Thursday, 4 February 2021

Nine in January


I read nine books in January.


Snow and the Works on the Northern Line by Ruth Thomas

It’s been too long since Ruth Thomas’ last book, The Home Corner (2013) so I was delighted to see she had a new one out (and also that it was serialised on Radio 4).

She has such a sly wit; you are always on the edge of snorting with laughter. Here she pokes gentle fun at archaeologists, academia, museums and museum shops, and poetry classes. All of which ticked boxes for me.

Her Things to Make and Mend and short stories are also highly recommended.


The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Read on Kindle. Like approximately 62,999,999 other people worldwide I watched Bridgerton and loved it. Will get round to reading the novels from which the series is made but in the meantime The Duchess Deal was touted as ‘for fans of Bridgerton’.

Here, the hero looking for a duchess to give him an heir wasn’t  a flawlessly good-looking young man – he’d been shockingly scarred on one side at the Battle of Waterloo and his former fianc√©e had run away screaming; understandably all that has made him reclusive and angry.

Emma is a struggling dressmaker who arrives at his house with the aforementioned fiance√©’s wedding dress for which she has not been paid and finds herself proposed to.

There are scenes later on, when the couple find themselves adrift in the back streets of London, which are reminiscent of Georgette Heyer – always a good thing.


10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

Read on Kindle for book group. Short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2019.

Brothel-worker Tequila Leila’s has 10 minutes and 38 seconds to live. As her life ebbs away she remembers her unhappy, abusive childhood but also delicious, sensuous things – smells and tastes of life in the Middle East. And she remembers her five good friends who are, although she doesn’t know it, trying to find her; we learn more about each of those friends in turn. Lyrically written.



The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham

Read on Kindle. I’ve never seen Midsomer Murders but I know it’s the fictional crime capital of England. I read somewhere about the original novels that sparked the series; the article said how well written they were and that they had more depth than in their TV life.

Here, an elderly spinster dies in her own home which hardly seems suspicious but her doughty friend, the wonderfully named Miss Lucy Bellringer, is sure she was murdered. She manages to convince Chief Inspector Barnaby and soon the seamy side of tranquil Badger’s Drift becomes the focus of his attention. Excellent and satisfying …


A Place of Safety by Caroline Graham

… so I bought another one. This has a do-gooding ex-vicar giving ‘a place of safety’ to young offenders, some of whom are more reformed/reformable than others.

Barnaby is a great creation. Unlike many fictional policemen, he has a happy home life (his only ‘problem’ is that his wife is a really terrible, salad-burning, cook) and his actor daughter and son-in-law add interest.


Apple Island Wife: Slow Living in Tasmania by Fiona Stocker

I have been to Tasmania so I was looking forward to being there again vicariously by reading this account of a young British couple settling in a rural five acres of it and aiming to be self-sufficient, after busy working lives in urban mainland Australia.

I guess I hoped it would have a flavour of The Egg and I, a famous, comical account of two townies trying to live the dream and/or that it would have gorgeous writing like Island Wife, an account of moving to a Hebridean island.

But, compared to these, the telling of what this couple did was banal. They almost could have been anywhere, with wallabies. Some amusing small events are spun out to a numbing degree. There’s no exploring of the island other than their own little corner of it.

‘Apple Island’ makes for a pretty title but the name has not been appropriate for many decades, not since Britain joined the EEC (as it was then), stopped importing apples from Tasmania, causing the collapse of the industry. 

Oh – hang on a minute, maybe…


The Last Piece by Imogen Clark

Read on Kindle. When mother and grandmother Cecily suddenly ups and offs to a Greek island on her own for a week her three daughters are aghast, especially uptight Felicity who relies on her for some childcare.

Their dad knows why she’s gone but he’s not telling. And I’m not going to tell you either because that would be a big spoiler. But I can say that we go with Cecily to Greece and for a bit of her history, and also follow the sisters, two of whom are having dramas of their own back home.


The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake

Read on Kindle. Accountant Claire is trying to make partner in a prestigious firm and works round the clock. She has a lovely one-night stand with Armani-suited Ash but then he goes quiet. Visiting the doctor for a cut on her hand that isn’t healing, she finds herself signed off for a month with stress

She plans a few weeks of pottering around the house she’s bought but barely spent time in – but life has other ideas, firstly in the formidable shape of Hilda, an elderly woman in search of a project and a friend, secondly with the daughters of Claire’s wayward sister, and thirdly with a much-changed Ash. Oh, and park running.

Loved the multi-generational aspect of this, a real feel-good read.


The Cost of Living by Rachel Ward

This (punny) title kept popping up, waving to get my attention. And I’m very glad it did. It’s a cosy crime (well, the crimes, attacks on women connected to the supermarket, are far from cosy but the gory bits are well off stage).

The amateur sleuth is a bright twenty-year-old supermarket checkout girl called Bea, and her sidekick is the newest member of staff, the gormless-seeming Ant, with whom Bea was at school.

Terrific, and there are two more in the series, also with punny titles, to look forward to.