Is it true that people in Europe read more than people in the south just because winters are longer? I certainly seem to be enjoying my winter early nights snuggled up with a book! This week is no exception and I stayed up far too late last night reading The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh.
I enjoyed it and found the book gave fascinating insights into the world of diamond mining in South Africa through the personal story of Frances, a young English girl forced to emigrate and marry a man effectively against her will, the only alternative being a life of drudgery in Manchester. Her new husband turns out to be an idealist, prepared to put up with penury and terrible living conditions in his pursuit of truth, setting himself against the rich diamond mine owners who wield all the power. Frances is just about coming to terms with her life and her marriage in a tumbledown cottage on the veldt when she finds herself moving to a tent in the midst of total squalor - no wonder the girl brought up in polite London society finds it hard to cope. And always in the background is the romantic figure of the man with whom she had a shipboard romance, promising to take her away from all this. So yes there are cliches, in the sense that shipboard romances and loveless marriages were fairly common currency in Victorian times, when women were beholden to men for their very survival, but this does not in any way detract from a powerful story of greed, power and the struggle for survival.
Staying with Africa - I have also enjoyed Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexander Fuller. I really enjoyed this author's previous books - Scribbling the Cat and Lets not go to the dogs tonight. I love the way she uses language and so accurately describes her characters that you will know them as old friends by the end of the book. This book is a memoir and a tribute to her mother and their family's life and experiences in Africa. Her mother's family origins in the Isle of Skye makes it all the more surprising that Nicola Fuller should have Kenya in her blood. She left Kenya soon after independence when the life they had known was gone for ever and they moved to Rhodesia - soon finding themselves on the front line, literally, in the war which eventually brought Mugabe to power. After a spell in Derbyshire the family returned to Africa, Zambia this time, and that is where this story finishes, on the family's banana and fish farm on the banks of the Zambezi. A wonderful story, of the white settlers struggle to tame the un-tameable Africa. I love that the Tree of Forgetfulness is named from a tribal concept of having a village tree where disputes are settled, conflicts resolved and old scars left within its branches. something every 'tribe' needs!
So now for something a little different Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd - the jacket says that " one Thursday in Autumn, Jeanie meets Ray in the park, and a chance encounter blossoms into friendship as they laugh, talk, share hopes. secrets and heartbreak. they offer each other a second chance at life and love - but will they have the courage to take it"?
I have heard that its a light but enchanting read - enjoyable and not too taxing - Perfect for me right now!
Shakespeare's Sisters are enjoying The Twelve Tribes of Hattie; The One Hundred year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window; Bring up the Bodies; Maggie O Farrell's Instructions for a Heatwave; The Mountains Echoed by Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini and The Housemaid's Daughter.