A late posting this month – events have overtaken me. But here’s what I read last month.
Noonday – Pat Barker
The final part of Barker’s second war trilogy, ending in the Blitz and focusing mostly on the character of Elinor, estranged from her husband and in vague contact with Kit Neville. I wanted to finish it before I went to see Pat Barker speak one evening at the Nottingham Playhouse. I think I like the Noonday trilogy more than the Regeneration trilogy, though this might just be because of the length of time since I’ve read the Regeneration three. I enjoyed the slant on the later conflict, and the effect that it had on those who went through the first one is something I tried to examine in my book so to see it done by a master is awe inspiring and terrifying in equal measure.
The Shore – Sara Taylor
A couple of years back I read ‘Winter’s Bone’, a novel set in the Ozarks, featuring a community hooked on drugs and the resulting poverty and violence. This is set in a similar place with similar issues but my goodness, does it kick ass! Revenge is indeed sweet. This is not a cheerful read, and in some places it may also come across as a bit melodramatic. That said, I raced through it.
Last Summer of Water Strider – Tim Lott
I wanted to like this. I enjoy his columns in the Saturday Guardian and I read another of his books a few years back and loved it. I found this shallow and trite by comparison, with disappointing characterisation and predictable plotting.
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
The reading group choice this month and, despite Jane Eyre being my favourite novel of all time, I’d not read this. Perhaps because JE is my favourite; I’m not a fan of sequels/ prequels/ something done to originals I’m fond of (the exception being the sequels to Rebecca by Sally Beauman and Susan Hill). I found this confusing and was glad I knew the basic plot behind it. I liked the character of Antoinette/ Bertha, and the atmosphere was incredibly close and evocative. But it’s hard to follow and you still don’t trust anyone as a reliable narrator so I’m not sure you’re any the wiser as to the back story than when you started. Interesting.
The Song Collector – Natasha Solomons
I LOVED this. I couldn’t put it down! A lovely story about a grouchy old widower who starts to teach his troublesome grandson music. The story is interspersed with his memories of growing up a the youngest son of a fading minor aristocrat and the family’s struggle to keep their estate going, but with his memories of his wife, and how he met her. It was all very well done, with a lovely eye for detail and strong characterisation. Highly recommended.
A Song for Issy Bradley – Carys Bray
I confess I got halfway through this and had to put it down. I knew a book with the storyline it had was going to test me, and this month it cut too close to ome so I will return to it when I’m feeling a bit more equipped to cope. But I was finding the discussion of faith and the fractured marriage interesting so maybe in a few weeks…