Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Seven in July

I read seven books in July.

 Daisy’s Dilemma by Anne Stenhouse
Read on Kindle. I am a fan of Anne Stenhouse’s Regency novels (read my interview with her here)  Mariah’s Marriage and Bella’s Betrothal preceded this one. Daisy’s Dilemma picks up a character from the first book – which is great because Daisy is the sort of girl about whom you find yourself wondering what she might do next.

This has all you want in a Regency novel – a heroine with a mind very much her own, a hero made of flesh and blood, and a villain. It also has an intricate plot that takes the reader from the great family house in Grosvenor Square to the London docks – with a dash of Scots mist thrown in. Do find out more for yourself.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Blogged about To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman here.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

There was a plethora of reviews right away after the publication of this book. I gathered that some of them were adverse, and some a lot of hot air, and decided not to read any of them in advance, if at all. Well, I loved GSAW – mostly. It was wonderful to see Jean Louise Finch all grown up and to revisit Maycomb. I can see though why Harper Lee’s editor suggested going away and writing a book through the eyes of six-year-old ‘Scout’ because many of the scenes in GSAW are flashbacks to the childhood of this ‘juvenile desperado, hell-raiser extraordinary’. Hers was a story that had to be told.

The last few chapters are less like a novel and more of a very long argument between Jean Louise and her father Atticus about the relaxation or not of segregation. As for Atticus taking the opposing view – well, this is a novel that might never have seen the light of day (controversy surrounds the circumstances of its publication); Harper Lee made Atticus’ views quite different in To Kill a Mockingbird. Let us remember him from that (looking like Gregory Peck of course).

Beach Reads by Jackie Ley
Read on Kindle. An award-winning writer, Jackie was in the Edinburgh Writers’ Club for a couple of years before moving to France so I was interested to read her enjoyable book of four short stories, one of which is a fictionalised account of that move, and was a runner up in the Society of Women Writers & Journalists Life-Writing Competition. The second is also set in France and inspired by a painting. The third – perhaps not a typical ‘beach read’ – has a character receiving a cancer diagnosis and the fourth is about a teacher trying to interest a class in Jane Austen. Find out more about Jackie, her short stories and novels, here.

No Man’s Nightingale by Ruth Rendell
An Inspector Wexford – except that he is now retired but gets involved anyway in the murder of the local vicar. Excellent, almost as good as my favourite Wexfords A New Lease of Death and The Speaker of Mandarin. Very sad to think there won’t be any more.

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen
Read on Kindle. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim was published in 1923 and made into a film in 1991 with a cast including Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright, Jim Broadbent and Josie Lawrence.

This is a contemporary version, set in an island off Maine. The location immediately attracted me (I have a thing about American places/names) and the thought of vicariously pitching up there to stay in an idyllic cottage for a month was very enticing. But I was disappointed when the ‘cottage’ – like all the others on the island – turned out to have about twelve bedrooms and was flimsily built (only for summer use; you’d freeze there in the winter).

Some of the characters were unappealingly modern such as the financial whizz who wondered how the island might be ‘monetized’, and there was a lot of faffing over cell phone signals (something lucky E von A didn’t have to worry about) but it must have been fun to follow a blueprint of someone else’s plot; it was quite fun to read.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson wrote Housekeeping, published in 1980 and later made into a film by Scottish director Bill Forsyth.

There followed a long gap before Gilead was published in 2004. It won the Pulitzer Prize. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it. It’s one long ‘letter’, from a Presbyterian minister, John Ames, in 1950s Iowa  (in the fictional town of Gilead) to the son of his old age; he knows he will not live to see the boy grow up. One of his preoccupations is his namesake, the wayward son of his oldest friend, whose unexpected visit home is testing for everybody around him.

I read it when it came out. I later acquired the two sequels Home and Lila. As I am very much looking forward to seeing Marilynne Robinson at the Edinburgh Book Festival I reread Gilead and will read the other two straight after.

Yay! Book Festival time of year! Can’t wait.


  1. I am in awe of how many books you read. I've been dithering about whether to read Go Set a Watchman, but I think having read your blog I am going to go ahead - thank you :-) I am rather drawn to Enchanted August too xx

  2. Thanks, Teresa. So many books, so little time ... Hope you enjoy both these titles; let me know.

  3. It was interesting to read your view of GSAW, Kate. Like you, I deliberately didn't read anything about it before reading the book myself. I enjoyed it too - particularly the scenes from childhood and adolescence. It was interesting, too, to read the book that TKAM came out of; a good insight into the editing process.

  4. Thanks, Margaret. Yes, without that editor we might never have had TKAM. How wonderful it would be to write a character who's stood the test of time like Scout!