Saturday, 15 February 2020

Quick Lit Februrary 2020

Linking up as usual with Modern Mrs Darcy for QuickLit. Having told myself that this year I was going to wait for the right books and not fixate on numbers, I seem to have read quite a lot in January. This was helped by the doctor telling me to rest for a few days (I had three viruses in succession this winter - nothing life threatening, but a great excuse for a reading vacation!). We shall see how this progresses.

Source: Wikimedia commons

Barbara Pym - Some Tame Gazelle
A solid start to the year with a favourite author. The overarching theme of Pym's novels is women waking up to find that life has become rather ordinary - but her exploration of that theme is anything but ordinary, and full of wry humour. In this novel, Harriet and Belinda Bede are two spinster sisters in their fifties, living in a small parish. Belinda is sustained by her faithful love for the archdeacon who spurned her thirty years ago (and lives practically next door with his waspish wife), while the voluptuous Harriet lavishes her affections on each new curate who passes through the parish. Delicious (literally, since food as a social weapon is also a feature of this novel).

Muriel Barbary - The Elegance of the Hedgehog
My elder daughter has been raving about this for several years. It focuses on two people living mentally isolated lives in an upscale French apartment block: the autodidact concierge and a teenage girl carefully planning for her suicide in a year's time. When a new, unconventional owner moves in, the three of them are brought together in ways that illumine all their lives. This book ranks along with Ishiguro's The Buried Giant as one that made me really angry - it drew me in with its beautiful writing and plot, and then just as I was in love with it, hit me with an unfair ending that made me want to throw the book across the room (except it was an ebook, so I couldn't break my device.). You have been warned.

Source: Alyssa Cole, Twitter

Alyssa Cole - Radio Silence
I'm not a contemporary romance reader, but a while back, I came across the controversy splitting the Romance Writers of America, and decided to widen my horizons just a tad with this interracial romance. In this first in a trilogy, the lights have gone out across America, and Arden and her room mate, John, escape urban chaos for the safety of his parents' cabin in the woods. However, despite the lack of electricity, sparks are soon flying between Arden and John's older brother. It was okay, but it confirmed that contemporary romance is still not my thing. Still, I'm glad it made me think about the issues of representation in the genre.

Anne Bogel - I'd Rather Be Reading
I listened to the audio of this a year ago, but felt it might be better savoured in print, and I was correct (apologies to Anne, who narrated). This way I could ponder her thoughts on the reading life, flick back and forth to passages I wanted to re-read, and absorb the whimsical artwork. I'm looking forward to her next book, Don't Overthink It.

Ruth Hogan - The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes [audiobook]
I enjoyed The Keeper of Lost Things, and I'd been in a audiobook slump, so I thought I'd give this a go (thanks to a Chirp deal - readers who are in the US or can fake it digitally should check them out!). It's a book infused with the joy of living - or, how to find the joy in living - inspired by Hogan's own decisions following both a disabling car crash and brush with cancer. Masha has put her life on hold since the drowning death of her little boy twelve years ago, but two eccentric older women, who have lived through tragedies of their own, help her to find her way back. In a secondary plot line, Alice, a single mother who has devoted her life to her son, faces third-stage cancer. I can't say too much more, or I'll give away the story (what I've written here does not tell all!), but let's just say that if this had been a printed book, I would not have been able to stop myself flipping to the end to see what happened! Although the topics are dark - child bereavement, cancer, and dementia - and often starkly portrayed, the book is infused with wry, British, self-deprecating humour. The narrator was pitch perfect, with a great range of accents.

I usually think of Welty as an old lady, so I liked this photo of her in her youth. Credit:

Eudora Welty - Morgana
This is a notorious book from our shelf. Notorious because my husband got drunk at our church Oktoberfest/fundraiser back in the US and paid at least twice what it was worth (what can I say  - it was the Episcopal church, and I'm sure God credited him all that extra money). It's a limited edition copy of two stories from the collection "The Golden Apples", signed by Welty and the illustrator. The stories, set around 1910-20 in a little Southern Mississippi town, focus on moments of transition in the lives of adolescents. Welty's great strength is her evocative writing, whether it is descriptions of the Mississippi summers (almost too much for me, who suffered through them for years) or her unflinchingly accurate portrayal of racial attitudes in her beloved home state.

And a new footnote: Out This Month
I have some pretty prolific friends in my historical fiction online writing group, so I decided to start listing their new publications each month. All these are available via Amazon or your favourite ebook store. These are usually the sort of books you want to curl up on the sofa with and enjoy (as opposed to throw across the room).

Rosemary Morris - Friday's Child. Closed door Regency romance. Review to follow next month.
Diane Scott Lewis - Her Vanquished Land. Only one open door ;)

Hope you enjoyed the longer round-up. I know that doctors here can prescribe a rest at a spa, too, so I'll be plotting for that next :)