My Friday Post: A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

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.

Today my book beginning is from A Journal of the Plague Year: being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665 by Daniel Defoe, one of my TBRs. Now would seem to be the right time to read it.

It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that l, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither they say it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among goods which were brought home by their Turkish fleet; others said it was brought from Canada; others from Cyprus.

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

These 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.

On page 56 Defoe is describing the work of the undersexton – the grave digger and bearer of the dead – in the parish of St Stephen, Coleman, who went out along the many alleys and thoroughfares to fetch the bodies a very long way:

Here they went with a kind of hand-barrow and laid dead bodies on it, and carried them to the carts; which work he performed and never had the distemper [the plague] at all, but lived about twenty years after it, and was sexton of the parish to the time of his death. His wife at the same time was a nurse to infected people, and tended many who died in the parish, being for her honesty recommended by the parish officers; yet she was never infected either.

Defoe went on to describe how the sexton and his wife protected themselves against the infection. He held garlic and rue in his mouth and smoked tobacco. His wife’s remedy was to wash her head in vinegar and she sprinkled her head-clothes with vinegar – if the smell was particularly offensive she snuffed vinegar up her nose and held a handkerchief wetted with vinegar to her mouth.

Blurb:

In 1665 the plague swept through London, claiming over 97,000 lives. Daniel Defoe was just five at the time of the plague, but he later called on his own memories, as well as his writing experience, to create this vivid chronicle of the epidemic and its victims. ‘A Journal’ (1722) follows Defoe’s fictional narrator as he traces the devastating progress of the plague through the streets of London. Here we see a city transformed: some of its streets suspiciously empty, some – with crosses on their doors – overwhelmingly full of the sounds and smells of human suffering. And every living citizen he meets has a horrifying story that demands to be heard.

My Friday Post: Deadland by William Shaw

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.

Today my book beginning is from Deadland by William Shaw, one of the latest books I’ve bought.

The first time they tried stealing a phone, it went arse-tit. The second time was worse.

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

These 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.

Stark and white against the grey sky, the gallery made Cupidi think of a cathedral built by missionaries.

Margate had once been a grand place, an elegant curve of Georgian houses facing a bay with sand the colour of honey. The town had been sliding downhill for decades.

About the book:

YOU CAN RUN

The two boys never fitted in. Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.

YOU CAN HIDE

On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law.

YOU CAN DIE

But as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide.

Kent and its social divisions are brilliantly captured in Deadland, a crime thriller that’s as ingeniously unguessable as it is moving and powerful.

~~~

This is the second book in the DS Alexandra Cupidi series. I’ve read the first Salt Lane, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I’m hoping this one is just as good.

My Friday Post: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley 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.

Today my Book Beginning is from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

No living organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed by some to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls might continue upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

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

These 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:

The sun went down smoothly behind the hills, slipping almost eagerly, at last, into the pillowy masses. There were already long shadows on the lawn as Eleanor and Theodora came up the path toward the side veranda of Hill House, blessedly hiding its mad face in the growing darkness.

This book has been described as a ‘perfect work of unnerving terror’, so it’s ideal reading for Hallowe’en.

Blurb:

Alone in the world, Eleanor is delighted to take up Dr Montague’s invitation to spend a summer in the mysterious Hill House. Joining them are Theodora, an artistic ‘sensitive’, and Luke, heir to the house. But what begins as a light-hearted experiment is swiftly proven to be a trip into their darkest nightmares, and an investigation that one of their number may not survive. Twice filmed as The Haunting, and the inspiration for a 10-part Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.

My Friday Post: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

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 extracts today are from Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, one of my favourite authors, and the winner of this year’s Woman’s Prize for Fiction. I’ve just started to read it.

The book begins:

A boy is coming down the stairs.

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

  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.

Hamnet climbs the stairs, breathing hard after his run through the town. It seems to drain his strength, putting one leg in front of the other, lifting each foot to each stair. He uses the handrail to haul himself along.

~~~

What a coincidence that both the opening paragraph and the extract from page 56 are about Hamnet climbing the stairs – first down and then up.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

This is historical fiction inspired by Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son and is a story of the bond between twins.

My Friday Post: 21 August 2020

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 choice this week is Val McDermid’s latest book, Still Life, published yesterday. It’s a DCI Karen Pirie thriller. I love that cover!

It begins with a Prologue:

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Billy Watson cast off from the quay without the faintest flicker of premonition.

And then Chapter 1

Saturday, 16 February 2020

Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer wasn’t easily put off her food. But for once, she stared at the bacon and egg roll she’d made for breakfast with a slightly jaundiced air.

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

These 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:

‘According to the coastguard he likely went in on the east side of Elie. Probably somewhere around the ruin of Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower. And probably about ten to twelve hours before the Bonnie Pearl fished him out. So, round about now, yesterday evening.

Blurb:

On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets.

But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there.

In her search for the truth, Karen uncovers a network of lies that has gone unchallenged for years. But lies and secrets can turn deadly when someone is determined to keep them hidden for good . . .

~~~

This is the sixth Karen Pirie book in the series. I think they read well as standalone books, but as they continue Karen’s own story I also think they are best read in order – and for once I am reading these books in order! 

My Friday Post: Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

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.

Giant’s Bread is by Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott. It’s one of the books on my 20 Books of Summer list. She wrote six novels under this pseudonym – Giant’s Bread was the first one, published in 1930. In the same year she also published The Mysterious Mr Quin and, Murder at the Vicarage – Miss Marple’s first book. 

It begins with a Prologue:

It was the opening night of London’s new National Opera House and consequentially an occasion. Royalty was there. The Press were there. The fashionable were there in large quantities. Even the musical, by hook or by crook, had managed to be there – mostly very high up in the final tier of seats under the roof.

They were there to see the performance of a new musical composition called Giant’s Bread.

And chapter one begins:

There were only three people of real importance in Vernon’s world: Nurse, God and Mr Green

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

These 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:

Poor Myra, She’d had a rotten deal on the whole. A fine looking creature, but he’d married her really for the sake of Abbots Puissants – and she had married him for love. That was the root of the whole trouble.

Blurb from Goodreads:

Vernon Deyre is a sensitive and brilliant musician, even a genius, tormented and driven by forces even he didn’t understand. His sheltered childhood in the home he loves has not prepared Vernon for the harsh reality of his adult years, and in order to write the great masterpiece of his life, he has to make a crucial decision with no time left to count the cost. But there is a high price to be paid for his talent, especially by his family and the two women in his lifee – the one he loves and the one who loves him.

Young Nell Vereker had always loved Vernon, loved him with a consuming passion that was alien to the proper social world in which she lived. But when Vernon sought solace in the arms of Jane Harding, a stranger and enigmatically beautiful older woman, Nell felt she could endure no greater pain. But Fate had only begun to work its dark mischief on this curious romantic triangle — for before their destinies were sealed, one would live, one would die, and one would return from the grave to be damned…

~~~

Mary was Agatha’s second name and Westmacott the name of some distant relatives. She succeeded in keeping her identity as Mary Westmacott unknown for nearly twenty years and the books, much to her pleasure, were modestly successful.

My Friday Post: The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

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 bought The Birdwatcher by William Shaw this week. It’s a book I’ve been looking out for, ever since I read about Shaw’s books on Café Society’s blog. So when I saw it was a limited time deal on Kindle at 99p I knew I had to buy it. It looks really good and it’s gone to the top of my books to read next pile.

It begins:

There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team.

The first was it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast.

The second was that, although nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.

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

30879-friday2b56

These 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:

Ferguson said, ‘See, I don’t believe a boy like you would have just stayed in the room with his dad, like that. Not for almost an hour.

The book blurb:

Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.

But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South’s detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft – it seems that there’s a connection between the suspect and himself.

For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.

Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

~~~

I like those opening lines – letting the reader know straight away that South is a murderer and also a policeman. And he is the birdwatcher of the title. Immediately I wanted to know more.

Have read this book? Does it appeal to you?

My Friday Post: Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

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 choice this week is Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert, one of the British Library Crime Classics.

It begins:

‘The thoughts of all present tonight,’ said Mr Birley, ‘will naturally turn first to the great personal loss – the very great personal loss – so recently suffered by the firm, by the legal profession and, if I may venture to say so without contradiction, by the British public.’

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

30879-friday2b56

These 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 55 (page 56 is missing)

‘And why does that mean he couldn’t have killed Smallbone?’ said Bohun quietly.

‘I quite forgot, ‘ said Hazelrigg, ‘You don’t know how he was killed.’

‘I don’t said Bohun steadily, ‘and I suggest,’ he added, ‘that if you you’re going to trust me you don’t set traps for me.’

The book blurb:

Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation – especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr Smallbone was – and why he had to die.

Written with style, pace and wit, this is a masterpiece by one of the finest writers of traditional British crime novels since the Second World War.

~~~

This will be the third book by Michael Gilbert that I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed Death Has Deep Roots when I read it last year, and so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this one too.

If you have read it please let me know what you thought of it.

My Friday Post: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

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 choice this week is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, one of my TBRs. I’ve had this book for 3 years and decided to read it now after watching (recorded) the first episode of the TV series.

It begins:

MERCURY IN SAGITTARIUS

In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.

I am confused this is not like the start of the TV adaptation at all.

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

30879-friday2b56

These 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:

Over the past fortnight Balfour had kept his silence on the subject of Lauderback’s encounter with the dead man, Crosbie Wells, though the circumstances of the hermit’s death held a considerable amount of curiosity for him; he had not discussed Anna Wetherall, the whore on the road, at all

I am now read on past this passage and am on page 65 and even more confused – some of the characters are the same in book and TV, but I no longer know who is who!

I resorted to Google and discovered an article in the Radio Times that explained it to me – MAJOR CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE – Eleanor Catton has adapted her own novel for the screen – and she’s reframed the story from a new perspective:

For one thing, there’s the total absence of Walter Moody from the first four episodes. That’s in stark contrast to the book, which memorably begins with the arrival of Scottish lawyer Mr Moody in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel in Hokitika.

So, now I have a dilemma – shall I carry on reading the book or watching the TV series?

The book blurb:

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

My Friday Post: Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George

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 choice this week is a book that I hope to read soon – Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George, one of my TBRs and an Inspector Lynley novel.

It begins:

November: The Rain

Cappuccino. That New Age answer to driving one’s blues momentarily away. A few tablespoons of espresso, a froth of steamed milk, an accompanying and generally tasteless dash of powdered chocolate and suddenly life was supposed to be all in order again. What drivel.

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

30879-friday2b56

These 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:

She sighed. She wanted to explain that he couldn’t simply take a walk with her in the dark. People would see them. They’d misunderstand.

Blurb:

When Deborah St James hears of the unexpected death of Reverend Sage, her sadness has a very personal tinge. For their paths had crossed some months earlier at a particularly vulnerable time for Deborah, and she had found herself confessing her intimate anguish to this sympathetic stranger. When she realizes that his death is far from accidental, Deborah, with her husband, Simon, enlists the help of Inspector Lynley, and the trio embarks upon an investigation that hinges upon the overriding – and ultimately destructive – power of parental love.

~~~

This is the 6th Inspector Lynley novel, so I’m hoping it will work well as a standalone, without knowing the backstory.