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
Tuesday, 8 January 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.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Saturday, 5 May 2012
Do Willow’s strangenesses and her troubled past make her a threat to Laura and, especially, to Beth? What were the circumstances surrounding the act of arson which led to Willow being taken into care?
Ninepins traces a mother’s fears for her daughter and her struggles to decide whether Willow is vulnerable or dangerous – or perhaps a bit of both"
Booksplease has written an excellent review. Here is Rosy's website.
The Lovers of Pound Hill by Mavis Cheek
Mavis Cheek fans should enjoy this comedy about a young archaeologist who turns a staid English village upside down. I can’t say I became involved with all the many (sometimes unlikely) characters but Mavis Cheek can be amusing, of course. The squire & his wife had attitudes from another era, but maybe there are such people still around."When archaeologist Molly Bonner arrives in the
Monday, 30 April 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
A young Judy Dench plays his wife. Nothing much happens but it is a lovely film.
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Just finished another book by Katharine McMahon, The Season of Light. Set in Paris and southern England during the time of the French Revolution, it's about a serious-minded young English girl in love with a French revolutionary lawyer. Unwisely she travels back
to Paris and puts herself in great danger. I feared from the first chapters that it was going to be a bodice ripper, but the opposite is true, it's a long, well-researched and informative novel about the period.
Elizabeth Buchan's Daughters proved a thought-provoking read. Like Joanna Trollope she examines modern family structures in an interesting way, but perhaps EB is gentler with the foibles of her characters. The three daughters were particularly well portrayed. As for the kindly mother/stepmother, JT would probably have told her to brace up. 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled. But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, realising this ambition has not been easy. With an ex-husband lost to a mid-life crisis, and late blooming developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about.... But when she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, Lara faces the ultimate dilemma.'
(EB is amusing about the elaborate preparations for a modern formal wedding - read them and shudder just a little.)
The Somnambulist by Esse Fox is a Victorian Gothic novel, atmospheric, original and well researched. 'Some secrets are better left buried... When seventeen-year-old Phoebe Turner visits Wilton's Music Hall to watch her Aunt Cissy performing on stage, she risks the wrath of her mother Maud who marches with the Hallelujah Army, campaigning for all London theatres to close. While there, Phoebe is drawn to a stranger, the enigmatic Nathaniel Samuels, who heralds dramatic changes in the lives of all three women. When offered the position of companion to Nathaniel's reclusive wife, Phoebe leaves her life in London's East End for Dinwood Court in Herefordshire - a house that may well be haunted and which holds the darkest of truths... '
A TV Book Club choice. Click to hear Esse talking about her book.
Friday, 16 March 2012
Are We Nearly There Yet, by Ben Hatch (a long journey around Britain with toddlers)
The Playgroup by Janey Fraser (lots of angsty mums - amusing)
For John Buchan Fans (will review at more length)
William Boyd's Waiting for Sunrise
For feminists - Victorian divorce scandal
The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue. Here's a Guardian review
I particularly enjoyed The Crimson Rooms by Katherine McMahon.
"Evelyn is a young woman who has defied convention to become one of the country's pioneer female lawyers. Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War. Therefore when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears, claiming to have mothered James's child, her world is turned upside down. Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle. So far her legal career has not set the world alight. But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realise perhaps she can make a difference. The first concerns woman called Leah Marchant whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor. The second, Stephen Wheeler - a former acquaintance of Daniel Breen, her boss - has been charged with murdering his own wife. It is clear to Breen and Evelyn that Wheeler is innocent but he won't talk. After being humiliated in court, Evelyn is approached by a dashing lawyer called Nicholas Thorne. She is needled by his privileged background and old-fashioned attitudes, but despite being engaged, he cannot seem to resist sparring with this feisty young female. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James. With the Wheeler case coming to a head, and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands. "
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Much enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a fictionalised account of Hemingway's first marriage to an upper-crust American, Hadley Richardson. (Here's a Guardian review.) If you've seen Midnight in Paris, you will recognise the scenario. Having read and admired Hemingway a long time ago, I found it interesting that he drew his characters from among his hard-drinking, deep-thinking, free-living literary friends.
'Set during a remarkable time, the same period as Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, the novel captures the voice of Hadley as she struggles with her roles as a woman—wife, muse, and mother—and tries to find her place in the intoxicating world of Paris in the twenties.'
I was impressed and moved by My Dear I wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young. (Here's a review from the Independent.) An R&J choice.
'Set on the Western Front, in London and in Paris, MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU is a novel of love, class and sex in wartime, and how war affects those left behind as well as those who fight. While the men fight for country, survival and their own sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine and Julia do what they can at home. Beautiful, obsessive Julia and gentle Peter are married: each day Julia goes through rituals to prepare for her beloved husband's return. From different social backgrounds, Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, want to make promises - but how can they when the future is not in their hands?'
The title is taken from a standard letter handed out to wounded men to write to their families 'My dear, I wanted to tell you that I have been wounded in the leg/arm/head and am at hospital in..... etc.'
I will definitely buy the sequel. Do read this one.
The Apothecary's Daughter by Charlotte Betts
A well-researched, atmospheric novel and a good, easy read.
Monday, 23 January 2012
England, 1911. When a free-spirited young woman arrives in a sleepy Berkshire village to work as a maid in the household of The Reverend and Mrs Canning, she sets in motion a chain of events which changes all their lives. For Cat has a past - a past her new mistress is willing to overlook, but will never understand . . .This is not all Hester Canning has to cope with. When her husband invites a handsome young man into their home, he brings with him a dangerous obsession...
During the long, oppressive summer, the rectory becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy.
In 2011 Leah, a journalist visiting Belgium, is shown the body of a man who has lain in the ground since the First World War, but who is he and what do the letters he carries mean?
A gripping read with some excellent writing and fascinating characters. Former suffragette Cat, the maid with intelligence and ideas above her station, is particularly strong, Hester, too, is sympathetic as a more traditional young Edwardian woman married to a pallid young man. The vicar and his guest are interested in proving the existence of fairy spirits from another world, with disastrous consequences. Do please read it, and whatever else Katherine Webb writes. In this book she has tackled some strong underlying issues while writing a good story,
A Richard and Judy choice. (By the way, I think the pb cover has a white figure on it - can't be sure as I bought an ebook)
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
I've done a lot of reading and walking recently but not much else. However, one of my new year resolutions is called The Daily Bowl. Organised people should skip to the next para but if, like me, you have numerous little bowls scattered around the house containing a button, coins, a needle threaded with black cotton, bent paper clips and odd pearl earrings, then you will understand my spasmodic desire to sort them out. Not hugely ambitious but I feel good when I can tick one off.
Friday, 23 December 2011
Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2012 to everyone.
After this mild autumn the garden is so different from last year. We have a rose about to bloom, some campanula, and the shrubby pink salvia is still in flower.
Otto the dog found a hole in the hedge through to the neighbours, so that had to be plugged. He's obviously becoming more adventurous in his teenage years - just as sweet-natured though. He seems to have occupied most of my year :-)