Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Nine in March

I read nine books in March:

And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson. Read for book group. 672 pages. A political history of Scotland over the last fifty or so years – in the form of a novel. Let’s just say that didn’t work for me.

As a complete change from the above I re-read three of Jane Gardam’s YA novels in quick succession – A Long Way from Verona (published by Abacus), The Summer after the Funeral and (my favourite of the three) Bilgewater (both Peacock (Penguin) titles) – although the term YA had not been coined when the books were published in the 1970s. Even for this age group Jane Gardam’s writing takes no prisoners and you find yourself concentrating on reading every single word. Her heroines are either very beautiful or (in their own estimation) very plain but they are all eccentric, doughty and fiercely intelligent. Isn't this a gorgeous cover? I don't think the newer edition is so striking.

Who Was Sylvia? by Judy Gardiner. This is the last of the books I bought at the Christian Aid sale last year. I was intrigued by the title and then by the blurb on the back: Why did Sylvia Coryn suddenly leave home one weekend on the eve of World War II? The question obsesses her younger sister Kit … The story was originally published in Woman’s Realm magazine in 1982 – but if you think this means a cosy, predictable ending you’d be quite wrong. What Kit finds out about Sylvia is genuinely shocking. I see that there are copies for 0.1p on Amazon and the book is now available on Kindle.

ThankYou for the Music by Jennifer Young. A romance with a dark edge set in St Andrews and Majorca, published by Tirgearr Publishing. I interviewed Edinburgh-based Jennifer about the novel and about her writing here.

A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming. A page-turning spy story. Tom Kell is an agent on the trail of the newly appointed head of MI6, Amelia Levene,who has disappeared while on holiday.

Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay. Poet and novelist Jackie Kay’s encounters with her birth parents in Milton Keynes and Nigeria. Funny, sad, thoughtful – and of course most beautifully written.

From Writing with Love by Avril Joy. By the winner of the first Costa Short Story Prize (chosen by public vote). She’s also a novelist and teacher. The book (available in paperback and Kindle), full of inspirational quotes as well as excellent practical advice for writers, includes her Costa-winning story Millie and Bird and has so far gained thirteen five-star reviews on Amazon.

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