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Remembrance Day 11 November 2018

This week on the memorable occasion of the Centenary of the end of World War I. We hear a lot about how this war has now passed out of living memory and the fantastic efforts to pass on the lessons learned to the next generations and so I’ve shamelessly re-posted my thoughts from 2013 about how books help embed those lessons bringing the stories down to human experience.

Armistice Day (which overlaps with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day) is celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

If I’m completely honest I despite being taught about both World Wars at school I think that reading books has helped me put what I had learnt into context. I find books that tell the stories of what it was like during wartime captivating and this interest started early on in life.

My knowledge of the First World War pretty much began with the set texts of war poetry we learnt as part of our O’ Level English Literature course and the haunting words that were sent down the decades from young men, many not significantly older than I was at the time, have stayed with me over the years.

Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Without the endless dissection of those poems by my excellent teacher I don’t think I would have had anything like the understanding that I gained during those months. Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke all bought to life exactly how great every soldier’s sacrifice was.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
If I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

But before that the effects of war had been through fiction, heavily based upon fact, to give a feeling what war meant for the wider population. Children like books that have links to their own lives but given the right texts that doesn’t mean that they have to be modern stories, there are some great books about children in war-time, here are a few of my favourites.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by the wonderful Judith Kerr was an early favourite. My father is Jewish and I was fascinated by this heritage even as quite a small child, although it was only on the death of my Grandfather that I realised that our surname had been anglicised on the birth of my Uncle in 1938.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Partly autobiographical, this is first of the internationally acclaimed trilogy by Judith Kerr telling the unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing from Germany at the start of the Second World War
Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people.
That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy with her schoolwork and toboganning to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe – starting with her own small life.
Anna suddenly found things moving too fast for her to understand. One day, her father was unaccountably missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew – home and schoolmates and well-loved toys – right out of Germany… Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

Another childhood favourite was Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, another of my favourite authors for children.Carrie's War

‘I did a dreadful thing…or I feel that I did, and nothing can change it…’
It is the Second World War and Carrie and Nick are evacuated from London to a small town in Wales, where they are placed with strict Mr Evans and his timid mouse of a sister.
Their friend Albert is luckier, living in Druid’s Bottom with Hepzibah Green who tells wonderful stories, and the strange Mister Johnny, who speaks a language all of his own. Carrie and Nick are happy to visit Albert there, until one day when Carrie does a terrible thing – the worst thing she ever did in her life…
Based on her own childhood, Nina Bawden’s enchanting story Carrie’s War has delighted readers for almost 40 years. Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

When I read this as a child I used to wonder how all those children coped being sent away from their parents. Now as a mother, I wonder how on earth those poor women managed to carry on with their children far away being looked after by people they didn’t know.

Although the lives for those fighting the war doesn’t even bear imagining the effect it had on everyone’s view of life changed forever. Those that were around for both World Wars must have seen more pain and hardship than any other generation.

At around ten I came across The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, written while Anne and her family were in hiding in Amsterdam.Diary of a young girl

Anne Frank and her family fled the horrors of Nazi occupation by hiding in the back of a warehouse in Amsterdam for two years with another family and a German dentist. Aged thirteen when she went into the secret annexe, Anne kept a diary. She movingly revealed how the eight people living under these extraordinary conditions coped with hunger, the daily threat of discovery and death and being cut off from the outside world, as well as petty misunderstandings and the unbearable strain of living like prisoners. Amazon

Link to Amazon UK

I was moved by the everyday writing depicting the horror of a life lived in secret. Years later I visited Anne Franks house, by now aware that my family were Dutch Jews and saw both my paternal parents surnames repeated over and over in the book of names of those who died in concentration camps. I will never forget that moment when I realised that it was due to a decision made years before, that I was even alive.

Anne Franks House

Anne Frank’s House Amsterdam

Books about the wars are still a staple of my adult reading and I’ve picked just a couple of those that I think stand out as exceptional examples of books that make you think and really appreciate the sacrifice that was made by all those young men.

My preference tends towards those books which look at society as a whole and . Andrew Cowen’s book Worthless Men published in 2013, is a particularly strong example. This book depicts life in an anonymous English market town in 1916, where many of the men were missing, fighting for King and Country.

Click on the book cover to read my review

worthless-men

Link to Amazon UK

Wake by Anna Hope also looks at the period just following Armistice day in an exceptional novel that uses the progress of the journey for the internment of The Unknown Warrior at the Cenotaph. Each chapter is a day and each of those days follows the journey of the coffin from France to Britain for the ceremony. So moving and a brilliant illustration of a war and what it meant for those who fought and those who were left behind.

Remembrance Day 1920: A wartime secret connects three women’s lives: Hettie whose wounded brother won’t speak; Evelyn who still grieves for her lost lover; and Ada, who has never received an official letter about her son’s death, and is still waiting for him to come home. As the mystery that binds them begins to unravel, far away, in the fields of France, the Unknown Soldier embarks on his journey home. The mood of the nation is turning towards the future – but can these three women ever let go of the past?

Link – Amazon UK

To the Grave by Steve Robinson has a different way of looking at the lives left behind during World War II


To the Grave

Our American Genealogist Jefferson Tayte aka JT has been employed by Eliza Gray who has received a suitcase with some effects telling her that she was in fact adopted. JT travels to Leicestershire to discover who the mysterious Mena Lasseter was. The story of Mena is based towards the end of the war in 1944/45 but the current day story has just as much, if not more to offer.
The characters are well drawn and Mena’s story is an emotional one but at the same time there is a lot of intrigue in the present day. JT finds himself in danger but who wants to cover up what happened all those years ago.

Link to Amazon UK

I just want to finish by saying that we shouldn’t forget the effects the two World Wars had not just on the soldiers who fought in them but a whole generation.

Lest we forget

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Solitary Child – Nina Bawden

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Nina Bawden published 23 adult novels and 20 children’s books in a career that spanned five decades stepped into my life as a child with her book The Peppermint Pig which won 1976 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers. When was a little older her book about children evacuated to Wales imprinted itself equally and Carrie’s War became a huge favourite of mine. I didn’t write book reviews as a child but if I had done, I would have said that these two books truly transported me back in time, to vivid places with characters that I would never forget. Would The Solitary Child have the same effect, in short, I believe so the story so searingly and at times baldly stated means that Harriet’s choices will take a long time to dissipate.

The Solitary Child is an intensely claustrophobic novel which from what I can work out is set around the time it was first published in 1958, certainly after the war but long before it was conceivable that any female would consider a life without a husband a good route to choose in life!

The book revolves around Harriet, just twenty-two when she becomes engaged to James Random after knowing him for just a couple of weeks. James is a rich farmer who lives on the Welsh Boarders, older than Harriet and with the inconvenient dead wife in the background which we soon learn died in circumstances weren’t altogether respectable. The pair had met at a party:

There seemed to be no other way of meeting people in London; each chance invitation was a gateway to a less restricted future.

James did not hide the fact of his wife Eve’s death from Harriet, after leaving the party they went to a little pub where he told her.

But at the time I was appalled. Not entirely by the story because that seemed – at the time, anyway – to be almost unbelievable, but by his blurting it out so clumsily and publicly to me, a stranger. For a little time I though he was boasting, dragging in the unsavoury past as a kind of shabby success.

Harriet as the swift engagement shows, wasn’t overly put off though, the obsession with the first Mrs Random coming later when she moves to the farm and finds herself in amongst those who knew the couple, and their daughter Maggie. The farm is run by Mr Evans whose wife helps out in the house with her own daughter who has a child, yet no husband. James’ sister lives next door and the tension between these characters neatly bubbles beneath the surface – no shouty arguments for this bunch instead it is constrained but no less heartfelt for that.

It was not a new issue, merely a renewal of old anger. Looking on, I was aware of an enmity which astonished, not because of its sudden violence but because they had managed to keep it hidden until now.

With only a few years between them Harriet soon comes to love Maggie who although young for her age gives Harriet someone to focus on while her doubts about her husband grow as she’s exposed in small ways to what those who live nearby and those who work for him really think. Harriet is trapped in a life she isn’t prepared for and so the tension grows as her mind worries over the past. At one point the doctor is called and depressingly reflects the times:

They were talking. The singing in my ears was less loud and I could hear fragments of their conversation.
“Illness… some degree of hysteria… not uncommon.”

Of course the finale arrives and Harriet does eventually find out the truth of Eve Random’s demise which left me with a strong feeling of disquiet. In part this is precisely because the book reflects the time of when it was written, indeed the publishers Bello makes a point that:

Some aspects may appear out of date to modern day readers. Bello makes no apology for this, as to retrospectively change any content would be anachronistic and undermine the authenticity of the original.

I know that this review hints rather than says anything concrete about the book itself but I can confirm that the theme of a woman haunted by a previous wife whilst not a new one has a slightly different twist to it in this enjoyable yet miserable read.

The Solitary Child was my twenty-seventh read in the Mount TBR challenge, having been purchased in March 2015 after reading HEAVENALI’s wonderful review.
mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: 1958
Publisher: Bello
No. of Pages:  234
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (October 25)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading When A Killer Strikes by RC Bridgestock the eighth in the DI Dylan series, written by two former employees of the police service. This book was published just last week on 19 October 2017.

Blurb

“Boss, we’ve got a body”.
Detective Sergeant Vicky Hardacre, greets him at the scene, but what awaits them behind the blood red door of Colonial House is undoubtedly a murder. The approach identifies several prime suspects. But who is telling the truth; and who is lying?
Before the killer can be caught, another body is discovered, this time in a putrefying mixture of mud and slime, lain among the remnants of decaying food within a waste-bin shelter. Now it’s the task of the man in charge to make the call.
Are the two murders connected?
There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by working long hours, within strict budgets, and the usual pressure from above to obtain quick results.
However, Dylan is distracted by personal matters, with Jen being keen to seal the deal on a renovation project. He suggests they delay finalising the purchase; until he discovers the significance of the house, and that it’s about to be demolished.
In his absence, Jen’s pleas for help from his estranged siblings are answered, resulting in hidden secrets coming to light, as Dylan continues, through a twisting and turning plot, to ensure justice is done in respect of the murder victims, whose bright hopes for the future were cruelly snatched away. Amazon

This follows on from The Solitary Child by Nina Bawden which I have to say I found incredibly enjoyable in a miserable sort of way!

Blurb

The Solitary Child is a story of violent death and suspicion. Harriet becomes engaged to James Random, a gentleman farmer, monied but unpretentious. But his first wife, Eva, had died in what were called ‘unforgettable circumstances’; James was charged with murdering her and was acquitted. Breaking the news to her mother of her engagement was Harriet’s first ordeal: facing Maggie, the solitary child who was James’ and Eva’s daughter was more complex. Suspicions are not always cleared away by a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Here the suspicion which Harriet found surrounding her new home was so oppressive it distorted the relationships of the people involved into a nightmare climax. Amazon

Next I am planning to read The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths, the fourth book in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series.

Blurb

What do a murdered Brighton flower seller, the death of Cleopatra and a nude tableau show have in common? Read the most dangerous case yet for Stephens and Mephisto and find out.

Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there’s one thing the old comrades have learned it’s that, in Brighton, the line between art and life – and death – is all too easily blurred… Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (October 17)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My opening this week comes from The Solitary Child by Nina Bawden which is one of my own collection purchased because the author was a childhood favourite of mine with Carrie’s War and The Peppermint Pig being much read and treasured books on my shelf. Then I entered the world of book blogging and saw several of her books being reviewed on Heavenali’s blog So naturally, I purchased a few for myself including The Ruffian on the Stair which I read a couple of years ago – if you haven’t discovered Heavenali’s wonderful blog, I fully advise checking out her wonderful reviews.



Blurb

The Solitary Child is a story of violent death and suspicion. Harriet becomes engaged to James Random, a gentleman farmer, monied but unpretentious. But his first wife, Eva, had died in what were called ‘unforgettable circumstances’; James was charged with murdering her and was acquitted. Breaking the news to her mother of her engagement was Harriet’s first ordeal: facing Maggie, the solitary child who was James’ and Eva’s daughter was more complex. Suspicions are not always cleared away by a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Here the suspicion which Harriet found surrounding her new home was so oppressive it distorted the relationships of the people involved into a nightmare climax. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Chapter One

“What a way to hear!” said my mother. Her heavy handsome face was patchy with cold, the wide sensual mouth tightened into a kind of denial. She spoke as if I had subjected her to some appalling indignity.
I avoided her eyes. “You must be frozen,” I said.
I opened the cupboard door and jerked at the flex of the electric fire. The pile of notes and newspapers that lay on top of it slid out into the room. Half-heartedly I tried to push them back and, failing, left the door jammed open. I felt her eyes on my bent neck as I knelt to plug in the fire.
I said brightly, into the stillness “How long have you been waiting? I’m sorry I wasn’t in. It must have been a beastly journey. Would you like a cup of tea?”
The words trailed emptily between us. She did not answer. I lit a cigarette at the bar of the fire and the sparks spluttered as the paper caught.
The issue, could be evaded no longer. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have told you before.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So although this book was first published in 1976 I think it eloquently captures a mother-daughter relationship and even after that lengthy intro we still have to find out what it was that she heard!

But, what do you think? Would you keep reading? Or perhaps you have a favourite childhood author who also wrote adult novels – give me your suggestions.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves Part II (October 25)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Book Stach GDFTB

‘What more books?’ I hear you cry.
I’m afraid so, because yesterday it was the annual Guide Dogs for the Blind Book Sale and if you saw how many books were there you’ll realise just how restrained I’ve been by spending a total of £9.50 of my (very) hard earned pennies on this beautiful lot. It’s ok, no need to panic, my friend has a stack to share too and my daughter, back on the island for this event for the first time since 2008 has also stocked up.

JGDFB book Sale

So what did I get? First up Other People’s Secrets by Louise Candlish. Louise Candlish is a an author I discovered earlier this year when I read The Sudden Departure of the Frasers and then followed this up with The Disappearance of Emily Marr.
Other People's Secrets

Blurb

An enthralling tale of two families who meet on vacation, and the secrets that bind them
Ginny and Adam Trustlove arrive in Italy torn apart by personal tragedy. Two weeks in a boathouse on the edge of peaceful Lake Orta is exactly what they need to restore their faith in life—and each other. Twenty-four hours later, the silence is broken. The Sale family have arrived at the main villa: wealthy, high-flying Marty, his beautiful wife Bea, and their privileged, confident offspring. It doesn’t take long for Ginny and Adam to be drawn in, especially when the teenage Pippi introduces a new friend into the circle. For there is something about Zach that has everyone instantly beguiled, something that loosens old secrets—and creates shocking new ones. And, yet, not one of them suspects that his arrival in their lives might be anything other than accidental. Goodreads

As well as choosing much loved author’s books, I have used this opportunity to buy a copy of Sycamore Row by John Grisham because I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read a single book by this author – there were loads to choose from so I hoped I picked a good one and then got home and discovered this is a sequel to A Time To Die and I’d missed the great big writing on the cover telling me so! Oh well, hopefully it’ll be an ok read as a standalone.

Sycamore Row

Blurb

Jake Brigance has never met Seth Hubbard, or even heard of him, until the old man’s suicide note names him attorney for his estate. The will is dynamite. Seth has left ninety per cent of his vast, secret fortune to his housemaid.
The vultures are circling even before the body is cold: the only subject more incendiary than money in Ford County is race, and this case has both.
AS the relatives contest the will, and unscrupulous lawyers hasten to benefit, Jake searches for answers to the many questions left by Seth Hubbard’s death:
What made him write that last-minute will leaving everything to a poor black woman named Lettie Lang?
Why did he choose to kill himself on the desolate piece of land known as Sycamore Row?
And what was it that Seth and his brother witnessed as children that, in his words, ‘no human should ever see’? Amazon

Another prolific but as yet new to me author is Linwood Barclay, so I picked up a copy of No Safe House

No Safe House

Blurb

Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family experienced a horrific ordeal which nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry’s wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents’ seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.
But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.
For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.
Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn’t fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable….Amazon

My next choice is a childhood favourite The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden, a book I loved from the very first paragraph (Maybe this indicates a gruesome nature even as a small child?) It was also the first book I remember sobbing over, it really is quite sad in places.

Old Granny Greengrass had her finger chopped off in the butcher’s when she was buying half a leg of lamb. She pointed to the place where she wanted the joint to be cut but then she decided she needed a bigger piece and pointed again. Unfortunately, Mr Grummett, the butcher, was already bringing his sharp chopper down. He chopped straight through her finger and it flew like a snapped twig into a pile of sawdust in the corner of the shop. It was hard to tell who was more surprised, Granny Greengrass or the butcher. But she didn’t blame him. She said, ‘I could never make up my mind and stick to it, Mr Grummett, that’s always been my trouble.’
and the copy I picked up is in perfect condition.

The Peppermint Pig
Blurb

Johnnie was only the runt of the litter, a little peppermint pig. He’d cost Mother a shilling, but somehow his great naughtiness and cleverness kept Poll and Theo cheerful, even though it was one of the most difficult years of their lives. Amazon

The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths is one from the series featuring Ruth Galloway that I haven’t ever read so in the bag it went!

The House At Seas End

Blurb

A team of archaeologists, investigating coastal erosion on the north Norfolk coast, unearth six bodies buried at the foot of a cliff. How long have they been there? What could have happened to them? Forensics expert Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson are drawn together again to unravel the past. Tests reveal that the bodies have lain, preserved in the sand, for sixty years. The mystery of their deaths stretches back to the Second World War, a time when Great Britain was threatened by invasion. But someone wants the truth of the past to stay buried, and will go to any lengths to keep it that way…even murder. Amazon

Having realised how much I love Sarah Waters’ books following her latest, The Paying Guests, I have had the urge to re-read the earlier ones so I also have a copy of Fingersmith to read.

Fingersmith

Blurb

Divided into three parts, the tale is narrated by two orphaned girls whose lives are inextricably linked. It begins in a grimy thieves kitchen in Borough, South London with 17-year-old orphan Susan Trinder. She has been raised by Mrs Sucksby, a cockney Ma Baker, in a household of fingersmiths (pickpockets), coiners and burglars. One evening Richard “Gentleman” Rivers, a handsome confidence man, arrives. He has an elaborate scheme to defraud Maud Lilly, a wealthy heiress. If Sue will help him she’ll get a share of the “shine”. Duly installed in the Lillys’ country house as Maud’s maid, Sue finds that her mistress is virtually a prisoner. Maud’s eccentric Uncle Christopher, an obsessive collector of erotica (loosely modelled on Henry Spenser Ashbee) controls every aspect of her life. Slowly a curious intimacy develops between the two girls and as Gentleman’s plans take shape, Sue begins to have doubts. The scheme is finally hatched but as Maud commences her narrative it suddenly becomes more than a tad difficult to tell quite who has double-crossed who. Amazon

An Experiment in Murder by Nicola Upson is a book by another author who I’ve meant to try for sometime, a bit of historical crime fiction is always enjoyable and for once I’ve managed to find the first in the series, bonus!

An Expert in Murder

Blurb

An Expert in Murder is the first in a new series that features Golden Age crime writer Josephine Tey as its lead character, placing her in the richly-peopled world of 1930s theatre which formed the other half of her writing life. It’s March 1934, and Tey is travelling from Scotland to London to celebrate what should be the triumphant final week of her celebrated play, Richard of Bordeaux. However, a seemingly senseless murder puts her reputation, and even her life, under threat. An Expert in Murder is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and an atmospheric detective novel in its own right. Amazon

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton has been on my wishlist for an absolute age so I was delighted to find a copy of this begging to be taken to a good home!

The Rehearsal

Blurb

A high-school sex scandal jolts a group of teenage girls into a new awareness of their own potency and power. The sudden and total publicity seems to turn every act into a performance and every platform into a stage. But when the local drama school decides to turn the scandal into a show, the real world and the world of the theatre are forced to meet, and soon the boundaries between private and public begin to dissolve. “The Rehearsal” is an exhilarating and provocative novel about the unsimple mess of human desire, at once a tender evocation of its young protagonists and a shrewd expose of emotional compromise. Amazon

I have been drooling over the display of British Library Crime Classics in our local store for some time but so far have limited myself to a single volume (as yet unread) so when I spied a copy of Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon it was a done deal!

Mystery in White

Blurb

‘The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.’ On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home. Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst. Amazon

And last but in no means least, I have been searching at the book sale for at least four years for a decent copy of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, this year I triumphed!
And then there were none

Blurb

Agatha Christie’s world-famous mystery thriller, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide. The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again…and again…Amazon

So I’m off now to try and sort out a new home for these extra additions and I’ve decided that since I have so many books on the TBR I really need to catalogue them! Happy reading from one very contented bookworm!

Posted in Books I have read

Ruffian On The Stair – Nina Bawden

Contemporary fiction 4*'s
Contemporary fiction
4*’s

I was a huge Nina Bawden fan as a child with Carrie’s War and a Peppermint Pig being much read and treasured books on my shelf but despite my huge admiration for her storytelling abilities I hadn’t read any of her work for adults. Many months ago I came across a review for Ruffian On The Stair on HeavenAli’s book blog and decided that I needed a copy.
Nina Bawden picked the fitting title for this book written in 2001 from the poem

Madam Life’s a Piece in Bloom by William Ernest Henley

Madam Life’s a piece in bloom
Death goes dogging everywhere:
She’s the tenant of the room,
He’s the ruffian on the stair.

You shall see her as a friend,
You shall bilk him once or twice;
But he’ll trap you in the end,
And he’ll stick you for her price.

With his kneebones at your chest,
And his knuckles in your throat,
You would reason — plead — protest!
Clutching at her petticoat;

But she’s heard it all before,
Well she knows you’ve had your fun,
Gingerly she gains the door,
And your little job is done

Why, well this book introduces us to Silas Mudd, a man six days short of his one hundredth birthday, a celebration that as is often the case with these momentous occasions, has become somewhat mired in who should have pride of place next to Silas and which generations should be invited accompanied the somewhat ruminative dwellings of his offspring about how well they know the man at all.

Silas meanwhile is keen to keep up appearances, spreading his book across his knee as behind his unseeing eyes he disappears into his past on a journey where he takes the blame for some actions while neatly failing to take any responsibility at all for others. And what a journey it is, right back to his childhood with his adored elder sister through his first job and his courtship of his first wife Effie. Silas and Effie had some good times until the war came along causing a sequence of events that had consequences right up until the present day. After Effie’s untimely death Silas married again to a younger woman, Bella whose children are the cause of the upset to his own offspring, Hannah, Alice and younger son Will.

I was pleased to see that Nina Bawden, even in her last work of fiction hadn’t lost her keen eye for detail, the gentle and observational humour that she injects into what could be a melancholy tale, lifts this to an incredibly readable book. I wanted to know the details of Silas Mudd’s life, being able to make my own assumptions about the life from the other side of the relationships he describes. How wounding to be Hannah who Silas had once remarked ‘Going without food for once won’t do you much harm. In fact quite the opposite, I would say.’ how galling that Will had to tell his sisters of his father’s mistakes, whilst also watching the seemingly over-caring Clare, daughter of Bella believe that she was ingratiating herself with Silas and with a wry smile noting his reaction both outward and inward to her flattery.

This is a gentle and incredibly perceptive book, told in a unlinear fashion as befitting its protagonist published by Virago that has reignited my admiration of this talented author. Expect to see some more reviews of her books for adults in the near future.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (August 29)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS

This week all my finds are real, physical books!

First up I saw a wonderful review of The Ruffian on the Stair by Nina Bawden on Heavenali’s blog and bought myself a copy. I was a huge Nina Bawden fan as a child and read The Peppermint Pig and Carrie’s War so many times.

ruffian-on-the-stair

Blurb

In six days Silas Mudd will be one hundred years old and is alarmingly healthy – more than can be said of his son. `Not sure he’ll make old bones’ he confides loudly to his daughter-in-law. Grumpily flattered by the fuss over his impending party – even from his irritating family, Silas’ greater pleasure is `to go over his life’ and the women whom he loved and who made trouble for him: his sterling and capable Aunt; his wonderfully vulgar second wife Bella; Molly, a music-hall singing sister; and Effie, his first and hopeless wife. Silas is the only one left who knows exactly what is shoring up his family. And now he sits, waiting and thinking, just wondering what it would be like if he were to say …Amazon

To get a better sense of this book please read Heavenali’s review
I was lucky enough to win a fantastic prize of two books by Kevin Sampson; The Killing Pool and The House on the Hill from Shaz’s Book Blog, thank you Sharon!

The Killing Pool

Blurb

Detective Chief Inspector Billy McCartney discovers a headless corpse in the scrubland close to Liverpool docks. The slaying carries all the hallmarks of a gangland hit – a message from the underworld to snitches, cops and rival gangs.
One mile away, a girl staggers into a run-down bar, dazed and confused. The bar’s owner, a career criminal called Shakespeare, cannot get a word out of her.
DCI McCartney is all too well aware that the clock is ticking. The body was one Kalan Rozaki, youngest brother of a notorious crime family – except Kalan is no criminal. For almost a year his brothers have been under full-time Drug Squad surveillance as McCartney slowly closed the net on their heroin trafficking. McCartney’s chief informant on the case is someone with insider knowledge of the Rozaki clan’s operation…their newly deceased baby brother, Kalan.
McCartney’s investigation into Kalan’s murder peels back layer after layer of a decades-long dynasty of drug smuggling. Each revelation plunges McCartney back into the dark heart of an unsolved drug crime that weighs heavy on his soul. He wants to catch the Rozakis – badly – but he wants the shadowy men behind their drug empire even more. The closer McCartney gets to Kalan’s killer, the closer he comes to facing down a lifetime’s torment. Amazon

The House on the Hill

Blurb

DCI Billy McCartney has gone to ground, disillusioned with his job. When a runaway turns up on his doorstep, her story plunges Mac back to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases.
McCartney and his partner DS Millie Baker are in Ibiza, on a joint venture with the Spanish serious crime agency. Their objective: to infiltrate the Liverpool-based drug gang responsible for a wave of ecstasy-related deaths. But their stakeout takes both Mac and Millie to the heart of a dark empire whose tentacles stretch from Ireland to Morocco, and whose activities include industrial-scale drug production – and terrorism. They’re close to their big bust when Millie is abducted by the gang, and killed. McCartney never quite recovers from it.
The waif who knocks on Mac’s door twenty-four years later has escaped from those same captors; a dynasty of international dope dealers based high in the Moroccan Rif. What she tells McCartney blasts his apathy away, and sends him on a mission that goes far beyond law and order. This is his chance for redemption. Amazon

I am an ardent follow of Margot Kinberg’s wonderful blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist Margot is an expert on all crime fiction, her ingenious posts made me certain that it was time to read a Ngaio Marsh novel so I have a copy of Off With His Head.

Off With His Head

Blurb

Pagan revelry and morris dancing in the middle of a very cold winter set the scene for one of Ngaio Marsh’s most fascinating murder mysteries.
When the pesky Anna Bünz arrives at Mardian to investigate the rare survival of folk-dancing still practised there, she quickly antagonizes the villagers. But Mrs Bünz is not the only source of friction – two of the other enthusiasts are also spoiling for a fight.
When the sword dancers’ traditional mock beheading of the Winter Solstice becomes horribly real, Superintendent Roderick Alleyn finds himself faced with a case of great complexity and of gruesome proportions… Amazon

Fiction Fan suggested a book to me following on from my review of Your Beautiful Lies which deals with the after effects of the miner’s strike. I wouldn’t normally be so easily led astray but the book in question is by one of my favourite authors; Reginald Hill. So I now own a copy of Under World the tenth novel in the wonderful Dalziel and Pascoe series.

Under World

Blurb

When young Tracey Pedley vanished in the woods around Burrthorpe, the close-knit community had their own ideas about what had happened, but Deputy Chief Constable Watmough has it down as the work of a child-killer who has since committed suicide – though others wondered about the last man to see her alive and his fatal plunge into the disused mine shaft.
Returning to a town he left in anger, Colin Farr’s homecoming is ready for trouble, and when a university course brings him into contact with Ellie Pascoe, trouble starts…
Meanwhile Andy Daziel mutters imprecations on the sidelines, until a murder in Burrthorpe mine forces him to take action that brings him up against a hostile and frightened community… Amazon

Please share your finds with me, there is always room on the TBR to squeeze just one more book in!