Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Life in Houses – Margaret Forster

Non-Fiction – Memoir
4*s

In hindsight so many of Margaret Forster’s books contain autobiographical detail but it was Hidden Lives which first really opened my eyes to the link between this talented story teller and her own background, although cleverly only ever apparent by reading between the lines. In My Life in Houses we learn more details about Margaret’s first house, the one on the Raffles estate which she was so ashamed of, preferring those on the better side of town. And though the book’s pages, we learn that from the tender age of seven this author began her own game of choosing another house to live in.

Of course, as an adult with a number of ‘important’ houses in her life, she realises that what she started with could have been so much worse, and so she explains how it defined her. How a house with only room for Margaret and her younger sister to sleep together in an alcove in their parent’s bedroom left her yearning for her own space. Even when the girls got older they had to share a bed even if they did have their own room because their older brother was off doing his national service at the time.

Having read Hidden Lives I was already aware that Margaret’s mother had aspirations and so eventually, through her hard work, although the money to fund the move and the increased rent was down to her husband working overtime, the family moved to the better side of town.

From here we follow Margaret to her student digs, her first house as a young married woman on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and beyond, including holiday homes both abroad and nearer her native Carlisle.

This is a fairly slim novel and the houses described are littered with personal details about the way she felt about neighbours, builders, her writing and sadly her illness. Sadly the cancer had already spread by the time she wrote this, her last piece of non-fiction, and more than likely is the explanation for the brevity and the matter of fact way she touches on her options is probably even harder to read in retrospect. Margaret Forster died on 8 February 2016 aged 77 having left a wealth of books behind to entertain and enlighten new generations of readers.

The most fascinating part of this book of however has nothing to do with the author and everything to do with how life changed so considerably between 1938 when she was born and 2014 when the book was published. Her early memories include the black-leading of the fireplace and not without a certain amount of wryness does she delight in this once hated job being integral in her second home in Carlisle. Of course Margaret Forster was more affluent than most but as she references sitting-tenants and shared bathrooms in the past she is describing the lives that certainly were the options open for my ancestors if they wanted to leave home. Life is very different with so many household gadgets nowadays but here is a woman describing the novelty of a home telephone.

For a different type of memoir this method is incredibly effective although I’m not sure I would have loved it quite so much had I not already had an insight not only into the author’s life but those important beliefs around feminism and socialism which seem to have featured long before they might have been expected to surface.

This copy of My Life in Houses was from the local library in my bid to support this wonderful community lifeline which has previously been such a huge part of my life. I would not be the reader I am now if it hadn’t been for libraries to keep me stocked up with books.

First Published UK: 6 November 2014
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Non-Fiction – Memoir
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 28)

You may have noticed my absence last week while I was on a weekend break in the Peak District. This was actually my Christmas present from the OH and it was everything I hoped for: it was peaceful, it snowed and this was the stunning view from our bedroom window.

So we got to walk around the lake, have a few drinks in the local hotel and I even managed to read some of my books!

This Week on the Blog

My excerpt post this week was from the very intriguing concept mystery, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

I was part of the Blog Tour for Cara Hunter’s crime fiction novel Close to Home which is set in Oxford. Cara kindly sent me a piece about the setting and I rounded off with my review which awarded this book the full five stars.

On Thursday I reviewed Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes, a dark crime thriller set on one of the smallest of the Scilly Islands, Bryher.

My final review of the week was for Dead Souls by Angela Marsons, the sixth in her DI Kim Stone series which was just as brilliant, if not more so than the five preceding books.

My week was rounded off by finally publishing my list for The Classics Club – I think I could have read about five of these in the time I’ve spent deciding which ones to put on the list, or those to leave off – take a look and see if you think I chose wisely.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Good People by Hannah Kent. A book steeped in the folklore and superstition that I’m sure reigned worldwide at the beginning of the nineteenth century but possibly had its most ardent followers in the Irish countryside with its stories of fairies, changelings and many rituals to ward off evil. The Good People is set in County Kerry in 1825 and is best summed up as a disturbing tale.

You can read my review here or click on the book cover

 

Blurb

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.

Nóra, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?

Mary arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
Nance’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.

As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Even though I have now read three of my own books, I haven’t spent my token yet with no books bought in 2018 so far. I’ll come back to the New Year’s Resolutions later in the post…

I have received two approvals from NetGalley, I’m actually not sure which one I’m most excited about!

I have a copy of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings which I am desperate to read after her previous novel In Her Wake in 2016. The Cliff House will be published on 17 May 2018.



Blurb

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned. NetGalley

And.. after being blown away by the first in the DI Adam Fawley series, Close to Home (see above) I am delighted to have received a copy of book two called In the Dark by Cara Hunter which will be published on 5 July 2018.

Blurb

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY’RE HIDING IN THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME, comes the second pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller. A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive… No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. And the elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . . NetGalley

Now in addition to originally reading six classic books this year my aim was to visit my local library more regularly. Well yesterday with my list for The Classics Club finally completed I took a trip to see which one I should pick up to get me started. After spending quite some time looking through the shelves I came away with four that appeared on my list so I can decide which one to start with.

So I will be choosing from:

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

And I picked up a copy of My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster which has sat on my wishlist since it was published back in 2014. I was a huge fan of this author’s work, particularly her non-fiction books and this should fit well with the insight’s she gave us into her life through her previous books on her family such as Hidden Lives.

Blurb

‘I was born on 25th May, 1938, in the front bedroom of a house in Orton Road, a house on the outer edges of Raffles, a council estate. I was a lucky girl.’

So begins Margaret Forster’s journey through the houses she’s lived in, from that sparkling new council house, to her beloved London home of today. This is not a book about bricks and mortar though. This is a book about what houses are to us, the effect they have on the way we live our lives and the changing nature of our homes: from blacking grates and outside privies; to cities dominated by bedsits and lodgings; to the houses of today converted back into single dwellings. Finally, it is a gently insistent, personal inquiry into the meaning of home. Amazon

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books and appear to have gained 2 so my TBR on the downward slide to 186

Physical Books – 109
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books –22

 

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m in credit!

Posted in Uncategorized

Books I Picked Up On A Whim

lyThe Top Ten Tuesday list chosen by the wonderful The Broke and the Bookish this week was for the ten books that bloggers had picked up on a whim, this led me to ponder not only those books but how the way I chose books has changed over the years.

As a child it was easy, I had the school library, the local library and kind relations who supplied books that they’d enjoyed as children and so I probably have the full quotient of children’s classics under my belt. Aside from that I was lucky in that many kindly teachers recommended books and to be honest, I was the sort of child that would read anything, cornflake packets included!

It was as I graduated from the children’s section of the library that things became more complicated. Our local library at the time simply shelved all fiction alphabetically and so my reading became dictated by my whims. In those days before the internet there were precious few places to find out about books which did not dominate the best-seller list, and if I’m honest I miss those days of wandering around the library or bookshop shelves looking for something appealing.  And this continued pretty much to the millennium although the library in Jersey used a variety of ways to point eager readers in the right direction, including a one week loan for new releases – something that always caused great anxiety – would I get through the book in time, there would be nothing worse than getting within reach of the ending only to have to return the precious book for others to read!

Library image

These days, I rarely chose a book without it being recommended to me, either by a fiercely knowing search engine on Amazon or Goodreads, or by one of the hugely knowledgeable book bloggers out there who suggest all sorts of hidden treasures to me!

And of course I now have reviews at my fingertips to ensure I am making a wise choice, never forgetting that even the less glowing reviews can point towards something that will please me. In those far flung times there were professional reviews in the newspapers which I did look at but many of these seemed a bit rarefied for my tastes, I just wanted a jolly good story. So I’d look at the shelves, read the book jackets and decide if this might be the book for me… and this way I found many writers who have remained firm favourites to this day.

Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Shadow Baby

Blurb

Born in Carlisle in 1887, brought up in a children’s home and by reluctant relatives, Evie, with her wild hair and unassuming ways, seems a quiet, undemanding child.
Shona, born almost seventy years later, is headstrong and striking. She grows up in comfort and security in Scotland, the only child of doting parents. But there are, as she discovers, unanswered questions about her past.
The two girls have only one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but these two girls grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to stalk and then haunt her natural mother. Both mothers dread disclosure; both daughters seek emotional compensation and, ultimately, revenge.

Not only did I love this book but rattled my way through her entire back-catalogue, my most recent read being The Unknown Bridesmaid. Sadly Margaret Forster passed away earlier this year but I still have her a large collection of her books on my shelf.

My crime fiction reads at this time were led by whatever was showing on TV at the time and in this way I was introduced to all the greats; Morse, Wexford, Dalziel and Pascoe and Frost. All of these men grace my shelves to this day. However it was after reading Wexford that I discovered the more psychological reads provided in the books written by Ruth Rendell under the name Barbara Vine. This in turn led to me reading so much in this genre before it gained its current popularity. Asta’s Book remains one of my favourite reads of all time combining my love of history with a study of the psyche.

Astas Book

Blurb

1905. Asta and her husband Rasmus have come to east London from Denmark with their two sons. With Rasmus constantly away on business, Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing her diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal, for they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder, to the quest for a missing child and to the enigma surrounding Asta’s daughter, Swanny. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before. Amazon

Barbara Vine’s most recent book The Child’s Child was reviewed by Cleopatra Loves Books back in 2014

More recently I picked up The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen on a whim as it was unlike the book choices I usually made at that time, and I’m so glad I did. This book had me howl with laughter and gasp in surprise as the book took a slightly darker turn.

The Mistresses Revenge

Blurb

Never have an affair with anyone who has less to lose than you. And – never underestimate the wrath of a woman scorned.
For five years, Sally and Clive have been lost in a passionate affair. Now he has dumped her, to devote himself to his wife and family, and Sally is left in freefall. It starts with a casual stroll past his house, and popping into the brasserie where his son works. Then Sally starts following Clive’s wife and daughter on Facebook. But that’s alright isn’t it? I mean they are perfectly normal things to do. Aren’t they? Not since Fatal Attraction has the fallout from an illicit affair been exposed in such a sharp, darkly funny and disturbing way.
The Mistress’s Revenge is a truly exciting fiction debut. After all, who doesn’t know a normal, perfectly sane woman who has gone a little crazy when her heart was broken?

Tamar now writes under the name Tammy, but the quality of her books hasn’t diminished, rather it has just got even better, her latest offering When She Was Bad is sure to resonate to all office workers!

Now this may sound planned but I had already written this post when I found out yesterday that Transworld Books have signed a six figure book deal with Tammy for three books, the first due out in Spring 2017; All Fall Down is set in an asylum! Even better TV rights for When She Was Bad are currently at auction. That is one whim that sounds as though it will be providing me with good books to read for some time to come!

 

I think with these three books alone, I have proved that picking up a book on a whim can lead to a whole treasure trove of books.

What book have you picked up on a whim that you are eternally grateful for?

Posted in Uncategorized

My A-Z of Books

I saw this on Portebello Book Blog and By The Letter Book Reviews  and felt compelled to do this myself!

Author You’ve Read the Most Books From

This has to be Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine when you take into the stand-alones and the Wexford series I have devoured a fair few of her books.

Best Sequel Ever

This is really hard but I’m going to pick The Lewis Man by Peter May which is the middle book of the Lewis Trilogy – if you haven’t read these, you are missing out.

Currently Reading

Play Dead by Angela Marsons the fourth in the amazing Kim Stone series

Drink of Choice While ReadingCoffee

Coffee, coffee and coffee – I’m addicted

E-Reader or Physical Book
I love my kindle and couldn’t live without it for ease and space reasons but I now accept that I prefer a physical book

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School

At the time I was in high school it would have been Rupert Campbell-Black from Jilly Cooper’s Riders although he would have been far too old for me of course!

Fiver Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Glad You Gave this Book a Chance

There are loads but most recently, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris was an amazing read, one that has softened my opinion of literary fiction considerably.

Hidden Gem Book

White Lie by Andrea Gillies which blew me away with its deep and dark secrets that shaped generations of the Salter family in Scotland.

Important Moment in Your Reading Life

Being invited to join the Amazon Vine program which meant that I was offered books that I might previously have ignored which really expanded my reading.

Just Finished

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

Kind of Books You Won’t Read

No fantasy novels or sci-fi – I’ve tried to embrace the genre but it just isn’t me!

Longest Book You’ve Read

I’m not sure this is the longest in all time but about six years ago I read London by Edward Rutherfield which came in at a whopping 1152 pages – it took a long time for me to read but it was worth it to travel through London’s history and witness the changes.

Major Book HangoverBuriel Rites

Ooh this is hard, possibly after reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent where I had immersed myself in Agnes’s story in Iceland where she awaited trial for murder with the Jonsson family – heartbreakingly sad!

Number of Bookcases You Own

Four but I desperately need a new one, I can’t part with any of the books currently residing in my abode!!

One Book You’ve Read Multiple Times

Margaret Forster’s Shadow Baby a book which underlines the fact that mothers come in all shapes and sizes and not always in a good way! Better still this is one of those dual time-line stories which I love!

Preferred Place to Read

If I could be on holiday all year round it would be by the pool on a sun-lounger with a fruity cocktail – reality designates my dear bed though.

Quote that Inspires You/Gives You all the Feels from a Book You’ve Read

I’m not sure that this inspires me so I’m going for the second half of the question from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

Reading Regret

That I will never have time to read all the books that I want to! TBR cupboard

Series You Started and Need to Finish

Lots and lots, including those that I started part way through! The one I am most compelled to finish is Camilla Läckberg’s  Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series– I’m up to book eight, Buried Angels but I think I still need to read book four too!

Three of Your All-Time Favourite Books

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to choose just three, I will but on the proviso that I can change my mind at any time to include the three-hundred books which would be a far fairer question.

Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brook

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

Three books

Unapologetic Fangirl For

I’m not really a fangirl in the long-term way, maybe I don’t have the stamina but everyone who talks books to me gets told about the aforementioned Lewis Trilogy by Peter May

Very Excited for this Release more than All Others

This has to be Love You Dead by Peter James which is out later this month! Considering I am fairly rubbish at reading series, this is one I always pre-order and make space in the reading schedule for!

Worst Bookish Habit

Buying far too many books that deep down I know I will never have time to read.

X Marks the Spot: Start on the Top Left of Your Shelf and Pick the 27th Book

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, which is a ‘sliding-doors’ novel; Irina McGovern’s destiny hinges on a single kiss. Whether she stays with her reliable partner Lawrence, or runs off with Ramsey, a hard-living snooker player.

Your Latest Purchase

Pariah by David Jackson, the first in Detective Callum Doyle series bought because although I have the fourth in this series, Cry Baby, I enjoyed A Tapping at my Door so much I wanted to start at the beginning of his previous series.

Zzzzz-Snatcher Book (Last Book that Kept You up Way too late)

White Is The Coldest Colour by John Nicholl which was not only compulsive reading, the subject matter was so dark sleep wouldn’t come easily anyway.

 

Reading silhouette

Posted in Uncategorized

On My Bookshelf – Women’s Lives

On My Bookshelfv1

This week I am going to share some of the books on my shelf that fit into my interest into women’s lives and how they’ve changed in the last one hundred years or so and in particular, how childbirth could have calamitous consequences.

I am going to start with one of my favourite books of all time: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster which I read way back in 1996 while recovering from having all my wisdom teeth bashed out of my mouth! Since then I’ve read this copy many more times, hence the unforgivable creases on the cover.

SB June 2015

Blurb

Evie, born in 1887, and Shona, born in 1956, have one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but they both grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to haunt her mother, with terrible consequences for everyone involved. Goodreads

While Evie and Shona’s stories are fascinating the events and emotions that led to their mothers to give them up are no less so. A book full of historical detail which was based upon Margaret’s book about her family for Hidden Lives. I read Hidden Lives after Shadow Baby having embarked on a Margaret Forster book fest and it was clear where her inspiration came from. Her Grandmother, also named Margaret was visited by a woman when she was in old age, a woman who said she was her daughter. Amazingly faced with the elderly Margaret’s ferocity not one of her family probed deeply into who this woman really was.

HL June 2015

Blurb

Margaret Forster’s grandmother died in 1936, taking many secrets to her grave. Where had she spent the first 23 years of her life? Who was the woman in black who paid her a visit shortly before her death? The search for answers took Margaret on a journey into her family’s past. This is a memoir on how women’s lives have changed over the century. Goodreads

Many, many years later my daughter’s history dissertation led me to read more widely about infanticide, not wholly confined to poor women who couldn’t care for an unwanted child but those who were subjected to post puerperal mania. One of the most moving books I read was The Cruel Mother by Siân Busby

TCM June 2015

Blurb

In 1919 Sian Busby’s great-grandmother gave birth to triplets. One of the babies died at birth, and eleven days later she drowned the surviving twins in a bath of cold water. She was sentenced to an indefinite term in a prison for the criminally insane.
For generations to come, the author’s family dealt with the murders and the accompanying shame, guilt, and anxiety by suppressing the disturbing memory. It wasn’t until Busby began to experience severe bouts of postpartum depression herself that she felt compelled to learn more about this shadowy story, ultimately immersing herself in the puzzling and horrific tragedy that had quietly shaped her family’s collective history.
In Cruel Mother, Busby digs out her own postpartum depression, by re-creating not only the broader reality of post-WWI working class England, but the more intimate setting in which her great-grandmother tried to raise a family. In the process, Busby brings ghosts to very real and familiar life, making these unexpected and inexplicable deaths that much more tragic. Ultimately, Busby and the reader are left not only with new understanding, but heartfelt empathy for all involved. Goodreads

This was another fascinating look at women’s lives, and treatment following childbirth, but also a great illustration of how such a tragedy can cast a long shadow over future generations.

One of the options that a girl in trouble could resort to in Victorian and Edwardian England was to employ a baby farmer. I read books about the infamous baby farmer Amelia Dyer but also a fictional depiction of the timeThe Ghost of Lily Painter written by Caitlin Davies, who is Margaret Forster’s daughter.

TGLP

Blurb

The first time Annie Sweet sees 43 Stanley Road, the house is so perfect she almost feels as though it has chosen her. She longs to move in, but with her husband seeming more distant, and her daughter wrapped up in her friends and new school, Annie is left alone to mull over the past.
Soon she becomes consumed by the house and everyone who has lived there before her, especially a young chorus girl called Lily Painter, a rising star of the music hall whose sparkling performances were the talk of the town.
As Annie delves further into Lily’s past she begins to unravel a dark episode from Edwardian London, that of two notorious baby farmers, who lured young unmarried mothers with the promise of a better life for their babies. Until Annie solves the mystery at the heart of the scandal, the ghost of Lily Painter will never be able to rest.
Based on a real period from London’s rich history, Caitlin Davies skilfully blends fact and fiction to bring to life part of our sinister past. Spanning an entire century, from the journals of an Edwardian police inspector to a doomed wartime love affair, The Ghost of Lily Painter is an engrossing and poignant novel from a hugely talented writer. Goodreads

This is an excellently well-told tale and as I was choosing books for this post, I was incredibly tempted to pick this one up and read it again.

Illustrating how long the subject of women’s lives, particularly when based on real women, has lasted this year I read Out of The Silence by Wendy James

Out of the Silence

no original picture of this one as it is on my kindle

Blurb

I call his name – only quietly, but he hears me as I knew he would, and wants me as he always does. And we come together – right there in the darkness. And even though there is no way to be certain of any other thing in the world, I am certain that I would risk anything to keep what is between the two of us. For love, I would risk anything, lose everything.
Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three Australian women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and Vida Goldstein, a charismatic suffragist from Melbourne and the first woman to stand for Parliament in Australia.
When Maggie’s life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women’s lives collide. Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change.
The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s – not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love – of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power. Goodreads

This book powerfully illustrated how women’s lives were hampered by their sex with those who decided on a career of any sort having to make a choice between that and marriage.

One last example of this genre is the memoir Bad Blood by Lorna Sage, a young woman who never had sex again after becoming pregnant in 1950’s Wales.

BB June 2015

Blurb

Blood trickles down through every generation, seeps into every marriage. An international bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Biography Award, Bad Blood is a tragicomic memoir of one woman’s escape from a claustrophobic childhood in post-World War II Britain and the story of three generations of the author’s family and its marriages.
In one of the most extraordinary memoirs of recent years, Bad Blood brings alive in vivid detail a time — the ’40s and ’50s — not so distant from us but now disappeared. As a portrait of a family and a young girl’s place in it, it is unsurpassed. Goodreads

More posts from my bookshelf can be found here:
On My Bookshelf
On My Bookshelf – What’s in a Name?

I do hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour of nearly twenty years of reading around this particular subject – do you have any recommendations for me?

Posted in Books I want to Read

On My Bookshelf

On My Bookshelfv1

As I haven’t acquired any new books this week – how good am I? I thought I’d share my bookshelves with you this week having got the idea from another bookshelf sharer; Snazzy Books

So for one week only I have some pictures and I will answer some pre-ordained questions.

I often rearrange my bookshelves mainly because I can’t keep all the books that pass through this house so I have to rationalise fairly frequently. I tend to do this by giving my books away in small amounts rather than having one big clear-out.

Top Shelf

This is the shelf that originally made up the header for my blog and the most prominent of the bookshelves in the house, the one book-loving guests first gravitate to when if they are like me want to have a good nose!  These are the bigger paperbacks that I have and on this shelf because they are more or less the same size.   The newest addition to this shelf is No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

Full Shelf 1
How do you organise your books?
Each bookshelf is organised in a slightly different way. The full bookshelf (aka bookshelf 1) has the top shelf by size, the middle shelf is half-full of recently read larger books and half-full of the dual time historical novels by Kate Morton, Katherine Webb and Rachel Hore.

The bottom shelf is smaller favourite books and new additions to the TBR!

Favourite Authors that appear on your shelf?

These live on bookshelf 3 – amongst others you will find my Peter James collection, including You Are Dead, Sophie Hannah, Reginald Hill, Margaret Forster and Barbara Vine books. This shelf isn’t as easily accessible, being in the hallway, which is fine because I’m not so keen on lending these books out – many of them have been on several house moves with me!

Bookshelf 3 full

What books do you have that you want to read soon but haven’t yet got around to?

Well these live on the bottom shelf of bookshelf 2 – apart from the overspill to bookshelf 1 (see above)

Bookshelf 2 bottom shelf

The book I’m most looking forward to reading from this shelf is The Night Watch by Sarah Waters after remembering how much I love her books when I read The Paying Guests

Which books do I wish that were on my bookshelf but aren’t?

I wish I’d kept a selection of my childhood favourites. I was often given books as presents and had beautiful copies of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables etc alongside well-worn copies of an abundance of Enid Blyton books, Noel Streatfeild and Roald Dahl.

Which books on your shelf are borrowed?

I have been lent a copy of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry by a work colleague

A Fine Balance

Blurb

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.
The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers – a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village – will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state. Goodreads

So that’s a snapshot of my books that sit neatly on a bookshelf and aren’t squirreled away because I may have run out of space again! Check out Snazzy Books shelfie too!

What’s on your bookshelf today?

Posted in Books I have read

Caitlin Davies, Hunter Davies and Margaret Forster – what a family of writers!

This morning I reviewed Family Likeness by Caitlin Davies; I was especially pleased to be chosen to read a copy in return for an honest review as in my opinion she is an excellent writer and daughter of two authors who I hold in high esteem.

Margaret Forster wrote what is probably my favourite book of all time – ‘Shadow Baby’ which shares the theme of abandoned children with ‘Family Likeness’

Shadow BabyShadow Baby by Margaret Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of my favourite books of all times and one of the few that I re-read for sheer pleasure from time to time

The story is about two girls adopted 100 years apart, the reasons why they were adopted and how they and their mothers reacted to adoption.

During the book we get to know the girls and their mothers through their own narratives. This is an emotional story and I often think of the real Evie’s that lived in the shadows because of the time and circumstance of their birth. I recommend reading Hidden Lives: A Family Memoir which includes the Margret Forster’s family history, including that of her Grandmother who wouldn’t speak of her early life at all. I am sure this wonderful book is the author’s way of revealing some of what may have led to those secrets.

You can’t do better than this for a dual time tale with a hefty dollop of social history included.

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While Hunter Davies was our family companion with his Flossie Teacake adventures which kept us amused during long car journeys when my children were small. These books were entertaining enough for this weary parent to stomach many a repeat on the old tape cassette player and dear old Flossie is remembered fondly in our house more than 15 years on.

Earlier this year Margaret Forster published another fantastic book

The Unknown Bridesmaid

and I would also recommend

Isa and MayIsa and May by Margaret Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I put off buying this as although [[ASIN:0140258361 Shadow Baby]] is my favourite book of all time, the last couple of Margaret Forster’s books didn’t hit the same mark as far as I’m concerned.

This book although really plays to the authors exceptional skill in writing about family relationships both those that work and those that don’t. The characters were all likeable, especially both Grandmother’s who though totally different had both contributed and been involved in Isamays life. I love the way the different relationships including the natural frustrations that occur in family life are described.

Isamays dissertation on other Grandmothers nicely interjects the main story and as it is a dissertation does so in a natural and readable way.

I will read this again I’m sure and have another excuse to remember my Grandmother who helped shape my life

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and the book that I believe lead to Shadow Baby which is a fascinating look at social history, particularly that of women

Hidden Lives: A Family MemoirHidden Lives: A Family Memoir by Margaret Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This personal biography by Margaret Forster is a fascinating exploration of how lives of women have changed over a period of 100 plus years starting in the 1870’s.

Margaret Ann was the author’s grandmother, orphaned at the age of 2, her early life is a mystery. Margaret Ann simply doesn’t give any details away of her early life, all that her family knew was from 1893 onwards. Why was Margaret Ann so keen to conceal her early life? We also meet Lilian, Margaret’s mother a working class woman living in Carlisle, the author depicts a woman who yearns for the better things in life. There are moving scenes where the family try to locate a cafe on holiday which will meet Lilian’s expectations. The interaction of each of the characters is moving and honest. Lilian wonders at Margaret’s life as a wife and mother, the difference domestic appliances made to a housewife’s day etc.

This book clearly presents social history in an interesting and personal way but it also reminds us of the changes to woman’s role in society as a whole. It is a book that makes you think about women’s expectations, in many ways I found Lilian’s story the hardest to read as she clearly wanted more from her life was born just a little too early!

The research for this book clearly led into the novel Shadow Baby which is my favourite book of all time, I would recommend both these for anyone interested in the life of a working class woman.

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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Unknown Bridesmaid – Margaret Forster

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

I’m a big fan of Margaret Forster; she manages to write eloquently on a number of different subjects, this means that some topics will be more of interest than others. In The Unknown Bridesmaid the story revolves around a child psychologist, Julia which I found immensely readable.

The story is written from Julia’s perspective both in the present day revolving around her caseload of troubled young girls and her past; starting from the time she was asked to be a bridesmaid for her cousin Iris. Margaret Forster has a particular skill in depicting family relationships, not the sugar coated ones but the real life misunderstandings and difficulties that beset most families at one time or another. Julia spent the run up to the wedding terrified that this opportunity was going to be snatched away from her due to her mother’s anxiety. As Julia grows she spends more time with Iris and soon a terrible event changes the course of her life forever.

This book has themes of childhood memories, jealousy and guilt running through its pages. There are some wonderful characters although not necessarily likable ones.

This is an absorbing tale, well written with a real understanding of how a child processes information and memories. The only criticism I have is that the girls in Julia’s caseload seemed to be solved in a very simplistic manner, I presume this was to illustrate that all the girls needed was the wisdom of Julia’s advice but I found it a little bit too dismissive. Despite this it was well worth a read and a good example of how well Margaret Forster writes and her immense skill at handling difficult subjects.