Sunday, 12 July 2020

Seven in June

I read seven books in June … and one journal, and am halfway through two, quite different, very long books of which more anon.

The Year After You by Nina de Pass
Read on Kindle.
A Young Adult novel mostly set in a Swiss boarding school for girls and boys. For a lifelong Chalet School fan that was a good place to start … However, this was published in 2019 and the characters are thoroughly contemporary.
Cara is English-born but following her mother’s second marriage she’s been living in Californa. After a fatal accident one New Year’s Eve, Cara, consumed by grief and a guilty secret, is sent to school in the Swiss Alps. Can she put the past behind her with the help of her new friends Ren and, especially, Hector?
I found it well written, very moving, with a great sense of place, and characters to root for. I’ll be interested to see what this young debut author does next.

Eliza for Common by O. Douglas
Umpteenth comfort read. Never more needed than now.

The Thirty Nine Steps is one of my favourite books (yet to be given a really satisfactory rendition in film, in my opinion) and this is a spin-off.
Set post WWI, Hannay and his comrades come together to rescue a man who is on a secret visit to Scotland – a man who has recently been their greatest enemy, none other than Kaiser Wilhelm. Chases up hill and across moorland ensue and there’s an amusing take on the scene in TTNS when Hannay had to pretend to be a political candidate.
Great escapism.

These specially written stories have been donated by the authors (from all over the world, some previously published, others new) to help raise funds for NHS charities.
Inevitably, some are better than others – two read more like prĂ©cis of novels than short stories. I particularly enjoyed The Flight by Olga Wojtas, channeling the widow of an East End villain in Malaga, and the atmospheric Tiger’s Eye View by Roz Watkins set in the Himalayas. My favourite was the first one, Night Butterflies by Zoe Sharp, an author I hadn’t heard of before but who I see has a great-sounding series I must add to my wish-list reading …
Remember – all profits from the book, available on Kindle and as a paperback, go to NHS charities.

The third in the very enjoyable DCI Satterthwaite Mystery Series.
Cody Wilder, a controversial American academic with a dark past, is in the Lake District to present her latest findings on William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. When the body count around her mounts up, Jude Satterthwaite and his team, including his lover DS Ashleigh O’Halloran, try to find out more about Cody whose greatest talent, it seems, is making enemies. There’s a great juxtaposition between the beauty of the Lakeland scenery and the dark and twisted minds of those who bring blood and mayhem to the area. Looking forward to number 4!

Read for my book group who were all gripped by the story of Marie Colvin – this biography reads like a thriller, with a glamorous, hard-partying main character whose personal life echoes the drama of her career. Seemingly fearless, Colvin entered the lairs of such figures as Yasser Arafat and Colonel Gaddafi, able to connect with them in a way her male colleagues couldn’t. Among other incredible stories, there’s an arduous and dangerous snowy journey to escape from Chechnya and a less successful escape attempt in Sri Lanka which ended with her becoming blind in one eye.
Written by a fellow war correspondent, the book draws on Marie’s own diary and on conversations with her friends and family who were devastated but perhaps not surprised when she lost her life in Homs, Syria in 2012.
In the last few years, with leaps in technology and with social media, there’s been a tendency for news editors not to send reporters into war zones. Safer for them, of course, and no doubt a relief for their nearest and dearest but, on the evidence of this book, a big loss for the rest of us.

Death Comes to Cornwall by Kate Johnson
I do seem to have taken to crime this month. This is the first in a new series – cosy crime with more than a dash of romance.
Molly Higgins takes full advantage of the annual shooting of a TV drama, Dr Wenn Investigates, in her village to acquire several temporary jobs, as she’s the breadwinner for her alcoholic mother and her little sister.
The previous year she had a relationship with the programme’s dashing villain Conor Blackstone that ended amid misunderstandings. After a fraught start this year, together they try to find out who’s behind the bludgeoning to death of a member of the film crew.
The second in the series will be on my Kindle ere long.

The journal I read was the latest edition of the wonderful Slightly Foxed. As to the two very long books – I’ll let you know about one when I’ve finished; as to the other, here’s a clue.