Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

July Books- 2018

So July was very HOT. In the end I did what I do when we go on holiday to Greece. I read, in the shade.

Laurie Lee-A Moment of War- Being the third book in his autobiography Red Sky at Sunset. An account of the months he spent in Spain trying to fight for the Republic during the civil war. he seemed to spend a lot of time in jail under suspicion of being a spy for France, and all because he had spent a few days in Morocco on holiday and his passport had the stamps to show it. Franco was supported by Hitler who launched airstrikes on Spain from Morocco. Apparently as a try out for the Luftwaffe and the bombing campaign they subsequently launched on Britain. I don’t like war books really, but this was quite interesting , showing how ill-equipped the republicans were and how they lacked leadership, and how the powers that be didn’t really know how to utilise all the volunteers that came to help the people in the war. I ended up having to do a bit of research around the civil war to make sense of the book. If you are interested in such things then it is readable. If not , stick to Cider with Rosie and As I walked out one Midsummer’s Morning which are a delight. Talking of which( Cider with Rosie) I reckon if I read a book three times it certainly qualifies as being in my top 100 books.

Sara Gruen- Water for Elephants- Several people recommended this book to me via the blog.For that a big thank you. I would never have chosen this book myself. The cover with its woman in a green sparkly dress and the blurb on the back would have completely put me off. If I hadn’t paid £1 to reserve it I would probably not have even borrowed it. But I had and I did, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover it was really good and an enjoyable read, if you are lurking inside hiding from the sun. Thus proving that you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

So what have we got.  A vet, living in his nursing home age 90 or is that 93, he can’t really recall remembers the days he spent in a circus. The portrayal of old age I found rather good. The memories of the circus were heart breaking in many places. Different times and different attitudes to disability and animal welfare. But the story is gripping and there is a rather nice love story too.

Thanks everyone who recommended this, you were right it was an enjoyable read.

Susan Hill- The Travelling Bag- a very good selection of  five ghostly short stories. I had already read the last one which has been published as a novella. The other four were really very good indeed. The first one would have totally freaked me out had it happened to me. The second one was sad but excellent. The third- Alice Baker was my favourite. If you like ghost stories, this book is for you . Proper old-fashioned scary tales.

Joanna Cannon- Three Things About Elsie- 1, She is Florence’s best friend. 2 She always knows what to say to make Florence feel better, 3 is harder to explain. Florence lives in what I take to be an extra care home, she has her own flat. Her friends Jack and Elsie also live there. Florence is becoming forgetful and is frightened of being asked to move to Greenbanks. A new resident arrives and Florence thinks she knows him , but he is supposed to be dead. Jack, Florence and Elsie have a mystery on their hands. I am not going to say much more. This was a really good read, the mystery kept me hooked, perfect book for those days when the heat melted my brain! Really enjoyed it, and reckon you might too. And Ms Cannon describes the book as a love story to Whitby. What more do you want?

Even these get a mention!

Tess Gerritsen- Playing with Fire- This was recommended to me by a few of you, and I loved it. A classical piece of music, a mystery story, the holocaust , Venice and a jolly good read. I found the first chapter a bit disappointing, in that the plot is set up quite quickly, but you need the background information up front. When the story moved to Venice it got better. There were a few sentences which I want to quote as they were used in the Holocaust presentation I was part of at the start of this year, and makes you think! It was a surprise to see them in context, as I hadn’t really registered where they had come from.

On board a train…….”.. imagined fields and farmlands beyond the window, small villages where lights glowed in houses and families sat at supper tables. Did they hear the faint clack of the train passing by? Did they pause, forks halfway to their mouths, and wonder about the people aboard the train? Or did they simply continue with their suppers, because what went on beyond their walls was none of their concern, and what could they do about it anyway? This train, like all those before it, would move on, so they break bread and drink wine and carry on with their lives. While we pass by like ghosts in the night”

Maya Angelou- Gather together in my name- The second book of her autobiography covering the years when she has her toddler to look after, and is only 19 when the book ends. She falls in love, runs a brothel, is a waitress,  nearly joins the army, takes drugs, becomes a prostitute, managers a cafe, her son is kidnapped. And all written beautifully. Another good read.

Marghanita Laski- Jane Austen and her world. Last week I stumbled on a Future Learn course on Jane Austen, just 3x 3hours worth, free and available till the 27 August. I couldn’t resist. It is totally fascinating. I have just started the last of the three blocks. Inspired by the course I dug out this book which I have had since 1978. I know that because I bought it through a book club when we lived in Munich. I had not read it since. It’s a super book, and has so many pictures in of family and places that Jane Austen knew. I have now found lots more books about Jane Austen to borrow from the library. The course by the way had me recalling the book Lynne recommended How to read like a Professor, in the case of Jane Austen, how she uses education and attitude to books to establish character.

Lots of lovely books this month. Have you read any good books this month that you would recommend please? Or have you read any of these? Are you a Jane Austen fan? Do tell please.

Comments on: "July Books- 2018" (23)

  1. Some good books you’ve read recently. I was happy to see Playing with Fire. I enjoyed it too. The quote you posted was powerful. I’ve a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jane Austen. I like the premise of her novels but find her writing hard to get into. I am finding that more and more with the classics, shame.

    • I think you may have been one of the people who recommended Playing with Fire to me. That quote moved me in the presentation and the surprise of finding it in context was moving.
      I struggle with Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, but amm fond of the others. The course was interesting.
      Some of the language and style of the classics makes them quite hard going. Just managed to get through the Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. I so nearly gave it up.
      I really enjoy your book reviews.

      • My next review post will be end of September. It’s been rather hit and miss this year with books. Not one has been stand out, except perhaps Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’m reading book one of the Outlander series, and it’s a struggle. Hope I don’t give up half way through. I look forward to your next book review post x

        • I have Eleanor Oliphant on order from the library, every copy is out in book clubs so I have quite a wait! I am reading a corker at the moment called The Lies we Told by Camilla Way. Only borrowed it yesterday and nearly read it already!

  2. Wow, you did have some great books! I’ll pass on the ghosts stories….nightmares you know. Am so glad you liked Water for Elephants, it was a real surprise to me, and a great read. Yes, add another Jane Austen fan to your list.😊 I’ll be looking for all of these at my library.

    • I knew it, all my friends in Blogland are Austen fans! I was very surprised by Water for Elephants- the cover really did the book a dis-service.

  3. Great recommendations! I think I must try those ghost stories! I’m waiting for my copy of Cider with Rosie to arrive … that’s one I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while. I’m a big Austen fan; Pride and Prejudice is my favourite. I’m reading the latest Susanna Kearsley, called Bellewether. A wonderful summer read, featuring an old Colonial house, a tragic love story and, of course, a ghost!

  4. Murtagh's Meadow said:

    Lots more lovely recommendations. Thank you Cathy. And yes i am another Jane Austen fan! Your course sounds very interesting.

  5. Hello Cathy, good Wednesday morning to you. I have read Water for Elephants and Playing With Fire and the Maya Angelou – she was such an amazing woman, a real example of how you can take the events of your life and become so much more! The other two I really enjoyed and I liked how they came back to me as you described them. And yes of course I’m an Austen fan – who isn’t?

    • Good Morning to you too, although it is still Good Tuesday Evening here! I heard tonight that the Maya Angelou story is going to be the book on BBC radio four next week. I am so on trend!

      • Somebody needs to be ‘on trend’ Hurrah for you! 🙂 I’m really glad to hear that though, sometimes I think stories like hers should be required reading.

        • Yes I agree. She had done so much by the time she was 19 , I was staggered.She writes of a world I would have no concept of.

  6. Wow the hot days were good to you:)

  7. I haven’t read any of these, but I am a huge Jane Austen fan. My least favourite is Northanger Abbey, and depending on my mood, my favourite is either P&P or Lady Susan, which is terribly funny but not very well known.

    • I love Northanager Abbey too, always makes me laugh. I know P&P and Emma from school, and love both. I don’t know Lady Susan and I am told it is on TV at the moment but haven’t tracked down where yet.
      Mansfield Park and S&S are my least favourite.
      Doing the course made me realise that I can sound like a bit of an Austen groupie. I went to the Pump rooms in Bath to take the waters, I have been to Winchester cathedral expressly to visit her tomb, etc.

  8. I see the heat speeds up your book consumption even more! I can’t really compete but I will tell you that I have read some quite ‘odd’ books lately – very good though.
    I bought some books from charity shops when over in the U.K. and, being a fan of Ian McEwan, nabbed one called ‘Saturday’. In the manner of ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ it follows the events of just one day although it isn’t exactly a ‘stream of consciousness’ on the part of the protagonist. Anyway, I struggled through some of it, a squash game going on for pages and pages for example (good job I used to play and understand the rules) but felt it was worth it in the end as his writing is so good. Very mixed reviews on this on Amazon and not sure I’d recommend it as it’s very ‘niche’.
    ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett is one I would definitely recommend and I just finished ‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton (of ‘The Miniaturist’) fame which I would also recommend and, coincidentally, also touches on the Spanish civil war.
    I hear it’s cooling down over there now. It’s hot here and forecast for high 30s at the end of the week so I’m not looking forward to that. One of my sisters lives in Southern Spain and it’s at 37 degrees at the moment. They have to take their dogs for a walk at 7.30 in the morning and 10 at night otherwise it’s too hot to go out 😦
    I am a Jane Austen fan but I’ve waffled on too long so I’ll leave that to somebody else 😉

    • I think I will give Saturday a miss, squash is something I never understood but my Dad played weekly and loved it.
      I have made a note of the other two for future requests from the library.
      Yikes that does sound hot your way. It’s just right here now, I even got some cleaning done this morning.
      good to now you like JA. Have a look at the future learn course, its only 3x 3hours long. This final week they are discussing adaptations and translations. The first week was the most interesting on the part books play in her novel , and what you can tell about a person’s character from their choice of reading.

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