Library Loans 27 February 2020

The mobile library van visit was this week and I borrowed these books:

Library bks Feb 2020

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley, subtitled Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter. On the back cover it says that this is ‘packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets’. I know very little about Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s sixth child, so I’m keen to find out about her. From the opening page I’ve already found out she was a friend to artists, such as Dante Rossetti, James Whistler and John Millais and that she was a sculptor.

Caught Out in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho. I’ve read two of her books before. This is the seventh book in her Rose Trevelyan series of mysteries, in which she sees four year old Beth Jones being carried away from the beach at Marazion by someone she assumes is her father. But her mother insists he is a stranger.

A Body in the Bath House by Lindsey Davis the 13th book in her Marcus Didio Falco series of historical crime fiction mysteries. It’s set in Rome and Britain in AD 75. Falco is Britain and he hates it. A thousand miles from home he realises someone with murderous intentions is after him.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. A while ago I kept seeing reviews of this book and wondered about reading it, so when I saw it on the library van shelves I decided to see what it’s like for myself. It’s a murder mystery set in a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish wilderness where old friends gather for New Year. The description makes me wonder if it is like In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware about a group of friends who spend a weekend in a remote cottage and everything goes wrong. I’m not sure I’ll like it …

I think I’ll start with The Mystery of Princess Louise – a friend borrowed it before me and said it’s very good, but first I’ll have to finish The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox, his latest instalment in the Detective Aidan Waits series.

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd

Year without summer

Two Roads| 6 February 2020| 416 pages| e-book| review copy via NetGalley| 5 stars

The Year Without Summer: 1816 – one event, six lives, a world changed by Guinevere Glasfurd is a most remarkable book, telling how the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia in 1815 had a profound and far reaching impact on the world. It led to sudden cooling across the northern hemisphere, crop failures, famine and social unrest in the following year, which became known as The Year Without Summer and in North America as Eighteen hundred and froze to death. But it wasn’t until the mid twentieth century that volcanic eruptions were shown to affect climate change.

Guinevere Glasfurd’s novel illustrates how the impact of the extreme weather conditions affected the lives of six people. They never meet, or know each other, but their stories are intertwined throughout the book in short chapters, giving what I think is a unique look at the events of 1816. I enjoyed all the stories.

Henry Hogg was the ship’s surgeon on the Benares, the ship sent to investigate the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. He discovered the sea full of floating pumice and charred bodies, whilst the decks of the ship were covered a foot thick with ashes. The immediate effects of the eruption were simply tremendous and horrific, within a hundred miles forests, towns were covered, deep valleys were filled in and the contours of the coast were changed.

In 1816 Mary Shelley travelled to Switzerland with Percy Shelley and her son Willmouse, her step-sister, Claire and Lord Byron and Dr Polidori and after a month of rain, Byron suggests that they should each write a ghost story and that led to her writing Frankenstein.

John Constable’s love of landscapes is deeply unfashionable and his hopes to marry Maria Rebow depend upon him gaining a commission from her parents. His father is near to death and as he has passed his business to Abram, John’s younger brother, John has few prospects other than to make a living from his painting.

Farmworker Sarah Hobbs in the Fens is finding work hard to get and has to settle for shovelling shit in the stables in her bare feet for a penny a day.  Always hungry and with work getting even more scarce she gets involved in the Littleport hunger riots. Her story is based loosely on a real person who was condemned to hang for her part in the riots, but her sentence was eventually commuted to transportation. The suppression of these riots was repeated in the 1819 Peterloo Massacre when protesters had gathered in Manchester demanding political reform

The other two people are fictional – preacher Charles Whitlock in Vermont is struggling, having persuaded his flock not to travel to Ohio to escape the draught, only to find that this is followed by periods of hard frost and snow in August. Their prospects are very bleak and death soon follows.

The other fictional character is Hope Peter, a soldier returned from the Napoleonic wars, who finds his mother has died, his family home demolished and a fence has gone up in its place, enclosing the land. He too ends up taking part in a riot – this one at Spa Fields at Islington.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but it works very well for me, highlighting the global connections. It is of course about climate change, showing the far-reaching effects of the Tambora eruption, which weren’t limited to 1815 and 1816. It led to hardships in 1817 and 1818 with the outbreak of cholera and typhoid epidemics triggered by the failure of monsoons. As Guinevere Glasfurd explains in her afterword the eruption is ‘credited with social change throughout the nineteenth century and with the pressure for social reform.’

This was the first book by Guinevere Glasfurd  that I’ve read, but it’s not her first book – that was The Words in My Hand, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was also longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. She is currently working on her third novel, a story of the Enlightenment, set in eighteenth century England and France. I’ll be reading more of her work.

Many thanks to Two Roads for a review copy via NetGalley.

My Friday Post: The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The Ghost of Lily Painter is by Caitlin Davies and I want to read it because it looks good, a blend of fact and fiction based on true events. I also want to read it as I’ve recently read Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies and he mentions in it that his daughter, Caitlin, is an author (like his wife Margaret Forster), with ten books published. I love Margaret Forster’s books, so I thought I’d see what her daughter’s books are like.

The Ghost of Lily Painter

It is a bitter winter’s evening and the little girl is in her bedroom standing confidently before her mirror. The mirror is affixed to the wall at such a height that she has to tiptoe herself up to see her body entirely, but then, how dramatically she tilts her head. How regally she nods at her reflection as she pulls at the wispy black feathers of the wrap that hangs loosely around her shoulders.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

I didn’t know she still had this lizard. Ben gave it to her from the inside of his Christmas cracker last year. It’s a tiny cheap thing, green and yellow with a rubbery stickiness, but she’s kept it all this time and here she is talking to it like it’s precious. She won’t talk to me about her day, but she will tell a little green lizard.

Blurb

The first time Annie Sweet sees 43 Stanley Road, the house is so perfect she almost feels as though it has chosen her. But with her husband seeming more distant, and her daughter wrapped up in her friends and new school, Annie is increasingly left alone to mull over the past.

She soon becomes consumed by the house and everyone who has lived there before her, especially a young music hall singer called Lily Painter, whose sparkling performances were the talk of London. As Annie delves further into the past she unravels the case of two notorious baby farmers, who cruelly preyed on vulnerable unmarried mothers. And until she solves the mystery at the heart of the scandal, the ghost of Lily Painter will never be able to rest.

Basing her story on true events, Caitlin Davies skilfully blends fact and fiction to bring to life part of our sinister past. Spanning an entire century, from the journals of an Edwardian police inspector to a doomed wartime love affair, The Ghost of Lily Painter is a gripping and poignant novel.

~~~

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies

Happy Old Me

Simon & Schuster UK (21 Mar. 2019) | Hardback |291 pages |  4*

Blurb:

On 8th February 2016,Margaret Forster lost her life to cancer of the spine. The days that followed for her husband, Hunter Davies, were carried out on autopilot: arrangements to be made, family and friends to be contacted. But how do you cope after you have lost your loved one? How do you carry on?

As Hunter navigates what it means to be alone again after 55 years of marriage, coping with bereavement and being elderly (he still doesn’t believe he is), he shares his wisdom and lessons he has learnt living alone again. Revealing his emotional journey over the course of one year, as well as the often ignored practical implications of becoming widowed, he learns that, ultimately, bricks and mortar may change but the memories will remain. 

Part memoir, part self-help, Happy Old Me is a fitting, heart-felt tribute to the love of his life and a surprisingly amusing and informative book about an age, and stage in life, which we might all reach someday. The third book in Hunter Davies’ much-loved memoir series, which includes The Co-Op’s Got Bananas and A Life in the Day. 

Hunter Davies wrote Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It in 2018 when he was in his eighty-second year. After fifty-five years of marriage he found he suddenly had to cope with living on his own, doing all the ‘domestic stuff he had never bothered to learn’ and get to grips with being old.

It tells of what he did during his first year after Margaret Forster, his wife died and also looks back at their time together and their family and careers. It is so readable, it’s like listening to him talking. I’ve read several of Margaret Forster’s books so it was good to ‘see’ her from his perspective.

I knew less about Hunter Davies, other than that he’s a journalist and has written several books on a variety of subjects. I’m reading The John Lennon Letters, that Davies edited  and my husband is reading his biography of Alfred Wainwright (I’ll read it later) and we have a copy of his book, A Walk Along the Wall, about Hadrian’s Wall (I’ll be reading that later too). Other books by him that interest me are his biographies of the Beatles and of William Wordsworth and also Lakeland: A Personal Journey. 

Amazon tells me that ‘Hunter Davies was at the heart of London culture in the Swinging Sixties, becoming close friends with The Beatles, and especially Sir Paul McCartney. He has been writing bestselling books, as well as widely read columns for over fifty years for major newspapers and magazines.’

In Happy Old Me he writes openly and frankly, with a sense of humour and a zest for life. I really enjoyed it.

Happy Old Me Contents

When was I happiest? People often get asked that, or ask themselves, especially when they get into their eighties, as if all happiness must be in the past, gone for ever. I always say now. And I mean it. I am happy. I am happy to have had my past and I am happy looking forward to tomorrow. (page 267)

A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill

A killing kindness

HarperCollins | 2013 | 372 pages | Paperback | my own copy | 5*

A Killing Kindness is Reginald Hill’s sixth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in November 1980 and was televised in 1997 with the actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the lead roles.

I wrote about the opening and quoted a short extract from page 56 in a My Friday post in January. I enjoyed it very much. For completeness I’m including the opening paragraph and the extract from page 56 in this post too:

The opening paragraph

… it was green, all green, all over me, choking, the water, then boiling at first, and roaring, and seething, till all settled down, cooling, clearing, and my sight up drifting with the last few bubbles, till through the glassy water I see the sky clearly, and the sun bright as a lemon, and birds with wings wide as a windmill’s sails slowly drifting round it, and over the bank’s rim small dark faces peering, timid as beasts at their watering, nostrils sniffing danger and shy eyes bright and wary, till a current turns me over, and I drift, and am still drifting …

What the hell’s going on here! Stop it! This is sick …

Page 56:

… all over me, choking, the water all boiling at first, and roaring, and seething …. Pascoe shook the medium’s taped words out of his mind and went on with his reading.

There was a degree of lividity down the left side which was unusual for a corpse taken from the water, but could be explained by the fact that the body seemed to have been wedged in the debris by the canal bank rather than rolling free in the current.

With each book getting better and better, I think this is the best of the early Dalziel and Pascoe novels. The main characters are now clearly established and moving on with their lives. Dalziel continues to be a boorish, angry man, not afraid to speak his mind and most definitely politically incorrect in all aspects. Pascoe and Ellie are expecting their first child, and D S Wield’s personal life is not going well.

The plot is nicely convoluted and tricky to solve, as it looks as though the police are faced with a serial killer. Three women have been found dead, strangled and a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. As more murders follow,  the killer is soon known as the Choker and it seems as if his motive for the murders is  compassion:

… ‘this man’s motivation does not seem to be based so much on hate as on compassion.’

‘Compassion? You mean he kills women because he’s sorry for them?’ asked Pascoe with interest.

‘In a way, yes. There’s good case-law here. The impulse to euthanasia is a strong one in all advanced civilisations.’ (p, 145)

Dalziel is angry when he finds out that Wield had involved a clairvoyant to help and Pascoe was talking to linguistic specialists and psychiatrists to help identify the killer. There are a lot of characters for the police to consider – Ellie’s feminist friends in the Women’s Rights Action Group, the members of the Aero Club, the fairground people and the local gypsies. By the time I got near the end of the book I had little idea of the identity of the murderer, but then with one sentence all was made clear. I just needed Pascoe, helped by Wield to work it out for me.

The 7th book in the series is Deadheads and I shall be reading that very soon, I hope.

These are the Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read so far:

1. A Clubbable Woman (1970) 
2. An Advancement of Learning (1971)
3. Ruling Passion (1973)
4. An April Shroud (1975)
5. A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
8. Exit Lines (1984)
11. Bones and Silence (1990) 
14. Pictures of Perfection (1993) – read, no post
17.On Beulah Height (1998) 
20. Death’s Jest Book(2002) 
21. The Death of Dalziel (2007)

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Saving Missey

Harper Collins| 6 February 2020| 384 pages| e-book| review copy via NetGalley| 5+ stars

I absolutely loved Saving Missy, Beth Morrey’s debut novel. It is about love and loss,  family relationships, friendship, loneliness, and guilt but also about the power of kindness. It moved me to tears (not many books do that) but it is not in the least sentimental. 

Missy (Millicent) Carmichael is seventy nine, living on her own in a large house, left with sad memories of what her life used to be, a wife, mother and grandmother, but now she is alone. Her husband, Leo is no longer with her, her son and his family are in Australia and she and her daughter are estranged after a big row. And there is something else too, for Missy has a guilty secret that is gnawing away at her.

And then one morning as she is walking in the park she meets Angela and her young son Otis and their friend Sylvie. From that point on Missy’s life begins to change in a good way as she finds new friends, including a wonderful dog, Bobby. But can she let go of the past and the guilt that is crippling her emotions?

As the story follows Missy’s life in the present (told from Missy’s perspective) events from the past are also revealed – about her parents and grandparents, how she met Leo, and her struggles as a mother unable to follow the academic career she had thought was hers.

This really is a special book, full of wonderful characters, ordinary people drawn from life, about everyday events, pleasures and difficulties. I don’t want to write anymore about the book as that would reveal Missy’s secrets – for there is more than one. It conveys the misery of loneliness, and depths of despair of being stuck in memories (not all of them happy) and of the joys that friendship can bring.  It’s also about reconciliation and forgiving yourself – and last but not least, the love and companionship that a dog can give you.

Beth Morrey (from Goodreads)

Beth Morrey was inspired to write her debut novel, Saving Missy, while pushing a pram around her local park during maternity leave. Getting to know the community of dog owners, joggers, neighbours and families, she began to sow the seeds of a novel about a woman saved by the people around her, strangers who became friends. Previously Creative Director at RDF Television, Beth now writes full time. She was previously shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter award, and had her work published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies while at university. Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons and a dog named Polly.

Many thanks to Harper Collins for a review copy via NetGalley.

My Friday Post: Deadheads by Reginald Hill

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Yesterday I finished reading the 6th book in Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, A Killing Kindness so I decided to look at the next book in the series Deadheads.

Deadheads

 

MISCHIEF

(Hybrid tea, coral and salmon, sweetly scented, excellent in the garden, susceptible to blackspot.)

Mrs Florence Aldermann was distressed by the evidence of neglect all around her.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘Tell me, Mrs Aldermann, is there anyone you can think of who might have wanted to do you a bad turn?’

Blurb – from the back cover of my tatty secondhand copy:

Life was a bed of roses for Patrick Aldermann when his Great Aunt Florence collapsed into her Madame Louis Laperrières and he inherited Rosemont House with its splendid gardens.

But when his boss, ‘Dandy’ Dick Elgood, suggested to Peter Pascoe that Aldermann was a murderer – then retracted the accusation – the Inspector was left with a thorny problem.

By then Police Cadet Singh, Mid-Yorkshire’s first Asian copper had dug up some very interesting information about Patrick’s elegant wife, Daphne.

Superintendent Dalziel, meanwhile, was attempting to relive the days of the Empire with Singh as his tea-wallah.

~~~

Have you read this book? What did you think?