First Chapter First Paragraph: The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman, an author I haven’t come across before. I saw it in a pile of secondhand books for sale and the title caught my eye.

The Light Between Oceans

It begins:

27 April 1926

On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, ending the small newly made driftwood cross. A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below. Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted.

‘… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,’ she whispered.

For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry. She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pod of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with a fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry. She heard the cry again, louder this time on the early morning breeze. Impossible.

Blurb from the back cover:

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man and a crying baby. the only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

∼ ∼ 

It’s been made into a film and looks a real weepie, again I hadn’t heard of the film either, starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. The Guardian calls it a ‘swirling, sugar-coated melodrama, a tale of love and sacrifice that isn’t afraid to hit cymbal-crashing levels of sentimentality.’

It looks a complete change of reading for me!

What do you think – would you read on?

Munich by Robert Harris


Munich is about  the 1938 Munich Conference and I found it absolutely fascinating  as I know very little about the period beyond the basic facts – PM Neville Chamberlain was trying to maintain the peace in the face of Hitler’s aims to expand German territory (but I was a bit vague about the actual details) and in 1938 came back from the Munich conference with a piece of paper signed by Hitler, proclaiming that it meant ‘peace for our time‘.


Munich is a mix of fact and fiction. Harris uses two fictional characters, Hugh Legat as one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries and Paul Hartmann, a German diplomat and a member of the anti-Hitler resistance to tell his story. Harris’ interest in the Munich Agreement began thirty years ago when he made a BBC TV documentary, ‘God Bless You Mr Chamberlain’ to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the conference in 1988. He has thoroughly researched the subject, consulting many books (listed in the Acknowledgements) and has seamlessly woven the facts into the novel. It has a a strong sense of place, based no doubt on his visits to what was once the Führerbau, now the Faculty of Music and Theatre and Hitler’s old apartment in Prinzregentenplatz, now used as a police headquarters.

Munich explores the moral dilemma of appeasement, and of making a stand. It portrays Chamberlain as a man of high moral principals, deeply concerned that the horrors of World War One should not be repeated and not as a weak appeaser easily fooled by Hitler. His objective was:

… to avert war in the short term, and then to try to build a lasting peace for the future – one month, one day at a time, if needs be. The worst act I could possibly commit for the future of mankind would be to walk away from this conference tonight. (page 267)

Reading this book has made me want to know more about Neville Chamberlain and I hope to read one of the biographies that Harris lists.

The fictional story of Hugh and Paul, who had been friends at university six years earlier adds additional tension and drama to the already tense story of the Munich conference. As in his earlier books Harris has captured the atmosphere and mood of the times, making me feel as though I’m there with the characters taking part in the action. The key characters are seen through Hugh’s and Paul’s perspectives – Chamberlain and Hitler – and others such as Mussolini, Goering and the other British politicians who travelled with Chamberlain to Munich.  Among the later was Lord Dunglass, described by one of Chamberlain’s secretaries as ‘one of the cleverest politicians she had ever encountered‘; she considered that he would ‘be Prime Minister one day‘. At the time it was inconceivable that a premier could sit in the House of Lords and her prediction was dismissed. However, Dunglass went on to inherit his father’s title and become the 14th Earl of Home and as Sir Alec-Douglas-Home (renouncing his peerage) he did indeed become Prime Minister.

I really like Harris’ straight forward writing style with no flashbacks, fly forwards or ambiguities. I learned a lot from this book and as far as I can tell (as I said I don’t know much about the period) it is an accurate version of what happened at Munich. It is a dramatic story well told – definitely a 5* book!

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; 01 edition (21 Sept. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091959195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091959197
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating: 5*

Bump in the Night by Colin Watson

Farrago| 18 March 2018|244 p|e-book|Review copy|4.5*



The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number …


which for me is Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by April 30, 2018.

Little Dorritt

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. As it’s on my list I do want to read it – sometime – maybe not right now.

I know very little about Little Dorrit, just that it’s long and my copy is one of the Wordsworth Classics in a very small font. I stopped watching the TV adaptation with Tom Courtney as William Dorrit – such a dark and dreary production with him in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison. The blurb on the back cover says that Dickens’ working title for the book was Nobody’s Fault. Well, it’s his fault for writing it – and mine for for putting it on the Spin List – oh, yes and the Spin God for spitting out number 3.

I just hope I enjoy it!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Little Dorrit is a classic tale of imprisonment, both literal and metaphorical, while Dickens’ working title for the novel, Nobody’s Fault, highlights its concern with personal responsibility in private and public life. Dickens’ childhood experiences inform the vivid scenes in Marshalsea debtor’s prison, while his adult perceptions of governmental failures shape his satirical picture of the Circumlocution Office. The novel’s range of characters – the honest, the crooked, the selfish and the self-denying – offers a portrait of society about whose values Dickens had profound doubts.

Little Dorrit is indisputably one of Dickens’ finest works, written at the height of his powers. George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a masterpiece among masterpieces’, a verdict shared by the novel’s many admirers.

A ‘masterpiece‘ – that makes it sound OK – doesn’t it?

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

My Friday Post: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

Book Beginnings Button

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 am at the stage where I just don’t know what to read next – there are so many books I want to read but I keep picking one up, putting it down, picking up yet more books not sure which one is the right one for me right now.

But yesterday I wrote about some of my TBRs including The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and as three of my blogging friends, Cath, Sandra and Leah all said how much they had enjoyed it, I’m going to start reading it today.

The Tenderness of Wolves


The last time I saw Laurent Jammet, he was in Scott’s store with a dead wolf over his shoulder.

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.
  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

I have brought a knife in my pocket, which I am now holding, rather more tightly than is necessary. It’s not really that I think for a moment the murderer would come back – for what? – but I creep on, one hand on the cabin wall, until I can listen by the window for sounds within.


Canada, 1867. A young murder suspect flees across the snowy wilderness. Tracking him is what passes for the law in this frontier land: trappers, sheriffs, traders and the suspect’s own mother, desperate to clear his name. As the party pushes further from civilisation, hidden purposes and old obsessions are revealed. One is seeking long-lost daughters; another a fortune in stolen furs; yet another is chasing rumours of a lost Native American culture. But where survival depends on cooperation, their fragile truce cannot afford to be broken, nor their overriding purpose – to find justice for a murdered man – forgotten.

A – Z of TBRs: S and T

I’m now up to S and T in 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, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all.



– is for The Stranger House by Reginald Hilla book I’ve had a mere two years. I bought this because I love Hill’s books.

It’s a stand-alone book, a psychological thriller – no Dalziel and Pasco in this book. It’s set in Cumbria in a fictitious valley, Skaddale and village, Illthwaite, where the Stranger House offers refuge to travellers – people like Australian, Samantha Flood and Miguel Madero, a Spanish historian. The two of whom uncover intertwining tales of murder, betrayal and love. There are dark mysteries at the heart of this ancient place.

[Miguel] entered the Seminary in Seville at the age of twenty-three at the same time as nineteen-year-old Sam Flood entered Melbourne University, both convinced they knew exactly what they were doing and where the paths of their lives were leading them.

And yet neither yet understanding that a particular path is not a prospectus and that it may, in the instant it takes for a word to be spoken or a finger-hold to be lost, slip right off your map and lead you somewhere unimagined in all your certainties.

In the cases of Sam Flood and Miguel Madero this place was situated far to the north. (page 22)


S – is also for Slipstream: A Memoir by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923 – 2014), the author of the Cazalet Chronicles. I’ve been meaning to read this for so long – it’s been on my shelves for 11 years, would you believe! It was published in 2002 when she was seventy nine.

This quotation comes from the final chapter of the book:

For the last two years while I have been writing this, I have been getting noticeably older. Getting old is a classic slipstream situation. It’s rather like that game Grandmother’s footsteps. I stand at the end of a lawn with my back to a row of the trappings of old age whose object is to reach me before I turn round and send them back to their row. One or two of these have caught me during the last five years: I have neither the health or the energy that once I had. In these respects I am not as young as I feel. Arthritis is dispiriting because it is both painful and incurable, and it takes time to become reconciled to it. I can’t – like my friend Penelope Lively – garden any more and that is for both of us a privation.

But on the plus side,  I am able to go on writing, I can sew and cook and have friends to stay and above all I can read. I continue to go to my women’s group; I can still learn. One of the good things about living longer is that we have more time to learn how to be old. It is clear to me now that inside the conspiracy of silence about age – because of the negative aspects of the condition – there is the possibility of art; that is to say that it can be made into something worth trying to do well, a challenge, an adventure. I don’t want to live with any sort of retirement, with nostalgia and regret wrapped round me like a wet blanket. I want to live enquiringly, with curiosity and interest for the rest of my life. (page 476)

T– is for The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, a book I’ve had for three years. She is probably best known for her children’s books – the Moomin stories. I haven’t read those or any of her books for adults. But a few years ago I kept seeing her name cropping up on book blogs and thought I would like her books. This one is set in winter in a Swedish hamlet. A strange young woman fakes a break-in at the house of Anna Aemelin, an elderly artist, to persuade her that she needs companionship.

Her parents had lived long lives and never allowed anyone to cut trees in their woods. They’d been rich as trolls when they died. And the woods were still untouchable. Little by little they had grown almost impenetrable and stood like a wall behind the house; the ‘rabbit house’, they called it in the village. It was a grey wood villa with elaborate carved window frames in white, as grey-white as the tall backdrop of snow-drenched forest. The building actually resembled a large, crouched rabbit – the square front teeth of the white veranda curtains, the silly bay windows under eyebrows of snow, the vigilant ears of the chimneys. All the windows were dark. The path up the hill had not been shovelled.

That’s where she lives. Mats and I will live there too. But I have to wait. I need to think carefully before I give this Anna Aemelin an important place in my life. (pages 30-1)

T is also for The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, another book I’ve had for 11 years! It was the 2006 Costa Book of the Year.looking at it now I think one of the reasons I haven’t read it yet is that it appears to be written in a mix of the present and past tenses.

Set in 1867 in Canada, on the isolated settlement of Dove River a man has been brutally murdered, a woman finds his body and her seventeen-year-old son has disappeared. She has to clear his name, heading north into the forest and the desolate landscape that lies beyond it …

In this extract Thomas Sturrock is listening to a conversation between two men when he just has to ask them who they are discussing – is it a trader?

‘A Frenchie trader in Dove River was murdered. I don’t know if there’s more than one such there.’

‘I don’t think there is. You didn’t hear a name by any chance?’

‘Not that I remember off the top of my head – something French, is all I recall.’

‘The name of my acquaintance is Laurent Jammet’.

The man’s eyes light up with pleasure. ‘Well I’m sorry, I truly am, but I think that was the name that was mentioned.’

Sturrock falls uncharacteristically silent. He has had to deal with many shocks in his long career, and his mind is already working out the repercussions of this news. Tragic, obviously for Jammet. Worrying, at the least for him. For there is unfinished business there that he has been very keen to conclude, awaiting only the financial means to do so. Now that Jammet is dead, the business must be concluded as soon as possible, or the chance may slip out of his reach for good. (pages 34-5)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Jonathan Cape, Vintage Digital| 1 March 2018|304 p|Review copy|4.5*