I only read four books in June.
The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan
Christian Aid Book Sale 2016 purchase. A pretty cover, and a baking competition as a setting – what’s not to like, I thought, when I picked this up. But, disappointingly, I found the characters to be more like pancakes than beautifully risen Victoria sponges and – a complaint I also had about a book I read last month – there were five or six different viewpoints but none predominated.
A Fine House in Trinity by Lesley Kelly
Read on Kindle. Gritty debut novel by Edinburgh poet and short-story-writer Lesley Kelly. Her protagonist is Joe Staines (‘Stainsie’) and his story is told in the first person – perhaps a rather bold writerly move but one that pays off in spades. Stainsie ducks and dives around Leith, avoiding the law and the bad guys (and the parish priest) and it all makes for a tense thriller – albeit one with a rather abrupt ending. I hope there will be a follow-up.
Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves
Christian Aid Book Sale 2016 purchase. A Vera Stanhope novel. Vera is a terrific character and Ann Cleeves' plots always keep you guessing and are ultimately satisfying. In this one, Vera herself finds the dead body of a woman in the steam room of a hotel’s health complex that she has, on her doctor’s advice, reluctantly joined.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Christian Aid Book Sale 2016 purchase. One of the best books I’ve read for ages. In 1995 Cheryl Strayed (she chose a new surname for herself after her divorce) was a very unhappy twenty-six-year-old. Her beloved mother had died a very painful death and her family – stepfather and siblings – had scattered; her marriage to a good man was failing due to her own infidelity and drug-taking. So she decided – as you do – to walk part of the Pacific Crest Trail, eleven hundred miles of the west coast of America, across deserts and up snowy mountains, and to do it alone.
Cheryl Strayed’s writing is stunning and the reader is right there with her as – a complete novice at long-distant hiking – she sets off with ‘the Monster’, a backpack she can hardly lift, wearing boots that ultimately cause most of her toenails to fall off. Aren’t books amazing? – I suffered along with her while at the same time being not too hot, not too cold, not carrying anything and having ten intact toenails; and rejoiced with her when, for example, after a couple of hungry days, she reached a campsite with food and friendly company. And I was there too as she recalled her early life in the backwoods of Minnesota and, later, her colourful life in Portland, Oregon.
Wild was recently made into a movie produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon. I missed seeing it at the cinema where it would have been best viewed – those wonderful landscapes, high above the treetops – but I’m in two minds as to whether or not I’ll get it when it’s out on DVD. The best films can be the ones spooling through your own head as you read.