A few years ago I was a member of a book group. Once a month eight of us would meet to discuss a book that had been chosen by the host. Some really were cracking good reads and it was always exciting to discover a new (to me) author. It was thanks to this group that I discovered one of my long time best reads – Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and the wonderful The Road Home by Rose Tremain (one of the few books I’ve read more than once). But there were also some truly awful choices (including one that I can only describe as akin to a ‘penny dreadful’ – the name given to cheap 19th century American crime magazines, poorly written and with unoriginal and overused storylines. Others were obscure, pretentious twaddle chosen by a host who strived to impress with her supposed literary superiority. I know that book groups are intended to encourage us to explore authors we’d not otherwise choose to read, but after a couple of years of ploughing through several books I wasn’t enjoying I’d had enough. Nowadays I read only what I want to read.
Some of the books I’ve read lately. I hate reviews which are actually a synopsis rather than a review so…no spoilers here!
The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan. Some beautifully scripted prose and a gentle, uplifting story about an elderly man in the last years of his life and the touching relationship with his much younger assistant. I loved this book.
The man who didn’t call – Rosie Walsh. My joint favourite of 2019 (along with the one above). Ten percent in, I thought I’d cracked the story. I hadn’t; the twist was totally unexpected.
Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel – Ruth Hogan again and chosen because I’d so enjoyed her book above. A woman looks back on the reasons for the difficult relationship she had with her mother. A good read but doesn’t hit quite the spot that ‘The keeper if lost things did’.
The Library of Lost and Found. Phaedra Patrick. A curiously similar cover to ‘The Keeper of Lost things’ which was probably what attracted me to it! it. Librarian Martha Storm finds it easier to connect with books than people.
59 Memory Lane – Celia Anderson. Bought solely because I thought the jacket design was so good! Interestingly the recommendation on the front is from Ruth Hogan whom I discovered as an author only after I’d read this book. Described as reviewers as enchanting, magic, and a gem. I’d agree. If you like gentle, reflective stories this could be one for you. One I might have chosen if I’d still be in that book club!
This must be the Place. Maggie O’Farrell has written several books that I’ve really enjoyed but this one fell a long way short of her usual standard. When it’s an author I know well, I don’t bother reading the reviews beforehand. Perhaps I should have done. Shortlisted for the Costa novel award, I found it disjointed, confusing and tedious.
The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr. No doubt there is a similarity to the character Eleanor in ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ (as recommended on the front cover of this book and one which I found irritating) but Frances Maynard handles the distinctive personality traits (probably Aspergers syndrome) of Elvira better than Gail Honeyman does with Eleanor, though both have a tendency to over-egg it (just in case the reader hasn’t actually cottoned on, presumably). Nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable read of Elvira’s growing understanding of social conventions. A likeable character, where Eleanor was not.
The Woman Who Wanted More – Vicky Zimmerman. ‘Two very different women – one near the end of her life, one adrift somewhere in the middle show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living, and that it’s always essential to ask for more’ (The blurb on the back says it better than I could). Excellent!
Nine perfect strangers. I’ve enjoyed some of Liane Moriaty’s books in the past so even though this is more of a thriller than usual, I gave it a go. It’s not one of those (and there are currently a lot of them, all described as ‘gripping psychological thrillers’) where a woman’s previously perceived-as-perfect husband becomes controlling and murderous. Amazon constantly sends me details of these. It seems that they all follow pretty much the same storyline. I digress! This book is about strangers (nine people but actually not all strangers to each other) all on a journey to find meaning in their lives. A bit weird and far-fetched but if you want ‘different’… … …
Reflections – If you like a family saga and are looking for a gentle read that’s just a nice story, this is the one. The perfect companion when you’re under the weather. Sent to me by a kind friend, it saw me through a few days of enforced rest. The family appear in others of Marcia Willett’s books and I ordered one the other day. I shall save it for a cold, wintery weekend when a snuggle blanket and hot chocolate will complement it well.
Those people is a bit of a departure for this author but just as readable. If you’ve ever been plagued by bad neighbours you’ll understand the frustrations described so well. I’ve long been a fan of Louise Candlish and always enjoy her writing. Her book ‘Since I don’t have You’ is one of those which still stays in my memory years after reading it.
The woman I was before – One of those 99p Amazon Kindle offers. I was going to be away for a weekend and didn’t have room in my luggage for books – which is when the Kindle App on my ipad comes into its own. It’s worth the 99p but I’m glad I didn’t pay more. Not a bad story though.
And now I have a new book to read. Having read two of Ella Carey’s previous books I can’t wait to get started on Paris Time Capsule (what a fabulous title) which was a gift from that same kind friend.
What are you reading at the moment?