel freely to Central Asia in those days. Eva’s story stayed with me long after I had finished the book, so much so that I kept googling the Silk Route for weeks. Oddly enough, I found Frieda more difficult to get to grips with, fey and strange as she appeared. I think I’d have preferred to stay in 1923. But it’s a good read and I look forward to reading more from this author. Here’s a Guardian review.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer. Thoroughly researched and convincing this is the story of a female SOE operative in World War 2.
Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, brought up on the shores of Lake Geneva and in England, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause.
Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation and how to kill, Marian parachutes into south-west France, her official mission to act as a Resistance courier. But her real destination is Paris, where she must seek out family friend Clément Pelletier, once the focus of her adolescent desires. A nuclear physicist engaged in the race for a new and terrifying weapon, he is of urgent significance to her superiors. As she struggles through the strange, lethal landscape of the Occupation towards this reunion, what completes her training is the understanding that war changes everything, and neither love nor fatherland may be trusted.
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is both a gripping adventure story and a moving meditation on patriotism, betrayal and the limits of love.
I had the feeling I’d read some of this book before, because similar stories have indeed been told. It’s a war story, realistically so, and if you like wartime thrillers you will enjoy this book. It’s in no way girly or romantic, because the times were too serious for that. The description of Marian’s training took up the first half of the book but then, once she was in France, one’s fear increased.
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
I had a great day at the Althorp Literary Festival, home of the late Princess Diana.
First I heard Artemis Cooper talk about her biography of Paddy Leigh Fermor, war hero, traveller and lothario. “Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was a war hero whose exploits in Crete are legendary, and he is widely acclaimed as (one of?) the greatest travel writer of our times, notably for his books about his walk across pre-war Europe….Artemis Cooper has drawn on years of interviews and conversations with Paddy and his closest friends as well as having complete access to his archives. Her beautifully crafted biography portrays a man of extraordinary gifts - no one wore their learning so playfully, nor inspired such passionate friendship.” Or indeed love in so many women, often rich ones. Fascinating. Here is a review from the Independent.
Friday, 19 July 2013
When Julian dies suddenly and tragically, Diana is convinced there is more to it than meets the eye. She calls on the one person she had never wanted to see again - her sister, Rachel.
A former tabloid reporter, Rachel appears to be living the dream as a diving instructor on a Thai island. The truth is she's in exile, estranged from her family and driven from her career by Fleet Street's phone-hacking scandal.
Rachel is determined to make amends for the past, and embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth - wherever it may lead...
This extra-long novel starts slowly and Diana’s reaction to Julian’s death, and the funeral arrangements in general didn’t strike me as entirely convincing (but maybe that was to keep us all guessing) However, gradually the plot thickened and, while the characters jet-setted around the world, I became drawn in. An undemanding blockbuster holiday read with good descriptions of all the many luxury locations: not that much sex’n’shopping - more of a glamorous whodunwhat as it eventually develops into a complex plot.
Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa just outside her small village and dreams of living there someday. Then one hot afternoon, Dante, the son of the villa’s owner, invites her inside and from that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is there, with him.
Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Mariana, hires an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she finds is charismatic and wise and begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes o the hotel. However, it soon becomes clear that he is not who he seems…
From the Italian countryside to the English coast, The House by the Sea is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.
Friday, 7 June 2013
Sunday, 7 April 2013
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson. Well-written, well-researched, a historical crime thriller. Again it begins in 1909 but in a totally different milieu 'the dazzling joys of the Belle Epoche'. The dark and dangerous side of Paris at the time is also brilliantly evoked, particularly the flood (you can google for photos of this event). As for Maud, the impoverished and (eventually) vengeful main protagonist, I almost lost touch with her towards the end in the complications of the plot. If you like Paris history with a good dose of intrigue and art, this is one for you.
Quietly starving and dreading another cold
Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman. I enjoyed this good romantic read. (A winner of an RNA award)
When Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a Cumbrian BandB it is her last resort. She and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. And they have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.
Almost immediately Rose wonders if she's made a terrible mistake - if she's chasing a dream - but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She's been given a second chance - at life, and love - but will she have the courage to take it?
My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding Interesting autobiography, but you need to be horsey/keen on the turf to appreciate it fully, as it deals with Clare's racing years.
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Happy Easter to all.
Back from ski holiday in one piece, though managed to hurt a finger on the Eurostar as it hurtled along! Two ski holidays? Well, I didn't have a summer hols last year, you see. It was all to do with the family.
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie o'Farrell Here is a Guardian review of this excellent novel. I loved it and as soon as I had finished, began to read parts again. I very seldom do this, but the language and the characterisation were so brilliant that I wanted to re-savour them. I bought this for the Kindle and I'll buy the paperback too eventually as it is one I want to keep. It's not much to do with the heatwave of 1976, but it is helpful for a writer to set a book before the invention of mobile phones, for a start, and at a time when perhaps morals were more clear cut. Or at least people pretended they were. That's the point of this novel about an Irish family with many secrets. Here's the blurb but I'm not sure it entirely does justice to the book which has nothing to do with greenfly:
It’s July 1976 and London is in the grip of a heatwave. It hasn’t rained for months, the gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father may have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.
Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth book is both an intimate portrait of a family in crisis, and the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers.
Husband Missing by Polly Williams. 'Gina has only been married six months when her husband Rex goes on holiday to Spain and vanishes without a trace, tipping her dream new marriage into nightmare. As a frantic search gets nowhere, Gina is adamant that he's alive and vows never to give up hope. Speculation is rife: he's drowned at sea, lost his memory...or just walked away. Troubling stories start to emerge about Rex's past that are hard to square with the man she married. How well does she really know her handsome, charismatic husband? They'd fallen in love so quickly, so passionately, that the past had seemed barely relevant to either of them. Now an explosive secret threatens to rewrite the story of their love affair.' Good stuff, more of a chick lit mystery/holiday read/zippy contemporary novel, on-the-button.
A psychological thriller, When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones. Not too scary but very interesting concerning as it does female climbers in the early 1900s, members of the Mountain Climbing society of their Oxford-type college. Grace calls her friends by their surnames and they hide their long skirts before they start their climbs, first in Wales, then near the Matterhorn. But, as is often foreshadowed in the time-shifting narrative, disaster strikes. Well worth reading, bated breath and all that.
Gave up on Vicky Christina Barcelona, despite the excellent cast (Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Sylvia Tietjens/Rebecca Hall) Much, much too introspective and WoodyAllen-esque
Watched The Mother with Anne Reid and Daniel Craig - phew. Keep smelling salts to hand and see it on your own. Not a family film.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Thursday, 14 February 2013
Saturday, 22 December 2012
Sunday, 2 December 2012
A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb. A great read, original too. Luckily this author is young so we can expect many more good books.
Names for the Sea: Strangers in
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Thursday, 11 October 2012
Not quite as tidy as Queen Victoria's garden, I admit.
Monday, 27 August 2012
When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her step-daughter Hannah desperately need.
Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, steeped in history. Maddie is enchanted by it and determined to learn as much as she can about its past. As she discovers the stories of generations of women who've lived there before, Maddie begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls.
Still struggling with her grief and battling with Hannah, Maddie is unable to find inspiration for her painting and realises she may face the prospect of having to sell Trevenen, just as she is coming to love it.
And as Maddie and Hannah pull at the seams of Trevenen's past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations.
Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson (only 20p on Kindle) was a pleasant amusing read, more chicklit than the above. The Bridget-Jones heroine has a lot of charm, though I couldn't fall for the true-love hero who wore a hat all the time, even indoors. Seemed a ridiculous affectation, or was there some reason for it that I missed?
There is a touching subplot about a disabled sister.
The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell. Slightly unlikely but interesting plot about siblings all sired by the same sperm donor. Lisa is a good writer, getting under the skin of different characters, and her fans will enjoy this one. 'Lydia, Robyn and Dean don't know each other - yet. They live very different lives but each of them, independently, has always felt that something is missing. What they don't know is that a letter is about to arrive that will turn their lives upside down. It is a letter containing a secret - one that will bind them together, and shows them what love and familyand friendship really mean...'
I've only just found my way back to Old Blogger. Don't know how long I'll be able to. Lots more books to report on soon.