Georgette Heyer – “The Grand Sophy”

(12 December 2011 – from Heather) (April read)

When I left my library job last year, I was kindly given a book token by my colleagues, and then my friend Heather also gave me two Georgette Heyers, as we’d often talked about this marvellous author and I was always saying I wanted to re-read her. Although I had come across the omnibus I’ve been reading and read a couple from there, it was a real treat to read a lovely paperback edition. I first read Heyer in those hardbacks with the mint green covers, from various libraries – anyone else remember them?

Anyway, this is one of the best Heyers – of course. Motherless Sophy is lodged with her aunt and cousins while her father is off in Brazil. Not the shy and retiring girl expected, and seeing the parlous state of her relatives’ various finances and emotional entanglements, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work, to the consternation of her cousin Charles, and the glee of his younger siblings, especially when a monkey makes an appearance! With her pistol and her amazing horsewomanship, Sophy could easily become too good to be true, but she is given a rounded character and her own faults, and it’s a very funny book, too.

Gillian Baxter – “The Perfect Horse”

(BookCrossing, 29 August 2010)

The last unread pony book on my Pile (which now comprises books in series I haven’t got up to yet and – the horror – books in French!) so not sure what I’ll do next time I need a comfort read. An excellent portrayal of a riding school / livery stables getting back on its feet after a difficult time, and the horsey community around it. Heroine Bobby’s somewhat jealous when her cousin, Ellen, is bought a perfect horse that even an average rider can do well on. But what will happen when he – or more likely Ellen – makes the inevitable mistake. A bit of light romance, but well done horses and people and good illustrations too.

Sinclair McKay – “The Secret Life of Bletchley Park”

(BookCrossing, 10 December 2011)

A really well done book on the code-breaking establishment, mixing chapters charting its historical progress with themed chapters on romance, recruitment, security breaches, etc. Much more the story of the people than of the equipment, and occasionally a little more “breathless” than non-fiction books I am accustomed to reading (of course a memo written in the 1940s is still in the archives today) and slipping into the odd typo, this is in general pitched well and very engaging. Having a few key characters from the general workers as well as the bosses popping up throughout the text give it a joined up sense of unity. Well worth reading, and it’s amazing, in this day and age, just how secret it was all kept, even when it didn’t really need to be any longer.

Jill McCorkle – “Creatures of Habit”

(08 January 2012 – from Gill)

I discovered McCorkle about 14 years ago, but she’s very hard to find in the UK, so I was thrilled when Gill presented me with this US-sourced copy at Christmas. McCorkle’s usual takes of small town life feature nothing very much out of the ordinary: that’s their joy. The stories in this collection are pinned on the human life story, from being a child cycling after the town mosquito truck to old age, memory loss and death.  There’s also a distinct and interesting animal theme, with even a stepfather taking the role of a rather dull pet in one story. Beautifully observed and heartbreaking as well as funny: extraordinarily written stories about ordinary families, and just, satisfyingly, as I’d expected.