Friday 6 January 2023

Twelve in December

 I read twelve books in December.

 I had three days away in a cottage in Sutherland, then I had a few days of feeling peaky and having to cancel various things, then I was on holiday from work/regular activities – all of which allowed lots of lovely reading time.



Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I’ve been saving this up for the Christmas holidays. I bought the splendid edition Waterstones produced with the periodic table printed in blue down the fore edge.

I didn’t study chemistry beyond second year at school but if our heroine here, Elizabeth Zott, had been my teacher I could well have been persuaded.

The book lived up to the hype for me, and then some. It’s got everything really – an inspirational main character, a family mystery, a love story, social history, a setting in 60s America, and more.



Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

I was lucky enough to be given a Bookshop.org voucher for  for my birthday – which was months ago but I took ages to make up my mind what to spend it on. I ended up with five titles including this: again, a book that lived up to its reputation. It’s a novella most beautifully written by this Irish author. Her portrayal of the dilemma faced, in 1985, by family man Bill Furlong when he delivers coal to a convent that takes in unmarried mothers, stays in the mind long after you put the book down.

Buying through Bookshop.org was easy by the way; it’s a site that supports independent bookshops. In my case it benefitted my local Edinburgh Bookshop.


Bedpans and Bobby Socks by Barbara Fox and Gwenda Gofton

I love reading books about nurses (see this article I wrote for Corazon Books on the subject) and I love road trip books especially if they are set in America. So this (another Bookshop.org purchase) was a double whammy. Five British nursing friends took jobs in American in the late 1950s and then intrepidly set out in a very unreliable car to see as much of America as they could, making lots of friends along the way. A treat.


Death on the Crags by Jo Allen

The ninth book in the satisfying DI Satterthwaite series.


Hancox by Charlotte Moore

Bought in the Christian Aid book sale, this is the story of the family who has owned Hancox, ‘a Tudor hall house in rural Sussex’, since the end of the 1900s. The author was brought up in Hancox and lives there now. Luckily for her they were/are a family who never throw anything away – her difficulty was deciding what to leave out from the extensive archive. She doesn’t hold back on the streak of severe mental illness that runs through the family.


Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

This would have been one of my purchases with my voucher if it had been in paperback, but that’s not coming until the end of this month. However … Waterstones had a half-price hardback sale and lo and behold this was included. I absolutely loved her Writers and Lovers and will definitely seek out her other novels.

Five Tuesdays in Winter is a short story collection. My favourite was the title story; it’s a love story featuring a grumpy bookseller – what’s not to like?


Murder on Christmas Eve

What it says on the tin; an excellent collection.


Also with Christmas in mind – I read all the Little House on the Prairie books to my children and I recalled that there was a scene where a neighbour of theirs came through a snowstorm with Christmas candy for her and her sisters. I thought it was On the Banks of Plum Creek but it wasn’t so I started the series at the beginning and up until the end of December I read these others.


The Christmas scene was actually in Little House on the Prairie – and I’d misremembered something else: Mr Edwards walked 40 miles there and back to the town of Independence for the candy and struggled home not through a snowstorm but through high floodwater.

The account of enduring seven months of snow and blizzards and -40F temperatures in The Long Winter made me thankful for a watertight (if not always warm) house, plenty to eat and the electric blanket, and stopped me moaning (for a while) about feeling cold.


I also wanted to reread the books before embarking on the ‘true’ story, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser – a big brick of a book (charity shop purchase) that I shall report back on in due course.

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