I have read some lovely books this month. Here they are.
Penelope Byrde- Jane Austen Fashion- Fashion and needlework in the works of Jane Austen- The first five chapters concern fashion at the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th. Lots of coloured pictures taken from fashion magazines of the day, and plenty of references to the novels and letters of Jane Austen. The last chapter concerns needlework and was frankly disappointing in the illustration department. Again references to the novels and letters, but I would have loved pictures of the type of needlework mentioned and where real live examples exist pertaining to Jane Austen I would have liked to have a picture of it, eg the patchwork bedspreads she made with her sister and mother which are in a museum. A very interesting book though which I read from cover to cover, which is a good thing in a reference book.
Nancy Mitford- Love in a Cold Climate- think Downton Abbey meets P.G. Woodhouse, and you have this book in a nutshell. You have to get over bits of racism, the book is of its time, but apart from that it is funny with some quite ridiculous characters. The upper crust Lady Montdore who can’t believe her daughter would seriously throw away “All this” for love, meaning her houses, wealth and status and the fabulous Cedric “one” can only admire his panache, both are rather super creations.
Gail Honeyman- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”- a book of terrible secrets and devastating loneliness. I cried several times in this book. I needed the box of man size tissues. One of my best reads for this year. Jojo Moyes calls it “Funny, touching and unpredictable” It wasn’t unpredictable but I really was willing on a happy ending. Miss O was not completely believable, too many contradictions. A woman who won’t use the communal tea mugs at work but is quite happy to drink out a mug from a charity shop, is supposed to be keen on healthy diets but eats porridge for breakfast with a plum, M&S sandwiches and crisps for lunch and pasta and pesto or spaghetti hoops for tea is not to mind on a healthy diet, but then aren’t we all full of contradictions. Fabulous book, bound to be in my top five this year I think.
Louis de Bernieres- So much life left over. I’ll be honest I did not enjoy this book as much as the first part of the trilogy (part three not published yet). I found an incident in the first few chapters very upsetting and maybe that coloured my view. This book takes Daniel and Rosie to Ceylon, but Rosie is so unhappy she wants to return to England. Daniel loves Ceylon and is heart-broken to leave, and the result is hardly unexpected. The novel focuses on Daniel and how he tries to use the life left over from WW1 in which he thought he would die. There were some fascinating chapters on WW1 that took place in the Middle East. I was amazed at my own ignorance and had to break off reading to do some background reading, where upon I was more appalled by my lack of knowledge. Shall I bother with part three when it is available- maybe.
Marguerite Duras- The Lover- Not certain how I heard about this book , but I do wish I hadn’t. Fortunately it is very short and was not quite bad enough for me to abandon. A semi autobiographical account of a French girl living in Saigon with her mother and two brothers in the 1930s. Her mother is a teacher, dotes on the older brother, and makes poor financial decisions. The brothers both seem hopeless cases. the elder a bully and a layabout. The younger his victim and also a wastrel. The elder brother goes to France at some point and continues his lazy ways and there is the implication he is a collaborator. The younger remains in China and dies under the Japanese rule.The girl aged, 15 embarks on a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old very wealthy Chinese man, who is frightened of the authorities finding out about the under age child and of his father who controls his allowance. The book has no chapters and the paragraphs dot around all over the place and all are told from the girls viewpoint. In all fairness it is the style I disliked rather than the story. It is apparently a film. The blurb on th cover reads” an unforgteable portrayal of the incandescent relationship between the lovers, and of the hate that slowly tears the girl’s family apart”. I do hope it’s wrong and I manage to forget it very soon.
Jennifer Chiaverini- The Quilter’s Apprentice- An elderly lady returns to the family mansion to prepare it for sale. She employs a young couple to help with the grounds and house. Gradually their stories are told set against the background of the older lady teaching the younger how to quilt. A most enjoyable read.
Jessie Burton- The Muse-I had some reservations about her previous book The Miniaturist, but none what so ever about this one. This is a jolly good book. A painting is brought to the attention of an art gallery in London in the 1960s. An exhibition is planned around it but one member of staff has reservations about it, in particular how it came to be in the possession of its owner. For that we go back in time to 1930s Spain ( by coincidence to exactly the area Laurie Lee found himself in at that time- nice to make connections). Gradually the story of how the painting came into being emerges. I really enjoyed this book, and for once was not racing through it to get to the ending. Recommend this one to you.
So that’s it for this month. Have you read anything really good recently? I love everyone’s recommendations.