Reading for pleasure…or prescribed?

I mentioned in my last post one of the issues with reading books, beyond the format you choose. Do we read for our own pleasure, as we feel interested in a novel or indeed non fiction book, or do we read because we feel we have to, for a book group or other reasons? I know that we often discover books when we are handed a book list, some of which we come to enjoy. And one of the benefits of going to a library is the possibility of trying out a new author or even type of book without risking any money. Of course, if you get hooked on a author or series you may end up spending a lot of money…

One of my favourite bookblogs, had a post yesterday about reading “on a whim”; putting aside the lists and instead reading a book that just seems interesting or enjoyable at the time. Sometimes I just get fed up of the books that I ought to read, and pick up something less challenging  or just more fun.

Which is probably why I picked up The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson, being another Dandy Gilver mystery. For those of you who may be baffled , Dandy Gilver is an upper class bored wife and mother in the 1920s who likes to investigate mysteries, often involving murder in Scotland. I really enjoyed the last one that I read, The Burry Man’s Day, and thought that I would pick up this one in the library despite the fact that it is set around Christmas in the frozen north. (though it is rather chilly here, for August, not to mention the rain, hail, thunderstorms….)


This novel is set in a circus, and given that we had a circus skills workshop in the big tent in our garden (thanks, Northumberland libraries!) the other week, I thought that this would be a good read. It wasn’t on a list, and it isn’t particularly educational. It is a little difficult to follow, as the action is set in a  fading circus. The Spanish Influenza epidemic has damaged the local families and it is in some ways a sad book, but the central mystery is more tricky to work out than first appears.  I got very confused about the various names and nicknames, acts and equipment in the circus described, and while I’m sure she had done a lot of research, I think that some of the narrative got lost. I think that part of the problem was that some of the characters went by several names, including Russian abbreviations. While I found the other two in the series fairly straightforward, if not easy to solve, this one was unnecessarily complicated. Also some of the background is sad, even given the national sense of loss in the 1920s. I would definitely pick up another book in this series to read, not because I have to, but because these are well researched and atmospheric books with interesting mysteries a the centre of the book. Good holiday reads, even if the weather is anything but summer time.


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