Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively

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.

I was on holiday in the Lake District last week, overlooking Esthwaite Water. There were two shelves of books in our apartment and one of them was Ammonites and Leaping Fish: a Life in Time by Penelope Lively, so I read it whilst we were away. I’ll write more about it in a later post (although I’ve not been keeping up with reviewing the books I’ve read this summer).

This is not quite a memoir. Rather it is a view from old age.

And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. The view from eighty for me. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now and know what goes on here.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

When I was on the other side of the Atlantic a few years ago staying with my best friend in America, she produced a photo she had found of the two of us taken in the early 1980s. We gazed at it with surprised respect; ‘Weren’t we young!’ said Betty. Actually verging on middle age, but never mind – our reaction was in perfect accord: an acknowledgement of those other selves.

Penelope Lively is one of my favourite authors and I’ve been reading her books for years, all of them are enjoyable and this one is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Synopsis from Amazon:

In this charming but powerful memoir, Penelope Lively reports from beyond the horizon of old age. She describes what old age feels like for those who have arrived there and considers the implications of this new demographic. She looks at the context of a life and times, the history and archaeology that is actually being made as we live out our lives in real time, in her case World War II; post war penny-pinching Britain; the Suez crisis; the Cold War and up to the present day. She examines the tricks and truths of memory. She looks back over a lifetime of reading and writing. And finally she looks at her identifying cargo of possessions – two ammonites, a cat, a pair of American ducks and a leaping fish sherd, amongst others. This is an elegant, moving and deeply enjoyable memoir by one of our most loved writers.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

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 Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson’s new book which will be published in September. I’ll write about it in a later post. Although I’m still reading The Return of the King and The Island, I wondered what I’d like to read next. I was thinking of reading  Lion by Conn Iggulden, the first in a new series ‘The Golden Age’, set in Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC. But, today I wasn’t in the mood for ancient historical fiction and fancied something more rural and more modern – and spotted All Among the Barley in a pile of books waiting to be read. It’s set on a farm in Suffolk just before the Second World War.

Prologue

Last night I lay awake again, remembering the day the Hunt ran me down in Hulver Wood when I was just a girl.

And then Chapter 1:

My name is Edith June Mather and I was born after the end of the Great War. My father, George Mather, had sixty acres of arable land known as Wych Farm; it is somewhere not far from here, I believe. Before him my grandfather Albert farmed the same fields, and his father before him, who ploughed with a team of oxen and sowed by hand.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Unlike Doble, whose family had been tied to ours for generations, John was what we in the village called a ‘furriner’, having been born sixty miles or more north of us, where our clay gave way to flat, rich peat.

Synopsis from Amazon:

WINNER OF THE EU PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

‘BOOK OF THE YEAR’ NEW STATESMAN, OBSERVER, IRISH TIMES, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE

The fields were eternal, our life the only way of things, and I would do whatever was required of me to protect it.


The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember, though the Great War still casts a shadow over the cornfields of her beloved home, Wych Farm.

When charismatic, outspoken Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to write about fading rural traditions, she takes an interest in fourteen-year-old Edie, showing her a kindness she has never known before. But the older woman isn’t quite what she seems.

As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the whole community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.

I chose this book because earlier this year I enjoyed Melissa Harrison’s novella, Rain: Four Walks in English Weather, which is about four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor. I like the way she writes about the natural world and All Among the Barley looks as though it will bring to life a world governed by the old rural traditions, in an evocation of place and a lost way of life.

What do you think? Have you read this book ?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Island by Victoria Hislop

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.

I’m currently reading The Island by Victoria Hislop, a book I’ve had on my bookshelves for years. The Wanderlust Bingo challenge has given me a massive nudge to read it now as it is the perfect book for the Island category! It is historical fiction inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, an island off the coast of Crete, a stone’s throw from Plaka. I’ve now read 25% of this book and am enjoying it so far.

Plaka, 1953

A cold wind whipped through the streets of Plaka and the chill of the autumnal air encircled the woman, paralysing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 57 (page 56 is blank):

1939

Early May brings Crete its most perfect and heaven-sent days. On one such day, when the trees were heavy with blossom and the very last of the mountain snows had melted into crystal streams, Elena left the mainland for Spinalonga. In cruel contrast to this blackest of events, the sky was brilliant, a cloudless blue

Synopsis from Amazon:



On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion.

She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

I’ve read three other books by Victoria Hislop and enjoyed them so I’m expecting this one to be good too.

What do you think? Have you read this book ?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter

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.

I began reading Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books years ago and have read 9 of the 13 books in the series, mostly out of order, so I’ve been reading the earlier books to fill in the gaps, as it were. Chief Inspector Morse is one of my favourite fictional detectives (maybe even the favourite). I first ‘met’ him years ago in the ITV series Inspector Morse and so, just as Joan Hickson is forever in my mind as Miss Marple and David Suchet is Poirot, John Thaw is Morse. This post is about the 11th book The Daughters of Cain.

It begins with a Prolegomena ie Prologue

Natales grate numeras?
(Do you count your birthdays with gratitude?)
(Horace, Epistles II)

On Mondays to Fridays it was fifty-fifty whether the postman called before Julia Stevens left for school.

Julia is a teacher, not a pupil.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

She’d never loved anyone in life really – except for her mum. But amongst her clients, that rather endearing, kindly, caring sort of idiot, Felix, had perhaps come nearer than anyone.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bizarre and bewildering – that’s what so many murder investigations in the past had proved to be… In this respect, at least, Lewis was correct in his thinking. What he could not have known was what unprecedented anguish the present case would cause to Morse’s soul.

Chief Superintendent Strange’s opinion was that too little progress had been made since the discovery of a corpse in a North Oxford flat. The victim had been killed by a single stab wound to the stomach. Yet the police had no weapon, no suspect, no motive.

Within days of taking over the case Chief Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis uncover startling new information about the life and death of Dr Felix McClure. When another body is discovered Morse suddenly finds himself with rather too many suspects. For once, he can see no solution. But then he receives a letter containing a declaration of love… 

What do you think? Have you read this book – or any of the Inspector Morse books?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Wednesday’s Child by Peter Robinson

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.

My book this week is Wednesday’s Child by Peter Robinson. I began reading his Inspector Banks books years ago and have read 11 of the 26 books in the series, mostly out of order, so I’ve been reading the earlier books to fill in the gaps, as it were. This morning reading Margot’s post I remembered that the next book in the series I have to read is the 6th book, Wednesday’s Child.

The room was a tip, the woman was a slattern. On the floor, near the door to the kitchen, a child’s doll with one eye missing lay naked on its back, right arm raised above its head. The carpet around it was so stained with ground-in mud and food it was hard to tell what shade of brown it had originally been. High in one corner, by the front window, pale flowered wallpaper had peeled away from a damp patch. The windows were streaked with grime, and the flimsy orange curtains needed washing.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

‘The superintendent mentioned the Moors Murderers, Brady and Hindley,’ said Banks. I know he’s got a bee in his bonnet about that case, but you have to admit there are parallels.’

Synopsis from Amazon

When two social workers, investigating reports of child abuse, appear at Brenda Scupham’s door, her fear of authority leads her to comply meekly with their requests. Even when they say that they must take her seven-year old daughter Gemma away for tests . . .

It is only when they fail to return Gemma the following day that Brenda realizes something has gone terribly wrong.

At the same time, Banks is investigating a particularly unpleasant murder at the site of an abandoned mine. Gradually, the leads in the two cases converge, guiding Banks to one of the most truly terrifying criminals he will ever meet . . .

Mmm … It sounds very grim! What do you think? Have you read this book – or any of the Inspector Banks books?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

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.

My book this week is Extra Virgin: Amongst the Olive Groves of Liguria by Annie Hawes. I had completely forgotten that I had bought this book; I have no idea when or where I bought it, but it’s there on my bookshelves waiting to be read. I’m guessing I bought it after reading other books about life in Italy by Frances Mayes, Bella Tuscany and  Under the Tuscan Sun about restoring a crumbling villa and building a new life in the Italian countryside, full of the pleasures of living in Tuscany – the sun, the food, the wine and the local people. 

It begins with a Prologue:

Hearing the racket from above, Franco wades through his pile of prunings and peers up through the trailing branches. A pair of foreign females, skin so white it’s blinding in the glare of the sun, are messing about outside Pompeo’s old place, a few terraces uphill, shouting and giggling.

Followed by Chapter I :

Glamour , we soon spotted was not the outstanding feature of the village of Diano San Pietro.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Here in Liguria you are surrounded by life-threatening terrors.

Synopsis from Amazon

A small stone house deep among the olive groves of Liguria, going for the price of a dodgy second-hand car. Annie Hawes and her sister, on the spot by chance, have no plans whatsoever to move to the Italian Riviera but find naturally that it’s an offer they can’t refuse. The laugh is on the Foreign Females who discover that here amongst the hardcore olive farming folk their incompetence is positively alarming. Not to worry: the thrifty villagers of Diano San Pietro are on the case, and soon plying the Pallid Sisters with advice, ridicule, tall tales and copious hillside refreshments …

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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.

One of the books I’m reading is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is a book that I’ve been hesitating about reading for a while. For one thing I had no idea what crawdads are – they’re crayfish and apparently they don’t actually sing – and for another it has mixed reviews. Anyway, I decided it was worth trying and I started to listen to the audiobook on BorrowBox, but had to return it unfinished and have now borrowed a paperback copy from the library. I’ve got to return it by 7 July as someone else has reserved it, which puts me under pressure to read it right now. It’s obviously in demand!

It begins with a Prologue:

1969

Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky.

Followed by Chapter I Ma:

1952

The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron’s wings lifting from the lagoon. And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Every warmish day of winter and every day of spring, Pa and Kya went out, far and up and down the coast, trolling, casting, and reeling. Whether the estuary or creek, she scanned for that boy Tate in his boat, hoping to see him again.

Synopsis from Amazon

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

~~~

It’s looking good so far. Have you read it – if so, what did you think of it?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson

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.

I’m currently reading A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson, one of my 20 Books of Summer. It’s the first in his DS Nathan Cody crime thriller series.

Listen.

There it is again. The sound. The tapping, scraching, scrabbling noise at the back door.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

56%:

‘We can’t keep operating like this. We can’t treat every suspicious call as if it’s leading us to an unexploded bomb. We haven’t got the resources and pretty soon the public is going to start wonderingwhy we’re taking so long to deal with minor crimes.

Synopsis from Amazon

When police are called to a murder scene in the Liverpool suburbs, even the most jaded officers are disturbed by what they find.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes.

And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police.

~~~

The beginning of this book is so scary that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to read it, but I am and I’m enjoying it. Jackson quotes from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven before Chapter 1, which gives you a hint of what is to follow.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

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 Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter is one of my 20 Books of Summer. It’s an Inspector Morse murder mystery. I have just finished reading it and will write a review soon. But in the meantime I thought I’d do Book Beginnings on Friday and a Friday 56 post about it.

Chapter One: Monday, 7th July

In which a veteran of the El Alamein offensive finds cause to recall the most tragic day of his life.

There had been three of them – the three Gilbert brothers: the twins, Alfred and Albert; and the younger boy, John, who had been killed one day in North Africa.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56: This extract is part of Morse’s memories of his time at Oxford University.

But in the middle of his third year he had met the girl who matched the joy of all his wildest dreams.

Synopsis from Amazon

The thought suddenly occurred to Morse that this would be a marvellous time to murder a few of the doddery old bachelor dons. No wives to worry about their whereabouts; no landladies to whine about the unpaid rents. In fact nobody would miss most of them at all . . .

By the 16th of July the Master of Lonsdale was concerned, but not yet worried.

Dr Browne-Smith had passed through the porter’s lodge at approximately 8.15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 11th July. And nobody had heard from him since.

Plenty of time to disappear, thought Morse. And plenty of time, too, for someone to commit murder . . .

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Death in Berlin by M M Kaye

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.

Death in Berlin by M M Kaye is one of the 20 Books of Summer that I’m aiming to read this summer. It is crime fiction set in war-scarred Berlin in the early 1950s. Miranda is on the night train when she discovers a dead body. Years ago I read The Far Pavilions and it is only in recent years that I discovered she wrote the Death in … series. This is the 2nd book in the series first published in 1955.

It begins with a Prologue:

With nightfall the uneasy wind that had sighed all day through the grass and the gorse bushes at the cliff edge died away, and a cold fog crawls in from the sea, obliterating the darkening coastline and muting the drag of waves on shingle to a rhythmic murmur barely louder than the unrelenting and monotomous mutter of gunfire to the east.

followed by Chapter 1

Miranda Brand knelt on the floor of a bedroom in the Families’ Hostel in Bad Oeynhausen in Berlin, searching her suitcase for a cake of soap, and regretting that she had ever accepted her cousin Robert Melville’s invitation to spend a month with him and his family in Berlin.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Miranda’s eyes widened suddenly and she caught her breath in a little gasp. ‘Yes. There was something else. I heard a door being opened and then I heard someone moving about in there. I thought it was funny – “funny peculiar”, I mean.’

Synopsis from Amazon

Miranda Brand is visiting Germany for what is supposed to be a month’s vacation. But from the moment that Brigadier Brindley relates the story about a fortune in lost diamonds–a story in which Miranda herself figures in an unusual way–the vacation atmosphere becomes transformed into something more ominous. And when murder strikes on the night train to Berlin, Miranda finds herself unwillingly involved in a complex chain of events that will soon throw her own life into peril.

What are you planning to read this summer?