Saturday, 30 August 2014
The Best of August's reading
August's reading was a mixed bag of fiction and non-fiction, proper books and e-books, and these are some of the best.
Santa Montefiore is for me, an author who never fails to please, and this, 'The Beekeeper's Daughter' was yet another exceptional read. The story moves between generations of two families, the 'upstairs, downstairs' if you like, and between Dorset and New England, two of my favourite places. Grace grows up as the beekeepers daughter, working on a large Dorset estate and living in a tied cottage with her father, where as a young teenage girl, she develops a crush on the young Lord and Master, Rufus. But she knows that despite his being kind and relaxed and friendly with her, there could never be anything between them, and in time she marries Freddie, destined to be farm manager on the estate. But war intervenes. And an unusual turn of events sees the young couple move from Dorset to New England where their teenage daughter meets and falls in love with Jasper. Her love is returned but duty calls for Jasper, and he returns to the same Dorset estate that Freddie and Grace left all those years ago. Grace had to give up her true love, will her daughter have to do the same and for the same reasons of duty, obligation etc?
'Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase' by Louise Walters is the story of Roberta, who collects and keeps notes, postcards and so on, that she finds in old books in the bookshop where she works for Philip, the owner. (It later transpires that he is not all he seems to be, but that's right at the end and I won't spoil it for any potential readers!) It's when she's looking through her grandmother's books though, that she finds something that stirs her curiosity - a letter from her supposed grandfather, dated after he died. The story goes back between the present day, and wartime when her grandmother was an unhappily married young woman, who by chance met and fell in love with a Polish Squadron Leader, whose name Roberta carries. It is a mystery she has to solve. There's romance here too, not just for her grandmother, but her also. This is another extraordinarily good debut novel.
Jenny Uglow's 'The Pinecone' is the first of my non-fiction reads, which in all honesty, has been on the go for some time. It's an intense read, lots of information, and was one of those books I dipped in and out of, as the mood for something more serious took me. Sarah Losh was born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to a fortune, and builder of a small church in the village of Wreay, filled with carvings of ammonites, poppies, and lots of pinecones, her signature in stone as it has been called. The family was involved with great writers of the time, friends with the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the book tells of them, as well as sisterly love, village life, what the arrival of the railways meant amongst other things.
'Her' by Harriet Lane - I loved her previous book, 'Alys, Always' and so had to get this and was a bit disappointed that for me, it didn't live up to the 'thriller of the year' hype I'd read about. Nina and Emma knew each other, not very well and briefly as girls in their mid-to-late teens. When by chance Nina sees Emma at a distance, she recognises her at once, but even when she has inveigled herself into Emma's life, and that of her husband and children, Emma still hasn't recognised her. But you just know that at some point she will. Just as you know that Nina's memories of Emma are not happy ones, that something occurred for which she seeks retribution. But what was it, and how, if at all, will she get her revenge. The pace picked up, it was a really good read, but I still doubt the hype.
Nicci Gerrard's 'The Winter House' tells the story of three friends from school days - Marnie, Ralph who was quiet and shy, and Oliver, the extrovert glamorous and slightly dangerous. Marnie loved Ollie. Ralph loved Marnie. Years later they get together and stay in a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands, coming together as a threesome one last time to be with Ralph, who is dying. They spend their time reminiscing, remembering the heartbreak, the passion, the falling out. Can the past be buried and forgiven before Ralph dies?
I am a lover of bookshops. I want to have a bookshop. It's my dream, I even have two properties I know of locally that would make the ideal bookshop, one attached to a lovely Victorian house, in the centre of a thriving village/holiday spot nearby, good footfall all year round. The other is a tiny intimate space, I can see it with Christmas lights, different window displays depending on the time of year. But it's occupied by a long-standing business, no chance of them going. Which is just as well, because as usual, money is the main sticking point. And so these pipedreams remain just that, but when I find a book about someone who did it, or a novel set within a bookshop, then I have to have it. 'The Bookshop That Floated Away' by Sarah Henshaw is her story of buying an old barge and turning it into a home cum floating bookshop that Sarah took for six months on canals and rivers. She met some interesting people along the way, bartered books for food and a hot bath, and cake. You can follow her continuing life aboard the barge via Facebook or www.thebookbarge.com
And on my Kindle, an excellent book - 'When I Wasn't Watching' by Michelle Kelly. As far as I know this is Michelle's first novel, and I can't wait for her next. This is the story of young Jack, abducted and murdered eight years ago by Terry Prince, himself a teen at the time. When another little boy, similar age and looks to Jack goes missing in similar circumstances close by, the police fear the worst. At the time of Jack's disappearance Matt was the leading DS on the case. Now he's the DCI dealing with this second case, and the realisation that the attraction he felt for Jack's mother all those years ago, inappropriate at the time, was however real. It may still be inappropriate in the eyes of his boss when he discovers there may be a growing friendship between the two, but for both, it's real. This is a love story mixed with a detective story, which has a satisfying, happy ending.
So,once again I hope there's something there to tempt you, and that August has been a good month for you.
Thanks as ever for dropping by. Happy Reading!
Posted by Edwina at 05:28