Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkein

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 Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkein, the first book in The Lord of the Rings, one of the few books I’ve previously read several times. I first came across it at the library when I was a teenager and I loved it so much that I decided I needed to buy my own copy for myself. It contains all three books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The Book begins with a Prologue: Concerning Hobbits

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt.

Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party

When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag-End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

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:

Frodo took the envelope from the mantelpiece, and glanced at it, but did not open it.

‘You’ll find his will and all the other documents in there, I think,’ said the wizard. ‘You are the master of Bag-End now. And also, I fancy, you’ll find a golden ring.’

‘The ring!’ exclaimed Frodo. ‘Has he left me that? I wonder why. Still it may be useful.’

‘It may, and it may not,’ said Gandalf. ‘I should not make use of it, if I were you. But keep it secret, and keep it safe! Now I am going to bed.’

Synopsis from Goodreads

Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as the Ring is entrusted to his care. He must leave his home and make a perilous journey across the realms of Middle-earth to the Crack of Doom, deep inside the territories of the Dark Lord. There he must destroy the Ring forever and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

~~~~~

Re-reading it now, it has lost none of the magic I found the first time. It is one of my all time favourite books

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

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 Silence of the Girls is one of the latest books I bought. It is the first book in Pat Barker’s Troy series, historical fiction retelling the story of the Trojan war from the point of view of the women.

The Book begins:

Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles … How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’.

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:

Somebody once said to me: You never mention his looks. And it’s true, I don’t, I find it difficult. At that time, he was probably the most beautiful man alive, as he was certainly the most violent, but that’s the problem. How do you separate a tiger’s beauty from its ferocity? Or a cheetah’s elegance from its speed of attack? Achilles was like that – the beauty and the terror were two sides of a single coin.

Synopsis from Fantastic Fiction:

Here is the story of the Iliad as we’ve never heard it before: in the words of Briseis, Trojan queen and captive of Achilles. Given only a few words in Homer’s epic and largely erased by history, she is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the Trojan War. In these pages she comes fully to life: wry, watchful, forging connections among her fellow female prisoners even as she is caught between Greece’s two most powerful warriors. Her story pulls back the veil on the thousands of women who lived behind the scenes of the Greek army camp—concubines, nurses, prostitutes, the women who lay out the dead—as gods and mortals spar, and as a legendary war hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion. Brilliantly written, filled with moments of terror and beauty, The Silence of the Girls gives voice to an extraordinary woman—and makes an ancient story new again.

The Silence of the Girls was nominated for


Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Best Book
Women’s Prize For Fiction Best Novel
Costa Book Awards Best Novel

It was also:

A Washington Post Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, The Economist, Financial Times
 
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award
Finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction

So, I’m really hoping I’ll enjoy it. What do you think? If you’ve read it do you think it lives up to its reputation?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: King Solomon’s Carpet by Barbara Vine

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 like the title of this Barbara Vine crime novel – King Solomon’s Carpet. It refers to the legend of King Solomon’s magic carpet of green silk which, as it could fly and brought everyone to their destination, is likened to the London Underground. This is one of my TBRs and it’s been sitting on my bookshelves for 12 years! It’s about time I read it …

The Book begins:

A great many things that other people did all the time she had never done. These were the ordinary things from which she had been protected by her money and her ill-health. She had never used an iron nor threaded a needle, been on a bus nor cooked a meal for other people, earned money, got up early because she had to, waited to see the doctor or stood in a queue.

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 the coffee came Tom said she could come and live at Cambridge School if she liked.

‘A school?’

‘It used to be. It’s just a house now where people rent rooms, only the rent’s very low. There’s a room free now Ollie’s going. I asked the man who owns it and he said you could have the Headmaster’s Study’.

Synopsis from Amazon UK:

Jarvis Stringer lives in a crumbling schoolhouse overlooking a tube line, compiling his obsessive, secret history of London’s Underground. His presence and his strange house draw a band of misfits into his orbit: young Alice, who has run away from her husband and baby; Tom, the busker who rescues her; truant Jasper who gets his kicks on the tube; and mysterious Axel, whose dark secret later casts a shadow over all of their lives.

Dispossessed and outcast, those who come to inhabit Jarvis’s schoolhouse are gradually brought closer together in violent and unforeseen ways by London’s forbidding and dangerous Undergound . . .

Barbara Vine: A pseudonym used by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon’s Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna’s Book (original UK title Asta’s Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects of secrets kept and crimes done. Rendell is famous for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her ability to create cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women. (Fantastic Fiction)

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Rain 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.

I’ve just started reading Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison, a ‘meditation on the English landscape in wet weather.’ She describes four walks in the rain over four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor.

The Book begins with an Introduction:

What does rain mean to you? Do you see it as a dreadful inconvenience, a strange national obsession, or an agricultural necessity? We love to grumble about it, yet we invent dozens of terms to describe it and swap them gleefully; it trickles through our literature from Geoffrey Chaucer to Alice Oswald, and there are websites and apps that mimic its sound, soothing us while we work or sleep. Rain is what makes the English countryside so green and pleasant; it’s also what swells rivers, floods farms and villages and drives people out of their homes.

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 is in the chapter about her walk in the Darent Valley, in Kent, in August:

Behind the cumulonimbus currently discharging itself over the Darent Valley, more are forming; the afternoon will see thunder and lightning over much of the south-east of England, including London, less than twenty miles away.

Synopsis from Amazon UK:

Whenever rain falls, our countryside changes. Fields, farms, hills and hedgerows appear altered, the wildlife behaves differently, and over time the terrain itself is transformed.

In Rain, Melissa Harrison explores our relationship with the weather as she follows the course of four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor.

Blending these expeditions with reading, research, memory and imagination, she reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world around us, but a key part of our own identity too.

I think I’m going to enjoy this book.

About the Author:

Melissa Harrison is a novelist, children’s author, journalist and nature writer. She contributes a monthly Nature Notebook column to The Times, and also writes regularly for the FT Weekend, the Guardian and the New Statesman. Her most recent novel, All Among the Barley, was the UK winner of the European Union Prize for Literature. It was a Waterstones Paperback of the Year and a Book of the Year in the Observer, the New Statesman and the Irish Times. At Hawthorn Time was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, while Rain: Four Walks in English Weather was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: A Room with a View by E M Forster

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.

This week I’ve started to look at A Room with a View as this is the book I’ll be reading next for the Classics Club Spin. It was first published in 1908, set in Italy and England about a young woman, Florence and was E M Forster’s third book.

The Book Begins in Florence:

‘The Signora had no business to do it, said Miss Bartlett, ‘no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking onto a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!’

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 well-known world had broken up, and there emerged Florence, a magic city where people thought and did the most extraordinary things. Murder, accusations of murder, a lady clinging to one man and being rude to another – were these the daily incidents of her streets?

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Set in freewheeling Florence, Italy, and sober Surrey, England, E. M. Forster’s beloved third novel follows young Lucy Honeychurch’s journey to self-discovery at a transitional moment in British society. As Lucy is exposed to opportunities previously not afforded to women, her mind – and heart – must open. Before long, she’s in love with an “unsuitable” man and is faced with an impossible choice: follow her heart or be pressured into propriety.

A challenge to persistent Victorian ideals as well as a moving love story, A Room with a View has been celebrated for both its prescient view of women’s independence and its reminder to live an honest, authentic life.

I think I’m going to enjoy this book.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee

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.

This week I’m featuring Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee. This is one of my TBRs I bought several years ago because I’d read one of her other books, The Hours of the Night, pre-blog, when I just noted that it was ‘good overall’ and ‘could be shorter’. But the blurb about this one interested me.

The Book Begins:

When Walter painted his family at evening, a towering angel stood at the door with folded wings.

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:

They climbed the stairs to the class and took their places. Walter was working from a bust now. After weeks of limbs and torsos it felt both liberating and strange to spend his time studying a human face, a female face: to measure the proportions of hairline to brow, and brow to cheekbone; to draw the sweet and subtle curve of the lips.

Blurb from the back cover:

In the aftermath of the First World War, the young painter Walter Cox and the wood-engraver Sarah Lewis meet at the Slade, then set up home and a studio together. With their newfound happiness, and the birth of Meredith, then Geoffrey, the grief of war recedes. But children are unpredictable and have their own inner lives: events on a summer afternoon change everything …

Deeply affecting, shot through with a shimmering apprehension of the natural world, Earth and Heaven is about life’s fragility, and the power of love and painting to disturb, renew and reveal us to ourselves.

What do you think? Does it interest you too?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Homecoming by Anna Enquist

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.

This week I’m featuring The Homecoming by Anna Enquist, to be published on 1 April 2022. This is my Amazon First Reads choice this month – where you can choose to download a free e-book from a choice of eight early release titles if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.

The Book Begins:

He’ll expect an empty table when he comes home, she thought. He’ll be lugging chests and sacks into the house, filled with journals, sketches and maps.

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:

How could he, from one minute to the next, become a father again, or a husband? In the brief span of time between dusk and darkness, there was no way to catch up on three years. They would have to take a leap of faith and trust that, in the coming weeks and months, they could fill in the gaps.

I was beginning to think I wouldn’t choose an Amazon First Reads book this month, until I came to the Literary Historical Fiction choice (I notice that this is a different choice from the US selection). I chose this book because I like historical fiction and this one is about Elizabeth Cook, the wife of the eighteenth-century explorer, Captain James Cook. I also chose it because it’s by Anna Enquist, (the pen name of one of the more popular authors in the Netherlands, Christa Widlund-Broer.) She is a musician, and a psychoanalyst as well as a poet and novelist, and I have read one of her books before, a Leap, a very short book (80 pages) made up of six dramatic monologues. Overall they are sad, even tragic stories and I liked her style of writing, which is clear and brings the people and places to life. 

I started to read The Homecoming as soon as I downloaded it and so far I am enjoying it very much.

Synopsis:

After twelve years of marriage to English explorer James Cook, Elizabeth has yet to spend an entire year with her husband. In their house by the Thames, she moves to the rhythms of her life as a society wife, but there is so much more to her than meets the eye. She has the fortitude to manage the house and garden, raise their children, and face unbearable sorrow by herself—in fact, she is sometimes in thrall to her own independence.

As she prepares for another homecoming, Elizabeth looks forward to James’s triumphant return and the work she will undertake reading and editing his voluminous journals. But will the private life she’s been leading in his absence distract her from her role in aid of her husband’s grand ambitions? Can James find the compassion to support her as their family faces unimaginable loss, or must she endure life alone as he sails off toward another adventure?

An intimate and sharply observed novel, The Homecoming is as revelatory as James Cook’s exploration of distant frontiers and as richly rewarding as Elizabeth’s love for her family. With courage and strength, through recollection and imagination, author Anna Enquist brilliantly narrates Elizabeth’s compelling record of her life, painting a psychological portrait of an independent woman ahead of her time and closely acquainted with history.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

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.

This week I’m featuring one of the library books I borrowed this week – An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell a Wallender thriller,

The Book Begins:

On Saturday 26 October 2002, Kurt Wallender woke up feeling very tired. It had been a trying week, as a severe cold had infected practically everybody in the Ystad police station.

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:

Linda surprised Wallender by having dinner ready when he came back home. Although it was an ordinary weekday he was tempted to open a bottle of wine – but if he did Linda would only start stirring up trouble, so he didn’t.

I’ve only read one of Mankell’s Wallender books before and that was the first one in the series – Faceless Killers. I fully intended to read more, but then never did, although I have read two other books by him. An Event in Autumn is a novella and, as explained in the Afterword, was originally written and published as a free book as part of a campaign to encourage reading in Holland.

Summary

Some cases aren’t as cold as you’d think

Kurt Wallander’s life looks like it has taken a turn for the better when his offer on a new house is accepted, only for him to uncover something unexpected in the garden – the skeleton of a middle-aged woman.

As police officers comb the property, Wallander attempts to get his new life back on course by finding the woman’s killer with the aid of his daughter, Linda. But when another discovery is made in the garden, Wallander is forced to delve further back into the area’s past.

And this has reminded me that I really must read more of the Wallender books. I bought the second book, The Dogs of Riga four years ago and it’s been sat on the bookshelves unread ever since!

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré 

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.

This week I’m featuring one of the books I’ve just started to read – The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré, a Cold War spy thriller, the sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. It’s based in the Far East in the mid 1970s.

The Book Begins:

Afterwards in the dusty little corners where London’s secret servants drink together, there was argument about where the Dolphin case history should really begin.

I like this opening sentence – it focuses attention immediately on the Dolphin case – what was it and where did it begin? I hope all will become clear.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

Only George Smiley, said Roddy Martindale, a fleshy Foreign Office wit, could have got himself appointed captain of a wrecked ship. Only Smiley, he added, could have compounded the pains of that appointment by choosing the same moment to abandon his beautiful, if occasionally errant, wife.

At first or even second glance George Smiley was ill-suited to either part, as Martindale was quick to note. He was tubby and in small ways hopelessly unassertive. A natural shyness made him from time to time pompous and to men of Martindale’s flamboyance his unobtrusiveness acted as a standing reproach.

Surely, unobtrusiveness is just the quality a good spy needs.

Summary

In the second part of John le Carré’s Karla Trilogy, the battle of wits between spymaster George Smiley and his Russian adversary takes on an even more dangerous dimension.

George Smiley, now acting head of the Circus, must rebuild its shattered reputation after one of the biggest betrayals in its history. Using the talents of journalist and occasional spy Jerry Westerby, Smiley launches a risky operation uncovering a Russian money-laundering scheme in the Far East. His aim: revenge on Karla, head of Moscow Centre and the architect of all his troubles.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

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.

This week I’m featuring one of the books I’m currently reading – Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton, a Golden Age murder mystery. Miles Burton is one of the pen names of Cecil John Street, who also wrote under the names John Rhode and Cecil Waye. He was a prolific author who produced four detective novels a year for thirty-seven years!

The Book Begins:

The 5.0 pm train from Cannon Street runs fast as far as Stourford, where it is due at 6.07. On Thursday, November 14th, it was, as usual, fairly full, but not uncomfortably so.

A fairly dull opening paragraph to a very complicated murder mystery that is keeping me turning the pages as fast as I can and at the same time trying to take in all the detail.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

The alternative to suicide can only be murder. I should naturally like to know who may be said to benefit by Sir Wilfred’s death?

Summary:

On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o’clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet.

Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no motive can be found. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard thinks again when learns that a mysterious red light in the tunnel caused the train to slow down.

Finding himself stumped by the puzzle, Arnold consults his friend Desmond Merrion, a wealthy amateur expert in criminology. Merrion quickly comes up with an ‘essential brainwave’ and helps to establish how Sir Wilfred met his end, but although it seems that the dead man fell victim to a complex conspiracy, the investigators are puzzled about the conspirators’ motives as well as their identities. Can there be a connection with Sir Wilfred’s seemingly troubled family life, his highly successful business, or his high-handed and unforgiving personality? And what is the significance of the wallet found on the corpse, and the bank notes that it contained? 

~~~

What have you been reading lately?