My Week in Books: 13 September 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now: I’m currently reading The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse.

The Taxidermist's Daughter

 

Blurb:

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream . . .

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years . . .

Then: I’ve just finished reading A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas which I really enjoyed. My review will follow soon.

A Climate of Fear (Commissaire Adamsberg #10)

 

Blurb:

A woman is found dead in her bath. The murder has been disguised as a suicide and a strange symbol is discovered at the scene.

Then the symbol is observed near a second victim, who ten years earlier had also taken part in a doomed expedition to Iceland.

How are these deaths, and rumours of an Icelandic demon, linked to a secretive local society? And what does the mysterious sign mean? Commissaire Adamsberg is about to find out.

Next: For once I know exactly what I’ll be reading next, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a re-read of a book I first read and loved years ago:

The Poisonwood Bible

Blurb:

Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian congo in 1959, The Poisonwood Bible is the story of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

How about you? Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think of them? And what have you been reading this week?

It’s Autumn: Time for the R.I.P. Challenge

It’s that time of year for the R.I.P. Challenge (1 September to 31 October), hosted by Estella’s Revenge, the aim being to read books in the categories of Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, and Supernatural.

I wasn’t going to join in this year as I’ve been cutting back on the number of challenges. But the emphasis in R.I.P. is not on the word ‘challenge’, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood. I’ve also realised that the book I’m currently reading is one that easily fits into more than one of those categories. It’s The Taxidermist’s Daughter.

The Taxidermist's Daughter

It’s set in 1912 in the Sussex salt marshes and is full of mystery, suspense with Gothic overtones and a menacing atmosphere.

Dead for all these long and many years. The smell of sulphur and the grave. The smell of rotting and unpreserved flesh. The darkening glass. They sullied the beauty of the place. Destroyed all that was wonderful and made it dark. (page 63)

Old sins have long shadows.

In the next few weeks I’ll probably read a few more books that fit into the categories. Looking at some of my TBRs I have Extraordinary People by Peter May (another book I’ve just started to read), The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine, and The Tree of Hands by Ruth Rendell, to name but three.

So, I’ve decided that I shall join in, and for the time being I’ll be participating at the level of Peril the Third, which involves reading at least one book from the above categories. If I read more than I’ll move on to Peril the First, which involves reading at least four books from the above categories.

A – Z of TBRs: D, E and F

I have been neglecting my TBRs this year and have been reading mainly new books and library books.So here is the second instalment of my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year.

D, E and F.

D is for David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, a book I’ve had since I don’t know when! I watched a TV adaptation many years ago but I’ve never read the book. This is the novel that Dickens described as his ‘favourite child’.

I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or “thereby”, as they say in Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father’s eyes had closed upon the light of this world six months, when mine opened on it. There is something strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw me; and something stranger yet in the shadowy remembrance that I have of my first childish associations with his white gravestone in the churchyard, and of the indefinable compassion I used to feel for it lying out alone there in the dark night, when our little parlour was warm and bright with fire and candle, and the doors of our house were – almost cruelly, it seemed to me sometimes – bolted and locked against it. (page 14)

EExtraordinary People by Peter May, the first in his Enzo Files series (on my TBR shelves since July 2016). This is set in France where Enzo MacLeod, a forensic expert takes a wager to solve seven French murders using modern technology. I bought this because I loved Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.

I was trained as a forensic biologist, Monsieur Raffin. Seven years with Strathclyde police in Glasgow, the last two as head of biology, covering everything from blood pattern  interpretation at major crime scenes, to analysis of hairs and fibres. I was involved in early DNA databasing, interpretation of damage to clothing, as well as detailed examination of murder scenes. Oh, and did I mention? I am one of only four people in the UK to have trained as a Byford scientist – which also makes me an expert on serious crime analysis. (page 14)

FThe Floating Admiral by Members of the Detection Club (on my TBR shelves since May 2014). This is a collaboration by twelve writers from the Detection Club, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

As it [a small rowing-boat] came nearer Wade laid down his rod. He could see now that there was someone in the boat – not seated, but, apparently, lying in the bottom of her, astern.

… A man of about sixty, with iron grey hair, moustache and close-cropped, pointed beard, dark eyes open with fixed stare. He was clad in evening dress clothes and a brown overcoat, the latter open at the front and exposing a white shirt-front stained with blood. (pages 14-15)

What do you think? Which one would you read first? Are there any you would discard?

What’s In a Name 2017: Wrap Up Post

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I’ve now completed the What’s In a Name Challenge 2017, hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from six categories.

These are the books I read, linked to my reviews.

A number in numbers

The 12.30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts – Golden Age crime fiction

A building 

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and also Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (joint post) – a classic and a contemporary take on Jane Austen’s novel

A title which has an ‘X’somewhere in it

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid – crime fiction

A compass direction

South Riding by Winifred Holtby – a modern classic

An item/items of cutlery

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns – a modern classic

A title in which at least two words share the same first letter – alliteration!

A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody – crime fiction

I enjoyed them all, especially A Place of Execution and South Riding. My thanks to Charlie for hosting this challenge.

South Riding by Winifred Holtby

South Riding

Blurb:

The community of South Riding, like the rest of the country, lives in the long shadow of war. Blighted by recession and devastated by the loss, they must also come to terms with significant social change.Forward-thinking and ambitious, Sarah Burton is the embodiment of such change. After the death of her fiancé, she returns home to Yorkshire focused on her career as headmistress of the local school. But not everyone can embrace the new social order. Robert Carne, a force of conservatism, stands firmly against Sarah. A tormented man, he carries a heavy burden that locks him in the past.

As the villagers of South Riding adjust to Sarah’s arrival and face the changing world, emotions run high, prejudices are challenged and community spirit is tested. 

My View:

I bought Winifred Holtby’s sixth and last novel, South Riding, after watching the BBC television adaptation by Andrew Davies, starring Anna Maxwell Martin and David Morrissey, broadcast in February 2011. And I’ve  only just got round to reading it – it was well worth the wait. It’s one of those books that make you feel as though you are there taking part in the action – I was totally immersed in the story and I loved it.

The book was first published in 1936, six months after Winifred Holtby’s death, aged 37, from Bright’s disease. Set in the early 1930s in Yorkshire it paints a moving and vivid portrait of a rural community struggling with the effects of the depression.

South Riding is a fictional place – Yorkshire consists of a North, East and West Riding – there is no South Riding. The word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The invading Danes called representatives from each Thridding to a thing, or parliament and established the Ridings System. South Riding is based on the East Riding where Winifred Holtby’s mother was a county alderman, but she explained in a prefatory letter to her mother that Alderman Mrs Beddows was not Alderman Mrs Holtby, that the characters were not her colleagues on the county council and that the incidents in the book were not derived from her mother’s experience.

Nevertheless,the main focus of the novel is centred on local politics and the work of the county council in dealing with a variety of issues  including social issues, education, unemployment, local building programmes, poor relief and the treatment of the insane. There is a large cast of characters and a list is given at the start of the book, which I found most helpful.

It is an intensely detailed story, involving many sub-plots as the lives of all the characters unfold. The main characters are Sarah Burton, the new headmistress of Kiplington High School for Girls, a fiercely passionate and dedicated teacher; Councillor and farmer Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall and his struggles both personal and financial; Joe Astell, a socialist fighting poverty; and Mrs Beddows, the first woman alderman of the district, a strong older woman (age 72), a generous and charitable woman – my favourite character. This is how Winifred Holtby describes her:

She was a plump sturdy little woman, whose rounded features looked as though they had been battered blunt by wear and weather in sixty years or more of hard experience. But so cheerful, so lively, so frank was the intelligence which beamed  benevolently from her bright spaniel-coloured eyes, that sometimes she looked as young as the girl she still, in her secret dreams, felt herself to be. (pages xxiv-xxv)

And here is one of the passages in which she describes Sarah Burton:

Sarah believed in action. She believed in fighting. She had unlimited confidence in the power of the human intelligence and will to achieve order, happiness, health and wisdom. It was her business to equip the young women entrusted to her by a still inadequately enlightened state for their part in that achievement. She wished to prepare their minds, to train their their bodies, and to inculcate their spirits with some of her own courage, optimism and unstaled delight. (page 42)

I could go on – all the characters are clearly defined and well rounded people and the locations bring the area to life, showing the contrast in living conditions between the different sections of society.

In short South Riding is a wonderful book, portraying life in the 1930s. I would very much like to re-read and enjoy it again and again. I’m sure that I would find plenty in it that I’ve missed on this first reading.

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849902038
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849902038
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My Rating: 5*

South Riding is my 18th book for Bev’s Mount TBR 2017 challenge and my final book for Charlie’s What’s in a Name Challenge 2017.

The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred

I’ve previously written about The Man Who Climbs Trees, a book I loved. It doesn’t have any photos – but there is an article with photos on the Penguin website. Just take a look at two – there are more in the article!

Korowai treehouse (Courtesy of Penguin UK)
Giant Orchid Borneo (Courtesy of Penguin UK)

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

There is also this amazing video James took of the incredible Korowai tribe in Papua building a tree house. It’s well worth watching!

First Chapter First Paragraph: Falling in Love

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from a library book that I’ll be reading soon, Falling in Love by Donna Leon. It’s the 24th Commissario Brunetti novel.

Falling in Love (Brunetti 24)

It begins:

The woman knelt over her lover, her face, her entire body stiff with terror, staring at the blood on her hand. He lay on his back, one arm flung out, palm upturned as if begging her to place something into it; his life, perhaps. She had touched his chest, urging him to get up, so they could get out of there, but he hadn’t moved, so she had shaken him, the same old sleepy-head who never wanted to get out of bed.

Blurb (from back cover):

As an opera superstar at La Fenice in Venice, Flavia is well acquainted with attention from adoring fans and aspiring singers. But when anonymous admirer inundates her with bouquets of yellow roses, which start to appear in her dressing room and even inside her locked apartment, she begins to fear for her safety and calls in an old friend.

Enter Commissario Brunetti.

But soon the threat becomes more serious. Brunetti must enter the psyche of an obsessive fan and find the culprit before anyone, especially Flavia, comes to harm.

I’ve only read a few of the Brunetti novels and certainly not in the order they were written. Apparently Flavia appeared in the first book, Death at La Fenice, in which Flavia Petrelli, one of Italy’s finest living sopranos had been the prime suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor – until Brunetti cleared her name.

This title doesn’t say this book is crime fiction to me. What do you think?