The Hidden Letters – Lorna Cook

Cordelia has a privileged life and she knows no different living on her families estate in Cornwall. The house is grand, the gardens are grand and even Cordelia is grand.

But upon meeting Isaac everything changes.

Isaac whilst having an education that Cordelia’s brothers have had, he is not in the same social circles and has found work as a landscape architect to develop the gardens. His passion for gardening and nature is paramount espically as the dark clouds of war are gathering in Europe.

Cordelia finds a passion for gardening, nurturing and Isaac. The feelings are reciprocated but the knowledge Isaac is trying to impart is vital to the keep the gardens growing after war is declared. From afar Isaac continues to share his knowledge so he can remain in contact with Cordelia,.

But the letters stop, nothing more comes from the front. Cordelia now must deal with what she doesn’t know and what she fears from letters from her own brother. That Isaac has gone.

From the wilds of Cornwall, to the landscape of the Lake District and through the East coast of Britain, this books takes us as we follow how Cordelia copes with her love and loss. More is to come and she needs strength and resilience to be able to deal with the path in front of her.

Little does she know that the first initial meeting with Isaac is going to swim back into focus and she has a choice to make.

This novel, initially keeps war in the background, something happening far away and for what relevance. However it abruptly sweeps everyone on Cordelia’s families estate and neighbouring village into the mud bath of the trenches and you learn more about the Pal’s battalions, which wiped out generations of families and left gaping holes in villages.

The letters between Cordelia and all her correspondents were heartfelt and moving as they were interesting and informative and it felt at time I was reading real letters from the front and not a fictionalised account. The books moves at a pace that you don’t realise and there are times where I was weeping with sadness and then at joy as Cordelia’s life changes so much. There were some surprises on the way which added to the depth of the overall plot.

This book is perfect for fans of historical fiction and was a pleasure to read and I felt quite bereft when I had finished the final page.

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

The Hidden Letters is out now.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

It has been nearly a year since there has been some Parish Notices around this parish. Where has that year gone? In fact where is this year going? Reading has taken a slow start and everything seems to have taken a different pace at the moment, not just reading but work, blogging and crafting and everything really. Perhaps that is just the way it should be.

Anyway, I thought I would drop by with a few of the books I have read recently that might have passed you by.

The new series from Sarah Bennett is out with Where We Belong

 Full of family dynamics and friendship tests as well as broaching tough topics with alcoholism, class difference, overbearing fathers or non existent ones. So much is contained within the pages. With skill, Sarah Bennett has drawn me into a wonderful place full of rich and interesting people and I cannot wait to find out more about them, their secrets and their dreams.

Libby Page’s The Vintage Shop of Second Chances made me wish I was good at dressmaking!

This wonderful gentle novel from Libby Page shows emotions and depth to the characters as well as the plot. It is great to see friendships across generations, something that I myself wholeheartedly embrace. There is much to learn from all your friends whether they be old or new and this book reflects that in abundance. Added in is the wonder and joy that clothing can bring people, how colour can bring much into your life and cheer even the most greyest of situations.

Georgina Moore’s debut novel was fantastic, clearly her experience in publishing stood her in good stead. The Garnett Girls is an excellent book and one of my favourites for the year.

Who exactly are The Garnett Girls, do they know themselves and will we ever find out by the end of this mesmerising debut novel from Georgina Moore.……A fantastic debut novel which was something a step above being simply women’s fiction it is on a much deeper level than that. For anyone who wants to peep into family life and be completely absorbed.

And I am going to go back a few months to The Bletchley Girls by Anna Stuart as I have the next novel to read on my kindle taking me back to Bletchley and I cannot wait.

Three unlikely women meet at train station, Stefania, Ailsa and Fran. They only currently have one thing in common, they have signed the Official Secrets Act and they are heading for the same place Bletchley Park……..Historical fiction at it’s best when you learn so much about the past from an author that has thoroughly researched and used real stories to bring a narrative to life.

Hopefully that has piqued your interest and that you are reading some cracking good reads and looking forward to even more in 2023.

It may well be another year before there is a Parish Notices who knows, perhaps next time I might feature some crafting?

Hope things are blossoming well in your parish?


Death Comes to Marlow – RobertThorogood

Following the success of the Marlow Murder Club, Judith, Susie and Becks and unlikely trio are back and this time they are right in the thick of the action.

Judith receives a phone call to attend a party to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of Sir Peter Bailey to his nurse Jenny Page. A marriage that has upset many. Judith cannot understand why she has been invited, but can only assume it is her notoriety. Perhaps something is going to happen, Judith with Susie and Becks all attend, if anything to just be nosy.

A loud crash is heard from inside the house and the three women all rushing to find the prospective groom, crushed to death under a large cabinet.

There cannot be anything suspicious about this death, as the room was locked and the key was in the pocket of the deceased. The only key.

But for Judith she knows something is not quite right, there is too many mysteries. All the potential killers have strong alibis, in fact the three women were alibis for the most obvious of the killer – Peter’s son, Tristan who had been arguing with his father and step mother to be on more than one occasion.

Add to this; daughters hidden in wardrobes, gardeners with a long family feud, a bitter ex wife, a glass jar not smashed and the plot thickens.

Of course amongst all of this intrigue, Judith is busy trying to work out the mystery clues she has picked up in the cryptic crossword. She discovers something that she wasn’t really meant to but at the same time, the author uses this as a vehicle to explain the structure and logic of all things cryptic. It is one of my greatest wishes that I could solve cryptic crosswords. I have yet to reach one clue correct.

Susie, the local dog walker is now hiring dog walkers to look after her own clients as she has found fame on the local radio station. In fact it proves a useful tool in solving some questions for the murder club. However fame comes at a price for Susie and it seems she will need to go back to what she is good at if she wants any chance of solving her financial woes.

Becks, the devoted wife of Colin the local priest seems to be up to something which is intriguing both Susie and Judith. Surely they can’t think someone like Becks would commit that sin. Sometimes all the detecting in the world and you can jump to the wrong conclusions.

But when it comes to the death of Sir Peter and catching the killer the Marlow Murder Club will not be fooled.

The book builds on the characters and setting of the first book and is fast paced and plotted, with plenty of clues and red herrings. Smugly I want to say I had worked out the perpetrator but actually it was a guess and I certainly could not work out how they did it. A great example of crime fiction in a bucolic setting with some characters who you can adore. Perfect for all fans of that cosy crime fiction that has boomed in recent years.

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

Death Comes to Marlow is out now.


Where We Belong – Sarah Bennett

Welcome to the new Sarah Bennett, welcome to the new series, welcome to Juniper Meadows.

Into the Cotswolds we go, a family estate, diversified into a Spa and Hotel, A gin Distillery, campsite, farm and most importantly the owners – the Travers family.

Here the story is predominantly led by Hope Travers, desperate to breakaway from the family home, a sprawling farmhouse where she lives with her mother, uncles, aunt and cousin. To build her own haven on this sprawling landscape, however it seems that history is going to stop it all in it’s tracks.

When work begins on building this dream property, they uncover historic ruins of the past. Enter Cam, Barnie and a team of archaeologists who are gong to get to the bottom of whatever is hiding under Juniper Meadows.

Digging into the past, seems to also bring up some past mysteries about the Travers family as well as Hope’s own father who she has never known, not even his name. Tensions are running high but when some strange occurrences start around the estate, including break ins and damage it seems that all has to be put to one side while they deal with the threat to their livelihood and everything they care about.

This is a multi layered book, with lots of characters to get to know and sub-plots which are just as important as the main arc of the novel. Full of family dynamics and friendship tests as well as broaching tough topics with alcoholism, class difference, overbearing fathers or non existent ones. So much is contained within the pages. With skill, Sarah Bennett has drawn me into a wonderful place full of rich and interesting people and I cannot wait to find out more about them, their secrets and their dreams.

Now I am off to book into the Spa and have a tour round the gin distillery whilst I wait for the next book.

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

Where We Belong is out now.


Godmersham Park – Gill Hornby

Having read the previous novel by Gill Hornby, Miss Austen where I was transported into the world of Jane Austen, the Georgian Period and the gentile life that was being led by them all.

This theme continues in this novel and is told through the eyes of Anne Sharp, governess to Fanny, who was niece to Jane Austen. Jane is not a prominent character in this novel, that falls to Anne but her presence is keenly felt and her friendship with Anne is seen as interesting.

Anne is lucky to find this work as a governess, as now almost passed marriageable age and with no mother and a father who pays an allowance no more, she is permanently in a state of flux where she thinks her background and origins will see her being asked to leave Godmersham. The role of governess is stuck between the servants and the family and can be a lonely one.

But there is something about Anne, which spark interests in many of the Austen family and she becomes embraced into their life and their hearts.

If I said that is all there is to the book, a snapshot of this governess life with the Austen’s you would be forgiven of thinking why bother to read. Well you are transported back to Austen, both in time and writing, the book resonates as if you are reading an Austen, I am sure a skill which isn’t the most easiest when we have such a rich modern language that can be used. The vignettes of life in this house and its inhabitants is quite, peaceful with very little excitement to jump off the pages. That is the beauty of the book, all of it is interesting and not with equal measure.

Of course we know very little about Anne Sharp and her life before this time and Hornby has chosen to fictionalise Anne’s past. There is much to be gleaned from correspondence between differing Austen’s, dairies left and even a rare copy of Emma given by the author to this governess who clearly made some sort of impact on her short life. However what we know and that has been clearly researched by the author is formed into this novel giving insight into a small part of the literary world.

For fans of all things Austen without a doubt, but if you want a peak at society, class from another time it works as an interesting piece of historical fiction. I look forward to seeing what might be next from this author.

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

Godmersham Park is out now.


The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

I have dipped in and out of Sarah Waters oeuvre over the years and I haven’t read them all, this is the last book written by Waters and has been languishing around on the shelf for a long time.

London, 1922, The Great War still resonated around the streets, around the families who have lost people. A large house in Camberwell now holds a mother and her daughter, their father now dead leaving behind debts. The only answer other than to sell is to take in lodgers. The Paying Guests if you will.

The mother Mrs Wray and daughter Frances, have a structured ordered quiet life until these guests arrive. Newly married Len and Lilian Barber, settle in. They are more modern than Frances and her mother and their presence is going to enliven things, that money simply won’t do.

Passions run deep in the house, some are more understated others are more clear but as these four people try and find a new path in life together in this house, it seems that the whole house and it’s inhabitants are going to change forever.

The book starts slowly as domesticity, life after the war, accepting strangers into your house is played out in minute detail. We start to develop thoughts, opinions and feelings for the four main characters. However as the story progress, as time moves on something fundamentally changes for two members of the household that leads to a pivotal moment for the third.

I inevitably recognised where we going to go and was compelled to watch as it all played out. But it was the fallout which intrigued me most. I felt I was holding my breath that everything was going to come tumbling out and the whole world was going to shift on the axis for two of the characters. Of course the beauty of Waters writing is that it already had shifted it was more subtle than recognised.

A book that takes time to read, to absorb all the details, to understand the actions and to think about the consequences. A book that stays with you long after you have finished reading.

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

The Paying Guests has been out for a number of years, and only recently did I feel the need to read it.

Books · Witterings

February Roundup

And within a blink of an eye, February has gone. I seemed to have picked up a bit of the reading, but no where near on target. Carol commented when I mentioned this last time, “Every year has it’s own pace” and do you know what she is so right and I have felt I have embraced a pace in all sort of different parts of my life. Sometimes it is a simple sentence that can resonate every day. Thank you Carol.

So the pace of books this month has taken me everywhere and do you know what I have enjoyed every one of them.

If you need sunshine in your life then you can do no wrong with the latest Libby Page – The Vintage Shop of Second Chances, a beautiful yellow cover, a beautiful yellow dress, oh how I wish I was good at dressmaking. A lovely book which reminds me of so many of my own generational freindships.

More blue skies could be found in Jane Coverdale – Under a Cerulean Sky a new author to me and one who I would like to go back to and read more. It also played into my love of historical fiction and I learnt so much about a part of the world not normally covered in books I have read previously.

Sticking with history was by picking up Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests which is set in London in the 1920s and has also shamefully been on my netgalley shelf for nearly 9 years which I am sure makes it history as well. It just seemed the right time to pick up this book and I have to say perhaps I am glad I read it when I did. Maybe I might read more Sarah Waters this year as I know there is a book on my shelf.

So far, all kindle so I picked up an actual book with Richard Osman – The Bullet that Missed so delightfully British, so funny and an absolute delight to burrow under the covers on a dank day and read away to my hearts content. He has really hit upon something and I can see that these books could run and run if the writing stays as on point as it currently is.

Travelling again from my bookshelf with Veronica Henry – Thirty Days in Paris. A go to author without a doubt and her writing and storytelling gets richer. This book positively oozed the gloriousness of Paris, the food, the scenery, the love in every page. I was there at every moment of the character’s life.

A month where I have devoured and appreciated every word and enjoyed every page. As Spring starts to appear and March gets going, I think, in fact I know the books I read going into the month are as wonderful as these.

How was your February? What is your reading pace this year?