Oct 2013 tbr Today we have two books by women – two very different books, although maybe we can say that they are both about grabbing opportunity where you can and making a new start in life, and about changing what you do with your life part way through it. Too tenuous a link? Well, reviewing books in pairs as I now do does tend to throw up these contrasts and links, as I do try to post in order of reading and not try to force them into matching pairs! Anyway, here we go with the first of a couple of catch-up posts …

July 2013 4Vita Sackville-West – “Heritage”

(17 July 2013)

The last of that lovely crop from Bello Books, and very bad I feel indeed about having taken so long to read them all! But they’re all read and reviewed now, and I’m very glad of the fine print-on-demand reprint issues Bello is doing.

Now, I have the idea that this is one of the preferred of Vita’s books and I have to say that I personally felt more engaged with “Family History”. Not to say that this is a bad or lesser book, I suppose it’s just a very different one. It’s the convoluted and slightly farm-Gothic (is that a genre? You know what I mean, right – Mary Webb, Cold Comfort Farm … doings and goings on in a rural setting, lots of emotion and repression and large farm-hands and quivering daughters …) tale, framed by the narratives of one young man who’s the main narrator and another who he meets on a retreat in London and who narrates his own story in one section of direct speech and then a number of long letters. By all sorts of machinations of fate and free will, they both end up involved with a Kentish family with Spanish incursions, and then over the course of a decade or two that takes in the First World War, they separately engage with the family, correspond at length about it and, frankly, meddle in the affairs of the simple farming folk with predictably disastrous consequences.

While this is in part a portrait of Violet Trefusis (I think I read somewhere – but where?) and while the countryside of the Weald is a beautifully drawn character, to me the book never quite comes alive as fully as the other books of Vita’s that I’ve read, and doesn’t leap off the page at you. Maybe one issue is that the narrators admire their fellow characters too much – I’m not sure. But even though it’s flawed, still a good read and I’m glad that it’s been republished.

Debbie Macomber – “Starting Now”

(September 2013 – BookCrossing)

A Blossom Street series book, although Lydia and her family are really the only main Blossom Street characters to have a significant role, this is quite a hefty book in terms of pages, but a bit light on character variety, as it mostly concentrates on one character, Libby, ex-lawyer, coming to realise what she’s sacrificed for her career. In a way, while it was absorbing at the time (but, it has to be said, a time that really called for a very light read), it brings to mind an extended version of one of her Mills and Boon type shorter books, and I’m not quite sure that the lower protagonist count can truly sustain a full length book.

A good few of the plot points did seem a bit implausible, with the author not letting a few legal or child protection issues get in the way of a good storyline (which was odd, as her books do usually feel pretty believable in their everyday details), and, although the book makes an effort to work out how you can, indeed, ‘have it all’ in the end, this part is the least convincing. The side characters are bursting to become more fully used, I feel. But a comforting and easy read.

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I’m currently working my way through “A Dance to the Music of Time: Winter”, but there are a few more reviews stacking up to be published in the next few days, as yes, I have been reading, I’ve just got behind on my reviewing! Watch this space …