Oh dear – where HAS the month gone and what have I been doing with my reading and blogging? I have no idea of the answer to any of those questions. I know I’ve worked quite a lot, run a rather horrible half marathon on an airfield and had a bit of a cold, but it’s not really an excuse. I have also been reading two review copies of non-fiction books, which have taken a bit of time – more on those later (and more purchases, wouldn’t you know). Anyway, have you missed me? I said HAVE YOU MISSED ME- oh, never mind. Here are some reviews …
E. H. Young – “The Vicar’s Daughter” (Virago)
(02 January 2015 – a gift from the lovely Kaggsy of Kaggsysbookishramblings)
A study of a week in the life of cousins Maurice and Edward. Both are vicars, but with very different theologies and world-views, and indeed lives, with Maurice a perpetual invalid and bachelor, mainly it feels out of pique at being pipped to the post of marriage to Margaret, who is now, of course, married to Edward. Maurice is, as you would imagine, fussy and pernickety, Edward academic, remote and posh (and a bit peevish, too – what a lovely pair they are). But Margaret is still Maurice’s ideal and idol, and he curiously worships Edward, too, only too eager to take a “holiday” looking after his parish while the whole family is away.
We meet Maurice and, first, the daughter and new dog of the house on the eve of Margaret and Edward’s return. There follows a week in which happenings are revealed out of order and in a tumble of mixed impressions and blurry pictures, women use their various powers and share tips on doing so, the churchwarden appears to be implicated in one set of wrong-doings and Edward appears to be implicated in yet another, all giving rise to all sorts of misunderstandings and poppings between the vicarage and the churchwarden’s house that would be material for a farce if it wasn’t so hothoused, sour and over-dramatic. Young draws them all so perfectly and cleverly, capturing all the nuances.
Not a comfy read, but a well-observed and slightly cringey one, notable for seeing marriage as warfare and family as stunting at a time when these opinions would not be popular if expressed in public.
This book will suit … Virago readers, perhaps Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor fans, as it’s a “cool” book, observed and detatched rather than messily involved in all the emotion.
Debbie Macomber – “Three Brides, No Groom”
(Part of the Liz and Linda Collection, can’t remember when it entered the household)
A clever conceit in this standalone novel sees three women in their 30s meet in the centre of an American college campus at their 15-year reunion. The cheerleader, top law student and professional bad girl hadn’t known each other way back when, but they sit down, get to know each other and share their stories – each revolving around the fact that they were so sure about their futures as they finished college, but then found them twisting in unexpected ways, from running off with a biker to discovering a latent maths genius.
And what happened to that hapless groom (or grooms)? As the evening comes around the women prepare to attend the big party, maybe we’ll find out by the time we get to the end. A refreshing and fun read.
Debbie Macomber – “Heart of Texas I & II”
(Same situation as above)
We’re in a new (well, new to me) eight-book series here, set in the small town of Promise, Texas (which is almost Larry McMurtry land), with its ranchers and business owners, long-established families and new folk in town. Each of these two books contains two self-contained novels, although they’re best read in the series like this.
In “Lonesome Cowboy”, Savannah meets and falls for a hitchhiking cowboy, seemingly down on his luck, but her brother Grady, who’s been running the ranch with her since their parents died and their younger brother ran off with their inheritance, is not convinced.
“Texas Two-Step” brings Ellie to the centre: she runs the feed store and is in mourning for her late dad. She leans on best friend Glen, but then Richard Weston from the first story starts sniffing around and there’s an embarrassing scene at a dance before things can work out how they should do. I liked the chorus of gossips and the stern retired schoolteachers in this one.
In the clumsily named “Caroline’s Child”, it’s the turn of postmistress Caroline and the fabulously grumpy Grady to take centre stage. They’ve sparred for years and he’s a bit of a caricature where the ladies are concerned, but do they actually care for each other? All would be well but for the mystery parentage of her five-year-old, Maggie (who is well observed in her part of the adventure).
“Dr. Texas” is the new girl in town in the fourth, funny, novel – she’s a Californian through and through, getting money off her student loan by working in the tiny medical unit in Promise and planning to get out of there as soon as she can. But then she starts making friends and getting to grips with the Texan ways … and men!
Well, that covers a bit of reading, and here are the two non-fiction review copies I’ve also finished.
“Ivory Vikings” was read for the lovely online magazine, “Shiny New Books” – there’s going to be an Extra Shiny coming out at the beginning of December which will feature this review. I’ll link to it when it comes out, as I have had to save my review for the magazine. It was an interesting book, though, linking the Lewis Chessmen into pretty well the whole of the Nordic world by using different chess pieces to tell social and political history.
The other book is Steve Siberman’s “Neuro Tribes”, which has just won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction – I got that one from NetGalley. It’s a history of attitudes to, research on and treatment of autism which was very interesting and engaging. I’ll be reviewing that one on here, but separately (because NetGalley lets you link to your review on your blog, which is useful).
A couple of confessions to round off this mega-post. First off, my lovely friend Julie, who is going through the ordination process, was downsizing her Virago collection, and I was the lucky recipient of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” vols 2 and 3. I had had vol 1 for ever, and picked up 4 last year in a charity shop, so this was most fortunate. And I’m hatching a plot to read all 13 sub-volumes, one per month, starting in December, as I’ll have finished the Forsyte Saga by then and a couple of people want to read along.
And the other ones, see above. I’m really getting into my running again, I’ve run three half-marathon distances in the last three months (including that airfield one, ugh), and I want to improve my form and stamina. So I asked for recommendations and have picked up these two books. I’m not going to overdo it or hurt myself, but if I want to do a marathon next year (which I MIGHT want to do), it would be useful to get a bit stronger and quicker. So some runner reading to do. And running, obvs.
There we go – did you miss me, then? Probably not after that mammoth read – ha! If you’re a book blogger reading this, I’m behind with your blogs, too, but will catch up soon, promise!