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.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie and their zealous leader Millicent at the ancient city of Kashgar to establish a mission. As they encounter resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar...
In present-day London, Frieda opens her door to find a man sleeping on the landing. Tayeb, a Yemeni refugee, has arrived in Frieda's life just as she learns that she is next-of-kin to a stranger, a woman whose abandoned flat contains many surprises. The two wanderers embark on a journey that is as unexpected as Eva's.
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.