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. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

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?

New To Me Books

This post is about the books I’ve recently added to my TBRs and about the library books I’ve recently borrowed.

Paperbacks from Barter Books in Alnwick:


Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee.  I’ve only read one of her books, The Hours of the Night, and that was years ago, and pre-blog, when I just noted that it was ‘good overall’ and ‘could be shorter’. But the blurb interested me – set in the aftermath of the First World War it’s ‘about life’s fragility, and the power of love and painting to disturb, renew and reveal us to ourselves.

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly, based on the story by series creator Chris Chibnall. i loved the TV series, so I’m hoping I’ll love this too. I’ve only read one other book based on a TV series and that was Tenko broadcast in the 1980s (about women in a Japanese prisoner of war camp). The book was terrible, such a let down as I had loved the TV series.

Die Trying by Lee Child, the second Jack Reacher thriller. I haven’t read the first one yet, but I’ve found it’s best to get the books from Barter Books when I see them – they might not be there next time I go. I enjoyed the only Jack Reacher book I’ve read, The Midnight Line and have decided to read the earlier books.

Library books:


Goodbye Piccadilly: War at Home 1914 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I’ve been seeing her books in libraries and bookshops for years, but have never read any. This is the first in a series about the First World War – I decided to start with this rather than her Morland Dynasty series (now 34 books).

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and I’m expecting this to be just as good! It’s described on the back cover as ‘a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.

Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson – historical crime fiction. I’ve read a few of the Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them. This one is set in 1930s Scotland – in a fishing village on the Banffshire coast where unusual items are turning up in the herring barrels.

I’m looking forward to reading these books in the coming months!

My Week in Books: 25 May 2016

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


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

  • Now: I often read several books at once and manage to keep them all on the go, but every now and then this doesn’t work well and I end up reading just one of them, leaving the others. This is what has happened these last few weeks as I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (see the next section of this post). I was also reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre and A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr. But as I’m now a bit vague about what was happening in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, I’ve decided I need to start it again. But not right now, so I’ve put it back on the shelves to read later.

But, I’m still reading Andrew Marr’s A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr, basically Britain after the end of the Second World War up to 2006, with an added introduction in the paperback edition written in 2008. I’ve read up to page 79 so far out of 672 pages. It will be a while  before I finish this book!


A History of Modern Britain confronts head-on the victory of shopping over politics. It tells the story of how the great political visions of New Jerusalem or a second Elizabethan Age, rival idealisms, came to be defeated by a culture of consumerism, celebrity and self-gratification. In each decade, political leaders think they know what they are doing, but find themselves confounded. Every time, the British people turn out to be stroppier and harder to herd than predicted.

Throughout, Britain is a country on the edge ‘“ first of invasion, then of bankruptcy, then on the vulnerable front line of the Cold War and later in the forefront of the great opening up of capital and migration now reshaping the world. This history follows all the political and economic stories, but deals too with comedy, cars, the war against homosexuals, Sixties anarchists, oil-men and punks, Margaret Thatcher’s wonderful good luck, political lies and the true heroes of British theatre.

I’ve just started to read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson alongside Marr’s book. It’s looking promising so far – I’m on page 26 of 219.


Acclaimed on publication as a contemporary classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphans growing up in the small desolate town of Fingerbone in the vast northwest of America.

Abandoned by a succession of relatives, the sisters find themselves in the care of Sylvie, the remote and enigmatic sister of their dead mother. Steeped in imagery of the bleak wintry landscape around them, the sisters’ struggle towards adulthood is powerfully portrayed in a novel about loss, loneliness and transience.

  • Then: I’ve recently finished The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. I don’t know yet how I’m going to review this book, as even after a second reading I’m not at all sure I understand some of it. It’s long and complicated and an awful lot happens in it. I needed to concentrate, which is why I had to stop reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at the same time – too much detail in both books!

That said, I enjoyed it immensely, maybe the concentrated reading is one reason, but I also loved the fantastic clockwork inventions and historical details, the settings and the characterisations.


In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, which has just received a threat for what could be the largest-scale Fenian bombing in history.

When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely immigrant who sweeps him into a new world of clockwork and music. Although Mori seems harmless at first, a chain of unexpected slips soon proves that he must be hiding something.

Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.

As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses.

Utterly beguiling, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street blends historical events with dazzling flights of fancy to plunge readers into a strange and magical past, where time, destiny, genius – and a clockwork octopus – collide.

  • Next: 

It might be Coming Home by Sue Gee, set in 1947 India on the brink of independence as an English couple are ‘coming home’ from India, attempting to make their way in a changed Britain. This might fit in well with my reading of Andrew Marr’s book – or it might not.

Or I might read something completely different!