August Folly – Angela Thirkell

This is my second foray into an Angela Thirkell novel. If you want a gentle paced story which is reminiscent of days gone by, a specific period setting, where problems such as your daily help not being much good in the kitchen, or what the neighbours son is up to with a visiting female then these are the books for you and in particular this one.

Richard is back from Oxford, a long break awaits him as he decides what to do with his future. Back in his parental home, with his rather quiet father, rather worrying yet clever mother and a sister, Margaret just starting to blossom makes Richard want to seek adventure elsewhere. Especially before he has to decide on what work he is going to have to take.

In the village for the summer is The Dean family, a large family with numerous siblings, all coming and going. They live a very different way to Richard and Margaret and show them what life can be like in the summer in a village. In fact a number of the Deans turn the heads and hearts of Richard and Margaret in some rather humorous and touching ways.

However, in all villages as is a given. There is always someone who is trying to gather everyone into their fold. In this case it is Mrs Palmer, who for previous summers has always made sure a play is staged. This summer is no different and with extra people around with the Deans, it is obviously going to be the best yet. Mrs Palmer has not taken into account, the Deans.

A nice read, if any book can be as such. It starts, it progresses and it finishes. Nothing revelatory or heart stopping. Gentle reading at its best.

I look forward to reading some more Angela Thirkell as my reading journey continues over the years. 


The Sea Between Us – Emylia Hall

The cove has always been there in Cornwall. It will always be there in Cornwall.

The water has always flowed in and out at regular intervals, bringing up new beginnings and new friends, washing away problems and tears as life flows by it.

It has witnessed many things and will continue to do so.

But one summer it witnesses Robyn and Jago.

Robyn has found this secluded cove when she comes home from university, to the new house her parents have bought in Merrin. Trying to wash something away and to ultimately stop her getting bored is why she tries surfing.

Her first attempt brings her to the attention of Jago. A local lad, her parents neighbour. Their only neighbour.

As they are washed up together on the beach of the cove as Jago rescues Robyn from the maiden surf she took, a bond is formed, an understanding. But it is all very confusing for them both.

As time moves on, Robyn and Jago find themselves with feelings that come rushing in and out just like the waves on the shore at that cove where they first met.

As youth turns more to adulthood, circumstances change, perhaps it has always been the way, to know who you are most in love with you have to go away from that person to test that strength.

As Robyn grows stronger as a surfer, she is testing her strength and it takes her away from the cove, from her family, from Jago.

Jago’s strength comes from what he already knows, his home, his father, his carpentry, his horse, his memories. Jago does not realise until it is too late that some if not all of these things can weakened.

Paths cross and when events make decisions inevitable, it all seems too late for Robyn and Jago. But as the waves wash away they can always come back stronger than before.

This is Emylia Hall’s third novel and I am unsure which verb I should use to describe it. This is a novel which made such an impact on me. I was swept along with story between Robyn and Jago, the vivid scenery that seemingly projected itself off the page. I was there on that beach, I could smell the salt from the sea, taste it on my tongue, feel the wind as it went past.

This is a moving and beautiful novel and I did not want it to end. But end it had to, and that is perhaps why it is a wonderful novel, it ended at the right time, at the right moment, because anything else would have been so wrong.

A stunning read.

The Sea Between Us is out now. 

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

I picked this book, because I was familiar with the authors first novel. Her second still sits on my shelf unread. Sometimes that is the way with début authors, you devour and enjoy the first, you get the second and it is there waiting for you and then you become excited by the third. 

The trouble was I was unaware there was a third, I spotted it and knew it would be good. Something about me wanted to read it straight away as I had been so slack I reading the second novel. All I can say is I am so glad I did. I wished I could have read it in actual book form, as opposed to my kindle, I think it would have delivered much more to be, between those pages, imagining them all salt encrusted and damp from the sea and the wind as you read the book in your own personal cove.

I was lucky enough to meet Emylia Hall back in 2012 talking about her first book, which she kindly signed and remembered my tentative tweet to her with a review. Well I hope she forgives me for taking so long to be back in contact. I promise I will read her second novel, A Heart Bent out of Shape. 


Stanley’s Summer Story

It is about eight weeks now since I moved to my new home. I think some of you may have seen me when I first arrived.


Well I have to say it has been all go since then and I think I have fitted in really well. My humans seem a nice couple and they play, fuss and feed me very well.

I was allowed outside on my first day and had a bit of a run about, but it was exhausting so I had to have a sit down for a while.


The very next day I was taken out in a basket and people took my photo and my humans did not know who they were but said I was cute. I visited the V E T and they jabbed, poked, prodded and gave me the once over and said I was cute too. I have been back again and I was a good boy because I did not squeak when I was jabbed. One of my humans is not keen on these things, but she comes with me any way.

Of course I have done a lot of sleeping on people and chairs as humans watch the television.


When my humans go out, they leave me near my crate and I have a friend for sleeping with.


When the humans watch the television, I sit in this basket


The thing is I like to be with them all the time. They are always talking to me, but I get confused as my name is Stanley, but they keep saying Puss and Bandit. I have yet to work out who they are?

When I am in my crate I am not with my humans, so I made a decision to sleep with them.


I am not sure if they were keen or not but I did not give them much choice. Though I did hear them say, they didn’t mind so long as I went out to the toilet. I am doing that nearly all of the time, but sometimes I forget. It is so exciting to see them sometimes.

Now I have been to the V E T three times, I can go out and about a bit more now and see other things. I have to wear this funny contraption, which doesn’t bother me when it’s on, but it takes so long for my humans to work out how it goes on, I get bored.


I of course have a big garden to play in and plenty of places to put my face in and investigate. Apparently though I get a bit too messy


Of course with grass, my feet get wet. So what I say? My humans were not so impressed.


Apparently when humans are dirty they must have a bath. This applies to me too.


All these new things are very tiring. But I think I am going to stay where I am because it is rather nice and the humans are good and the visiting human who likes reading and writing visits me too. She went away and I got to see her on this little screen and hear her, but I could not work out why I could not bite her toes? When I saw her again, I checked the toes.

That is all from me now, I will be back soon, but I have some growing to be getting on with and some toes to eat. Apparently the visiting human will be writing about books and not me next time, which I am sure will be interesting but won’t be as cute as me.




A Very Big House in the Country – Claire Sandy

It is always inevitable that if you put in a big house three very different families, with different values and ideas about life and the way to spend a holiday, you are going to garner some sort of story.

And so this is the case with this novel, A Very Big House in the Country.

The big house opens its doors to Evie, her husband Mike, three children and a dog. Shen, third wife to Clive and their small perfectly kept child and her nanny. Plus Clive’s son from a previous marriage erupting into the holiday. Then there is Paula and Joe plus a very quiet child. There were that many people, especially children I lost track of who was with who and related to whom.

This is very much a tale of ‘life’ and how when being away from home suddenly puts everything into perspective that perhaps you had never seen before. There were some funny moments scattered within the pages as you put people not normally cooped up together in a situation. Balanced out with that by the author which I think she has succeeded with was the more poignant ones and life changing episodes, to remind you that “real life is nothing like the brochure”.

Evie and Mike seem to be a solid but dependable couple, but there is something underlying about their relationship and as the book progresses it looks like it might fall apart.

Shen and Clive live in a perfect world, with the perfect amount of money in a perfectly structured world. However it seems that cannot buy stability and love which is what makes Evie and Mike’s marriage work.

Paula and Joe, seem distant and relations are strained. To the point where Paula sees doom at every turn and in every bush, whilst Joe is seeking solace elsewhere.

Coupled with all of these relationships, we see how the children of differing ages react to each other as they see their parents lives almost played out in front of them.

There are some interesting turn of events as the momentum of the story takes hold and whilst I enjoyed it, it was a book that as I put it down, I was not desperate to want to pick up and see what was going to happen next.

Much as I do not like pigeonholing books, this is a holiday read to enjoy but one that will not leave a lasting impact.

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

Looking back on this book as I came to review, I was drawn to something I had recently read. How when you read books, what mood you are in, previous experience, current lives affect how you perhaps look at or interpret a book. 

This was the case here, I come from a very small family – we could not raise a crowd in a phone box. We did not go away with other families to share houses on holiday and therefore this experience is alien to me. It is only in recent years that I have been away with a group of girlfriends all very different personalities, that I get the whole concept and I admit to it being rather overwhelming. I am more than happy reading quietly somewhere and dipping in and out of a swimming pool (if there is one) and eating lovely food.

Perhaps that is why I struggled to relate to the book, not having shared these experiences and not having children. It is amazing what affects you when you read a book, most of it I am sure subconsciously. 


Indian Summer – Marcia Willett

The summer in Devon seems to extend forever. Sir Mungo is living a fairly reclusive life on his family estate. He has escaped the theatre and acting world and its goings on in London. However, it is his brother Archie and wife Camilla who have the problems of maintaining the estate, the farming, the local lands and the current tenants in some of the properties.

Mungo is always close at hand though. Which is why old friends escape to this rural idyll. Which is how we meet Kit an old friend who needs some advice about the past and about the future. We also learn about previous friends from previous visits, Izzy being the dominate one and her past seems to feature in everyone’s present.

Phillip and Billy, brothers who have both lost their wives are struggling to keep their heads above water with the farming around their part of the estate. They are as much of the place as Mungo and Archie, and the future seems to be very bleak for them all.

Young wife, Emma seems to be hiding from something. Her husband is in the military and is away for periods of time, her young family are relishing the landscape and the space to grow. Trouble is without a support network it seems that being out in the sticks can attract the wrong sort of attention from the wrong sort of person. Emma might find she needs solace from Mungo too.

James is an author renting out one of the cottages on the estate so he can find inspiration for his next novel. His emails home to his wife were full of so much self-importance that he was such an irritating character, I would have much preferred to have seen her replies, I am sure they would have made much better reading. James was certainly doomed to never be successful with his attitude.

This is a book which is ideal for summer afternoons to escape with. It is very character driven but Willett as in previous books I have read by her manages to draw your attention to the setting, the landscape, the weather and the scenery all of that somehow plays a part in her story and creates the background to these characters.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy via netgalley.

It is a while since I have read any Marcia Willett, in fact I recall reading plenty of hers before, as some of it was set not far from where I am living. I recognised the surname of Chadwick in this book so there was familiarity to it all. The last Willett book I read was in 2012. 

But and here I must be honest and rather contradictory to my review I suppose. The only reason for actually finishing the book was because it was a netgalley copy and therefore I really did need to review it. There was something actually quite monotonous about it and I would have put it down unfinished. Which is a great shame, because I have enjoyed previous books by this author. A book which should have been an ‘easy’ read was actually the opposite. Perhaps it was this particular book? Perhaps it was the way I was feeling? Perhaps I am reading too much into it! 



The Great Village Show – Alexandra Brown

I am back in Tindledale, which I first visited in The Great Christmas Knit Off and said it was a good heart warming read and if they were to continue to be so – then the author has a hit on her hands. Well I completely stand by what I said. Heartwarming in bucket loads.

So some of the characters are familiar and it felt like I was back with old friends. However this story concentrates on Meg, the village’s acting headteacher. She enjoys her job and has thrown herself into helping the children to occupy her time as well as her homemade wine she makes, to take her mind off her only son, away at university and no longer needing her as much.

When the village school is threatened with closure  Meg does her utmost to make sure it does not happen. Of course she needs the villagers support which leads to her getting involved in the village show.

After last years disastrous results, Tindledale residents want to go all out and win this time round. With her teacher attitude to organising and getting people to join in, Meg soon finds her time taken up with this as well. Even a dash of celebrity gets the whole thing moving along nicely. Tindledale is certainly going to get on the map.

Surely she cannot find time to worry about a new resident, Jessie and her strained marriage as well as romance for herself. Of course all this and more can happen in this novel.

This book has a real community feel, everyone draws together, despite differences and brings the story to its rightful conclusion. Perhaps an idyllic view of village life that does not exist entirely. The beauty of telling a story is to suspend all that, to take the reader and no doubt the author to a place where it all happens.

I repeat the heartwarming feeling that this book brings and I look forward to returning once again to Tindledale.

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

The Great Village Show is out now in all formats. 

I have currently one more of Alexandra Browns book to read – Ice Cream at Carrington’s which I think completes her Carrington series? I much prefer the Tindledale one, but it will be nice to catch up with the department store. 



Seventy Seven Clocks – Christopher Fowler

Whenever you are writing a series of books and in some ways when you embark on reading a series of books with recurring characters, you can see how the stories weaken and strengthen and how the characters evolve.

In this the third book of the Bryant and May series, you can see how the team at the Peculiar Crimes Unit are suddenly starting to work more together and how they are recognising the foibles of the two main detectives John May and especially Arthur Bryant.

The setting for this book is Christmas 1973 – the weather is atrocious, the winter is cold. It is dark not just due tot he time of year but also the strikes and the blackouts. The three-day week was just round the corner.

Of course this setting adds to the intrigue of the crimes which seem to be happening, members of an old aristocratic family are being killed off in some rather strange circumstances and with some rather peculiar methods.

No doubt Bryant and May are the ones to solve this case. But time is running out and it seems that even infiltrating a family tradition and belief may not stop any more murders.

I did find this book a bit difficult to get into and follow as it went along, although I obviously still enjoyed it. I was at the end rather confused and I think it was at times a bit far-fetched. However the interaction of Bryant and May and the humour that is scattered throughout the book, made the rather odd happenings seem quite normal!

This is the fourth book of this series I have read. I jumped and read the latest when offered, then was lucky enough to win the entire set so I am going back to the beginning. Like I have mentioned in previous posts on the matter, I am not sure how many books of the same series, you should review. I think I may well have reached the limit for this series. 

However, never say never and I think some of the books in the series will stand out more than others so they may well warrant a review. 





The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain

If you came across an abandoned handbag in a street – what would you do? Would you hand it in to the police and hope the handbag would be reunited with its owner soon? Or would you look inside and see if it held a clue to who the owner might be?

But what if inside all you had was a red notebook which held the thoughts and feelings of its owner.

Would that be enough to find out who it belonged to?

The bag and the red notebook belong to Laure who suffers as she has been parted from these personal items. The rescuer of the items is Laurent, a bookseller in Paris who despite feeling he has intruded on something by reading the red notebook is for some reason drawn to the person.

The story is uplifting and sweet as we are taken round Paris, as Laurent seeks to reunite the items. With additional characters who interact with both Laure and Laurent we are given a more rounded picture of their life and their existence in this big city. Laure’s work colleagues, her work fascinated me – I will let you discover what that is. Laurent’s daughter who was starting to find her own way out in the world whilst still relying on her father. Laurent’s current girlfriend who tries to understand the fascination with this handbag and the red notebook.

It becomes a quest for friendship, for love, for discovery and when you realise at only 160 pages a lot is actually packed into the covers.

A recommendation which I received and I pass on with only one caveat – you need to also pass the book on when you have read it!

Thank you to Jane who now blogs at Beyond Eden Rock for reading this book and writing such a beautiful review I had to read it too!  

I read very few books in translation, but I was completely unaware in this novel, as I was drawn into the story. Antoine Laurain has also written The President’s Hat and I hope to read that soon too. 



The Lady in the Van – Alan Bennett

This is a little story with a huge impact. The book is in fact small in size and it is only 96 pages long but it is a complete joy to read.

It is the true story of Miss Shepherd, the lady of the title and her van living on Alan Bennett’s drive. It was only meant to be a temporary measure, but it lasted more than fifteen years.

One good turn by Bennett turns into this book, a stage play, a radio play and is now to be made into a feature film featuring Dame Maggie Smith as ‘The Lady’.

The book has little vignettes of what The Lady got herself into, her colourful language and eccentricities as she deals with authority make you laugh out loud.

However underneath it all there is a sadness and a poignancy to the writing and it made me quite sad by the end, despite the laughs along the way.

I cannot wait until the film is out, I think it is going to be wonderful.


Precocious – Joanna Barnard

Fiona remembers when she first met Henry Morgan. At school. She was 14.

Fiona thought Henry was the adult she was missing in her life. Fiona could trust Henry.

Henry told Fiona she was different.

Fiona’s schoolgirl crush intensified. Fiona could trust Henry – couldn’t she?

She meets him again, years later. A chance encounter in a supermarket.

Those schoolgirl feelings rush to the surface, they speed head long into Fiona’s love and she stumbles into the relationship with Henry she could not have when she was 14.

Told from Fiona’s perspective as narrator we embark on what is a very difficult story to digest. Whilst schoolgirl and teacher scenarios are well told in stories and now reported more and more in the news, due to abuse of position, influence, age difference, lives broken, alleged sexual activity, it is not a plot or background to a story that I have ever read before.

Fiona shares her inner most thoughts and secrets from her friendship back with Henry when she was 14 and her relationship with him now. The past and the present are so caught up with each other that it is difficult to see where the future lies for any of the characters.

“All past. What’s the point?”

“But the past is what makes us. It’s why we’re here.”

“The past is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Made up memories and unreliable stories. You said it yourself. Shadows. The only thing that’s real is right now.”

Is Fiona unreliable in what she is telling us or is it simply that she has created a memory that is not correct?

The book is gripping and you have to read to simply understand what is the past, what is the present and which memories are true. Simply in this book – who can you trust?

A début novel which tackles a controversial subject which draws you in, in an almost voyeuristic way. You don’t want to know, you don’t want to acknowledge what has gone on, but you have to know.

Precocious is out now in hardback and e-book.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy for review. 

Not necessarily a book I would choose, which is why sometimes when you get ARC you sometimes have to take a chance on them. Some will work for you others will not. This worked for me, but it left me feeling as I say in my review I have witnessed something rather unpleasant. 

I have also reassessed by star rating on GoodReads and Amazon for this book. I put it at 3 stars, but that was because of the topic, it made me feel uncomfortable not because of the actual writing or structure. So I have amended to 4 stars.