Blitz anniversaries – Or seasonal reading?

Happy New Year!!! A brief snow respite (at least, though there’s still some scraps out there from November) means Daughter is having some driving practice with Son One (eek) Here’s to a successful Test on Friday.

Last year’s reading is disappearing into memory, and I am taking the line that I have reviewed those books I liked and didn’t even finish the books that I hated. Guilt is about to raise its ugly head about tomorrow’s Book Group; postponement and cancellation meant missing out on discussing the interesting Lark Rise to Candleford and I think I was meant to read a bit of a memoir that I think was going to become miserable, so I have wimped out of that. Bad Joules! Will go along and flannel, perhaps having found a review or two. Here’s hoping for a cheerier tome next time…

On the credit side, I lost count in December having read at least 115 books last year. I had a look at a real live Kindle over New Year. Husband has generously offered to buy me one… when I finish reading every book in this house. As I had a box and a half (at least) of books over Christmas, and my last year’s mania has resulted in books stored on every available surface, I do not expect this offer to be redeemed soon. Oh well. On the plus side, this blog has meant a few more books being bought for Kindles, so keep on reading!

Over the holiday period I have read some lighter books, but today’s book is perhaps less than cheerful. The Blitz – The British Under Attack by Juliet Gardiner.

I have read Gardiner’s Wartime and enjoyed it greatly. Husband and I went along to her lecture at Newcastle University, and found her to be a very interesting speaker. So yes, we did buy and get signed a copy of this book and The Thirties. More of the latter when I have finished it – it is a huge book…

This book is a very interesting, if disturbing read. There are terrible stories of the death and destruction which occurred during this time, both in London and the many cities also bombed. I was especially interested in the destruction of Coventry as recounted here, being a native of that city. This book is also disturbing as a picture of the organisational chaos of various localities which did mean the homeless and bereft had to struggle with further challenges. This is a very readable book, enjoyable in an historically accurate sort of very, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period, or social history in an extreme setting. It is a challenging read rather than a light one, but worthwhile if only for the stories of immense bravery, planning and ability to cope. It does move along once begun, and has not got the sticky points of The Thirties. Well worth tackling, in any format available to you, even if unsigned…

Authors of the North- at least for a time

When we moved up to the Frozen North, I suppose that I imagined that my days of going to author signings in our local bookshops, reasonably handy for London, were over. And yes, they probably have changed. One local independent bookshop, Cognito in Hexham, does seem to round up quite a few authors to sign their books ( =expensive presents for Husband and others) and seem to organise the book festival in May – hence my sighting of Phillipa Gregory as my post of a few weeks ago.

Another popular author attraction is the Newcastle University Insights lecture programme, open to the public. I have sighted Juliet Nicolson,writer of The Great Silence and more recently Juliet Gardiner writer of The Thirties and The Blitz. More about both writers at a later date.

And tonight, at our local library, Graham Pears, writer of a new crime novel, The Myth of Justice. A retired policeman of the North East, he entertained his audience with many tales of his career, including chasing an escaped lion across Sunderland. If the book turns out to be as funny as his stories, it will be excellent. I think it looks as if it is going to reveal a realistic, if fictional, story of criminal life in the North East, so  I’m looking forward to reading it. His next book comes out in March; I hope to have read this one and posted about it before then. He is due to speak in the City Library in Newcastle on Saturday as part of the Books on Tyne Book Festival. I’m actually due to go to the Free Thinking Event at the Sage, where other authors at to be let loose on the public. It looks good ( and it’s my birthday, so I’ll try to forget my age).

A book after all this gadding about?

After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson is, as may be guessed from the title, another murder mystery set in the Twenties.The Heroine, Danny Gilver, does not seek to solve a murder, thinking only that there is an insurance scandal going on involving friends and acquaintances. Thus she is a fairly inept, if instinctive, investigator, and when murder is suspected she is not motivated by the need for money, furthering her career or anything except a determination to get to the bottom of a convoluted family situation. There are very dramatic events, but there are a lot of very realistic details of Dandy’s own family situation, including her rather awkward husband.

I enjoyed this book; McPherson having established a fairly laid back style and describing a woman who has to worry about her own family responsibilities as well as crime solving. There are elements which are a little repetitive, and one or two loose ends which are a little annoying. It does represent one of an ever increasing number of women detective tales written recently but set in this period, but this does depict a female young enough to be concerned with her appearance and role, but past the courtship with the handsome young detective/lord/policeman stage. I think it is the first of a series as well, and it is a worthwhile, interesting story. It does not go off into psychological studies like the Maisie Dobbs series, but is more substantial than the Daisy Darlymple mysteries. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it as a fairly easy read if a little annoying in places where the narrative does drift a little. It does not have the stamp of authenticity like Patricia Wentworth’s book in my last post, and can sometimes be a little fantastic, but it is a page turner,and worth seeking out. I will try and read the others available in the series, but you know how it is …so many books, so little time…