Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

Time is running away with me somewhere, I have lots of things to blog about and books to review and just general stuff to share,  but by the time I get home in the evening, I have lost momentum to open the laptop and to start typing. Especially when I have been staring at spreadsheet and the like all day. But I have found so momentum, so there is no stopping me at the moment..

Winners

I held a giveaway at the end of last month for M.L.Stedman’s – The Light Between the Oceans. I had not forgotten and I am pleased to announce the winner is Pat (sorry no knitted mermaid this time)

  1. Pat
  2. lindylit
  3. jessicabookworm
  4. davey

Timestamp: 2013-06-29 10:10:00 UTC (Courtsey of random.org)

Pat I have emailed you, but please contact me if you see this!

Losers

It is Wimbledon time and I think we are going to have an interesting second week, as a number of well-known and well seeded players tumble out of SW19. Do pop over and read Elaine’s musings on the matter.

I must just mention WHSmiths – over the last couple of weeks, I have had cause to pop into one and see if they had a book, (Waterstones did not) and I promptly came out again, disorientated by the lack of organisation and the fact that all the books seem to have been shoved on shelves with no rhyme or reason. I felt so dizzy I came out, shaking my head and wondering why? Is it just the two local ‘Smiffs’ near me like that or do you have a similar experience. Oddly enough when I go in charity shops and look at books I do not get the same feeling and their books are generally not in any order either?

AOB

Expect some posts on knitting and baking soon as well as my day out at newbooks magazine Reader’s Day. And if you were here around a year ago you will remember the 6 in 6 meme I started. Well I am going to bring it back this year so I do hope you join in.

Books

This Is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E Smith

A small American town, a young girl, Ellie and her mum have carved a life out for themselves quite nicely. The weather is glorious, the people friendly but by chance an email arrived to Ellie, it was meant for someone else but it got to Ellie and it started something life changing, a spark of friendship or the start of something more.

Graham was plucked from obscurity and is now the biggest movie star and everyone wants to work with him and all the female fans want to be with him. But Graham is struggling to deal with his fame, and is happy to retreat back into a life where he is virtually unknown.

One summer, as the heat is intense, two people are thrown together but are they being true with each other and are there secrets from the past that will help a future that should be promising and bright to these two young people?

This is a story of young love, friendships which divide and become stronger, about surviving in an unbalanced world where one is unknown and one is known. Add into that world the fact that everyone wants to know everything about everyone else, it is going to be a challenge. Jennifer E Smith, makes every young girls dream come to reality and shows what it might be like if you fell in love with someone famous. She shows the wonderful moments about not being sure whether you have loved or being in love as well as the difficulties of dealing with being in the public eye when your mother has been trying to keep you out of it, because of her own secret.

This is a novel which at first I was not sure of who the pitched audience was went to be? Is this a young adult book? But it goes a bit deeper than that, it is not a pure romance and full of slushy sentiment which it could have been, it is very grown up and I think if I had teenage daughters in particular it would show you how difficult love can be but how also wonderfully simple at the same time.

Well worth a read.

Thank you to the publisher, Headline for sending me this book for review. I would certainly not have picked it up otherwise. This was the book which restored my faith somewhat after starting and stopping two books I could not get into. 

Books

Miss Appleby’s Academy – Elizabeth Gill

Emma Appleby arrives in a small village in County Durham, having made her way across from America. She brings with the a small boy who is not her son and she seems to be looking for something from the past.

The locals are suspicious, they have long memories and feel that they cannot be associated with her. Only one person seems  to connect with Emma and that is Mick Castle. But Mick Castle has problems of his own, not only is he trying to run many pubs in the area, where trouble and fighting is commonplace on most nights, he has a wife who never leaves their house and a daughter running wild.

Emma suddenly seems to be the answer to some of his problems. She tackles the domesticity which is missing from one his pubs, The Black Diamond, and wants to help the likes of Connie and channel the energy she has into something else. The opportunity presents itself when a visit with George to the local school, Emma sees how the teaching method leaves a lot to be desired. If she could teach them in her own way in her own academy then maybe she will find her place in life. What she is searching for seems to have alluded her so far, and perhaps the small village so far from America is the perfect place to start.

The characters that Elizabeth Gill has created are intriguing and rather infuriating. Emma’s brother Laurence back in America, was instantly dislikeable and the way he deals with his sister as a commodity is shocking perhaps today, but not in 1906. Mick Castle’s wife Isabel, has a problem and whilst it is not perhaps apparent, as the book goes on, the author deals with a rather modern issue in a historic setting. Add into this mix, the wonderful humanistic qualities of the dogs that guard both Mick and Emma and the children as well as the wild weather and landscape of the north of the country adds to a very enriching read. A book full of social history and the circumstances of single women trying to make something of themselves, when faced with prejudice at every turn.

At times I thought I was reading a Catherine Cookson novel, and I wanted to devour more about the locals, more about the academy, and more about Emma and Mick Castle. I did not want the book to finish, but as the final page was read, I have taken these characters and continued their journey wanting what can only be described as the best for them.

I picked up this book from a recommendation by the author Trisha Ashley (@trishaashley) who was talking about it onTwitter. She is also quoted on the front of this book. I am so glad I picked it up and read it, I really did enjoy it and again it reminds me how much I like these types (or should that be genres) of novels. I am certainly going to add Elizabeth Gill as an author to read more of her work. 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Author Interview – Maggie Joel

I hope you have had the chance to have a look at my last post on the book The Second-Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel. 

Maggie Joel, kindly answered some questions that I had regarding the book and her writing life. Thank you Maggie for taking the time to answer them. 

Describe your writing day? 

Ha! I wish I had one. At the moment working full-time leaves me little energy for much else. For a decade or more I worked during the week on my day job and wrote all weekend, up to sixteen hours, weekend after weekend, year after year. Relationships, friends, fell by the wayside. Both my novels, plus three others unpublished, got written in this way. But then, two years or more ago, I hit a wall. I simply could not do it any longer. I was no longer willing to give up every weekend to writing.  And, oddly, that was just about the time that I began to achieve some publishing success.

At this stage in my writing career it is probably the point that I should consider switching to part-time work in my day job but the publishing industry seems so uncertain now, such a very different place to when I began writing in the early nineties, that I find I am too afraid to commit myself. And so the writing suffers. I haven’t yet found a solution.

Why did you not fictionalise the story of the woman who was the real second-last woman in England to be hanged?

I write fiction. I make stuff up. I don’t fictionalise true stories – that doesn’t interest me. The woman in The Second-Last Woman in England is, therefore, entirely fictional and the story is not inspired by any real person or events. During my research I read about two very separate instances of women being convicted of murder and then hanged in Britain in the mid-1950s, and the idea of this – of the state exacting such a punishment – really struck me. It seemed so barbaric, so archaic. Many people in Britain are aware of the Ruth Ellis case who, in 1955, was the last woman to be hanged for murder. It’s a famous case – they made at least two movies about it – not simply because she was the last, but because she was a glamorous young woman who lived, what appeared to be, an exciting and enviable lifestyle. The idea that the state could put her death shocked a lot of people at the time – and probably went some way towards ending capital punishment for women in the UK. I had no interest at all in re-writing Ruth Ellis’ story, or the stories of the other two, earlier, cases I had come across, but it did start me thinking. And what I thought was, well how shocking would it be if our murderer was a very respectable, very well-to-do society wife and mother? And there was my opening scene.

The Fifties is rarely a decade that gets covered in a lot of fiction – it is normally the war years and then the mid to late sixties. Why the Fifties? 

When I was growing up in 1970s England there was a great deal of Fifties nostalgia but that nostalgia, for some reason, was focussed purely on the late Fifties. It’s as though there was no recognition of popular culture existing prior to 1955. Those years, 1950 to 1954 were a cultural and historic blank for me. I think I wanted to know what happened. How did those people get from the end of the war to rock n roll in ten years? What came in between?

The story is very firmly set in the post-War but pre-Rock ‘n Roll period – the Austerity years, we now think of it, a time when a well-to-do British family’s existence – both outside and inside the house – was ruled by a strict set of conventions. The novel looks at the depth of emotions that are always present but rarely surface. And what happens when they do surface. And the Coronation provided the perfect backdrop.

History as lived by ordinary people – that is, the lives and stories of average people – to me that is far most interesting that the lives of the rich and famous, or the study of big military or political issues. I think this is because we can all relate to those domestic, family stories. All families have those stories. Often they are at the micro level and may impact on only one or two people but sometimes those stories blow up and destroy lives. That is, really, the essence of this story.

Could you see a sequel – I would like to know what happens after I have read the final page and put the book down.

Definitely no sequel. Those characters have reached their natural conclusion in my head. I have certainly speculated about what would have become of then, from I know of their circumstances and their personalities. And I know that, in the long-term, some would have fared better than others. I can see it quite clearly, in fact. But I have no interest in revisiting those characters in a later novel. It would feel like a cop out, in some way: not being bothered to invent new characters and to explore different situations.

What research did you do?

I embarked on a vast amount of reading: social history from immediate post-War period to the mid-1950s, along with archive copies of The Times and court reports from the Old Bailey all formed the backbone of my research. And talking to my own family: my mother and my aunt had first-hand – and very detailed knowledge – of this period.

The challenge for me was to capture the flavour of that era through the lives and actions of this single household, whilst presenting, in a convincing way, characters and a set of circumstances that lead those characters, ultimately, to disaster. Much of what triggers this disaster has been set in train long before the novel opens in the summer of 1952 so these events from the past needed to be appropriately woven into the narrative.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

I’m about a third of a way into the first draft of a novel set in late Victorian England…I thought the early Fifties was alien – but this is a whole other universe! And there’s so much to research (I didn’t even know that Victorians drank coffee before I stared this book) that it will be a long time before it’s finished. So it’s just as well you have The Second-last Woman to read in the meantime.

What are your favourite reads? Any recommendations? 

I’ve been greatly influenced by novels such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, Isobel Colegate’s The Shooting Party and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, all books which look back – both fondly and critically – on the recent past, and where nostalgia for a bygone era plays a major role. They are all incredibly evocative works, utilising research and literary devices to generate an emotional response within the reader and that is something I strive for in my own work.

The book I return to time and time again is Graham Green’s The End of the Affair. It’s such a simple book, almost a novella, and such a deceptively simple story: a man falls for his neighbour’s wife, they conduct a torrid affair, the affair ends, and yet contained within it, it seems to me, is the very essence of the human condition, of love. And, of course the writing is sublime. Green’s narrator relates his story in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War. He is looking back over an affair that has lasted, really a very short time, and yet it has changed his life. I think part of the attraction for me with this story is how he places his characters in their setting: the affair is conducted against the back drop of the last year of the war and Green’s creation of that period is effortless, almost off-hand, yet it is all the more powerful for it.

What novels have you really tried to read but just cannot get into and therefore remain sadly unread? 

Solzhenitsyn’s 1914 was something of a watershed for me. It was the first book I gave up on.  Its sheer bulk defeated me. It must have been twenty years ago but I still remember quite clearly that sense of disappointment with myself. But it has liberated me. Now I start and discard books the way most people start a newspaper article on an online newspaper. I think nothing of tossing it aside if it has nothing to offer me. Life is too short to read bad fiction. And there are enough really good books around to fill several lifetimes. I’ve just finished Kate Atkinson’s new one, Life After Life, and it was truly inspiring. Then I saw her speaking a couple of weeks back at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and I was inspired all over again. She is literary god to me. But 1914…I just couldn’t do it!

How do you cope with ‘bad’ reviews – do you think you can take anything from them? Or do you not read them?

I don’t cope with them. I got one about three years ago, a really stinging, personal attack, and I – naively! – thought at the time that it had had no impact on me. I realise now – three years later – that I have been fighting writers’ block ever since and a huge part of it dates from that one bad review. What have I learnt from it? Don’t publish then you don’t get bad reviews! Obviously that is somewhat self-defeating….At the very least, don’t read any reviews at all, just ignore the whole thing. It’s not worth the risk. Not when you know that your entire writing process can so easily be derailed by what you might inadvertently read.

 

Books

The Second-Last Woman in England – Maggie Joel

It is quite clear from the front of the book that someone is about to be hanged and perhaps picking up a book where you already know what is going to happen may seem rather strange. But actually it makes for a rather interesting and intriguing read.

What we don’t know how she got to be the second-last woman to be hanged in England?

Was the murder committed in cold blood? Was it a crime of passion? Anger? Premeditated? Opportunistic?

Well you have to read and find out. It is 1952, the Queen has been on the throne not even a year, the country still mourning the death of a King and the prospect of a new age dawning with young Elizabeth, the country is feeling the after effects of the war, rationing is still in force, much of London is still a building site and the smog is drawing a veil over London. It feels as if the place is suffocating.

It feels as if Harriet Wallis is suffocating in her life. Married to a Cecil, more by chance than design and living in a well to do part of London, where Christmas and almost any memorable occasion is delivered by “a liveried man in a large green and gold van”. (Harrods) Harriet has it all, two children, a nanny, staff and all the time in the world to do as she pleases. She spends little time with her children, they seem to be a tick in the box for convention and not for emotion, they spend more time with various nannies, the last before Harriet’s death, Jean has an ulterior motive to her position in this house. But why exactly does a rather strict chapel girl from Stepney with no family and no experience want to be a nanny?

Harriet is hiding something in this buttoned up world that she lives in. Her history slowly unfolds as the book progresses, one brother works at Buckingham Palace, a hive of activity as Coronation preparations are under way. The other brother has returned from abroad. But where has he been? And why does he not re-enter family life the way convention seems to dictate.

As family and friends  gather for the big day, with the added excitement of the new technology – a television to watch the proceedings, despite being only a short walk from the real life event, a knock at the door brings news for one of them and the resulting events end to where I came in – Harriet Wallis is to hang for the murder of her husband.

This is a rather intriguing and cleverly written book, we know the outcome and the author not only takes us on the build up to that point but also further back so we can see the development of the main characters Harriet and Cecil Wallis, how they met but further back to their own childhoods. This is all done seamlessly and without any obvious jarring when reading. Within these pages, social history is pouring out as well as society and how it was changing post war, but also how some standard were having to be maintained. The business of buying Christmas gifts and the sending of cards is a maelstrom of who sent what and to whom, and passed as a chore for Harriet;

Harriet returned to the neatly handwritten list on her lap. The list showed this year’s Christmas presents divided into two headings and two subheadings: Presents: Received and Sent; Card Only; Receive and Sent. Attached to this was last year’s list against which this year’s had been meticulously cross-referenced…

[Cecil]’I see. So next year we send them something because they sent us something this year, but they don’t send us anything as we didn’t send them anything?’ [Harriet] ‘Yes’.

This was how life was structured for the Wallis’ even on a day such as Christmas. The Coronation Day was going to be the day that changed everything for everyone.

A booked pack full of secrets, lies, changes and everything really tightly packed in that you know at some point it is going to burst and call come tumbling out. You have to keep reading in its anticipation. An excellent read and a very clever idea.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this novel. The author will be featured on my blog on the 22 June answering some questions, I hope you can pop back and find more out about the author and this wonderful book. 

I will point out that the Second-Last woman to be hanged in England was Styllou Christofi a Greek Cypriot woman hanged for murdering her daughter-in-law. Famously it was the last woman to be hanged in Britain that everyone remembers – Ruth Ellis. For being the last, for being executed by Albert Pierrepoint who did comment about her and  also because films were made based on her, Yield to the Night with Diana Dors which was made some 12 months after her death . I recall having to study this film at university in relation to social history. 

But this book is very much worth of the title historical fiction and it made a refreshing change to read something that was based in the Fifties. I realise now, few books I read have been. 

Jottings · Witterings

An Audience with The Queen

I have not suddenly come up in the world and been called to answer by our monarch.

But I have had a glimpse into one person’s idea of what goes on in those weekly audiences with the Queen and her current prime minister through the wonderful play The Audience by Peter Morgan. It stars the equally wonderful Helen Mirren, who made her name playing The Queen in the film of the same name, and written also by Peter Morgan. It is obviously a match made in heaven.

Synopsis:

For sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace – a meeting like no other in British public life – it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses.

The Audience breaks this contract of silence – and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.

From young mother to grandmother, these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister.

We are taken very cleverly through some of these audiences with some of the more popular (and less) prime ministers. Interestingly enough not in chronological order, and not all of them feature, Tony Blair for example is missing. We start with John Major, followed by Churchill, played magnificently by Edward Fox, Harold Wilson who I was not sure of initially when he appeared as he was before my time. Then the dour Scot, Gordon Brown, Anthony Eden, the tour de force that is Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and finally James Callaghan.

It also features a young Elizabeth who comes onto the stage as the conscious of the older one. A clever way of seeing how the most famous women in the world might think about what is gone before her and what is to come. There is a lot of tongue in cheek humour and also some very relevant, pertinent and on the money remarks about the state of the government more than the actual royal family itself. It even brings us bang up to date, with references to the death of Margaret Thatcher and also the hospitalisation of the Duke of Edinburgh,and the line replied to John Humphries who asked after him, when she recently opened the new headquarters of the BBC “He’s not ill”.

The staging was very clever, simply two chairs most of the time, and the costume changes were blink and you miss them, a lot of them done on stage as she moves back to a younger queen and forward to an older one.

And all of this I did not have to leave my home city for, as it was broadcast live to a cinema as part of the National Theatre Live programme. The run of the play has now ended, as it was a limited season, but the recording is being shown again in some cinemas as an ‘encore’ performance for those who might have missed it. If you can get along please do.

It was fascinating watching something as a theatre show through the big scree, you could hear all the audience arriving and also then hear the noises from the (yes there were a couple of phones – but no drums) auditorium, but within minutes you forget that you are watching a theatre production as it is all  brought to life. It is something which I would consider going to again and I think it is a brilliant concept and idea of bringing theatre to the masses and also for those who perhaps cannot afford or are able to get to London to see such productions. If it chose to come on tour to either of my two local theatres then I would go and see it again, for the sheer joy and experiencing it a different way!

Can you name the Prime Ministers?

Books

Peach Cobbler Murder – Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen is back in Lake Eden and her business is starting to struggle, as a bakery opens up across from her in town and all the locals seem to be over there, doing research and checking out the opposition. Apparently the amount of offers, free baked goods and wonderful Peach Cobbler that are going out mean that the Magnolia Blossom Bakery is busy and Hannah’s Cookie Jar is not.

To add salt to this business wound, is the fact that the owner is Shawna Lee, a rival in the affections of one of Hannah’s beaus, Mike Kingston. Hannah is trying to remain outside of this jealous bubble that seems to be created every time she sees Mike and Shawna together, and when they both don’t turn up for Lisa and Herb’s wedding, Hannah tries not to think the worst.

But then when she sees the lights on at the Magnolia Blossom Bakery after the wedding reception, she decides that perhaps she needs to find out the truth. But what she does find is not pleasant, and Shawna is not a threat any more. But someone else must be and Hannah knows that her jealousy makes her a potential suspect so she needs to clear her name.

Along with the help of her ever efficient sister Andrea and her ultimately nosey mother Delores who seems to have problems of her own that both women have to deal with as well as trying to find the culprit of yet another murder in Lake Eden.

A typical Hannah Swensen book which is ideal for  those who want a cosy read with a sprinkling of crime and spot of cooking along the way.

I have no idea why these books appeal to me, but when I have had a particularly taxing time at work or been reading a book which remains with you so much, these are ideal for a light diversion. In fact I have forgotten who in fact committed the murder, but that bit is really no relevant as when you pick up the next one, you just get stuck right into the goings on of the Lake Eden residents. My only wish, is that Hannah makes her mind up about Norman or Mike soon, it is just not fair on them or us! 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Two Starts and an Ending

To be honest, I always struggle to give up on a book. If I have gone and bought a book I do so because I want to read it. Something about the blurb on the back, the first few pages, the cover, the reviews have made me pick it. I would be doing someone, the author, the publisher, the copy editor, the bookseller (?) an injustice if I did not read it, wouldn’t I?

But, there comes a time when you have to know when to give up on a book and it is not going to work for you at that particular time or any time. And it is so that in the last few weeks I have put down two books which I know were not working for me and for one of them I committed what some people in the reading world could be a cardinal sin. More of that in a bit.

The first book, that I tried to get into was Farundell by L.R. Fredericks. The blurb on the back –

In the golden summer of 1924 Paul Asher, still shattered by the trauma of the Western Front, comes to Farundell, an idyllic country house set deep in the Oxfordshire countryside. There, he falls under the spell of the rich and eccentric Damory family: the celebrated Amazon explorer Perceval, Lord Damory, now blind and dying, whose story echoes Paul’s own strange dreams, brilliant thirteen-year-old Alice, on the cusp of adulthood and, like Paul, a seeker of knowledge and, most fatefully, the wild and beautiful Sylvie, with whom he falls passionately in love. Before summer’s end, there will be tragedy, comedy, resolution and, for Paul, a revelation that will change his life forever.

It had many of the qualities I look for in a book, the historical setting, the big house, rich characters and romance. However, it was just not to be, there was something to floaty about the book, too much of the sub conscious talking for the main character and I was just not captured by it. It was a struggle to keep turning the page to read what happened next. I put it down. I tried again but no it will remain unread and now languishes on the ‘to charity shop’ pile.

The second book and here I confess my sin – I read the end chapter after reading about 50 pages of the beginning of the book is Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella. I am not keen on Sophie Kinsella novels, I read The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic and was not moved by it, more annoyed by it and have not picked up another one. But when the publisher kindly sent through an advance copy of Wedding Night, I thought should give it a go as it was not related to the Shopaholic series of novels. I dived in and was reading and it was okay, but it was not capturing me really, I seem to be going through the motions with it. I flicked to the end pages or so and read what happens in the end. Was I surprised?. No I don’t think so. Was I disappointed? No I don’t think so. But the burning question was could I carry on reading from 50 pages in when I knew what was going to happen in the end? No I don’t think so. So this book has been placed to one side and will remain unread. I am not sure if I will read Sophie Kinsella again.

It really left me out of sorts, trying to start two books within a matter of days and not getting on with either of them. Luckily the next book I picked up got me and I am storming through it. However, it has shown me that it is not worth worrying about, although I will still continue to feel bad about starting books and not finishing them. I know I have plenty of books to be getting on with and a vast array of choices on my own shelves as well as the lovely copies that come through the post. But I recognise that perhaps life is too short too put yourself through the torture of reading a book you are not enjoying.

Books

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

Lily believes that she killed her mother. She has lived with this since she was a small child, and as now she starts to blossom out into adolescence, she is struck with the desperate need for love from a mother. Her father does not provide her with any love at all. The only love she seems to have is from Rosaleen, the black servant.

However, a young white girl and a black servant’s friendship is going to cause tension in the American South of the mid sixties. When Rosaleen gets arrested and cruelly beaten for nothing other than her skin colour, Lily suddenly realises the sort of world she is living in now, she wants to change it. With Rosaleen and Lily now on the run, they find sanctuary in a place which has been a reference point to Lily in her childhood – the name of a place on the back of a picture of Mary as  Negro which her mother had chosen to keep. 

By chance this image is portrayed on jars of honey and it leads Lily to the pink house and three negro sisters, August, June and May who take in Lily and Rosaleen and teach them about the life of bees. As Lily soon discovers it is very different life to the one she has been used to and the love that she gets from nurturing and learning about bees, the devotion and love of the Daughters of Mary as well as inter-racial friendships are perhaps a rite of passage for her. She can now move forward from the death of her mother in a very changing world.

I really wanted to like this book, but I could not.  I felt that it perhaps did not deal strongly enough with the racial tension and I would have liked to have learnt more about the impact that made, I did not learn anything about this time from this book. I learnt a lot about bee keeping and that was interesting, which I acknowledge, but I felt that at times that over took the real point of the book. Also the over the top worship of the Black Mary was cringe worthy and felt rather cult like at times.

Lily as a narrator was okay, but it would have made a richer read for me if perhaps we could hear Rosaleen or August’s voice. These were strong women who had their own stories to tell and I think they would have made much more interesting reading than Lily’s story. What was excellent was the way the author described the intense heat of the place, the smells and the way the weather changes everything – it added to the mood of the characters very well.

I can tick the book off to say I have read it but it has not really stayed with me and I feel rather disappointed by that.

This was my book club choice for June – I will be reporting back because something makes me think we will have some interesting discussion on it. 

I really wanted to like it and I think if I am honest, I would have given up on the book if it was not for my book club. I have now since read reviews where the word sweet and saccharine comes up frequently – although I ignore the fact that it is perhaps a pun to do with honey I could not agree more. There is something too nice about it and it is if the book does not really want to offend anyone, especially Americans who have to acknowledge that such events that are portrayed in this book actually went on. 

Books

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfram – M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin is back again but she is still trying to get away from Carsely and her unrequited love of James Lacey. Deciding that she does not want to spend the Autumn there she rents a cottage in Norfolk and takes herself and her cats off to Fryfam.

But if you know Agatha, you know it is not going to be a relaxing visit, Agatha cannot do relaxing. When some mysterious lights appear at the bottom of the garden, she is rather spooked but all the locals who welcome want her to do is not mention them. It seems moving from one village in the Cotswolds to Norfolk does not change the way the village ladies think and act.

To impress the villagers who are curious a to why she wants to rent a cottage in Norfolk in October, she tells them she is a budding author. To live up to that, Agatha starts to write a novel Death at the Manor, and you know what is going to happen next, don’t you… there is a death at the local Manor and Agatha is the last person to see them alive…Agatha is yet again embroiled in the middle of a murder case and she is going to have clear her name.

All this is going on you would think that Agatha could put James out of her mind, but frequent phone calls back to Carsely just means that Agatha is even more desperate to be with James even if everyone thinks it is a bad idea. She needs to solve not just the murder to make her happier, Agatha needs to solve her love life too.

A formulaic escapism read and these books I can devour in a day and make for a pleasant weekend distraction. I am intrigued though to know how Agatha and James relationship progresses in to the next book. I know what ultimately happens as I have read a few out of sequence, so it will be interesting see how we get there.