Books

Our Spoons Come From Woolworths – Barbara Comyns

The reason I bought this book is simply because of the title. Woolworths was a memory of my childhood, from being separated from my mum, to the pick and mix, to even remembering getting meat cut at the meat counter, it was where I bought my first single on cassette and where you went to buy your Easter eggs and Christmas chocolate. If you needed something you would find it in “Woolies”.

As does Sophia, she got her spoons in Woolworths. Except this is not the mid-eighties but some fifty years earlier in the mid-thirties.

Sophia has embarked on a marriage and I fell in love with her voice as from the beginning she tells us how she fell in love with Charles, a painter and the life they embark on together. The trouble is although they are people within society, they have chosen to live a bohemian life rather away from the constraints and rules of normal society.

It is funny to begin with and you feel the adventure that Sophia is on as she tries to embrace marriage, motherhood and ultimate poverty whilst maintaining this façade that her life is in fact the way she would have chosen it and she is of course happy to anyone observing. We are chosen to observe but we can see that Sophia is not happy.

However, a number of events have a life changing effect on Sophia and she experiences some truly happy moments amongst the tragedy.

This book is a glimpse into the private life of the author, as there is some autobiographical parts to this story, but also a glimpse into society and how you were treated when you were outside of the social norms.

Sophia is full of dreams as is her husband Charles, who just seemed to be dreaming of himself all the time and had no care for anything else. He thinks he is successful, therefore he must be, despite not being to make a living from his painting and relying on many others, and especially Sophia to survive financially. What an egotistical fool. I got the impression his work was not up to much.

The descriptions of childbirth, make you glad you that much has advanced in these years and that the surroundings that Sophia found herself in at different moments throughout her journey in the early part of her life were described so well it was if you were with her.

I had no idea where this book was going to take me, I just went with everything that Sophia was telling me.

This is a relatively short novel, and a rather quirky one and from an author I have never read before or knew anything about. It is a book I would thoroughly recommend to anyone to just get a glimpse about how life can be lived and that you can pull yourself out of many a situation if you have the gumption to see the other side of what life can be like.

Happiness is found in dreams and in reality.

A risk to take, picking up a book just because of one simple word in the title and the memories it brought back. A risk that paid off and I think I would be most interested to read some more Barbara Comyns in the future. 

Have you read any? What should I read next?

 

 

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Jottings

Sunny Sunday Snippets

Playing – Bingo! It’s all electronic now at the bingo hall, no more dibbers! To be honest I thought it would not be as much fun, but it does a lot of it for you and also shows you when you are close to getting a line, two line, full house. Much fun and a couple of wins in our little group.

Eating – differently and it seems to be working. The numbers are going down.

Missing – Poldark. Sunday Nights are suddenly poorer. More about that soon.

Baking – within the space of the last three weeks I have baked three cakes, 2 Guinness and a new recipe for me, Blueberry and Sour Cream loaf.

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Remainder of Guinness Cake

 

Scheduling – I have read some pretty fine books in recent weeks and you may have missed all about them. So I need to start scheduling some tweets so folk can find them again.

Feeling – slightly warmer, the windows are being left open rather than being shut at night. But the wind is still whistling.

Remembering – 70 years ago this week. VE Day and all those who lost loved ones during the whole conflict.

Voting – Thank goodness that is over. 2020 seems aeons away!

Books

Ivy Lane – Cathy Bramley

Ivy Lane was originally published in four parts at the end of 2014 and whilst I did know of its existence, for some reason I had not really considered the book. I had been missing a really good story and if you are a fan of Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde’s work then you are also missing a good story if you have yet to read this novel.

Tilly has had something very tragic happen to her, interestingly we actually do not know what that is at the beginning of the story , which adds to enjoyment of the book and keeps you reading and of course guessing. I had my suspicions, thought I was right then something happened and I thought I was wrong, but no my first instincts were correct, but the talent of the authors writing made me keep questioning.

Tilly thinks that having a new job in a new area and an allotment will mean that she can keep herself to herself and that she will be able to lead a peaceful life without any intrusion.

The Ivy Lane Allotment community have other ideas. As she starts to tend her allocated piece of ground and learns  the hard way in some cases she realises that as she grows plants, flowers and vegetables she is also growing a new life for herself. The book is split into seasons and through each one we see different exciting events happen, Christmas parties, fundraising, bad weather and even the appearance of a TV crew.

Through all of this, Tilly makes friends, she becomes wanted and needed by some more than others and experiences something that she never thought she would again. But I am not telling you what that is, you will have to read the book to find out!

I look forward to reading the new novel Appleby Farm when it is released as a whole book.

Ivy Lane is out now in all formats.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me to read this book.

As I say in my review this was originally in four parts but actually I was glad I read it as a whole. I have previously read a story in four parts by Harriet Evans and whilst I enjoyed the experience, I am not sure I would like to read all my novels that way. Sometimes when the story is just so good, you want to keep on reading and reading until the end.

 

Books

The Separation – Dinah Jefferies

Imagine coming home and finding your house empty, Alec your husband gone, Emma and Fleur your children gone, their clothes gone, the servants disappeared, the phone cut off and no note. No explanation. No reason.

For Lydia Cartwright this is what she returns to.

But this is not a novel set in modern times. It is 1955. Lydia Cartwright is in Malaya. What has been called the Malayan Emergency is at its height of conflict.

The only person that can help Lydia says that her husband as had to go further up the country with the children and she is to follow.

With no answers to the hundreds of questions she has only one choice to make. Go further up-country and join her family.

I knew nothing of this civil war, but I learnt a lot by reading as Lydia fights her way through the jungle to try and reach her family. Little does she know that her family are never going to be at the end of her journey.

As readers we know exactly where her children and husband are. We are transported back to Britain in the mid fifties. The Second World War is still very much a vivid memory, the country is trying to get back on its feet. The colour, heat and smells of Malaya are a far contrast to those of a wet Worcestershire.

As time passes, Lydia starts to give up all hope of finding answers. Whilst her daughter gives up asking questions about her mother. The future is going to be very different for them all. Something is not right though, there are secrets, lies and deceptions with every person met and every corner turned. Surely those once separated can at least be joined again in some way across two continents.

This is a very powerful moving book, not just dealing with the separation of mother and children but also the issues of being in a country which is in the midst of civil war. Nothing is glossed over, this book has clearly been researched and although it does not deal with actual events it gives a clear view of what was going on and without any bias towards the British Colonial administration. That made a refreshing change.

As we follow Lydia on her journey, we learn more about her past and her life in Malaya. It seems that perhaps we are not to feel sorry for her because of her actions. I doubted her actions and the reasons, but as I learnt more I began to appreciate really what she had been through.

In contrast as the book moves across oceans back to England and Lydia’s daughters we learn what they are being told and what they need to believe, to survive. This part is a very personal account as if Emma is talking to the reader directly as opposed to the narrative of Lydia’s story.

This book encompasses so much and was a clichéd page turner for the simple reason you had to find out what happens as I cared about the characters.

An excellent début novel and I am looking forward to reading The Tea Planter’s Wife kindly provided by netgalley and the publisher Penguin.

Books

April Roundup

Yes that was April, that was Easter, it was the start of Spring, but let us not cast a clout till May is out. I have still have my winter quilt on my bed, black opaque tights at work and more than one layer or two on. Of course all this keeping warm but being wonderfully light means more reading was done. Still ‘officially’ behind if I want to reach my target at the end of the year, but that is too far ahead to even thinking about!

Old books, new books, old authors, new authors and all sorts in between.

Mention first must go to Cath Staincliffe – Split Second for the simple reason that this has book has been languishing about on my shelf for around 3 years and it certainly should not have been. I should have been raving about this one months and months ago. What would you do? Is such an open question and I don’t think there is in fact a correct answer. Keep an eye out on this blog in the coming weeks (please excuse the advertising) as there will be more from Cath Staincliffe and her new novel, Half the World Away.

If we are sticking with crime, of course you can’t go far wrong with something simple, cosy and relatively free of descriptive cadavers and crime scenes M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon is where you need to be. It ticked a book off my list for my challenges and also was a great diversion as always. Plus I did not feel the least bit guilty for not writing a review about it. More information about my thoughts here.

Social Media Buzz is a term which has come into use and recent years, very recent years and it is somewhat exciting to think that I might have been a small, if not minute part of it for some recent novels. The Girl on the Train springs to mind. However the latest ‘buzz’ book is Renee Knight – Disclaimer. Imagine reading a book about your life. Reading a book about a secret that you thought no one knew about? Don’t imagine for too long, go and find a copy of this book!

I do love a good read, chick-lit, women’s fiction, a bit of romance whatever you want to call it, it comes in many forms and just recently I have discovered a new author (to me anyway) to get my teeth into and especially her back catalogue. In the meantime I was lucky enough to read her latest novel, Carole Matthews – The Cake Shop in the Garden. A must for all fans, and for those wanting to start out on this author a good place to start. Full of romance, warmth, humour, sadness and cake! What more could you want from a book?

Publishing books in parts has started to be popular and was how I was aware of Cathy Bramley – Ivy Lane*. I read the book as a whole and jolly glad I did, because it meant I did not have to wait to find out what happened next. I think I will have to do the same with her latest work which is also being published in four parts!

Always wanting to know what happens to characters once you have finished the books is often a much raised question if you ever get to meet any authors. The beauty being that actually once they have left the author and you have reached the final page, it is up to us to let our imaginations take on their next story. In the case of Maureen Lee – The Seven Streets of Liverpool* I went back to some characters I read about years ago. A challenge when it has been probably 15 years or more since you read about them.

Going back to familiar author you know if you pick up a Monica McInerney you are going to get a chunky read. In terms of size At Home with The Templetons* fits the bill. You will have to wait for me review in terms of anything else. This was another book which has been sat on my shelf for a while and finally made it off to be read.

Again a book bought and promptly shelved was Dinah Jeffries – The Separation*. Again another book I wish I had read straight away from buying it. The only impetus that made me read this was seeing her next novel available on netgalley. This is a book which will certainly be in my memory for a long while and tapped into my love of historical fiction.

History being my ‘thing’ well at least my degree, many moons ago. I was intrigued by the wonderfully titled Barbara Comyns – Our Spoons Came From Woolworths*. My reading of ‘old’ fiction has increased since I have been blogging, I am sure I saw this on a blog I visited and knew that I wanted to read from it, if just for the title. It was a wonderful novel and another one which I am going to pass on and say you must read.

The beauty of being on netgalley is to get the opportunity to read books before they hit the proverbial shelf. The dangerous beauty of netgalley is you can click away and request far too much. This was the case with Liz Fenwick – A Cornish Stranger*, a name I had seen around but had to yet pique an interest in me to pick up. I did and I was pleasantly surprised. A Cornish novel reminiscent of many books set in Cornwall and as I ended the month reading Poldark, I feel that I know the area rather well at the moment. Both now and in the past.

So that was April, let’s see if we can clout May out!

 

*Book review yet to appear on blog.