Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Spring reading

It is well and truly spring, despite the fact that I'm still wearing layers of clothes.With variable weather and chilly winds, it seems that spring is here to stay a while. But at least when the sun does appear, it now has some actual warmth in it, rather than just looking good. Out on a walk yesterday, through some woods, I saw violets and wood anemones, as well as some pulmonaria and a few orchids just appearing.

Wood anenomes

Wild violets

 In the cooler and wetter spring days, I've been doing some reading .Rosie Thomas' Daughter of the House, set in London just after World War One was an enjoyable read Nancy Wix is the daughter of Devil Wix and his actress wife Emily, and has no desire to act on stage, in the theatre owned by her father.After the war the men returning from the fighting want their old jobs back .However, Nancy has a gift which will help save the theatre now fallen on hard times, as the variety shows of the past are no longer popular with audiences. Nancy's gift is a sort of clairvoyance, developed with aid of the mysterious Mr Feather, which proves very popular with the post First World War audiences. Nancy has an affair with a wealthy businessman who sets her up in her own flat. I found this tale , with its descriptions of the lifestyle of the "bright young things" of the twenties and as the tale progresses, hints of more disruption in Europe to come, an engaging read. I have enjoyed several of Rosie Thomas's novels, and this one was well up to standard.
Another recent read was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This novel is set in early nineteenth century Charleston and is about slavery. The two main characters are Sarah Grimke and her personal slave Hetty, also called Handful.. The story alternates between Sarah and Hetty's points of view. Sarah's family were rich, her father a judge and plantation owner, but while Sarah's brothers are sent away to be educated, Sarah herself receives little in the way of education, although she can read anything in her fathers extensive library. She even teaches Hetty to read, although this was against the law. Sarah Grimke was a real person, a abolitionist in the early to mid nineteenth century, at a time when slavery in America was seen as necessary in the southern States and when women had few if any rights nor expectations of education or work, other than marriage.
Cecelia Ekback's Wolf  Winter is a debut novel and a very accomplished one. Set in Swedish Lapland in 1717, the story tells how Maije and her husband and two daughters settle in a small place on Blackausen mountain. The atmosphere of menace starts early in the story with the discovery of a dead body by Maije's daughters. Maije's search for the truth behind this killing leads to all sorts of discoveries among  the people of the small settlement and the local townspeople, despite their efforts to cover things up. Well-researched and well-written with a very successful sense of atmosphere and menace, this was a very interesting read.

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