Monthly Archives June 2016

Book review: Last Light

I’m sure that you, like me, watch end-of-the-world scenarios in films and wonder ’what would I do?’ That’s the thought I had reading Last Light by Alex Scarrow. Oil consultant Andy Sutherland writes an investigate report for a client about what would happen if the world’s oil suppliers were cut off. Ten years later, the trigger points he identified start to happen. Within hours, society breaks down. Andy is in Iraq, his wife Jenny has packed her stuff ready to move out of the family home and has gone to Manchester for a job interview. Their daughter Leona is at university in Norwich and son Jacob at private school. They could not be more widely spread. The instinct of the, newly separated, parents, is to get back to their children. The children long for the security of their parents. While in the background, the unknown group causing the chaos has sent Ash to find Leona. The pages of this turn so rapidly you could read it in one sitting on a long haul flight. Excellent stuff. It’s clear that Scarrow is fascinated by the ‘Peak Oil’ scenario at the centre of the story, and it shows on every page. As each
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 86… ‘The Ghost’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now. I should have said, ‘Rick, I’m sorry, this isn’t for me, I don’t like the sound of it,’ finished my drink and left. But he was such a good storyteller, Rick – I often thought he should have been the writer and I the literary agent – that once he’d started talking there was never any question I wouldn’t listen, and by the time he had finished, I was hooked. ‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris Amazon Read my review of An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy  ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern  ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? THE GHOST by Robert Harris #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1V9
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Marriage Certificate

There’s a new genre appearing in mystery, thriller and general fiction sections: #genealogylit. Involving a combination of old-fashioned mystery, family history, detective fiction and combined historical and modern-day settings, #genealogylit has grown from the love of family history research and television programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Long Lost Family. The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux is another example of #genealogylit, combining family secrets with turn of the century British history: the Boer War, the Great War, the merchant navy, the changing role of women and attitudes to illegitimacy. Unlike other #genealogylit however, it is not a crime novel, there is no murder. It is the story of two couples – the bride and groom, Louisa and John, best man Frank and bridesmaid Rose – at a wedding on January 15, 1900; their lives, loves, dangers and tragedies. Running alongside is a modern-day strand. In 2011, amateur genealogist Peter Sefton finds the marriage certificate of Louisa and John’s wedding in an antiques shop and his curiosity is piqued. As he researches the names on the certificate, we also see their lives unfolding in a rapidly-changing world as the 19th century turns into the 20th. The men leave home
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Book review: At Mrs Lippincote’s

Oh the delight at discovering a new author. I can’t remember where I stumbled across Elizabeth Taylor, but she seems to be the “novelist’s novelist” with fans ranging from Valerie Martin and Kingsley Amis to Sarah Waters, Jilly Cooper and Elizabeth Jane Howard. At Mrs Lippincote’s is Taylor’s debut novel, first published in 1945. It is a minutely observed account of a family in wartime. Roddy is posted away from London and so rents a house from a widow, Mrs Lippincote. The landlady remains ever-present in the house through her family photographs on the mantelpiece and her possessions in the cupboards. Julia’s life has a transitory feel, she is where she is because of her husband and war, war which is ever-present on every page, and she is curious about the life of the Lippincote family. This is not a war novel about bombs and sirens, it is the snapshot of a normal family living in abnormal times. The Davenants live at Mrs Lippincote’s with their sickly, seven-year-old book-obsessed son Oliver, and Roddy’s cousin Eleanor. Eleanor, in love with her cousin, finds new friends via a fellow schoolteacher. Julia becomes close to the Wing Commander, Roddy’s boss, while Oliver makes
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: A Hero in France

France 1941, British bombers fly every night to Germany, many aircraft don’t make it back home. The aircrew parachuting into Occupied France must somehow find their way home in order to fight again. A Hero in France by Alan Furst is a story of that individual battle within the wider war, seen from different sides by two ordinary men. This is the beginning of the French Resistance. The man known as Mathieu – we don’t know his real name or identity until the very end of the book, this is the name by which he is known to his Resistance cell – escorts airmen along the north-south escape lines into Vichy France and onwards to Spain. Old clothes are sourced at jumble sales, innocent-looking shops serve as message drops, and a schoolgirl delivers messages by bicycle. In the beginning it was successful and relatively simple, but now the German command in Paris realizes there is a big problem. Word is getting around about the Resistance and people want to join, but how does Mathieu know who is genuine and who is a German spy? In Hamburg, Otto Broehm, senior inspector of the police department, is transferred to the Kommandantur in
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Mothering Sunday

The title of this book by Graham Swift refers to the day on which the story takes place, rather to any essay about motherhood. It is March 30, 1924, Mothering Sunday, when servants are given the day off to visit their mothers. A young woman, an orphan and servant, meets a young man from a neighbouring house, who is betrothed to another woman. It is to be their last assignation before his marriage. This is a slim book, a novella, beautifully-written. I wasn’t sure at the beginning, I found the first page and the reference to Fandango the racehorse a little odd. But once I got past that, I read it in one sitting on an airplane. It is a story about telling stories. This story is told by a novelist in her nineties who is used to be interviewed and asked repetitively about her life as a writer: when did she become a writer? The answer lies on Mothering Sunday in 1924. This is a treatise about the class system of the time, about sex and sensuality, about rebellion and about bucking the system. Jane – the housemaid and novelist – is a keen reader and with the permission
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Foxlowe

‘It’s hard to resist the pull of the shoal.’ This is a strange, sinister book by Eleanor Wasserberg about the group dynamic of adults who should know better, experienced and observed by children who learn from this parenting and either accept or rebel. If they rebel, they have the Bad inside them. This is not an easy read, not so much because of the story but I found the writing style obscure. The narrator is Green, a girl who grows up as part of the Family, a cult, living in a house called Foxlowe on a deserted moor. They share everything, their way of life is steeped in the land and ley lines. They have everything they will ever need at Foxlowe, there is no need to become a Leaver. Green knows no other life, has nothing with which to compare it. For the first 15% [I read on Kindle] I struggled with a lack of clarity, an avalanche of seemingly unconnected facts. For example, ‘The Scattering is something we learned from the Time of Crisis. Remember that the Bad had come inside the walls.’ Characters have before and after names, which added to my confusion. It seemed like an
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’

We are all used to the ‘War Poets’ of the Great War, but perhaps not so aware of poets writing about the Second World War. Dennis B Wilson’s Elegy of a Common Soldier was written at a time between the trenches in Normandy and being in hospital in Swansea in 1944 and conjures up the horrible detail of war juxtaposed with nature and what was once normal. Quite arresting. I was unaware of his work until I read an article in The Sunday Times Magazine about Mr Wilson’s reunion with a branch of the family he didn’t know existed: his father, novelist Alexander Wilson, had actually been married to four woman at the same time, producing numerous children. So in his late eighties, Dennis B Wilson discovered new relatives, including actress Ruth Wilson. She says of the poet: ‘As a wounded soldier in the Second World War, he bore witness to so many things, including the D-Day landings, all of which he wrote about in his poetry. I feel I have kindred spirits in my new-found family, I certainly do with Dennis. It may have taken this long to find each other, but I’m so pleased we have.’ If you
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Book review: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Agatha Raisin is the sort of neighbour you don’t want to live next to, if you live in a quiet picturesque Cotswold village where nothing ever happens. A newly-retired PR executive, Agatha arrives in the village of Carsley expecting a quiet retirement, a dream-like existence. But once she arrives in her perfect but soulless interior designed house, she finds real life in Carsley is not as she expected. First of all, no-one likes her. Second, no-one seems to give a fig about who she is. Third, she is bored. And so begins the first novel in this addictive series by MC Beaton, featuring busy body Agatha who things just seem to keep happening to. Desperate to make friends, she enters a village baking competition. Except Agatha can’t bake. So she buys a quiche and enters it as her own. So what, you may think. Lots of people probably do that. But when the competition judge dies of poisoning, Agatha is the key suspect. Desperate to clear her name, she turns detective. And so a new crime series is born, featuring an overweight, pompous and self-important woman who always thinks she knows best. Why is this series so good? Because Agatha
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Categories: Book Love.