Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Books- July 2019

After all last months psychological thrillers and Who dun its , time for a change.

Elizabeth Von Arnim- The Enchanted April- written in the 1920s , by a new to me author, from the Penguin modern classics book range. Four women answer an advert  to rent a medieval castle on the Italian Riveria. They make an odd group, but gradually each succombs to the magic of “Wisteria and Sunshine”,  and blossom until they change in unexpected ways. I loved the language and sentence structure of the book. It was a delight, so gentle, so elegant and leisurely. Really enjoyed this book.

Muriel Spark- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- this was a re-read for me, and I can’t decide what I make of it. Miss Jean Brodie lost her sweetheart in the first world war and is now a school teacher, with dubious morals and political leanings. She selects a small group of her pupils to be the creme de la crème. They enjoy special treats- trips to the theatre , afternoon tea, and her approach to education is odd. They do well and pass their exams, but they are only 10 when they come under her wing. She falls in love with a married art teacher and sets about grooming one of the girls to be his lover. Meanwhile she starts an affair with the single music teacher. Certainly complex. Have you read it, what did you think?

Marian Keyes- The Break- I think someone recommended this one to me. It wasn’t what I expected, the plain white cover made me think it would be more challenging. In fact it was the perfect holiday read when we had a few days in  Weymouth. Hugh decides he needs to take a break from his marriage following the deaths of his father and brother, and off he goes on a six month vacation, feeling totally free to make new relationships. His wife Amy is first distraught at his departure, until she realises that she too is therefore on a break. family life for the children falls to bits. And when Hugh comes home,  will they reunite? As I said a good holiday read. The only thing I do wonder is do people really lead lives like this? All the characters seem to have jobs in journalism, PR, media, all are high flying or pretend to be, is that really what the world of work is like?

Jean Rhys-Voyage in the Dark- I had read her Wild Sargasso Sea, which tells the story of the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. I had found that very moving so was keen to read Voyage  in the Dark, which covers similar themes. Anna is the daughter of a white plantation owner and a white creole mother. She has a lovely childhood in the Caribbean, but returns to Edwardian England with her step mother when her father dies. Anna becomes a chorus girl, yearning for her childhood home. She is a friendless innocent, so the inevitable happens. The style is wonderful, simply told, so you feel as if you are living her life. I found it very poignant. Jean Rhys herself came from a similar background, and I am going to try to track down her biography.

Erin Kelly- The ties that bind- just couldn’t keep away from the thrillers!  Really enjoyed this one set in Brighton, covering the shady world of the 1960s, and the long shadow cast over the present day. I first went to Brighton in the 1970s, I recall the Lanes and surrounding streets as being quite hippy like, full of wholefood shops, the original Body Shop and lots and lots of fabric shops and not at all shady.

Denise Mina- Exile- the second book in the Garnethill  trilogy. You really do need to have read the first one, and even then I struggled to pick up the characters and threads , memory not what it was. It was an ok read, too many characters for me to hang onto. Will I read the third, maybe now I have got this far!

Libby Page- The Lido- the perfect book for this last week of July , which in the UK has been hot! The plot is the battle to save a Lido in London which is threatened with closure by the council and being turned into a private tennis court by an upmarket property developer. It has a wonderful feel good factor, which reminded me of Maeve Binchy’s books. There is the love story of Rosemary and George. There is grief and how it is experienced through place. I loved the line “George is in the way the mist sits on the water in the morning.” When you loose someone very dear to you, they are everywhere still. Above all there is the importance of community and identity. I am not sure I buy into parts of London being like villages, it always seems to be full of people pushing and shoving and not caring a d**n about anyone but themselves. But I do agree about the importance of keeping places open and available to the public. Rosemary used to work in a library and regrets not doing more when it was closed. As you know our library was threatened with closure and enough people came forward to keep it open and volunteer there. I am amazed at the number of people who do just come in for a coffee and a chat. The children’s reading scheme has started for the school holidays, we have to sign up at least 300 children. The council closed the local tourist information centre, so now the library volunteers provide their local knowledge instead, We have the only photocopier in town. We give computer lessons, host other events from holocaust remembrance days, to sing songs for the elderly, science days for children, Moorsbag sewing sessions, drumming lessons etc etc.. Biggest cheek of all is that the County Council who wanted to close the library now directs people to the library for help applying for their bus passes. So I am with the characters in this novel , if you value somewhere, use it or lose it.

Ok off my soapbox for now. Have you read  any of these books , what did you think ? Have you read anything good this month? I love the recommendations you all make, four of this month’s books came from your ideas. Thank you.


Comments on: "Books- July 2019" (26)

  1. andreaclairekiwi said:

    The Enchanted April has been a favourite of mine since my sister and I “accidentally” saw the movie (the one we’d gone to see was sold out, so we saw this instead). The movie starred Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence and Alfred Molina, and is simply glorious. It’s also faithful to the book. I have a 1924 edition on my bookshelf and re-read it when I need cheering up!

    • Oh my , fancy having that edition. The film seems to have a strong cast , I can imagine they were good, especially as I seem to recall from the back of the book that Joan Plowright was in it too.

  2. gillyflower said:

    All of these sound ideal for a summer read. Haven’t read any of them, although of course I’ve seen the movie versions of April and Brodie. How do they compare, Cathy (if you’ve seen them, too)? I just finished Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic — while I enjoyed the premise and some parts, I was let down by some bad writing and sloppy editing … killers for me. In my opinion, the movie version was just so much better; they took the best parts of the novel to make a cohesive storyline.

  3. Oh those do sound interesting. I think I’ll add the first one to my TBR

  4. I read and enjoyed the Wild Sargasso Sea, might try Voyage in the Dark, if I can get it in the library. I realise that I see books on your list and think to try them but then forget to make a note of their names. I must do that in future.

    • I hope you can. When I see someone has a post about books I open my library account on line and add likely looking books to my wishlists.

  5. So glad you enjoyed Enchanted April. It’s a favourite of mine. The others are new to me, and not available at our local library. 😣

    • Some of the books are quite old and a library just can’t stock them all.

      • In general, not that many British authors get recognized over here. 😩 If they’ve been extremely good sellers they appear, or if they’ve been done on telly and broadcast over here then. There’s also the fact that this state does not value education, books, learning, etc…

        • Well shame on them! I was surprised on the couple of occasions I was in the states that I didn’t find more bookshops. My favourite was in San Francisco, Pacific Heights I bought White Fang and Call of the Wild, which made me very happy.

          • Such good books, and so nice for you to have found them in SF. Whereabouts did you venture whilst over here? Rest assured, bookshops are less plentiful now than they were when you visited. MOST unfortunate. 😩

  6. A bunch of those sound great, as usual! Thanks for sharing them with us!

  7. I’ve read three books on your list , Enchanted April, Jean Brodie and The Lido. The Lido was definitely my favourite. A perfect summer read and it covers all angles. Love, loss, nostalgia, friendship and community. I barely remember Enchanted April. Was there an annoying man who thought he might be in love with one of the women, then another more beautiful female guest turned up? Jean Brodie was good to read, though I wasn’t sure why she was such a feeder with her teacher boyfriend. I probably missed something subtle there. I usually do! X

    • I agree the Lido was a perfect summer read. So glad I choose to read it in the hot spell. You have remembered Enchanted April quite well. Do we think Miss Brodie’s feeder behaviour was a sex substitute? It is a much odder book than I realised when I read it the first two times.

  8. I love the work of Jean Rhys, and she was a little unknown whilst alive but her writing is lush and has so many layers. I am glad you liked the Lido, you could have had my copy you know xx

    • The Lido was good, and I borrowed it from the library! Good to keep numbers of books going out up, but thank you anyway.
      I read a bit about Jean Rhys afterwards, a colourful life it seems. Apparently she tried to write with words of one syllable to keep her work simple and pure.

  9. I’ve definitely read the first two books here at some point but none of the others.
    I was a regular visitor to Brighton for most of my life before I moved to France and, even now, I try to visit when I come over. I love it but it definitely does have a shady side – you must just not have been looking in the right places 😉
    I was born and grew up in London and vaguely remember a village atmosphere in certain places – in our street all the neighbours knew each other and helped each other out – but it is mostly unrecognisable to me now.
    Anyway, I’m excited because the film of ‘The Little Stranger’ (you remember I recommended the book to you) is on Sky Première this week. I was out last night but recorded it so I’ve got a bottle of wine opened and some chocolate almonds and will immerse myself in it tonight. I’ll let you know what it’s like (if you didn’t catch it at the cinema).

    • I have just looked up The Little Stranger at the library and they have the film version if it’s any good. I hope you enjoyed your film night.
      I am such an innocent, not seeing shady Brighton!

      • I’ll have to let you know another time – you remember how slow paced the book was, well the film is the same and I’d had a glass of wine and it was late….zzzzzzzzzzz

        • You must have needed the sleep.

          • I’ve watched it now – it’s very good. It’s very faithful to the book in storyline, character depiction and atmosphere. I know you enjoyed the book so I think you would like it – just don’t watch it when you’re tired 😴

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