Thursday, 6 February 2014

Eleven in January

So far I’ve kept to (one of) my New Year resolutions which was to record the title of each book when I’d finished reading it.

In January I read eleven books:

1. Christmas at High Rising by Angela Thirkell
A Christmas present. I’d heard of Angela Thirkell, who was a best-seller in the thirties, but had never read her before. Virago has reissued three of her novels and this book of short stories in very pretty covers. The stories are a little mixed in their quality but do inspire me to put her novels on my wish list.

2.The Vault by Ruth Rendell
Good old Wexford, now retired, helps with a multi-murder enquiry. A sense of place is always a big part of Ruth Rendell’s writing and as Wexford and his wife are borrowing a house in London we get a guided tour of some beautiful and some seedy parts of the capital.

A timely and enlightening set of interviews with entrepreneurial Scots including Michelle Mone, Sir Tom Farmer, Muriel Gray and Graeme Obree.

4. The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
I find Alice Munro’s stories quite difficult to read, I must admit, which is why this book sat on my shelves for seven years before I got round to reading it, even though I knew that the ‘Castle’ was Edinburgh Castle. I wish I’d got round to it earlier. I absolutely loved it and will read it again. Partly truth and partly fiction, it’s the story of her family, from her Scottish Border ancestors (one of them was the Ettrick Shepherd James Hogg) and their early days in their new life in Canada. That was a brilliant read but even better is her own childhood and young adulthood in small-town Ontario in the forties and fifties – acutely observed, heart-breaking, droll, and sooo beautifully written.

5. Kept in the Dark by Nina Bawden
I bought a pile of books including two Nina Bawdens from the Christian Aid book sale last May and must finish them all to justify a visit to the sale this year ... This book is for older children. It was much darker than I expected, quite disturbing in fact. When their father is ill three children go to stay with hitherto unknown grandparents. A typical plot device to get parents out of the way – but here an unwelcome visitor turns up, a grandson of their grandfather’s by his first marriage, who, although not described as a sociopath, behaves like one.

6. Water’s Edge by Jane Riddell
Family conflicts, set beside a beautiful lake in Switzerland. I interviewed Jane about Water’s Edge here.

7. The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden
A gentle read compared to Kept in the Dark but nonetheless dealing with realistic characters in difficult situations.

8. The Tailor of Inverness by Matthew Zajac
Hadn’t heard of this until recently although, in play form, it has apparently been a very successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe show. Actor Matthew Zajac investigates his father’s family history and traces long-lost relatives. His father grew up in what is now Western Ukraine, and the Second World War of course caused havoc in that region. He ended up having a happy life as a tailor in Inverness but some of the stories he told Matthew turned out to be not quite accurate …

9. Glasgow Green by Jake Walker Curley
A gritty thriller from a new Scottish writer. I will say no more now as I shall be interviewing Jake next week on this blog.

10. Nightingale Nurses by Donna Douglas
Nurses in the East End of London in the thirties. A satisfying read, the last in the trilogy, after The Nightingale Girls and The Nightingale Sisters.

11. Highland Doorstep by Kenneth A Macrae
A journalist takes a tour round a corner of Inverness shire in the early fifties. Thrilled to see an uncle of mine mentioned!


  1. Goodness, you've been busy, Kate.I'm working through my Christmas goodies, The Fishing Fleet by Anne De Courcy and The Beau Monde by memory fails me! Both really interesting. Anne

  2. What a great selection, Kate! Must admit I still have a collection of Alice Munro stories I need to read properly.

  3. Hi Kate, You've been busy. I've read a lot of non-fiction since Christmas although I'm in an historical reading challenge and need to focus on which one for February. anne stenhouse

  4. Thanks, ladies. I was surprised to see how many of the 11 were non-fiction and how many were written in or set in the 20th century.