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Sunday salon: Catching up

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a tad quiet for the past 2 weeks.  No reason other than the combination of organising my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration and a busy time at work which diverted my attention.

I planned to take advantage of a week’s holiday in the Yorkshire countryside to help catch up on my backlog of books. But there was one thing we’d overlooked when we planned the holiday – checking if the idyllic cottage by the river had an internet connection. It didn’t, as I discovered early on our first morning when I sat in the pretty little garden accompanied by nothing more than a few butterflies and bees.  I knew it was no use looking for a connection in the nearby market square since only the night before we’d been lauding the fact this village was mercifully free of the ubiquitous ‘chain’ coffee houses/take aways. So that had me scuppered.  I managed to write some reviews but of course couldn’t post them at the time.

I did get plenty of time to read instead however.

First up was Graham Greene‘s The Heart of the Matter which I read as part of the ‘Greene for Gran’ readalong organised by Savidge Reads as a tribute to his book-loving gran. I first read this about 30+ years ago since Greene was on my university course syllabus but since I had to read at least 4 of his titles in one week, I could barely remember them. What a joy to re-discover this book. I’ll post my review in a few days but for now all I can say is that if you haven’t read it, you’re missing something special. It’s tremendous.

My other two books couldn’t be more different from Grahame Greene in style or subject. The Roar of the Lion is a detailed evaluation of the true impact of Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches on people at home and abroad. It’s by Richard Toye, a Professor of History from my alma mater Exeter University but although it’s been well researched isn’t one of those turgid academic type books. Instead its a highly readable account of how Churchill wrote those famous speeches and how their reception wasn’t as universally positive as we might imagine.

And finally, a book in a genre that I don’t normally read. But Pierre Lemaitre’s novel Alex  was so highly rated by Savidge Reads that I decided to give it a go. Lemaitre is a French author who’s won multiple literary awards but this is the first of his novels to be translated into English. It’s a thriller that really is hard to put down. Alex is the victim of a kidnapping very early in the novel. Her abductor forces her into a wooden cage suspended from the roof of a disused factory and then entices the rats to take a close interest in her. Not the kind of thing that makes comfortable bedtime reading I warn you. But just when you think you can’t take any more of this, Lemaitre throws a twist in the plot (the first of several).  And that’s all I’m going to reveal about plot right now…… At the rate I’m reading it, I will be finished tonight. Then it’s back to my more familiar stamping ground of the classics, world literature and the Booker prize winners.






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