I read eight books in January.
Preloved by Lauren Bravo
Gwen is 38 and has just been made redundant from a job she didn’t much like anyway. She seems to be adrift from old friendships and her relationship with her parents has become distant (the reason for which is slowly revealed). She volunteers to work in a charity shop and this becomes her saviour. It’s not just that she makes new friends (one of whom briefly becomes an unexpected lover, and one gives her bad advice) but in sorting the donated items she manages to sort out herself.
In between Gwen’s story there are chapters on the stories behind some of the donations and gradually we come to realise how these fit together. It’s very cleverly done.
I volunteer for a few hours a week sorting books in a branch of Shelter and that added to my enjoyment of Preloved.
The online strapline for novels rarely live up to their promise (in my experience) but I’ll certainly go along with this one – ‘sparklingly witty and relatable’.
I heard of Preloved through the blog https://portobellobookblog.com/ Joanne and I have (mostly) the same taste in books and her recommendations invariably have me adding to my to-be-read pile.
Limberlost by Robbie Arnott
This was a present from a lovely Tasmanian cousin when she visited last year. It’s a coming-of-age story set in Tasmania during the Second World War. Ned, too young to go to fight alongside his beloved older brothers, longs to buy a boat of his own. He dreams of getting away from working in the family orchard and from his father who’s become almost silent in his worry about his sons in a war on the other side of the world.
Ned finds a way of making money but the path to fulfilling his ambition is far from smooth.
Do love a coming-of-age novel. I learned a lot about various subjects in the book (what a quoll is, for example) – I do like to learn. But my main takeaway was the fabulousness of the writing from this young man who has already won/been shortlisted for prestigious awards.
The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn
Another absolute corker! Three children, half-siblings, bring themselves up, more or less, in a country house in the 20s/30s – delightful characters all of them. A whale washed up on the beach gradually becomes skeletal and their favourite playground. They grow up; WW2 comes; two of them end up in Occupied France … that’s all I’ll tell you.
Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves
The latest Vera, set on Lindisfarne. Fab as usual, with more shocks than usual.
What Lies Buried by Margaret Kirk
Terrific police procedure, the second in a series, set in Inverness/shire.
Victory for the Op Room Girls by Vicki Beeby
Third in a series (I haven’t read the first two which would probably have been a good idea).
‘With Jess newly promoted to Filterer Officer at RAF Fighter Command HQ, she is delighted to be reunited with Evie and May. However, now that they can enjoy socialising in London, Jess fears her friends will discover the secret she keeps there.’
The Last Voice You Hear by Mick Herron
Best known for his Slow Horses series of which I have read a few. His character here is private investigator Zoë Boehm investigating a possibly suspicious death. I was with her every step of the way (however scary … ) and that of her friend Sarah who gets caught up in the case.
Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge
Last month I mentioned that was rereading a book by this author whose other titles are inspired by her background and beliefs. This one starts in the 19th century in the Channel Islands (where her mother’s family was from) and is based on a true story of something that happened to an ancestor. And so we then enter uncharted waters ... two of the three main characters – a young sailor and ten years later a thirtyish woman – take to the perilous seas and end up in New Zealand, during the time of the Maori Wars.
Elizabeth Goudge wrote the book while living quietly in the Devon countryside during the Second World War. She said she ‘made it New Zealand because my ignorance of Australia was, even more, total than my ignorance of New Zealand.’ So much for the advice often given to writers to ‘write what you know’!
Green Dolphin Country brought Elizabeth Goudge to international attention and was made into a film. Further info here. If you want a fabulous long historical to get stuck into these cold February days I would urge this on you.
Lastly … due to technical changes, for some months it has not been possible to Follow this blog, and those who had already Followed were not informed of new posts. This has now been rectified I hope – see the Follow button below the post. Please let me know if it works, or not!