Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Club Current Favourites

I made a decision the other day to read something everyday - even if it was one page - and being mindful has done its trick and despite a lot of travel, a lot of work and a lot of fun, I have managed to read 2 books.

The book starts in 1920s when twins are born to Jewish parents - one twin died but by coincidence a mother dies in childbirth the same evening, after giving birth to a healthy baby boy and  Frieda  takes him to her heart and adopts him.  As youngsters the boys are part of a Saturday club where they share there hopes, dreams and love blossoms. Both brothers fall in love with the same girl and as she blossoms into a beautiful teenager, they dedicate themselves to protecting her.The brothers grow up believing that they are birth twins but as Germany marches into its Nazi terror the family is tested to the limits of endurance. Its Ben Elton's most personal book to date and echoes with the stories of his ancestors. Its not the easiest of books to read because of the terrifying era that the book is set in, but the stories of the boys growing are peppered with humour. This book made me laugh and it made my cry - sometimes at the same time!

I loved The Debutant by Kathleen Tessaro so when I saw her latest book I knew that it would be a winner. The cover is beautiful, the characters enchanting and I was drawn in from the start as the story introduces you to Grace, a newly wed and longing for more out of life than fashion, tea parties and gossip. One day she receives a letter from a French law firm to tell her that she is the sole beneficiary of Eve d'Orsey - but she has never been to France or heard of Eve. From then on the story flits between the 1920s and the 1950s as we follow Eve and Grace's journey to live life on their terms.  Tessaro captures the essence of Paris and I felt myself transported to the streets and buildings that she searches to find out why it is that she should be left the Perfume Collectors secret. The fact that I love perfume just added to my enjoyment of this book. Delicate, mysterious and lingering - the same as I like my perfume!

I have only just started this book but it comes well recommended. Also about an inheritance (is there some wishful thinking on my part here?). The book is set on Arran and the legacy is a house - Elizabeth's story is told through her journal. This is what Kalahari has to say about it...."When Elizabeth Pringle dies she leaves her beloved house 'Holmlea' to a woman she saw over thirty years ago. That young mother, Anna, had put a letter through Elizabeth's door asking to buy the house but Elizabeth never pursued her. But time passed and Anna is now in a home with dementia and it falls to her daughter Martha, the baby in the pram, to come and take up their inheritance. Once on the island Martha meets a brother and sister Niall and Catriona Anderson and a Buddhist monk called Saul, each of whom leads her closer to Elizabeth while revealing their surprising friendships with this old woman. Martha is drawn into Elizabeth's past which is filled with surprising and heart-breaking revelations."
Kirsty Wark is not known here but she is a broadcaster, journalist and presenter of NewNight in the UK.  According to the Daily Mail I am about to be engulfed by a story full of love, memory, households, holidays, happiness and heartache - I cant wait! 

BookClub are enjoying.....Americanah, A Walk across the Sun, The World Versus Alex Woods and if you want a laugh - and who doesn't -  Dear Lumpy (by the author of Dear Lupin) ENJOY!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Good Reads

I may not have written my blog for a while but I have been reading - in fact one of my 2014 resolutions is to read something every day. I haven't quite managed to do that but I have certainly reconnected with my reading this year. So far I have finished reading Maggie O Farrell's latest book

Instructions for a HeatwaveSet in London, during the heatwave of 1976, we meet Gretta Riordan, a Catholic Irish woman, mother to three grown-up children, and her husband, Robert, a retired bank employee. As yet another hot and listless day begins, Robert goes out for his daily newspaper, just as he does every morning - however, today, he doesn't return home. As the day wears on, Gretta becomes more and more worried and, when it is discovered that Robert has taken money and his passport, she realizes that her husband had no intention of returning home when he left their house that morning.
Gretta now has to tell her three children that Robert has disappeared; firstly there is her eldest child, Michael Francis, a teacher, married to Claire and whose marriage is in difficulty; then there is Monica, the middle child, whose first marriage broke up after a tragic event and is now married to antiques dealer, Peter, and living in the countryside; however, Monica is not entirely happy - she not only misses London, but Peter's two daughters bitterly resent her and make her life very difficult. And finally there is Gretta and Robert's younger daughter, Aoife, their 'problem' child, whose difficult and challenging behaviour has caused problems for the rest of the family, especially since she has "gone off the rails". (When, in fact, most of Aoife's problems are due to her painful battle with undiagnosed dyslexia).
I love Maggie O' Farrell's writing and her intricate observations of family life and relationships and this novel delivered on that score but I felt the story wasn't as captivating as her previous novels,"The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox" and The Hand that first held mine." Never the less, its a good read.

Bookclub are enjoying The Seamstress. I am about half way through it and when I pick it up I am transported back to the time of the Spanish Civil War by the author's rich descriptions. It is Maria Duena's debut novel and is told from the perspective of Sira Quiroga, a talented seamstress who is engaged to Ignacio, a reliable and dependable young man. As Sira prepares for her wedding, she feels that her life lacks excitement and when she meets Ramiro Arribas, a handsome, charming, older man, she is ready to fall in love. She quickly breaks off her engagement to the bewildered and shocked Ignacio and, as Spain enters a period of instability and civil war looms, she allows herself to be persuaded by Arribas into leaving her homeland and starting a new life in Morocco. However, Sira's life does not turn out as she expected because, after a few months of hedonistic living, Arribas abandons her leaving her heavily in debt. Trapped in Morocco by these debts, and by the worsening political situation in Spain, Sira works hard to build a new life for herself and, with the help of a friend, she starts a dressmaking business and earns enough money to pay off her debts. As the civil war ends in Spain and Europe becomes embroiled in the Second World War, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid and to take on a new identity as a couturier for Nazi officer's wives and, in her new role, she is employed by the British to infiltrate and spy on the Germans who are stationed in Madrid.This book has taken Spain by storm and has become an international bestseller - I can well imagine this being made into a Oscar winning film starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Tracey Chevalier is another favourite of mine and from "Girl with a Pearl Earring" to  Remarkable Creatures her writing really captures the era in which her novels are set and the lives of women living at that time. The Last Runnaway is no exception as it follows the journey of Honor Bright, a Quaker girl, who accompanies her sister to New England where she is to be married. Her sister dies tragically soon after thier arrival but instead of returning home to Dorset, she is drawn into the Quaker community 
It is a time of great upheaval in America as the country inches towards civil war with a variety of runaways, both black slaves and white settlers, trying to forge a better life for themselves. Honor finds life hard as a single woman unaccustomed to the American way but she is aided by the flamboyant Belle Mills, a milliner, who takes Honor under her wing. Belle's brother, Donovan, sets his sights on Honor but his reputation as a dissolute slave hunter makes him an unlikely suitor. Reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, this is a novel with strong female characters who use their wits to survive difficult times. Those travelling the Underground Railway are not the only runaways in this well-researched and eloquently written novel. I loved it!

On the bookclub front - We all survived the Christmas Party - I was away in the UK for the January meeting and I am really looking forward to checking in with Shakespeare's Sisters this week!