Rose Tremain, novels and the return of Northernreader!

So, long time no see/post from the Northernreader! No excuses I’m afraid, just reading many, many books so far this year (49 !) which means that I have not been posting about them, just indulging in a little extreme reading…It’s living the dream in the Vicarage!

Two books on my list have featured highly within the last few months, both by Rose Tremain. The first, Merivel: A Man of his time, is the sequel to  Restoration, which was a brilliant Bookworms book club choice of a couple of years ago. Despite it not being an historical period I know a lot about in detail, Restoration was popular mainly because of the main character, Merivel, and his adventures and misadventures in and around the court of Charles II.

Merivel: A Man of His Time

I ordered this long awaited sequel from our wonderful local library who initially debated if there would be many copies in Northumberland. Within the next few weeks there was a waiting list! I had to read it very fast, but enjoyed it hugely. Merivel has grown older but not much wiser. His daughter has become central to his life in his much beloved home, with its collection of unusual servants. The lure of travel, a brilliant female scientist,and a captive bear all contribute to a fast moving narrative which alternates between tragedy and absurd comedy. It isn’t just a historical novel, but a brilliant book about what constitutes happiness, contentment and what to do when life seems to be ending. It does have moments when the sadness seems too much, but Tremain’s impulse to mischief soon reasserts itself. A brilliant book by any standard, and yes, dear reader, I bought my own copy…

The other Tremain I’ve delved into is the prize winning The Road Home.  I will admit that it was not one I picked up with terrific enthusiasm, as it was not one of her historical books, but it is the Bookworms book club choice (and one of the World Book Night books given away at the library quiz night, which modesty forbids me describing in detail…).

It was a slow start, and I must admit thinking that it would be a bit of a haul. Lev is first seen on a bus from a vague East -European home, travelling in search of a new life in London. He hopes to find work, a place to stay, and earn enough money to send back to his small daughter and his aged mother . He has lost his wife, his job and even the entertaining friends Rudi and his wife are insufficient to keep him from his new start.

London at first is an unfriendly, confusing place, but he is quickly (too quickly?) offered the chance of a home, a job which inspires him, and women offering friendship and more. I found his first few hours in the capital depressing but reasonably truthful, as a little money goes nowhere towards the securing of food and shelter. The subsequent finding of so much kindness of strangers does seem optimistic, especially when Lev can be illogical, infuriating and on one occasion, brutal. I hope that there are so many friendly people out there, so many opportunities, so much hope of a new start. There are some interesting characters in this novel, some realistic ones, but maybe the setting or incidents are not so truthful.  Overall a good book, but perhaps not so real as it could be, even if I would have right royally complained if it had been depressing throughout!

I have two book clubs to go to which are discussing this book, so I’ll see what they have to say.

Here’s to me writing more than one post a year! Keep watching this space for more ramblings of a bookish nature…

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