Saturday, 20 June 2015

Twelve in May

I read twelve books in May.


Accomplishable partly because I was on holiday in London for a week, travelling there and back by four-and-a-half-hour train journeys; and partly because, ahem, I was not doing much writing. But I was having a long-overdue tidy-up of writing-related bumph, about ten years’ worth of notes from classes and workshops, scribbled bits of stories etc. Etc. Also had big reorganisation of bookshelves – nothing I like doing better, apart from reading what’s on them.

I wrote about the last chapter of this book in a previous post A Penchant for Pencils. Mary Norris has been a proof reader at the New Yorker since 1993. As the blurb says: ‘Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer and finely sharpened pencils [yay!] to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.’ See also:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I finally got round to reading one of the highest selling and critically acclaimed books of recent years – and found it deserving of all the hype. Love the writing and the story, and the picture it paints of 17th-century Holland.

Rescue in Ravensdale by Esme Cartmell
This is a book I loved when I was about ten and I rediscovered it during the aforementioned bookshelves reorganisation.

I must have reread it several times because I found I could remember great chunks of it. It’s about a family – parents, four daughters and their eighteen-year-old male cousin (from whose point of view the story is told) – on holiday in Yorkshire in August 1939, who get involved with the search for an apparent German spy.

It stood the test of time for me, and I think this was why. It is unusual in a children’s book for the parents to be so much involved – generally they are got out of the way as quickly as possible. Here, with their writer/reviewer father and artist mother, the girls (I remember being intrigued by their names – Thelma, Kyra and twins Daphne and Dione) and their cousin have wonderfully wordy, punny, literary conversations that I enjoyed this time round too.

Neither the book jacket nor Google can tell me anything about Esme Cartmell and whether she/?he wrote anything else.

Hysteria 3 – read on Kindle. An anthology of winners from the Hysteria Writing Competition, which include my fellow Edinburgh Writers’ Club member Olga Wojtas, and her typically amusing, and wonderfully named, story Green Tea and Chocolate Fudge Cake.

Read on Kindle. A dual narrative, cleverly interspersing contemporary Eilidh’s return to the Scottish town she left as a child, and the story of Robert Burns and his doomed romance with the lass known as Highland Mary. With its great sense of place, the book is also a love letter to Burns’ home county of Ayrshire.

Read on Kindle. Ellen’s transition from no-baggage career girl to hands-on guardian to her sister’s children is very believable, as is her slow-burning romance with neighbour Kit. I loved the farming background too.

The Pearl Locket by Kath McGurl
Read on Kindle. Enjoyed this even more than The Emerald Comb. Again, it’s a dual narrative, this time contemporary and WW2.

Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
Read umpteen times before but never stales. Have just joined the Barbara Pym Facebook page and thought my favourite title of hers was due for a reread.

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming
Love a good spy story. Was there a sixth man – along with Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Cairncross and Blunt?

Kissing Mr Wrong by Sarah Duncan
‘Lu Edwards may write and illustrate books for children, but she's certain she doesn't want children of her own. She believes in travelling light, with not even a goldfish to tie her down, until Nick – a WWI expert with more baggage than Heathrow, right down to the kids, ex-wife and hamster – blows into her life.’ A good read.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Christian Aid sale purchase. The second LM book I’ve read, following The Husband’s Secret. Much enjoyed this one too – her characters are really … real. Alice hits her head and when she comes too she thinks it’s ten years earlier, but her whole life has changed.

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Christian Aid sale purchase. Enjoyably farcical situation. And a reminder, if it’s required, that trying to relive your youth with your first love is never a good plan.

Re-reading childhood books on the other hand is, mostly, a very good plan.


  1. Kate - thank you very much for reading and mentioning The Highland Lass! I always enjoy hearing about your reading for the month and I too loved The Miniaturist. Must try Barbara Pym as you've mentioned her before.