Saturday, 9 February 2013

Reading at whim

Most of my reading is at random - I just pick up books in my local libraries, or occasionally charity bookshops. Sometimes I order books from newbooks, as I have a subscription and can get free books. although I have to pay postage, and some I order from The Book Depository or very occasionally from Amazon. This last I mostly use for my Kindle, which I regard as a useful addition to my library, not a total replacement for it. Who knows how long digital editions will last? Print, as we know, can survive in readable form for hundreds of years, but digital hasn't been around long enough. and backward compatibility is a real problem in information technology.  Of my recent reading, the bulk have come from libraries, and one a Persephone classic, Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Making of a Marchioness.
I enjoyed this tale of Emily Fox-Seton, and her life of at  first refined drudgery and later luxury. The first part of this story is how Emily, alone in the world and living in a cheap boarding house, doing errands for wealthy women, is invited to a country house by one of the ladies for whom she works. The time she spends there includes organising a fete for the local village, an exhausting job. The next day when Emily is sent on another errand, involving a legthy walk , Lord Walmerslet, another guest and a widower, rescues her  and proposes marriage. Happily settled at the Marquis' estate, Emily sets out to help her husbands presumed heir, Alex Osborn, recently returned fro a tour of work in India, along with his wife and her servant. The marquis is called to India on business and leaves his recently wedded wife alone . The second part of the story becomes more of a mystery or thriller, as threatening attempts  are made on Emily's life. The story however does have a satisfying ending, after a period of suspense and tension. A  really good read.

I thought Joanne Harris's Peaches for Monsieur le Cure another satisfying, enjoyable read. The third novel with Vianne Rocher as the main character and narrator, a follow up to Chocolat and the Lollipop Shoes. In this story Vianne and her daughter Anoushka returns to Lansquenet, the small town in which Chocolat was set, for a summer holiday, after receiving a letter from her now dead friend, Armande. Lansquenet has changed, however. The cure, Monsieur Reynaud seems to be in a precarious postion, especially over his relations with a group of Muslim immigrants, who have settled in the older part of the town near the river. A young Muslim, Karim Bencharki and his sister Ines seem to be setting a new stricter way of life for the younger Muslims, which is creating tensions in that community and with the local French town dwellers as well. Vianne gets involved  in the events and tries to sort things out in her way, by making some of her  delicious, seductive chocolates and also some peach jam. She also helps a young Muslim girl who runs away from her family. The tensions between the communities and different charaters is well maintained and provides a delightful read. I think this follow up more successful than Lollipop Shoes.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Anita Shreve's story Sea Glass sems to be a quiet novel, gentle, apparently a bit like the heroine. But appearances can be deceptive, and the tension mounts slowly to a very shocking event which has life-changing effects on all the characters. I hadn't for some reason read any books by Anita Shreve before, and found this story very readable, with believable characters and lovely descriptions of how Honora and her husband start to make a life for themselves in a small seaside summer resort. But the Wall Street crash of 1929 will have devasting results for the couple, and for the people they get to know in the small mill town nearby. The deepening effects of the Crash and how different people react to it make for a fascinating read.

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