For fun I have started to keep a list of all the books I finish reading with a brief description of each book.
Clare Marchant- The Queen’s Spy. Set in Tudor times and 2021. Tom a deaf mute is the perfect spy to lip read dastardly plots against Queen Elizabeth. Mathilde inherits a manor house in 2021 , which gradually reveals secrets to her past and Tom. Thoroughly enjoyable read.
Toni Morrison- Home- Frank Money, Korean war veteran, returns to the USA , badly traumatised, a drifter until he is summonsed to rescue his sister Cee, and return to their hometown to heal.
Kate Morton- The Lake House- another good read from this author. 1933, a baby goes missing from the Lake House which is subsequently abandoned. 2003 A disgraced detective Sadie Sparrow is given extended leave and stays with her grandfather in Cornwall . She investigates. Most enjoyable.
Sarah Armstrong- The Starlings of Bucharest. Ted Walker, wannabee journalist becomes and international film reviewer with postings to Bucharest and Moscow- an innocent abroad meets the cold war- at times very amusing ( how the spies misinterpret his innocent actions ) and at times menacing – the way he is drawn into things. A good read- maybe in my top Five for this year?
Fredrik Backman- A Man Called Ove- Ove is fifty nine, a grumpy Swede who like things to be done properly. It is a totally wonderful book, a love story which will make you laugh and cry. ‘ Warm, funny and unbearably moving’ Daily Mail. Number one top book this year.
Mary Beard- Women and Power- short account based on her lectures of how women from classical Greece to the present time have denigrated, side lined and silenced by males. Quite
Jenny Blackhurst- Before I let you in. One of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read. Mind games! Surely a candidate for my top reads of this year.
Jenny Blackhurst- How I lost you– disappointing after the last book with the silly idea of an ancient brotherhood for which there is no explanation. Spoilt an otherwise Good thriller.
Willa Cather- O Pioneers!– The pioneers being from various European nations who farmed the prairies. A beautifully written novel, reminded me a little of John Steinbeck, but rather a more rosy account than his.
Emma Curtis- One Little Mistake – Vicky pops out for a while, leaving her baby asleep in his cot, during which time the house is broken into, and she enlists the help of her best friend. Very Good psychological thriller.
Claire Douglas- Then she vanishes- It appears that Heather killed two strangers then went home and shot herself. What has this to do with the disappearnace of her sister Flora, and how can their old friend Jess help. Jolly good mystery story.
JP Delaney- Playing Nice– One of the best psychological thrillers I have read. Stayed up to 1am reading it and then finished it by10am the following day. Miles turns up on Pete’s and Maddie’s doorstep claiming that their son Theo was mis tagged by the hospital, he was swapped therefore for their real son David. What ensues totally gripped me. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Kate Ellis- The Mechanical Devil- more archeology with a murder mystery. Good.
Kate Ellis – A Painted Doom. A well plotted who dun it, with archeology , medieval art and letters thrown in. Plenty of clues but I guessed wrong, thoroughly enjoyable.
Sebastian Faulks- Birdsong- Wonderful book- set in France and England- France s the story of Stephen and Isabelle- 1911-1918, and Elizabeth in the 1970s. WW1 – bravery, cowardice, fear ,friendship, love, life in all its gory details, and a baby. One for my top 100 and maybe one of this years top 5. From the Channel five list.
Stephen Fry -Mythos. Highly enjoyable retelling of the Greek myths.
Elly Griffiths- The Blood Card, a slow paced , damp squib of a book. Disappointing.
John Grisham – The Reckoning. Pete Banning returning war hero shoots dead the local Minister but refuses to say why. Court room scenes, account of his war spent fighting the Japs, what happened next and explanation. A good read.
Robert Harris- The Second Sleep- a First rate what if mystery. You begin thinking you are reading a historical novel, but actually it’s post disaster, and civilization has gone backwards. A Good read but not his best.
Natalie- Haynes- The Children of Jocasta- The Greek myth of Oedipus retold from the perspective of his wife Jocasta and their daughter Ismene. Thoroughly good book.
Susan Hill- The Benefit of Hindsight- Good murder mystery with interesting and engaging back stories.
Susan Hill -Howards End is on the Landing– Ms Hill gives a tour of her bookcases in a year when she determined to read only books she already owned. Lovely mix of personal thoughts, anecdotes, biographical details, likes and dislikes. My tbr list has grown considerably.
Ruth Hogan- The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes– ok
Anthony Horowitz– A murder mystery book within the murder mystery book. Two mysteries to solve. Failed with both. Well plotted and enjoyable.
Christina Hunger- How Stella Learned to talk– Fascinating and amusing account of a speech therapist using techniques used with autistic children to a puppy. Stella has plenty to say.
Kazuo Ishguro- A Pale View of Hills-Etsuko relives her early life in Japan, her first pregnancy and her friendship with Sachiko- too enigmatic for me at the end but I enjoyed the scenes of life in Japan.
Lisa Jewell- The Night She Disappeared– another good read with an ending I defy anyone to guess totally.
Lisa Jewell- Invisible Girl– A good psychological thriller.
Thomas Keneally- The Dickens Boy– Plorn , youngest son of Charles goes to Australia to apply himself. Ok.
D.H.Lawrence- Lady Chatterley’s Lover- enjoyed the historical setting.
John le Carre- The Constant Gardener. Diplomat investigates the murder of his wife in Africa linked to her investigation into a drugs trial for TB, and the cover up of rushed testing.
Jem Lester- Shtum– A dysfunctional couple struggling to care for their autistic son and persuade the Local Authority to place him in their prefered long term care establishment.
Andrea Levy- Small Island – Thoroughly enjoyable story of life in post war England, and the Windrush generation. On my top 100 list.
Marina Lewycka – The Good the Bad and the little bit stupid. Funny but sillraws one into the world after the Brexit referendem. Scams, lottery wins which is really money laundering, lost passwords and a journey to Alabnia.
Sarah Maine- Beyond the Wild River– rather tame and long winded historical romantic mystery novel set in Canada. Less fishing and more pace would have helped. OK.
Thomas Mann- Death in Venice– collection of short stories not really to my taste.
Hilary Mantel- Fludd- Dull
Benjamin Markovits- A Weekend in New York– rather dull
Tom Michell- Penguin Lessons– probably my favourite book of the year. Utterly charming. Tom becomes an assistant school master in Argentina. Over the holidays he travels and thus encounters Juan Salvado, a penguin , covered in oil and barely alive. Tom cleans him up and smuggles him back to school where he becomes rugby team mascot, confidant of the lonely and troubled and much loved by staff and pupils.
Liane Moriarty- Nine Perfect Strangers- nine people go to a health farm/retreat to be ” transformed”- they got more than they bargained for. A real page turner of a book. Loved it.
Liane Moriarty- Big Little Lies– the build up of menace in this book scared me- school bullying and domestic violence- compelling reading and thought provoking- one for my top 100.
Kate Morton-The Secret Keeper- Set in London in WW2 and the present day- a love triangle, and a mystery with a secret kept for over 70 years- not saying anymore for fear of spoiling it. I did see the big twist but not the little ones along the way. A most enjoyable read to start the year with. So glad I have found this author.
Richard Osman- The Thursday Murder Club- cosy muder mystery set in a retirement village- utterly charming and very good.
A J Pearce- Yours Cheerfully. The follow on from Dear Mrs Bird. Utterly charming, realistic look at war work and child care, with a nice romance and Christmas wedding thrown in.
Gervase Phinn- Secrets at the Little Village School– lovely cosy read.
Richard Powers-Bewilderment– not a fan of this, autistic boy and father grieve for mother. New treatment for the boy helps. Thrown in, the environment, astronomy, physics, politics and a sad end.
Laura Purcell-Bone China– ok
Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things– Booker Prize winning novel. Clever but tedious, shame with a bit less cleverness I would have enjoyed it, the storyline was good. Probably too simple so style had to be used to pad it out.
Zadie Smith- White Teeth – set in multi-cultural London- three families- love war, ethics,and a mouse. number 29 in the channel five list, and going on my 100 list.
Joanna Trollope-An Unsuitable Match- 60 something divorcee swept of her feet by American widower- their children are not happy and is all that it seems? Good read.
Yrsa Sigurdardottir= The Legacy- A bit noir for me, but an excellent murder mystery- I didn’t see any of the twists.
Yrsa Sigurdardottir- I Remember You– Disappointing chiller thriller- three people renovating a spooky house start seeing a small boy and shells keep appearing. A psychiatrist grieves for his missing son. Gradually the two strands come together.
Ian Rankin- Knots and Crosses– The first Rebus book, with back story on personal life and army career- ok only.
S J Watson- Before I go to Sleep– Christine has lost memory. Every morning husband Ben has to explain things, until a new doctor gives her a journal to help her remember with terrifying consequences. Good twisty thriller.
Evelyn Waugh- Brideshead Revisited– wish I hadn’t revisited the book.
Tennessee Williams- A Streetcar named Desire– A re-read of this play, still powerful, Blanche a Southern Belle fallen on hard times visits her sister Stella, her fragile mental health unravels with the company of Stella’s uncouth husband.
Laura Ingalls Wilder- Little House in the Big Woods– totally charming children’s story of a self-sufficient family living in a log cabin. Relying on what they farmed and hunted. So many skills, especially impressed with hat making.
Total for 2021-54
In 2020 I have decided to read books from as many countries in Europe as I could.
European Authors ( excluding the United Kingdom)
Dostoevsky- Russian- Crime and Punishment- very hard going.
Edith Eger- Hungarian- The Choice- Surviving the halocaust, coming to terms with what happened and choosing to be free from the past and live life to the full. A truly wonderful book, which made it into my top 100- the first this year.
Henning Mankell- After the fire- my Swedish writer- themes of old age, loss of friends, career, health, home, but new life and birth.
Louise Phillips- The Doll’s House–Ireland- satisfyng murder mystery story, very well plotted.
Peter Hoeg- Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow- Isaac fall from a roof to his death- Smilla can tell by his footprints in the snow that it was no accident, he had been chased, but why and by whom? First part a delight becauuse of the humour- second part set on a ship was one fight after another and rather dull.
Tove Jansson- Sculptor’s Daughter-Finland- depictions told through short stories based on the authors childhood in a bohemain household with a sculptor father and artist mother. Didn’t warm to the format.
M J Arlidge- The Doll’s House- pretty good who dun it- young woman kidnapped and held in a cellar, body of another woman found buried in a beach- race against time to find the baddie.
Fiona Barton- The child- a baby is found buried on building society. DNA test links the baby to a missing baby stolen for a hospital in the 70s, is this closure for a grief stricken woman. Why does another woman think the baby is hers, and how does a journalist help reveal the truth. Jolly good crime thriller.
Dan Brown- Origin- Set in Spain, the usual mix of religion, symbols, chases through churches and museums with Artificial Intelligence thrown in. Good escapism during the first week in Lock Down.
A S Byatt- Possession- winner of the a Booker prize- part love story, part thriller- two young researchers stumble across draft letters from a Victorian married poet at the start of a love affair with a lesbian/ feminist poet- The acadamic world will be amazed- books will have to be re-written- fortunes to be made if more can be unearthed. Good book but I skipped the poems and the boring bits in the letters.
Tania Carver- The Doll’s House- well constructed who dun it, but too gruesome for real enjoyment.
Ann Cleeves- Red Bones- From her Shetland series- another good yarn
Ann Cleeves- Blue Lightning- another from the Shetland series- Fair isle, bird watching and murder- an enjoyable murder mystery.
Bridget Collins- The Binding- Book binding but not as we know it- Memories are wiped and bound into a book by the binder. A story of love and passion set I think in the 1800s.
Claire Douglas- Last Seen Alive- very good psychological thriller. Saw all but one of the twists but very enjoyable.
Claire Douglas- Local Girl Missing- another good one, lots of possible villains- most enjoyable.
Claire Douglas- Do Not Disturb- set in Wales- possibly Llangattock from the references- another good read.
Ken Follett- The Pillars of the Earth- 1000 pages of a good but not excellent read- monks, strife, cathedral building, love, war etc
John Fowles- The Collector- good psychological thriller, Fred collects butterflies, and lacks social skills to make friends, so when he wins the pools he buys a house, coverts the cellar and collects the girl – Miranda-of his dreams, but she doesn’t like being collected and keeps trying to escape. First part and ending written by Fred, middle section the same ground from Miranda’s perspective. May make my top five this year.
Neil Gaiman- Coraline- faintly disturbing scary book for teenagers. Not my cup of tea.
Lorna Gray- In the shadow of Winter- slow paced romantic thriller set in the harsh winter of 1947 somewhere in the Cotswolds. Harmless enough.
Rebecca Griffiths- The Primrose Path- Set mostly in Wales- Sarah starts a new life there when her kidnapper is due for release from prison- lots of twists- most I didn’t see, including the big one. Jolly good read.
Sarah J Harris- The Colour of Bee Markham’s Murder- a who dun it with a twist as the only witness is Jasper who can’t recognise faces except by the colours he sees. Well writte and plotted with humour that stays the right side of laughing with and not the condition. Top five contender.
Terry Hayes- I am Pilgrim- Political thriller- agent hunts terrorist who plots to unleash new strain of small pox on America- well crafted and lots of back story- enjoyable read despite a couple of rather gruesome scenes which I just skim read.
Ernest Hemingway- The Old Man and the Sea- man v fish. Simply told but very powerful in the relationship between fisherman, sea and fish.
Thomas Hughes- Tom Brown’s Schooldays set in Uffington and Rugby.
Sofie Laguna- The Eye of the sheep- Jimmy Flick, a boy with special needs who is both too fast and too slow, and sees the world in a different way. ( I may have read too many books now where the main character is a child who sees the world differently) . Jimmy’s Mum Paula is the only who can cope- the older brother runs off to sea and Dad is a drinker and wife beater- the strain of having Jimmy- then Paula dies and Jimmy has to find a way to survive a foster home , and find his family. Weepy at the end.
Elizabeth MacNeal- The Doll Factory- A doll maker Iris gets the chance of lifetime when she becomes the model and pupil for the PRB artist Louis Frost. Silas a taxidermist becomes obsessed with her with dangerous consequences. Top notch book, well written and lots of detail about Victorian London, and the Great Exhibition.
Peter May- I’ll Keep you safe- Scotland, Paris and New York are the settings for this most satisfactory murder mystery- young couple, weaving business, explosion kills husband, who did it and why- solution unolds through back stories and good detective work from a French police woman.
Margaret Mitchell- Gone with the Wind- American civil war, and love story- dated stereotyped minor characters, but larger than life main characters- Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley and Melanie Wilkes. Thoroughly enjoyable.
John Mortimer- Summer’s Lease- Set in Tuscany- Molly takes her family to stay in a villa- husband, three daughters and her rake of a father Haverford Downs. Pure escapism and I loved it.
Kate Morton- The Clockmaker’s Daughter- LOVED this book. The story of a house told through the people who lived in it- an artist’s model and muse, a schoolgirl, a recovering veteran, the artist’s sister, a grieving widow and her youngest son, a treasure seeker and an archivist. Really enjoyable and set locally. Top five contender.
Kate Morton- The House at Riverton- Grace a former housemaid, now retired archeologist, tells the story of the family that lived at Riverton from the first world war to the tragedy of a poet’s death by the lake in the 1920s. A wonderfully enjoyable read, that has made my top 100 list for its evoction of the period.
Stephen Palmer- The Conscienticous Objector- Steam punk novel set in WW1- not really my cup of tea!
A J Pearce- Dear Mrs Bird- set in WW2, Emmeline types answers to letters to the agony aunt of the Women’s Friend, until she takes on replying herself to all the letters deemed Unsuitable and containing UNPLEASANTNESS. Lovely book.
C.J. Sansom- Tombland- A good read- latest in the Shardlake series set during the peasant revolt in Norwich with a murder to solve for good measure. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Graeme Simision- The Rosie Project-A wonderful book- maybe one of my top 5 for this year. Prof Don Tillman devises a questionnaire to help him find the perfect wife for him. Funny and a great love story.
D E Stevenson- Vittoria Cottage- A gentle love stroy set in 1949, in an English village- delicious.
Beth Underdown- The Witch Finder’s Sister- The imagined life of Alice Hopkins- sister to the notorious Matthew Hopkins- witch finder in Essex in the 1640s. Full of growing menace and horror- well plotted and written, may make my top 5 this year.
Tennessee Williams- The Glass Menagerie- set in St Louis, a play about limited opportunities.
Adele Brand- The Hidden World of the Fox- everything you could wish to know about foxes. A little dull.
Keith Clark- The Muse Colony- Summer 1914 and a group of poets and their families rent homes in the village of Dymock where they walk, talk and write poetry- Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Robert Frost amongst their number.
Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic- Encouragement to create come what may- just what I need this year whilst making the stitchbook.
Robert Macfarlane- The Old Ways- walks along old footpaths and sailing on old sea lanes- a bit dull.
Lucy Mangan- Bookworm , A memoir of Childhood Reading– exactly that, highly enjoyable.
Clover Stroud- The Wild Other- 16 year old Clover goes off the rails big time when her Mum is disabled in a riding accident and her childhood comes to an abrupt end. A lot of horses and time with Gypsies in Ireland, cowboys in Texas and dangerous men in the Caucasus Mountains, before settling to life in Wiltshire. Bit of a struggle to get through this, too many horses and I found it impossible to relate to her.
Benjamin Hoff- The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet- Taoism explained through Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Understood most of it but loved the reminder of the Pooh books and the lovely illustrations.
Margaret Atwood- The Testaments- A good read. Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, but lacked its visionary power and impact.
Pat Barker- The Ghost Road-last book in a trilogy about WW1. This covers 1918 , the fictional character Billy Prior and the real life army psychiatrist William Rivers. Broke off to find out more about Rivers. Well written, not sure I want to read the first two books now. Won the 1995 Booker Prize.
Agatha Christie- Endless Night- The Queen of crime does not disappoint with this thriller of a young man who dreams of a wonderful house which is built by his wealthy new wife.
Lucy Clarke-You Let Me in- psychological thriller, well crafted and written. Author rents out house and regrets it as mysterious things happen and her life unravels. Saw some twists but not all- a real page turner.
Ann Cleeves- White Nights- second book with jimmy Perez. Most enjoyable, good old fashioned who dun it.
Tracy Chevalier- Remarkable Creatures- based on the true story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, fossil hunters and extremely knowledgeable women set in 1800’s Lyme Regis, and a reminder of how inferior women were regarded at that tm and their limited life opportunities. Onto my top 100 list, and a good read.
Tracy Chevalier- Violet Speedwell, fiancee killed in WW1, leaves home for Winchester, falls in love with married bell ringer and does some embroidery. OK
Joanna Cannon- The Trouble with Goats and Sheep- lovely, lovely book, especially the use of language. The long hot summer of 1976, two girls looking for God and Mrs Creasy and secrets behind every door- how do you sort the goats from the sheep?
Jonathan Coe- Middle England- or why the nation voted for Brexit. Good read, but would have loved more on why the h**l anyone voted remain.
Rowan Coleman- The Girl in the Window- Cracking good book. Trudy and her son Will go home to Ponden Hall when her husband Abe is missing in the jungle. She finds papers hidden about the house written by Agnes – 17th century and Emily Bronte, who it appears wrote a second novel based on Agnes’s story.
Alys Conran- Dignity- Set mostly in 1930s- 1940s India, looking at the dull lives of women in the Raj, the treatment of Indian servants and staff, the effect on children. Told through three women, a wife, a daughter in her 80s looking back at her childhood, and the Indian girl now one of her carers in fictitious Bay Mouth. Very good indeed.
Kate Ellis- Walking by Night- a who dun it, set in York and centred around the theatre, ghosts and the Abbey. Most enjoyable.
Kate Ellis- Watching the Ghosts- as above, and most enjoyable.
A.J.Finn- The Woman in the window- first rate thriller. Housebound through ill health woman witnesses a murder. No-one believes her, so she has to do her own detective work. Saw some of the twists but not the big one.
Anita Frank- The Lost ones- A proper ghost story, set in 1917 in a house haunted by lost children. Loved it.
Anne Griffin- When All is Said- Maurice Hannigan tells his story through five toasts to five people who were significant to him. His beloved hero of an older brother, Tony, his still born daughter Molly, His sister in law who has mental ill-health, his son Kevin and his wife Sadie. An enjoyable read.
Stacey Halls- The Familiars- loosely based on real people and the Pendle Witch trials, Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her midwife Anne Grey struggle to keep her unborn baby safe from miscarriage, as they get embroiled in witch mania. A good read.
Chris Hammer- Scrublands- excellent thriller set in Australia, best description of prolonged heat that I have read.
Jane Harper- The Dry- An Australian background to this thriller set during a two year long drought. Who killed the Hadler family and what is the link to the suicide/murder of a teenage girl many years ago. A real page turner and I liked the descriptions of a run down town dying as the farms fail.
Patricia Hill- Carol-Written in the 1950’s, love story of Carol and Therese- ok.
Susan Hill- The Beacon- A short novel. May moves home to live with her parents on an isolated farm- The Beacon. Her brother Frank writes a book describing a completely fictitious account of their and their brother and sisters childhood , which leads to the whole family being shun. I am reminded of the book a child called it. The only thing I don’t understand is why the others didn’t sue him for libel. A good book and a sad tale.
Ruth Hogan- The Keeper of lost things- feel good book which I really needed in January. Anthony looses something of great personal value, so to make amends he saves everything he subsequently finds. On his death Laura is tasked to reunite these things with their owner. A good read.
Ruth Hogan- Queenie Malone’s Paradise hotel-utterly charming and wonderful. Told through one narrator, Tilly (age7) (Tilda adult). Her Daddy leaves home when she is 6, her mother tells her he died, but that was to protect Tilly as was the decision to send her to a loathed boarding school and away from home at the hotel. A wonderful story nicely told.
Eva Ibbotson- The Secret of Platform 13- read for book bingo, a nice children’s book with magic and entrance to a secret island via platform thirteen, and a missing child and a loathsome family. Pre dates Harry Potter by three year.s
Peter James- You are dead- a who done it set in Brighton. The end is gruesome, and the perpetrator very weird. Well crafted and I shall look out for more by him.
Lisa Jewell- Watching You- excellent well plotted thriller. Joey becomes obsessed with her neighbour Tom, head of a local school. She starts to stalk him. Meantime is son is watching her and the village from his bedroom and recording their every move. Layer upon layer. I shall be reading more by her.
Lisa Jewell- The Family Upstairs- brilliant. The well ordered life of a wealthy family disintegrates when the charismatic David moves in with his family, luxuries go out of the window and a cult is born.
Adam Kay- This is going to hurt – happy, sad, alarming, sometimes funny- an account of life as junior doctor.
Erin Kelly- The Burning Air- an excellent thriller. Family goes to their holiday home in Devon. Son’s new girlfriend offers to babysit so family can go out. On return she and baby missing. A tale of delusion and revenge.
Erin Kelly- The ties that bind- set in the present day but reaching back to events in the shady world of the 1960s- think Brighton rock- a good read.
Marian Keyes- The Break- Hugh takes a 6 month holiday from his marriage, Amy upset embarks on an affair. Will they manage to get back together. Good holiday read.
Julie Kibler- Calling me home- An elderly white lady asks her black hairdresser to drive her a long way to a funeral. As they travel the lady tells the story of her love for a black man in the 1930s. As they go the hairdresser tries to deal long distance with the woes of her family wit the help of her boyfriend who she is gradually learning to trust. I spent a lot of time being fearful and with good reason as to the fate of the 1930s couple. A good read but disturbing.
Danya Kukafka- Girl in Snow the who in the who dun it, revealed slowly through three narrators. Well constructed.
David Lagercrantz- The Girl who lived twice- the girl with the dragon tattoo and a mysterious death of a sherpa which leads us to deaths on Everest.
Natasha Lester- The Paris Seamstress- set in Paris and New York, in 1940s and present day. Romance and fashion. Nice bit of escapism.
Clare Mackintosh- I Let You Go- first rate physcological thriller, even if I did spot the first twist, more followed. A top notch read. Set in Bristol and Wales, a car accident which kills a little boy- where did the hit and run driver go?
Sally Magnusson- The Sealwoman’s Gift- Olafur and Asta, three of their children and 395 other Icelanders are taken by pirates in 1627 and sold into slavery in Algiers. Heartbreaking and very very good indeed. Into my top 100.
John Marrs- When you disappeared- good thriller. Simon disappears one morning. Wife Catherine and children are devastated. 25 years later he returns home. Simon and Catherine relate what happened.
Ian McEwan-Amsterdam- A study in heartlessness- one a jouranlist who stoops to the gutter, the other his friend a composer, they meet in Amsterdam after the events, and both have their come uppance.
Alex Michaelides- The Silent Patient- Alicia killed her husband Gabriel and now resides in hospital where she remains silent. Theo applies to work in the hospital so he can be her psychotherapist, ostensibly because he thinks there is a book in getting her to talk. Shades of an Agatha Christie plot, but a very good thriller.
Danny Miller- Kiss Me Quick- mentioned on the back pages of the Erin Kelly book, The Ties that Bind., as background reading. Set in 60’s Brighton, the shady world of dodgy antiques, prostitutes, pimps, nightclubs, race fixing, theft, fencing and drugs. Nit for the faint hearted but a well crafted thriller. Can’t help wondering if he plans a sequel, since top villain and number one cop survive.
Madeline Miller- Circe- Circe is a witch and a goddess, lover of Odyssieus. The greek myths retold through the experiences of a strong independent woman. Very good.
Denise Mina-Garnethill- disappointing who dun it set in Glasgow
Denise Mina- Exile- follow on from the above, not quite certain why I bothered.
Heather Morris- The Tattooist of Auschwitz- the real story of Lale Sokolov and how he survived Auschwitz, marrying the young woman whose arm he tattooed. Well written and very moving. Onto the top 100.
Jojo Moyes-Me before you- a love story between a disabled man and his new carer- needed tissues. Top notch read.
Jojo Moyes- After you- the sequel to me before you. themes of grief and moving on. Funny in parts but some teary moments too. Even better a read.
Jojo Moyes- Still Me- final part of the trilogy- bit fluffy, but a happy ending.
Libby Page- The Lido- Battle to save a swimming pool in London from closure. Lovely feel good book.
Adele Parks- Lies lies lies- alcoholic husband becomes convinced his daughter is not his. On the way home from a party a life changing incident unfurls their lives based on lies.
Phaedra Patrick- The Library of Lost and Found- a cosy feel good read . Martha , a library volunteer, is given a book with a note inside that its for her from her Nana, only its dated three years after her Nan died. Family secrets and lies are unearthed. The writing style is pretty dire, but its a nice read.
Jodi Picoult- Sing you home- very good book, well plotted, lots of information in a very readable form. Same sex couples, infertility and court room scene for the frozen embryos, and a happy ending.
Jodi Picoult – The Pact- teenage suicide pact, which leaves Chris, one of the teenagers facing prison for murder. Excellent plot and well written.
Jean Rhys- Voyage in the dark- Anna spent an idyllic childhood in the Caribbean where her father had an estate. He dies she comes back to Edwardian England, becomes a chorus girl, descends to prostitution and drink, before becoming pregnant and having a back street abortion. Simply told and very sad.
Sally Rooney- Normal People- winner of the Man Booker prize 2018- friends with benefits and two not very nice people.
Betty Smith- A Tree Growsin Brooklyn- 1914-1917, Brooklyn, the story of the Nolan family living in extreme poverty. Johnie the father, a singing waiter and alcoholic, usually out of work. Katie the mother, a cleaner, who provides the money and struggles to produce meals, Francie and Neeley the children.Themes of pverty, love, education and hope. Semi auto-biographical and so full of great detail. Brilliant novel.
Muriel Spark- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- a re-read for me, and not at all certain what I think.
Neil Spring- The Lost Village- Imber of the Salisbury Plain , villagers forced out for army training. Murder, ghosts and general skull duggery. A good read.
Neil Spring- The Ghost Hunters- Harry Price investigates the most haunted house in England- Borley Rectory. He makes his money by debunking frauds, but turns out he was the biggest fraud of all! Very evoctaive writing. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Donna Tartt -The Secret History- Lovely depecition of a world of erudite students in a New England college, till they take their ancient greek studies to far to tragic consequences and the gradual collapse of that world. Very good
Amor Towels- A Gentleman in Moscow- Count Rostov is put under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol. Free to mingle with staff and guests, he does, eventually becoming an employee and unofficially adopting a daughter. Just wonderful.
Rose Tremain- The Colour- really enjoyed this, taking my time. New Zealand, family emigrates from Norfolk, tries farming, follows a gold rush, love and lust in the mountains. Highly recommended.
Stuart Turton- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- Cluedo meets Groundhog Day. Enjoyable but very complicated to follow.
Elizabeth Von Armin- The Enchanted April- Love in the 1920s, set in Itally and an idyllic castle and gardens. Four women find love and companionship, but not what they expected.
Louise Voss- an ok thriller, no real surpises. Old punk rock /goth singer is kidnapped, hides for 30 years and then her friends get bumped off. Who has she upset so much?
Camilla Way- Watching Edie- Heather makes Edie welcome in a new school, but Edie does not repay the kindness. She falls in with Connor a thoroughly unpleasant older youth. The friendship ends in tragedy. The story is interspersed with the present day when Heather reappears in Edie’s life when Edie has a baby but suffers from post natal depression. Edie is frightened of Heather but needs her help, why has Heather come, what does she want. A good but unsettling psychological thriller.
P G Wodehouse The Little Nugget-set in a school, spoilt rich american boy , subject of three would be kidnappers. Chosen for book bingo and a welcome change from my usual reading matter.
Markus Zusak- The Book Thief- really very good indeed. Liesel is taken to live with foster parents in Munich by her mother when he Dad is arrested for being a communist. She comes to love her new Mama and Papa especially her Papa, and the little boy next door, Rudy who becomes her best friend. Max the son of a Jewish friend of Papa’s is sheltered in the basement. Liesel finds and sometimes steals books and her Papa and Max teach her to read. An interesting perspective on the second world war from the viewpoint of those who did not wave the flag for Hitler. Going to be hard to beat this one in 2019. Going on my top 100 list.
Markus Zusak- Bridge of Clay- what a disappointment. Over long and full of muddly story telling. It contains a lovely love story, so shame it was swamped by the author’s style.
Nella Last’s War- or Housewife 49, as Victoria Wood called her TV drama based on the diaires. Brilliant.
Susan Orlean- The Library Book- Central library, Los Angeles- history, human stories from staff and library users and the mystery of the fire, and subsequent conservation of fire/water damaged books. I was riveted, a great read.
Mary Prince- The History of Mary Prince- The story of a slave in the 1830s in her own words- a harrowing book of mans inhumanity to man. Gone on the Top 100 list, lest we forget.
Peter Toohey- Boredom, a lively history- Looking at the psychology of boredom and how it is portrayed in art and literature. Read as pasrt of my research into Boredom for my U3A psychology group.
Susannah Walker- The Life of Stuff- Ms Walker dealing with the death of her mother and the hoard of stuff she left in a damp rodent infested house. Fascinating.
Maya Angelou- Gather together in my name- the second book in her autobiography, in which she looks after her baby, is a waitress, falls in love, nearly joins the army, runs a brothel, manages a cafe, turns to drugs, becomes a prostitute and her son is kidnapped all before she is 20. Takes some doing. A good read.
Margaret Atwood- The Handmaid’s Tale- Alarming story written in 1985 about a future that could happen. Men become infertile due to nuclear accidents, chemicals etc. new moral order comes into being, post revolution against supposed radical Islamic threats. Fertile women brainwashed and live in households to be serviced by powerful men whose wives are barren. Wives are blamed for lack of children. Women denied books, education, money freedom . A thought provoking book and one which has to make my top 100.
Jo Baker- The Picture Book– four generations, William, a first world war sailor, Billy his son a keen amateur cyclist who was at Normandy, his son Will, an Oxford fellow with walking difficulties who spent time in a children’s hospital and his daughter Billie an artist in London. A jolly good read that started the year.
Lynn Reid Banks- Uprooted. The true story of the time the author spent in Canada as an evacuee from WW2. Written as if by a child aged 9. Very convincing use of language.
Juilan Barnes- The Sense of an Ending- themes of life, love, self-delusion, history, can people shape their own lives or do they just go with the flow of whatever comes their way. A good read.
Melvyn Bragg- The Soldier’s Return-Sam Richardson returns from WW2 to find that he feels hemmed in by the small town Wigton in Cumbria, that he can’t talk to his wife about the horrors he witnessed in Burma, his son is frightened of him and is a rival he feels for his wife’s affections, his job was given to someone returning from Germany, and the celebrations on Victory day have long since gone. The descriptions of the town and countryside are good, as is the feeling of a narrow existence. I loved the description of the town carnival, the potato harvest and the gathering of rose hips. Sam has to decide between going to Australia for a new start or remaining at home with his wife who feels safe in Wigton and doesn’t wish to live anywhere else. A good evocation of post war Britain and a good read.
Christopher Brookmyre- Quite Ugly One Morning- gruesome crime novel set in Edinburgh. Lots of humour, reminded me of Lock Stock. Laugh out loud in places, but not sure I want to read another.
Jessie Burton- The Muse– set in London and Spain. In London in the 1960s, a new painting by a renouned artist is brought to a gallery. Who painted it really- the answer lies in Spain in the 1930s. A good read, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Joanna Cannon- Three Things about Elsie- Florence is forgetful, just as well she has Elsie and Jack to help her with the mystery of a new resident in their extra care home whom Florence thinks she recognises from her past, but he is supposed to be dead and she is very frightened of him. A very good read. Set partly in Whitby.
Tracy Chevalier- Falling Angels- the suffragette movement, a cemetery, two families, sex and death, multiple narrators. An enjoyable read.
Tracy Chevalier- New Boy- Set in 1970’s Washigton DC junior school, a retelling of the Othello. Trouble was I knew it wouldn’t end well and it didn’t. OK.
Jennifer Chiaverini- The Quilter’s Apprentice- An elderly lady returns to the family pile to prepare it for sale. She employs a young couple to help. During the course of the work she gradually reveals her history and teaches the young woman how to quilt. Quite enjoyable.
Kate Chopin- The Awakening- supposed feminist novel from the 1890s. Edna falls for Robert whilst on holiday on the Grand Isle. She is married with two children. On return home the children go to stay with grandparents and husband goes to New York. Robert is now in Mexico. Edna starts to paint, then moves out of the family home, and husband does some building alterations to account for her behavior. Robert returns, they realise they are attracted. Robert goes away. Edna drowns herself. Disappointing.
Ann Cleeves- The Seagull- The latest Vera book and very good indeed.
Joseph Conrad- The Secret Agent- set in 1906, we have the first spy thriller. Russian agents, secret plots, Russian agents, bombs, terrorism, politics and the drama of a family and marriage disintigrating.
Louis de Bernieres- The Dust that falls from dreams- book one of a triology taking us through WW1. Themes of love, loss, death, marriage, the after life, religion, sexuality. A good read.
Louis de Bernieres- So much life left over- book two, not as enjoyable , with a distressing still birth in the opening chapters. Interesting chapter on WW1 in the Middle East.
Rod Duncan- The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter- alternative steampunk novel- a private detective who doubles as her brother- enjoyable.
Marguerite Duras- The Lover- I disliked the style enormously.
David Ebershoff- The 19th wife- story in two parts about two 19th wives. The first Ann Eliza Young who helped end polygamony within the Mormon religion, and a modern 19th wife accused of the murder of her husband who is part of a break away sect the Firsts, and her son’s search for the truth. A very good read.
Anne Enright- The Green Road- Four adult children return to their Irish home when their Mother announces she is selling up. I didn’t like any of the characters, and didn’t care what happened to them. The writing is good but the ending just stops. Disappointing. Reminded of Anne Tyler.
Sebastian Faulks- Where my heart used to beat- a good read. Both world wars, a love story, mental ill-health, a mystery, and a most satisfactory ending. Loved it.
Natalie Fergie- The Sewing Machine- a very nice book- one sewing machine, two families, three secrets and four generations. Thoroughly enjoyable and a nice ending.
Jane Gardam- Last Friends- Bit disappointing, third book in the trilogy of Old Filth.
Jane Gardam- The Man in the Wooden Hat- middle book of the trilogy and even more disappointing. Fascinating back story hinted at, childhood in Japanese internment camp and a job at Bletchley Park but skimmed over.
Tess Gerritsen- Playing with Fire- classical music, Venice, a problem daughter, the holocaust. A good read.
Sara Gruen- Water for Elephants- 1930s America, a circus, memories and a love story. A good read.
Mark Haddon- The Pier Falls- an unusual and very imaginative collection of short stories, some a little on the odd side.
Kate Hamer- The Girl in the Red Coat- totally gripping. Mother looses daughter at a story telling festival. Daughter is kidnapped by a man saying he is her grandfather and her mother is in hospital. He and his partner take her to America where she displays healing powers. The family lives in a truck and travel from town to town. Happy ending. Good read.
Paula Hawkins- Into the Water- witches, troublesome women, the drowning pool, misunderstandings and family rifts. A jolly good read from the author of The Girl on Train.
Gail Honeyman- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine- secrets and loneliness. I neede a big box of tisuues. One for the top five this year.
Patricia Highsmith- Edith’s Diary- when life lets her down Edith uses her diary to construct a happier life, until her ex husband seeks the help of a psychiatrist for her. A good read.
Susan Hill- The Travelling Bag- a very good volume of five ghostly short stories. Loved it. Very good indeed.
Nick Hornby- Funny Girl- Miss Blackpool gives up title immediately and goes to London, where she becomes a successful actress in a sitcom. But it’s the 1960s, and how long can the rather old-fashioned series continue. In places laugh out loud funny.
Susanna Kearsley- Mariana- a fun read, romance and reincarnation. Not my usual type of book , but I really enjoyed it.
Hari Kunzru- White Tears- the Blues and a ghost story. Top notch book, the best this year, so far (August)
Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland- set in Calcutta and Rhode island. Family relationships and politics, a sad story but very well crafted.
Laurie Lee- Cider with Rosie- A re- read of this book, my choice for 30 days Wild in June. A simply wonderful account of childhood in the 1920s of village life in Cold Slad, Gloucestershire. Funny stories and beautiful discriptionsoof the countryside. Love it. In my top 100 books.
Laurie Lee- As I walked out one midsummer morning- The end book in the autobiography Red Sky at Sunset. Laurie Lee walks to London, finding it not really to his taste he goes to Spain, walks across the Sierras to Malaga, where he befriends farmers and fishermen and starts to be involved in the civil war. Rescued by a British destroyer and taken home, he is soon regretting leaving Spain and heads back. Another beautifully written book, which portrays th poverty in Spain which led to war. A good read.
Laurie Lee- A Moment of War- his third book in his autobiography Red Sky at Sunrise. An account of one man’s war in the civil war in Spain. A little dull unless you like such books.
Ian McEwan- The Comfort of Strangers- or adults should think stranger danger too. Couple on holiday in Venice befriended by a an ex pat couple with murder on their minds. Not a nice ending, but a strangely compelling read.
Benjamin Markovits-You don’t have to live like this- Detroit, ambitious housing regeneration project, goes hopelessly pear shape along racial divides. Good book, but a lot of characters to keep track of.
Nancy Mitford- Love in a Cold Climate- PG Woodhouse meeets Downtown Abbey- very funny in places owing to the ridicuolous characters. Lady Montdore who has “all this” and Cedric who revitalises her after her daughter marries her Uncle.
Erin Morgenstern- The Night Circus- magic, love and a deadly competition. Enjoyable but a little over long.
Toni Morrison- God Help the Child- the stories of people hurt very badly in childhood, by emotional abuse, bereavement, physical and sexual abuse, and how they strived and succeeded in part to be come whole again as adults. Distressing in places, but well written.
Kate Mosse- The Burning Chambers- Set in Carcassonne and Touloise, in the 1500s during the religious strife between Catholics and Protestants. The plot is based on a missing girl and an inheritance and a wicked woman looking for her. There is love, murder, battles, kidnapping and lots of skullduggery. A good read.
David Nicholls- One Day. Two people, twenty years, but one day. The love story of two graduates from Edinburgh university which develops oh so slowly over the time period. We catch up with them annually on St Swithins day. Predictable ending, but well handled.
Ruth Rendell- Dark Corners- her last novel. OK. Do not sell medicine to others, it can only end in blackmail, poverty, murder, alcohol, and prison.
Michael Robotham- The Other Wife- A secret wife, another life and a killer who knows. very good thriller.
Michael Robotham- The Secrets she Keeps- Agatha is desperate for a baby and will do anything to have one. Meg has the Life that Agatha craves, but how can she emulate it. Jolly good thriller.
Colm Toibin- The story of the Night- Richard Carey is the son of an English mother and Argentinian father and lives in Argentine during the Falklands war. The first part of the book is political, the disappearances and the war, it moves to Spain and we meet some Chilean exiles. On return he becomes involved with American diplomats and finds love with the brother Pablo of his pupil Jorge. Almost like a book in two halves. More political and development of the thriller would have been more to my taste and less about Aids.
Joanna Trollope- Second Honeymoon- Empty nest syndrome, Ibsen’s Ghost, adult children returning to the family home, problems of six adults under one roof, all resolved through new relationships, new babies, new jobs. A cosy read.
Joanna Trollope- City of Friends- 4 women with London city type jobs who met at college, working through the trials of every day life, redundancy, aging parents, single parenthood, work/life balance, relationships break ups, teenagers.etc. An enjoyable read.
Sarah Waters- The Little Stranger- a lovely leisurely pace, set in Hundreds hall and its own poltergeist. This may make the top five this year.
Camilla Way- The Lies we told- psychological thriller- a perfect family is not so perfect! A deeply disturbed girl becomes and avenging woman on those that she feels have wronged her. A darned good read.
Penelope Byrde- Jane Austin Fashion- fashion and needlework in the novels, letters and diaries of Jane Austin. Most interesting.
David Hanson- Children of The Mill– the real stories of the children from Quarry Bank, Styall compared to the dramatised version which were included in the TV programme The Mill. A most interesting yet easy read.
Marghanita Laski- Jane Austen and her World.- Jolly good biography and lots of relevant pictures.
Byron Rogers- J.L.Carr- a too brief look at the life and times of the author who wrote A Month in the Country.
Edward Royle- A Church Scandal in Victorian Pickering-Fascinating local history. Loved it. There’s a film in it I am sure.
Kim Wilson- In the Garden with Jane Austin- the gardens that inspired Jane Austin, how gardens feature in her novels, the gardens open to the public that she knew or were used in TV and film adaptations and how to create your own Jane Austin garden. Lovely pictures and very readable.
In 2016 I challenged myself to read through the alphabet starting with an author whose name began with a, then b, then c and so on. All books came via the library. I completed this in January 2017. Books are marked with a *
So onto my next challenge. This from my 17 for 2017 set of goals for my year. This time to read 15 books from ones I already have at home with a view of passing them onto to someone else afterwards. I am numbering them as I go.
August 2017- I have a compied a list of my favourite authors and those who have been recommended to me, I reckon it will take about 3 years to read at least one book by each author. Let’s see! Please see the page 107 Authors.
Kate Atkinson- A God in Ruins- what happened to Teddy Todd from Life after Life during and after the second world war in which he served as an RAF officer. Bit too long for me, and the supposed twist wasn’t.
Jo Baker- A Country Road, A Tree- A fictional account of Samuel Beckett’s war time experience in France as a writer and member of the resitance which provided the inspiration for Waiting for Godot. A difficult read but glad I made the effort.
Linwood Barclay- Broken Promise- first in a trilogy of thrillers, a good read and a new author for me recommended by a blogger. Returning home a journalist investigates the mystery surrounding the angel who gave his cousin a baby!
M C Beaton- Death of a Policeman- A Hamish Macbeth novel. I enjoyed the TV series but was a little diappointed with this book.
Samuel Beckett- Waiting for Godot- a play in which nothing happens whilst waiting for Godot. Love it still.
12 Alan Bennett- The Lady in the Van- extracts from his diary regarding Miss Shepheard who parked her camper van in his garden and lived there for nearly 20 years. Now a film with Maggie Smith.
John Boyne- A History of Loneliness- Irish catholic church, the abuse of power and the dangers of submission and wilful delusion. Excellent, one of the best books this year, and going on the top 100 list.
Graeme Macrae Burnet- His Bloody Project- told through the medium of papers “Found” whilst doing some family history research, this story set in the 19th century about a crime committed in a Scottish crofting community, is a jolly good read.
Jessie Burton- The Miniaturist- 17th century Amsterdam. New wife, older rich husband, unusual household, a sister who reminds eme of Mrs Danvers, a black man servant beloved by the rich man, a cheeky female servant from an orphanage. Yung wife given by her husband a miniature house exactly the same as the house they live in. then we have sodomy, racism, birth, death, betrayal and sugar, and the mysterious miniaturist who seems to see everyhting! A quirky book, but not bad.
Tracy Chevalier- The Virgin Blue- a thoroughly good read, which reminded me of Kate Mosse. Set in France and Switzerland, set across two-time periods, involving the problems between the Huguenot protestants and the Catholics.
Tracy Chevalier- At the Edge of the Orchard-set between 1836 and 1856,swamps,mud,futility,apple trees, quilts, bad relationships, survival,flight love,death, birth, Redwood trees, gold mining and a happy ending. A good read.
Ann Cleeves- Cold Earth-from the Shetland series- a good read.
Ann Cleeves- Hidden Depths- another Vera detective story, as good as ever.
Ann Cleeves- A Lesson in Dying- an early novel from this author, well plotted and written. A good solid detective story.
Ann Cleeves- High Island Blues- good old-fashioned detective story with an American location and British characters. Jolly good read
Ann Cleeves- The Glass Room- a Vera detective story set in an authors retreat. Kept me guessing, wrongly, to the end.
Deborah Crombie- To Dwell in Darkness- a solid London-based detective story. The Americanisms were grating, and there are earlier novels featuring the detective which I probably should have started with.
Gerald Durrell- The Corfu Triology- very funny indeed, and lots of natural history. Onto my top 100 list.
Margaret Foster- How to measure a cow- woman released from prison is given a new identity and tries to make a new life for herself. Enter three old friends and a nosy neighbour and things go awry. OK only.
Nikki French- Friday on my Mind- good detective story, but I really should have started with Monday
2 Jane Gardam- Bilgewater. Bilgewater, or Bills daughter or Marigold Green is a troubled teenager, growing up with her single parent Dad in a boy’s school where he teaches, with doubts about her appearance. It’s supposed to be a comedy I think, but the self doubts are a bit too close to home for humour. Never the less an enjoyable read from my heap. (This book will be returned to the friend who lent it to me in Summer 2016.)
3 Jane Gardam- Faith Fox. Holly Fox dies in childbirth. No-one able to cope with baby Faith. Weird characters, including priest living on a farm in an old priory running a commune. Shades of Cold Comfort Farm.
Jane Gardam- Old Filth- stands for Failed in London try Hong Kong. Sir Edward Feathers was born in Malay and sent back to foster parents in Wales where he has a truly miserable time. Eventually going to boarding school and the wonderful Sir, he finally gets a place at Oxford. He acts as abody guard to Queen Mary during the war, before going to the Bar, then Hong Kong and becomes a judge. At the end of his life he is Dorset and finally comes to terms with the past. Loved this one
John Grisham- The Whistler- very good thriller- corrupt judge, casinos, golf courses, etc
Joanne Harris- Different Class– described as a masterpiece of misdirection! It is! I was well and truly misdirected by a very talented author. Set in an old style grammar school which is being improved by the new Head and his suits, called by one of the narrators Thing One and Thing Two.
Joanne Harris- Gentlemen & Players- the middle book of the St Oswalds triology, but readable ok as a stand alone book. A mole in the school sends reports to a local paper about the goings on! Why? After the first two I saw the misdirection less than a fifth into the book. However it was enjoyable to see how the chracters and readers were misled.
Joanne Harris- Blackberry Wine-an utterly charming book in the vein of Chocolat. Young boy Jay befriends old man Joe, an ex miner, a whizz of a gardener, herbalist and wine maker. Years later Jay writes a best seller based around Joe. Then Jay moves to France, nearly spoils the idyylic life he finds there and doscovers his soul. One of my favourites this year.
Robert Harris- Conclave- For 72 hours the Cardinals are in Connclave to elect a New Pope. A disappointing end to an otherwise fascinating book. It just seemed contrived and a bit sloppy with an Islamic bomb and transgender issues, and no lead up to either event.
Robert Harris- An Officer and a Spy- The Drefus affair. A jolly good read.
Emma Healey- Elizabeth is Missing- 70+ lady with Alzheimers looks for her friend Elizabeth who is missing. No-one listens to her. Her thoughts keep returning to the earlier disappearnce of her sister Sukey. An excellent and well observed discription of the early symptoms of Alzheimers.
Susan Hill- From the Heart- a very good book. Bit of trouble deciding the era but think 1950s. Love, marriage, birth, death, education, the love that dares not speak its name, betrayal. The best this year , so far!
Susan Hill- In the Springtime of the Year- an early novel from this lady. A very young bride looses her husband in a fatal accident. Deals with the themes of grief, survival, but I loved it for its lyrical qualities in describing the countryside. Even better than the last book, this makes it into my top 100.
Susan Hill- A Kind Man- writen in 2011 and reminded me a lot of the previous novel, but with an unexpected twist. Reminded me of the books by O’Henry
Susan Hill- The Pure in Heart- a detective story featuring DCI Simon Serrailler, the disappearnce of a boy, an ex con trying to go straight, family realtionships, car theft, themes of love, stalking, relationships, birth, death, grief. All neatly woven into a good yarn.
Susan Hill- The Mist in the Mirror- ghost story, who are the mysterious ghosts who vists Monmouth, why is he drawn to Conrad Vane an explorer? Good build up, disappointing end.
Winifred Holtby- The Crowded Street- an excellent book, one of my favourites for this year. Life for middle class women before, during and after the First World War, set in a small village in Yorkshire. The birth of feminism. Good read.
William Horwood- The Willows at Winter- the further adventures of Ratty,Mole, Otter, Badger and Toad, created in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. A lovely book for the Christmas/New Year break.
8 Mohsin Hamid- The Reluctant Fundamentalist- The American dream turns sour for a Pakistani graduate after 9/11. An interesting and thought provoking book.
Donna Leon- Falling in Love- Opera singer in Venice has scary stalker, friendly detective saves the day.
Marina Lewycka-The Lubetkin Legacy- an iconic social housing flat designed by Bertold Lubetkin, is at the centre of a story of good people down on their luck, coping with the the benefits system, the removal of the spare bedroom subsidy. There is a love story and government corruption to contend with. A good read.
Hilary Mantel- The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher- collection of short stories. M y favourite was Harley St, complete with vampire! Good read.
Ian McEwan- Atonement- very good indeed and makes it onto my top 100. 1935, a single very hot and lanquid day which takes half the book to describe, ends in a crime. Part two concerns a group of soldiers trudging towards Dunkirk in WW2. Part three, a London Hospital coping with the returning soldiers, so pwerfully written. Part four- how it all ended. Onto my top 100 list.
Ian McEwan- Nutshell- unborn babes commentary on his Mothers and her lovers plans to muder his father. Genius!
Sue Monk Kidd- The invention of wings- truly magnificent book, based on the real life story of two American women pioneers of abolition and female equality. Just loved it. The best so far this year.
5 Tony Parsons- The Family Way- relationships of all kinds and hues, all heterosexual though as the theme of the book is children. A re-read it transpired for me, but I originally read it in 2005 and had forgotten all of it. But an enjoyable book.
4 James Runcie- The Discovery of Chocolate- protagonist drinks elixir of life and is present at all things chocolate.
9 Julia Stoneham- The Girl at the Farmhouse Gate- tale about land army girls
Andrew Taylor- The Silent Boy- boy becomes mute after witnessing his mother’s death in the French Revolution, and is taken to England for safety, three rival claims to be his guardian/ father. A good read.
1 Joanne Trollope ( writing as Caroline Harvey) Parson Harding’s Daughter. A historical novel set in Dorset and India. Typical oft his historic genre and well written. Impoverished clergyman’s daughter marries a rake in India, before finding true and honourable love. Enjoyable .( Second hand book from somewhere. In a bag for a chairty shop.)
Joanne Trollope- Balancing Act- work, life, family relationships, time. A good read
Anne Tyler- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant- similiar to her other novels. American family story of an imperfect family from the 1900s to now! A good read.
*Vita Sackville-West. All Passion Spent- An 88-year-old lady looks back on her life ,widow of a former Viceroy to India and a prime minister, she finally chooses what she wants to do. This is such an affectionate portrait of an old lady I can’t help wondering if she was based on a real person. A lovely gentle read.
10 Nathaniel West- the Day of the Locust- 1930’s Hollywood!
* Qui Xiaolong- Death of a Red Heroine- detective story set in China. Slow movng pace but book is really about life in China in the 1990s, the political backgound, the culture and food. A good read.
* Samantha Young-Echoes of Scotland Street- Tosh
* Carlos Ruiz Zafon- Marina- A macabre gothic tale set in Barcelona with a nod to Mary Shelley. Bit gruesome for me.
13 John Updike-The Afterlife- collection of short stories, featuring the end of life, end of relationships etc. I enjoyed A Sandstone Farmhouse, but found the whole book rather depressing , well written, but not beautiful.
6 Bill Bryson- Notes from a Small Island- wry observations of us Brits. As funny as ever.
7 Bill Bryson- The road to Little Dribbling- Mr B takes a road trip on the Bryson Line from Bognor to Cape Wrath, reflections on the changes to the UK in the last 20 years, very funny in places. He still loves us!
June Emerson- Albania- the search for the Eagle’s song– multi talented June writes about her first visits to Albania in the late 1980’s where she developed a love for this country , the people and their music.
J Smith- The History of Lady Lumley’s School and Foundation-part of my family history research
John Steinbeck- Working Days- the journal he kept whilst writing The Grapes of Wrath. I really enjoyed this, but I think you need to be a John Steinbeck nerd!
11 Derek Tangye- A Drake at the Door- 1950’s life on a Daffodil farm in Cornwall- couple leading the good life.
Total for 2017
In January I set my 16 for 2016 goals, one of which is to read 5 works of non-fiction.
In July I started my read through the alphabet challenge. I started at A and have to choose a book in order of the author’s surname initial to help me find new authors and some forgotten favourites. I have starred these book
*Cathy Ace- The case of the Dotty Dowager. Miss Marple meets the Number one Ladies Detective Agency. Nearly. A rather ridiculous story line. I wouldn’t bother if I were you! But I did read to the end.
*John Boyne- The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas. Set in Berlin and Poland in the 1940s. A moving tale, only to be read when one is in a good place. Highly recommended. Made into a film with the same name.
Charlotte Bronte- Jane Eyre. About my fifth re read of this book. On my Kindle this time, over various trips from home. Still enjoy it every time. A real classic.
Ann Cleeves- The Moth Catcher. A favourite author. This is one of the Vera Stanhope detective stories and it was every bit as enjoyable as I hoped, and better than the TV adaptation which I had seen already.
*Harlan Coben- Missing You.A new author for me. Gripping American cop thriller. Will be reading more from him.
*Vanessa Diffenbaugh- We never asked for Wings- Set in California, themes are parenthood, love, illegal imigration and education. ” sometimes we make the biggest mistakes when we are prepared to jeopardize everything we those we love”. Quite a good read but seemed a bit rushed at the end.
*David Ebershoff- The Danish Girl. I’ve not seen the film so was really looking forward to reading the book. Really enjoyable, beautiful love story and most thought-provoking as well as informative of a very sensitive subject. Highly recommend this one.
*Margaret Forster- The Unknown Bridesmaid- A successful child psychologist comes to terms with her own troubled past. An entertaining and thought provoking read from the author of Georgy Girl.
* Caroline Graham- The Envy of the Stranger- from the author of the Inspector barnaby/ Midsummer Murder mysteries comes this one of story, of stalking and terror. Reminiscent of Ruth Rendall. An ok read.
John Grisham- Gray Mountain. I am a huge fan of this author but this book left me feeling most disappointed. It began with a wonderful scenario of lawyer versus big coal mining business. Then just over half way through the book a key character is killed. The promising court battle faded into nothing. Most unsatisfactory.
Joanne Harris- A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String-series of short stories concerning the mysterious, the strange , the supernatural and a bit of pathos. All entertaining tales, my favourites were Dryad- a woman’s unusual relationship with a tree and Dee Eye Why- a man’s obsession with DIY and a house.
*Joanne Harris- Coastliners. An island off the coast of Brittany (France) struggles to survive economically. Bit of mystery and romance thrown in the mix. Bit too much about baots for my liking. Not one of my favourites by this author.
Robert Harris- Dictator.This is the forth book written by Robert Harris about the Roman Empire. My favourite remains Pompeii,telling the story of the Volcanic eruption which destroyed the city. Dictator is the third in a trilogy featuring Cicero, a philosopher, lawyer and orator , and is my favourite in this series. It covers the background to the demise of the Roman republic, the rise and murder of Julius Caesar and the death of Cicero. I studied the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar and I so wish this book had been available to me then. A good read if you enjoy good quality historical novels.
Veronica Henry- The Beach Hut Next Door-Lovely frothy summer read, perfect for the hols. Reminded me a little of Maeve Binchy
Susan Hill-The Betrayal of Trust. This is the first book featuring the detective Simon Serrailler that I have read. Initially I found it hard to get my mind around all the characters in the story. There was a cold case to unravel, which provided the vehicle to explore the issue of long term and terminal illness, death and euthanasia. Towards the end the various strands and characters came together in a most satisfactory way. A good read.
Susan Hill-Black Sheep-A poignant short novel, beautifully written, recommended.
*Kazuo Ishiguro- The Buried Giant. I loved the Remains of the Day by this author so was very excited to read this book. However it is a fantasy novel, a genre I don’t like much, with a dragon, ogres and pixies to say nothing of a Knight, a warrior and an orphan boy. Essentially this is a novel of love, betrayal, forgetfulness and forgiveness. The writing is so good that I was drawn into the story and read to the end. All I can say is Not my Cup of Tea.
* Belinda Jones- Winter Wonderland- Romantic tale. Quebec, Canada, is the best character.
*Sue Monk Kidd- The Secret Life of Bees. I have seen the film twice and I loved the book. The best one book this year. Not going to say another thing. Please just read this one.
*Marina Lewycka- Life after a commune , what happened to the adults and grown up children. Funny in parts. A good read.
Kate Mosse- The Mistletoe Bride and other haunting tales. Best ghost stories I have read in a long time. For the main part set in the South if France or Oxfordshire.I highly recommend this book , especially if you wait till Halloween!
*Kate Mosse- The Taxidermist’s Daughter– a bit gruesome, decribed in the blurb as a superb atmospheric thriller with gothic overtones. A good book but not for the faint hearted.
* Stuart Nadler- The Book of Life- a wonderful collection of short stories concerning ordinay people coping with life events – marriage, death, empty nest syndrome, etc. I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommend this one.
* Maggie O’Farrell- Instructions for a Heatwave- family crisis and resolution when the father goes missing when out buying a newspaper. Interesting sub plot in an examination of undiagnosed dyslexia. A good read.
*Laline Paull- The Bees- think Watership Down or Duncton Wood. Apply to Bees. How would a hive make sense of the environmental changes that are having an adverse effect on their health? A wonderful book. I cried. I laughed. I loved it. Perfect. My favourite this year.
* Anthony Quinn- The Streets- Expose of Victorian slum clearances and early ideas of eugenics. Very well written and complemented the BBC2 Programme The Victorian Slum.
* James Redfield- The Celestine Prophesy. I understand that this book was a huge new wave hit when it was first published 20 years ago. I selected the book for its cover, a pretty valley and lake, that it was set in Peru, and the praise on the back. I gather there is quite a big cult following for the book, so apologies to anyone who likes the book. I found it to be a lazily plotted and poorly written thriller put together to expound some self help which frankly Oprah and her Doctor did much better. It might have well have been set in Lancashire for all it told me about Peru. The cover illustration is the best bit. But that’s just my opinion! Others may think differently, so take no notice of me.
C J Sansom- Dissolution. Medieval lawyer solves mysterious death in a monastery in Tudor times. An early book from this author and much more a straight mystery novel without a lot of historical shenanigans. Prefer his later books.
*John Steinbeck- The Long Valley. Possibly my favourite author ever. A volume of early short stories. Entertaining but not brilliant.
* John Steinbeck- To a God Unknown- Such a good author I read two of his books. This one is amazing. Love it. Steinbeck’s love of the his little piece of California just flows from the page. The writing is sublime. LOVE IT.
Donna Tartt- The Goldfinch- With 771 pages this is not for the faint hearted. I loved the book for the first 640 pages. A lovely leisurely pace and descriptions so good I was there with the characters, a real fly on the wall experience. Many long books have far too many characters that you can’t keep up with. Not so this book, few characters and you know then all really well. But not many I warmed too, the exceptions being Hobie and Pippa.
The book begins in New York before switching to Vegas. Then we head off to Amsterdam and the plot quickens but the pace remained the same so seemed a bit out of kilter to me. The story reminded me of Snatch or Lock Stock but without the humour. There was a good twist which resolved things, then some navel gazing and then the book just frizzled out. A disappointing end.
Colm Toibin-The Empty Family- A volume of short stories which I didn’t like. I only read them all because I hoped I would like the next one… I liked half of the one called The New Spain, as it began at the time of Franco’s demise and the changes that brought. We spent many holidays in Spain at this time, so I could recognise the scenario, but then it fizzled out . Can’t like all the books I choose, and thank heavens for the library and borrowing them for free.
Joanna Trollope- The Soldier’s Wife. A modern tale of a family adjusting to life when Dad is home on leave. A jolly good yarn from the Queen of the Aga Saga!
* Anne Tyler- A Spool of Blue Thread- A family story in which the relationship of three generations is examined. Started off in a most promising way and then. Oh why do authors do it? Set up an interesting situation, then one of the main characters dies so there is no development of the story. Fizzles out into the past before returning to the present in which people just move on . Just annoying.
* Lisa Unger- In the Blood- I only choose this book as it was the only author beginning with a U. I would never have chosen it otherwise. The title and the cover did not appeal. And how sad would that have been . It was a very good psychological thriller. A real page turner. Knitting stopped while I read this in two days. And that is why I started my read through the alphabet challenge.
* Sally Vickers- Where Three Roads Meet- didn’t warm to the book, about Freud and Oedipus.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Prisoner of Heaven- The third in a series of novels set in Barcelona, in which books themselves are central to the plot. I have only read the first in the series The Shadow of the Wind, which I struggled with at the time with unfamiliar names and a complicated plot. The Prisoner of Heaven was most enjoyable. I am familiar with the characters and the plot is more straightforward. I loved the book and can’t wait to find the second one in the library. If you read the first book, persevere with it and I can thoroughly recommend The Prisoner of Heaven if you enjoy mystery stories and books.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon– The Midnight Palace- This is short novel is set in Calcutta, and tells the story of a group of 16-year-old orphans as they spend their last days in the orphanage. It is beautifully told ghost story. Highly recommend this too.
Elisabeth Alley- Faithfully to Meeting- A Short History of Quakers in Pickering
Janet Bolton- Fabric Pictures. A brilliant book which I read from cover to cover. A workshop on how to create fabric pictures. Loved it.
Edward Enfield- Greece on my Wheels- The journey of a nearly 70-year-old by bike around Greece. Thoroughly enjoyable read with enough history and antidotes to keep me entertained.
Peter Higgnbotham- Voices from the Workhouse- Collection of first hand accounts of life in the workhouse, includes, staff, residents and reports. Fascinating insight.
Pamela Horn- Life in a Victorian Household– on upstairs and downstairs, what it was really like.
Future Learn- 6 week course online- Family History. Thoroughly enjoyabale and a course I would recommend for beginners. Not strictly a book, but I am counting it as one of my 5 Non Fiction reads.
Books Abandoned- I rarely give up on a book but Henry James and What Maisie Knew defeated me. I read nearly 200 pages and realized I just could not read the other 80 or so. I can only conclude that me and Henry James are just a nono.
Total 2016- 43, exactly the same number as last year. Well I never.
Kate Atkinson- Started Early, took my dog
Kate Atknison- Not the end of the world
Charlotte Betts -The Painter’s Apprentice
John Buchan – The Thirty Nine Steps
Tracey Chevalier- The Last Runaway
Ann Cleeves- Baby-snatcher
Ann Cleeves- The Crow Trap
Ann Cleeves- Telling Tales
Ann Cleeves- Harbour Street
Ann Cleeves- The Sleeping and the Dead
Ann Cleeves- Thin Air
A J Cronin -The Northern Light
Helen Fielding- Bridget Jones, Mad about the Boy
Nathan Filer- The Shock of the Fall
Gillian Flynn- Gone Girl
Anthea Fraser- The Unburied Past
Robert Goddard- Dying to Tell
Robert Goddard- Past Caring
John Grisham -The Broker
John Grisham -The Pelican Brief
John Grisham- The Brethren
John Grisham- The Testament
John Grisham- The Partner
Tessa Hadley- The Past
Paula Hawkins- The Girl on the Train
Susan Hill- The Small Hand
Susan Hill- Printer’s Devils Court
Daniel Klein- Travels with Epicurus
Alexander McCall Smith- The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
Alexander McCall Smith-The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe
Alexander McCall Smith- The Cleverness of Ladies
Alexander McCall Smith- The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Sarah Moss- Night Waking
Tony Parsons- Men from the Boys
Barbara Pym- Excellent Women
Ruth Rendall- Thirteen Steps Down
Edward Rutherford- The Forest
Saki ( H.H. Munro)- A Shot in the dark
C. J. Sansom- Lamentation
Noel Streatfield- Tea by the Nursery Fire
Colm Toibin- The Master
Anne Tyler- Noah’s Compass
Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Shadow of the Wind
Total- 43. You can sure tell I retired this year!!
Kate Atkinson Time After Time
Beryl Bainbridge The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress
Charlotte Betts The Spice Merchants Wife
Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol
Daphne Du Maurier- Jamaica Inn
Timothy Egan-The Worst Hard Time
Dick Francis-Field of Thirteen
Phillipa Gregory-The Lady of the Rivers
Phillipa Gregory-The Red Queen
John Grisham- The Last Juror
John Grisham The Litigators
Joanne Harris The Lollipop Shoes
Joanne Harris Peaches for Monsieur le Cure
Joanne Harris Blueeydboy
Joanne Harris Jigs and Reels
Robert Harris The Fear Index
Susan Hill Dolly
Anne Holm- I am David
Eowyn Ivey The Snow Child
Margaret Kennedy-The Constant Nymph
Charlotte Link The Other Child
Jack London-The Sea Wolf
Peter Mayle- A Year in Province
Joanne Trollope-Friday Nights
Paul Torbay- Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Anne Tyler The Beginner’s Goodbye
Anne Tyler Earthly Possessions
Jeanette Winterson Lighthousekeeping