The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum

Penguin Random House UK| 4 June 2020| 363 pages| Review copy| 3.5*

About the book:

Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet, despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu and the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles, to the 1930 ‘parrot fever’ pandemic and the more recent SARS, Ebola, Zika and – now – COVID-19 epidemics, the last 100 years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms.

In The Pandemic Century, Mark Honigsbaum chronicles 100 years of history in 10 outbreaks. Bringing us right up-to-date with a new chapter on COVID-19, this fast-paced, critically-acclaimed book combines science history, medical sociology and thrilling front-line reportage to deliver the story of our times.

As we meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive public health officials, and gifted scientists often blinded by their own expertise, we come face-to-face with the brilliance and medical hubris shaping both the frontier of science – and the future of humanity’s survival.

My thoughts: I found this quite a difficult book to read and even more difficult to write about, so this is just a short overview.

My review copy of The Pandemic Century is an e-book, that unfortunately does not have the chapter on COVID-19. I think this is a very interesting account of the epidemiology, the medical advances and the history of the diseases. Honigsbaum details each pandemic focusing on the origins of the diseases and the scientific research involved in finding the causes, cures, and the methods of containing them.

But whilst parts of it written in a narrative style are fascinating, other parts are heavy going and dry with too much (for me) detailed information about the scientific research. Since 1940 scientists have identified 335 new human infectious diseases and nearly two thirds of them are from animals – and of these 70% originate in wildlife, mostly from bats! And then there is the threat from microbes – bacteria and rickettsial (ticks, lice, fleas, mites, chiggers, and mammals) organisms. I had to check the meanings of lots of words and abbreviations when I was reading this book! Alarmingly Honigsbaum states that ‘Reviewing the last hundred years of epidemic outbreaks, the only thing that is certain is that there will be new plagues and new pandemics.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a review copy.

Nonfiction November Week 4

Week 4: New to My TBR, hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

So many books to choose from! Here are a few that appealed to me:

Plus the books recommended to me on my Ask the Experts post on World War Two:

From Shelleyrae – Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II by Roger Moorhouse

From Deb Nance:

  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
  • Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
  • Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship

From The Paperback Princess

  • A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead, Hitler and the Habsburgs by James Longo
  • Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson
  • When Books Went to War by Mollie Guptill Manning
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

From Gilt and Dust -No Woman’s World: From D-day to Berlin by Iris Carpenter

From What’s Nonfiction

  • A Woman in Berlin, an anonymous diary of a woman who lived through the Russian occupation of the city
  • Primo Levi’s memoirs like Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening,
  • Underground in Berlin.
  • Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War is an oral history of the women in the Red Army by Marie Jalowicz Simon

Thanks so much to our hosts, Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at Julz Reads, Leann at Shelf Aware, and Rennie at  What’s Nonfiction! And thanks to everyone who stopped by with comments and recommendations as well!

Nonfiction November Week 3: Ask the Expert

We’re now in Week 3: (Nov. 12 to 16) of Nonfiction November. The topic is – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (RennieWhat’s Nonfiction)

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve read a few books on World War 2 and would love to find out more. I have read several novels set during the War, the most recent is V2 by Robert Harris, which has made realise how little I know about it. It is a vast subject and I know there are very many books both fiction and nonfiction about it. My difficulty is where to start!

These are some of the nonfiction books I’ve read/have waiting to be read:

  • Our Longest Days: a People’s History of the Second World War by the Writers of Mass Observation, which is fascinating.
  • Wartime Britain 1939 – 1945 by Juliet Gardiner – I’ve only read some of this book.
  • The Ration Book Diet by Mike Brown, Carol Harris and C J Jackson – social history.
  • Winston Churchill’s six volume History of the Second World War – these look particularly daunting in the amount of detail involved! I’ve start the first volume.
  • Band of Brothers by Stephen E Ambrose – I watched the entire HBO series called Band of Brothers. I started to read the book and stalled!
  • Great Escape Stories by Eric Williams – TBR
  • How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton – TBR

There are so many aspects to the war, so many countries involved, so many battles, people, places, politics, so many events that led up to the war, so many technological details and developments, etc, etc. Any suggestions of where to start will be much appreciated.

The Man Behind Narnia by A N Wilson

This week the theme for Novellas in November is nonfiction novellas and I read The Man behind Narnia by A N Wilson, about C S Lewis.

A N Wilson is the author of over forty books – 20 novels, biographies, a three-part history of the last 100 years, and stories for children.

I’ve read a few of his biographies, the latest one I read was about Queen Victoria. At 656 pages it took me 3 months to read and I learned so much and enjoyed it immensely. In 1990 he wrote a full length biography of C S Lewis (which I haven’t read) and in 2013 he made a BBC 4 documentary about Lewis and his work. I didn’t watch the programme, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of The Man Behind Narnia. In only 72 pages he writes briefly about Lewis’s life, his own reflections on Lewis’s works, and describes the making of the documentary.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, including Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent PlanetThe Great DivorceThe Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia books.

I first came across Lewis’s books when I was a teenager and a friend lent me The Screwtape Letters and then I read his autobiography, Surprised by Joy – in which he tells the story of his conversion to Christianity and about his childhood in Ireland, his school years and his adolescence – then his time at Oxford University and in 1917 he enlisted and was sent to the front line in France. Since then I’ve read quite a lot of his theological books, including Mere Christianity, as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (the first of his Narnia books) which I read about 15 years ago. I think I’d have enjoyed it more if I’d read it as a child.

I enjoyed Wilson’s book very much, but it really is as much about himself and the effects that Lewis’s writing has had on him as it it is about Lewis. He writes about the places where Lewis lived, Belfast where he was born, Dunluce Castle on the coast where he used to visit with his mother (the castle in the Narnia stories), the places he went to school in England, and Oxford University. I’ve realised in writing this post that Wilson’s book jumps around a lot from place to place whilst covering Lewis’s life at different periods of time, so that it might seem a disjointed book, but it isn’t. As I was reading it, it seemed to flow naturally.

He also writes about Lewis’s relationships with, amongst others his father, and Mrs Moore, his friend’s mother and later his lover (allegedly) and their life together at The Kilns in Headington. He only writes briefly about his marriage to Joy Davidman. Several years ago I remember being enthralled watching Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, and Julian Fellowes in Shadowlands (not a dry eye in the cinema). Shadowlands is  about Lewis’s meeting with Helen Joy Davidman and about the events that led to their marriage. And earlier this year I read Becoming Mrs Lewis, a novel by Patti Callahan about Joy Davidman and her meeting and subsequent marriage to Lewis, so I was interested to read what Wilson’s view of their relationship was. He too ‘dissolved into tears‘ whilst watching the film, ‘even though [he] knew the circumstances of Lewis’s marriage to Joy Davidman [bore] only the haziest relationship to the story of ‘Shadowlands’. Interesting, I wondered what he based this on. My impression of Joy from reading Becoming Mrs Lewis was that she was stalking Lewis and I couldn’t warm to her.

In Chapter three he writes about the Narnia stories. Like me Wilson didn’t read the Narnia stories as a child. He hadn’t wanted to spoil his admiration for Lewis’s academic books by dipping into Narnia and found Lewis ’embarrassing’ when he got onto the subject of religion. He finally read them when he was on holiday in the Hebrides with his family and as it was raining he read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe aloud to his daughters. The children were enraptured but he found it disturbing and shocking, with the Atonement theology of the story. But even so he found the story absolutely absorbing.

There is so much packed into this novella that I could probably go on writing about it. But this post is too long already, so I’m going to stop. If you’re interested in knowing more I can recommend reading it. I was fascinated and it has made me want to read more of Lewis’s books. I have little pile of them and haven’t read all of them yet.

The only one I’ve written about on this blog is Letters to Malcolm, a book about prayer. I’m also wondering whether to read Wilson’s biography of Lewis, or maybe Alister McGrath’s more recent biography, written in honour of the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death, C S Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.

And Now For the Good News … To the Future With Love by Ruby Wax

Penguin Life/ 17 September 2020/ 256 pages/ e-book/ Review copy/ 3*

And Now For the Good News … To the Future With Love by Ruby Wax is a positive look at some recent developments in community, business, education, technology, and food that promise to make the world a better place.

She began writing this in 2018 before the outbreak of Covid-19, but ends the book with some ‘Post Covid-19 Good News.’ Whilst researching for her book she found what she calls ‘green shoots of hope peeping through the soil of civilisation’ that ‘may just bloom into a brighter future.’ It’s easy reading, written clearly in a breezy conversational style, covering a large amount of information. She emphasises the importance of compassion and kindness, of community and on working for the good of all. Maybe, above all she focuses on the benefits of mindfulness and on positive experiences.

She begins with writing about herself and sections about her own story are interspersed between the ‘Bad News’ and the ‘Good News’ throughout the book. In each section she gives a brief history of the topic, along with the story of her own experiences and then looks at examples of how things are improving. Not all of it was new to me, but I did learn a lot, as the book is simply crammed with information.

I’ll just mention two examples that interested me particularly. In the section on Education I was amazed to read about the discipline and regimentation in Chinese schools contrasting with the relaxed and caring approach in Finnish schools. And in the UK she visited a school in Hertfordshire, where children, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, learn about emotions as well as academic topics.

In the Business section she writes about new models of businesses that are ‘going green’ in companies such as the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, based in California. They believe they owe the earth for the industrial impact of business and consequently give away 10% of all profits and are very conscientious about what products they use because the textile industry is one of the most chemically intensive industries on earth, second only to agriculture.

The final section of the book is called ‘To the Future with Love’ in which she summarises the good news for each of the topics covered in her book. Her hope is that we will remember the’ feelings of interconnnectedness and caring for each other and … keep them going’ when the pandemic is over.

Overall, this is an interesting book with some inspiring stories but in places it felt as though I was reading newspaper articles or company brochures, which is why I’ve given it 3 stars rather than 4.

My thanks to the publishers for my copy via NetGalley.

Top Ten Tuesday: Long Book Titles

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

This week’s top is Long Book Titles. Here are some of the longest book titles I’ve reviewed on this blog. It appears that non-fiction books lend themselves more to long titles than fiction as six of them are non-fiction –

  1. 100 Days on Holy Island: a Writer’s Exile by Peter Mortimer – a record of his experience of living on the island of Lindisfarne.
  2. The Abbess of Whitby: a novel of Hild of Northumbria by Jill Dalladay – Hild was born in 614 and died in 680.
  3. Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter by Diana Athill – her memories, thoughts and reflections on her life as she approaches her 100th year (she was born in 1917).
  4. Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: the Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer – a memoir of the author’s refuge at the Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Co. on the banks of the River Seine opposite Notre Dame. 
  5. Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson – crime fiction set in Edinburgh in 1926.
  6. Our Longest Days: A People’s History of the Second World War by the writers of Mass Observation – absolutely fascinating, this is a collection from diaries kept during the War.
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – I loved this book, an ideal book to read for both introverts and extroverts.
  8. Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K Jerome –  a gentle witty book that kept me entertained all the way through.
  9. When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies by Andy Beckett – an excellent book, using original material such as diaries, letters, personal memoirs as well as books written about the period.
  10. The Woman Who Walked into the Sea by Mark Douglas-Hume – I don’t think this quite lived up to The Sea Detective, the first Cal McGill book. Cal is an oceanographer using his skills in tracking human bodies and sea-borne objects.

Nonfiction November is Coming

The last couple of years I’ve taken part in Nonfiction November, so although this year I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction I’ll be joining in once more.

Throughout the month of November, Katie @ Doing Dewey, Julie @ Julz Reads, Leann @Shelf Aware, and Rennie, invite you to put nonfiction at the top of your reading list with us. Each week’s prompt will be posted at that host’s blog on Monday with a link-up where you can link your post on the topic throughout the week.

This year’s schedule:

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann @ Shelf Aware): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2: (November 9-13) – Book Pairing (Julie @ Julz Reads): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3: (November 16-20) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Rennie [me!] @ What’s Nonfiction [here!]): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4: (November 23-27) – New to My TBR (Katie @ Doing Dewey): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley

Mystery of Princess Louise

Vintage Books | 2014 | 416 pages | Paperback | library book | 4.5*

This is another catching up post. I finished reading The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley during lockdown on 21 April, but didn’t feel like reviewing it that time. It’s a library book and as the library is still closed it has been renewed automatically for me.

Princess Louise was Victoria’s sixth child – her fourth daughter, born on 18th March 1848. It was an agonising and terrifying birth in a year of revolution and rebellion, a time when royal families throughout Europe were being deposed and in Britain the working classes were agitating for higher pay, better working conditions and more legal rights.

There is so much detail about her life in this book, packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets.

Blurb:

What was so dangerous about Queen Victoria’s artistic tempestuous sixth child, Princess Louise?

When Lucinda Hawksley started to investigate, often thwarted by inexplicable secrecy, she discovered a fascinating woman, modern before her time, whose story has been shielded from public view for years.

Louise was a sculptor and painter, friend to the Pre-Raphaelites and a keen member of the Aesthetic movement. The most feisty of the Victorian princesses, she kicked against her mother’s controlling nature and remained fiercely loyal to her brothers – especially the sickly Leopold and the much-maligned Bertie. She sought out other unconventional women, including Josephine Butler and George Eliot, and campaigned for education and health reform and for the rights of women. She battled with her indomitable mother for permission to practice the ‘masculine’ art of sculpture and go to art college – and in doing so became the first British princess to attend a public school.

The rumours of Louise’s colourful love life persist even today, with hints of love affairs dating as far back as her teenage years, and notable scandals included entanglements with her sculpting tutor Joseph Edgar Boehm and possibly even her sister Princess Beatrice’s handsome husband, Liko. True to rebellious form, she refused all royal suitors and became the first member of the royal family to marry a commoner since the sixteenth century.

My thoughts:

I knew nothing about Princess Louise. She had a difficult childhood, disliked and bullied by her mother and she often rebelled against the restrictions of life as a princess. She had an unhappy marriage to John Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne, later the 9th Duke of Argyll, a homosexual, and went with him to Canada in 1882 when he was appointed as Governor-General. Her relationship with Canada became a love-hate one, but began and ended with Canadian adoration.

The scandals arose about whether she had had an illegitimate child and her long term love affair with the sculptor Joseph Boehm. The mystery is still unresolved as Louise’s files in the Royal Archives are closed and her husband’s family archives are inaccessible.

Lucinda Hawksley writes:

I discovered that it was not only information about Princess Louise that had been hidden away, but information about a vast number of people who had played a role in her life, including royal servants and her art tutors. A great many items about these people that one would expect to be in other collections have been absorbed into the Royal Collection. … Over the decades, there has been some very careful sanitising of Princess Louise’s reputation and a whitewashing of her life, her achievements and her personality. (page 3)

I was amazed at her achievements, not only her artistic ability in both painting and sculpture, but also her charitable activities, raising money for hospitals, schools and other causes, such as the Gentlewomen’s Employment Association. She supported general suffrage and equal rights for both genders. She was fascinated by the social reformer Josephine Butler, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery, fed the homeless and worked with prostitutes and single mothers. Louise wanted to help Josephine in her campaign to reform the Contagious Diseases Act but Victoria and most of the rest of her family were outraged and she was forced not to take part. Louise was unconventional, generous and charming to people she liked.

It’s not a book to read quickly, as despite the lack of records, it is very detailed. There is an index and a bibliography, as well as several photographs. In this post I have simply skimmed the surface of all the stories about her, many of them simply amazing. I came away with the impression that she was ahead of her times. She was a forceful personality:

She was renowned by the public for her good looks, her unusual artistic dress sense and her sense of humour. Most importantly, Louise was also known for her compassion and her many ‘good works’. … She was regularly described as ‘captivating’, ‘charming’ and ‘clever’. people felt able to approach her, members of the public wrote letters to her, or begged for her help with charitable of political causes. … she spoke openly and controversially about subjects that other people shrank from and she was not above criticising the monarch. (page 11)

Louise died in 1939 at her home in Kensington Palace. Her last rebellious action was to leave instructions for her cremation – it was a very divisive issue, many were firmly against the idea. Her wishes were respected and a private cremation was carried out and the urn containing her ashes was transported to the Albert Memorial Chapel in Windsor, where her funeral was held. The next day they were interred in the Royal Burial Ground behind the family mausoleum at Frogmore in the Windsor Home Park. She had no legitimate children and the boy that it was claimed she had given up for adoption died in 1907. So it seems unlikely that the truth will ever be known unless the records are released.

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts this meme – Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. In this strange and difficult time of self isolation and sickness it is a real treat to get away from the non-stop bad news about coronovirus and to do other things – I think I’m going to write a separate post about what I’ve been doing to keep myself occupied. One of the things is, of course, is reading. Actually I haven’t been reading any more than usual, oddly enough, as the situation has affected my concentration levels and I have been doing other things too. 

I am enjoying this meme, looking round my actual bookshelves and re-discovering books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun basically.

Friday Meme 3 April 2020

This week’s photo shows part of one of my book shelves that contains a mix of fiction and nonfiction books, shelved together for no reason other than they are almost all hardback books of a similar height!

You can see the whole shelf on my current header photo.

Thomas Hardy: the Time-Torn Man by Claire Tomalin. This is a biography that I began reading in 2007 and stopped when I had reached 1867 (Hardy was born in 1840) because I decided that it would be better if I had read his earlier books before reading about how he had written them. I’m sorry to say that even though I have read more of Hardy’s novels I still haven’t got back to this biography.

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirstie Wark is a novel that I read and enjoyed very much. It’s a story centred on the lives of two women – Elizabeth Pringle and Martha Morrison. Elizabeth has lived all her life on the Isle of Arran and knowing that she is dying and has no living relatives, leaves her house, Holmlea in Lamlash, to Anna Morrison, a woman she had seen years before, pushing her daughter’s pram down the road outside. It’s about family, relationships, especially mother/daughter/sister relationships, about happiness, love and heartbreak, old age, memories and the contrast between life in the early part of the twentieth century and the present.

The Children of Hurin by J R R Tolkien, edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. This is another book that I started and haven’t finished. During the First World War and before Tolkien wrote the tales that became the narrative of  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings he began writing a collection of stories he called The Book of Lost Tales. These are the tales of Middle-earth from times long before The Lord of the RingsI first read The Lord of the Rings years ago when I was at college,  and have since re-read it a few times along with The Hobbit, so this book is one I really want to read soon – my problem is that there are so many books I want to read and time is precious.

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran, subtitled Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making. This is a fascinating book, exploring the contents of Agatha Christie’s 73 handwritten notebooks about her plots, titles and characters and two unpublished Poirot stories. The notebooks were found  at her home, Greenways, in a locked room, a long narrow room containing shelves and cupboards full of her printed books plus typescripts and manuscripts, letters and contracts, posters, playbills, photos and dust-jackets, scrapbooks and diaries.

And finally two of my husband’s books – The Second World War and Berlin: The Downfall 1945, both by Anthony Beevor. He has read both and recommends them highly. I’m not sure what to say about them, except they each weight a ton –  two enormous tomes! Fortunately I have both books on my Kindle as well as the hardbacks on the shelf, so you never know, one day I may get round to reading them.

WWW Wednesday: 1 April 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:

Mystery of Princess LouiseThe Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawkesley. I’m finding this a fascinating biography of Louise, Victoria’s unconventional daughter. She was a sculptor and painter, who mixed with the artists of her day much to her mother’s dislike and was involved in many campaigns for reform in education and health. It’s packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets. I’ve read about two thirds of this book I borrowed from the library.

Mirror and LightThe Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, the final book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy about the boy from Putney who climbed his way up to become Lord Cromwell, Secretary to King Henry VIII. I loved the first two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, so it was an easy decision to buy the third book in hardback to complete the set. It is heavy, weighing in at 2lbs 13ozs with almost 900 pages and so I’m reading it very slowly. Just like the other two books I think it’s beautifully written, full of colour and detail. Reading it I feel as if I’m there back in 1536.

Fresh water for flowers

Recently Finished: Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle. This is a complex novel, multi layered and centred on Violette, a cemetery keeper, switching between different people at different times in their lives.  I’ll write more about later on nearer its publication date in the summer.

Reading Next: This is where it gets difficult as there are so many I want to read. But it will probably be The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and  Queen Lucia by E F Benson, a book first published in 1920 for The 1920 Club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings is taking place between 13th and 19th April 2020. The idea is that you read a book published in that year and share your thoughts/review with other participants.

But then it could easily be one of these books I’ve mentioned in recent posts:

What do you think – which one would you read next?