“The Valedictorian of Being Dead” by Heather Armstrong
I got this as an ebook from the library. I’m not a massive ebook fan but it was grand. I’ve been reading this woman’s blog for about 15 years. She is a consummate overachiever who has suffered from severe depression. This is about a radical treatment she underwent after a bad bout of depression. I have always enjoyed her writing and I found this an interesting read.
“Farewell Leicester Square” by Betty Miller
An interesting book about being Jewish in England. The author is mother of the more famous Jonathan and, most excitingly of all, lived in Cork, down the road from my parents when she was young girl. Covered here in what is now called the Irish Examiner but was for many years the Cork Examiner. It’s still quite true to its roots.
“Girl Woman Other” by Bernadine Evaristo
I didn’t expect to but I really enjoyed this story of different black women largely set in Britain. It won the Booker prize and I never really regard that as a recommendation but it is, actually, very good. It has no full stops though which drove me crazy.
“The Ratline” by Philippe Sands
I found this a bit overlong. It’s about a German governor of a Polish province during the war, Otto von Wächter. The author had a number of Jewish relatives who were from the province and killed while von Wächter was in charge. What makes it strange is that the author befriends von Wächter’s son who was a small child when he last saw his father and is now an elderly man.
It feels slightly weirdly exploitative in that the author uses the elderly son of the Nazi but they are also friends. And then von Wächter did such terrible things that it seems churlish to object to working with the son to set them right. The author clearly likes the son but he (the son) seems very naive. It left me feeling a bit morally confused.
“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid
This is about race in America. It follows the lives of a black babysitter and the white woman who employs her. It’s really well written and entertaining with lots of twists and turns and enlightening as well. Recommended.
“Pompeii “by Robert Harris
This could be subtitled “The engineer’s tale”. It’s about a Roman engineer trying to fix an aqueduct just before Vesuvius explodes. It’s alright.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
This was the hit of the summer. I didn’t love it I have to say. It’s about a girl who is abused and lives alone in the swamp but manages to turn her life around. Not my kind of thing but alright.
“Queen Mary: The Official Biography” by James Pope- Hennessy
I was sent to this by Slightly Foxed the lovely literary quarterly featuring old or out of print books. Mr. Waffle got me a subscription for my birthday and it was a great present. To read this you have to have a relatively high tolerance for 19th century German princelings and their family trees, but, that aside, it is very entertaining. Also, you will be totally on top of morganatic marriages by the end and who doesn’t want that?
“The Charmed Life of Alex Moore” by Molly Flatt
I rather enjoyed this slightly odd sci-fi offering. A girl whose life is a bit grim, in a normal average way, suddenly becomes a complete over-achiever. The reasons for this are…surprising.
“The Missing Wife” by Sheila O’Flanagan
This author is a very popular author of “women’s fiction” and I read an interview with her in the paper where she said a lot of people didn’t read her books out of snobbery so I thought I would give her a go. I chose this one at random from the library. She is a very good writer and the story zipped along. It was about a woman who is an abusive (not physically), controlling relationship and how she gets out. I found it convincingly menacing and unpleasant. The problem was that that really made it quite an unenjoyable read for me. I found the new life a bit lightweight and unconvincing but the horrible husband was really cleverly done.
“Queen Adelaide” by Mary Hopkirk
As, I am sure you are aware, Queen Adelaide was Queen consort to William IV and my reading of the Mary of Teck book has given me a bizarre appetite for the lives of lesser know Queens consort. I saw this in a secondhand bookshop and felt I would give it a read. It was a bit dull, to be honest but, you know, alright. Quite down on the Fitzclarences and Dorothea Jordan (the King’s actual first family although he didn’t marry Mrs. Jordan) which contrasted with my memory of Claire Tomalin’s “Mrs. Jordan’s Profession” which I might read again, actually, for another view of dull but worthy Adelaide.
“The Quest for Queen Mary” by James Pope- Hennessy ed Hugo Vickers
This is all the bits that didn’t make it to the official biography – notes, letters etc. Hugely entertaining even if you haven’t read the biography. Highly recommended.
“Grown-ups” by Marian Keyes
I like Marian Keyes and some of this book was very funny and some of the characters really interesting. But bits were unconvincing and she can be a little preachy. Overall though, an enjoyable read.
“Imperium” by Robert Harris
I am unsure why I keep coming back to Robert Harris as I don’t enjoy his stuff very much. This is a very popular book but not really with me. If you’re interested in Cicero – go for it. I felt I was learning lots but I am unsure that this is a sensation I enjoy in my leisure time.
“Will this do?” by Auberon Waugh
God, I thought this was absolutely hilarious. He is the oddest man and I would say could be quite unpleasant in person. But he’s funny and, to be fair, laughs at himself as well. Evelyn Waugh sounds awful.
“The Unfortunate Fursey” by Mervyn Wall
This is a very peculiar book. It was written in the 50s and is a satire on Church and State. It tells the story of an innocent, virtuous medieval monk who ends up surrounded by demons and married to a witch. It’s just odd and I am not sure that it’s as funny today as when it was written.
“Rivers of London” by Ben Aaronovitch
This is a combination of magic and modern policing. I quite enjoyed it although the plot was complicated. There are loads of books in the series and I plan to read them all.
“Moon over Soho” by Ben Aaronovitch
PC Grant and his magic entourage solve another crime.
“Whispers Underground” by Ben Aaronovitch
More magical London.
“Broken Homes” by Ben Aaronovitch
The author really lets his enthusiasm for architecture show in this one. PC Grant is an architect manqué and so, I suspect, is the author.
“Foxglove Summer” by Ben Aaronovitch
PC Grant has a trip out of London and, happily, for the first time, nobody dies.
“Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld
The premise of this book is that at the moment Hilary could have married Bill, she said no rather than yes. It imagines different futures for them both. I found the early part, before it headed on the fictional path, hard going. After that, I really enjoyed it but I feel it is intrusive. Curtis Sittenfeld writes beautifully and that is always enjoyable. She clearly likes Hillary Clinton but, a bit like the Laura Bush book (American Wife), it’s hard on its subject in the sense that I can’t imagine that this would be anything but a very annoying and uncomfortable read for Hillary Clinton.
“Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith
The latest Strike novel. 900 pages. I loved it. And you know when you’re really enjoying a book and it’s very long that is just the most delightful feeling. For my money it’s the best of the detective novels to date. Recommended.