Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About (This is for the books you liked, but rarely come up in conversation or rarely fit a TTT topic, etc.)

These are books I read before I began blogging. First is book I bought in an airport bookshop waiting to board a plane:

It’s Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. I had never heard of Anita Shreve, but I liked the look of this book – and the fact that it’s a chunky book of nearly 600 pages, so, good to read on holiday. It’s set in the summer of 1899 when Olympia Biddeford and her parents are on holiday at the family’s vacation home in Fortune’s Rocks, a coastal resort in New Hampshire. She is fifteen years old and this is the story of her love affair with an older man. I read more by her later and whilst I enjoyed her early books, I wasn’t so taken with her later ones.

Carol Shields is another author I’d never heard of until picked up Happenstance whilst at Gatwick Airport, waiting for another plane to go on holiday. I began reading it in the departure lounge, then on the plane and round the hotel pool, then passed it on to my husband. It’s written in two halves – one telling the wife’s story, then you turn the book round and upside down and there is the second half  telling the husband’s. Both tell their stories of a certain period in their lives from their own point of view. I read the wife’s side first. I didn’t talk about it to my husband just gave him the book and he read the husband’s side first. Then we discussed it and of course we both had different views on it. I’ve since read and enjoyed several more of her books

The Memory Box – Margaret Forster – A young woman leaves a sealed memory box for her baby daughter before she dies. Years later, as a young woman herself, Catherine finds her mother’s box full of unexplained, even bizarre objects. Finding out what the objects represent is her only chance to find out about the mother she never knew. A lovely book.

The Thornbirds – Colleen McCullough. I read this many years ago and have never forgotten it. In the rugged Australian Outback, three extraordinary generations of Cleary’s live through joy and sadness, bitter defeat and magnificent triumph – driven by their dreams, sustained by remarkable strength of character…and torn by dark passions, violence and a scandalous family legacy of forbidden love.

The Falls – Joyce Carol Oates. this was the first of Oates’ books I read and I loved it. A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. He’s a newly-wed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding. For two weeks, Ariah, the deserted bride, waits by the side of the roaring waterfall for news of her husband’s recovered body.

Possession – A S Byatt is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers combines two stories, that of Julia Garnet, a retired school teacher, who goes to Venice prompted by the death of a friend, and that of  Tobias and the Angel, which she sees in the Guardi panels in the Chiesa dell’ Angelo Raffaele. This is a beautiful book.

The Soldier’s Return – Melvyn Bragg, a novel about the aftermath of the Second World War. Sam Richardson returns home to Wigton in Cumbria where he finds the town little changed. But the war has changed him. His six year old son barely remembers him and his wife has gained a sense of independence from her wartime jobs. There are two further books to complete the story – A Son of War and Crossing the Lines. All three books are outstandingly good.

Glittering Images – Susan Howatch. The first in her Church of England series. I loved the whole series when I read them years ago. This book is set in 1937 and beneath the smooth surface of an episcopal palace lurks the sordid breath of scandal. Charles Ashworth, a Canon to the Archbishop of Canterbury is sent to untangle the web of corruption, only to become involved himself. I’m not an Anglican so I was fascinated by the description of the hierarchy within the church as well as all the scandals.

An Alien at St Wilfred’s by Adrian Plass is another book about an Anglican church, but this is very different from Susan Howatch’s series. It’s very funny, about a small alien, calling himself Nunc who comes to live in a parish church and learns to speak Prayer Book English. His effect on the vicar and the congregation is hilarious.

24 thoughts on “Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About

  1. What a good idea for a meme, Margaret, and you shared some excellent books. I’m glad you’ve included The Thorn Birds here; I have good memories of reading that book, and I’m now tempted to look for it and have a re-read.

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    1. I’m tempted to look for The Thorn Birds too and see if I still like it as much as I did years ago. But maybe that’s not such a good idea if I don’t like it now!

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  2. The Soldier’s Return sounds very good. I’ve always “meant” to read Susan Howatch’s books–I probably have read something buy her. I might look for this. it goes along well with something I’ve written. Thanks

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  3. I ought to back and re-read the Howatch series, Margaret. My religious views have changed considerably since I first read it and it would be interesting to see how I would respond to it now. I loved both the Shields and the Forster, two of my favourite writers.

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    1. I dug out my copies of Susan Howatch’s books and they’re sitting there tempting me to re-read them – or at least dip into them again.


  4. I’ve read a couple of these and then also other books by the same authors. The Thorn Birds – many years ago – it was so popular at the time. Remember the TV adaptation? I’ve read other books by Anita Shreve and loved many of Susan Howatch’s books, but haven’t her Church of England series. One day. I think I tried reading Possession and never finished it. This was an interesting topic. Hope you are well, Margaret. Take care!

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  5. Oh my. You have Happenstance on your list, too. And you have several others I’ve read and enjoyed including the Anita Shreve book and Miss Garnet’s Angel and (especially) Possession. I should have had Possession on my list.

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  6. Interesting list Margaret. I read ‘An Alien at St Wilfred’s’ many many years ago, and enjoyed it, but this is the first time I have ever seen it mentioned since! I will have to check if it is still on my shelves.

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    1. I got out my copy of An Alien at St Wilfred’s and am thinking that I’ll re-read it. I went to one of Adrian Plass’s talks years ago – he’s an excellent speaker, we were all in stitches laughing at part of his speech.


  7. They all sound well worth reading. The only one I have read is The Thorn Birds, way back when it was first published.

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    1. Sadly I don’t have my copy of The thorn Birds any more – that’s what happens when I decided to ‘weed’ my books, once they’re gone I want to re-read them.


    1. Miss Garnet’s Angel was the first book by Salley Vickers that I’ve read. that book and Mr Golightly’s Holiday are my favourites of her books


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